EVALUATION

OnePlus Nord 2 Review: The Mid-Range Android Smartphone to Beat?

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The OnePlus Nord 2 is a solid mid-range Android smartphone with a compact design, powerful chipset, and competent camera performance. There are a few oddities, but the OnePlus Nord 2 is an impressive mid-range smartphone that you just can't ignore.

OnePlus Nord 2

8.50 / 10

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The OnePlus Nord 2 is a solid mid-range Android smartphone with a compact design, powerful chipset, and competent camera performance. There are a few oddities, but the OnePlus Nord 2 is an impressive mid-range smartphone that you just can't ignore.

Specifications

  • Brand: OnePlus
  • Storage: 128GB UFS 3.1
  • CPU: MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI
  • Memory: 8GB
  • Operating System: OxygenOS 11.3 based on Android 11
  • Battery: 4,500mAh, 65W Warp Charging
  • Ports: USB-C
  • Camera (Rear, Front): Primary: 50MP f/1.8 with OIS, 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, 2MP mono; Front: 32MP f/2.4
  • Display (Size, Resolution): 6.43-inch FHD+ 90Hz Fluid AMOLED
Pros

  • Compact design
  • Excellent performance
  • 65W fast charging
  • Decent primary camera
Cons

  • Poor ultra-wide camera
  • No official IP rating
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OnePlus is primarily known for launching flagship killers—phones that offer almost the same experience as a flagship smartphone while still being a fair bit cheaper than them. However, OnePlus has been expanding into the budget and mid-range segment with its OnePlus Nord lineup. The company's mid-range OnePlus Nord was a huge success last year, and this year, the company is back with the OnePlus Nord 2.

How good is the OnePlus Nord 2, then? Is it a worthy successor to the original Nord? Does it fix all the cons of the original Nord? Let's find out.

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Design

The OnePlus Nord 2 features a plastic frame with Gorilla Glass 5 panels at the front and rear. The rear glass panel has a matte finish, at least in the Gray Sierra color that I have, which means it won't pick up scratches and fingerprints. The rear glass curves at the edges, which helps with ergonomics and also improves the in-hand feel.

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oneplus nord 2 display

With a 6.43-inch display, the OnePlus Nord 2 is a very compact smartphone by today's standards. At 189g (6.67oz), it is not too heavy as well, with the weight being equally distributed across the top and bottom. If you are not a fan of smartphones with big displays and just want something that can fit comfortably in your hand while still packing a punch, the Nord 2 will be an ideal choice for you.

The power button and the Alert Slider are located on the right edge of the device, while the volume buttons are on the left. I would have preferred if the volume buttons were on the right above the power button. The current placement means you'd end up accidentally pressing the power button while trying to press the volume button or vice versa.

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The OnePlus Nord 2 does not carry an official IP certification, but it is splash-proof to a certain extent. Just don't go about dunking it in water to test this. The phone also features stereo speakers that can get pretty loud and offer respectable sound quality.

OnePlus has not reinvented the wheel with the Nord 2's design. This is a run-of-the-mill design, especially when compared to some other offerings from Xiaomi in the same price range. That's not really a bad thing, but if you want a phone that looks a bit more stylish, you might want to look elsewhere.

Display

The OnePlus Nord 2 features a 6.43-inch FHD+ 90Hz Fluid AMOLED display with HDR10 support that's protected by Gorilla Glass 5. This is the same panel that OnePlus used on the original Nord. This is a run-of-the-mill AMOLED panel that's not going to impress nor disappoint you.

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Being an AMOLED panel, the colors and contrast are punchy. The brightness level is also adequate in auto mode when the sun is at its peak, but that comes at the cost of reduced contrast. I would have preferred a slightly higher peak brightness level, though.

oneplus nord 2 display front

By default, the OnePlus Nord 2 ships with the display refresh rate set to 60Hz. You'll have to manually jump into the phone's settings and switch the display to 90Hz. There's no automatic refresh rate switching here, but in 90Hz mode, the display does automatically ramp down to 60Hz when viewing images and playing back videos.

The OnePlus Nord 2's display also features Always-On Display that you can customize to your heart's content. There are plenty of clock faces to choose from, and you can even select the fingerprint sensor animation. There's also Horizon Light which makes the edges of the AMOLED panel glow whenever there's a new incoming notification.

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The OnePlus Nord 2 features an in-display fingerprint scanner. While the sensor is fast and accurate, there's one major caveat with it. The sensor is not always on, so you cannot just put your finger on the display to unlock the device. Instead, you must have Always-On Display enabled. Alternatively, you need to first wake the display by double-tapping on it or through the power button and then use the fingerprint scanner to unlock it.

Overall, you are not going to be disappointed with the OnePlus Nord 2's 6.43-inch display. You'll be hard-pressed to find faults with the display, but you won't find anything that immediately stands out about it as well.

Camera

oneplus nord 2 camera

The OnePlus Nord 2 features a 50MP IMX766 primary camera. This same camera does the ultra-wide duties on the OnePlus 9 Pro. The switch to OPPO's ColorOS camera app means the image processing has also changed for the good on the Nord 2. By default, the phone clicks photos at 12.5MP resolution.

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Photos taken in daylight pack plenty of details, dynamic range, and punchy colors. The HDR effect might be overdone in some cases, but if you tend to share photos on social media, that's what will get you an audience. Keeping the device's price point in mind, there's really not much that you can complain of.

In low-light, the OnePlus Nord 2 offers respectable imaging performance. The addition of OIS allows the sensor to capture more light and reduce blurs, but the overall result is not exactly class-leading.

Compared to the original OnePlus Nord though, the Nord 2 does offer a notable jump in camera performance in indoor and low-light situations. You can further improve the quality of photos in low-light by using Night mode, which tends to strike a fine balance between detail, exposure, and sharpness.

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Image Gallery (9 Images)

If camera performance is of utmost importance to you, Samsung's Galaxy A52 5G will be a better choice as it has a much more competent and versatile camera setup.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the OnePlus Nord 2's camera is the ultra-wide sensor. The 8MP f/2.2 aperture sensor is simply not good enough to capture decent ultra-wide photos. It can take usable shots in daylight, but the sharpness and quality leave a lot to be desired. In indoor and low-lighting scenarios, it is best not to switch to the ultra-wide sensor as you will be embarrassed by the results.

As for the 2MP mono lens, it is only there for marketing purposes. This is not a macro lens. Instead, OnePlus claims the mono lens helps the OnePlus Nord 2 in taking better black and white photos. To me, however, the black and white photos from the OnePlus Nord 2 looked just like regular black and white photos.

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oneplus nord 2 camera closeup

The OnePlus Nord 2 can record 4K videos at up to 30 frames per second, but that's only limited to the 50MP primary rear camera. It is also the only camera sensor on the OnePlus Nord 2 that can capture decent-looking videos. The addition of OIS means the OnePlus Nord 2 can record videos and smoothen out the jerks easily.

The slow-motion video recording capabilities of the OnePlus Nord 2 are pretty barebones, though. The phone can record at 1080p@120fps and at 720p@240fps but without any kind of audio. The slow-motion editing options are also very limited, with the OnePlus Gallery app not offering any kind of option to add background music, stickers, or other effects.

Performance and Battery Life

oneplus nord 2 rear

The OnePlus Nord 2 feature an octa-core MediaTek Dimensity 1200 AI chip. The 'AI' variant of the Dimensity 1200 is exclusive to the OnePlus Nord 2 for now, and it packs some customizations from OnePlus that improve the camera and display performance. The overall chip performance remains the same as the non-AI variant, though.

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The Dimensity 1200 is MediaTek's current flagship and its most powerful chip. While it won't rival Qualcomm's Snapdragon 888, it can offer performance closer to the Snapdragon 865.

What ultimately matters is that the chip is more than powerful enough to handle any heavy apps or games that you throw at it. You can run heavy games like PUBG, Asphalt 9, or render and export a video using Premiere Rush without any issues or the device coming to its knees.

Some MediaTek chipsets are notorious for overheating under heavy load. I stress tested the CPU on the OnePlus Nord 2 for around 10-15 mins. The device reached temperatures of up to 50C, but it could dissipate all the heat effectively. The back of the Nord 2 around the rear camera hump got hot, but it was not uncomfortable to touch or hold.

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You are going to be more than happy with the OnePlus Nord 2's performance. Despite its compact form factor, it packs quite a punch and can handle all your heavy multitasking and gaming needs.

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On the connectivity front, the OnePlus Nord 2 features dual-SIM 5G, up to 1.2Gbps downlink speeds on LTE, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, GPS, and USB-C port. mmWave support is missing, but that should not be too much of an issue for anyone outside of the US. Surprisingly, despite the speedy UFS storage, the OnePlus Nord 2 only supports USB 2.0 transfer speeds over USB-C.

The OnePlus Nord 2 features a 4,500mAh battery with 65W Warp Charge support. There's no wireless charging, but the fast wired charging speeds more than make up for it.

The battery life of the OnePlus Nord 2 is more than good enough to last a day. You are not going to be looking for a power outlet or a charger after a few hours of heavy use. The Nord 2 might not give you two-day battery life like some other mid-range smartphones from Xiaomi, but it can offer a solid one-day battery life with all the features and gimmicks enabled.

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I used the phone on a 4G network, though, and the Nord 2's battery can take a notable hit when used heavily on 5G networks, so your mileage may vary in this regard. Even if you face battery life woes on the OnePlus Nord 2, the fast charging speeds will ensure you can top up quickly.

oneplus nord 2 battery

With the bundled 65W charger, the OnePlus Nord 2 can almost fully charge itself from 0 percent battery in just 30 minutes. When you first start using the OnePlus Nord 2, you will be staring at the fast charging speeds of the phone in disbelief. And once you get used to it, there's no going back. The fast charging speed will end up changing the way you typically charge your phone.

Do note that you must use the bundled 65W charger and cable to enjoy such fast charging speeds. The OnePlus Nord 2 won't charge at such blazing speeds when using any other 65W charger and USB-C cable.

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I'd also like to point out an issue with the 65W charging brick bundled with the device. The charger has been designed in such a way that it will inadvertently block the switches near the power socket. OnePlus did fix the issue by bundling a different 65W charger with the OnePlus 9 series earlier this year, so this seems to be a clear case of cost-cutting.

Software

oneplus nord 2 settings menu

OnePlus phones are known for OxygenOS, which looks like stock Android with plenty of customization options added to the mix. The Nord 2 is the first phone to launch from the OnePlus stable after the company announced its deeper merger with OPPO. As a result of this, while the Nord 2 continues to run on OxygenOS, it actually shares the same codebase as OPPO's ColorOS.

So, what difference does it make, you ask? Well, the Settings app and the Camera app on the OnePlus Nord 2 are the same as what you'll find on OPPO phones. That's not a bad thing per se, and I actually prefer the ColorOS Camera app over the OxygenOS one. The former offers better performance, features, and user experience while being less buggy as well.

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OxygenOS on the OnePlus Nord 2 is similar to what you get on previous OnePlus phones in every other aspect. This is still the skin that sets the benchmark for performance and smoothness in the Android ecosystem. And hopefully, the merger with OPPO means OxygenOS will become less buggy as well.

Image Gallery (3 Images)

There's plenty of customization options to play around with as well, including the ability to customize the Always-On Display, fingerprint unlock animation, system accents, and more. There's barely any bloatware pre-installed as well, which is always a good thing.

OnePlus promises two major Android OS updates and three years of security updates for the Nord 2. That might sound good on paper until you realize that this means the phone will get its final OS update in 2022 itself. With Samsung offering three major OS updates for its Galaxy devices, OnePlus really needs to step up its game in the software update department.

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Is the OnePlus Nord 2 For You?

oneplus nord 2 featured

If you want a compact Android smartphone with decent enough cameras and packing a punch in the performance department, the OnePlus Nord 2 won't disappoint you. It does not support mmWave 5G, but the phone is not available in the US, so this should not be a cause of concern for anyone.

The camera performance, while not class-leading, is a massive improvement over the original Nord. The display brightness could have been a bit higher, but that's about it. The OnePlus Nord 2 is a solid mid-range Android smartphone that you can't go wrong with.

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