Don’t call it a comeback. Is roughly paraphrased the message OnePlus has stuck to throughout the period leading up the OnePlus Nord launch. More accurately, it’s been said that this isn’t OnePlus ‘returning’ to making more affordable phones. It is – instead – a new thing. This is OnePlus first non-flagship.
By flagship, the company means the first phone that isn’t sporting a Snapdragon 800-series processor. What that really means is that OnePlus is joining the trend of mid-range phones in 2020 that use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765 processor, and while there will be similarities between this and its competitors, the Nord is still trying to keep a sense of OnePlus-ness about it by being competitively priced and offering that fast, smooth and clean experience.
- 158.3 x 73.3 x 8.2mm
- 184 grams
- Glass front and back
- Blue Marble and Grey Onyx colours
- Water-resistant – no IP rating
Where the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro were all about that curved glass, sumptuous frosted glass and premium build, the Nord has made some compromises to keep the costs down, but still keeps some quality materials and has a rather more simple design language.
The back and front are still made of glass, with the rear coming with either a dark Onyx Grey finish or the Blue Marble that you see in our hands-on photos. It’s a bright blue that reminds us very much of spearmint flavour Softmints. It still seems to have that metallic sheen layer underneath the glass too, to give it that extra layer of texture.
OnePlus opted against its usual symmetrical, centre-mounted, camera housing. Instead, the Nord has a rather more standard long pill-shaped protrusion in the top left corner. It’s a design we’ve seen on multiple smartphones and seems to be the common way to do things these days. It’s a shame in some ways, losing part of what made OnePlus’ design at least a little different to the competition.
As for the front, OnePlus went with a practical approach. Rather than have the curved glass on the display, the panel is completely flat, virtually all the way up to the edges. It keeps costs down and ensures there’s no risk of any distortion or accidental touches as you might sometimes find with curved screens.
The bezel around it is really thin virtually the way around, with the bottom bezel being ever so slightly thicker. There’s a dual camera system in the top, which might make for more versatile shooting, but obstructs more of that display area. We’ll need to test the phone further before deciding if that’s going to get in the way, but our first instinct is that the lesser the obstruction, the better.
Apart from that, the choice of buttons and ports is the same as you’ll find on any other OnePlus. The alert switch remains, so it’s easy to switch between notification modes. So if you want to quickly silence all notifications, it’s a simple slide-up of a switch. There’s no 3.5mm input, but we do have the usual Type-C port, speaker and SIM tray on the bottom edge, plus the volume rocker switch on the left.
The only other thing we noticed was the material and thickness of the phone’s external frame. To us, it doesn’t feel like metal. It feels quite plasticky, and it’s relatively thick, so the phone feels a bit chunkier in the hand than some other phones we’ve tested.
There’s no denying it’s quite a big phone too. It’s roughly the same thickness as an iPhone 11, but it’s taller and narrower than Apple’s popular smartphone.
A big flat screen
- 6.44-inch Fluid AMOLED panel
- 1080 x 2400 resolution (full HD+)
- 90Hz refresh rate
- Oxygen OS 10.5
OnePlus already said it would never go back to doing screens with refresh rates under 90Hz, so it’s no surprise to see that’s exactly what the Nord has. It’s a completely flat 6.44-inch fullHD+ panel.
Spec-wise, it’s almost the same screen as what Oppo has on the Find X2 Neo. It’s an AMOLED panel boasting a resolution of 1080 x 2400, and that makes it a 20:9 ratio panel and means you should get deep blacks, vibrant colours and lots of detail.
It may not be as sharp as the QHD+ panels, but in our first look – at least – it certainly seems decent. Plus, with the 90Hz refresh rate enabled you should find that animations within the well-optimised Oxygen OS software are really fluid and responsive.
With it being OnePlus, that Oxygen OS software – built on top of Android 10 – features the ability to tune the display to your liking, as well as having a reading mode that turns the display grayscale for easy ebook reading, plus night mode for killing blue light in the evenings.
Likewise, being Oxygen OS also means it’s quite a clean and bloat-free experience. You don’t get much in the general interface that makes it seem all that different from the stock experience offered by Google. You even get the stock Android Messages and Phone apps this year.
You can change elements like the app icon shape, accent colours in menus, quick settings icon styles, fonts and fingerprint animations when you unlock the phone.
As with everything else, we can’t give you a full verdict on this until we’ve lived with the phone a bit longer. But on first impressions, it’s looking like a classic OnePlus experience, which we like a lot.
Let’s not forget, OnePlus also promises two years of software updates with the Nord, plus up to an extra year of security patches once those two years are up.
Speed and stamina
- Snapdragon 765G
- 8GB/128GB or 12GB/256GB variants
- 5G equipped
- 4115mAh battery
- Warp Charge 30T – 30W flash charging (5V/6A)
Look at the specs of this thing, and it becomes clear OnePlus has given this thing some ‘oomph’. The Snapdragon 765G chipset might not be top tier, but it should be plenty powerful enough to keep this phone running smooth. At least, if our experience with other phones using that processor is anything to go by, and OnePlus’ tradition of making its software feel fast and snappy.
Put that power alongside lots of RAM and storage, and you have a phone that should be speedy and fluid in everyday interactions, plus offer enough space to store pretty much anything you could wish to download.
For reference, the 8GB/128GB and 12GB/256 RAM/storage variants are the same as those you’ll find on the high end 8 Pro. The only difference being these use a slightly older type of RAM and storage. It’s LPDDR4X RAM and UFS2.1 storage rather than LPDDR5 and UFS 3.0. Which – again – should still offer really solid performance in terms of app loading, and downloading/writing speeds.
Battery size seems decent enough too. Its 4,115mAh battery is slightly more capacious than the one found in the Oppo Find X2 Neo and slightly less than what’s in the OnePlus 8. Without testing, we can’t say for sure exactly who long-lasting it is, but it should offer – at the very least – a full day of usage.
When it’s empty, you can charge it up quickly again using the very same Warp Charge technology that’s available higher up in OnePlus’ smartphone portfolio. It’s a 30W flash charging technology that can deliver around 70 per cent capacity in 30 minutes.
- Quad camera system
- 48MP f/1.75 primary camera with OIS/EIS
- 8MP f/2.25 ultra-wide 119-degree camera
- 2MP f/2.4 macro camera
- 5MP f/2.4 depth sensor
- Dual 32MP and 8MP ultrawide selfie cameras
- 4K video – 30fps
We slightly criticised the OnePlus 8 Pro for having a colour filter camera for seemingly no reason, and often other phones with a quad-camera system that has additional cameras that don’t really do anything. It seems – on first looks – that the Nord has gone down that route too.
Of the four cameras on the back, it’s the primary and ultra-wide cameras that will prove most useful. The other two are just low-resolution macro and depth sensors. We’d rather see a dual-camera system, with money spent on a better quality ultra-wide camera, instead of the 8-megapixel f/2.25 one in the Nord.
Still, the primary camera is exactly the same on that’s in the OnePlus 8. It’s a Sony sensor, and the camera features both OIS (optical image stabilisation) and EIS (electronic image stabilisation) to ensure your stills and video are shake free and smooth. If it’s anything like the OnePlus 8 camera it could be very good for this price range.
As for the other sensors, we’ll hold judgement until we’ve used them.
On the front, OnePlus has taken that unusual decision to have two cameras. And that’s for one reason: ultrawide selfies. It means you can take selfies with lots of friends in them, or with a wide background full of buildings, landscape or whatever else you want to fit in.