The OnePlus Nord 2 smartphone has big shoes to fill, and I can only blame the original OnePlus Nord for this. The original Nord, launched last year, was such fantastic value for money in my opinion, that it has made the new Nord 2's job difficult.
Adding to this pressure is the recent launch of the Nord CE 5G in India, taking the baton in the current Nord smartphone series to be the cheapest one. The result? The expectations of the Nord 2 are super high, and at times, you will find me comparing the new Nord 2 to the original Nord, Nord CE, and the OnePlus 9 in this review.
Don't get confused seeing the OnePlus 9 name in the comparison list above, and a hint is in the image below (a few swipes/ scrolls down) to understand why we are even bringing a Rs 49,999 phone to the fight here.
Coincidentally, the new Nord 2 is the first smartphone commercially available post the Oppo and OnePlus merger announcement. And that means we can comfortably say that Nord 2 should have feedback from both the teams - Oppo and OnePlus.
So, to sum up for you. The OnePlus Nord 2 has a lot to prove and has to deliver in terms of overall value, because the phone is filling a huge gap between the OnePlus Nord CE 5G top-end model, which is available at Rs 27,999 to the starting price of the OnePlus 9R 5G, which comes at Rs 39,999.
The Nord 2 is also the first OnePlus ever to come with a MediaTek chipset, the Dimensity 1200-AI, which is said to have some tweaks to make it better than other phones with the same chipset. So, long question short, is the new Nord 2 5G worth buying over other rivals in this price segment? I will try to answer that in my review.
OnePlus Nord 2 review: OnePlus 9 avatar with a more premium design appeal
If you're a fan or even slightly liked the original OnePlus Nord design, then get ready to be disappointed. The all-new OnePlus Nord 2 doesn't look like a phone from the Nord range to start with. While looks are subjective, and some people may like the OnePlus 9-like design at the back, but the matter of fact here is that the Nord series is supposed to have its own design philosophy, which I started to appreciate after seeing a consistent design language across Nord devices launched so far - OnePlus Nord, N10 5G, N100, N200 5G, and Nord CE 5G.
OnePlus 9 (on the left side) and OnePlus Nord 2 (on the right side)
When seeing the design from a different perspective, the OnePlus Nord 2 tries to break that monotony and bring a refresh. The only problem with this look is it reminds me of the OnePlus 9. If the Nord 2 and OnePlus 9 are kept on a table side-by-side, and you have to differentiate between the two, then there's only one way, and it is based on the LED flash module placement.
When I sat with the OnePlus team a few months back for the OnePlus 9, they told me that it uses a mix of materials at the back, and that was to maintain a certain weight. On the other hand, the OnePlus Nord 2 gets glass back with a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 5. To translate this further, OnePlus has used a premium material on the back of the OnePlus Nord 2, which is going to sell at a cheaper price point compared to the flagship-grade OnePlus 9.
Coming back to the design, the OnePlus Nord 2 looks like a nicely built solid smartphone with elements that feel premium, such as the use of Corning Gorilla Glass 5 at the back. The front is dominated by the 6.43-inch AMOLED display with the selfie camera placed on the left corner. The power button and the alert slider on the right panel are placed slightly upwards, while the volume rocker keys on the left are towards the middle. I liked the tactile feel of the buttons, and the curved edges make sure that the phone comfortably sits on your palms.
OnePlus Nord 2 (on the left side) and OnePlus Nord (on the right side)
Like always, OnePlus has launched the Nord 2 in three colour options - Grey Sierra, which sports a 3D AG glass at the back which feels thinner and more rounded, Green Woods has a leathery pine-tree look. And Blue Haze comes with a shiny finish that reflects light for a visual appearance. We got the Blue Haze colour, and it looks decent. The good thing is that despite featuring glass at the back, the Nord 2 comes with a smudge-resistant coating, so you do not have to worry about fingerprints on the back of the phone.
At 8.25mm, the Nord 2 is thicker than the OnePlus 9. While at 189 grams, the Nord 2 is also heavier than the OnePlus 9 (183 grams). The Nord 2 is slippery because of the glass material used and also feels heavier during everyday use. One-hand use isn't a big ask, but I felt that the weight and design balance isn't the best.
OnePlus Nord 2 review: A bright and decent display at this price
The OnePlus Nord 2 features a 6.43-inch AMOLED display with 1080x2400 pixels and 410 PPI pixel density. It comes with a 20:9 aspect ratio and offers a 90Hz refresh rate. As part of the new chipset, the new Nord 2 comes with AI-Super resolution and AI Colour Boost to improve the colour and gradience of images. The display panel on the Nord 2 is bright and produces natural colours. As a result, the texts and images appear sharp. The sunlight legibility or display performance under direct sunlight is also decent and it also offers good viewing angles.
OnePlus Nord 2 features a 6.43-inch AMOLED display
Some additional features like Smart Ambient Display improve readability by adjusting the colours. However, the AI Colour Boost and AI Resolution Boost features are not applicable across all apps and functions on the Nord 2.
The company tells me that the AI Colour Boost is compatible with YouTube, MX Player Pro, and VLC, while the AI Resolution Boost is compatible with Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube. These enhancements are some of the very smart add-ons that OnePlus has brought in and improve the overall display experience. For example, it helps upscale content into HD resolution, which feels natural, and that's impressive.
However, the limitation of these features should be taken care of soon.
Suppose you're someone who loves to binge-watch movies or shows while you commute or while lying on your bed, then the Nord 2 display should keep you happy. The 90Hz refresh rate is the cherry on the cake and makes animations smooth during everyday use. The display performance during gaming is also impressive, and we will talk more about that in our performance section.
OnePlus Nord 2 review: Cameras capture good details, but UI needs some tuning
The OnePlus Nord 2 not only borrows design elements from the OnePlus 9 but also gets a similar camera setup. The Nord 2 features a 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 primary sensor with f/1.88 aperture, which has been previously seen on the OnePlus 9. Part of the triple camera array is an 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera with a 119.7-degree field of view and EIS and a 2-megapixel mono lens. The smartphone packs a dual-LED flash with 0.6x-10x zoom. In addition, there's multi-autofocus and other camera features, like Nightscape Ultra, AI Photo Enhancement, AI Video Enhancement, Pro mode, Night portrait mode, and more. At the front, there's a 32-megapixel Sony IMX 615 sensor.
The camera UI change is one big noticeable difference between the OnePlus 9 and the OnePlus Nord 2. The new Nord brings handy AI enhancement additions to the camera department, like the AI scene enhancement that appears in the middle, as well as AI Beautification that lets users tweak the setting. However, I noticed that the camera UI was slightly buggy at times, especially when I was tweaking the settings before taking every shot. I saw the setting stuck at a point and moving at its own pace, which might be a letdown.
Specs and features aside, the Nord 2 cameras offer excellent colour performance and accurate white balance during the day. The colour rendering is also pleasant in most scenarios. The primary camera, especially, is a very capable one and provides enough details in still photos.
The detail and colour accuracy are better in outdoor shots than in indoor shots. It also offers a wide dynamic range and controlled noise in shadow areas. The portrait images are decent with accurate depth estimation, though portrait results during the night aren't too great.
Autofocusing is not the quickest we have seen on phones, but it is acceptable. PDAF comes into play during daylight, and the subject gets locked quickly, while in low-light situations, the focusing gets slowed down. In low-light samples, I noticed noise in most photos and even the detail level going down.
The OnePlus Nord 2 comes with a triple camera setup at the back
The low-light camera performance further moves down as soon as the light sources around are less. Unfortunately, even the Nightscape wasn't able to help much in this situation.
About the mono lens, I fail to understand the love for monochrome lens by OnePlus. Like the OnePlus 9 series, the Nord 2's mono lens works with the primary and ultra-wide sensor to add details and layering to the monochrome or black and white photos. The Nord 2's ultra-wide camera offers pretty decent performance with accurate exposure, good enough colour rendering and preserved details.
I liked the addition of the Dual View Video feature that enables the front and rear cameras simultaneously. This might come in handy for bloggers and content creators on Instagram. It is not that this feature is fresh, but it has been seen on the phone after a long time. Earlier, Nokia phones used to come with this feature, and it was called "Bothie."
The 32-megapixel selfie camera can take some good shots with plenty of details during the day or in natural lights. The true skin tone colour is also maintained, though the AI add-on doesn't offer too much help, and the results look artificial. I preferred keeping the AI settings off during my tests as it was noticeable enhancements in some situations.
Overall, the Nord 2 packs a good set of cameras that work flawlessly during the day, while low-light shots aren't the best, and the camera UI needs some tuning.
OnePlus Nord 2 review: A capable processor
Performance was something that I really wanted to test ever since OnePlus announced switching gears from a Qualcomm chipset to a MediaTek one. From the company's perspective, this is a big and bold move, and the future of this partnership may depend on how well the Nord 2 fares in the performance category.
It packs the MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI processor, where the company insists that the AI bit added to the chipset name isn't just a gimmick and adds several AI-related enhancements, which I have talked about in the display and camera departments.
Well, what's in a name? The big question here is how well the Nord 2 performs.
My testing in the last few days has shown promising results. Right from multitasking to gaming to extensive camera use, the Nord 2 can handle everything. I faced no issues while jumping from one app to another and even when there were over 20 apps open in the background, switching from one to another wasn't a hassle for the Nord 2.
During gaming, I noticed that the Nord 2 handled popular titles like Need for Speed, Asphalt 9, Call of Duty: Mobile, and Battlegrounds Mobile India smoothly. The haptics enhances the overall gaming experience.
However, I did experience a slight heating issue on the back panel. This may be because of the glass back panel, but that doesn't change the fact that Nord 2 gets warm, really warm. It doesn't reach a point where you are forced to close all apps and leave the phone in idle mode for some time to be normal again.
Apart from the gaming, I experienced a heating issue while using the camera extensively for about 20-25 minutes, when I could feel that the entire phone (the display and the back panel) were now warm. OnePlus has added a forced closure feature that shuts the camera app when it starts getting too warm.
OxygenOS is one of my favourite custom UIs built on top of Android and is one reason it gives OnePlus devices an edge over others. It runs on OxygenOS 11.3, based on Android 11. Compared to Oppo's ColorOS or Xiaomi's MIUI, the OxygenOS feels less heavily customised.
The OnePlus Nord 2 packs loudspeakers that are loud and should be enough for a single person use for gaming, watching movies, and more. The stereo speakers work well and have clarity, too, at about 70 per cent volume levels.
Thanks to the mix of great display and loudspeakers on the Nord 2, the phone is an excellent device for multimedia usage, such as looking at old memories or watching videos. This is a complete package with 5G support which should keep you future-ready. The phone supports dual 5G SIM cards, again a new feature that cannot be checked at the moment.
The Nord 2 also offers a decent call quality where we didn't notice any problems while making or receiving calls. The voice was clear enough, and no hassles in terms of the device. In fact, the OnePlus Nord 2 packs a good set of antennas as the phone can latch on to networks quite well in weak network zones.
In terms of benchmark apps, the Nord 2 fares well and received decent scores across different apps. For example, on the Geekbench score, the Nord 2 got 800 single-core and 2,758 multi-core scores. On the PC Mark Work 3.0 test, Nord 2 got an 8,164 score, while on the GFX Bench app, the phone got a 182FPS score in 1080p T-Rex Offscreen and 59FPS in T-Rex tests. To compare, these scores were higher than the Nord CE and the original Nord, while they were close to what the OnePlus 9 got.
Overall, the Nord 2 feels like a great upgrade in terms of performance. Though, I wish the slight heating problem could be acknowledged through some software updates. Fortunately, it doesn't happen too often.
OnePlus Nord 2 review: Battery doesn't disappoint
The OnePlus Nord 2 packs a large 4500mAh battery, the same as the OnePlus 9, OnePlus 9 Pro, OnePlus 9R, and OnePlus Nord CE 5G. It comes with Warp Charge 65 fast charging support that the company claims can charge the phone from 0-100 per cent in 30 minutes. On paper, the Nord 2 has a bigger battery than the original Nord.
Numbers aside, the OnePlus Nord 2 offers some serious battery performance. It can last over a day with about 25-30 per cent battery left on heavy usage where I had apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, Outlook, Gmail, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Reddit, and more everyday apps open in the background at all times. In addition, we also played games like Call of Duty: Mobile, Battlegrounds Mobile India, Asphalt 9, and more graphic-intensive games for a couple of hours to test whether this might impact the battery drastically. It turns out that the Nord 2 is a solid performer in terms of battery.
The Warp Charge 65 comes in handy, where I could charge the phone quickly from 25 per cent to 65 per cent in less than 20 minutes, which was impressive.
OnePlus Nord 2 review: Verdict
The entire point of the new Nord series was to give flagship phones a run for their money by offering a package that provides consumers with a OnePlus device at an affordable price point. But, unfortunately, at a starting price of Rs 27,999, the OnePlus Nord 2 is a phone that's difficult to recommend, and that's because the company now has an excellent device at the bottom of its pyramid, that's the Nord CE 5G.
The OnePlus Nord 2 price starts at Rs 27,999 for the 6GB RAM and 128GB storage and goes up to Rs 34,999 for the 12GB RAM and 256GB storage which I got for the review. The company has also launched an 8GB RAM and 128GB storage model at Rs 29,999.
I like the OnePlus Nord 2 overall as a product, but nothing blows me away. The similarities to the OnePlus 9 kill excitement around the design of the Nord 2. But, if you ask me, if this is a true successor to the original Nord, then my answer will be yes. Moreover, it packs some much needed under the hood power that should impress many users.
OnePlus 9 (on the left side), OnePlus Nord 2 (in the centre), and OnePlus Nord (on the right side)
Talking about the overall package, the Nord 2 gets most of the things right. The design is from a premium device, so you should be happy paying less for it, and the processor is a capable one. The cameras are perfect for daylight shots and come with some interesting AI enhancements. The display is also decent, and the battery should impress you.
What's not so great is the slight heating problem that I noticed while doing extensive gaming and while using the camera app to shoot photos and videos. It never became an issue, but it would be great if OnePlus fixed this (if it could be through future software updates). Another issue that I faced was the buggy camera UI that got stuck multiple times on a given setting and took its sweet time to move on. Again, onePlus can fix it through a software update, so not a big deal. Lastly, the low-light performance of the cameras is average.
I tested the Nord 2 to its limits in the last few days, whether gaming or camera use or general use case. And it has fared well. So, if you're someone who has a budget and wants a good-looking, solid phone, then the Nord 2 could be your choice.
For power users who want the absolute best, they can go for the OnePlus 9R which's available at Rs 39,999. It is also a phone aimed at gamers, which can double up as your primary device for work and play. In a day, Poco will be launching its new Poco F3 GT with almost the same chipset, and that will be compared to the Nord 2. I'm guessing pricing is the key.
OnePlus Nord 2 5G review
Solid battery life
Laggy camera UI
Average low-light performance
Slippery back panel
Slight heating issue