OnePlus Nord CE 2 review: Lots to love, but not much improved
With OnePlus now battling Samsung at the higher end of the smartphone price spectrum, you might think it’s forgotten its roots as a value champion. That’s not true – that spirit now lives in North CE 2.
CE stands for Core Edition, which roughly translates to “all the hardware you need, with nothing you don’t, at a price your wallet can appreciate”. It’s the new entry point to the range, but it takes up much of what makes the Nord 2 such a compelling mid-range. The display is excellent compared to many rivals, a 6.43-inch AMOLED display with a fairly smooth 90Hz refresh rate and HDR10+ support. It has Full HD resolution, which is what you would expect at this price.
The camera “smudge” that curves seamlessly around the lenses and the back of the phone might look a bit familiar. The Nord CE 2 was certainly inspired by the design of sister company Oppo’s Find X3 Pro. Unlike that very expensive handset, the Nord is plastic all the way. Fortunately, it does not lack robustness.
It might not have the biggest battery of any budget phone right now, but the Nord CE 2 is by far the fastest when it comes to charging. The meaty 65W PSU included in the box (not always cheap these days, regardless of price) promises a full recharge in around half an hour, so you’ll be done in half the time of its closest rivals. It’s impressive in every way.
The Mediatek Dimensity 900 powering the Nord CE 2 might not be the flashiest silicon chipmaker Mediatek makes, but it’s near the top of the stack, so comfortably runs Android 11 under OxygenOS 11 without any lag . 8GB of RAM also gives it a leg up on the multitasking front, while storage is slightly slower than the Nord 2, not that you’ll notice. Performance isn’t noticeably mid-range, let alone budget and it all runs smoothly. OK, so frames drop in some games – it’s not flagship performance level – but that’s what you’d expect for such a cheap phone.
The audio, however, isn’t good – harsh is the word from the internal speaker – but there’s obviously Bluetooth support in addition to the 3.5mm headphone jack. It’s a necessity at this price, it seems.
The fingerprint sensor sits below the display, as it does on a lot of Android handsets now. And it works well.
On the rear, the triple-camera setup doesn’t advance the game over last year’s Nord CE 5G – literally, it’s the exact same unit with a 64MP main snapper, an 8MP ultrawide and a 2MP macro also executed. We’ve yet to find a budget phone with a macro lens worth bothering with and it’s a familiar story here. The selfie camera is mediocre; they are too soft while the default beautify mode makes them look worse not better. Normal shots are fine in decent light, but the quality dips in low light with lots of noise around.
With OnePlus now more than ever under Oppo’s watchful eye, there was a danger that the Nord CE 2 would lose some of its identity. You can make that argument because this is more of an Oppo/Realme phone than ever before (yes, they’re all the same company). Like the original CE, it doesn’t have an alert slider on the side of the phone to switch between silent, vibrate and ring modes – and that was once a OnePlus trademark. The ever-growing problem at this price point is that the market is now very crowded and it’s hard to stand out – and it could be argued that only the OnePlus name really sets this phone apart from its rivals.
|Filter||6.43-inch, 2400×1080 AMOLED6.43-inch, 2400×1080 AMOLED|
|Cameras||64MP, f/1.8 + 8MP, f/2.2 + 2MP, f/2.4 rear; 16MP, f/2.4 front|
|Storage||128 GB built-in, MicroSD|