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OnePlus Nord CE 5G review
Jul 07, 2021
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G is the new mid-range killer or at least that’s how OnePlus is marketing it, and that’s not far away from the truth. The Nord CE is not the successor to the original Nord but is apparently a watered-down version of it. The CE in the name stands for “Core Edition”.
The Nord CE keeps some of the specs and design of the first Nord. The new handset isn’t launched with the aim of replacing the original Nord but to co-exist with it.
Mid-range killer or not, a quick glance through the specs sheet does suggest that the phone is surely a well-rounded product with all the essentials packed in one smartphone.
The box contains the usual documentation, a 30W charger, USB-S to USB-C cable and a transparent case.
The phone is shipped in a matte black box with glossy Nord branding on it. The box seems fairly simple with no fancy decorations, but still looks premium.
The OnePlus Nord CE looks quite a lot like the original Nord but is lighter and slimmer. The Nord CE weighs 170g and has a thickness of 7.9mm. The design is not at all fancy looking, but it's fairly simple with no fancy camera module or curves. The thing that stands out is the plastic back which has a soft-touch and matte finish.
The main body is rather thin and the camera module is positioned vertically which sticks out prominently. The back has a slight curve around the edges which allows for a more comfortable grip.
The front isn’t far from the current trend which includes an off-center aligned punch hole which houses the selfie camera and decently thin bezels.
The core of the side frame is made of aluminum but the outside is the glass fiber-reinforced polycarbonate, which you are able to touch. The side frame has a glossy finish which sits well with the back panel’s color.
The left side of the frame is home to the volume buttons and the SIM card slot. The right side accommodates the power button while the bottom houses 3.5mm audio jack, loud speaker and USB-C port.
The fingerprint scanner is placed under the display just above the bottom edge of the screen. A bit higher wouldn’t have required bending your thumb too much.
The company may not have used the best materials out there for the Nord CE, but it still definitely has a great design compared to other phones out there. It’s light, thin and grippy with a comfortable hold and not to forget it feels solid in hand.
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G comes with a 6.43-inch Fluid AMOLED display with a resolution of 1080 x 2400px, aspect ratio of 20:9 and 90Hz refresh rate, but the phone is missing HDR10 video support.
The Nord CE has a peak brightness of 429 nits in manual mode while the auto mode tops at 607 nits, that’s more than enough for comfortable outdoor usage.
In default vivid mode the color accuracy isn’t great, so we recommend you to switch to Natural mode for less blue-ish whites and grays.
The Nord CE gets automatic refresh rate control. The refresh rate is steady at 60Hz when watching videos on Netflix or YouTube and even when using the default video player in the gallery. The same goes for when you are not interacting with the display. The refresh rate skyrockets to 90Hz once you touch the display again.
Battery Life & Charging Speed:
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G packs a 4,500mAh battery which keeps the phone running. The Nord CE has an excellent battery life. This phone can last for a bit over 32 hours of talk time and over 17:30 hours of web browsing. The phone can interestingly survive a little over 23 hours of video playback. These numbers are way more impressive and higher than its direct rivals.
The smartphone is shipped with a 30W charger in the box. The charger is able to charge the phone from zero to 100% in just 63 minutes. A 30 minute charge can refuel the battery to 67%, which is slightly short of the advertised 70%. Only the Realme 8 Pro is able to out match the Nord CE with its 50W charging speed.
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G doesn’t have a set of stereo speakers, although it’s a common feature among phones in this price range.
As for the audio output, the lows are lacking, apart from that the audio is decent. In highs distortion is a common occurrence as you increase the volume. Furthermore, the speakers are not what you might call loud in particular.
The OnePlus Nord CE is powered by the Snapdragon 750G, which is the successor to the Snapdragon 732G. The chipset has an octa-core CPU - 2x Kryo 570 cores (Cortex-A77 derivative) clocked at 2.2GHz and 6x Kryo 570 cores (Cortex-A55 derivative) clocked at 1.8GHz. The graphics related tasks are managed by the Adreno 619.
The Snapdragon 750G SoC is coupled with 6/8/12 GB LPDDR4X RAM and 128/256 GB UFS 2.1 storage. There is no support for storage expansion with a microSD card.
On the Geekbench 5 test the handset managed to score 641 points in the single-core department and in the multi-core test it got a score of 1812 points. The Core Edition in the AnTuTu 8 benchmark marked a score of 3,18,672 points.
For a phone in this price range the pictures taken from the main camera are average at best. The photos have a good level of detail and the dynamic range is wide plus there is no noise visible readily.
There is occasional oversharpening of the photos but it by no means has a negative effect on the overall quality of the image.
What seems to bother is the production of daylight images with a cooler white balance consistently, which results in a distinct color tinge across the entire image.
As you move indoors the quality falls drastically, as the photos get softer and the clarity reduces.
There is no point in using the full 64 MP resolution as there is no advantage except for enlarged finer details. Shooting in this mode comes at the cost of sharpness, increased noise and larger file size.
The phone offers a toggle for the 2x zoom, however it’s just a crop from the main camera. The shots captured seem far from ideal as well as further away from typical telephoto quality. If examined closely the photos seem soft but the colors and dynamic range are still good.
The ultrawide camera has the commonly used 8MP sensor and we’d rate the overall performance of the camera as average for the class.
The shots don’t seem that sharp and the dynamic range isn’t very wide. Compared to the main camera the color rendering also shows a drastic difference. The colors seem more saturated with an unnatural feel to it.
Low-Light Photo Quality:
The performance of the main camera in low-light is slightly below average. The level of contrast and noise is average, but the photos lack clarity. The light sources are captured without clipping and shadows are satisfactory.
The Night mode can improve the quality by brightening the shadows and increasing the contrast and sharpness of the photo overall.
Sadly, the end result doesn’t seem very natural - especially the colors and each photo takes a couple of seconds to capture. Still, we would suggest you use Night mode when shooting in low light.
There is no Night mode support on the 2x zoom, so you get images that are cropped from the center of the main camera’s default Photo mode. This means the same kind of processing along with more noise and softer-looking photos.
The images captured with ultrawide camera in low-light turn out to be fuzzy with low-contrast and saturation, it seems like out of focus.
The Night mode attempts to fix this issue by brightening and sharpening the scene and increasing the contrast. However, the images look quite artificial, and the improved contrast comes at the cost of some highlight clipping.
Portraits captured with the Nord CE 5G are not that great as expected. Almost all of the competitors are able to shoot better-looking portraits. The photos lack sharpness, fine details, noise is noticeable and the skin tone is turned a bit more pale. What seems to be interesting is the quality of photos remains the same whether shot in sufficient light or in poorly lit conditions. On the other hand, the subject is well-exposed, the subject separation is great and the dynamic range is wide enough.
The selfies captured by the Nord CE 5G are amazing. The detail in the photos is plenty and the dynamic range is quite wide.
The portraits shot with the selfie camera are average, although a bit on the softer side. The subject separation works well, too.
The Nord CE 5G supports video capturing up to [email protected] and also has EIS for that mode. You can also shoot with an ultrawide camera, but then you’d have to switch to 1080p since you can’t shoot 4K videos with the tiny 8MP shooter.
The 4K footage shot with the main camera looks quite sharp, has plenty of detail and has good contrast alongside wide dynamic range - no clipped highlights and shadows that aren’t too dark. There is hardly any noise visible and the colors look very vivid.
The video shot with the ultrawide camera is softer due to the resolution and nature of the lens itself. The level of contrast and colors is quite good.
It is easily noticeable that the Nord CE has better performance compared to its rivals, and it even has more battery life than most of them. The camera software needs some work, though, but it still holds its own against the competition. The phone has a great OLED display and offers a snappy user experience.
It does lack some stuff like the microSD card support and the HDR10 video support. They can be ignored when looking at the Nord CE as a whole package.
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