OnePlus Nord CE 2 review

The core is strong with this one

₹ 24,999


When in the market for a new phone, some like the shiny stuff and don’t mind paying a premium, while others look for sheer performance and value for money. Catering to the latter crowd is OnePlus’ latest mid-ranger – Nord CE 2
The CE in the nomenclature is short for Core Edition, and is OnePlus’ way of saying – come experience the core of the brand without sweating over the price tag. We’ve spent the past few days putting the Nord CE 2 through its paces, and here’s what we think.

Design: Basic done right

In the age of metal and glass back phones, it is a refreshing change to use a lightweight device, and that is courtesy of the polycarbonate panel. It keeps the weight in check, and doesn’t look cheap. In fact, OnePlus has done a brilliant job with the colourway, especially with the Bahama Blue variant, which really shines (metaphorically and figuratively). It is a summery shade of blue, and when the light hits at certain angles, you notice hues of orange and pink. 
The Oppo Find X3 Pro-inspired flowy design also looks quite appealing. The edges of the camera module flow nicely along the surface instead of looking like a square block stuck to the back as an afterthought. 
If there’s anything to complain about, it is that the back is a fingerprint magnet. In our time testing the device, we’ve wiped it clean more times than sanitising our hands. Another thing missing is an IP certification, which would have kept the device safe from water and dust. We highly recommend using the semi-transparent case that OnePlus has bundle with the phone.

Display: Eye like

The 6.43in screen is just the right size for one-handed use without needing you to be from Hagrid’s family of giants. One can easily reach the top edge of the screen with their thumbs, which is a big achievement for most modern smartphones these days. 
As for the display itself, the Fluid AMOLED panel is a treat for the eyes with its sharp and eye-popping colours. Whether you’re reading news articles or watching your favourite OTT shows, you won’t find a lot to complain about. You can further tweak the colour hue and temperature to your liking from the settings menu. 
The one thing that is less than ideal is the single speaker onboard. While it can get loud enough to wake your wife in the adjacent room, it sounds a bit hollow and lacks depth. This is evident when watching OTT content or listening to music. 

Performance: Dependable

The MediaTek Dimensity 900 chipset under the hood isn’t going to set benchmarking charts on fire, but it is dependable in day-to-day use. It handles basic tasks, multitasking and a bit of casual gaming without any lags or stutters. 
It’s worth noting that this is a strictly mid-range chip, so don’t expect flagship-like experience when playing graphic-heavy games. You can, in theory, play games like Asphalt 9: Legends and Call of Duty Mobile, but with graphics settings toned down. At higher settings there’s a noticeable drop in frame-rates giving away the phone’s struggles.

Battery: Long and fast

Among the highlights of the Nord CE 2 is its battery. The 4,500mAh unit is impressive. It lasts an entire day in almost all use cases, and charges rapidly. We regularly got an entire day of battery life without having to hunt for the charger. 
When we did have to charge, the 65W charging brick does its job in a jiffy. It reached 0-65% charge by the time we finished a cup of hot coffee. Full charge was reached in less time than it takes to watch an episode of Gotham.

Software: Smooth, yet dated

While there’s not a lot to complain about the performance (as long as expectations are in check), we can’t help but feel a bit let down by the software on board. Like most recent OnePlus devices, the Nord CE 2 also runs a dated Android 11 out-of-the-box. The company does promise updates, but there aren’t any timelines mentioned.  
That said, this is still a OnePlus device that hasn’t completed its transformation into Oppo. In other words, it runs OxygenOS, which continues to be among the best Android UIs out there. It is bloat-free, and offers the right mix of simplicity and customisations.

Cameras: Same, but better

Speaking of Oppo-fication, one thing that has completed the transformation is the camera app. If you’ve used an Oppo smartphone before, then you’ll find the layout familiar. 
On paper, OnePlus has opted for the same camera setup as the Nord CE – 64MP primary sensor, 8MP ultrawide sensor, and a 2MP macro sensor. But the newer chipset, means better image processing, and that is the case in real world use as well.

The primary sensor is quite capable, and tends to shoot photos with plenty of colours, details, and dynamic range in ideal lighting conditions.  In most cases, you don’t need to take the help of AI, which can oversaturate photos to the point where they look mutated. 
The ultrawide sensor manages to fit a lot more into a single frame, but at the expense of colour and details. We do wish, however, that OnePlus would have opted for a higher-resolution sensor to make the photos look a bit more on par with the primary sensor. As for the macro lens, the less said the better. 
The 16MP selfie camera up front too is quite capable in most lighting conditions. It captures plenty of details, and there are a host of filters for the social media fiends to play around with. Even the portrait mode does a decent job of blurring the background with near-accurate edge detection.

Verdict: Should you buy it?

There’s a lot to like about the OnePlus Nord CE 2, especially with all that’s on offer at a relatively affordable price. A good looking device with dependable performance, fast charging battery, and a capable primary camera ticks the right boxes for most buyers. With prices starting from ₹23,999, there’s value on offer for the money you’re spending as well. 
But, competition in this segment is cutthroat to put it mildly. There are plenty of choices for buyers like the Poco M4 Pro, Realme 9 Pro Plus, Xiaomi 11i HyperCharge, and the slightly more expensive Samsung Galaxy A52s, to name a few.

Stuff Says

OnePlus gets the basics spot on at a price that keeps you and your wallet smiling.
Good stuff
Bad stuff
  1. Wallet-friendly price tag

  1. Dependable performance

  1. Capable primary camera

  1. Super-fast charging battery

  1. Outdated software

  1. No stereo speakers

  1. Lacks water or dust resistance

Display: 6.43in (2400x1080 pixels) 20:9 Fluid AMOLED
CPU: MediaTek Dimensity 900
Cameras: 64MP+8MP+2MP (rear) / 16MP (front)
Battery: 4,500mAh 65W SUPERVOOC
OS: OxygenOS based on Android 11
Dimensions: 160.6 x 73.2 x 7.8 mm
Weight: 173 grams