OnePlus Nord 2 5G Review: Value for money phone with excellent camera


OnePlus finally launched its most expected OnePlus Nord 2 smartphone last month. It is a major upgrade from last year’s Nord since this packs the first MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI SoC that boosts the AI features, has a 50MP main camera with Sony IMX766 sensor, and also comes with 65W fast charging that were previously available only in top-end OnePlus phones. Specifications look great on paper, is this worth it? Let us dive into the review to find out.

Box Contents
Camera
Battery Life
Conclusion

Box Contents

  • OnePlus Nord 2 5G 12GB + 256GB in Blue Haze colour
  • 2-pin 65W Warp Charger 65 (10V/6.5A)
  • USB Type-C cable
  • Clear protective case
  • SIM ejector tool
  • Quick Start Guide and other documents

Display, Hardware and Design

The OnePlus Nord 2 5G sports a 6.43-inch (1080 x 2400 pixels) Full HD+ 20:9 aspect ratio Fluid AMOLED display with 90Hz refresh rate and 410 PPI, almost the same as the Nord and the Nord CE 5G. The display is bright, offers good colour output since it has sRGB and DCI-P3 Colour Gamut and the sunlight legibility is good as well. There is no DC dimming, which the POCO F3 GT has, but I didn’t notice any flickering issue in low brightness.

The 90Hz refresh rate and 180Hz touch sampling rate offers a buttery smooth user experience, especially when you are scrolling through the UI and when gaming. It can only automatically switch between 60Hz and 90Hz depending on the content, thus saving the battery life. It also has HDR 10 support, which works for YouTube, but it doesn’t work with Netflix. The screen also has Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection.

Another important features in the phone are AI colour boost and AI resolution boost features powered by the MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI SoC. AI Color Boost works on YouTube, MX Player Pro and VLC app to boost the color and gradience of images and the AI Resolution Boost upscales content from apps like YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram, so you can view the content in HD resolution. There is also Smart ambient display works when you are outdoors by automatically improves readability.

The phone doesn’t have a notification LED, but this has always-on-display, which is called ambient display that shows contextual info and notifications all day or as per schedule, and there is also horizon light that glows when you receive notifications. It doesn’t consume a lot of power since this is an AMOLED screen, but the company says that it increases the power consumption.

The phone has a tiny punch-hole on the left that houses a 32-megapixel camera with Sony IMX615 sensor, which doesn’t disturb when watching videos since it just occupies a small space. Above the display, there is an earpiece on the top edge that doubles up as a secondary speaker. The phone also has the usual set of proximity and ambient light sensors, as well as a gyroscope and a magnetic sensor, otherwise known as a magnetometer.

It has an in-display fingerprint scanner which is quick to unlock the phone immediately when you place your finger. You can also notice a small bezel below the screen. Thanks to the  new haptic engine which the company calls as Haptics 2.0, it offers a smoother and more tactile experience when typing or playing a game.

Coming to button placements, it has an alert slider on the right side along with the power button below it. The volume rockers are present on the left. The secondary microphone is on the top. The dual 5G SIM slots, primary microphone, USB Type-C port and the speaker grill are present on the bottom.

Since this has a same 6.4-inch screen as the Nord, it measures 158.9×73.2×8.25mm, same as the predecessor. Even though this has a polycarbonate frame, this has a glass back with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection. The Blue Haze that we have has a porcelain-like finish that blends and reflects light for a visual appearance that sparkles.

The phone also comes in Gray Sierra colour inspired by the shiny chassis of luxury sports cars, and the 3D AG glass feels thinner and more rounded. The Green Wood colour has a leather-like finish inspired from a pine tree, but it only comes in 12GB + 256GB. Even though it packs a bigger 4500mAh compared to 4115mAh in the first Nord, it just weighs 189 grams. Overall, the Nord 2 5G has a good build quality.

Camera

Camera setup

  • 50MP primary camera with 1/1.56″ Sony IMX 766 Quad-Bayer sensor with OIS, 1.0µm pixels, PDAF
  • 8MP Ultra-wide camera with Sony IMX355 sensor, f/2.25 aperture
  • 2MP mono depth camera with GalaxyCore GC02M1 sensor, f/2.5 aperture
  • 32MP front camera with Sony IMX 615 sensor, 0.8µm pixels, f/2.45 aperture, EIS

Since the base is Color OS, the camera UI is also same as the one from ColorOS 11.3 and also brings those features like dual video, AI color portrait and bokeh flare portrait video for images. There is also AI video enhancement and Nightscape Ultra. The rear camera offers 12.5MP output after pixel binning, and the front camera images are 32MP in size.

Daylight shots came out well, but when you turn on HDR the dynamic range get better, but some might not like it since it the normal image already has booster colours. On top of that, there is a feature called AI Photo Enhancement, which recognizes up to 22 different photo scenes and automatically adjusts camera settings to make boost the colours. 2X is decent, but once you zoom after that the quality degrades since it is digital zoom. The portrait mode uses the 2MP mono sensor and uses the Dimensity 1200-AI’s processing to offer good edge detection. There AI colour portrait and Bokeh flare portrait are also good, but the bokeh flare portrait looks better in low light or when there are a lot of lights in the background.

Low light shots are good with a lot of details and less noise, and the OIS helps as well to stabilize the images. The night mode automatically enables ultra dark mode if there is very less light, and that makes it better, but it takes a few seconds to process. There is also a tripod mode that takes multiple photos in long exposure time of up to 25 seconds, combines them to offer better and brighter photos in dimly lit places with only 1 lux of illuminance.

The front camera is also good in daylight, and there is also HDR mode. The bokeh shots were decent, but the edge detection is not the best since it is just uses software.

Check out the camera samples.

It can record videos in up to 4K 30 fps, and there is 1080p 60fps, slow motion at 120fps, 720p at 240 fps. There is also AI mode and ultra-wide video shooting, but these are limited to 1080p 30fps. Videos are stable, thanks to OIS, and the colours are vibrant and sharp. AI mode boosts the colours. Check out the video samples below.

 

You can check out more camera samples here.

Software, UI and Apps

This is the first OnePlus phone that uses ColorOS codebase, which the company said will pave the way for faster updates. It runs Android 11 with OxygenOS 11.3 on top, which is based on ColorOS 11.3 that you find on the latest OPPO phones. It has Android security patch for June. The company already confirmed two Android updates and three years of security updates for the phone. The whole software looks like a OxygenOS skin on top of ColorOS which some might not prefer.

The company keeps pushing regular updates for the phone, fixing bugs and improving camera performance. However, I am still facing a bug in the night mode / vision comfort mode that takes a second to enable every time you unlock the phone.

Apart from the usual set of OnePlus apps and Google apps, it comes with Spotify and Netflix apps pre-loaded, but these can be uninstalled. Out of 12GB LPDDR4x RAM, you get 11.26GB of usable RAM, and about 6GB of RAM is free when default apps are running in the background. Out of 256GB, you get about 226GB of free storage. It UFS 3.1 storage, and we got sequential read speeds of about 1785.21MB/s.

Fingerprint sensor

It has an in-display fingerprint sensor that unlocks the phone quickly, but it is not as fast as a physical fingerprint sensor. You can add up to 5 fingerprints. You can also use the fingerprint for app local and payments in apps. Furthermore, you can change the fingerprint animation, but you can’t disable it. The phone also has face unlock, but it is not as secure as fingerprint, and also doesn’t work if you use sunglasses or hats.

Music Player and Multimedia

YouTube Music is the default Music Player that has equalizer and Dirac Audio Tuner. It doesn’t have FM Radio support. Audio through the stereo  speakers is quite loud and clear without distortion even in high volume. Audio through earphones using a converter is good as well. This has Widevine L1 so that you can play HD content on  Netflix and other streaming apps, but the Amazon Prime Video doesn’t play HD content. This can be fixed in an update. It also supports HDR content on YouTube, but this doesn’t work on Netflix. Even the cheaper Nord CE 5G supports it. It is not clear if this will be available with an update in the future.

Dual SIM and Connectivity

The Nord 2 5G comes has support for 5G SA (N41,N78, N28A, N1,N3,N79, N40)/NSA (N41,N78,N79, N40) 5G Network Bands in India. This is the highest on any OnePlus phones in India till date. It has 4G Wi-Fi and VoLTE with support for Carrier Aggregation on 4G, so you can see 4G+ symbol when it’s enabled automatically. Other connectivity options include Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 802.11 ax (2.4GHz + 5GHz) 2X2 MIMO, VoWiFi / Wi-Fi calling support, Bluetooth 5.2,  GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou and NaVIC. It also has NFC support. The dual channel download acceleration combines mobile data and Wi-Fi to enhance the download speed. Moving on, the call quality is good, and we did not face any call drops and the earpiece volume was loud.

The Nord 2’s  body SAR is 1.15W/Kg  and head SAR is at 1.14/Kg which is slightly high compared to some mid-range phones, but it well under the limit in India which is 1.6 W/kg (over 1 g).

Performance and Benchmarks

Coming to the performance, this powered by an Octa-Core MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI 6nm processor. It has 1x Cortex-A78 @ 3GHz, 3x Cortex-A78 @ 2.6GHz and 4x Cortex-A55 @ 2GHz. It has ARM G77 MC9 GPU. OnePlus has worked closely with MediaTek to collaborate on the SoC and enhance its AI-based features. The company  said that the MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI also provides a superior gaming experience. It currently supports 90Hz high refresh rate with  Brawl Stars, but we can expect more games in the future. It also promises low latency, improved heat management, and efficient power consumption to game for longer.

The phone gets a bit warm on intensive gaming or when recording 4K videos for long since this doesn’t have any cooling mechanism, but it doesn’t too hot. Once I got a warning after shooting a 4K video for a long time in the sun. We did not face any issues or frame drops in the graphic-intensive games like COD, BGMI and Genshin Impact. That said, check out some synthetic benchmark scores below.

Battery life

Coming to the battery life, the phone packs a 4500mAh (typical) built-in battery, slightly bigger than the 4115mAh battery in the Nord. It lasts for a whole day with 4G enabled and multimedia use, and more than that with minimal use. I got about 6 hours of screen on time with a day of use on Wi-Fi. You can also see in the battery stats image that looks similar to the ColorOS. Since the phone has support for Warp Charge 65, it can charge from 0 to 100% in just 30 minutes with the bundled 65W charger, but it is not a PD charger like the one that comes with OnePlus 9 series phones.

It achieved One Charge Rating of 18 hours and 47 minutes in our battery test, almost the same as the Nord CE 5G. This is good for a phone with a 4500mAh battery. We tested it in 90Hz which is adaptive, so in some cases it switches to 60Hz. Battery life is based on different factors such as software optimization and the processing power that requires to power the phone, so if the phone lasts for a day with heavy use, it is good.

Conclusion

At a starting price of Rs. 27,999, the Nord 2 is a value for money smartphones with a brilliant camera performance in both daylight and low-light and even for videos, thanks to OIS. The 90Hz AMOLED screen offers a good multi-media performance as well, and the phone offers smooth performance and a lag-free experience. The battery life is good as well with support for fast charging, and the glass body offers premium look and feel. Some might miss a 120Hz refresh rate screen and IP ratings.

OnePlus has confirmed that it will offer bootloader unlocking option, but the company is yet to release the kernel source code. (Update: Kernel source now available) Even if it gets, it is not clear how many custom ROMs it will get, so that this will be good for long term use even after OnePlus stops providing updates for the phone.

Alternatives

The POCO F3 GT is a good alternative that offers a better gaming experience with triggers and 120Hz screen. The realme X7 Max is also a good option in the price range with a 120Hz screen. If you spend a bit more, the iQOO 7 with Snapdragon 870 offers a better performance. However, when it comes to camera, the Nord 2 beats all these phones.

Pricing and availability

The OnePlus Nord 2 5G comes in Gray Sierra (8GB and 12GB only), Blue Haze (All versions) and Green Wood (12GB + 256GB only) colours, is priced at Rs. 27,999 for the 6GB RAM with 128GB storage version (All colours), 8GB RAM with 128GB storage version (Gray and Blue) costs Rs. 29,999 and the top-end 12GB RAM with 256GB storage version costs Rs. 34,999.

It is available from OnePlus.in,  Amazon.in, OnePlus Experience Stores and offline stores, but the base 6GB + 128GB version and the Green Wood 12GB + 256GB will be available later this August.

Pros

  • Brilliant camera performance with OIS
  • 90Hz HDR display is good
  • Smooth performance
  • Good battery life with fast charging
  • Stereo speakers

Cons

  • Some might miss 120Hz refresh rate
  • No IP ratings
  • No 4K 60fps video recording

Author: Srivatsan Sridhar

Srivatsan Sridhar is a Mobile Technology Enthusiast who is passionate about Mobile phones and Mobile apps. He uses the phones he reviews as his main phone. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram