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OnePlus Nord CE 2 Review: Affordable Wagon

OnePlus has been gaining momentum lately with its affordable mid-range options that consistently deliver solid performance for the price, even as the luster of its flagships may have begun to wane.

I am happy to report that Nord CE 2 is no exception. Yes, eagle-eyed industry observers might note that this is probably just a repackaged and rebadged variant of the Reno 7 5G from parent company Oppo (comparing the specs is a particularly tricky game of finding the differences). but for those who are really thinking about buying a phone, it just doesn’t matter.

After all, the Nord CE 2 offers great specs and a powerful camera at a price that’s hard to beat – and it looks the part too.

Design and build

  • Plastic housing
  • Curved camera module design
  • Slim, lightweight and splash proof

If you’ve seen any of the latest Nord phones, the Nord CE 2 will look… familiar. The company has gotten into a rhythm when it comes to rough size and shape, which isn’t bad, although the design is a clear step up from the original Nord CE.

With a 6.43-inch display, the CE 2 is almost the same size as its predecessors and is about average for a modern Android device. However, the company has tried to make the phone thin (7.8 mm) and light (173 g), which makes it comfortable in the hand.

This is partly due to the fact that both the bezel and the back of the phone are made of plastic rather than metal or glass. However, at this price, these materials are typical enough, and of course, the plastic backplate is more durable than the usual glass finish.

It helps that OnePlus worked on making that plastic look good. Available in Gray Mirror or Bahama Blue, the phone has a shimmery transparent top layer that then flips up to wrap around the main camera. It is reminiscent of the much more expensive Oppo Find X5 Pro and strikes a delicate balance of quirky and eye-catching looks.

OnePlus Nord CE 2

There’s no IP rating for dust or water resistance, but OnePlus claims the phone is splash-proof – so it’s fine in the rain, but maybe don’t use it too much in the bath.

Finally, in line with other Nord devices, but unlike OnePlus flagships, there is no alert slider toggle on the side of the phone – one of the OnePlus unique touches that I miss here.

Display and sound

  • Medium screen
  • 90Hz AMOLED
  • 3.5mm headphone jack

OnePlus has used the same display in most of the latest Nord phones, but for good reason.

The 6.43-inch AMOLED display offers a 90Hz refresh rate and excellent color range. It’s not a flagship screen by any means, but it’s still one of the best panels at this price point.

OnePlus Nord CE 2

At some point, OnePlus will have to move to the higher 120Hz refresh rate on these cheaper Nord phones, but for now, 90Hz is fine. It still keeps animations and scrolling fast and fluid, and honestly, no one other than competitive players will see as much benefit from a faster refresh than this.

The screen is also covered in Gorilla Glass 5. Again, this isn’t the top-tier version, but it’s good enough to hold most dents and scratches, and the pre-applied screen protector adds another layer of support.

The sound isn’t bad either. There is no sign of stereo speakers, but the audio here is still pretty punchy and crisp by smartphone standards. The inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack doesn’t hurt either, making it easier to use wired headphones without the need for a USB-C dongle.

Specifications and performance

  • Some stuttering and minor performance issues
  • Only 128 GB of memory, but can be expanded using microSD.
  • Dual SIM 5G

There’s no getting around the fact that the MediaTek Dimensity 900 chipset inside the Nord CE 2 isn’t a powerful engine, but it probably offers a lot for the average user.

In a week or two of daily use of the phone, I noticed very infrequent lags, freezes, or stutters, mostly when loading new apps or doing heavy multitasking. There’s enough power for decent mobile gaming as well, though it won’t affect the high graphics settings in more demanding games.

In the UK and Europe, OnePlus only offers the phone with 8GB of RAM (which is the model I tested), although there is a cheaper version with 6GB in India – though that will exacerbate minor multitasking performance issues.

Storage is 128GB anyway, but if that’s not enough, the company has added a microSD card slot. What’s more, it comes with (not in place of) a second SIM slot, meaning you can use dual SIMs and a microSD expansion if you feel the need.

Of course, those SIMs can be 5G, and the phone also supports Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, and NFC, making it pretty full-featured when it comes to connectivity.

Battery and Charging

  • Full day of battery life
  • Fast wired charging 65W
  • No wireless charging

OnePlus has always been proud of its battery and charging technologies, so it’s no surprise that it has a healthy 4500mAh battery here. I found that the phone can comfortably last a full day – even a fairly heavy day of use while traveling abroad – and will probably last two full days for lighter users.

OnePlus Nord CE 2

65W wired charging will also support it. OnePlus claims it can fully charge in 32 minutes, and our tests show that’s pretty close – the phone is 58% charged after a 15-minute charge and 93% after half an hour.

As you’d expect given the price, there’s no wireless charging at all.

Camera and video

  • Impressive daily performance
  • Quality drops in low light
  • Medium selfie camera

The camera is one of the first compromises in cheaper phones, and it’s understandable that OnePlus has cut it down a bit compared to its premium phones. However, the camera will deliver the goods when the lighting conditions are right.

You get a 64-megapixel main camera with f/1.8 aperture and Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS). In daytime or bright indoor lighting, this produces excellent results with vibrant colors and plenty of detail. I managed to get some shots that are really very beautiful and I rarely felt like I was missing out without having a more expensive phone in my pocket.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 camera test

Results deteriorate in dim lighting, where large sensors and high-end phones’ optical stabilization make a real difference. However, for simple shots it works, and only in severe darkness.

The 8-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide camera isn’t too bad – it lacks a bit of dynamic range and shows a certain drop in detail – but it can still take some decent shots in the right lighting. Rounding out the package is a 2-megapixel macro camera, which is good but unremarkable.

OnePlus Nord CE 2

On the front, a 16-megapixel selfie camera with f/2.4 aperture is a similar story. In the right lighting, it works quite well, although the footage is a bit soft. Portrait mode can provide blurry bokeh, but edge definition needs work – blurring the hairs while leaving blemishes in the background intact.

You can record 1080p video at up to 120fps or 4K at 30fps. The results are not bad, although with only EIS enabled it won’t be the best camera for stable blogging or anything like that.

Software and updates

  • OxygenOS is attractive and easy to use
  • Comes with Android 11
  • Only two updates guaranteed

Software is a bit of a mixed bag.

First, the phone comes with Android 11, not the more recent Android 12, with OnePlus’ own OxygenOS skin.

Anyone who follows phones closely knows that OxygenOS – once the darling of the Android press – has now merged the codebases with Oppo’s ColorOS, raising concerns about declining quality.

OnePlus Nord CE 2

Aesthetically, not much has changed, and the average user probably won’t notice the difference. However, users of other recent OnePlus devices have lamented the increase in bugs, and I have to admit that every time the phone stuttered, I wondered if the shift in programming was to blame.

OnePlus is also proud to boast that the phone comes with two years of Android updates and a third installment of security patches. Since the phone comes with an older version of Android, this unfortunately means that it will most likely only get Android 13, which is due later this year, and will never get a full Android version update after that.

To be fair to OnePlus, few other phones at this price point offer much better software support guarantees, but it’s still not good enough. While the (admittedly much more expensive) Samsung Galaxy S22 series promises updates to Android 16 in 2025, and Apple’s latest iPhones are likely to take even longer to update, OnePlus’ promise is not enough.

Price and availability

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 is launching widely in Europe as well as India but is not set to hit North America just yet. Check out our guide on where to buy the Nord CE 2 for more information and the latest deals.

In the UK and Europe, the only 8+128GB version is already available for pre-order from OnePlus or OnePlus. Amazon for £299 / €349 and will officially go on sale on March 10th.

In India, you can choose the 6+128GB model for £23,999 and the 8+128GB model for £24,999. Both are available for purchase now from OnePlus or Amazon.

OnePlus Nord CE 2

The price puts the Nord CE 2 at the bottom end of what we at Tech Advisor consider a mid-range phone. The competition is tough here. OnePlus’ own excellent Nord 2 costs a bit more, while the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro and Poco F3 also offer options for around the same price.

Check out our ranking of the best mid-range phones to see how they all compare, or our selection of the best mid-range phone deals for even more savings. We’ve also ranked the best OnePlus phones if you want to know what the Nord CE 2 looks like.

Verdict

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 is an impressive mid-range smartphone with a few drawbacks. In fact, perhaps the biggest problem is that spending a little more will get you an even better Nord 2.

Performance, battery and charging are all impressive for the price, and the design is sleek enough to outgrow its humble plastic origins.

The camera has its flaws but is typical for its price, with a good day main camera and other lenses at least serviceable. The biggest downside is actually OnePlus’ lax commitment to software updates, which will likely result in the phone not having updates by the end of next year.

Specifications

OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G Specifications

  • Android 11 with Oxygen 11 OS
  • 6.43″ Full HD+ (1080×2400) Fluid AMOLED 20:9 90Hz HDR10+

  • Processor MediaTek Dimensity 900

  • 6/8 GB RAM

  • 128 GB internal storage (UFS 2.2)

  • 64MP, f/1.8 main, PDAF

  • 8 MP, f/2.2 ultra wide
  • 2MP, f/2.4 macro
  • 16 MP, f/2.4 selfie camera

  • Fingerprint scanner (on screen)

  • Gorilla Glass 5
  • WiFi 6

  • Bluetooth 5.2

  • GPS

  • NFC

  • 5G

  • Dual Nano SIM
  • microSD slot
  • USB-C

  • Non-removable 4500 mAh battery

  • 65W SuperVOOC wired charger

  • 160.6 x 73.2 x 7.8 mm

  • 173 g




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