The original version of OnePlus Rolling was launched with great fanfare and promised a return to the original days of slaughter that the company had long gone by. That first phone was great in terms of price, but the next devices in the Nord series have scratched most of us (with the exception of the N200). The Nord 2 5G is a real replacement that looks a little different from an angle. This is the first OnePlus phone with a MediaTek processor and – at least on paper – does not seem to be as exciting as before.
The Nord 2 is better than anything else on the OnePlus budget, but the main question is whether it is still equally attractive to its many competitors. Competition in the mid-range market shows no sign of declining, as Xiaomi, Realme and Samsung are among the top manufacturers of decent but affordable handsets. Is the OnePlus in a good position to eat a good chunk of that pie with Nord 2, or is it better to move your money elsewhere?
Design, hardware, what’s in the box
Nord 2 is on top of the OnePlus 9 Pro.
The first impressions of smartphones are very important – they are all minor changes in a subject, so they need to do something to get your attention. Some recent OnePlus models are out of the box, especially the OnePlus 8 green and light blue 8 Pro. Since then, the company’s main devices have found more muted colors, while the Nord series is committed to its turquoise brand color. This steady trend, combined with the back designs that all come together, means that the Nord 2 is just like any other OnePlus phone. When you first hold your hand, there is nothing strange about it. And that does not mean that the plastic frame does not look good (unfortunately I mean “polymer injected with fiberglass”). This phone has Gorilla Glass 5 front and rear and its build quality is strong. Everything is a bit soft – the lighter color is not as bright as the Nord CE, even if it is made of plastic instead of glass. If you live in India, you will have the opportunity to buy a proprietary Green Woods leather model that looks much more attractive.
Once you go through those superficial judgments, the rest of the Nord 2 hardware is competent if not inspired. There is no headphone jack (new OnePlus Buds Pro, anyone?), But the alarm switch is welcome and this time there are loud stereo speakers (loud and headphones). This phone is about the same size as its predecessor, which is about as much as I would like a phone – comfortable to hold but with a large screen. In the past, a 6.4-inch FHD OLED display with a refresh rate of 90 Hz for a phone in this price range was very exciting, but now in the Poco F3 you can get 120 Hz at a lower price. Still, the Nord 2’s display is great, but it’s a shame to see it increase the lower margin of this generation.
Below the screen, there’s a fast, accurate fingerprint scanner that I really enjoy next to the face lock – the latter for fast bypassing the lock screen and a safer way to verify banking apps and unlock easily when wearing Mask. Heptics are nothing special, but I really like their exciting sound. OnePlus has never had to be officially rated IP, and Nord 2 is no different. It seems to be at least waterproof, so don’t worry about getting caught in the rain.
In the box, the Nord 2 comes with a bright TPU case (with an awkward pattern on it that removes some of the adhesion), a 65-watt adapter, and a USB-A to C cable. If the frame in your boat is not floating, OnePlus once again offers a great set of alternatives.
Software, performance and battery
Many observers have ridiculed the idea of a MediaTek-powered OnePlus phone, but if they use it, they will soon change their tune. It performs very well, just like the original Nord and probably better. The Dimensity 1200-AI chip is said to be roughly equivalent to the Snapdragon 865 or 870, and you won’t be eager for Qualcomm silicon after using it. The other elephant is burning in a room that is really big – yes, it still continues here, but it is not noticeable in Nord 2, and OnePlus assures us that in OxygenOS 12. there is a switch to turn it off. This phone definitely does not have the best graphics in terms of price and only has a 90Hz display, so if gaming is really important to you, you might want to use the Poco F3 or Realme GT. Other than that, Nord 2 continues the OnePlus tradition with a fast and smooth user experience.
There has been a lot of talk about a possible change in the use of ColorOS Oppo in OnePlus phones as part of the ongoing merger between the two BBK brands, and the Nord 2 is the first phone to make that change. However, it is very difficult to detect because it still has an OxygenOS layer on top. The settings have been reorganized and there are subtle differences here and there, but do not worry – it’s like a OnePlus phone. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the redesign that came with OxygenOS 11. I preferred it when it was closer to the Google Pixel user interface. Nevertheless, with the screen always on and the variety of customization options, Nord 2 does not require software features.
Theoretically, support for a single code base should mean faster updates, and this is much needed because OnePlus lags behind competitors like Samsung. Nord 2 promises two years of firmware updates and three years of security patches, but we hope OnePlus will increase the frequency and quality of these updates with Oppo. In terms of value, I have never encountered any major issues or bugs in Nord 2. This is very encouraging because early versions of the operating system on OnePlus phones are not always very skilled.
Battery life is clearly a priority for the OnePlus (hence power reduction and other optimizations) and is used in real use. A 4500 mAh battery is good for a full day’s use – I usually end the day with 30 to 40% after 4-5 hours of screen time. If I really need to, I have two days to come out. Thanks to the 65 watt charge, it only takes 30 minutes to fully charge. Of course, to achieve such good battery life, OnePlus still works by optimizing apps that can cause lost notifications, so I recommend turning it off for apps that matter to you. I found that Gmail is often affected by this even if it is not shown in the optimization settings, which was very frustrating.
The original Nord tried to sell us the camera system – it had four rear lenses and a dual selfie camera – but its replacement is better equipped. There is a 32-megapixel front camera with three cameras on the back. The main 50-megapixel sensor is Sony IMX766 with OIS and captures 12.5-megapixel images by default. The quality is quite acceptable, with a lot of detail, but with HDR processing it can be a bit heavy. One of the key features introduced into the device by the Dimensity 1200-AI chip is automatic scene selection, and while it does a good job of basically understanding any shooting environment, if shooting anything that vaguely resembles different animals. You do. Kindly, every time is a “kitten”. Not a big deal, but I think it was fun.
Dim performance is often disappointing, with aggressive processing spoiling subtle details and not preserving the scene space. The extraordinary mode of the night is very impressive, so that it enchants the extra light in thin air. The images it produces are not clear, though, understandably so. Ultra-wide, as often happens on cheap phones, is very tedious. It produces blurry images that are rarely used for anything other than shaking your memory – you don’t even want to share them on social media. There is no dedicated zoom lens and there are not many digital alternatives. At 2x, the results are acceptable because this is achieved by cutting the sensor. At 5x, with good light conditions, you can sometimes get good results, but anything that turns oil.
The selfie camera is one of the highlights here – it looks at least as good on expensive OnePlus phones, and the portrait mode is good enough to share on Insta. In the video section, you see a maximum of 4K / 30fps with AI video enhancement, although stabilization can be better. It also has dual-profile video mode so you can shoot back and forth at the same time, which is a lot of fun to play with for a while.
There’s also a monochrome sensor that … well, there it is. I prefer not to be like that
Should I buy it?
One for fans. While OG Nord felt like a flagship killer, this one is not in a competitive year. By law, 2021 flagships must have a 120Hz display, fast wireless charging, zoom cameras and IP rating. A phone without any of these can not really hope to keep up with much more expensive models, and that’s good. Despite what you believe in OnePlus marketing, this phone is not really trying to compete with the top phones.
Nord 2 is not a threat for flagship phones.
Nevertheless, it is a very convenient and affordable mid-range phone, although it is less attractive than its predecessor. If you’re a fan of OnePlus coming from an older phone, you probably won’t be disappointed with Nord 2. But if you want to look at other manufacturers, you may be able to find better value. The Poco F3 costs less and has a Snapdragon 870, 120Hz display and IP53. The Realme GT has a Snapdragon 888, although it costs a bit more. Even the Nord CE can offer better value – it costs 100 100 less but in no way significantly less capable. If you care about quick updates, the Samsung Galaxy A52 will call you. If I were you, I would choose the Pixel 4a over the Nord 2 every time – the camera is only miles better.
Nord 2 symbolizes the wider problem that OnePlus is currently facing. It produces great phones with the right software, but it can hardly stand out and is no longer competitive in terms of price. The Nord series apparently sells very well, so there’s no reason to believe this one will do badly. But after reviewing the original OnePlus Nord last year, I used it some time later. With Nord 2, I’m eager to move, and that’s very telling.
- You are a fan of OnePlus with a budget of 400 400 to buy a new phone.
Do not buy if…
- You want the best value for money – get Poco or Realme instead.