OnePlus Nord 2 Review – The best mid-range phone right now

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OnePlus Nord 2 Review Rating

Summary

The OnePlus Nord 2 is an outstanding and well-rounded phone offering all the important bits I want from a flagship phone but for around half the price. For the time being, there is no other phone I'd opt for over this, at this price point.

Overall
96%
96%
  • Overall - 96%
    96%

Pros

  • Dimensity chipset offers superb performance
  • Excellent battery
  • Very good primary camera
  • Attractively price with little else competing at £400 (in my opinion)

Cons

  • Ultrawide angle could be better

I am a little late to the game, but I finally got my hands on the OnePlus Nord 2 to review.

The original OnePlus Nord was the first attempt from the brand at an affordable phone, and it was massively hyped and universally praised. It was no doubt a good phone, but I didn't feel quite as excited about it as others. For me, it didn't stand out apart from the cheaper Realme X50 to justify the hype, nor did I think this was a return to the flagship killer status of yesteryear.

Since then, OnePlus has launched various Nord branded phones aiming to expand their market share into the affordable end of the market.

The OnePlus Nord 2 ups the ante from its predecessor. It is the first phone to launch in the UK with one of the flagship Mediatek Dimensity 1200 chipset, which has then been customised for increased AI performance. While this doesn't offer the same level of performance as the flagship SD888, it feels more like a flagship chipset than the SD765G was compared to the SD865 last year. The phone also comes with a 50MP Sony IMX766 sensor for the main camera which should offer a significant improvement compared to last years Nord.

So, I felt a bit more excited about the OnePlus Nord 2 than I did the Nord and thankfully, it doesn't disappoint.

Specification

OnePlus Nord 2 5G (UK) - 8GB RAM 128GB SIM Free Smartphone...
  • A Mightier Flagship Camera - 50MP AI Triple Camera...
  • Maximum Warp - A day's power in 15 minutes; 65W...
  • Faster and Smoother - The MediaTek Dimensity...
  • So good it Hertz - 6.43" Fluid AMOLED Display with...
 OnePlus Nord 2
ChipsetMediatek Dimensity 1200 AI
Display90Hz 6.43" flat AMOLED
2400x1080
Memory8GB/12GB
Storage128GB/256GB UFS 3.1
Rear Camera50 MP, f/1.9, 24mm (wide), 1/1.56", 1.0µm, PDAF, OIS
8 MP, f/2.3, 119˚ (ultrawide)
2 MP, f/2.4, (monochrome)
Front Camera32 MP, f/2.5, (wide), 1/2.8", 0.8µm
Battery 4500 mAh
Charging65W wired
Price From £399

Design & Display

The OnePlus Nord 2 uses a flat 6.43 inch AMOLED display running at 2400 x 1080 with a  refresh rate of 90Hz. My preference is towards something a little larger, I just like the extra screen real estate, but many people are frustrated with the growing size of phones, so this could be a popular size.

The 90Hz refresh rate has become the bare minimum for midrange phones. Many others, including the cheaper Realme GT Master, offer 120Hz. Personally, I can't say I can tell the difference that much, and you are going to have to make some compromises at this attractive price point.

OnePlus don't state any brightness specs, but I have noticed that the display is a little harder to see on a very bright day than my OPPO Find X3 Neo, which reportedly has 550 nits typical and 1100 nits peak.

With this having a flat-screen, you have a slight bezel going around the screen, then a tiny earpiece sitting at the top between the frame and display.

You have an alert slider on the side, giving you the option to select silent, vibrate and sound on. It is a feature I rarely see on Android, and I quite like it. However, I do mainly keep things silent or vibrate and never change it.

This is listed as having a glass back with a plastic frame, but the overall build quality feels far superior to some of the other phones around this price point I have used recently, in particular to the two Redmagic phones I have reviewed recently.

The rear of the phone is a brushed metal effect with a discrete logo. The overall design is attractive and much more subtle than some of the phones I have used recently, e.g. Realme.

Camera

I have done a more thorough post on the OnePlus Nord 2 camera, which also includes a larger selection of photos samples that I will continue to add to the more I use it.

OnePlus may not be at the absolute top of the game with their cameras for the flagship devices, however, they are cheaper than the likes of Samsung.

At this price point, I think they compare very favourably to the rest of the market, the primary Sony IMX766 sensor is superb on the phone at this price. It consistently takes good shots, and I have found that it performs particularly well in low light scenarios. I actually prefer the normal mode in low light to the night mode.

Subjectively, it feels like the primary camera performs a bit better than the same sensor on the Find X3 Neo, even though both phones use the same underlying software. So I am not sure why this would be, it is possible that the improved AI on the Dimensity helps things, or it could just be me perceiving a difference in performance where there is none.

The ultrawide camera is a bit meh, but this is a common issue with the mid-range market. You'd have to jump up to the OnePlus 9 to have the benefit of the IMX766 on the ultra-wide.

Camera Samples

Performance

I have also done a more detailed performance analysis of the OnePlus Nord 2 and its MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI.

The analysis perhaps doesn't paint the chipset in the best of pictures, it sits under the Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 in all the benchmarks, and it appears to have some slight thermal throttling issues towards the end of the 3DMark WildLife Stress test.

However, what is important to remember is that this phone offers a similar level of performance as a flagship phone from last year for about half the price. There is no situation where I feel like I need more processing power from a phone, and considering how quickly the Snapdragon 888 chews through the batter, I'd sooner have the Dimensity 1200 in my phone than the SD888.

Everything runs well on the phone, from gaming to productivity, and I think the average user would struggle to notice any difference between this and a premium-priced flagship phone running the SD888.

Thermal Throttling

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100 both have issues with sustained performance when stress-tested as a result of thermal throttling. This has led me to check most phones I review for similar issues.

The OnePlus Nord 2 does suffer from it a little. Looking at my 3DMark WildLife stress test benchmarks, on a warm day after around 15 mins, there is a sharp dip in performance.

Both the SD888 and Exynos had a gradual decrease in performance within a few minutes of the test, starting before seeing a sharp dip towards the end. The OnePlus 9 Pro has a big dip at 18 mins, and the Samsung Galaxy S21 has one at 14 mins. Both of these phones were tested early in the year in much colder conditions.

The overall stability rating of the Dimensity is better than the SD888 and Exynos 2100. However, the SD870 offers almost perfect stability and is the chipset closest to the Dimensity in performance and price.

I doubt any of this will make any difference in real work usage for the vast majority of users. Most games won't run a phone at full throttle for 20mins solid. Day to day use should be completely unaffected.

Battery

While the OnePlus Nord 2 with the Dimensity 1200 doesn't score a massive PC Mark score during the battery test, it does run for an exceptionally long time. I achieved 13h 32 mins, which is one of the longest runs I have seen this year. The Realme GT Master scored higher, but the SD778G isn't quite as powerful as the Mediatek.

In terms of real-world usage, I have found that this easily gets through the day with moderate to heavy use. I am a big fan of the fast charging that has been introduced on many phones in recent years. With a 65W charging ability, I was able to go out in Bath for the day, take dozens of photos while hammering the GPS, then come back to our apartment and quickly charge it to full while we got ready to head out for the evening. It is not something I need or use often, but it's a blessing when you do need it.

Sadly, there is no wireless charging, but this is standard on mid-range/mid-priced phones.

Software

This is the controversial bit. This year, OnePlus formally merged OxygenOS with Oppo's ColorOS, as if they were separate companies in the first place.

In the past, OnePlus has often been praised for its OxygenOS, with many people regarding it as the best alternative to stock Android. This reputation seems to have declined over the years, and it is perhaps why OnePlus have merged the OS.

I have only ever reviewed three OnePlus phones before this, the OnePlus 9 Pro and the OnePlus 7T and the 7 Pro. I have been using the OPPO Find X3 Neo as my main phone since May, I also regularly review Realme phones, which use a very similar OS, Realme UI was literally forked from ColorOS.

So I feel it is hard for me to come to an objective opinion about the new merged OxygenOS. I am already very familiar with ColorOS, and there is nothing I find particularly offensive about it. It runs smoothly, there is little bloatware I can think of, Clone Phone worked well and the settings and notification panel are easy to navigate once you get used ot it.

Price and Alternative Options

The OnePlus Nord 2 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB storage is £399 RRP, and the lowest price on Amazon has been £392.

The Realme GT Master Explorer on paper could be a better choice, it is slightly better specced for around the same price, but UK availability is unknown. You can't even buy it on Amazon.es.

The Xiaomi 11T is probably the best alternative option, but it is £100 more at £499.

Many people seem to think the Pixel 4a is a compatible if not better phone than this. I am struggling to get behind that opinion. While the Pixel 4a may offer better, or more reliable camera performance it is let down with most of the other specifications in comparison (though the software support and experience will likely be better).

Overall

I like the OnePlus Nord 2. A lot. I am not particularily a OnePlus fanboy, either. I just think this offers a superb balance of price and performance, and no other phone available in the UK can quite match it.

I am fond of the £400-500 price point, it is not so cheap that you have to make big sacrifices with the camera or performance, but cheap enough that you are not left with buyers remorse.

The Mediatek Dimensity 1200 chipset appears to have helped drive prices down while providing a high level of performance; this also seems to have forced Qualcomm's hand, making them launch the equally good Snapdragon 870. I prefer both of these chipsets to the flagship Snapdragon 888.

The combination of the powerful chipset and superb primary camera genuinely make this a viable alternative to most flagship phones; it is literally half the price.

Of course, I would love lots of other features, in particular a good ultra-wide camera, a zoom lens, wireless charging, a decent IP rating, but all these come with premium prices.

As you might have guessed, the OnePlus Nord 2 has quickly taken the spot of my favourite phone so far this year.

Last update on 2021-09-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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