Another derivative budget phone from OnePlus

Calling the OnePlus Nord line up muddy would be an understatement. What started off as a mega-hyped play in the mid-range segment quickly transitioned into a smorgasbord of options, none of which seem to retain the series’ original ideology. Among those phones was the Nord CE, introduced in 2021 as a lower-priced alternative to the OnePlus Nord 2 that launched just over a month later. The Nord CE was a strange beast — a value-centric phone that wasn’t quite as value-priced anymore. The OnePlus Nord CE 2 continues on that same trajectory with mid-range specs and an updated design. Does it do enough to stand out? Find out in the Android Authority OnePlus Nord CE 2 review.

What you need to know about the OnePlus Nord CE 2

OnePlus Nord 2 CE review back of the phone 1

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

  • OnePlus Nord CE 2 (6GB RAM/128GB): Rs. 23,999
  • OnePlus Nord CE 2 (8GB RAM/128GB): £299 / €349 / Rs. 24,999

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 is the successor to last year’s OnePlus Nord CE. Short for Core Edition, OnePlus claims that the lineup is designed to match the essentials of the OnePlus experience with cutthroat pricing. The phone sits below the OnePlus Nord 2 in the company’s lineup and is aimed at filling the sub-£300 (~$408) segment now that the full-blooded Nord is climbing up the price ladder.

See also: The best budget phones you can buy

The phone ships in two RAM variants, though the 8GB/128GB variant is the one you’ll find in Europe. It comes in two colors: Gray Mirror and Bahama Blue (pictured). The OnePlus Nord CE 2 makes the switch over from a Snapdragon processor to the MediaTek Dimensity 900 chipset that we’ve seen in several mid-range options lately.

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 will be sold in the UK via the OnePlus store, Amazon, and John Lewis from March 10, with pre-orders starting on March 3. In India, the phone will be available via the OnePlus online store, Amazon India, as well as selected offline stores.

What’s good?

OnePlus Nord 2 CE review showing back panel of phone on a coffee table

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 borrows liberally from sister brand Oppo’s Reno 7 series for the design, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing taken in isolation. It’s a drastic improvement over the Nord CE, both in looks as well as fit and finish.

While the rear construction continues to be entirely polycarbonate, the rear panel gently flows into the camera module and gives it an almost holographic look and feel. We’ve got the Bahama Blue variant with us and I found the color to be appropriately summery and quite delightful. That said, I’ve already come across a few micro scratches on the back pane despite babying the phone. Your mileage may vary, but we would recommend slapping on a case if you tend to be rough with your phone.

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 looks suitably colorful and has enough power under the hood for daily tasks.

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 is powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 900 chipset. It’s a strictly mid-range chipset but it can handle everyday tasks just fine. Paired up with 6GB or 8GB of RAM, I faced no issues with scrolling through the UI, juggling social media and chat apps, and more. Likewise, the Mali G68 GPU will suffice for popular mobile games, but you’ll find that some of the more demanding games like Call of Duty Mobile and, especially, Genshin Impact, suffer from texture pop-in. You’ll absolutely have to crank down graphics settings to get a solid frame rate, but these are trade-offs you expect at this price.

While the battery size hasn’t changed from the 4,500mAh cell in the Nord CE, this year, the phone supports much faster charging speeds. In fact, it is the same 65W charging spec as the regular Nord 2. OnePlus isn’t hiding its close ties with Oppo either and the charger (included in the box) proudly carries the Super VOOC branding. Regardless of the loss of identity, it is the charging pace that matters, and the phone took an average of just 47 minutes for a full charge in our testing. As for battery life, the frugal mid-range processor came in clutch and I could comfortably get a full day of use with spare charge left. On days with heavier use and gaming, I’d be reaching for the charger by 10PM which isn’t bad at all. Light users should be able to push this to a day and a half before looking for a charger.

Also read: The best phones under £300

Not much has changed over the outgoing model in the camera department, and the main 64MP camera sensor continues to prove itself a capable performer in most lighting conditions. Images are well exposed with ample detail and color accuracy. It’s a OnePlus phone through and through and long-standing gripes with some crushed detail in darker regions continue to be a problem. For the most part, though, you won’t be disappointed.

Finally, the Nord 2 CE features a 3.5mm headphone jack and microSD card slot for storage expansion. The latter was a questionable omission from the original Nord CE given its ubiquity in the budget sphere, so we’re glad OnePlus has included it here.

What’s not so good?

OnePlus Nord 2 CE review close up of camera modules

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 may ship with a pretty good primary camera, but the accompanying lenses and lack of optimization on the video front pull it down from greatness.

The 8MP ultrawide camera is strictly average with noticeable edge distortion. It is a pretty big miss in the low-light department too. As for the 2MP macro camera, it might as well not exist due to the measly resolution. You are more likely to get a good shot by cropping into an image from the primary camera.

Check out: The best budget camera phones

Things don’t look too good on the video front either. The phone lacks any stabilization when set to 4K which makes shooting stable video nigh impossible. Meanwhile, at 1080p, there’s a noticeable drop in bit rate and resolution.

OnePlus Nord 2 CE review with app drawer open

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

While a 90Hz AMOLED, Gorilla Glass 5-protected panel sounds good on paper, the Nord CE 2’s display isn’t going to wow multimedia enthusiasts. The phone has software compatibility for HDR content, but we couldn’t get the screen to kick into high dynamic range mode at all. This could be fixed in an update, but it’s not there right now. There’s also a fairly noticeable blue tint and you’ll have to play around with the settings to get the screen looking somewhat accurate. Meanwhile, the mono speaker is plenty loud but that doesn’t make up for the lack of a second speaker.

On the software side, there’s nothing much to get excited about. Like the recently launched OnePlus 9RT, the Nord CE 2 is stuck on Android 11 with Oxygen OS 11, with no Android 12 update in sight. OnePlus has been having a pretty hard time rolling out stable Android 12 so this might just be a blessing in disguise, but it’s still poor form considering we’re four months into Android 12’s lifecycle.

There’s no sign of Android 12 and the alert slider, once one of OnePlus’ quintessential features, is still missing.

The interface is a mix of existing OnePlus features but also some Oppo elements like the retooled Camera app. The company is promising two years of updates which should get you all the way to Android 13, eventually. That’s not the worst update promise you’ll find in this price tier, but it does pale in comparison to the support offered by Samsung on its more affordable phones.

Oh, and there’s no alert slider either. You’ll need to upgrade to at least the Nord 2 for what was once one of OnePlus’ quintessential features.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 camera samples

OnePlus Nord CE 2 macro shot of glass filament

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Macro shot of a glass fiber

You can take a look at full resolution OnePlus Nord CE 2 camera samples over at our Google Drive link.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 specs

OnePlus Nord CE 2 5GSpecs

Display

6.43-inch AMOLED
2400 x 1080
Aspect Ratio: 20:9
HDR 10+
Corning Gorilla Glass 5

Processor

MediaTek Dimensity 900

RAM

Storage

128GB
Expandable up to 1TB

Camera

Front:
-64MP main, f/1.7, EIS
-8MP Ultrawide, f/2.2, EIS
-2MP Macro, f/2.4

Front:
-16MP, f/2.4, EIS

Video

Rear:
-4K video at 30fps
-1080p video at 30/60fps
-Super Slow Motion: 1080p video at 120fps, 720p video at 240fps
-Time-Lapse: 1080p video at 30fps

Front:
-1080p video at 30/60fps
-Time-Lapse

Battery and charging

4,500mAh
65W Fast Charging

Software

Oxygen OS 11.3

Connectivity

Connectivity bands (India):
-SM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 WCDMA: B1/2/4/5/6/8/19
-LTE-FDD: B1/2/3/4/5/7/8
-LTE-TDD: B38/39/40/41
-5G SA: 1/3/5/8/40/41/78
-5G NSA: 1/3/5/8/40/41/77/78

Connectivity bands (Europe):
-GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
-WCDMA: B1/2/4/5/6/8/19
-LTE-FDD: B1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/17/18/19/20/26/28/66
-LTE-TDD: B38/39/40/41
-5G SA: 1/3/5/7/8/20/28/38/40/41/78
-5G NSA: 1/3/5/7/8/20/28/38/40/41/66/77/78

Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, Wi-Fi 6

Ports

3.5 mm headphone jack
USB-C
dual-SIM & microSD

Security

In-display fingerprint sensor

Colors

Gray Mirror
Bahama Blue

Dimensions

160.6×73.2×7.8mm

OnePlus Nord CE 2 review: Should I buy it?

OnePlus Nord 2 CE review with about page open

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 doesn’t give you too many reasons to love it. Sure, the design is borrowed, but it’s an improvement over its predecessor. Likewise, the main camera is solid, it’s fast to charge, and the interface remains bloat-free. However, those aren’t big enough reasons to look past the glaring drabness of the Nord CE 2, and that’s before you factor in the outdated software, tinny mono speaker, and poor secondary cameras.

As the Oppo-ification of OnePlus continues, derivative hardware is starting to become a theme. The OnePlus Nord CE 2 isn’t the worst phone you can buy for just shy of £300, but it does nothing to reverse the tide and is, unfortunately, yet another example of an uninspired budget smartphone from OnePlus amongst a sea of better alternatives.

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 isn’t a bad phone, but it’s as bland and uninspired as smartphones get.

The Samsung A32 5G (£249) is still an easy recommendation that loses some processing power but melds quality cameras with a classy design and excellent software support. There’s also the Poco M4 Pro (£239) to consider with its IP53 rating, slick design, and superb battery life.

For a little more money, you can get yourself a Realme 9 Pro Plus (£349). Now admittedly, that isn’t a phenomenal phone either but it sure has the Nord CE 2 beat with stereo speakers, better performance, and a solid primary camera. The real winner, though, is the Samsung Galaxy A52s (£409) which is priced higher still, but is well worth the upgrade thanks to its stunning display, long-lasting battery, and top-tier build quality. Meanwhile, if you’re in India, you can score yourself a Xiaomi 11i HyperCharge (Rs. 26,999) that gets you blazing-fast charging, a very good design, and a vibrant display.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 showing back in hand

OnePlus Nord CE 2

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 brings an updated design and faster charging to the mid-range segment.

Top OnePlus Nord CE 2 questions and answers

Q: Is the OnePlus Nord CE 2 waterproof?

A: No, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 does not have an IP rating or claimed splash resistance.

Q: Is the OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G capable?

A: The OnePlus Nord CE 2 supports 5G on sub-6GHz frequencies.

Q: Does the OnePlus Nord CE 2 have stereo speakers? 

A: No, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 sports a single downward-firing loudspeaker.

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