It’s easy to see why OnePlus Nord should be the flavour of the month. OnePlus’ phones have been known for their maxed out hardware specs and the speed and power that tech-savvy users love. But it was getting so not everyone could afford a OnePlus any more. They were getting perilously close to the most expensive phones, travelling far from their original promise of lots of value for a reasonable price. The Nord has been a master stroke of a launch in the dog eat dog smartphone market in India because it goes back to that promise. In fact, the Nord may be the start of a new series — but there’s no official word on that.
If one were to pinpoint one big difference between the Nord and the other OnePlus phones, it’s really the processor. The others use the very newest one — Snapdragon 865 — and if a newer one comes along so does a OnePlus, probably with a T to indicate it’s an update but still part of the current series. The Nord uses the 765G and while there will obviously be differences in sheer power and speed, it’s plenty fast enough as it is for ‘regular’ users — as long as they’re not stepping down from a previous OnePlus flagship.
Seeing that the device is paired with a whole lot of RAM (6GB, 8GB or 12GB) with the difference in price not being drastic between each of these. I used the 12GB with 256GB storage and for everyday usage it just doesn’t feel inadequate in any way, except for a little heating up with very intensive tasks. In fact, how often does one see 12GB RAM on a mid-range device? The 8GB/128GB should however actually make for a happy medium for most people.
Adding to the responsiveness and speed of the Nord, is the display’s refresh rate which in this case is 90Hz. As with other OnePlus devices with this refresh rate scrolling and navigating is smooth and fast. If you want to drop the rate for any reason, you can go down to 60Hz though there shouldn’t be very many situations in which a user will find this necessary.
OxygenOS on this phone hasn’t been compromised or cut back in any way for differentiation from the OnePlus flagships which means the experience is much the same with this lightweight and trouble-free operating system. In fact, OnePlus says there are 300 customisations made to the OS to make it smoother and faster and more intuitive. It’s a credit to those working on OxygenOS that these customisations don’t leap out at you as they do with other smartphone but are seamlessly woven in so you’d have to go on a deliberate hunt to find each one.
More advanced camera system
When OnePlus claims the camera on the Nord is a flagship one it’s comparing it to its own more expensive phones, not that it outdoes the top camera phones available. The Nord actually shares a 48MP primary with the OnePlus 8 and that doesn’t make it a special camera but it does make it a pretty good and workable one. It’s certainly rather good for the price segment in which the phone is being offered. OnePlus’ actual flagship phone, the OnePlus 8 Pro, has a more advanced camera system by far.
That said, the Nord’s primary camera takes very nice images with colours that are true to life and noise free even when light isn’t exactly optimal. Out in proper light, it comes into its own with sharp details. You’ll see the separate threads on a piece of fabric, for instance, and grains in a piece of wood. The phone uses the popular Sony IMX586 sensor with an f/1.75 aperture and it supports OIS and EIS for stability. There’s an 8MP ultra-wide lens which is relatively distortion-free. There’s a depth sensing and macro camera and while neither is stellar, particularly the macro, in good light you still can get some interesting detail.
The Nord does a good job with lighting up photos shot indoors specially with its Nightscaape mode selected and this works both for the rear and front cameras. The front cameras go dual for the first time and so there’s a 32MP and an 8MP 108-degree ultra-wide. These are totally good enough for everyday use. The cameras shoot 4K video at 60fps, though honestly, the average user isn’t interested in that.
The dual front cameras mean that there’s a pillbox shaped home on the top left of the screen, but I suppose one has to live with that, even if one doesn’t like it. Fortunately, the screen itself, apart from that high refresh rate, is a 2400×1080 AMOLED and quite pleasing to look at and work with. Other OnePlus things are around: the famous signature alert slider, the design (which is now getting too familiar), the fast in-screen fingerprint sensor and face unlock, and the Warp charging which is 30T as it’s called on this phone. The phone will charge 70 per cent in 30 minutes. Its 4,100mAh battery in any case has strong staying power.
What some users may miss is the 3.5mm stereo jack which you can probably stop expecting on OnePlus phones. Also waterproof rating and wireless charging, but that hasn’t trickled down to budget phones yet There’s also no stereo speakers or really fast storage like on the OnePlus 8 Pro. But overall, it’s a great package with prices that no one is complaining about at all. Clearly, with the pricing strategy OnePlus is taking with the Nord it’s going back to its original promise of Never Settle and delivering value for money.
The Nord is available in Grey Onyx and Marble Blue.
Price: ₹24,999, ₹27,999, ₹29,999
Pros: Good value for money package, performs fast, good camera set, great screen, strong battery life and fast charging, plenty of variants to choose from
Cons: Users miss the 3.5mm jack, the blue variant is a love-it-or-hate-it colour