OnePlus launched the original Nord last year, stating that it was a head back to its roots. Now the company has launched its Nord CE, which it is calling the Core Edition. It claims that the Core Edition basically brings together all core smartphone features a modern user would need at an affordable price.
The company’s philosophy aside, the Nord CE 5G seems like a very good deal, on paper. With the return of the 3.5mm headphone jack paired with other core features, should the Nord CE be your next smartphone? Find out in our review.
OnePlus Nord CE 5G Price in India: Rs 22,999 (6GB/128GB) | Rs 24,999 (8GB/128GB) | Rs 27,999 (12GB/256GB)
OnePlus Nord CE 5G specifications: 6.43-inch full HD+ AMOLED display | 90Hz refresh rate | Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G SoC | 6GB/8GB/12GB RAM | 128GB/256GB internal storage | 4,500mAh battery | 16MP front camera | 64MP+8MP+2MP rear cameras | OxygenOS 11 based on Android 11 |
OnePlus Nord CE 5G review: What’s new and is it worth it?
One of the most welcomed changes according to me is that the 3.5mm headphone jack has made a return. Not everyone can afford a pair of truly wireless earphones and most already have a pile of wired earphones lying around. This is truly one of the features a lot of people have been wishing to make a comeback.
This is also the slimmest smartphone the company has made since the OnePlus 6T. This along with its lightweight profile make handling the smartphone extremely easy.
This is the first smartphone the company has launched to feature a full plastic build. The reason behind the shift could be that plastic is comparatively lighter than metal and glass. Also plastic is much sturdier than glass.
The device comes with 5G connectivity support, which for some might be the reason to get the device, but for me it is currently not as essential, considering that India currently does not have any 5G operators.
OnePlus Nord CE 5G review: Design and build quality
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G has a basic look and feels just like any other OnePlus smartphone in hand.
The back panel and the frame are made out of plastic, which does make the phone feel light in weight but does not provide the premium feel a glass back and a metal frame would have. I would have preferred if the company would have provided us with a metal frame on the device, however, considering the price, the all plastic build does not bother me much.
The front glass panel is made of DT star glass material, which provides some protection against scratches, but not as much as a Gorilla Glass panel would. The company has also told us that the glass is reinforced with an aluminium alloy in the middle to provide sturdiness to it.
The back panel has a smooth matte finish, which makes it feel premium. The blue void colour also looks amazing, especially with the violet shadings towards the edges.
On the back, the device features a triple camera setup located towards the top right corner alongside the single LED flash. Other than this, the back panel only has the OnePlus logo in the middle. On the top edge, the device features a secondary microphone. On the right edge, we get to see the power button. The left edge features the volume rockers and the SIM card tray. On the bottom edge, we get to see the 3.5mm headphone jack, the USB Type-C port, the primary microphone and the speaker grille.
Overall, the phone manages to keep a low profile design and looks just like any other OnePlus phone. The plastic build does lower the quality of the in-hand feel, but at the price, it does not seem as problematic as it would on a premium smartphone.
OnePlus Nord CE 5G review: Display
One of the core features for me in a smartphone would be a 90Hz AMOLED display, which is the one we get on the new Nord CE 5G.
OnePlus Nord CE 5G sports a 6.43-inch full-HD+ AMOLED display with a resolution of 2400×1080 pixels and a 90Hz refresh rate. It comes with a max brightness level of 410 pixels and support both sRGB and Display P3 colour gamuts. However, unlike the OnePlus Nord, this does not come with HDR10+ support.
The display panel is exceptional for the price. It has punchy colours and great viewing angles. The brightness levels are also pretty adequate, with the display being legible under direct sunlight and dim enough to not hurt your eyes in complete darkness.
Also just like all other OnePlus smartphones, the Nord CE also comes with a lot of options to calibrate the display to your liking.
I find 90Hz to be the sweet spot in terms of refresh rates, as after that it becomes very difficult to notice the difference as it is pretty minor until over 240Hz to 300Hz. The 90Hz refresh rate makes browsing the UI a lot easier and more flowing. The device features a variable refresh rate, which lowers the refresh rate at times to help conserve the battery. However, this does make navigating the UI sometimes a bit choppy.
The hole punch cutout is a bit irritating as it hinders the viewing experience. I would honestly love OnePlus to bring back the pop-up camera module, just like it has brought back the 3.5mm headphone jack.
OnePlus Nord CE 5G review: Performance
OnePlus Nord CE 5G is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor, which is not a flagship processor by any means but does manage to hold its own under pressure.
While using the device I found that the Snapdragon 750G manages to perform every task I threw at it easily. There were a few stutters here or there, but not as much for me to leave the phone aside.
With regular usage, I found the device to manage all of my tasks easily without any issues. The interface felt very snappy, apps loaded quickly and while jumping between apps I did not find any delays or unexpected shutdowns.
Playing games for extended hours on the Nord CE 5G did not post any issues. The device easily managed to handle all of the games i played on it including Crash Bandicoot: On the Run!, Asphalt 9: Legends and Call of Duty: Mobile to name a few in their highest visual settings.
The gameplay was smooth and I did not notice any lags or stutters. The device managed heat dissipation well for around an hour after that it started getting a bit uncomfortable to play the games on. Pushing it I started noticing the device throttling a bit after an hour and a half of constant play. After around two hours of constant play, I had to keep the device aside for some time to let it cool down a bit.
Taking things a bit further, during my multi-tab test, I opened 37 tabs in Chrome and 22 tabs in Opera Mobile and started switching between them in a few seconds interval. Though I did not find the phone to lag, I did get to see it killing multiple tabs inside of both the browsers.
Moving on to the multi-app test I opened 30 apps and kept switching between them this was also handled by the device easily, but I did find it killing my games again and again.
Overall, in day-to-day usage, you will not face any problems with the device and it will hold its own with daily tasks even if you like to play resource-intensive games and do not like to kill off any of your apps. However, power users might face a bit of difficulty with a lot of apps and browser tabs opened up.
OnePlus Nord CE 5G review: Software and security
OxygenOS 11 manages to stick out a bit, and is pretty easy to navigate and get used to for most people. Not much has changed since I took a look at it on the OnePlus 9. New users will not face any issues in using the skin.
OnePlus is famous for its speedy fingerprint sensors. Though they have not remained the industry leaders in this, their phones still do have good in-display fingerprint sensors, which are fast and accurate. Though for the Nord CE, the company could have looked at adding a capacitive fingerprint sensor to lower the cost.
The device also comes with a facial recognition feature, which utilises the front camera to match the user’s face to the stored facial data to unlock the device. It works very smoothly.
OnePlus Nord CE 5G review: Cameras
OnePlus cameras have improved a lot since its inception. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement.
OnePlus Nord CE features a 64-megapixel primary sensor paired with an 8-megapixel ultra wide angle lens and a 2-megapixel monochrome sensor.
In daylight, the primary 64-megapixel sensor manages to capture good images with a decent amount of details and good colour saturation. However, edge detection seemed a bit off and while shooting objects up close, the camera was having difficulty in focusing. Some of the shots with too many elements and a wider range of lighting profiles came out a bit flat and lacking dynamic range. Sometimes the camera would oversaturate an image, making it sort of unusable due to a lot of exposure being present.
The device can zoom up to 10x using the primary sensor, however, zoomed in photos come out with a lot of grain and are not up to the mark.
The 8-megapixel wide angle camera took images with comparatively weaker details but did not skimp on the colours. Apart from the details, when the images were zoomed in, there were some patches in multiple regions.
The 2-megapixel monochrome sensor seems like a wasted opportunity to me considering that you can use the primary 64-megapixel sensor to take images and then apply a monochrome filter on top. I did not find a use for this sensor.
Portrait shots came out good with a good amount of detail and a wide gamut of colours. However, I felt that the edge detection feature is not perfect and most images came out with the object having its edges blurred out.
Low light images as expected were not up to the mark with a lot of grain and blurred patches. Using Nightscape, the image quality did improve, however, it is no magic, and I got to see some grain in the images. Low light images also had focussing issues and the colours seemed a bit washed out.
Images taken using the front camera came out with good detail and colours in good lighting conditions. However, if the light source was too bright, the images would come out oversaturated. The Nord CE also seems to be oversharpening and brightening the images using its algorithm. You can adjust this by setting the beauty filter to level one. However, it won’t completely turn off.
Low light captures suffered the same fate as the rear camera, with there being noise and grain introduced into the images. However, they were still usable if required.
OnePlus Nord CE 5G review: Battery
OnePlus Nord CE 5G is backed by a 4,500mAh battery with support for Warp Charge 30T Plus fast charging technology. The phone easily managed to provide me with around two days worth of moderate usage on a single charge. My usage included browsing social media apps, receiving calls, sending text messages, watching OTT content, playing a few games and taking a few images.
The device along with the in-box charger was able to charge up to 100 percent in around an hour. This, according to me, is a very comfortable speed for charging the battery, without straining it a lot.
For people looking for exact numbers, the OnePlus Nord CE 5G charged up to 28 percent in 10 minutes, 49 percent in 20 minutes, 66 percent in 30 minutes, 81 percent in 40 minutes, 92 percent in 50 minutes, 98 percent in 60 minutes and 100 percent within 62 minutes.
OnePlus Nord CE 5G review: Verdict
OnePlus with the Nord CE 5G has managed to deliver on its promise of a smartphone with all of the core features a buyer requires. It is not a jump over the original Nord but an altogether different smartphone, which a consumer can buy and get along with his life without worrying about his device.
Starting at Rs 22,999, the Nord CE 5G is a very compelling option. It does not have many drawbacks and is a good mid-range contender to get. I personally liked the display, the performance and the software of the device. There are a few minor drawbacks like a plastic frame, no IP rating and more, but they do not outweigh the price value that the OnePlus Nord CE 5G currently provides.