OnePlus once started as an enthusiast brand that offered smartphones with the best specifications of the time for little money. OnePlus has now taken a position higher in the market. OnePlus smartphones are still good value for money, but they are solidly priced. The OnePlus Nord changes that and brings the OnePlus DNA to a lower price point. In this review Techzine looks at how that works out.
The question is of course: what is the OnePlus DNA, and how do you pack it in a cheaper smartphone in 2020? A fast and smooth experience, good software with long support and a competitive price are at least part of what OnePlus stands for. According to OnePlus, it was not previously possible to package that experience in a mid-range smartphone, but now it is possible with the arrival of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G chipset. This modern 5G chip offers almost high-end performance but at a lower price. It is therefore at the basis of the OnePlus Nord. For example, with a price from 399 euros it is clearly cheaper than the OnePlus 8 series, but it still delivers a comparable experience.
|Screen||6.44 ″ AMOLED, 1080 × 2400 pixels. 90Hz refresh rate|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G (2,4GHz octacore)|
|Memory||8GB / 12GB RAM, 128GB / 256GB storage space|
|Accu||4115mAh, 30W snelladen|
|Software||Android 10 met OxygenOS 10|
|Camera||48 megapixel hoofd, 8 megapixel ultrawide, 5 megapixel dieptesensor, 2 megapixel macro. 32 megapixel frontcamera, 8 megapixel ultrawide frontcamera|
While we’re talking about a mid-range smartphone here, it doesn’t come across as that at first glance. The back of the OnePlus Nord is made of glass; the plastic frame. Both the back and the frame are glossy, and the smartphone is available in gray or blue. OnePlus achieves something special with that: both the colors and the finish of the smartphone feel a bit cheaper than that of the more expensive OnePlus 8 series, but in itself the smartphone has a luxurious look despite its plastic frame. For a middle class, he certainly does not look wrong.
There is a slide on the side of the Nord to switch between silent mode, the vibration mode or the sound. That’s a useful extra that is unique to OnePlus. With previous devices, the slide was sometimes too sensitive, so that the sound could accidentally turn on, but with the OnePlus Nord we did not suffer from that.
Securing the OnePlus Nord is very easy. In addition to the standard pin code, you can choose between a fingerprint scanner that is incorporated in the screen or face recognition. The latter works via the selfie camera and is therefore not very safe, but it works very quickly and fine. The fingerprint scanner falls in the middle in terms of performance: it is not particularly fast and sometimes has trouble recognizing a finger, but it is good enough to be useful.
Unfortunately, the OnePlus Nord does not come with a 3.5-millimeter audio jack. In more expensive smartphones that is actually too standard, but in this price category we still see such an audio jacket regularly. It is unfortunate that OnePlus has dropped it. The Nord should also do without stereo speakers and memory card slot, but that is less of a problem. The single speaker of the device does not sound wrong and the standard storage of 128GB will be sufficient for many users. Those who need more storage space can choose a variant with 256GB storage space for a hundred euros more.
Screen without compromise
A beautiful display is one of the aspects that makes using a smartphone pleasant and OnePlus has understood that well. Despite its low price, the OnePlus Nord doesn’t actually make any concessions on screen. It has a 6.44-inch large AMOLED screen with full HD + resolution, which delivers good image quality in practice. The brightness is more than sufficient, the colors are beautiful and the contrast infinite. In addition, OnePlus has opted for a screen with a refresh rate of 90Hz, which makes scrolling nice and smooth.
The only lesser point of the screen of the Nord is that it has a fairly large hole for the front cameras. Because OnePlus on the front has not one but two cameras in this phone, it takes up a bit more space of the screen. Certainly for business use, as little interruption in the screen seems more important to us than that extra selfie camera, but that is a personal consideration for everyone.
Fast on all fronts
What is certainly good for everyone is the speed of the OnePlus Nord. OnePlus believes that the eight-core Snapdragon 765G chipset in the Nord is the first mid-range chip that really performs quickly. In addition, OnePlus has optimized its software for the Nord, so that most of the chip can be obtained. After our test period, we can confirm that this is going well.
In fact, you only notice when using really heavy applications that the Nord is not as fast as a high-end smartphone. In normal use, such as reading and sending emails and viewing documents, the difference is hardly noticeable. The working memory is 8GB or 12GB depending on the version. 8GB will be more than enough for almost all users, but if you need more, the Nord can measure up to the top of the market with its 12GB.
Support for 5G networks is also available, which is certainly nice now that more and more providers in the Netherlands are activating 5G. This way you can be sure that you will be able to use the fastest networks with the Nord in the coming years.
Another part where the Nord is fast: charging. The smartphone uses Warp Charge 30T; the technology of OnePlus to charge with 30 watts. Within half an hour you will have about 70% battery charge in your smartphone again, so you can easily recharge between meetings. We are used to this from expensive smartphones; it’s nice that OnePlus makes that possible in this cheaper Nord. Incidentally, it is certainly not necessary to charge after every meeting: the OnePlus Nord with its 4115mAh battery easily lasts a day even with intensive use.
Fine software with business miss
Certainly one of the most important parts of a OnePlus is the OxygenOS software. That also powers the OnePlus Nord, and is no less functional than with the expensive smartphones of the brand. The software is fast, has a simple and streamlined interface and is packed with added features. In addition, OnePlus makes the same update promise for the Nord as for its top smartphones: the device receives at least two years of Android upgrades and three years of security updates. That is very good for a middle-class smartphone.
However, the OnePlus Nord’s software also has a disadvantage in business terms. The smartphone does not participate in the Android Enterprise Recommended program and OnePlus does not have its own business solutions either. As a result, the device will not be accepted in all companies with a BYOD program and it is also less interesting for companies to buy. It is not easily possible for IT departments to manage a pool of Nord devices remotely.
Cameras: quantity over quality
OnePlus proudly calls that the Nord has no less than six cameras: two in the front and four in the back. The front is a 32-megapixel main camera and an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera; on the back is next to the 48-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera, a 5-megapixel depth sensor and a 2-megapixel macro camera. Those last two cameras are actually not useful. The portrait mode does not work optimally despite that extra depth sensor. The macro camera is nice in theory, but unfortunately is not very good in quality.
So the OnePlus Nord actually has four usable cameras. Both for the front and rear, the standard cameras for the class achieve good results. Especially the main camera on the back takes beautiful, colorful photos with great detail. In the evening, the quality deteriorates markedly, but remains acceptable.
Both wide-angle cameras are not as good in quality, but they are usable. Photos have less detail and are not very sharp, but it certainly comes in handy now and then to have a wide-angle camera. What we regret is that the colors of the wide-angle cameras are not very consistent with those of the main cameras. Photos taken with the wide-angle camera are clearly paler and a bit too green in color.
OnePlus has successfully managed to transfer its DNA to a cheaper smartphone with the Nord. The wonderful performance, fine software and good complete feature set ensure that the Nord feels exactly as we are used to from OnePlus. The Nord does not make real mistakes and that makes it the ideal middle-class smartphone for consumers. With its price of 399 euros it is no longer the flagship killer that OnePlus used to make, but an incredibly good affordable smartphone.
Business is unfortunately slightly different: the smartphone is not under the Android Enterprise Recommended program and OnePlus does not have its own business management solutions. Does your company not use this? Then the Nord is an excellent choice and, thanks to the long and good update support, is safe for the time being. Unfortunately, it also means that the OnePlus Nord will be out of reach for a certain group of business users.
- Beautiful and smooth screen
- Top performance
- 5G support
- Fine software with long support
- Many camera lenses offer little added value
- Business software is limited