THIS is what the Redmi Note should have been.

We heard that comment several times when OnePlus took the wraps off the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G recently. For, this was actually the Never Settling brand channeling the spirit of the bestselling products of one of its rivals, which itself was undergoing a change of sorts. OnePlus and Xiaomi have had an almost constant rivalry since they both entered the Indian smartphone market in 2014, and their latest encounters have been in the mid-segment. This is a zone Xiaomi has dominated for a while, especially with its bestselling Redmi Note series. Still, OnePlus made a significant dent in its dominance with the Nord and Nord CE devices over the past two years. So much so that in 2022, OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite emerged as one of the highest-selling phones below Rs 20,000 – classic Redmi Note territory.

oneplus nord ce 3 lite review

And now, as the Redmi Note moves up the price list, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite (which is how we will be referring to it for the sake of simplicity) seems to be moving into the zone it is vacating. The Nord CE 3 Lite comes with OnePlus branding, but make no mistake about it – it packs in the spirit of the pre-2021 Redmi Note. At that time, the Redmi Note was synonymous with rock-solid performance across parameters that mattered to most consumers and delivered it at a price that was surprisingly affordable. It did not set benchmarks on fire or make jaws drop with every feature. It just did the basics fantastically well. The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite does just that.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite Design: Straight sides, curved back with a squeeze of Pastel Lime

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is available in two shades with a glossy finish – Pastel Lime and Chromatic Gray. The Chromatic Gray one is quietly smart, but if you are the type who wants your phone to turn heads, the Pastel Lime is the shade to go for. OnePlus says it evokes the spirit of plants, and while we are not too sure about that, it certainly is very different from most of the color options we are seeing on phones these days. The slightly curved back also features two large, jet-black circles containing the three cameras on the phone, with a flash next to them. Like the Pastel Lime shade, those circles are also likely to divide opinion – they do make the phone stick out from the crowd, just like they themselves do from its back. The front of the phone is relatively routine, with a tall, 6.72-inch display with narrow bezels and a punch-hole notch in the top center.

oneplus nord ce 3 lite design

Between the front and the back is a frame of the same shade as the back (a neat touch) and with the straight sides that the iPhone has made popular. There is no alert slider, but you do get a 3.5 mm audio jack on the base, while the right side has the power/display button, which also doubles up as a fingerprint scanner in this case. The volume rocker is on the left, along with the SIM tray slot, and the base of the phone also has a USB Type C port and a speaker grille.

At 165.5 mm, the Nord CE 3 Lite is a tall phone, and while reasonably slim (8.3 mm), it is not exactly featherweight either at 195 grams. The back and the frame are both plastics, but the phone feels very well-built. The front has Corning Gorilla Glass protection, but the device itself has no IP rating for dust or water protection. It is a noticeable device if you get the Pastel Lime variant but otherwise is relatively routine.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite hardware: Something old, something new

oneplus nord ce 3 lite specs

In terms of the spec sheet, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is a blend of some new features and some that seem a little older. OnePlus has opted to go with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 695G chip on the device, which is not the newest, brightest spark in the tech world and has been around for a while – in fact, it also powered the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite last year. It is a reasonably competent mid-segment chip known for its power efficiency but is not quite in the league of the likes of the Dimensity 920 and the Snapdragon 778G that are now being seen in this price segment. Working with this is 8 GB of RAM and storage options of 128 GB and 256 GB, with the option to expand storage by using a microSD card in the hybrid SIM slot. Another blast from the past seems to be the choice to go with an LCD display rather than an AMOLED one which is the rage these days.

That said, the 6.72-inch FHD display has a 120 Hz refresh rate, with the ability to cycle through 30/48/50/60/90/120 Hz depending on the content being displayed on it, and is impressively bright at 680 nits. Similarly, the phone comes with stereo speakers, which befits a modern mid-segmenter but retains the veteran 3.5 mm audio jack. The blend of new and old continues in the camera department. The main sensor is an impressive 108-megapixel Samsung HM6 one, but accompanying it on the back are a pair of 2-megapixel snappers, one for macro and another for depth, which are so 2018. Selfie duties are handled by a 16-megapixel sensor, which is pretty much par for the course.

oneplus nord ce 3 lite battery

The Nord CE 3 Lite is very much up to speed in the battery and software department. It comes with a large 5000 mAh battery, with support for 67W SuperVOOC charging, as well as a 67W charger in the box. The phone also runs on the latest version not just of Android (13) but also OnePlus’ OxygenOS (13.1)

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite’s spec sheet is not exactly cutting edge, but it is impressive for its price tag, especially in terms of the camera and battery. There will be some disappointment over the absence of an AMOLED display, given its prevalence in devices in this segment these days, but that apart, this is a very well-specced phone for its price.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite Performance: A Note-worthy performer

oneplus nord ce 3 lite performance

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite’s performance is very classic Redmi Note like – rock solid right through. The display might be an LCD one, but it is impressively bright (680 nits is the maximum brightness) and very visible in daylight. The Snapdragon 695 chip is not going to set benchmark records, but it is good enough to let you play casual titles easily and even high-end games like Genshin Impact and Call of Duty, with a few tweaks to the settings. The stereo speakers are impressively loud, and the sound through the 3.5 mm audio jack is very good as well. We would call this a great option for those who love to watch lots of shows and videos. The display is bright and handles colors very well (although you do not get the sort of eye-popping colors that some AMOLED displays deliver), the speakers are good, and you have the option of plugging in your wired earphones.

The phone also lets you handle multiple tasks without any trouble (the 8 GB RAM helps, we think) and is a generally smooth performer. 5G connectivity worked fine with our Airtel SIM in Delhi, and well, we think that having the fingerprint scanner on the side is a much-better option than having a sluggish one under the display.

oneplus nord ce 3 lite price

The phone runs on OxygenOS 13.1 on top of Android 13. Notwithstanding all the clamor over its becoming more like ColorOS, we found the UI to be relatively clean and uncluttered with not too much bloatware. However, there is a link to web-based Hot Games that is rather unusual. The phone comes with an assurance of two years of Android OS upgrades and three years of security updates from the date of launch, which is reasonable enough. The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is a generally smooth performer and will sail through most of the routine days without any stutters.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite Camera and the Battery: Stars of the Show

oneplus nord ce 3 lite battery life

Two departments where the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite excels are in the camera and battery. This is the first OnePlus Nord device to sport a 108-megapixel sensor, and the Samsung HM6 sensor does deliver some very impressive results. We got a lot of detail and surprisingly realistic colors in a price segment where most phone cameras tend to oversaturate colors. Even low-light photography was very good for the price segment, especially when you consider that the camera has no OIS.

The addition of 3x lossless zoom is a very handy feature as it not only lets you get a closer look at subjects that are a few feet away (especially in the case of animals and birds) but can also double up as a macro snapper of sorts. This versatility does make a difference, as the two 2-megapixel cameras accompanying that 108-megapixel sensor do very little. They are supposed to be there for depth and macro, for the record. The 16-megapixel selfie camera takes social media-worthy selfies with a fair bit of skin smoothing, but we do not see too many complaints. Videos are reasonably good, although there is no support for 4K, which is becoming popular in this segment.

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The battery life of the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is exceptional. We comfortably got through more than a day of usage on a single charge, and more careful usage got us close to two days. That’s very impressive for a device with such a large, bright display. What’s also impressive is the 67W SuperVOOC charger in the box, which charges the phone from 0 to 100 percent in about an hour and gets it to a very handy 80 percent in slightly over half an hour. Given how good the battery performance is, you can easily get through a day on even 80 percent.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite Review Verdict: One of the best options below Rs 20,000!

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite starts at Rs 19,999 for its 8GB/ 128 GB variant, with an 8 GB / 256 GB variant priced at Rs 21,999. This is the same as that of the Nord CE 2 Lite launched in 2022, although that was with 6 GB RAM. What is, however, more notably (pun intended) different is the fact that the Redmi Note Pro series, which was the greatest challenger of the Nord CE 2 Lite, now has moved up to a considerably higher price zone and starts at Rs 24,999. Interestingly, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite’s spec sheet does have some similarities with the Redmi Note 11 Pro+ – the 108 MP main sensor, the Snapdragon 695 processor and the 5000 mAh battery with 67W fast charging.

oneplus nord 3 ce lite review verdict

In fact, the main challenger to the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite comes not from Redmi or even Realme but from iQOO, whose iQOO Z7 is perhaps one of the best devices under Rs 20,000, thanks to a 64-megapixel camera with OIS and a very powerful MediaTek Dimensity 920 chip, and at the time of writing actually starts at a lower price of Rs 18,999. The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite, however, scores over it in terms of design, battery, charging, and of course, that relatively uncluttered UI as compared to the more crowded FunTouchOS on the iQOO Z7.

There is a new contender for the title of ‘Best smartphone below Rs 20,000’ and wonder of wonders, it is not a Redmi Note, but a OnePlus phone. Those saying it might have a point – this, indeed, could well have been a Redmi Note. And that is saying something!

Buy OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite

  • Eye catching design
  • Good main camera sensor
  • Stereo speakers and 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Great battery life with fast charging
  • Some might expect an AMOLED display at this price
  • Secondary sensors are of little use
  • No dust and water resistance
Review Overview
Design & Looks

At Rs 19,999, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G is in the price zone that Xiaomi's iconic Redmi Note Pro series vacated. Can it take its place? Here's our OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review.

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