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Over the last several years, it appears that OnePlus has been attempting to reclaim some of its more budget-conscious user base, even as its top-tier smartphones have moved closer to super-premium flagship territory. With the release of the Nord series last year, OnePlus’ objective of building a name for itself in the mid-range segment got one step closer to realisation.
OnePlus Nord CE 5G is the newest addition to the company’s 2021 line-up, which already appears to be extensive. The OnePlus Nord CE (Core Edition) is clearly designed at expanding the OnePlus brand’s base and capitalising on the success of its predecessor last year. Will this new tactic, however, be successful?
OnePlus Nord CE 5G Pricing
In India, the OnePlus Nord CE 5G starts at Rs. 22,999 for the base configuration with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
The mid-spec variant with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage costs Rs. 24,999, while the top-of-the-line variant with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage costs Rs. 27,999.
The dark Charcoal Ink finish is available on all three models. The 8GB model is also available in Blue Void.
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When comparing the CE to the original OnePlus Nord, I really enjoy the new phone’s conceptual design. The Teal edition features a matte finish, which gives it a more quality feel than the previous Nord’s shiny plastic.
The Nord CE 5G weighs about 170g and has a thickness of only 7.9mm. As OnePlus points out, the design is also pretty straightforward. There are no fancy camera modules or curves. The Blue Void hue and the soft-touch, matte surface are the only things that stick out. The back is still plastic, but it’s not immediately obvious that it’s not glass.
A large 6.43-inch display is provided, with a camera hole in the top left corner. The bezels surrounding the sides and top are tiny, while the chin is significantly broader. The Nord CE 5G’s frame is composed of plastic, and all of the buttons are located towards the centre. The power button is located on the right, and the volume controls are located on the left.
This positioning makes it simple to reach these buttons without having to shuffle the phone in one’s palm. However, the alert slider, which has been a OnePlus trademark over the years, is missing. The SIM tray is also on the left and can accept two Nano-SIM cards, but there is no microSD card slot.
The Nord CE 5G does contain a 3.5mm headphone port, something the OnePlus Nord did not have. It’s toward the bottom, next to the USB Type-C connector and the loudspeaker. When you turn the phone around, there are only two elements: a OnePlus logo in the centre and the triple camera module in the top-left corner. The camera module protrudes somewhat, but this isn’t a big deal.
According to the company, this is the slimmest phone they’ve released since the OnePlus 6T. And they didn’t reduce battery capacity in the process, at least not when compared to the original Nord. In reality, it has been increased to 4,500 mA, which is somewhat higher than the original OnePlus Nord’s. This phone supports 30W rapid charging and has a Warp Charge 30T charger.
Although the displays of the first Nord and the Nord CE appear to be almost identical on paper, there are a few important variances. The most glaring omission is the lack of HDR10 video capabilities. Full sRGB and DCI-P3 coverage, as well as a refresh rate of 90Hz, are still available.
The Nord CE’s display is also essentially identical from the previous edition. You get a 6.43-inch Fluid AMOLED screen with FHD+ resolution and a refresh rate of 90Hz. Unlike the original Nord, which had dual selfie cameras, the punch-hole cutout for the selfie shooter has been placed on the top left in an unobtrusive manner. There is a slight chin at the bottom, but the display takes up practically the whole front of the phone.
The 90Hz panel, like all previous OnePlus phones, operates flawlessly with minimal frame delay, and users coming from a 60Hz display will be happy as well. OnePlus has a reputation for providing capable displays on its smartphones, and the Nord CE is no exception. The OnePlus Nord CE will not disappoint in terms of display quality, with a plethora of customizability choices available, as well as high contrast ratios, broad viewing angles, and deep blacks courtesy of AMOLED technology.
The only thing that irritates me is the lack of HDR10+ support, despite the fact that substantially less expensive phones, such as the Redmi Note 10 Pro, feature it as part of their viewing experience. The phone’s brightness levels are adequate for bright outdoor use, but I believe they could have been enhanced.
OnePlus’s reputation has been based primarily on its clean software experience, which is what you get with the Nord CE 5G. This device is powered by OnePlus’ own OxygenOS, which is built on top of Android 11. OxygenOS is well-polished, and I found this phone to be quite user-friendly. If you prefer a clean UI and prefer native Android, OxygenOS will appeal to you. OnePlus also promises two years of Android updates and three years of security patches, which may entice potential purchasers.
The Nord CE 5G comes with a few Google and OnePlus apps that can be deleted if needed. I wasn’t overloaded by app notifications. The Nord CE has an always-on display that illuminates in response to incoming messages. There is also a Game mode that allows you to ignore incoming notifications and answer calls directly from the speaker while gaming.
It also contains WhatsApp, Instagram, and Telegram shortcuts, but I couldn’t discover a way to change these. You may also disconnect the second SIM for more stable network performance, limit incoming calls and notifications, prioritise gaming performance over other apps, and disable the second SIM for more stable network performance.
OnePlus has chosen the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G chipset to power the phone, which is utilised by a number of phones in this price range. It features an octa-core CPU divided into two clusters: 2x Kryo 570 cores (Cortex-A77 derivative) running at 2.2 GHz and 6x Kryo 570 cores (Cortex-A55 derivative) running at 1.8 GHz. The Adreno 619 handles graphically heavy tasks.
The SoC is fairly capable, but calling it a computing powerhouse may be a bit of an exaggeration. The Nord CE does most medium to heavy-duty activities with considerable ease. There will be no lag when switching between apps or scrolling through your Instagram and Facebook feeds. However, it can be argued that Snapdragon 732G-powered devices with substantially lower prices can attain comparable performance.
This OnePlus Nord CE 5G performed admirably, scoring 391,813 in AnTuTu. It received 641 and 1953 points in GeekBench 5’s single-core and multi-core tests, respectively. In the T-Rex and Car Chase tests in GFXBench, it achieved 59fps and 17fps, respectively.
In 3D Mark Slingshot OpenGL, the OnePlus Nord CE 5G received 2,737 points. This is somewhat higher than the Galaxy M42 5G’s score, however that phone has a lower resolution display.
Even when compared to the more powerful Snapdragon 765G, the Snapdragon 750G performs nicely. The Snapdragon 750G even wins when it comes to raw computational workload and complex testing. In strictly GPU-intensive benchmarks, though, the Snapdragon 765G remains the more powerful of the two.
Call of Duty Mobile operated at High settings for both graphics and frame rate on the OnePlus Nord CE 5G. I was able to play it without any problems, and I didn’t notice any drops in performance while playing. I detected a 7% decline in battery level after playing the game for 25 minutes.
The Nord CE was slightly warm to the touch, but not to the point of being uncomfortable. If you want to play games on your smartphone, the Nord CE 5G can handle popular titles with ease.
The Nord CE has a 4,500mAh cell, which isn’t the most powerful, but it’s adequate to get the job done. The phone is guaranteed to last one day, thanks in part to the power efficiency given by the SoC’s 7nm manufacturing technology. The refresh rate on the Nord CE 5G is set to 90Hz by default, and I did not modify it during the review time. In our HD video loop test, the Nord CE 5G lasted 19 hours and 59 minutes, which is an excellent result given the battery capacity. With the refresh rate down to 60Hz, the Nord CE 5G may be able to provide somewhat longer battery life.
The OnePlus Nord CE supports fast charging and comes with a 30W Warp Charge 30T Plus charger. This charger charged the smartphone from 0 to 67 percent in 30 minutes and could fully charge it in around an hour. While it isn’t the fastest charging smartphone we’ve seen at this price point, it is considerably superior to the Galaxy M42 5G.
The Core Edition lacks stereo speakers, despite the fact that this appears to be a standard feature in this price range.
In terms of audio output quality, the lows are weak, but it is generally adequate. As you move the volume slider higher, you’ll notice a lot of distortion in the highs. When it comes to volume, the speaker isn’t exceptionally loud.
Selfies were crisp, but skin tones were slightly off in outside images, although indoor images did not appear to have this problem. You can shoot selfie portraits, and the phone does a fantastic job at detecting edges. Even with masks on, it could discern faces. Low-light selfies were adequate, with only minor grain visible at 100 percent magnification.
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G captured really decent images in daylight, which looked great on the AMOLED display. It also captured good details of things in the foreground, and lettering was legible at 100% magnification. The ultra-wide angle camera has a broader field of view, but the image quality suffers noticeably. The sides of the photos appeared to be distorted as well.
Close-up shots were sharp, and the primary camera captured textures effectively. The Nord CE 5G also performed well in terms of background isolation. Portrait mode does not let me to fine-tune the blur level before snapping a photograph. When the smartphone is ready to take a picture, it displays ‘Depth Effect.’ The output featured good edge detection as well as a beautiful depth effect.
Portrait shots taken by the Nord CE are, to say the least, poor. Almost all of the competition takes better-looking bokeh images. The ones below lack clarity, fine detail, have a lot of noise, and the skin tone is a little too pale.
The fascinating thing is that it makes no difference whether the images were taken in broad daylight, near a window, or in a dimly lit setting. On the plus side, the subject is well exposed, the edge recognition technique is adequate, and the dynamic range is broad.
The main camera of this Nord CE performs significantly below average in low light. The photographs have acceptable contrast and noise, but they lack clarity. Light sources are captured well – with little clipping – and shadows are acceptable.
The Night mode improves the image by significantly lightening the shadows, increasing contrast, and sharpening the overall image.
Unfortunately, the end results don’t look very natural – notably the colours – and each photo takes a few seconds longer to snap. However, we recommend that you use this setting for all of your low-light images.
After dark, the ultrawide camera’s photographs appear fuzzy, with low contrast and saturation, and as if they are out of focus.
The Night mode aims to correct some of the flaws by brightening, sharpening, and increasing the contrast. However, the effects appear fairly unnatural, and the improved contrast is offset by some highlight clipping.
The OnePlus Nord CE can record video at up to 2160p@30fps and includes EIS for that mode as well. Recording with the ultrawide camera is also feasible, but you’d have to reduce the resolution to 1080p because the tiny 8MP sensor can’t capture 4K films.
The 4K footage from the main camera is reasonably sharp, has a lot of detail, and has a decent contrast. The dynamic range is very broad; there are no clipped highlights, and the shadows aren’t too black; they still retain a reasonable amount of detail. There’s also very little noise, and the colours are vibrant and pleasing.
Because of the resolution and nature of ultrawide lenses, the ultrawide video is predictably softer. Nonetheless, the contrast and colours are adequate.
As previously said, EIS is also available in 4K mode, and it looks great. There is very little shakiness. Nonetheless, we would have liked a separate setting that allows you to disable the EIS when filming films on a tripod or similar because the EIS crops the field of view.
The OnePlus Nord CE is one of the better mid-range selections, especially if you believe it is time to upgrade to 5G. This is a OnePlus phone that checks all the boxes in terms of aesthetics, performance, and experience, but at a lower price range for new customers to try. I have a sneaking suspicion that OnePlus has delivered another winner without doing anything out of the ordinary.
Value For Money
Practical design and superb one-hand usability
OxygenOS is a treat
Value for money
No signature alert slider
Main camera outputs muted photos with a slight magenta tinge and cool white balance.
Ultra-wide cameras have oversaturated colors and image quality is underwhelming.
No microSD card slot, no stereo speakers.