OnePlus Nord 2 review: focused on the essentials

From the beginning, OnePlus has positioned its midrange lineup of Nord telephones as a cheaper, solely separate lineup to its flagship gadgets. However with the Nord 2, which comes as a direct successor to the unique Nord launched final yr, the road between the 2 appears blurrier than ever.

Whereas the unique Nord had its personal character, reminiscent of a novel design and unique options like an ultrawide selfie digicam, the Nord 2 feels extra like a stripped down flagship. It’s obtained a really related digicam bump to the OnePlus 9, for instance, and though the particular sensors are totally different, its cameras fill the identical capabilities. However all of the core necessities are nonetheless there: a vibrant excessive refresh price display screen, good battery life, and easy-to-use software program.

A extra inexpensive, non-flagship beginning value means it’s arduous to argue with these tradeoffs. The OnePlus Nord 2 prices £399 / €399 for its 8GB RAM / 128GB storage mannequin, rising to £469 / €499 for a 12GB RAM / 256GB storage model. (OnePlus isn’t promoting the Nord 2 within the US, however these costs roughly convert to $470 and $588, respectively.) For this evaluation, I’ve been utilizing the 12GB mannequin.

With its 6.43-inch show, the OnePlus Nord 2 is a hair smaller than the OnePlus 9 (which has a 6.55-inch show), however in any other case it is a very similar-looking system. There’s an oblong digicam bump on the again containing three cameras, a hole-punch cutout for the selfie digicam on the highest left on the entrance, and a USB-C port on the underside (however sadly, no headphone jack). Biometrics are dealt with through a quick in-display fingerprint sensor, and there’s a bodily slider to change between silent and vibrate on the correct of the telephone.

You’ll discover Gorilla Glass on the back and front of the telephone, however since its body is plastic you may need to use a case in case you’re significantly nervous concerning the body’s end sporting off. In any other case I didn’t discover the telephone flexing any greater than a typical aluminum framed telephone. Like the unique Nord, the Nord 2 doesn’t have an official IP ranking for mud or water resistance.

Oh, and that is additionally a 5G telephone: you get sub-6GHz assist, however no mmWave. Given the latter high-speed, low-range community sort has barely started to roll out within the Nord 2’s launch markets, it’s not one thing many individuals are more likely to miss.

Probably the most notable signal that this isn’t a flagship OnePlus system is its processor, which is a MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI fairly than one in all Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 888 chips. Contemplating MediaTek is a model extra generally related to funds gadgets, I used to be apprehensive about its inclusion on the OnePlus Nord 2, however I got here away pleasantly shocked by efficiency total. Sure, you miss out on Qualcomm-exclusive options like top quality AptX Bluetooth audio, however in any other case switching between apps was hitch-free, and the processors’ GPU fortunately made the a lot of the telephone’s easy 90Hz show whereas scrolling via even a comparatively graphically intensive Twitter feed (which, compared, stuttered on the unique Nord). I seen the telephone being barely gradual to get up on a few events, nevertheless, however total efficiency was on a par with, if not barely higher than the unique Nord in on a regular basis utilization.

Squint, and you may consider the Nord 2 is a OnePlus 9.

The Nord 2’s 1080p display screen is usually arduous to fault. It does every thing nicely that you simply’d count on from an OLED show. Whites are crisp and vivid, colours are punchy, and blacks are, nicely, black. Its 90Hz refresh price is technically a step down from the 120Hz panel that you simply’ll discover on telephones just like the OnePlus 9, however in observe I didn’t discover a downgrade.

As a bonus, this time across the Nord 2’s display screen is definitely flanked by stereo audio system (one downward-firing and one from the telephone’s earpiece), versus the unique Nord, which solely ever performed media audio out of its downward-facing speaker. You’ll nonetheless need to use headphones for correct listening, however the audio system’ quantity meant I had no hassle listening to podcasts performed out of the telephone’s audio system whereas cooking.

I obtained a bit below 5 hours of screen-on day trip of the Nord 2’s 4,500mAh battery, simply sufficient to final via a full day with a bit to spare. However I used to be extra impressed by the inclusion of Warp Cost 65 fast-charging right here. When charging from zero, I hit 89 % after a half hour, and 99 % after 35 minutes, which felt remarkably fast. It’s a must to use one in all OnePlus’ proprietary chargers and the cable it comes with to get these speeds, however not less than you get each within the field. The Nord 2 doesn’t assist wi-fi charging, which isn’t solely stunning at this value.

There’s a small hole-punch for the 32MP selfie digicam on the highest left.

A bodily slider enables you to put the telephone into silent mode.

The Nord 2 runs on OxygenOS 11.3 out of the field, which is notable for being the primary model of OnePlus’ software program to mirror its integration with Oppo’s ColorOS, as XDA Developers reported. However regardless of the under-the-hood adjustments, the telephone didn’t really feel radically totally different in on a regular basis utilization. I discovered a couple of adjustments within the Settings menu, although, the place a number of controls have been renamed and shifted positions barely. It meant I struggled initially to seek out OnePlus’ customary display screen calibration choices, for instance, however they’re nonetheless there in a barely totally different sub-menu. It bodes nicely for the way forward for OxygenOS, which continues to be an uncluttered tackle Android that I largely admire for its capability to maintain out of my approach. When it comes to ongoing assist, the corporate guarantees you get two main Android updates and three years of safety updates with the Nord 2, although it declined to say how common these safety updates can be.

Across the again of the Nord 2, you’ll discover three rear cameras. Its major digicam makes use of a 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 sensor (which OnePlus beforehand used for the ultrawide cameras on the 9 and the 9 Professional), which is flanked by a a lot lower-resolution pair of cameras: an 8-megapixel ultrawide and a 2-megapixel monochrome sensor of questionable utility. On its entrance there’s a 32-megapixel selfie digicam, but it surely’s not paired with an ultrawide digicam this time round, which makes me, personally, a bit unhappy.

I usually appreciated the photographs I obtained out of the Nord 2, and OIS on the principle sensor means it’s straightforward to get persistently sharp photographs each time you hit the shutter button. That mentioned, they positively have OnePlus’ sometimes punchy look, which prioritizes vibrancy over accuracy. It’s most blatant once you take a look at panorama {photograph} photographs: I can promise you the grass within the images under was a lot much less inexperienced and way more yellow in actuality. Edges additionally are inclined to have a barely over-sharpened look to them.

The Nord 2 consists of three rear cameras.

At night time, the Nord 2’s customary pictures mode robotically takes images which might be virtually as vivid because the Google Pixel’s Night time Sight mode, and in case you head into the telephone’s devoted Nightscape Extremely mode you get images that just about appear like they have been taken in daylight have been it not for the way washed out they seem. In its customary pictures mode, this brightness hides the truth that low-light photographs aren’t significantly detailed, like within the photograph under of an residence block the place the dividing strains between picket slats have been smoothed out of existence. You’ll have the ability to make out your pals in case you {photograph} them in a dimly lit bar, however their pores and skin may come out trying a bit easy and plasticine-y within the course of.

Oddly, this vibrancy doesn’t carry over to the ultrawide digicam, the place photographs appear way more muted and arguably extra color-accurate compared. There’s additionally much less element due to the decrease decision sensor.

In the case of folks, the OnePlus Nord 2 can’t appear to withstand the temptation to brighten pores and skin tones, elevate shadows, and make every thing look a bit flat. Even with its beautification mode turned off, I nonetheless obtained the impression the Nord 2 was avoiding exhibiting me each final wrinkle and pore in my face. To its credit score, the impact means you may barely inform I took the photographs under whereas sweating my approach via a horrid UK heatwave, however I believe the general images find yourself trying blander in consequence. It’s an identical story with the telephone’s selfie digicam, though that is partially offset by the additional element from defaulting to 32-megapixel photographs, whereas the principle digicam on the rear defaults to round 12.

OnePlus’ continued insistence on together with low-resolution monochrome sensors on the backs of its telephones is baffling. The black and white pictures possibility that makes use of it’s nonetheless buried all the best way on the finish of the digicam’s listing of filters, and even when you go to the difficulty of utilizing it, I’ve but to note any distinction it makes in comparison with a software-based filter. You’ll be able to even cowl up the monochrome sensor on the Nord 2 when you take a black and white shot, and the telephone seemingly continues on unperturbed.

However complaints concerning the simply ignorable monochrome sensor apart, I believe the Nord 2’s cameras get plenty of issues proper in case you share its desire for vivid, colourful photographs. OIS on the principle digicam means it’s comparatively straightforward to get crisp images, and you may do quite a bit worse at this value level.

An in-display fingerprint scanner handles biometric safety.

USB-C, however no headphone jack.

A month in the past, OnePlus introduced the so-called Nord CE or “Core Version,” an inexpensive telephone which was pitched as providing the important options of a OnePlus smartphone with none further bloat. However the extra I exploit the OnePlus Nord 2, the extra I believe that that is the telephone that matches that description way more precisely.

From its display screen, to its cameras, its processor, and its software program, the Nord 2 seems like a flagship telephone stripped of any pointless options. There’s no Hasselblad-branded cameras, only a moderately specced set of sensors. There’s no flagship Qualcomm chipset, however as a substitute you get a processor that has no hassle dealing with the day-to-day duties of a contemporary smartphone. No wi-fi charging, however quick wired charging that greater than makes up for it.

All of this provides as much as a compelling system in case you’re trying to spend between £400 and £500 and also you’re in a market when OnePlus is definitely promoting the Nord 2. A stripped down flagship it might be, but it surely’s arduous to argue with what’s been left.

Images by Jon Porter / The Verge