The OnePlus Nord delivers a lot of features for a very competitive price. The iPhone SE should be nervous.
Starting price: £379
Display: 6.44-inch AMOLED (2400×1080; 90Hz)
CPU: Snapdragon 765G
RAM: 8GB, 12GB
Storage: 128GB, 256GB
SD Card slot: None
Rear camera: 48MP wide (ƒ/1.75); 8MP ultrawide; 5MP depth (ƒ/2.4); 2MP macro (ƒ/2.4)
Front camera: 32MP (ƒ/2.45) and 8MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.45)
Battery: 4,115 mAh
Charging: 30W wired
Security: In-display fingerprint, 2D face unlock
Operating system: Android 10 with OxygenOS 10.5
Colors: Blue Marble, Gray Onyx
Size: 6.23 x 2.88 x 0.32 inches (158.3 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm)
Weight: 6.49 ounces (184g)
The OnePlus Nord is here, with remarkably strong specs and a price that could terrify the competition.
As a completely new part of the company’s phone line — and one offering an irresistible mix of value, power and quality — it’s understandable why OnePlus has been so keen to show the Nord off, and why the phone has drawn so much attention already.
I’ve had some time to experience the Nord, and it is looking like OnePlus is on track to deliver a phone that balances premium features with a low price. The Nord looks and feels like a device that costs twice as much, but in terms of raw specs, you’re unlikely to find anything better for a similar cost. There are some things missing as you might expect, like wireless charging and water resistance, but overall the OnePlus Nor looks like one of the best mid-range phones of the year.
OnePlus Nord price and availability
The OnePlus Nord goes on sale today (June 21) in the UK at 3:30 p.m. BST, with the phone actually getting a release on August 4. If you were lucky enough to get one of the pre-order Nords, then today is the day OnePlus will get in contact to ask you to finalize your order.
The base model Nord, which gets you the phone with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage, costs £379. If you want the higher spec version with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage, then that will set you back £469 instead.
There’s no news of US availability for the Nord yet, although OnePlus is at least considering bringing the Nord line of products to the US in the future, and have talked about its sub-$500 price (although if you convert the GBP prices above they look a lot more expensive). For now though, you’ll have to run the risk of using online auction sites to get a hold of a Nord in the US.
OnePlus Nord design and colors
I really like the design of the OnePlus Nord, which has a premium feeling glass-and-metal body despite its aggressive price. The relocated cameras, flat display and the change to the front cutout strongly mark this device as part of a different branch of the OnePlus family to the numbered flagship series. It’s a great way for OnePlus to make its new mid-range phone feel unique and special, rather than just designing the Nord to look like a cheaper OnePlus 8.
The Nord’s punch-hole camera and near-bezelless flat display are similar to the OnePlus 8, except for the cutout being double the width to fit in the extra selfie camera. On the back of the Nord, the OnePlus logo and text is identically placed to the way it is on the OnePlus 8, except the cameras are mounted on the right side of the phone instead of down the middle.
You can pick between two color options. Our review unit (pictured) is the Marble Blue version, while the other choice is a plainer one: Gray Onyx. Both look good on the Nord’s simple curved back-glass, but the brighter blue makes the phone look a lot more special. This is enhanced by a slight blue tint to the metal rail that runs around the edge of the phone, helping the Nord make a big statement when you withdraw it from your pocket or bag.
OnePlus Nord display
The display specs for the OnePlus Nord could easily be mistaken for a much more expensive phone. With a 6.4-inch screen size, a full HD AMOLED panel and a 90Hz refresh rate, it’s brushing up against the kind of screens you’d find on a flagship product. And since the Nord’s display is rated at 1,000 nits at maximum brightness, you should have no trouble seeing the screen even in bright sunlight. Compared to the 4.7-inch LCD display of the iPhone SE, the display is stunning.
Unlike its back panel, which has rounded edges that tuck into the center rail, there’s no curve to the Nord’s display. While curved displays theoretically mean more screenspace packed into the same dimensions, some users prefer the more compact feeling of a flat panel. It does make the bezels a bit more prominent, but the Nord’s competition — the iPhone SE and Pixel 3a — use enormous bezels. We can’t really complain about the bezels on the Nord too much.
OnePlus Nord cameras
While many budget phones offer a limited number of sensors in order to keep the price down, OnePlus has made its most camera-heavy phone yet with the Nord, storing a total of six between the front and the back.
On the back, you get a 48MP main sensor (Sony’s IMX586 if you’re curious), an 8MP ultrawide angle sensor, a 2MP macro camera and a 5MP depth sensor camera. Between them, these cameras are intended to handle everything from extreme close-ups to big open wide shots, with the depth sensor helping add photo effects like bokeh.
This is three extra sensors compared to the single camera you get on the back of the iPhone SE or Pixel 3a, which really makes those two phones look stingy with their camera tech (though those phones rely heavily on computational photography to rank among the best camera phones). About the only other thing you could ask from the Nord here would be a telephoto lens with optical zoom, but that would likely increase the cost beyond OnePlus’ sub-$500 target.
The front notch of the OnePlus Nord contains a pair of selfie cameras: a 32MP main sensor and an 8MP ultrawide sensor, for when you need to fit in a big group of people or as much of an environment as possible when you take a selfie. Again, compared to the competition from Apple and Google, which offer just single front-facing cameras, OnePlus looks very generous.
OnePlus also offers a trio of special camera filters, designed in partnership with photographer Hannes Becker, to use with this sextet of sensors. OnePlus says it’s looking to give users unique ways to create photos that you wouldn’t get on any other phone, exemplified by the photochrom camera on the OnePlus 8 Pro. These filters, which offer a mix of cold and warm tints inspired by Nordic countries, are the Nord’s method of achieving that same aim, except via software rather than hardware.
We can’t bring you any test shots with these cameras yet, but be sure to check back soon for our full review where we will put these six cameras under the microscope.
OnePlus Nord specs and performance
With the Snapdragon 765G at its heart, the Nord should offer decent performance for its cost. It won’t defeat Android flagships using Qualcomm’s best available chipset, the Snapdragon 865, nor will it beat the A13 chip within the iPhone SE based on previous benchmarks we’ve seen. But you’re unlikely to find a more powerful Android phone for this price.
What also should help with the Nord’s performance is the copious amount of RAM OnePlus offers. The basic model gets 8GB of memory, but the best option features 12GB, the same amount found in most market-leading Android phones. This is pretty much unheard of at this price, so we’re expecting the Nord to tear up the synthetic benchmarks we plan to test it with.
In terms of storage space, there’s no option to expand the Nord’s storage with a microSD card. But since the standard Nord has 128GB worth of storage space, most users shouldn’t find themselves wanting the SD slot. The higher spec edition gets 256GB instead; great if you plan to take lots of photos and video with the phone, or want to install a lot of apps. Either option is still quite generous, given that the iPhone SE and Pixel 3a start at an insufficient 64GB of space, with neither of these phones offering microSD expansion either.
OnePlus Nord battery and charging
Power is an area where the Nord really lives up to its flagship-killing intention. You get a 4,115 mAh battery in the Nord, which is easily two days’ worth of power if you use the phone carefully. When it’s time to recharge, OnePlus includes a 30W Warp Charge 30T with the phone. OnePlus estimates you can fill the phone up to 70% in 30 minutes; if that claim is accurate, it means you’ll never be stuck with an empty Nord.
This is awesome value when you consider the iPhone SE. Not only is the Nord’s battery over twice as large as the SE’s 1,821 mAh battery, OnePlus includes a fast charger in the box. You only get a 5W charger with the iPhone SE unless you buy a separate Apple 18W fast charger. The iPhone does have wireless charging, though, one of the few notable features the Nord doesn’t offer.
The Nord supports Optimized Charging like its big siblings. This is a system which keeps your phone at 80% when charged for a long period of time (most likely overnight), and fills up the rest of the battery just before it expects you to unplug the phone and start using it again. You won’t notice optimized charging day to day, but you should appreciate over time as the software aims to keep the battery in top condition for longer, thereby maintaining as much of its rated capacity as possible.
OnePlus Nord software and security
You’ll find the same operating system on the Nord as you will on the OnePlus flagships — Android 10 with OxygenOS 10.5 over the top of it. I really like OxygenOS for its clean design, both in terms of the neatly crafted app icons, alert sounds and menus. I also enjoy it for the fact that beyond the basic Google Android apps, five functional OnePlus apps and Netflix, that’s all you get with the phone by default. OxygenOS is an exquisite-looking blank slate for you to add apps and widgets to as you see fit, and how all Android phones should start out as far as I’m concerned.
To unlock the OnePlus Nord, you’ll primarily use an under-display fingerprint scanner. You have the option of 2D face unlocking too, but remember that this isn’t a secure facial recognition system like Apple’s Face ID, and your fingerprint is much better for keeping your data safe from prying eyes.
OnePlus Nord hands-on review: Outlook
OnePlus has taken its first step back into the mid-range market confidently, and we hope that its promise of not compromising on its key brand values holds up as we test the Nord more thoroughly. The Nord looks like it will take care of anything you can throw at it, all while costing a surprisingly low amount of money.
We’re excited to spend some more time with the OnePlus Nord and bring you our full verdict in the near future.