OnePlus Nord review: Everything you’d want from a 5G phone

With 5G, a solid lineup of specs and a beautiful, vibrant design, the OnePlus Nord offers a hell of a lot for a reasonable price. At under 500 euros (about $570, £450 or AU$820), it’s significantly cheaper than its $999 flagship sibling, the OnePlus 8 Pro.

This phone packs a potent octacore processor, a vibrant 6.44-inch display, an in-display fingerprint scanner and 5G connectivity for ultrafast data speeds. All of that’s wrapped up in a great-looking blue body that feels anything but cheap. Add to that three rear cameras that take decent shots and two selfie cameras, and the Nord is as well-stacked as any of today’s elite handsets.

LikeAffordable price5G-enabledAttractive, vibrant design

Don’t LikeUnavailable in USNot water resistantFrustrating fingerprint scanner

So what’s the catch?

There are a couple of tiny compromises: There’s no IP rating for waterproofing as you’ll get on the OnePlus 8 ($699 at Amazon) and 8 Pro, and the in-display fingerprint scanner is very hit and miss. Neither of which are deal-breakers. The bigger problem for most of you is that this excellent phone isn’t available in the US. It’s currently due for release in the UK and wider Europe (as well as India and China) but OnePlus has yet to say if it’ll ever reach US or Australian shelves. 

Discover the latest news and best reviews in smartphones and carriers from CNET’s mobile experts.

Those of you who can buy it should know that this is a superb phone that offers a great experience for a much more affordable price than any of today’s flagship phones. If you’ve been eyeing up the iPhone SE but don’t want to switch away from Android, the OnePlus Nord is the phone for you.

The OnePlus Nord has 5G connectivity.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the name “Nord” — sadly it has nothing to do with a race of people in the Elder Scrolls games, but instead is because Nord means North in some European languages. OnePlus says that North on a compass “points towards growth and success,” which it doesn’t, it’s just a direction, but who am I to argue? 

A beautiful design

I love the bold blue color of the Nord. It’s vibrant and fun and stands out from any other phone on the market. The metallic edging looks great too and while I’m pretty sure it’s made from plastic, not metal, it still feels good to hold. That’s helped by the rear panel, which is Gorilla Glass 5 and adds a premium feel to the phone.

The 6.44-inch screen stretches all the way to the edges, which helps the phone not feel too bulky. I could hold and use it quite comfortably in one hand, while the larger OnePlus 8 Pro could be more of a struggle.

The OnePlus Nord does not have an IP rating for water resistance.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

There’s a fingerprint scanner built into the display, which means there’s been no need to squeeze one into a button elsewhere. It’s not that great though, regularly misreading my thumb print and forcing me to input my PIN instead. Hopefully this can be improved soon with a simple software update.

The Nord doesn’t have any IP rating for waterproofing, which means it’s probably best if you don’t intentionally drop your phone down the toilet. But then, I can’t think of a phone I would want to intentionally drop down the toilet. It’s a shame as the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro have IP68 waterproofing, which helps keep them safe from spilled drinks. That waterproofing is likely one of the compromises OnePlus had to make to keep the cost down. Just make sure you’re extra careful around clumsy friends carrying beers.

The screen’s 2,400×1,080-pixel resolution is lower than the 8 Pro’s, but it still looks perfectly crisp and clear. Text and icons are pin-sharp and high-definition videos on YouTube look great.

OnePlus Nord: a beautifully designed 5G phone with an affordable price tag
See all photos

OnePlus Nord’s processor performance

Under the hood is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G processor, which brings 5G connectivity to the Nord and actually makes it among the more affordable 5G phones around. Of course you’ll need to be on a service plan that supports 5G and you’ll need to be in an area where 5G is available. 5G is still somewhat in its infancy, so coverage is still quite patchy in many areas of the US and the UK, but it’s definitely smart to be buying a 5G phone now so that you’re ready to take advantage of those speeds when they’re more easily accessible.

The processor itself has eight cores and it’s backed up by either 8 or 12GB of RAM, depending on the variant you go for. Our review model came with the maximum 12GB and performance is excellent. Navigation around the phone was swift and free of any lag, while demanding games like Asphalt 9: Legends played without any noticeable drop in frame rates. 

The OnePlus Nord and OnePlus 8.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Its scores on the Geekbench 5 and 3DMark Sling Shot benchmark tests put it below the iPhone SE and the OnePlus 8 Pro, but above Samsung’s Galaxy A51 ($325 at Amazon). So no, it’s not the most powerful phone around, but there’s little you’re likely to throw at it on a daily basis that it won’t comfortably be able to handle.

OnePlus’s Oxygen OS is based on the latest Android 10 and provides a clean interface that I really like. It’s simple to use, swift to navigate and it doesn’t come preloaded with annoying bloatware. OnePlus promises the phone will get software updates for at least two years, with critical security updates for another year beyond that.

3DMark Slingshot Unlimited

Note:
Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.5.0 single-core

Note:
Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.5.0 multicore

Note:
Longer bars indicate better performance

Great wide shots, poor macro skills

There are three main lenses on the back — there’s the standard zoom camera, which is a 48-megapixel Sony sensor — the same one found on the OnePlus 8. That’s joined by a 12-megapixel super wide-angle lens and there’s also a 2-megapixel macro camera that lets you focus close up on tiny details. 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Results from the standard lens look decent, especially considering the price tag. Shots look well-exposed and sharp, with vibrant, accurate colors. 

The wide-angle lens helps you capture a lot more of the scene in front of you. It also produces well-exposed images with decent colors. They don’t have the pin-sharp detail of the main sensor, but they’re more than good enough for Instagram or Facebook. 

Slightly confusingly, there is a “2x” button on the main camera screen, which would normally activate the 2x zoom lens on phones that have them. It’s important to remember that the Nord doesn’t have a 2x zoom lens, so that mode instead digitally crops into your image. 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The 2-megapixel macro camera is disappointing. Colors look drab and lifeless, and I’ve found that focus can be hit and miss too. I’ve had better close-up results from using the standard camera and simply cropping in. 

There’s also a portrait mode that uses the 5-megapixel depth sensor to give some attractive out-of-focus backgrounds to your portrait shots, as well as other features like 4K video, slow motion and a night mode for capturing brighter shots in low light. 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

On the front is the first dual-lens selfie camera we’ve seen from OnePlus. The main front lens offers a huge 32-megapixel resolution, to let you see every excruciating detail on your face. Images from the main lens are sharp and well-exposed, and while the lower 8-megapixel resolution of the second lens provides less detail, the wider-view lets you capture more of your environment in your selfies. 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

There’s a night mode, too to help take shots in very low-light situations. It does a good job of capturing the available light while maintaining a good level of overall sharpness to the scene. 

OnePlus Nord battery life 

There’s a 4,115-mAh battery inside the Nord that should be able to provide enough juice to keep you going for a whole day. As always, that’ll depend on how you use it — if you spend all morning streaming videos then you can probably expect to need to give the Nord a boost in the afternoon. 

In my own time with the phone I found it would comfortably get through at least a full day with what I would describe as mild use, which included a bit of web browsing, some light gaming and taking a few photos. Crucially, it wasn’t connected to 5G, which could be a big power drain, so we’ll have to see how it fares in real-world use once we can safely get out with it.

While it doesn’t have the wireless charging found on the OnePlus 8 Pro (another sacrifice for the lower price), it does have 30-watt fast charging, which promises to take your phone from empty to 70% full in one hour. Fast charging is super handy for those occasions when you’re about to leave the home and realized your phone is almost dead. 

OnePlus Nord specs comparison

OnePlus Nord

OnePlus 8

OnePlus 8 Pro

Apple iPhone SE (2020)

Display size, resolution

6.44-inch; 2,400×1,080-pixels

6.55-inch AMOLED; 1,080×2,400 pixels

6.78-inch AMOLED; 1,440×3,168 pixels

4.7-inch Retina HD; 1,334×750 pixels

Pixel density

408ppi

402ppi

513ppi

326ppi

Dimensions (Inches)

6.23×2.88×0.32 in

6.3×2.8×0.31 in

6.51×2.93×0.35 in

5.45×2.65×0.29 in

Dimensions (Millimeters)

158.3×73.3×8.2 mm

160×72.9×8.0 mm

165×74.4×8.5 mm

138.4×67.3×7.3 mm

Weight (Ounces, Grams)

6.49 oz; 184g

180g

199g

5.22 oz; 148g

Mobile software

Android 10

Android 10

Android 10

iOS 13

Camera

48-megapixel (standard), 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 2-megapixel (macro), 5-megapixel (depth-sensing)

48-megapixel main, 2-megapixel macro lens, 16-megapixel ultra-wide

48-megapixel main, 8-megapixel telephoto, 48-megapixel ultra-wide, 5-megapixel ‘color filter’

12-megapixel

Front-facing camera

32-megapixel, 8-megapixel (wide-angle)

16-megapixel

16-megapixel

7-megapixel

Video capture

4K

4K

4K

4K

Processor

Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G

Qualcomm Snapdragon 865

Qualcomm Snapdragon 865

Apple A13 Bionic

Storage

128GB, 256GB

128GB, 256B

128GB, 256B

64GB, 128GB, 256GB

RAM

8GB, 12GB

8GB, 12GB

8GB, 12GB

Not disclosed

Expandable storage

No

None

None

No

Battery

4,115 mAh

4,300 mAh

4,300 mAh

Not disclosed, but Apple claims it has the same battery life as iPhone 8

Fingerprint sensor

In-screen

In-screen

In-screen

Home button

Connector

USB-C

USB-C

USB-C

Lightning

Headphone jack

No

No

No

No

Special features

5G-enabled, 90Hz refresh rate, 30W fast-charging

5G enabled, Fast-charging, 90Hz display

5G enabled, Fast-charging, fast wireless charging, 120Hz display, IP68 water resistance

Water resistant (IP67); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging

Price off-contract (USD)

$570 (converted from 500 euros)

$699

$899

$399 (64GB), $449 (128GB), $549 (256GB)

Price (GBP)

£450 (converted from 500 euros)

£599

£799

£419 (64GB), £469 (128GB), £569 (256GB)

Price (AUD)

AU$820 (converted from 500 euros)

TBA

TBA

AU$749 (64GB), AU$829 (128GB), AU$999 (256GB)


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