The days when OnePlus was solely focused on tech enthusiasts have long since gone. Having won them over, created a community that has helped shape the products, and won a strong place among the most desired smartphones, OnePlus has to reach beyond to maintain and increase its user base. Recently, the Nord range of phones has helped it go mainstream in a way that seems to have impressed even Founder Pete Lau. And there’s little doubt the new Nord CE2 5G is very likely to push this growth further. The CE stands for Core Edition — read core essentials because it offers the most important things you need in a OnePlus phone.

Easy does it

The Nord CE2 is OnePlus’ most basic phone so far. There may be more ‘entry level’ ones in the offing, but one will have to wait to see that. Being basic doesn’t mean the CE2 is a slouch at performance — it’s only basic in relation to the blazing powerhouse phones from the regular OnePlus series. As you navigate around the device and open up bunches of apps, the device handles it with smoothness and ease. I didn’t come across any hiccups or the occasional stutter that some have reported.

Dimensity power

The phone runs on the 6nm octa-core 5G Dimensity 900 chipset from MediaTek, a capable processor that’s being relied on by many current and new mid-range smartphones. The two variants offer either 6GB or 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. You get the option of expanding storage with a micro-SD card apart from two SIMs, something not available on higher end OnePlus phones. You also get the 3.5mm headphone jack that’s not seen in other phones. While this may appease you, the one intentional omission that may not is the alert slider button, a signature OnePlus feature. Not for the first time, I find myself wishing they had not chosen to remove it to ‘downscale’ the phone because whether you use it or now, it’s a physical marquee feature associated with the brand.

The OnePlus Nord CE2 5G looks like several other phones from sister brands

The OnePlus Nord CE2 5G looks like several other phones from sister brands

On the design front, there are no real OnePlus signature elements either except for the logo. You don’t look at it and say oh yes, that’s a OnePlus phone. In fact, it looks like several other phones from sister brands under the BBK Electronics umbrella. It’s by no means a bad looking phone — just rather regular. The back of the phone is plastic, but manages to look very glassy. The frame too is plastic. Our review unit is in a colour they call Bahama Blue and it’s quite nice and beachy looking. Because of the gloss on the back fingerprints do tend to show up somewhat, so using the case provided may help. Despite the plastic, it feels like a premium and sturdy phone.

The display is a 6.43-inch Full HD+ Fluid AMOLED with a refresh rate of 90Hz — not the 120Hz many have come to expect these days. It’s bright, has great colour strength and viewing angles and is just fine for consuming content. It has Gorilla Glass 5 protection. The display being slightly smaller than usual makes this phone a bit nicer to hold. The fingerprint sensor is in-display.

One major disappointment on the Nord CE2 is that the software is still Android 11-based. OnePlus used to be first off the cuff to give major Android upgrades, but this has changed lately. The upgrade will come to this device too, by and by. OnePlus’ own OxygenOS is in version 11 and has close ties with parent company Oppo’s. This is probably going to matter very little to the mainstream audience the Nord phones are targeting.

The software experience is quite clean and nice and it’s just power users who will be missing the old OxygenOS. This is, in any case, the Oppo-fication’ of OnePlus as the company merges back into the parent.

Fast charging

The Nord CE2 has a 4,500mAh battery with 65W charging. On this slightly smaller and less powerful phone it lasts quite well, compared with the bigger OnePlus flagship phones. Reverse charging is supported. Fast charging is now called Super VOOC because that’s the Oppo term. As long as it’s fast, users barely care what it’s called and charges fully in about 35 minutes.

The OnePlus Nord CE2 5G has three rear cameras

The OnePlus Nord CE2 5G has three rear cameras

Don’t expect stellar photography from this phone. There are three rear cameras — a main 64MP sensor, an 8MP ultrawide and a 2MP needless macro. In front, there’s a 16MP selfie camera. These are strictly make-do and just fine for those who are not too demanding of detail and sharpness. Indoors and in the dark is a challenge but outdoors, and as usual in good light, these do about as well as budget phone cameras do.

The segment in which the Nord CE2 has launched is teeming with phones with similar specs. Many are from the same stable and so it ends up being a matter of preference. The Nord CE2 is ₹23,999 and ₹24,999.