OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G review: modern design, clean software and more
When it comes to choosing the best overall smartphone under Rs 20,000 in India in 2022, there are not many options. Yes, you read correctly. The world’s second-largest smartphone market doesn’t have many smartphones that offer a full package under Rs 20,000. Blame it on inflation, the pandemic, the “5G tax” or rising component costs, but companies have launched phones under Rs 20,000 with a few compromises here and there. Meanwhile, OnePlus aims to fill the void with its most affordable smartphone in India, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G.
The new Nord smartphone is a slimmed down version of the Nord CE 2 5G, which was launched earlier this year. The Nord CE 2 Lite 5G comes with a 120Hz refresh rate display, a Snapdragon 695 SoC and a 64MP triple camera setup. It also has a 5000mAh battery with support for 33W fast charging. With all this hardware running on Oxygen OS 12, is the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G the best smartphone for you under Rs 20,000? Here’s our OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G review to help you find out.
OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G review
The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G aims to deliver the classic “OnePlus experience” coupled with the improved performance brought by the Snapdragon 695 SoC. So, let’s start our Nord CE 2 Lite 5G review with the overall performance and software experience.
Performance and software
As I mentioned above, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 SoC. We have seen the same chipset used in several new smartphones under Rs 20,000 in India. These include the Vivo T1 5G, iQOO Z6 5G and Moto G71 5G. The Redmi Note 11 Pro+ 5G, priced at Rs 20,999, also uses the same chipset.
The processor is more than capable of delivering a smooth experience when it comes to day-to-day tasks. Combined with the Oxygen OS 12 optimization, the Nord CE 2 Lite 5G showed me no signs of lag or stuttering. My use case mainly included scrolling through social media, watching videos on YouTube and Netflix, and playing Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) on the Nord CE 2 Lite 5G.
It is by playing such games that you realize that the phone cannot be a tool to unlock the gamer’s paradise. BGMI runs at a maximum of around 40-45 fps with smooth graphics, while it’s capped at High (around 30 fps) with HD graphics. The same goes for Call of Duty: Mobile, where the maximum graphics setting is capped at “High”. This does not mean that the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G cannot be used to play games. Casual gamers will have a pretty good experience, but if you’re thinking of getting into competitive mobile gaming, maybe look elsewhere.
RAM management is solid on our OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G review unit, which has 8GB of RAM. The phone comes with up to 5GB of virtual RAM, which is borrowed from the 128GB of internal storage. It’s unlikely that most users will need that extra software RAM.
Our OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G, when reviewed, had the latest April security update. Based on Android 12, the new Oxygen OS update has similar stuff to Oppo’s Color OS 12, which I totally agree with. Along with signature Oxygen OS features like Zen Mode, the new update moves the OnePlus shelf, which is now accessible by swiping down from the top right corner of the screen. The update also includes the OnePlus Scout, which is more or less similar to Spotlight Search found on the iPhone. There is also a private vault that encrypts the data stored there and limits third-party access. On top of all that, the phone offers a clean software experience with almost no bloatware. There’s Netflix pre-installed but I wouldn’t call it bloat since I use the app almost every other day.
While these and a bunch of other Oxygen OS 12 features provide a great user experience, I still get delayed notifications for a few apps on OnePlus devices. Instagram and Gmail notifications were delayed on the Nord CE 2 Lite 5G compared to my MacBook or iPhone 13 Pro. There were times when I got all the notifications after opening the Instagram app.
OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G will get two new Android upgrades and three years of security support. Hopefully the company finds a fix soon if the issue is with its software and not the affected third-party apps.
Battery life is one of the most impressive things about the Nord CE 2 Lite 5G. The phone, with its 5000 mAh battery, can easily last more than a day. Even if you watch content on this phone for hours, it will still last a day. I can tell you after watching a few episodes of Friends and Mai on Netflix.
33W fast charging is supported, which is not as fast as the 67W fast charging of the Redmi Note 11 Pro+ 5G. It takes more than an hour to charge the big battery, at least in the NCR of Delhi where the mercury regularly exceeds 40 degrees Celsius.
Design and display
The Nord CE 2 Lite 5G is surely a looker in this Blue Tide hue. Despite its polycarbonate back, the phone offers a premium look with its gradient tint. On top of that, one-third of the rear panel of the device has a matte finish, while the upper part next to the camera module has a glossy foil with a yellowish undertone.
The curved edges of the back panel help the phone to grip firmly. It doesn’t feel as heavy at 195 grams. The power and volume buttons on either side of the device are easily accessible. Since the phone has an LCD screen, it comes with a side-mounted fingerprint scanner. The biometric scanner is extremely fast to detect and unlock the phone within milliseconds. Alternatively, you get the less secure AI face unlock. The OnePlus phone still has a 3.5mm headphone jack but comes with a single bottom-firing speaker.
At the front, there is a 6.59-inch Full HD+ screen. Since the device uses an LCD screen, you’ll notice the blacks aren’t quite as deep as rivals that offer an AMOLED panel. That’s not to say the LCD is bad as it’s crisp and bright enough to consume content both indoors and out.
The reason to opt for LCD over AMOLED is to support a 120Hz refresh rate while keeping costs in check. While 120Hz in this price range is excellent, it would be nice if OnePlus worked with developers to ensure they optimize apps for the CE 2 Lite 5G. Take, for example, BGMI, which is a popular eSports game. Although the phone supports 120Hz refresh rate, the game does not even support 60 frames per second. Come on, OnePlus, launch the game for your users here.
The Nord CE 2 Lite 5G has a triple camera setup on the back and one on the front. Only two of these four camera sensors could be useful. There’s a 64MP main camera on the back, along with two 2MP sensors for depth and macro. On the front, the Nord CE 2 Lite 5G has a 16 MP front camera.
The 64 MP main camera clicks 16 MP pixel shots. Daylight shots are quite vibrant and the dynamic range is quite decent for the price. The camera tends to amplify reds more, as you’ll see in the Nord CE 2 Lite 5G camera samples below. In low light, normal photo mode clicks on average images that include a lot of noise in the darker parts of the scene. Night mode attempts to solve this problem by increasing overall exposure while providing better shadow detail.
The front camera also does a decent job. Edge detection works well in portrait mode but increases exposure slightly more compared to normal photo mode. There’s no ultra-wide camera here, which I think is a bummer.
The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G is the most affordable smartphone from OnePlus currently in India. At a starting price of Rs 19,999, the device becomes even more affordable for those who want to try the OnePlus Oxygen OS experience. Although design preferences are subjective, I liked the overall design of the phone in its Blue Tide color. The performance unit shouldn’t disappoint most people either, with the exception of gamers.
The Nord CE 2 Lite 5G can run a battery marathon and be among the best performers in the segment. Sure, the 33W fast charging isn’t the best in the segment, but it can charge the phone from zero to 50% in around 30 minutes, which is pretty decent.
I would have preferred the 90Hz AMOLED combo and two speakers for a better multimedia experience. Also, while the main camera does a decent job, it would have been nice if there was an ultra-wide sensor as well.
All told, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G can be purchased by those who want a reliable Oxygen OS experience from a well-designed phone with great battery life. Others can look to the Redmi Note 11 Pro+ or the Moto G71 for a better media experience.
OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G review
- Premium design
- Great battery life
- The Oxygen OS experience at an affordable price
- Decent main camera
- The performance unit needs to be optimized
- 120Hz LCD but the competition offers AMOLED
- Camera performance in low light is below average.