OnePlus Nord 2 5G Review: A New Nord Rises
Never settling in the role of the original Nord
- The OnePlus Nord 2 is the third phone in the Nord series to be released in India, after the Nord and the Nord CE.
- Although it is priced slightly above the original Nord in India, the Nord 2 comes with a significantly boosted spec sheet and a processor that is close to flagship levels.
- While the original Nord had been content to be “pretty much everything you could ask for,” the Nord 2 gets close to OnePlus’ original flagship killing roots.
As we like to keep saying, a year is a long time in technology. And the journey of the OnePlus Nord illustrates this. Last year, the phone was introduced to us as a phone that focused totally on the experience, rather than specs. The letter accompanying the phone read:
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?
The Nord 2 5G (hence referred to as the “Nord 2”) sings a rather different tune. It draws attention to its processor (CEO Pete Lau referred to it in his post on the OnePlus forum announcing the phone), its camera, and its blazingly fast charging. The first Nord did not seem to care about its spec sheet. The new Nord waves it proudly. If the first Nord was a great everyday phone, the Nord 2 claims to be “pushing the limits of a great everyday phone.” This was pretty much summarised in the marketing campaign for the Nord 2. The campaign for the Nord had featured the line “Pretty much everything you could ask for.” The Nord 2 used the same line, with “Pretty much” crossed out. As a statement of intent, it was as direct as one could be.
Seeing Blue with those Nord-ic looks
Which is not a bad thing at all. Because what really makes the Nord 2 a very different creature from the original Nord are its innards. From the outside, it seems broadly like its predecessor – smart but not really spectacular. You get a 6.43-inch display in front, although this time with a single punch hole rather than the two on the first Nord (the only real downgrade). The frame we are told by many is carbonate, but the front and back are glass and the alert slider (missing on the Nord CE) is back on the right, alongside the power/display button.
One of the most striking design features of the original Nord was its blue shade – a color the brand has made its own (a rarity – can you associate a color with other phone brands!). The Nord 2 continues this Blue-sy feeling with its Blue Haze variant, which we got for review. It is a lighter shade than the original Nord and almost seems powder-white at some places, but it is a similar curved back, with a glossy finish. The camera arrangement has been tweaked a little – it is still largely rectangular, but two of the lenses are large and the third is exactly the same size as the flash at the base and right next to it.
At 158.9 mm in height, it is not exactly a small phone and is a fraction taller than the original Nord, but still seems compact compared to most of the phones in its segment (the Mi 11X is 163.7 mm tall, and the iQoo 7 is 162.2 mm). It is 8.3 mm which is relatively slim, although at 189 grams it seems a little on the heavy side. All said done, the Nord 2 looks like a typical Nord – smart, compact, solidly built (some will complain about a plastic frame, but we have no issues with it) and well, blue. Its blue variant is unlikely to turn heads but will be spotted as a Nord from a distance. A certain cool factor in that! The absence of dust and water resistance is a bit of a surprise, though, given that a number of devices in the price range have them.
Chipping close to flagships with an A and an I too
Beneath that very familiar exterior is hardware that is definitely not from the original Nord zone. The first Nord had been powered by the very competent but still very mid-segment Snapdragon 765G. The Nord CE ran on the Snapdragon 750G. But the Nord 2 not only goes for a MediaTek chip (the first OnePlus to do so) but gets much closer to the flagship processor zone with the MediaTek Dimensity 1200 AI processor, which is very close to the Snapdragon 870 in terms of performance.
As per OnePlus, this is not just a regular run-of-the-mill Dimensity 1200 that you see in other phones (like the Oppo Reno 6 Pro or the Poco F3 GT) but is a little superior because it has been developed by OnePlus in collaboration with MediaTek, which should make it do certain tasks (image processing being one of them) more efficiently. Combined with RAM and storage configurations of 6 GB/ 128 GB, 8 GB / 128 GB, and 12 GB/ 256 GB, it puts the Nord 2 on paper closer in terms of performance to the OnePlus 9R than the original Nord. That’s a big step forward.
Stepping up other specs too
The display is a 6.43-inch fluid AMOLED full HD+ one with a 90 Hz refresh rate. And it seems a little more, well, ‘colorful’ than the ones on the original Nord and the Nord CE. No, it does not get as crazy bright and poppy as Samsung’s AMOLED displays, but this does come with richer colors than by general OnePlus standards – some feel that is the AI in the chip at work, but we cannot say for sure. It is definitely a very pleasant display, and those who like high refresh rates will like the 90 Hz figure, although there are brands with higher refresh rates at that price.
The camera set up on the back gets a bit of a boost too – the main sensor is the 50 megapixel Sony IMX 766 with OIS, seen on the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro. There is no Hasselblad tie-up here but the hardware remains formidable. Less impressive are the 8-megapixel ultrawide and the 2-megapixel monochrome sensors. And in perhaps the only hardware downgrade from the original Nord, the front-facing camera is a single 32-megapixel one, down from the dual camera set up on the Nord. Round all this off with a larger 4500 mAh battery with a much faster Warp Charge 65 support, and a 65W charger in the box, and there is no doubting that the Nord 2 is closer to the upper segment than the mid one in spec sheet terms.
Pushing the performance buttons
It is not spec window dressing either. The Nord 2 turns in a very impressive performance on all fronts. That display is one of the better ones in the segment and is great for viewing videos and reading text. No, we are not convinced by high refresh rates yet, but scrolling is brisk enough. And well, while we could not actually see any noticeable changes in the speed of operation from other Dimensity 1200 devices (the AI seems more A than I at the time of writing, although we expect this to change, given the brand’s superb update record), the Nord 2 handled gaming very well indeed.
No, it will not run high-end games with maxed-out settings super smoothly all the time, but unless you are absolutely crazy about the highest frame rates in every game, you will get a more than decent gaming performance from the Nord 2. We would not say it is better than the Snapdragon 870 sporting iQoo 7 and Mi 11X, but it is very very close – and that is a good place to be. The addition of stereo speakers makes the device very good not just for gaming, but for multimedia (watching shows, videos, etc.) in general. Multitasking and switching between apps were smooth too. This is a very smooth operator.
Very good cameras (yes, it is a OnePlus)
But if the performance in gaming was largely expected, given the processor and RAM on the device, one area where the Nord 2 pulled a real rabbit out of the hat was in the photography department. Now, cameras are not exactly the forte of OnePlus (not until a few updates have been served to them at least), but when it comes to the Nord series this year, OnePlus seems to have upped its photography game considerably.
We had been pleasantly surprised by the performance of the cameras on the Nord CE, and the Nord 2 follows its example. There is no Hasselblad tie-up here, but the 50 megapixel Sony IMX 766 sensor takes some very good pictures in terms of detail. The colors are a little on the bright side, but we do not see too many having problems with that. Low light photography is very good too and so is the video (the OIS at play?). Yes, the 8-megapixel ultrawide and the 2-megapixel monochrome cameras are a little token in comparison – we would suggest sticking to the main sensor for most of your photography, and use the ultrawide only when totally necessary. The 32-megapixel selfie camera gets some great selfies too, although we felt that the original Nord’s double selfie snappers did a little more.
[Click here for full resolution pictures + additional samples]
In terms of quality, this is one of the better snappers in its segment, and it has been a while since we said that about a OnePlus phone.
Handling the normal like a Nord…and charging ahead in battery
The Nord 2 reverts to being like the original Nord when it comes to routine day-to-day tasks. It is extremely efficient in matters of handling calls, messaging, mail, and social networks. The relatively less tall form factor does make the phone easier to use. Of course, as the Nord 2 comes after the deeper “integration” between OnePlus and Oppo, and the merging of Oxygen OS with Color OS, there was some concern that the Nord’s UI would be more cluttered than the clean interface that was a OnePlus hallmark. Well, as of now, that does not seem to have happened. There might be some Color OS touches on the Nord 2, but they are not very noticeable, and this is still a very clean UI.
The Nord 2 comes with a 4500 mAh battery. That is big by OnePlus standards and it does see off a day of normal use. That is decent enough but not the greatest we have seen in the segment (the Poco F3 GT and Mi 11X do better). But if the Nord 2 does run out of power a little too early for your comfort, you can get it recharged literally in a jiffy with Warp Charge 65. The phone comes with a 65W charger in the box that can get the phone from zero to a hundred in about forty minutes. That’s staggering by any standards. And while the 5G support on the phone right now is so much fluff, it could be a factor later in the year or next year when the network DOES become available in India.
Closer to the 9R than the Nord, actually…
The OnePlus Nord 2 is available for Rs 27,999 for the 6 GB/ 128 GB, Rs 29,999 for 8 GB/ 128 GB and Rs 34,999 for the 12 GB / 256 GB. That puts it right up against not just its much-talked-about rival, the Poco F3 GT which will ultimately be priced at a starting price of Rs 26,999 (it is available at lower prices for an initial period), but also the Snapdragon 870 driven Mi 11X and the iQOO 7, and also the Samsung Galaxy A52 which might lose out in processor terms, but scores on camera and display.
While it does not exactly beat its competition hands down, the fact that it more than matches them in some departments and is not overwhelmed by them tells you what a steady performer it is. In fact, we would go so far as to say that it gets closer to OnePlus’ flagship killing roots that the OnePlus 9R did, and can even be considered an alternative by some. A more premium and stand-out design would have helped its cause, but in sheer performance terms, this one goes well beyond what was considered traditional Nord territory.
And that makes the Nord 2 a very different customer from the first one. It is not as firmly upper mid-segment and is gently snapping at the heels of its more pricey siblings. It is not quite a flagship killer but is not too far away from being one.
- Relatively compact design
- Steady performance
- Good cameras
- Super fast charging
- UI remains uncluttered
- No dust or water resistance
- Rather predictable design
- Battery life could have been better
|Design & Looks||
A flagship-level processor and a much-improved feature set make the OnePlus Nord 2 a much better phone than the original Nord, despite the slightly higher price in India. The Nord 2 is closer to OnePlus' original flagship roots, while the Nord was content to be "pretty much everything you could want.".