OnePlus Nord 2 review: focused on the essentials

From the outset, OnePlus has positioned the mid-range lineup of Nord phones as a cheaper and completely separate lineup for flagship devices. But in Nord 2, the direct successor to the original Nord released last year, the line between the two looks blurry than ever. The original Nord had its own unique features, such as a unique design and exclusive features like an ultra-wide selfie camera, but the Nord 2 feels like a stripped-down flagship. For example, there is a camera bump that is very similar to the OnePlus 9, the specific sensors are different, but the camera does the same thing. But all the core essentials are still there. Vivid high refresh rate screen, excellent battery life, and easy to use software. The cheaper, non-flagship starting price means it’s hard to argue with these trade-offs. The OnePlus Nord 2 is priced at £399 / €399 for the 8GB RAM / 128GB storage model and £469 / €499 for the 12GB RAM / 256GB storage version. (OnePlus doesn’t sell the Nord 2 in the US, but those are roughly $470 and $588 respectively.) We used the 12GB model for this review. Good Stuff 90Hz display Smooth daily performance Software doesn’t interfere Bad Stuff Lack of accuracy in pictures Meaningless black and white sensor No headphone jack OnePlus with 6.43″ display Nord 2 is OnePlus 9 (6.55″ display), but otherwise this looks very similar device. On the back, there’s a rectangular camera bump with three cameras, the front left top has a hole punch cutout for a selfie camera, and the bottom has a USB-C port (sadly no headphone jack). Biometrics is handled via an in-display fingerprint sensor, and on the right side of the phone is a physical slider that toggles between silent and vibrate. You can find Gorilla Glass on the front and back of the phone, but since the frame is plastic, if you’re particularly concerned about the frame finish peeling off, a case is the way to go. Otherwise I wouldn’t have noticed that the phone would bend more than a typical aluminum frame phone. Like the original Nord, the Nord 2 doesn’t have an official IP rating for dust or water resistance. Oh, and this is also a 5G phone. Supports below 6 GHz, but not mmWave. Given that the latter type of high-speed, low-range network is barely starting to hit the launch market for Nord 2, it’s not something many people are going to miss. The most notable sign that this isn’t a flagship OnePlus device is the processor. This processor isn’t one of Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 888 chips, it’s a MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI. I was terrified to be included in the OnePlus Nord 2 given that MediaTek is a brand more generally associated with budget devices, but overall I was pleasantly surprised by the performance. Yes, we’re missing out on Qualcomm-exclusive features like high-quality AptX Bluetooth audio, but otherwise switching between apps was seamless and the processor’s GPU happily took full advantage of the phone’s smooth 90Hz display while scrolling through the relatively graphics-intensive screen. Twitter feed (stuttered from the original Nord by comparison). I did notice the phone was a bit slow to wake up a few times, but overall performance was on par if not slightly better than the original Nord in everyday use. If you squint, you can believe the Nord 2 is the OnePlus 9. Nord 2’s 1080p screen is generally flawless. It does pretty well everything you would expect from an OLED display. The white is vivid and bright, the color is punchy and the black is black. The 90Hz refresh rate is technically a notch below the 120Hz panels you see on phones like the OnePlus 9, but I haven’t really noticed a downgrade. As a bonus, this time the Nord 2’s screen actually has stereo speakers (one shot down and the other from the phone’s earpiece) next to it. Originally, Nord played media audio only on downward-facing speakers. . You’ll still want to use headphones for proper listening, but the speaker’s volume meant you won’t have any problems listening to podcasts playing on your phone’s speaker while cooking. I have the Nord 2’s 4,500mAh battery with less than 5 hours of screen-on time, which should last a whole day if I can afford it a bit. But it was more impressive that it included the Warp Charge 65 fast charging feature. It felt surprisingly fast, reaching 89% after 30 minutes and 99% after 35 minutes when charging from zero. To get those speeds you’ll have to use one of the cables that comes with OnePlus’s proprietary charger, but at least both are in the box. The Nord 2 doesn’t support wireless charging, so it’s not entirely surprising at this price. At the top left is a small hole for a 32MP selfie camera. The physical slider allows you to put your phone into silent mode. Nord 2 runs on out-of-the-box OxygenOS 11.3 and is famous for being the first version of OnePlus software to reflect Oppo’s integration with ColorOS, as reported by XDA developers. However, despite the changes on the inside, the phone did not differ significantly from day-to-day use. But I did find some changes in the settings menu. Several controls here have been renamed and moved slightly. For example, I had a hard time finding the OnePlus’s standard screen calibration option at first, but it’s still in a slightly different submenu. That bodes well for the future of OxygenOS. OxygenOS continues to clean up Android, and I appreciate its ability to keep out of my way. In terms of ongoing support, the company promises to get two major Android updates and three years of security updates from Nord 2, but doesn’t say how regular these security updates are. Around the back of the Nord 2 are three rear cameras. The main camera uses a 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 sensor (the sensor OnePlus previously used in the ultrawide cameras of the 9 and 9 Pro), and next to it is a pair of much lower resolution cameras: the 8-megapixel ultrawide and 2 – Megapixel monochrome sensor of questionable utility. There is a 32-megapixel selfie camera on the front, but this time it’s a bit disappointing that it can’t be paired with an ultra-wide-angle camera. I generally liked the pictures I took on the Nord 2, and the OIS on the main sensor means I can easily get consistently sharp pictures every time I press the shutter button. That said, they have the generally punchy shape of the OnePlus, which prioritizes liveliness over accuracy. This is most evident when looking at landscape photographic shots. The grass in the photo below can promise to be much less green and much more yellow in reality. The edges also tend to look slightly overly sharp. Nord 2 includes three rear cameras. At night, the Nord 2’s standard photo mode automatically takes pictures as bright as the Google Pixel’s Night Sight mode, and if you go to the phone’s dedicated Nightscape Ultra mode, you’ll get photos that almost look like they were taken in broad daylight. It’s not about how washed out they are. In standard photo mode, this brightness hides the fact that low-light shots aren’t particularly detailed, as in the photo below an apartment block with no borders between the wooden slats. If you take a picture in a dimly lit bar, you can recognize your friend, but in the process your skin can be a bit smooth and plastic looking. Oddly enough, this vibrancy doesn’t translate into an ultrawide camera. On an ultrawide camera it looks much more muted and arguably more color accurate when compared. Also, thanks to the low-resolution sensor, the detail is lost. When it comes to Grid View people, the OnePlus Nord 2 doesn’t seem to resist the temptation to lighten skin tones, raise shadows, and make everything look a little flat. I was under the impression that the Nord 2 didn’t show all of the last wrinkles and pores on my face even when beautification mode was off. Thanks to that, the effect is barely noticeable that I took the picture below while sweating through a terrible British heatwave, but I think the overall picture looks flat as a result. It’s a similar story to the selfie camera on the phone, but the default camera on the back defaults to around 12 mega, although the extra detail is partially offset by the 32 megapixel shot at default settings. OnePlus’s constant insistence that it should include a low-resolution black-and-white sensor What’s on the back of the phone is embarrassing. The black-and-white photography options that took advantage of it are still buried deep at the end of the camera’s filter list, and I haven’t yet noticed what difference it makes in comparison, even if I struggled to use it once. Software-based filters. You can also mask the Nord 2’s black-and-white sensor while taking a black-and-white photo, and the phone will remain on, seemingly undisturbed. But dissatisfaction with the easily negligible monochrome sensor aside, I think the Nord 2’s camera can get a lot out of it if it shares its preference for bright, colorful photos. The main camera’s OIS means it’s relatively easy to get sharp pictures, and at this price point it could be much worse. The in-display fingerprint scanner handles biometric security. There is USB-C, but no headphone jack. A month ago OnePlus announced the so-called Nord CE or “Core Edition”, an affordable phone that offers the essential features of a OnePlus smartphone without any additional bloat. However, the more I use the OnePlus Node 2, the more I think it is a phone that fits the description much more accurately. From the screen to the camera to the processor to the software, the Nord 2 feels like a flagship phone with unnecessary features removed. There are no Hasselblad brand cameras, just a set of reasonably priced sensors. It doesn’t have the flagship Qualcomm chipset, but instead has a processor that will handle the day-to-day tasks of modern smartphones. There is no wireless charging, but fast wired charging makes up for it. All of this makes it an attractive device if you’re looking to spend between £400 and £500 and the OnePlus is actually on the market when it sells the Nord 2. Argue with what’s left. Photo: Jon Porter / The Verge

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