OnePlus Nord 2 5G: Affordable powerful device

Mala Bhargava | Updated on August 04, 2021

A strong sturdy performer for fans of the brand that stands for speed

When the original OnePlus One was launched long ago in 2014, it came in at a price of ₹21,999. It had a few bugs but even with those, it seemed like unbelievable value compared with ‘flagship’ phones, which is to say the most expensive ones. And it was. The landscape changed over the years of course and OnePlus decided they didn’t need to settle for super-affordable powerhouse devices. Once they had proved themselves, it was time to up the ante.

And so the price of OnePlus’ main phone began to creep ever upward. To retain goodwill and sell more devices, they released scaled down versions and offered them at lower prices. Now, in Series 9, we have the 9R, 9, 9Pro and the more affordable Nord CE and the just-launched Nord 2. Prices range from ₹ 24,999 to ₹69,999.

Oxygen not in shortage

The one overwhelming aspect of OnePlus’ new phone that is preoccupying all reviewers is the reality of OnePlus’ going back to its Oppo roots. How exactly this re-assimilation will pan out in the future, one is not quite sure, but the Nord 2 is the first device to show that the tide has turned where this brand is concerned. No longer is there a strong tie to ‘stock Android’ when it comes to the much-loved OxygenOS, the interface that has been the biggest strength of OnePlus phones all this time.

Now, elements from ColorOS, the software used on Oppo phones, have crept in, disconcerting those who didn’t expect them. For now, none of the changes are making an earth shattering difference and are more of an annoyance for those who have been really aware of each feature of OxygenOS, but it’s a significant worry because the interface underwent a recent overhaul in any case and now will be pulling in ColorOS elements taking it further and further away from the operating system once voted to be better than Android itself. Could this be the full transition to ColorOS?

The differences are visible in the camera app and some of the settings, but for the most part OnePlus says users won’t even notice as the changes are very behind-the-scenes and to the codebase. OnePlus says the leveraging of Oppo’s resources will only make the system more stable and strong. Thankfully, the OS is still Oxygen for the most part though and the phone still feels like a OnePlus.

Unmistakeable OnePlus

On the outside, design-wise too, the Nord 2 looks like the rest of the series 9 phones for this year. Put next to of the OnePlus 9 phones, you can see that the Nord 2 is from the same family. It comes in four colours, one of them an interesting olive green with a faux leather finish and I would have loved to get my hands on, but I have the haze blue colour that is a variant of the blues that OnePlus has used before on the original Nord and other models.

The build seems strong and sturdy and although I didn’t intend to, I dropped the device twice — without a case and without damage. Though the front and back are both glass, the frame is plastic made to look metal. No major complaints though.

The Nord 2 all around on the sides looks fine. It does thankfully and unlike the Nord CE have the famous alert slider. No 3.5mm jack.

The 6.4-inch screen is a simple 1080p AMOLED with a HDR10+ support and a 90Hz refresh rate. If you haven’t experienced a 120Hz screen this won’t matter. It isn’t a specially bright display so if you’re out in the sun a lot, choose something else. The bezels are thin, in keeping with phones today but the lower edge is ever so slightly thicker. Overall, it’s a fine display.

Being a 6.4-inch display makes this a nice phone to hold and the ergonomics are overall quite good. Except that the phone is slippery (which is how I dropped it), so better use a case — or pick up the Green Wood edition. The is very much lighter in hand than say the OnePlus 9 Pro which has done its bit to carry my repetitive stress injury forward. If there’s one thing on this phone that hasn’t featured on any other OnePlus model yet is it’s Mediatek’s Dimensity 1200 chipset. What’s more, it has been customised and fine-tuned for the Nord 2 in some way. It’s equivalent to the earlier flagship processor, Snapdragon 865. On the device I had, it was paired with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage. It’s pretty fast and zips through all ‘regular’ tasks. It’s not designed to be particularly a gamer’s phone, but can handle games. Haptics have been improved over recent OnePlus phones.

There’s been recent controversy over OnePlus ‘throttling’ performance with some apps not running as fast as they could. This is mostly to preserve battery and prevent heating. This time OnePlus has given users the option of going full throttle if they want — but the battery life takes a hit and also the phone heats up.

The 4,500mAh battery lasts very well, even compared to other OnePlus phones. We also get a 65W charger which tops the battery up at high speed. This can be considered one of the highlights of the Nord 2 as it borrows a flagship level charging solution here. There’s no wireless charging, but many will argue you hardly need to subject the device to long sessions of charging when a quick shot will do the job. I tend to agree.

The camera set is what is supposed to have been improved hugely on the Nord 2. The primary 50MP camera is a Sony IMX766 which, ironically or otherwise, is the sensor used by the OnePlus 9 Pro for its wide angle lens. The camera is not bad, but no leap in photography. The images use so much processing and AI that they do what they like with colours. Turning AI off will help if you like things realistic rather than Instagram oriented.

Bright picture

Low light pictures are certainly filled with brightness and light that isn’t really there, but often flat. There’s the mandatory 8MP wide angle lens giving less-than-detailed results. And the usual 2MP monochrome sensor. The selfie camera is a 32MP which does its own thing somewhat. Software updates are bound to improve the cameras in the near future. Even without that, the cameras are more than usable - just not as good as they could be or should be even at this price.

Times have changed dramatically since the first Nord was brought into the market. Then, it was one-of-a-kind. That just isn’t the case any longer, thanks to companies like Xiaomi, Samsung and some of OnePlus’ own cousin phone makers like Realme. If OnePlus doesn’t hold on to it’s software advantage, I think Nord 3 will have to struggle uphill breathless. As it is, the Nord 2 has a battle on its hands. But if you’re a OnePlus fan and the other models are too expensive, head for the Green Wood variant and you’ll be sure to have something special.

Published on August 04, 2021

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