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OnePlus Nord CE 5G: Reasons Why You Should Or Shouldn’t Buy This Mid-Range 5G Smartphone
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G is the brand's most affordable smartphone for the Indian market. Priced at Rs. 22,999 for the entry-level variant (6GB + 128GB variant), the 5G-enabled handset promises to bring the same Oxygen OS experience at a pocket-friendly price-point.
On paper, the OnePlus Nord CE 5G seems to offer everything one would expect from a mid-range handset in 2021. It has a sleek design, higher refresh rate display, decent cameras, reasonably good hardware, and future-proof 5G connectivity.
But how much of these specs translate to a good real-life performance? We try to answer this in our quick review. Here are five reasons to buy and three reasons to not buy the OnePlus Nord CE 5G.
Why You Should Consider Buying The OnePlus Nord CE 5G
Future Proof 5G Connectivity
5G is a hot topic and BBK electronics doesn't want to miss out on the big opportunity. The tech giant is tapping every possible price bracket in the Indian smartphone market by offering 5G-enabled handsets in the budget, mid-range, and premium price segment. While Oppo and Realme largely cater to the budget 5G segment (Realme 8 5G, OPPO A53s, iQOO Z3 5G, Realme Narzo 30 5G, etc) OnePlus being a slightly premium brand offers 5G handsets at a slightly higher price-point.
The Nord CE is the brand's second sub-25K handset with a 5G-capable chipset. Unlike the original Nord, which comes equipped with an SD765G SoC, the Nord CE is powered by a Snapdragon 750G chipset which makes it a 5G-enabled device; however, there's a catch and specifically one of the major reasons for not considering the OnePlus Nord CE 5G.
More on this later in the story but for now, you should know that the Nord CE is indeed a 5G-enabled smartphone.
The OnePlus Nord aces the ergonomics. While it resembles the original Nord, the handset is slimmer and lighter and is quite fun to use. The smartphone weighs 170g and measures just 7.9mm in thickness, which makes it almost perfect for one-hand use. Design-wise, it might not be the most premium-looking handset, but the minimal design language and practical form-factor work in its favor.
I liked the matte finish gradient back panel. It looks gorgeous and does not attract fingerprints. Importantly, the phone brings back the good old 3.5mm audio jack, which allows you to use your old but reliable wired headphones. Sadly, the alert slider has been ditched, which might disappoint some loyal OnePlus fans.
Overall, the Nord CE 5G is one of the best-designed mid-range smartphones out there. It looks good, feels comfortable in hands, and does well with practicality.
I am glad OnePlus hasn't cut any corners in the display department. The Nord CE 5G flaunts the same 6.43-inch 90Hz Full HD+ AMOLED display, which we tested on the original Nord handset. While the screen does not offer the best-in-class refresh rate, the 90Hz feels fluid and isn't dated at all. The display offers vibrant colors, and excellent contrast levels, and good viewing angles. Overall, it's a great display for video playback (HDR10 Supported), gaming, and day-to-day tasks.
Intuitive Oxygen OS
Oxygen OS needs no introduction and is a major factor to consider for buying the Nord CE. Having reviewed the OnePlus Nord and the OnePlus 9-series devices, I was happy to experience the same software performance on the mid-range Nord CE. The device had some issues at the start; however, the current Oxygen OS build- 126.96.36.199EB13DA resolved the issues by optimizing the software for a smoother overall user experience.
Despite the mid-range price, the software user experience is on point and feels as good as a premium OnePlus device. Overall, the Nord CE is the device to buy at the mid-range price point if software performance is your priority. Despite some bloatware, the software on the OnePlus Nord is better than the rival devices from Vivo, Xiaomi, Oppo, and Realme.
The OnePlus Nord CE doesn't disappoint in terms of hardware. The smartphone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G SoC and has adequate RAM and storage. For graphics, the phone has Adreno 619 GPU. The phone comes in three variants- 6GB + 128GB (Rs. 22,999), 8GB + 128GB (Rs. 24,999) and 12GB + 256GB (27,999).
There's a 4,500 mAh battery cell with 30W fast-charging support. We tested the flagship variant and experienced smooth performance with both light and heavy tasks. The handset can smoothly run day-to-day tasks and also handles heavy games without any performance issues. As far as battery life is concerned, the handset can last one day with moderate usage and recharges from flat to 100% in about 47 minutes.
Deal Breaking Reasons To Not Buy The OnePlus Nord CE
Limited 5G Support In India
OnePlus has played smartly by offering very limited 5G connectivity (Mid-bands) with the Nord CE. While the phone is indeed 5G-enabled, there's support for one single band- n78, which might restrict the device's network capabilities in the near future. If any telecom operator decides to offer the 5G connectivity with a different operational frequency, the OnePlus Nord CE buyers will be disappointed.
What's more surprising is that even the premium OnePlus 9-series devices come with a limited 5G band support, which is a clear sign of cost-cutting. The OnePlus 9R and the original Nord also support the n78 band and the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro support n41 and n78 bands.
In comparison, the rival phones support multiple bands for better usability and coverage for future 5G networks. For instance, the iQOO Z3 5G supports two bands- n77 and n78 at a lower price-point. In a nutshell, if you are precisely looking for a future-proof 5G-enabled smartphone, you might reconsider buying a OnePlus device.
The Nord CE is the only handset in the mid-range price segment that comes sans expandable storage support. Other smartphones offer microSD card support which makes them more practical for users with variable memory requirements. That said, choosing the right storage variant is imperative if you are investing in the Nord CE.
Moving on, the vibration motor on the Nord CE 5G isn't quite effective resulting in poor haptic feedback. In comparison, the OnePlus Nord has a much better haptic response, which is very crucial for a good user experience. This might not bother users who like to use their phones with vibration feedback disabled.
Camera Performance Could Have Been Better
OnePlus has a history of struggling with optics and sadly, it continues with the mid-range Nord CE. On paper, the Nord CE has pretty decent camera hardware for its price. The phone features a triple-lens camera setup comprising a 64MP primary sensor, 8MP wide-angle lens, and a 2MP portrait lens. For selfies, the phone flaunts a 16MP front-facing camera.
As for the real-life performance, the image/video output, color accuracy, and focus mechanism fail to make an impression. The images captured on the Nord CE have a lot of noise, highlights are mostly blown and colors are not accurately retained. The competition devices such as the iQOO Z3 5G, Redmi Note Max Pro, Poco X3 Pro, etc. offer marginally better camera output.
If you are solely looking for an affordable OnePlus device, the Nord CE is the answer; however, it isn't the best value-for-money mid-range smartphone out there in 2021. It's not a bad device but the competition offers better overall value and performance for the price. If you are planning to buy a 5G-enabled sub-25k handset, you should explore the market before making the purchase. Some alternatives that you can consider are- iQOO Z3 5G, Xiaomi Mi 10i, and the original Nord.