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OnePlus Nord 2 5G review: Almost a flagship killer

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This summer, OnePlus announced several new smartphones in its mid-range Nord series. In June, the more affordable Nord CE 5G and Nord N200 5G were presented, and in July, right in the middle of summer, our today’s hero, the OnePlus Nord 2 5G. The smartphone is a direct heir to last year’s original, OnePlus Nord. In this review, we will take a closer look at the new product and find out what is new in the smartphone compared to its predecessor and how competitive it is overall.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G
OnePlus Nord 2 5G

Full specifications of the OnePlus Nord 2 5G

  • Display: 6.43′′, Fluid AMOLED, 2400×1080 pixels, 20:9 aspect ratio, 409 ppi, 90 Hz, HDR10+
  • Chipset: MediaTek Dimensity 1200 5G (MT6893), 6 nm, 8-core, 1 Cortex-A78 core with 3.0 GHz, 3 Cortex-A78 cores with 2.6 GHz, 4 Cortex-A55 cores with 2.0 GHz
  • Graphic accelerator: Mali-G77 MC9
  • RAM: 8/12 GB, LPDDR4X
  • Storage: 128/256 GB, UFS 3.1
  • Support for microSD cards: none
  • Wireless networks: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2 (A2DP, LE, aptX HD), GPS (A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BDS, SBAS, NavIC), NFC
  • Main camera: triple, main module 50 MP, f/1.9, 1/1.56′′, 1.0μm, PDAF, OIS, 24 mm; ultra-wide-angle module 8 MP, f/2.3, 119°; monochrome module 2 MP, f/2.4
  • Front-facing camera: 32 MP, f/2.5, 1/2.8′, 0.8μm
  • Battery: 4500 mAh
  • Charging: fast wired 65 W
  • OS: Android 11 with OxygenOS 11.3 shell
  • Dimensions: 158.9×73.2×8.3 mm
  • Weight: 189 g

Positioning and price

The OnePlus Nord 2 5G is the most expensive smartphone in the Nord line at the moment and in the manufacturer’s mind, it should border on the most basic smartphone of the current generation of the main line of OnePlus. The latter is the OnePlus 9R, although the OnePlus 9RT will be introduced soon, but it is still too early to take into account.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

The smartphone is offered in several memory modifications, 8/128 GB and 12/256 GB, at a recommended cost of $399 and $499, respectively. For comparison, the previously mentioned 9R costs $30-60 more, depending on the version. That is, the difference is hardly significant, which makes it even more interesting to find out what is special about the new product. At the moment, you can buy the smartphone in the official store on the AliExpress website.

What’s in the box

The smartphone comes in a relatively large box made of thick cardboard, but since it belongs to the Nord series, the color scheme is different. So, instead of a combination of white and bright red, black with a turquoise accent is used. Alas, this rule does not apply to the contents of the box and accessories are made in the style traditional for the brand’s smartphones. The kit includes a 65W Warp Charge power adapter, a USB Type-A/Type-C cable with plastic clips, a transparent silicone case, a SIM eject tool, a small set of OnePlus stickers and various documentation.

The bundled case is no longer as simple as in the case of the OnePlus 9, and instead of an entirely glossy back, there is a large matte insert. But there are no other differences. The smartphone screen also initially has a good protective film.

Read also: OnePlus 9 Review: Flagship, Simplified

Design, materials and build quality

The OnePlus Nord 2 5G looks like the company’s latest flagships, which is noticeable not only in the design of the front panel, but also in the back of the smartphone. The latter is distinguished primarily by a recognizable block of cameras. Although there are quite expected design simplifications, which we will discuss right now.

On the front, the Nord 2 5G does not have any distinctive features and resembles the most typical modern smartphone. It seems that there is some kind of continuity in the design of previous OnePlus devices, but can this look be called unique or fresh by now? This is a smartphone with relatively thin bezels and a front-facing camera embedded in the upper left corner of the screen. A very large number of devices from various manufacturers have about the same description.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

It is very by the numbers, but there is nothing wrong with it. Moreover, OnePlus does not even try to somehow highlight the selfie camera, like some other brands like to do. The bezels around the screen in the new product will be a little thicker than in the OnePlus 9.

The back side attracts primarily with its unusual colors. In our case, the smartphone has a turquoise color (Blue Haze) and it looks, I must admit, quite nice. The color is not very saturated. There is no iridescent effect, but if directional light falls on the back, a certain area will look lighter than the rest of the area. It looks really good, but not for everyone.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

The second available smartphone color is gray (Gray Sierra), and there is also an exclusive Green Wood model on the Indian market. It is worth dwelling on this point in more detail, because each of the three colors uses a different finish on the case. A gray smartphone has a more practical matte finish on the back panel and the green model uses artificial leather.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G
Colors of OnePlus Nord 2 5G

In the case of our turquoise Nord 2 5G, the back of the smartphone will be completely glossy. The gloss gets dirty more than the matte finish, but due to the light color, all traces of use are almost invisible, which is good news.

As noted earlier, the OnePlus Nord 2 5G camera unit is similar to the OnePlus 9 series of smartphones. The similarity lies in the fact that the two modules (wide angle and ultra-wide angle) are themselves larger in diameter than the third auxiliary eye and flash, have additional edging and protrude slightly above the surface of the main platform. The latter is narrower and does not contain any unnecessary inscriptions, which is nice.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

Body materials are the same as the original OnePlus 9. The front and back uses Corning Gorilla Glass 5 with an oleophobic coating, while the edge is made of plastic with a glossy finish that mimics metal. Considering the fact that there is no metal edge even in the flagship, this is not surprising. The build quality is perfect, but does not have the declared protection against dust and water.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

Also interesting:

The layout

In the front, in the upper part, there is an earpiece speaker and a multimedia speaker, as well as light and proximity sensors to the right of it. The front-facing camera is in the upper left corner of the screen.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

On the right, you can find only two elements: a relatively large power button and, traditionally, a three-position sound mode switch with a textured surface. On the left is the combined volume control button.

At the top of the elements there is only an additional microphone for noise cancellation, and all the rest are located at the bottom. These are: a slot for two nano SIM cards, a main microphone, a USB Type-C port and a main multimedia speaker.

On the back of the smartphone in the upper left corner there is a protruding block with three camera modules, two of which are highlighted separately and protrude even more, as well as a flash. Below in the center is the OnePlus logo, and at the bottom you will find some technical information.

Ergonimics

The OnePlus Nord 2 5G doesn’t offer ultra-compact dimensions. At first glance, they are quite ordinary, 158.9 × 73.2 × 8.3 mm with a mass of 189 g, almost like the first OnePlus Nord. The smartphone is slightly smaller than the OnePlus 9.

The smartphone can be praised for the conveniently located physical control keys. Firstly, they are spaced on different sides and this is quite convenient. Secondly, the keys are placed at the optimal height and you don’t need to reach for them at all. The sound mode switch is also easy to use due to the ribbed surface.

In fact, there are only two issues with ease of use: the finish of the case and the location of the in-screen fingerprint scanner. Still, I would like to see a back or edges with a more practical and less slippery matte finish, not only in one of the colors. The scanner, in turn, is too low and at first it is not very convenient to use it, but you can get used to it.

Read also: Realme 8 review: Modern mid-range classic

Display of the OnePlus Nord 2 5G

The OnePlus Nord 2 5G has a 6.43″ display with Fluid AMOLED technology. The panel resolution is Full HD+ (2400 × 1080 pixels), the aspect ratio of the screen is 20:9, and the pixel density is at 409 ppi. Of the interesting features of the display, one can single out support for an increased refresh rate of 90 Hz and HDR10+ technology.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

The screen is not as good as those of flagship smartphones, but for a mid-ranger it is quite good. The brightness is enough for outdoor use, but the maximum level is lower than in the OnePlus 9. The colors are contrasting and saturated, viewing angles are traditional for this type of matrix. That is, they are okay in general, but with green-pink tints of white under certain angles.

In the options, you can choose one of two color modes: DCI-P3 coverage or sRGB. In the first case, the colors will be more saturated, in the second, on the contrary, they will be closer to natural. In this case, it is worth paying tribute to the manufacturer – the calibration is very accurate. Both modes look quite usable and should be chosen based on personal preference.

The refresh rate of the screen  (90 Hz) is certainly not the best possible option, but it is definitely more pleasant than the classic 60 Hz, although it’s not clear why not go all the way and offer 120 Hz. After all, there are already smartphones with AMOLED displays and 120 Hz refresh rates for $300-350. The increased frequency works in the shell and applications, but in the 90 Hz mode it is dynamic and when watching video or with a static image, it is often reduced to 60 Hz in order to save battery power.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

At the same time, the high frequency is not supported in most games, but OnePlus partnered with the studio-developer of the popular game Brawl Stars, which runs at 90 FPS. But I would like to see support for high refresh rates in other titles, of course.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

In the settings there are light/dark themes, eye protection mode, adaptive sleep mode (the display does not turn off while you’re looking at it), adjusting the color temperature of the screen and choosing a color mode. There are several video optimization options (AI sharpening and color enhancement), font size and overall system scaling, as well as refresh rate selection, front-facing camera notch display settings in apps, and forced full screen for apps.

Separately, we can note the function of displaying the clock on the switched off screen. The function can be configured to run on a schedule. In a separate personalization menu, you can also choose one of the 13 available watch faces. There are a couple of watch faces with both unique features and standard text, analog and digital options.

Read also: Realme 7 5G review: Mid-Ranger with 5G support

Performance

An interesting feature of the OnePlus Nord 2 5G is the chipset used in it. The company decided to abandon the Qualcomm platform in this smartphone and have chosen a fairly fresh and rare chip, MediaTek Dimensity 1200 5G (MT6893). At the moment, Dimensity 1200 5G is considered the flagship chipset of MediaTek. It is based on a 6-nm process technology and has eight cores, which are divided into three clusters: 1 Cortex-A78 core operates at a maximum clock speed of up to 3.0 GHz, 3 more Cortex-A78 cores with a clock speed of up to 2.6 GHz, and the remaining 4 cores are Cortex-A55 clocked at up to 2.0 GHz. The Mali-G77 MC9 with 9 cores is used as a graphics accelerator.

For better understanding, in performance tests, the Dimensity 1200 5G competes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 series chips. Of course, not on a par with the top-end 888, but comparable to platforms such as Snapdragon 860 and 870.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

What is the situation with heating and throttling here? Under loads, the smartphone heats up, but within reason and does not burn the palm of the hand. There is also a decrease in performance in 15 minutes of the stress test of the processor, its performance drops by 23% in normal mode and by 28% in performance mode. In half-hour tests in both cases, the performance level is reduced by 29%. These are far from the worst results, especially considering the rather high GIPS values ​​- they are higher than in the Poco X3 Pro on Snapdragon 860.

RAM can be 8 or 12 GB, LPDDR4X type. Either way it’s enough for comfortable work with the device. You can easily switch between a dozen apps.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

It is much more important to decide on the amount of storage, because the choice is limited to two options: 128 and 256 GB for versions with 8 and 12 GB of RAM, respectively, but, alas, you can’t expand the storage by installing a memory card. The storage type is fast: UFS 3.1, in the 128 GB version, 106.93 GB is available for the user.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

OnePlus Nord 2 5G works great. The smartphone is fast, the UI is smooth. It doesn’t get warm in normal daily use, but it’s a different story after 10 minutes of playing. Most games run at maximum graphics settings. Below are the measurements taken using a utility from GameBench:

  • Call of Duty: Mobile – very high, all effects are enabled (except rays), Battlefront mode ~ 59 FPS; Battle Royale ~ 40 FPS (game limit)
  • Genshin Impact – high, ~ 40 FPS
  • PUBG Mobile – maximum, with anti-aliasing and shadows, ~ 40 FPS (game limit)
  • Shadowgun Legends – ultra graphics, ~ 58 FPS

Read also: Realme GT review: Track-Worthy Smartphone for the Masses

Cameras

There are three modules in the main camera block of the OnePlus Nord 2 5G. In comparison with its predecessor, the new phone has lost one low-quality macro-module, but the monochrome module for determining the depth remains, and the set of cameras itself looks like this:

  • Wide-angle module: 50 MP, f/1.9, 1/1.56′, 1.0μm, PDAF, OIS, 24 mm
  • Ultra-wide-angle module: 8 MP, f/2.3, 119°
  • Monochrome module: 2 MP, f/2.4

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

The main module shoots at 12.6 megapixels by default, but in the parameters you can activate the full resolution of 50 megapixels. There is a difference in the pictures and in the full resolution there is noticeably more digital noise in the shadows, so there is no tangible increase in details. On the contrary, in full resolution the photos are more “watercolor-ish”, so I don’t see much sense in shooting at 50 megapixels. The OnePlus Nord 2 5G shoots well in general: the photos are contrasty, with a wide dynamic range and sharpness. Night shots in automatic mode are quite okay at the output, but better quality is obtained in dedicated night mode. There’s noticeably less noise, and the phone copes much better with bright light sources.

PHOTOS IN FULL RESOLUTION FROM THE MAIN MODULE

Photos taken with the ultra-wide-angle module are offer average quality and do not stand out with much detail, even in excellent lighting. At the same time, the color rendition differs slightly from the main module. For shooting landscapes it is suitable, but you should definitely not count on something special with it. The module supports the night mode, the difference with the automatic mode is clearly noticeable, but in general, this module is not suitable for evening shooting.

PHOTOS IN FULL RESOLUTION FROM A WIDE-ANGLE MODE

Video shooting with the main wide-angle module is limited to a maximum resolution of 4K at 30 FPS (there is also 1080P at 30/60 fps). Videos turn out well in good lighting conditions, with natural color reproduction and good detail. In addition, do not forget about the optical stabilization system. The ultra-wide-angle module, in turn, shoots only in 1080P with the same 30 FPS. There is more noise, less detail and relatively faded colors.

The front-facing camera in the smartphone is solitary, unlike its predecessor with an additional ultra-wide-angle module, but the main wide-angle is essentially the same as in the original OnePlus Nord. In any case, according to the characteristics on paper. The 32 megapixel module (f/2.5, 1/2.8″, 0.8µm) shoots quite well in sufficient lighting conditions, demonstrating natural accurate color reproduction and high detail. If there is less light, the photos will no longer be as clearl.

But with video recording on the front-facing camera was downgraded. The phone unable to record video in 4K resolution at 30/60 FPS (its predecessor could), and neither in 1080P nor 720P it is capable of recording video at 60 fps. The maximum is 1080P at 30FPS. The results are okay, but nothing more. You can enable additional electronic stabilization, but I would not recommend doing this for two reasons. Firstly, the viewing angle decreases, and secondly, there is a rolling shutter – the picture turns into “jelly” with sudden movements.

The OnePlus Nord 2 5G’s native camera app is very similar to the realme UI and ColorOS app in realme and OPPO smartphones. It has an almost identical design and functionality. There are: photo, video, night and portrait modes, manual mode, panoramas, simultaneous shooting on the front and main cameras, fast and slow motion videos.

Read also: ASUS Zenfone 8 review: Excellent compact flagship

Unlocking

An optical fingerprint scanner is installed in the smartphone screen and it works no worse than in the manufacturer’s flagship. The area is located in the same place and at first it is inconvenient, as I noted earlier, but you can get used to it. The scanner reads the fingerprint almost flawlessly and the smartphone can be unlocked relatively quickly. It cannot be compared in speed with a classic capacitive scanner, of course, but it will hardly disappoint anyone either.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

In the settings of this unlocking method, you can choose one of eight available animations on the screen around the scanner pad when you put your finger on it, as well as the function of quickly launching the app or performing a specific action without lifting your finger from the screen.

As for the second unlocking method, it is implemented using the front camera of the smartphone. It works quite quickly and in almost any conditions, if there is minimal lighting around. If this is mostly absent, but at the same time you want to continue using the method, then you can leave the function of automatically increasing the brightness of the display active. In this case, when the screen is turned on, a special window appears with a bright light background, thereby highlighting the user’s face.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

Battery life

The battery in this device is the same size as in the OnePlus 9, 4500 mAh. I did not expect any special results from the Nord 2 5G, but looking ahead, I will say that the smartphone still managed to pleasantly surprise me with the battery life.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

I always used my smartphone with a refresh rate of 90 Hz, an active system dark theme, and the function of displaying the time on the powered down screen worked daily on a schedule from 8:00 to 20:00. In this format, the OnePlus Nord 2 5G on a single charge worked for me for 1.5-2 days with a total of 8-8.5 hours of the active screen. In the PCMark Work 3.0 battery test, at maximum screen brightness and 90 Hz, the smartphone lasted 8 hours and 43 minutes, which is quite good.

In my opinion, those are excellent results. Most likely this is the merit of the new MediaTek Dimensity 1200 5G, which not only shows good performance, but is also quite energy efficient. I think the battery life of the smartphone will suit any user, especially in combination with fast charging, because the OnePlus Nord 2 5G is able to replenish the battery charge very quickly.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

The device comes with a 65W Warp Charge 65 power adapter, which charges the smartphone fully in about 40 minutes. According to my measurements, it took only 32 minutes to charge the smartphone battery from 12% to 100%, and this is certainly very fast. Below are detailed timings:

  • 00:00 — 12%
  • 00:10 — 46%
  • 00:20 — 74%
  • 00:30 — 97%
  • 00:32 — 100%

Wireless charging is not supported by the device, but it would be rash to expect it in a mid-range smartphone. Even the OnePlus 9 comes without wireless charging support in some markets, so this is no surprise.

Sound and communication

The earpiece speaker in the smartphone has a good headroom and clear sound. In combination, it helps the multimedia speaker and, as a result, a full-fledged stereo sound is formed. True, the sound itself is not of the flagship category. There is clearly a preponderance of high frequencies and there is a slight imbalance between the loudness and clarity of the speakers in favor of the lower one. In general, the sound is okay, but nothing special.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

In the headphones, we have a good volume margin, the quality is fine, but again, nothing special. Wired headphones will have to be connected via an appropriate adapter, since the smartphone does not have a 3.5 mm audio jack. With wired headphones, Dirac Audio Tuner audio effects are available with four standard profiles: Smart, Movies, Game or Music. They also apply to smartphone speakers.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

Like the flagship OnePlus, the device is equipped with the advanced vibration feedback Haptics 2.0 with varying intensity depending on the action performed. It also works in some games, accompanying shots, explosions and other effects with vibration.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

The chipset supports 5G networks, which was already clear from the full name of the smartphone. Also on board are the rest of the latest and most relevant modules: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2 (A2DP, LE, aptX HD), GPS (A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BDS, SBAS, NavIC) and NFC.

Firmware and software

The OnePlus Nord 2 5G is running the Android 11 operating system with the proprietary shell of the manufacturer, OxygenOS 11.3. The version is considered the newest and this is the first smartphone of the company where it is installed out of the box. I didn’t notice the new functionality compared to version 11.2.5.5 in the OnePlus 9. The brand slightly redesigned the design of some windows in the settings, for some reason removed the settings of the Alert Slider toggle switch, and by and large, that’s all, except for the previously described camera app. So if you want to get acquainted with the shell in more detail, then see the corresponding section in the review of the OnePlus 9 smartphone.

And nevertheless, there is one interesting fact associated with this particular firmware version. Not long ago it became known that OnePlus will unite with OPPO, and their proprietary skins, OxygenOS and ColorOS, respectively, will receive a unified (common) code. According to OnePlus, the move will streamline the development process for future OxygenOS updates, and the brand’s smartphones will receive major Android updates faster. For the Nord series (with the exception of the Nord N sub-series), we are talking about two major OS updates and regular security updates over the course of three years.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

Verdict

The OnePlus Nord 2 5G is an extremely decent mid-range smartphone, which in some places turned out to be even more interesting than the manufacturer’s base flagship. For example, its main camera is endowed with an optical stabilization system, which is not present in the OnePlus 9, and the new phone has a better battery life. There are, of course, many concessions, but the smartphone is positioned differently. The Nord 2 5G is not a flagship, the requirements and expectations from which are higher, but it turned out to be very close to more expensive models from OnePlus in particular.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G

Stylish design with interesting colors and different body finishes, a solid display with a 90 Hz refresh rate, a high level of performance, relatively good cameras, stereo sound, as well as an excellent combination of good battery and charging speed at a reasonable cost: maybe it isn’t a “killer of flagships”, but it is close.

Where to buy

Read also:

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Design
9
Materials
8
Build quality
10
Ergonomics
9
Display
9
Performance
10
Cameras
9
Sound
8
Battery life
9
Software
8
The OnePlus Nord 2 5G is an extremely decent mid-range smartphone, which in some places turned out to be even more interesting than the manufacturer's base flagship. For example, its main camera is endowed with an optical stabilization system, which is not present in the OnePlus 9, and the new phone has a better battery life. There are, of course, many simplifications, but the smartphone is positioned differently. The Nord 2 5G is not a flagship, the requirements and expectations from which are higher, but in fact it turned out to be very close to more expensive models from OnePlus in particular.
Dmitry Koval
I write detailed reviews of various gadgets, used Google Pixel smartphones and interested in mobile games.
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