The OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G offers brilliant fast-charging, and a very good screen. The performance and cameras are decent without being exceptional, so it’s still an all-round package that’s well worth your consideration.
- Incredible fast-charging capability
- Good screen
- Decent camera
- Plasticky rear panel
- Middling performance
- UKRRP: £299
- EuropeRRP: €349
- Super speedy chargingThanks to its 65W fast-charging, this handset can charge up by 50% in just 12 minutes
- Impressive screenThe Full HD+ AMOLED panel offers a 90Hz refresh rate and HDR10+ support
- 64-megapixel main cameraThis device’s primary camera sensor boasts a high resolution
OnePlus first made its name as an industry outsider, an unfancied brand that could still take on the big players in the smartphone market by packing its phones with top specifications and selling them for bargain prices.
Things have changed in the years since, with OnePlus launching its own pricey flagship devices such as the OnePlus 9 Pro which rivals the very best phones. But does the OnePlus CE 2 Nord hark back to an earlier era of cheap and very cheerful devices?
Design and Screen
- Lightweight and thin
- Very plasticky feel
- Some highly practical design touches
The handset that we reviewed is in the Bahama Blue colour, and it’s a light, serene tone that is calming to look at but nonetheless distinctive from the many other, more drab colours that smartphones seem to be cast in these days.
While it’s certainly pleasant to look at, the rear panel is made of plastic and you can really tell from the very first time your fingers brush against the surface. The glossy finish feels cheap to the touch, and so there’s no way you can suspend your belief into thinking you’ve somehow got a top-range smartphone for less.
There’s only one speaker on this phone (found at the bottom next to the USB-C port), so you won’t get a stereo effect when you play music out loud, and the sound quality from the speaker isn’t great either. In brighter news for audiophiles, you will find a 3.5mm headphone jack on the phone, and there are a few other useful utilities here as well: expandable storage is available via Micro SD, and it supports two SIM cards as well.
You can unlock the device via facial recognition or through the in-display fingerprint scanner, both of which worked quickly and effectively during my time with the phone.
On the other hand, as is typical for cheaper OnePlus phones, there’s no official IP rating. This would have given me some assurance over how it might cope if it got splashed with water.
The screen is arguably this device’s most impressive asset. Measuring a healthy 6.43-inches, this AMOLED panel has a resolution of 2400x1080p and a 90Hz refresh rate, so it is both sharp and smooth, while the HDR10+ support helps colours to really pop out of the screen when you’re watching TV shows.
Unlike the plastic back, the screen is made of Gorilla Glass 5, so it should be fairly robust to any little knocks or scratches that it receives.
- Triple lens camera system
- Good results in daytime
- Night Mode can cause heavy overprocessing
There’s a triple camera system at play on the Nord CE 2 5G, including a 64-megapixel main sensor, an 8-megapixel ultrawide camera, and a 2-megapixel macro sensor; these specs are near-identical to its predecessor, the OnePlus Nord CE 5G.
I was fairly pleased with the results of the 64-megapixel camera, which can see collected below (and were taken on an overcast and cloudy day):
While there’s no dedicated telephoto sensor for optical zoom, you can use the 2x digital zoom from the main sensor to good effect, as seen below:
Results are good, though not exceptional even at this price point. The only real disappointment that I has was when using Night Mode, which tended to greatly overprocess images.
The ultrawide sensor offers an alternative when you want to take a different kind of shot and fit more into the frame, though it’s a notable step down from the main camera as you can see from the images above and below.
The front-facing camera, which has a 16-megapixel resolution, delivered good selfies that weren’t too rich in detail but did employ the bokeh effect very well, efficiently cutting around the face of the subject even when there were complex backgrounds to deal with.
Overall, I got decent results from the camera despite the somewhat dreary weather conditions on the day I was shooting. It’s not got the best photographic results for its price class, but I found the above images to be perfectly serviceable.
- Middling performance
- 5G connectivity
- Nice, minimalist software
OnePlus devices often manage to punch above their weight when it comes to performance, with flagship devices often topping the Android podium for sheer power and even the mid-range devices packing a considerable punch.
Therefore I was expecting excellent results from this device, which is powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 900 chipset; however, it didn’t quite deliver to the extent that I was hoping for, at least in benchmarking results:
However, when actually using the phone I didn’t notice any speed hiccups or glitches when performing the gamut of undemanding daily tasks – it was only when playing intensive games that this device’s limitations became a bit more evident, not offering as smooth an experience as you’ll find on more powerful handsets. If gaming is your top priority, I’d consider other handsets.
As you can tell by the name, this handset offers 5G connectivity, giving you the highest available mobile data speeds. Though coverage can still be somewhat patchy depending on where you are, it’s still highly welcome to see this future-proof spec on a mid-range device.
As for the software, you’ll find the Oxygen OS 11 user interface, which is overlaid on Android 11. OnePlus’ long-running house style has been to add just a few extra touches to standard Android software, without getting too much in the way. To me this comes as a breath of fresh air by comparison to many other devices which come loaded up with a boatload of pre-installed apps. It is a disappointment not to see Android 12 onboard, though.
- Decent 4500mAh capacity
- Incredible fast-charging capability
The OnePlus Nord packs a 4500mAh battery, which is a good-sized cell; some similarly-priced phones might offer greater battery capacity, but I found that this device easily got me through a day’s work and play.
After watching Netflix for one hour, just 5% had been knocked off the battery, which is very good going; an hour’s streaming through Spotify saw 4% drain, which is in line with many other comparable handsets.
However, where the OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G is head and shoulders above its rivals is in the field of fast-charging. I could hardly believe my eyes when I watched the battery percentage tick up after having plugged in the 67W fast-charger; just 12 minutes saw the battery percentage rise by 50%, and it took half an hour for it to go from 15% to 100%.
Posting results such as these put the device firmly among the market leaders when it comes to fast-charging, even eclipsing other top performers like the Oppo Find X3 Pro, and it’s actually a weight off your mind to know that plugging the device in even for 10 to 15 minutes will see you get a healthy boost if you happen to have forgotten to have plugged in your phone overnight before the working day.
Should you buy it?
The screen and the fast-charging are particularly good for the price, plus it offers 5G connectivity
The cameras are decent but not exceptional, and it’s not the performance powerhouse you might have expected from OnePlus
The OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G offers good competence in all the key areas, and pulls away from the rest of the best cheap phones when it comes to fast-charging.
If you’re looking for the best gaming performance you can get for your money, or even the best camera results, then you’d be best advised to keep looking; the iPhone SE 2 and the Poco F3 are good potential alternatives. However, if a reliable all-rounder is what you’re in the market for, then this one’s a solid bet.
How we test
We test every mobile phone we review thoroughly. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly and we use the phone as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Used as our main handset during test period
Camera tested in variety of situations with all modes
Tested with synthetic benchmarks and real world use
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You can buy the OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G in two different colours: Bahama Blue or Gray Mirror
Yes, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 is a 5G device
One of the biggest features of the Nord CE 2 is its fast charging and there is a charger included in the box