Back in 2020, OnePlus changed the rules of the game when it decided to launch the Nord series. With the original Nord, the company made its way back to a budget segment it gradually vacated a few years ago. The phone was met with a good response, helping it become a fan favourite.
A few months later, OnePlus upped its mid-range game with an even more aggressively priced device, the Nord CE. This one, however, did not turn out to be such a hit. And now, the company has launched a follow-up device in the form of the Nord CE 2. On paper, the phone offers a good price to performance ratio, along with a gorgeous design. But how does it perform in real life? Let’s find out in our in-depth review of the Nord CE 2.
OnePlus Nord CE 2: Build and design
OnePlus has had a history of building good-looking phones, and the Nord CE 2 is no exception. It features clean lines and a glossy back panel. Consistent with other Nord series phones, the Nord CE 2 also attempts to keep things simple and classy. However, because of certain design decisions, the phone now looks more eye-catching than the other Nord series phones we’ve seen in the past.
The biggest among these is the decision to equip the phone with a raised camera module that protrudes quite a bit. This gives the phone a distinct look from the back — unlike anything we’ve seen on a Nord series phone in the past. The OnePlus Nord CE 2 is being launched in two colorways. First up is Gray Mirror. OnePlus explains that this one offers a smooth, mirror-like finish with flashy overtones that looks like “luxurious polished metal”. And the other one is the more understated Bahama Blue colorway. While OnePlus may want you to believe this one is understated and classy, the reality is quite different. Make no mistake, it looks good. But sadly a phone that’s trying hard to look good.
Because of the materials used on the device, the phone feels slippery in the hand, and its back panel is also a major smudge magnet. But because of the presence of a light-reflecting gradient pattern at the back, the effects of smudges are nullified a bit. Apart from this, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 also offers solid build quality which definitely proves to be a pro in the phone’s favour.
OnePlus Nord CE 2: Display
In the display department, the Nord 2 comes with a 6.43 inch 90Hz Fluid AMOLED display which performs as expected. The panel is HDR10+ certified and offers a peak brightness of 800 nits. It also comes with HDR support for platforms like Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video.
The panel itself is par for the course and works well for all intents and purposes. It gets plenty bright — even under direct sunlight — and outputs vibrant and punchy colours. OnePlus has included two display profiles. Of these, we found the Gentle the more balanced for all basic use, however, if you’re looking to watch movies on Netflix, or play games, we’d recommend switching to the Vivid profile for access to a wider colour gamut. The OnePlus Nord CE 2’s panel also offers good viewing angles and text legibility is also up to the mark, and overall the display is good for games and also watching videos and movies on it.
OnePlus Nord CE 2: Specification and performance
The OnePlus Nord 2 is a phone for the masses, and as such, the company has attempted to cover all bases with the device — including core hardware. Under the hood, we get a powerful mid-range chipset in the form of the Dimensity 900 SoC, which is paired to either 6GB or 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. This hardware interacts with a copy of Android 11 based OxygenOS 11. While we would have preferred Android 12, the wait will not be too long as the device is expected to get the Android 12 update soon.
This combination of the Nord CE 2’s core hardware and clean software ensures that the phone offers just about enough to handle day-to-day tasks with ease. In our time with the phone, there was no noticeable lag, and apps of daily use worked without any hitches.
However, it was in the benchmarks and gaming department that the phone did leave a little to be desired. We put the phone to the sword by testing it using benchmarks such as AnTuTu, Geekbench and 3DMark WildLife, and in all these tests, the results thrown up by the device were a little underwhelming.
In fact, all the benchmarks that we ran on the device proved one thing, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 is not even making the best use of the chipset at hand, with its scores lesser than the Oppo Reno 7 which also sports the same chipset underneath the hood. While the difference in the scores isn’t night and day, it’s still enough to point out in this review.
Thankfully though, the phone’s below-par performance in benchmarks is not carried over to gaming, where the device managed to run simpler titles such as Call of Duty Mobile and Asphalt 9 Legends without any troubles. Playing these games, we noticed no frame drops and the performance was generally smooth. The Nord CE 2 also performed well in the CPU Throttling Test, where it only throttled to about 95 per cent of its performance. This is a good hint that the phone handles its thermals well, and also that it could offer sustained peak performance during long gaming sessions.
OnePlus Nord CE 2: Cameras
The OnePlus Nord CE 2 offers some decent hardware in the camera department. The phone has triple cameras on the back with a 64-megapixel primary camera, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera and a 2-megapixel macro lens completing the set-up. On the front, we have a 16-megapixel selfie camera.
In the limited time we’ve had with the device, we found the Nord CE 2’s cameras to perform quite well. The primary camera on the device is capable of clicking some really good-looking pictures in daylight with a good amount of detail and clarity. Backed by OnePlus’ advanced photography algorithm, pictures clicked in daylight come with natural colours. This is also largely the case for the ultra-wide lens which manages to capture a good amount of details and the colour accuracy is again on point.
However, because of the lower megapixel count of this lens, the photos don’t come out looking as sharp as the ones from the primary lens. There is also some barrel distortion effect in these photos, but thankfully it’s maintained to a minimal level.
Low light performance for both lenses is decent, with the phone’s computational photography algorithm mostly bumping up the brightness in night mode shots, rather than filling the shot with more details. Additionally, there is also some level of noise in these low-light shots.
The phone also offers a 2-megapixel macro camera lens. But this one appears to be there just to make up the numbers. It is largely held back by its low megapixel count, as macro shots clicked using it come out with low details and lack sharpness too. The front camera on the device does a decent job capturing accurate skin tones and details. I’ll be honest, this lens is not in the segment, but it’s good enough and it gets the job done.
OnePlus Nord CE 2: Battery
The battery department is where the OnePlus Nord CE 2 makes up a lot of lost ground. This is because OnePlus has not only equipped the device with a big 4500mAh battery but also added support for its top-of-the-line 65W Warp Charge. These two working together help it not only get one over the Nord CE but brings it on par with the Nord 2.
After a full charge, the phone can generally last a day and a half on moderate use. However, if you plan on watching movies or playing games on the device the battery life does suffer a little. To give our readers an idea, in our video loop test this meant the Nord 2 managed around 9 hours of screen time at the loss of 40 per cent charge and for games such as Call of Duty Mobile 4 per cent battery drop after 20 minutes of use. When we did run out of charge, we hooked the device to the OnePlus 65W Warp charger to fill up the battery to about 50 percent in 13 minutes, and a full charge in about 32 minutes.
OnePlus Nord CE 2: Is it worth buying?
In my opinion, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 does not do anything outstanding. At this price point, there are other phones like the iQOO Z3 and the Realme 9 Pro+ that offer better value. Both these phones bring powerful hardware, and the Realme 9 Pro+ also brings slightly better cameras. But then again, both these phones also have their fail points. For example the iQOO Z3 does not sport an AMOLED panel, while the Realme 9 Pro+ loses to the competition in the design department.
In comparison, the Nord CE 2 successfully manages to avoid falling into this trap. OnePlus’ new mid-range device does not offer segment leading performance in any of the main departments. In fact, it remains strictly above-par overall. But what the Nord CE 2 does right is that it does not fail in any of these departments. Be it cameras, general performance or even gaming, it offers above-par results everywhere, thereby establishing itself as a good contender for your money — even if not an outright winner.