• Full Review
  • Specifications

Full Review

Last year’s OnePlus Nord was a huge hit for the Chinese brand. Offering a package that roughly approximated its then-flagship OnePlus 8 series, but for a much cheaper price, it successfully hit the price-performance sweet spot for a lot of people.

Now the impressive OnePlus 9 Pro OnePlus 9 have to face their own challenge from within. The OnePlus Nord 2 5G is here with a familiar design, improved internals, and a vastly superior camera

SIM-free prices start from £399 for 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM, and rise to £469 for 256GB/12GB. That pitches the OnePlus Nord 2 5G into direct competition with the Xiaomi Mi 11 5G, the Sony Xperia 10 III, and the Poco F3 as desirable mid-range 5G phones.

Screen

The OnePlus Nord 2 5G’s display hasn’t changed all that much from the original last year. In fact, it’s actually shrunk a fraction to 6.43-inches.

That’s alright though, because it’s a bright, punchy OLED display with a plenty-sharp FHD+ resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate. We’ve seen faster displays for the money (most notably the Poco F3), and the 120Hz OnePlus 9 definitely feels snappier side-by-side. But the Nord 2 5G still feels nice and fluid.

Talking of the OnePlus 9, it’s interesting to note how much warmer the OnePlus Nord 2 5G display is by default. This is tweakable in the Settings menu, but even that process is slightly different this time around, perhaps due to the recent software splice with Oppo’s ColorOS (more on which later).

The Nord 2’s screen also gets almost as bright as its stablemate in our experience, which is interesting given the £230 price discrepancy. Last year we commented on how much dimmer the first Nord display seemed next to the OnePlus 8, so this is real progress.

Design

OnePlus Nord 2  Design

If there’s one area in which OnePlus hasn’t really excelled in recent years, it’s design. Don’t get us wrong, its phones are always well built, but they’re never distinctive in the way that Samsung’s or Apple’s are.

The OnePlus Nord 2 5G doesn’t change things on that count. In fact, it looks spookily like the OnePlus 9 from earlier in the year. But for a slightly shifted alert switch and power button, a larger chin bezel, and a slightly smaller camera module with no Hasselblad branding, they’re nigh-on identical. Our model comes in a vibrant Blue Haze shade, but you can also get it in more sober Grey Sierra.

Of course, attributes that were a little disappointing in a £600 phone are forgivable or even laudable in a £400 phone. The mixture of shiny plastic-coated frame and glass surfaces lends a touch of the premium while keeping costs down, in a similar fashion to the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G.

This is a thoroughly pleasant phone to hold, with a nice weight of 189g that doesn’t sit too heavily in the hand. Its curved back fits nicely in your palm, too. 

You don’t expect the curved screen edges of the OnePlus 9 Pro at this price, so having a flat screen feels right and proper. 

OnePlus Nord 2 Back

Power

OnePlus has switched away from Qualcomm silicon for the first time in its history, seemingly in the interest of maximising its limited budget. We’ll admit to being slightly concerned when we learned of this move prior to receiving our handset, as Qualcomm is the top dog for a reason.

We needn’t have worried. Backed by a healthy 8 or 12GB of RAM, the Nord 2 5G’s MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI chip absolutely blitzes the original Nord’s Snapdragon 765. And while it’s nowhere as capable as the OnePlus 9 with its Snapdragon 888, it certainly gives a good impression of one.

A OnePlus representative told us that the MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI was roughly equivalent to the Snapdragon 870, which is a chip that provides a level of performance broadly similar to 2020 flagship phones like the OnePlus 8. Using the Nord 2 5G bears that comparison out, with a level of speed and responsiveness that feels something akin to top notch – albeit still short of the OnePlus 9 and the OnePlus 9 Pro.

In like-for-like terms, the Nord 2 5G falls a little shy of the Poco F3 with its Snapdragon 870 and the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G with its Snapdragon 780G in our CPU-focused benchmark tests. However, it beats both in GPU terms.

Sure enough, demanding 3D games like Genshin Impact run reasonably fluidly on high settings. We did experience some instances of overly aggressive memory management in general usage, with the huge initial update of Genshin Impact continually halting in the background. But that seems to be a quirk of OnePlus’s software rather than a performance shortfall.

All of which is to say, don’t worry about the switch away from Qualcomm. The OnePlus Nord 2 5G performs at near-flagship levels, and is a big step up from the original OnePlus Nord.

Camera

OnePlus Nord 2 Camera

All of the smart, cost-effective choices made throughout the OnePlus Nord 2 5G enable it to provide a genuinely stand-out camera experience.

OnePlus has equipped its mid-ranger with the same high-end 50MP Sony IMX 766 image sensor that so wowed us in the OnePlus 9 Pro and the OnePlus 9. Granted, it served as an ultra-wide in those devices, whereas it’s the main wide sensor here. But such an approach was good enough for the £1,099 Oppo Find X3 Pro, and it’s more than good enough here. 

OnePlus Nord 2 Camera Sample

The important thing to note is that this sensor is really big at 1/1.56", especially for a phone of this price. It’s also accompanied by OIS for extra stability. Even the OnePlus 9 didn’t have that last component.

What you don’t get here that you did in the OnePlus 9 Pro and OnePlus 9 is Hasselblad’s colour science. Instead, you have OnePlus’s image processing smarts combined with Mediatek’s AI technology. 

This means that shots taken with the OnePlus Nord 2 5G look a little different to the others. Skies look a little less crisp and blue, flower close-ups have a little less bokeh, and skin tones are a little paler. But crucially, they still look great. In fact, I preferred the way the Nord 2 took certain shots to the OnePlus 9.

Night shots, too, look fabulous for a phone of this price. We took the Nord 2 out on a late shoot along with a Xiaomi Mi 11 5G and a Vivo V21 – two similarly priced contemporaries – and the Nord 2 was in a completely different league when it came to brightness, crispness, and shot stability. 

OnePlus Nord 2 Night Shot

The rest of the Nord 2’s camera package is less impressive. The ultrawide is a serviceable 8MP unit that does well to approximate the tone of the main sensor, but falls well short of it on quality. Meanwhile there’s no telephoto lens at all, only a pointless 2MP macro camera. You’ll have to make do with cropped 2X shots from the main sensor, though they don’t look awful.

You lose the OnePlus Nord’s dual-selfie camera here, though that was always a bit of a gimmick. In its place is a single front-facing 32MP camera, which proves to be an unusually accomplished component.

Features

OnePlus has concentrated on getting the basics right with the Nord 2 5G, so it’s not laden with stand-out features.

This being a OnePlus phone, you get a physical alert slider on the right-hand edge. It’s a great provision, allowing you to quickly switch your phone to silent or vibrate without powering on the screen.

You also get OnePlus’s stand-out Oxygen OS, which is one of the most appealing custom Android skins in the business. This is the first version of Oxygen OS to have been integrated with Oppo’s ColorOS, as the two companies recently merged. 

Thankfully, though, you won’t spot any signs of the gaudy Oppo UI here -iIt just shares some of the same underpinnings. It runs very smoothly on that 90Hz display, and displays OnePlus’s usual great taste when it comes to menu layouts, fonts, and icon design.

Having an in-display fingerprint sensor isn’t all that noteworthy, though the likes of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G and the Sony Xperia 10 III go with a side-mounted alternative for similar money. Thankfully this is a fast and reliable example.

Battery life, memory and connectivity

OnePlus has fitted the Nord 2 5G with a 4500 mAh battery, which is bigger than the 4115 mAh cell of the OnePlus Nord. 

In fact, it’s the exact same size as the OnePlus 9 Pro and OnePlus 9 batteries. Those phones run on a more energy-efficient processor, of course, and the Pro also benefits from a variable refresh rate display.

Still, you’ll get similar stamina out of the Nord 2 5G. Getting through a long 16 hour day of light to moderate usage – around 3 hours 30 minutes of screen on time – saw us down to around 40 percent. A day of heavier usage will drop you to 20 percent or below, which is the time when those battery saver warnings traditional tend to kick in.

Stamina is far from outstanding, then, but nor is the OnePlus Nord 2 5G’s battery life especially problematic. We were never worried stepping out for the day, which is what really matters here.

Even if we did have slight concerns, OnePlus’s stellar 65W Warp Charge system would likely blast them away. We’re talking a recharge rate of 0 to 100% in half an hour, just like the OnePlus 9 Pro and OnePlus 9. That’s immensely impressive in a phone of this price.

You don’t get wireless charging, which is a tiny bit of a shame. But then, you don’t tend to get such a feature much at this end of the market, unless you’re talking about the iPhone SE. 

On the storage front, you get 128GB in the entry model and 256GB in the top model. There’s no microSD provision.

As the name suggests, this is a 5G-ready phone, so you’ll be able to access your operator’s next-gen network provision, no matter which operator that may be.

Verdict

The OnePlus Nord 2 5G is another brilliant mid-ranger from a brand that’s been on a roll in 2021. Its design and display aren’t massive progressions from the original Nord, but the true advancements lie within.

Chief among these improvements is a main camera that dramatically closes the gap to true flagship phones. The Nord is capable of capturing genuinely excellent shots in a whole variety of lighting conditions, even though its zoom and ultrawide capabilities are nothing to write home about.

Performance has seen a similar leap, with the left-field choice of a MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI  processor paying off handsomely. The Nord 2 5G is competitive which the fastest phones in its price category.

Add in OnePlus’s clean software, super-fast recharging, and solid build quality, and you have one of the finest mid-range phones that money can buy.

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Specifications

Specifications

  • Dimensions (mm): 158.9 x 73.2 x 8.3
  • Weight (g): 189
  • Battery capacity (mAh): 4500
  • Colours: Gray Sierra, Blue Haze
  • Screen size (inches): 6.43 
  • Resolution: 1080 x 2400 
  • Pixels per inch (PPI): 409
  • Processor: Dimensity 1200-AI
  • Processor make: MediaTek
  • RAM: 8/12GB
  • Internal storage: 128/256GB
  • Expandable storage up to: NA
  • Camera: 50MP wide, 8MP ultrawide, 2MP macro
  • Operating System: Android 11 with Oxygen OS 11.3

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