OnePlus Nord 2 review | Laptop Mag

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OnePlus is not the company it used to be. Recently, the brand has gone the way of popular rivals and turned mainstream.

The Nord 2 is the company’s self-released EP, both an apology to the core fanbase and a chance to remind everyone of what made OnePlus great in the first place — making powerful phones and undercutting the competition on price.

This is achieved by nabbing the same awesome camera sensor used in the OnePlus 9, equipping the Nord 2 with a vivid 90Hz AMOLED panel, adding 65W fast charging, and opting for an interesting new MediaTek Dimensity chipset while arming the phone with 5G speeds.

The Nord 2 has impressive specs, but the best numbers alone don’t make the best phones. Is the OnePlus Nord 2 a true return to form? Let’s find out.

OnePlus Nord 2: Price and configurations

I’ve got bad news for the US: the OnePlus Nord 2 is not available to you. And the same goes for Australia.

Availability is limited mostly to Europe and India, so given my location (given away by my last name), I’ll talk about pricing in pounds. The Nord 2 is available in two configurations: 8GB RAM + 128GB storage for £399 (€399), or 12GB RAM and double the storage for £469 (€469).

The phone is available to purchase in either a Grey Sierra or Blue Haze finish.

OnePlus Nord 2: Design

The Nord 2’s slab sandwich of Gorilla glass with a plastic frame doesn’t challenge any design status quos.

At 6.3 x 2.9 x 0.32 inches and 6.7 ounces, the OnePlus Nord 2 is a decent size in the hand, falling smack bang in the middle of the average phone size. Comparatively, the phone is slightly taller than the Realme GT (6.2 x 2.9 inches), while being a hair thicker but lighter than the Google Pixel 5a (0.3 inches, 6 ounces).

Sure, some people will ask for more personality to the design, and that’s a fair critique. But I prefer keeping things simple. The ugly branding on the RedMagic 6R or the Realme 8 Pro is an eyesore, so to see an OEM refine the style of a mid-range phone is a breath of fresh air.

By being inoffensive with its design while adding a generous dash of color, OnePlus has crafted a phone you won’t be embarrassed to carry around. Plus, the case included in the box is a nice addition for those more prone to being clumsy.

OnePlus Nord 2: Display

The OnePlus Nord 2 packs a 6.43-inch AMOLED display with a 1080 x 2400-pixel resolution,  a smooth 90Hz refresh rate and support for HDR10+.

These specs are not the absolute best you can get at around this price, with phones like the RedMagic 6R providing a higher refresh rate. But balance is everything in the Nord 2 and this screen is bright and smooth enough for enjoyable viewing.

Turning to the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer (which I’ve watched hundreds of times over by now), Doctor Strange’s spells have a bright glow to them with the added luminosity of HDR, and pictures pop off the screen with vivid colors.

OnePlus worked with MediaTek to tweak its chipset and provide features like AI Resolution Boost and AI Color Boost, both of which work well to keep pictures sharp and vivid.

A quick warning, though. That refresh rate is not dynamic, which means it may not be power efficient (see battery life section below). Phones with adaptive refresh rates are better at prolonging battery life by dropping the panel down to 60Hz (or lower) when you’re not viewing fast-moving content.

OnePlus Nord 2: Audio

A good display needs good audio for an immersive viewing experience.

This is where a lot of phones at this price point struggle, as companies opt for a single mono speaker, which makes for lop-sided listening. The Nord 2 bucks this trend with powerful dual stereo speakers and customized Dirac drivers.

You end up with an impressive stereo sound that remains clean and clear regardless of how loud you turn it up. Bass-heavy tunes like “I Can’t Stop” by Flux Pavilion don’t turn into a blown out mess because of the onslaught of lower tones — giving room for other instruments and vocals to breathe.

Put simply, for games, mindless TikTok scrolling, and everything in between, the speakers won’t let you down. It’s a shame there isn’t a 3.5mm headphone jack, but one of our picks for the best true wireless earbuds will be a great fix for this omission.

OnePlus Nord 2: Performance

The Nord 2 marks a historic shift for OnePlus being the company’s first phone to not sport a Qualcomm processor. MediaTek stepped up to the plate with a Dimensity 1200-AI chipset (exclusive to this phone).

Putting numbers to it, the OnePlus Nord 2 fared well in Geekbench 5 testing with a single-core score of 834 and a 2,697 multi-core. This trumps Google’s Pixel 5a (1,354), the Snapdragon 720G-powered Samsung Galaxy A52 (1,903) and the Snapdragon 750G-powered TCL 20 Pro 5G (1,922).

However, it is possible to squeeze a better price-to-performance ratio out of other phones at this price point. The Realme GT rocks a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 888 CPU and annihilates the Nord 2 with a multi-core score of 3,552.

But when evaluating the phone in real-world use — which these numbers don’t represent — the Nord 2 is fast and smooth, even under heavy multitasking workloads.

It may not be able to reach the highest levels of graphical fidelity and frame rates in Call of Duty: Mobile or keep up with super intensive workloads for sustained periods, but for the majority of users with normal phone use cases, you will not be disappointed.

OnePlus Nord 2: Battery life & charging

The 4,500mAH battery in the OnePlus Nord 2 will get you through a full day with ease, and even if you  strain it under intense usage, upgraded 65W charging will get this battery back up to full in a jiffy.

On a typical day, my usage is split between a few hours of web browsing, listening to podcasts and Spotify all day, some social media use, an unhealthy amount of check-ups on my stock portfolio, finishing up with some gaming and YouTube videos in the evening. With all of this, the Nord 2 left me with 10-15% on average before plugging it in.

Speaking of plugging it in, the Warp Charge 65 is insanely fast — fuelling the battery to full in under 30 minutes. iOS users may enjoy their slightly faster charging speeds with bigger power bricks, but the convenience of plugging in your dying phone and charging it back to 100% in the time it takes for you to drink a pint with your friends in the pub can’t be understated.

Unfortunately, there isn’t wireless charging support, so you’ll need to be tethered to a cord to top up the Nord 2.

OnePlus Nord 2: Cameras

The camera system has often been the weak spot for OnePlus phones. However, the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro bucked this trend with impressive sensors and a partnership with Hasselblad. But what about this much cheaper Nord 2?

We start strong with the same 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 sensor from the OnePlus 9 with optical image stabilization (OIS) and an f/1.88 aperture. Alongside this, you’ll also find an 8MP ultra-wide lens (f/2.25) and a 2MP mono lens with a smaller f/2.4 aperture. This is backed with your standard set of software photography features, including AI scene enhancement (changing color and contrast reactively to what it detects in the scene), a range of filters and HDR.

Unsurprisingly, the mono lens doesn’t add much value,and while the ultra-wide camera gives you more photographic flexibility, the low megapixel count and smaller aperture results in mushy pictures that are noisy in challenging light conditions.

Turning our attention to the main shooter, however, it makes these shortcomings easy to forgive. By default, the Nord 2 dabbles in some pixel-binning — combining four pixels into one and shooting 12MP pictures. The results are impressive for this price point, with true-to-life color (with AI enhancement turned off), rich detail, dramatic contrast thanks to the HDR, and a decent natural bokeh when focusing on close subjects.

And during the evening, OnePlus stands head and shoulders above its mid-range competition with one of the best night modes. Colors, highlights and details are preserved while the low light delay gets to work on illuminating the scene with a surprising absence of noise.

Another big win for this phone is its video quality. In a sea of Android phones with mediocre video quality, the 4K video shot on the Nord 2 is vivid, crisp and smooth thanks to the on-board OIS.

There are a variety of modes, such as slow-motion, time-lapse and dual-view, which gives you the option to record video from both the front-facing and rear camera simultaneously. It’s a dense suite of video features that backs up impressive image quality.

Flipping over to the front, the 32MP selfie camera creates detailed and colorful pictures with some optional AI smarts to cover up any blemishes or wrinkles. The latter feature may make things look too artificial upon closer inspection, but it’s more than good enough for your next profile picture.

OnePlus Nord 2: OxygenOS 11

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: OxygenOS is my favorite OEM Android skin available today. That continues with the 11th iteration which debuts some layout tweaks to make it easier for those with smaller hands to reach important menus.

OxygenOS 11 also builds on the always-on display functionality and a new Turbo Boost 3.0 supposedly uses RAM compression and vRAM so you can keep 25% more apps open in the background without hurting performance.

Sure, the latest visual changes take it further away from being as close to stock Android 11 as previous OxygenOS versions. Some of you may not like the changes,. but the pillar of functional design remains and operationally, the OS skin is clean and speedy.

OnePlus is still up there as one of the UI greats, a title backed by long-term support. The company promises two major Android updates and three years of security patches. This is less than what you get from Samsung and Google, but better than Realme’s promise of two years of security updates and one Android update. This is good enough to last the duration of a smartphone contract.

Bottom line

With the release of the pricey OnePlus 9 Pro and the company’s merger with Oppo turning it into a sub brand, I feared everyone’s favorite flagship killer had lost its mojo. Don’t worry, because the Nord 2 proves we have nothing to fear.

Sure, it may not have the same Snapdragon 888 CPU of the Realme GT or the 144Hz display of the RedMagic 6R, but the Nord 2 doesn’t make the same compromises as those rivals to stuff the spec sheet. Rather than leaning on a few powerful components and compromising on the rest of the formula, OnePlus created a balanced device that does just about everything well.

The Nord 2 is a jack of all trades and even though it’s a master of none, it achieves the balance you want in a mid-range smartphone. OnePlus might have gone corporate, but it hasn’t forgotten how to create a banger.

Today’s best OnePlus Nord 2 deals

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