OnePlus Nord CE hands-on: A phone for the masses

The OnePlus Nord CE 5G is the most affordable version of OnePlus’ Nord series to date and given its hardware features, it is a strong contender against Samsung’s hugely popular Galaxy A52 5G. In this hands-on, check out my initial impressions of the OnePlus Nord CE 5G.

OnePlus Nord CE: The highlight is its price

The OnePlus Nord CE was announced on June 11, and contrary to popular belief, it’s not the successor to the OnePlus Nord, but rather, an even more affordable addition to the series. Highlights include 5G network support, a triple camera configuration, a headphone jack, and of course, the extremely attractive price point.

NextPit OnePlus Nord CE side
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G is a standalone model in the Nord series / © NextPit

Similar to other models in the manufacturer’s stable of handsets, the OnePlus Nord CE 5G is not available for purchase in selected parts of the world despite being made available on pre-sale in markets like Europe and China ever since it was announced. Official sales of the device will begin this June 21, 2021.

That said, the variant with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage costs €299 (around $360). As for the 8 GB RAM/128 GB internal memory model, that comes with a recommended retail price of €329 (around $400). There are selected regions that will receive the 12 GB RAM and 256 GB internal memory model as well.

Down-to-earth and very lightweight design

Even as a cheap phone, the OnePlus Nord CE is a very handsome device that feels great in the hands. The model I received came in a shade of Blue Void, and while the chassis looks very familiar like that of the OnePlus Nord, in addition to a triple camera module that protrudes at the back, the OnePlus Nord CE’s down-to-earth design won me over.

NextPit OnePlus Nord CE
The OnePlus Nord CE’s design is quite simple, falling within expectations for an affordable model / © NextPit

The matte finish at the back ensures that this does not end up as a fingerprint magnet, which makes a difference in everyday use. However, because of the protruding camera module, I’ll be using the Nord CE with a case to protect the lenses.

What really caught my eyes was this: despite packing in a 4,500 mAh battery, the OnePlus Nord CE is really thin, particularly when I compare it to models like the new Motorola Moto G30. The device measures a mere 7.9 mm thin and tips the scales at 170 grams. According to the manufacturer, this is the company’s thinnest smartphone since the OnePlus 6T. And yes, you will no doubt realize that fact quickly when holding it in your hands.

NextPit OnePlus Nord CE usb
OnePlus has opted to bring back the headphone jack / © NextPit

One of the features of the device that OnePlus has made a point of is to highlight the return of the 3.5 mm headphone jack. Honestly, this is not a surprise given that we’re talking about a mid-range smartphone.

One of the downsides would be the lack of IP certification on the Nord CE, which leaves the device behind other competitors such as Samsung. That’s because the Galaxy A52 5G comes with IP67 certification right out of the box.

Overall, the OnePlus Nord is a very nice-looking device, it feels great in the hands, but should be used with a protective case (that is included with the handset) to avoid any unwanted incidents with the camera module. The fact that it is thin and light makes a difference when compared to models with long-lasting batteries in the same category.

90Hz Full HD AMOLED display

The display of the OnePlus Nord CE is a 6.43-inch AMOLED display 
with Full HD resolution. OnePlus has chosen to include a 90Hz refresh rate that is compatible with HDR 10. In other words, we ended up with a very good experience when it comes to media consumption, web browsing, and gaming.

NextPit OnePlus Nord CE display
The AMOLED screen is really a highlight of the OnePlus Nord CE / © NextPit

In this regard, however, the OnePlus Nord CE once again falls behind the Galaxy A52 5G, which has an AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate. Moreover, it also fails to keep up with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro, which also has a 120Hz AMOLED display. However, do take note that both models are also more expensive.

The OnePlus Nord CE’s screen is great for watching videos on YouTube or perhaps to enjoy a TV series and movies on your favorite streaming service. The 90 Hz is refresh rate enabled by default and given the selling price of this smartphone, I understand that the company had to make adjustments to accommodate the more affordable price and sacrificing a higher refresh rate in lieu.

Mid-range SoC performance without a microSD memory card slot

Just like the Galaxy A52 5G and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro, the OnePlus Nord CE is powered by the Snapdragon 750G processor that offers support for 5G networks. Memory and storage options are quite competitive in the mid-range market, and we have three variants here: 6GB RAM and 128GB memory, 8GB RAM and 128GB memory, and 12GB RAM and 256GB memory. However, OnePlus does not offer the ability to expand the internal memory via a microSD card.

In my hands-on session with the OnePlus Nord CE, it performed very well in everyday tasks, which is expected from this mid-range SoC from Qualcomm that was first launched in 2020. The hardware limitation became noticeable when gaming in higher resolution, but that is something which I will touch on more in my full review of the Nord CE.

The software that runs on the OnePlus Nord happens to be OxygenOS 11, which is based on Android 11. The company guarantees at 
least two major software updates and three years of security updates. In other words, the OnePlus Nord CE has a theoretically long shelf life for those who decide to pick up this smartphone in 2021.

Despite not offering an expandable memory option via microSD, OnePlus has chosen to offer competitive storage variants. However, it is clear that the price also increases with the amount of storage space. This can be a real negative point compared to the rest of the competition.

Triple camera without any surprises

We have a triple camera setup on the OnePlus Nord CE, starting with a 64 MP main camera with an aperture of f/1.79 followed by an 8 MP ultra wide-angle lens 
with a FOV of 119°; and a third 2 MP 
depth camera. The 16 MP front camera uses the Sony IMX471 lens to capture selfies.

NextPit OnePlus Nord CE camera
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G 64 MP main camera / © NextPit

My initial experience with the OnePlus Nord CE’s camera was good. Even without having used the device for long, I can safely say that under good lighting conditions, the Nord CE delivers decent photos. The main camera offers vibrant colors and good contrast for a mid-range smartphone.

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The contrast here is pretty decent for a camera mounted on a smartphone that costs just €299 / © NextPit
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Under good lighting conditions, the main camera offers decent shots / © NextPit

The full camera test of the OnePlus Nord CE will be available in the full review. For now, what needs to be said is that this is one camera that won’t let you down when the lighting is optimal.

NextPit OnePlus Nord CE front camera
The 16 MP front camera is located at the top left corner / © NextPit

The camera isn’t the highlight of the OnePlus Nord CE, but it certainly does a good job under adequate lighting. In low-light conditions, the photos also turn out well which make them Insta-worthy. 

Really quick fast charging

As mentioned above, the OnePlus Nord CE features a 4,500 mAh battery, in addition, to support its “Warp Charge 30T Plus” charging technology. When compared to the OnePlus Nord which was launched last year, we have a 10% increase in battery capacity. During my initial hands-on, the Nord CE charged from 0 to 26% in just 10 minutes using Warp Charge, which is really worth highlighting here.

A full charge was accomplished in just 42 
minutes. However, I couldn’t help but notice that the device was considerably warm when I removed it from the power socket. More details on battery life of which I’ll share in the full OnePlus Nord CE review.

OnePlus Nord CE 5G technical specifications

OnePlus Nord CE 5G

Hardware specifications for OnePlus’ latest mid-range handset
Model OnePlus Nord CE
Processor Snapdragon 750G
Memory 6/8/12 GB
128/128/256 GB UFS 2.1

Expandable storage

None

Connectivity 5G
Screen
  • 6.43-inch, AMOLED,20:9
  • 2400 x 1080 pixels, 410 ppi
  • 90 Hz
Size 159.2 x 73.5 x 7.9 mm
Weight 170 grams
Rear Camera
  • Main wide-angle 64 MP: f/1.8 aperture, 26mm equivalent, 0.7µm (pixel size), PDAF
  • Ultra wide-angle 8 MP: f/2.3 aperture, 119˚
  • 2 MP monochrome
Front-facing camera
  • 16 MP:(Sony IMX471) f/2.5 aperture, 1/3.0″ (sensor size), 1.0µm (pixel size)

Video

Battery Capacity 4,500 mAh
Charging technologies
  • Warp Charge 30T (wired) 30 Watts
Audio Mono speaker / 3.5 mm headphone connector
IP Certified
OS OxygenOS 11 based on Android 11
Price

Starting at €299 (around $360)

Preliminary verdict: a smartphone for the masses

In this hands-on of the OnePlus Nord CE, my impression is that this is a great smartphone when considering the cost/benefit ratio. Compared to the available models in the same mid-range, you might think that the Nord CE lags behind, but the device is more affordably priced than the Galaxy A52 5G and the Redmi Note 10 Pro. And yes, that alone makes a big difference here.

On a day-to-day basis, the OnePlus Nord CE proved to be an excellent companion, particularly as it offered a really fast charging time, a great quality display, and a decent set of cameras.

Unfortunately, the device is not available in selected parts of the world, so you might want to check with your local importer when it officially goes on sale in selected markets from June 21 onward.

Our full review of the OnePlus Nord CE will be published in due time, and I want to take the opportunity to know what are your thoughts on this new device that has been launched by OnePlus? 

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