OnePlus Nord CE 2 Review: A decent mid-ranger


OnePlus launched the OnePlus Nord CE 2 smartphone in India earlier this month, as the successor to last year’s Nord CE. It is a minor upgrade since this packs a Dimensity 900 SoC and has a 65W fast charger, while retaining the display and the cameras. Specifications look good on paper, but is this worth the price since there is a heavy competition in the 20 to 25K segment? Let us dive into the review to find out.

Box Contents

  • OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G (Bahama Blue 8GB+128GB)
  • 65W SUPERVOOC charger
  • USB Type-C Cable
  • Transparent case
  • SIM ejector
  • Quick Start Guide and Warranty Information

Display, Hardware and Design

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 sports a 6.43-inch (1080 x 2400 pixels) Full HD+ 20:9 aspect ratio Fluid AMOLED display with 90Hz refresh rate and 410 PPI, almost the same as the Nord CE. The display is bright, offers good colour output since it has sRGB and DCI-P3 Colour Gamut and the sunlight legibility is good as well.

The 90Hz refresh rate and 180Hz touch sampling rate offers a buttery smooth user experience, especially when you are scrolling through the UI and when gaming. It can only automatically switch between 60Hz and 90Hz depending on the content, thus saving the battery life. It also has HDR 10 support, which works for YouTube, but it doesn’t work for Netflix. The phone also has Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection.

You can enable video color enhancer from display settings, which increases the colors when playing SDR videos to make them look like HDR. The phone doesn’t have a notification LED, but this has always-on-display, which is called ambient display that shows contextual info and notifications all day or as per schedule, and there is also horizon  lighting that glows when you receive notifications. There is also a new canvas option that we had seen in several OnePlus phones. Always on display doesn’t consume a lot of power since this is an AMOLED screen, but the company says that it increases the power consumption.

The phone has a tiny punch-hole on the left that houses a 16-megapixel camera. Above the display, there is an earpiece on the top edge, but it doesn’t act as a secondary speaker. It has an in-display fingerprint scanner, is quick to unlock the phone immediately when you place your finger. You can also notice a small bezel below the screen. The haptic feedback is decent, but it is not not the best compared to other mid-range phones.

Coming to button placements, the power button is present on the right. Dual SIM slot with a dedicated microSD slot and the volume rockers are present on the left. The secondary microphone is present on the top. The 3.5mm audio jack, primary microphone, USB Type-C port and the loudspeaker grill are present on the bottom. There is no alert slider.

The phone has a polycarbonate frame and the back is also made of plastic, but the design looks premium. The phone is just 7.8mm thick, making it the thinnest OnePlus phone since the 6T. The Bahama Blue version is smooth with a gradient finish that chances from blue and yellow when light hits it. The phone also comes in Gray Mirror that has a mirror-like finish. It weighs 173 grams, even though it has a 4500mAh battery. The phone doesn’t have IP ratings.

Camera

Camera setup

  • Primary camera — 64MP with 0.7μm pixel size, f/1.79 aperture, Omnivision sensor
  • Secondary camera — 8MP 119° ultra-wide camera with f/2.25 aperture
  • Third — 2MP macro camera with f/2.4 aperture
  • Front Camera — 16MP with Sony IMX471 sensor, f/2.45 aperture
  • Video capabilities — 4K video at 30fps, 1080p slow motion at 120fps, 720p at 240fps

The camera UI is familiar with other OnePlus smartphones running OxygenOS 11. You can switch between the main and ultra-wide cameras easily and also go for 2x zoom or zoom up to 10x digitally. There are several filter options and Google Lens shortcut. Camera modes include Time-lapse, Panorama, Slow motion, video, photo, portrait, Nightscape and Expert mode that lets you adjust white balance, focus, shutter speed (1/8000s to 32 seconds), ISO (100 to 6400) and option to select focus. You can also shoot in RAW in Pro mode and in 64MP mode.

The rear camera offers 16MP output after pixel binning, and the front camera images are 16MP in size. Daylight shots came out well, thanks to optimization, even though it retains the same sensor, and the dynamic range is better with auto HDR. There is AI mode which recognizes different photo scenes and automatically adjusts camera settings to make boost the colours. 2X is good, but once you zoom after that the quality degrades since it is digital zoom. The portrait mode is decent with software, 8MP ultra-wide camera is also decent, but the 2MP macro camera is useless, so it is recommended to use 2X zoom with the normal camera.

Low light shots are decent, and night mode is useful, but it takes a few seconds to process. The front camera is also good in daylight, and has seen a slight improvement from the predecessor. The bokeh shots were decent, but the edge detection is not the best since it is just uses software.

Check out the camera samples.

The Portrait video mode is limited to 720p. There is also AI mode and ultra-wide video shooting, but these are limited to 1080p 30fps. It uses EIS for videos, which does a decent job, and there is also an ultra steady mode.

Software, UI and Apps

It runs Android 11 out of the box with Android security update for January 2022. The company says that it will get Android 12-based OxygenOS 12 in the second half of 2022, but this might be too late. It has also confirmed that the phone will get two major Android updates and 3 years of security updates. This has ColorOS codebase, so the UI is almost similar to the ColorOS with a few chances to the icons.

Out of 8GB LPDDR4x RAM, you get 7.5GB of usable RAM, and about 4GB of RAM is free when default apps are running in the background. Out of 128GB UFS 2.2 storage, you get about 106GB of free storage. It UFS 2.2 storage, and we got sequential read speeds of about 988.53MB/s. Apart from the usual set of utility apps, Google apps and OnePlus’ own set of apps, it comes preloaded with Netflix app, but it can be uninstalled.

Fingerprint sensor

It has an in-display fingerprint sensor that unlocks the phone quickly, but it is not as fast as a physical fingerprint sensor. You can add up to 5 fingerprints. You can also use the fingerprint for app local and payments in apps. The phone also has face unlock, but it is not as secure as fingerprint.

Music Player and Multimedia

YouTube Music is the default Music Player that has equalizer and Dirac Audio Tuner. It doesn’t have FM Radio support. Audio through the mono speaker is quite loud and clear. Wish it came with stereo speakers, since most mid-range phone now feature stereo speakers. Audio through the earphones is good as well. This has Widevine L1 so that you can play HD content on Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and other streaming apps. It doesn’t have HDR support in Netflix, which was present in the first gen Nord CE.

Dual SIM and Connectivity

The Nord CE 2 has support for several 5G bands that includes for n1/3/5/8/40/41/77/78 Network Bands in India. It has 4G Wi-Fi and VoLTE with support for Carrier Aggregation on 4G. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi 6 802.11 ax (2.4GHz + 5GHz), VoWiFi / Wi-Fi calling support, Bluetooth 5.2, GPS / GLONASS / Beidou. It has OTG support and also has NFC support. Moving on, the call quality is good, and we did not face any call drops and the earpiece volume was loud.

The Nord CE 2’s body SAR is 0.814W/Kg and head SAR is at 1.023/Kg, which is well under the limit of 1.6 W/kg (over 1 g) in India.

Performance and Benchmarks

It powered by the MediaTek Dimensity 900 6nm SoC, which was introduced last year. This has 2 x A78 CPUs clocked at up to 2.4GHz, 6x A55 CPUs clocked at up to 2GHz. It has Mali-G68 MC4 and up to 8GB LPDDR4X RAM.

The company doesn’t say if the phone has any kind of cooling. It gets a bit warm on intensive gaming and 4G data use, but it doesn’t get too hot to handle. We did not face any issues or frame drops in the graphic-intensive games like COD, BGMI and Genshin Impact. It reached maximum 42º in our testing indoors in Wi-Fi, but this might vary outdoors in 4G. That said, check out some synthetic benchmark scores below.

Battery life

Coming to the battery life, the phone packs a 4500mAh (typical) built-in battery, same as the Nord CE. Thanks to the optimization, it lasts the whole day with heavy use even on 4G, and lasts for more than a day on Wi-Fi. I got close to 5 hours of screen on time with over a day of use on Wi-Fi and in 90Hz. Since the phone has support for 65W SuperVOOC charging, it can charge from 50% in 15 minutes and up to 100% in about 32 minutes with the bundled 65W charger.

Conclusion

At a starting price of Rs. 23,999, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 is a decent upgrade to the Nord CE which retains the 3.5mm audio and the same AMOLED panel. Tere is a slight improvement in the main camera and has a change in design which might attract the buyers. However, it misses stereo speakers, and still runs Android 11 which might be a tough sell in the price range since there is a heavy competition in the segment.

Pricing and availability

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G comes is priced at Rs. 23,999 for the 6GB + 128GB version and the 8GB + 128GB version costs Rs. 24,999. It is available from OnePlus.in, OnePlus Store App, Amazon.in, OnePlus experience stores as well as authorized partner outlets.

ICICI Bank card holders can avail an additional discount of INR 1500 as well as no cost EMI for 3months.

Alternatives

The realme 9 Pro+ has a better camera with OIS, and stereo speakers at a slightly higher price tag. The Xiaomi 11i offers a 120Hz screen and a bigger battery.

Pros

  • 90Hz AMOLED display is good
  • Good main camera performance
  • Smooth performance
  • Good battery life and 65W fast charging
  • Dedicated microSD slot

Cons

  • Average low-light camera performance
  • Still runs Android 11
  • No stereo speakers


Author: Srivatsan Sridhar

Srivatsan Sridhar is a Mobile Technology Enthusiast who is passionate about Mobile phones and Mobile apps. He uses the phones he reviews as his main phone. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram





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