review

OnePlus Nord Review: Definitely Nord your regular Mid Ranger!

Not everyone needs a flagship

by: - Last updated on: September 4th, 2020

Today when a new phone hits the market, we often ask – what are its specs?
But then we would be asking the wrong question.
Because if the experience is smooth.
If the camera is powerful.
And the quality is exceptional.
If everything works just the way we expect.
Do the specs even matter?

Those are the words that come in the Welcome Letter that accompanies the OnePlus Nord, signed by the OnePlus Nord Team.

oneplus nord review

And in many ways, those sum up the core thinking behind the product. The Nord does not claim to be out there for a spec battle with the competition. Instead, it tries to revisit a zone that many Android devices – including OnePlus’ own- have been guilty of avoiding for a while now.

Experience.

A OnePlus that’s not really about the specs (no, really it isn’t)

We are not going to get into a spec and design readout here because they are very well known by now (refresh your minds here in case you missed out).

Instead, we are going to be direct- if you look purely at its spec sheet and even its design (that striking blue shade on the back apart), the OnePlus Nord is not going to sweep you off your feet.

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The Nord is a very good looking device with its glass front and back (and THAT shade of blue), but then good looking devices are not the rarities that they once were. You do get to see some very good and very striking designs in the Nord’s price segment these days.

And when it comes to the spec sheet, there are phones out there that offer more, even coming with Snapdragon 855 and 855+ chips, both considered superior to the Snapdragon 765 on the Nord, and comparable cameras and displays, not to mention fast charging (once a OnePlus preserve) in its price range. If that sounds difficult to digest, check out our list of OnePlus Nord challengers. Whatever the Nord is, it is definitely not a budget flagship, like some of its competitors.

So it does not overwhelm in terms of design. Or in terms of specs. So what does the Nord do that is so special? The answer to that is: nothing…and everything.

Yes, everything…it does everything

For, when you look at it closely, the Nord pretty much does everything you would expect a phone in its price segment to do. And does them all very well indeed.

You want to watch some content or browse the Web?

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That 6.44-inch fluid AMOLED full HD+ display does the job very well indeed. It is not super bright but is among the best in its segment in terms of handling color. And if you are a “refresh rate freak,” well, scroll endlessly and smoothly with the 90 Hz refresh rate display. Yes, we miss the stereo speakers that are there on the OnePlus 8 series, and hey, a 3.5 mm audio jack would not have hurt, but the single speaker delivers good enough sound at a reasonable volume. Sound over bluetooth earphones is rather good.

You want to do some gaming?

Let’s get one thing clear – the Snapdragon 765 is not meant for running PUBG and Call of Duty at terrific levels of smoothness. But for most users (hardcore gamers apart), they will run fine on the Nord. And so will most other games. This is not a gaming powerhouse, but it can handle gaming pretty well and even has a gaming mode. We do wish it had stereo speakers, though.

You want to shoot some great pictures and videos?

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In good light conditions, the Nord will serve up both. We actually thought that the main 48-megapixel sensor did a little better than the one on the OnePlus 8. There are some mild focusing issues at times, and well, we sometimes encountered blurry shots in UHD mode especially if we moved the camera too quickly after taking a snap. But by and large, the Nord takes some very good snaps in terms of color and detail. Video content is good as well, although we still think the sound is a slight issue.

[Click here for full resolution images and additional samples]

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And well, that dual selfie camera arrangement gives you the best selfies we have seen from a OnePlus. We are not very sure how much value the additional lenses at the back add to the experience, though – the ultrawide loses a bit in terms of detail (8 megapixels) and the 2-megapixel macro kind of is handy without being special, while the 5-megapixel depth sensor can give good portraits, but is not really perfect. OnePlus has however added more filters to the camera interface, which in our book, beats additional lenses any day. The Nord is capable of very good still photography and videos. And knowing OnePlus, software updates will ensure that it gets better in the coming days!

You want smooth all-round performance?

The Nord serves it up. You could have multiple tabs open, social networks, and messengers buzzing. And there will be no lags or shutdowns. And no, it will not heat up either. Oxygen OS can be a little odd at times (we had the odd random crash), but OnePlus updates it regularly and it is the closest to a clean, uncluttered and yet smooth Android experience, this side of a Pixel.

You want all-day battery life?

oneplus nord battery

Once again, you get it. The Nord’s 4115 mAh battery is not the largest in the segment but even with a 90 Hz refresh rate display, it will see you through a day very comfortably. We would say it is on par or even slightly better than the OnePlus 8 in this department. And yes, this is a OnePlus so there is fast charging via Warp Charge 30T with a 30W charger in the box. Yes, we like the red cable!

See what we mean? And all this in a good looking frame that is neither bulky nor too heavy (we would have liked an IP rating for dust and water resistance, though!). No, it will not set the world on fire with its performance. In fact, the chances are that you will not even really notice it going through your regular day to day tasks. It might not be the best in class in every department, but then the Nord does not make you feel as if you are missing out on too much.

Time to get Nordic?

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So who should be going for a OnePlus Nord? Well, we think anyone who wants a good phone starting at Rs 25,000 (although that 6GB/64 GB base model will be available only in September), or even Rs 30,000 (the 12 GB/256 GB Nord at Rs 29,999 is quite a deal). If you are looking for a spec monster or a design wizard, there are other devices in the market,. But if you are looking for a phone that just does everything well, the Nord is as good as it gets.

It is not the glamorous celeb.
Or the powerful CEO.
Or the hunk with bulging muscles.
It is the casually dressed person sitting in a cafe, sipping coffee and reading a book, happier being comfortable than powerful or famous.

The OnePlus 8 series is OnePlus showing it can make flagships. The OnePlus Nord is OnePlus reminding folks that a flagship is not always necessary. And that is something that perhaps a lot of us need to be reminded of.

A few years ago, at a briefing of a product, one of my colleagues had asked an executive what was the clock speed of the processor in the device and how much RAM it had. Another asked why the phone had “only” an x megapixel camera. The executive’s answer was:

Does it matter? The phone works smoothly, doesn’t it? Why do you want to put a number on it?

The phone was an early edition of the iPhone.

One more time? Carl Pei has a figurine of Steve Jobs on his table.

Small wonder OnePlus is going…Nord.

Buy OnePlus Nord on Amazon

Pros
  • Smooth performance
  • Eye-catching marble blue color
  • Clutter-free UI
  • Decent battery life
Cons
  • Design could be seen as predictable
  • Cameras a little inconsistent
  • Not a gaming powerhouse
  • No stereo speakers or water resistance
Review Overview
Build & Design
Performance
Camera
Software
Price
SUMMARY

With the OnePlus Nord, OnePlus returns to a price segment it once dominated. But this time with a totally different approach. The Nord is not a spec monster. Or a design wonder. And yet it is special. Read on to find out why.

3.9

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  1. Somehow, I feel the processor section could have been better. MediaTek Dimensity 820 would have been the perfect option.

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