• Full Review
  • Specifications

Full Review

OnePlus made a name for itself with ‘flagship killers’ – relatively affordable phones that had top-tier handsets beat in a number of ways, and while the OnePlus Nord CE 5G isn’t quite aiming for that market, it certainly has a lot of tech packed in, and at an even lower price.

From its 5G support to its 90Hz refresh rate, 64MP main camera, Full HD resolution, fast charging, capable chipset, hefty storage capacity, and more it ticks an awful lot of boxes on paper given its £300 price.

Of course, specs lists don’t always tell the whole story, so does the OnePlus Nord CE 5G come together in practice or are you better off getting affordable 5G elsewhere?

Screen

In a phone with a lot of highlights, the OnePlus Nord CE 5G’s screen is perhaps one of its greatest, as it’s a 6.43-inch 1080 x 2400 Fluid AMOLED screen with 410 pixels per inch and a 90Hz refresh rate.

That’s the same resolution as the more expensive Samsung Galaxy A52 5G, and almost the same size. The refresh rate here isn’t quite as high, but it’s still greater than the 60Hz standard, meaning interactions can feel more fluid.

The OnePlus Nord CE 5G’s use of AMOLED tech is also nice to see, as it makes for a better panel than LCD tends to.

None of these specs are remarkable on their own, and there are certainly larger phones at the price, but combined they make for a strong screen – one which in day to day use won’t look a million miles from the displays found on flagships such as the OnePlus 9. In fact, that’s the same resolution and only slightly bigger (though as with the Galaxy A52 5G its refresh rate is higher at 120Hz).

Design

The OnePlus Nord CE 5G is a nice looking phone too, sporting slim bezels around its screen, a thin 7.9mm thick build, and a punch-hole camera.

The design perhaps doesn’t overly stand out, but it looks reasonably expensive, and in line with the OnePlus 9 and even the OnePlus 9 Pro – as well as being substantially nicer than, say, the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G with its teardrop notch.

It’s not quite so impressive under close scrutiny though – the back is plastic for one, which is largely expected at this price but certainly the mark of a fairly cheap phone. The OnePlus Nord CE 5G also lacks any sort of water resistance rating. This again is no surprise at the price, and we’re not holding this against it, but it’s worth being aware of.

What we do hold against it is the lack of an alert slider, as this is a distinctive and useful feature found on most OnePlus phones – it’s a physical slider on the side that allows you to switch between having sound on, vibrate only, and silent modes. But it’s absent here. Still, you do get a 3.5mm headphone port, which is sure to please those who have resisted going wireless.

Power

The OnePlus Nord CE 5G is equipped with a mid-range Snapdragon 750G chipset, which is the same as you’ll find in the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G, despite that phone costing slightly more. It performs quite well too, helped no doubt by the slick software and the up to 12GB of RAM.

A note on that latter point though – there are also 6GB and 8GB versions available, and opting for a 12GB model pushes the price up to £369, with this version also not being as widely available on contract.

Still, even with a 6GB model you should have all the power you need for most tasks. Maxing out settings on demanding games might not always be doable, and app loads could take a split second longer than the fastest phones, but on the whole the Nord CE 5G is a snappy device, if slightly slower than the Snapdragon 765G-powered OnePlus Nord.

Of course, it also supports 5G, so mobile data can be snappy too, and with a choice of 128GB or 256GB of storage there’s plenty of space to play with. That said, there’s no microSD card slot.

Camera

If there’s a weak link in the OnePlus Nord CE 5G it’s the camera, as while a triple-lens snapper headed up by a 64MP main sensor might sound promising, it doesn’t perform quite so well in practice.

That’s not to say that it’s bad, just that you can get better performance elsewhere for similar money. Particularly in low light, or when shooting ultra-wide, with the 8MP ultra-wide camera here delivering a noticeable step down in image quality from the main lens.

The third lens is just a 2MP monochrome depth sensor, and is as much of a filler here as it is on most phones, so you can consider this a dual-lens camera really.

Still, in good light the main 64MP snapper can capture some pleasing images, and the 16MP front-facing camera holds up reasonably well too.

If video is more your thing, there’s the ability to shoot in 4K quality at up to 30fps, or in 1080p at up to 60fps (or 120fps for slow motion). It works well enough but isn’t really any better than rivals, and the lack of optical image stabilisation (OIS) means you probably won’t be shooting your masterpiece on this.

Features

Like many mid-range and above phones, the OnePlus Nord CE 5G has an in-screen fingerprint scanner. It’s at the lower end of pricing in terms of phones you’d find this feature on though, so it’s a definite selling point (assuming you want an in-screen scanner).

Beyond that, the software is worth a mention too. This thing runs Android 11, but it’s overlaid with OnePlus’s OxygenOS, which keep things a lot closer to stock Android than some interfaces (such as those by Xiaomi and Samsung). The upshot is that navigating the phone is slick and intuitive, and there’s not much bloat.

On top of that, the company has reportedly promised two years of major software updates and three years of security updates, which, while not an exceptional number (the Samsung Galaxy S21 for example will get an extra year for each) is more than some affordable phones get, and as many as most Android flagships, so it’s reassuring to know.

Battery life, memory, and connectivity

The OnePlus Nord CE 5G has a 4,500mAh battery, which isn’t massive, with many affordable phones packing a 5,000mAh battery in, but it is in line with the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G’s battery and larger than the standard OnePlus Nord’s.

It also offers fairly decent life. Even when you’re actively using the screen quite a lot you’ll probably get to the end of the day before it needs charging, and while we’re not convinced that many people will get two days of life from it, that’s also not totally out of the question.

Better perhaps than the life though is the charging speed, because with 30W of power it can go from zero to 70% in just 30 minutes. Fast charging is one of the features that’s often omitted on cheaper phones, so it’s nice to see here. That said, there’s no wireless charging.

For storage there’s a choice of 128GB or 256GB, which is a good amount but there’s no microSD card slot. And in terms of notable connectivity options there’s 5G and Bluetooth 5.1.

Verdict

The OnePlus Nord CE 5G is almost as good as its specs list suggests, with only its camera slightly letting it down, and even that’s not bad, it’s just not great.

But for 5G, power, screen quality, and charging speed it holds up well. The build is plastic and there’s no wireless charging, but that’s typical at this price, so as long as you keep your expectations in line with the money you’re spending, the Nord CE 5G is likely to impress.

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Specifications

Specifications

  • Dimensions (mm): 159.2 x 73.5 x 7.9
  • Weight (g): 170
  • Battery capacity (mAh): 4500
  • Colours: Blue Void, Charcoal Ink, Silver Ray
  • Screen size (inches): 6.43
  • Resolution: 1080 x 2400
  • Pixels per inch (PPI): 410
  • Processor: Octa-core
  • Processor make: Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G
  • RAM: 6GB/8GB/12GB
  • Internal storage: 128GB/256GB
  • Expandable storage up to: N/A
  • Camera: 64MP, 8MP and 2MP (16MP front-facing)
  • Operating System: Android 11

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