OnePlus Nord 2 - key specs
Dimensions: 158.9 x 73.2 x 8.25mm
Screen: 6.43 inches AMOLED (90Hz, HD+)
CPU: MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI
GPU: ARM G77 MC9
Rear cameras: 50MPP, 8MP, 2MP
Front cameras: 32MP
Battery: 4,500 mAh
OS: Android 11 /Oxygen OS 11
If you were expecting a glowing OnePlus Nord 2 review, then you were absolutely right to. Just like its predecessor, OnePlus’ new mid-range superstar is one of the best cheap phones you can buy this year.
Launched back in 2020, the original OnePlus Nord proved that you don’t need to spend over the odds to get a great phone with good specs and plenty of features. Here at T3, we were so impressed by it that it won the Best Value Phone award at the T3 Awards 2021 as well as a high-ranking spot in T3’s coveted guide to the very best phones.
On test, the original Nord convinced us to trust in mid-range phones with a large, bright screen, a great camera, decent performance and battery life as well as OnePlus’ intuitive, eye-catching Oxygen OS software. Basically, it was one of the best Android phones you could buy despite lacking a few key features like waterproofing, wireless charging and Wi-Fi 6. Because of that, the OnePlus Nord 2 sure has a lot to live up to.
To continue the Nord’s legacy, OnePlus has made a few big changes to the handset while preserving everything that made the phone so good in the first place.
Find out how the OnePlus Nord 2 matches up - I'll start with a quick video roundup of the phone, before giving you more detail on everything else about it, from its design and display to the camera, performance and battery life.
OnePlus Nord 2 review: video review
OnePlus Nord 2 review: what’s new
Changes have been made to a few key areas: the camera, performance and battery.
In reworking the camera, OnePlus has ditched the depth sensor and macro cameras, boosted the main lens from 48MP to 50MP and added in a monochrome lens.
Previously, the Nord was powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G whereas the Nord 2 packs the MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI 5G chipset, which is exclusive to OnePlus. They claim it’s comparable to the high-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 CPU.
Then, in the hope of maintaining a good balance between performance and battery, OnePlus has included a 4,500mAh battery (the Nord’s was 4,115mAh) and it now has Warp 65T charging instead of 30T.
Like its predecessor, there’s still no wireless charging nor is there official waterproofing but the OnePlus Nord 2 does feature Wi-Fi 6 this time around which means you’ll be able to make the most out of the fastest internet speeds possible.
OnePlus Nord 2 review: price and availability
Available to buy directly from OnePlus or from retailers like Amazon and John Lewis on the 29th July 2021 in the UK, the OnePlus Nord 2 will cost £399 for the 8GB RAM and 128GB storage version. If you want more from the phone, you’ll be able to buy it with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage for £469. You can pre-order the phone from OnePlus (opens in new tab) now.
The OnePlus Nord 2 won’t be available to buy in the US, and we haven’t yet heard anything about availability in Australia.
OnePlus Nord 2 review: design and display
Straight out of the box, the OnePlus Nord 2 looks more premium than it is with a classy glass back and glossy metal frame. It’s available in three colourways: Gray Sierra, Green Wood and Blue Haze which is the version I tested out. Measuring 158.9 x 73.2 x 8.25mm, it feels slightly thicker than some pricier handsets, yet it only weighs 189g so it is comfortable to hold even if you have small hands.
A three-lens camera module sits on the back, while on the front a tiny hole punch camera is placed in the top left of the screen. The back camera module sticks out slightly making the phone unstable on a flat surface which is annoying, although I didn’t find it would catch on my pocket as I slid it in and out.
On the frame, there’s a power button, volume controls and an alert slider but there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack here so you’ll need an adaptor for wired headphones if you still use them. It’s great to see the slider make a return though. They left it out of the recent OnePlus Nord CE which was a shame because it really is very handy. I find myself using it a few times throughout the day, and with the return to offices happening as we speak, it’ll be a blessing.
The large 6.43-inch AMOLED display has a resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels (FHD+) with 410ppi and a 90Hz refresh rate. Just like the phone that came before it, the OnePlus Nord 2’s screen is a beauty, it’s bright and sharp across all types of content as well as feeling silky smooth to use more generally. OnePlus has packed in a few smart features that help deliver such a well-balanced vibrant display, like AI Color Boost which enhances colours and makes them pop, or the AI Resolution Boost which improves the quality of content from apps like YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. There’s also plenty of customisation like the eye comfort mode, dark mode and the video enhancer.
What all that means is that you’ll get a great experience from the display no matter what you do on it, be that online shopping, watching Netflix episodes or playing mobile games. I don’t have much bad to say about the screen at all.
To unlock the phone, you can either use facial recognition or the in-display fingerprint sensor. Both worked quickly and efficiently each time.
OnePlus Nord 2 review: camera system
OnePlus has shaken up the camera system for their 2021 Nord 2 handset. On the back is now a three-lens camera module, down from four lenses in the original Nord. That includes a 50MP main camera, an 8MP ultrawide lens and a 2MP monochrome lens with a 32MP front camera which is the largest they’ve ever put on a phone.
Point-and-shoot photography in daylight came out well with a good balance between light and dark areas of the shot, although colours could sometimes look a little washed out, and objects far away sometimes lacked finer details. Despite that, for your everyday shots, it's a good camera with a fast shutter speed, and it's quick to focus.
I’m not sure many people will make use of the dedicated black and white lens but aside from that, there are lots of other useful camera modes to play around with like Ultra Resolution to take bigger more detailed shots you can print out, and Nightscape which does a great job to illuminate the scene in low lighting conditions.
Naturally, this phone camera doesn't compare to the likes of the iPhone 12 Pro but you will get decent shots out of it considering the price.
The system lets you record video in resolutions up to 4K at 30fps, with 1080p and 720p video at 30 or 60fps. It comes out steady and sharp, with clear audio. You won't find better video quality in a mid-range handset.
OnePlus Nord 2 review: performance and battery
OnePlus Nord 2 - Geekbench 5 scores
Single-Core Score: 812
Multi-Core Score: 2,638
Powered by the MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI CPU which is an exclusive chip to OnePlus, the OnePlus Nord 2 promises improved performance. The version of the handset I tested packs in 12GB RAM and 256GB of storage, which bodes well.
After using it day-to-day I didn’t stumble across any problems at all, the phone seemed to cope with every task I threw at it including photo-editing and mobile gaming, it didn’t lag when I had loads of apps open at once either. That was backed up by its impressive Geekbench 5 scores where it managed to pick up 812 in single-core and 2,638 in multi-core. Although not quite matching up to recent flagship handsets like the OnePlus 9 or the Samsung Galaxy S21, it did perform better than its predecessor and it was much faster than other similarly priced phones like the Google Pixel 5 as well. The OnePlus Nord 2 actually managed to match the performance of slightly older flagships like the Samsung S20 Ultra.
When it comes to internet speeds, the OnePlus Nord 2 features both 5G and Wi-Fi 6 so you’ll be able to make the most out of speedy connections both at home and while you’re out and about, if your area and broadband router support it of course.
Often a strong performance can mean diminished battery life, but not in this case. The 4,500mAh battery easily lasted the whole day of casual use and then some. I put just how good it could be to the test by running a local video on full brightness over two hours, in that time the battery level dropped by just 12%. That means the phone should have lasted over 16 and a half hours, which really is fantastic. Although there’s no wireless charging, the OnePlus Nord 2 does come with Warp Charge 65T, it barely took any time at all to recharge the phone from empty to 100%.
OxygenOS is definitely one of the better Android 11 skins. The operating system is incredibly sleek and eye-catching without being childlike or overly colourful. It feels very easy to use, so if you’re moving over from another OS you’ll soon get used to it. You’ll get extra useful features like Zen Mode which locks you out of using your phone for a set period of time to give you a bit of peace and quiet away from technology. There are also lots of always-on display (AOD) settings to play around with, like pick up or tap to show the screen.
OnePlus Nord 2 review: verdict
The OnePlus Nord 2’s glossy glass design paired with its impressive performance, very long battery life and decent camera system are just a few of the reasons you would want to buy one. It improves on the original in all the key scoring areas, although it’s not really in any drastic way. If you already own the OnePlus Nord I wouldn’t rush out to upgrade your phone to the second generation just yet.
Anyone who is willing to splash out on a flagship like the OnePlus 9 Pro still should, because they are nevertheless the better phones. By spending more you’ll get the very best of everything, including extra features like wireless charging. But having said that, up against those sorts of flagships, the OnePlus Nord 2 does actually stand a chance because it is a fantastic piece of kit with a very convincing price tag.
The OnePlus Nord 2 is the perfect phone for anyone on a budget, and it'll be a great option to give to teens as well. As things stand you won't get better for this price.
OnePlus Nord 2 review: also consider
Another affordable phone that scores well across the board is the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G. It’s slightly slower than the OnePlus Nord 2, but this phone really thrives at taking photos on its quad-camera system. Using the default point-and-shoot settings you can take some flagship-worthy shots.
If you’re not 100% set on Android, then the very best cheap phone you can buy is the Apple iPhone SE. It may have an average battery life, and it lacks a few features like night photography, but all in all its build quality, camera and speed make it seem like it should be a much more expensive phone than it actually is.
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