Review

OnePlus Nord 2 for £359: All, what you need?

Last year’s OnePlus Nord marked the return to OnePlus’ roots with the goal of recapturing the £400 smartphone market. Since the Nord was and is OnePlus’ best-selling smartphone in Europe and we also liked it in our review, it can probably be called a complete success. The company now wants to ride this wave of success with the new OnePlus Nord 2 5G and again starts at a price of £399. This time, the focus is on the main camera, whose sensor was taken directly from the flagship OnePlus 9 Pro, which costs £899. Thus, the following question has to be answered: Where did the OnePlus Nord 2 save £500 and were the right compromises made?

OnePlus North 2 5G: Technical specifications

NameOnePlus North 2 5G
 OnePlus North
Display6.43-inch 90Hz AMOLED, 2400 x 1080 pixels,409 PPI, 20:9 ratio
 6.44-inch 90Hz AMOLED, 2400 x 1080 pixels, 409 PPI, 20:9 ratio, Gorilla Glass 5
ProcessorMediaTek Dimensity 1200 AI @ 3.0 + 2.6 + 2.0 GHz
Snapdragon 765G Octa Core @ 2.4 + 2.2 + 1.8 Ghz
Graphics chipMali-G77 MC9 @ 850 MHz 
Adreno 620 @ 750 MHz Memory 8 / 12 GB LPDDR4X 8 /12 GB LPDDR4X
Mass storage128 / 256 GB UFS 3.1 (not expandable)
 128 / 256 GB UFS 2.1 (not expandable)
Main camera50 MP Sony IMX766 f/1.88 OIS
8 MP IMX355 119° ultra-wide angle
2 MP monochrome 48 MP Sony IMX586 f/1.75 OIS
8 MP 119° ultra wide angle
2 MP macro
5 MP depth sensor
Front camera32 MP IMX615 f/2.45
32MP IMX616 + 8 MP 105° ultra wide angle
Battery4,500 mAh with 65 watts Warp Charge 65
4,115 mAh with 30 watts Warp Charge 30T
ConnectivityUSB-C, WiFi ac/ax, Bluetooth 5.2 & aptX HD / LDAC, 5G, GPS/GLONASS/Galileo/Beidou
USB-C, WiFi ac, Bluetooth 5.1 & aptX HD, 5G, NFC, GPS (Dual), GLONASS, Galileo (Dual), Beidou
FeaturesStereo speakers, in-display fingerprint sensor, NFC, dual-SIM 
in-display fingerprint sensor, NFC
Operating systemAndroid 11 with OxygenOS 11.3 interface 
Android 10 with OxygenOS 10.5 interface
Dimensions / Weight158.9 x 73.2 x 8.25 mm | 189 g 
158.3 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm | 184 g
Scope of deliveryGray Sierra, Blue Haze, Green Wood 
Gray Onyx, Blue Marble
Price399€ (8/128GB), 499€ (12/256GB)399€ (8/128GB), 499€ (12/256GB)
Published / ReleaseJuly 22, 2021 / July 28,
 2021 July 21, 2020 / August 04, 2020

Design: OnePlus 9 Lite, is that you?

While the predecessor still had a somewhat generic design that did not immediately remind us of OnePlus, the Nord 2 is unmistakably related to the current flagship series. The similarities are so great that it could also be an OP 9 Pro to the untrained eye at first glance. The camera is placed in the upper left corner and has the two striking lenses known from the 9 series. A small third camera and the dual-LED flash are found horizontally underneath.

Otherwise, only the centrally placed OnePlus logo can be found on the back; the lettering has been omitted since the 9 series. In terms of colors, the user can choose between the simple and matte Grey Sierra, the glossy and eye-catching Blue Haze, or the leather-like and pine-colored Green Woods. The plastic frame is then colored accordingly.

Both the front and back are then covered in glass, though our blue back, already familiar from the first North, looks a bit like porcelain. Fortunately, it is also not as susceptible to fingerprints as otherwise known from non-matte glass backs. Nevertheless, the matte black variant is probably best equipped against unsightly fingerprints. All colors come with a nice silicone case, and you can buy three other official cases separately from OnePlus. With the case attached, the normally protruding camera casing does not matter.

Unlike the recently reviewed OnePlus Nord CE, the Nord 2 once again features the notification slider that is popular among OnePlus fans. It is located on the right above the power button, and the volume rocker is on the left. The dual-SIM slot, the USB-C port and one of the two speakers are found on the bottom. The other one also functions as an earpiece during calls and together they deliver good stereo sound, only the bass is lacking once again. Unfortunately, the Nord 2 does not offer a headphone jack.

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I would also like to briefly highlight the vibration motor. It has been improved considerably compared to the predecessor and can now keep up with a OnePlus 8T. Thus, the Nord 2 not only looks like a more expensive smartphone, but also feels like one when navigating and typing.

In-Display Fingerprint Sensor & Face Unlock

Since the screen is an AMOLED panel, the finder fingerprint sensor can sit in the display. It is placed well within reach in the lower quarter and the position is indicated by a corresponding icon as soon as you pick up the OnePlus Nord 2 5G. The sensor works very quickly and reliably and is probably the same as in the original Nord. The facial recognition usually works even faster, but is of course not as secure. I always have both enabled because you have to revert to the fingerprint sensor with a mask at the latest.

90 Hz AMOLED display

There are hardly any differences to the OP Nord on the front. The biggest difference is that the Nord 2 has “only” one front-facing camera in the upper left corner, where the predecessor had two. The display itself shrinks by 0.01 inches to 6.43 inches. It is an AMOLED panel with a Full HD+ resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels. The pixel density is 409 pixels per inch, so the screen is very sharp. Thanks to the AMOLED technology, you get perfect black and very good contrast.

Colors are displayed quite vividly in the factory setting “Vivid”, which should please many people. If you prefer more natural tones, you can select the “Mild” setting and/or set the color temperature to colder or warmer. Of course, there is also an “eye comfort mode” (color or black and white). The fact that you now also have a black and white setting here is probably to compensate for the loss of the designated reading mode. You can easily activate or schedule the dark mode via the display settings or quick settings.

The improved Always-On Display has also found its way onto the OnePlus Nord 2 5G. The so-called inactivity display can be activated permanently or only within a daily time frame. How exactly it looks can be edited under “Personalizations”. The system colors, icon packs, wallpapers, fingerprint animations and the Horizon Light for notifications can also be customized here.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G Always-On-Display

What was still special in the price range a year ago is now long outdated and cheaper: The combination of AMOLED and 90 Hz refresh rate. In 2021, the Redmi Note 10 Pro or Poco F3 will offer an AMOLED display with 120 Hz for ~₤260 and ~₤350, respectively. Of course, a refresh rate of 90 Hz is not bad, but it is no longer the highlight like it was a year ago. However, the good “fluidity” of 90 Hz should be enough for most, especially if they come from a 60 Hz display. If necessary, you can also lower the refresh rate to 60 Hz and save some battery as well as notice the difference to 90 Hz.

The criticism of the somewhat dark display could fortunately be avoided in the Nord 2. With 450 nits without automatic and 600 nits with automatic brightness, it is brighter than the predecessor. However, I still recommend leaving the automatic brightness control enabled due to the higher maximum brightness. On the other hand, the flat display has been left unchanged, which makes me personally very happy. Widevine Level 1 for Netflix and Co. in HD is of course available, as is support for HDR10 and HDR10+.

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Strong MediaTek Dimensity 1200 AI & enough memory

As announced by OnePlus in advance, the MediaTek Dimensity 1200 AI processor is inside the Nord 2. The octa-core manufactured in the 6 nm process clocks with 3.0 + 2.6 + 2.0 GHz and is supposed to operate on the level of the Snapdragon 870, which is used in the Poco F3, for example. Introduced at the beginning of the year, the Dimensity 1200 is currently the best that MediaTek has to offer. The chip is already used in the Realme GT Neo, Redmi K40 Game Edition and soon in the Poco F3 GT, so it is not unpopular.

The OnePlus-exclusive name suffix “AI” comes from the fact that “OnePlus worked closely with MediaTek to improve the AI-based features of the processor.” Compared directly to its predecessor, the Nord 2 is said to deliver 65% more CPU and 125% more GPU performance thanks to the Dimensity 1200 AI. The fast but unfortunately not expandable mass storage according to UFS 3.1 standard offers a choice between 128 GB and 256 GB, which are then accompanied by 8GB or 12 GB of working memory (LPDDR4X).

That was a lot of numbers and a lot of theory, but how does it look in practice? Contrary to the cautious expectations that some people still have when they hear the name MediaTek, the Dimensity 1200 really performs on par with the Snapdragon 870 – a real flagship processor. That would have been completely unthinkable only 2 years ago and shows that the old prejudices based on previous MediaTek chips can now really be discarded.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G Gaming

This is also confirmed again and again in everyday use. Inputs are processed immediately, even large apps open quickly, and multitasking also works without problems. The user experience is roughly comparable with that of a Galaxy S20 or OnePlus 8T. The Nord gets a bit warm in very demanding games, but not as much as the predecessor.

OxygenOS 11.3 with Oppo influences

The in-house OxygenOS interface (here in version 11.3), which is based on Android 11, is still my favorite Android interface. Fast, intuitive, customizable, and yet not cluttered – that’s how I would summarize the software experience on the Nord 2 as well. However, since I recently tested the OP Nord CE and have also been using OnePlus smartphones privately for years, I noticed a few differences in the latest OxygenOS version.

However, most of them are only minor issues. For example, the omission of the reading mode, the less extensive settings for the color calibration, or the fact that the battery indicator can no longer be displayed as a circle. However, the biggest change can be seen in the camera app, which was almost completely taken over from OPPO and Realme (Oppo’s subsidiary). The camera app did not become worse, but users who already owned a OnePlus phone might feel a bit strange and out of place at first.
These changes are due to the closer cooperation with the sister company OPPO, with which they merge the codebase of the two own interfaces OxygenOS and ColorOS. Since they have more resources available as a result, they now officially promise two Android version updates (Android 12 & 13) and three years of security updates for the Nord series.
OnePlus Nord 2 5G Shelf Fast Start
If you do not already know the OnePlus interface before the Nord 2, you will hardly notice the changes or really miss any features. Instead, you’ll notice that you have many thoughtful ways to customize the Nord 2. There are quick gestures for the camera, flashlight, etc., double taps to wake up, Zen Mode, and the Google Feed on the left of the home screen. Of course, you can also choose between the classic three buttons or gestures for system navigation. The launcher also offers hidden apps out of the box.
OnePlus Nord 2 5G Gesticulation Navigation
Fortunately, bloatware is only present in the form of Netflix and the OnePlus Community app, both of which can be completely uninstalled. This is a good lesson learned from the mistakes made in the first North.

Camera with flagship sensor

Where the first OnePlus Nord tried to score with mass (6 cameras), the Nord 2 focuses more on class and “only” four cameras. This is especially true for the two most used cameras of a smartphone: the main camera and the front-facing camera. The former does not use a good sensor from last year, but a cutting-edge flagship sensor from this year. It is the 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 sensor, which is used as the main and ultra-wide-angle camera in OPPO’s flagship Find X3 Pro and as the ultra-wide-angle camera in the OnePlus 9/Pro.

The flagship camera of 2019

Thanks to the 1/1.56″ sensor, 56% more light is supposed to be captured, which should provide better dynamic range and strong night shots. As always, the standard mode combines four pixels into one, giving you 12.5 MP photos with 2 µm pixels. This pixel binning makes the camera even faster than it already is with the 1 µm pixels.

Of course, there is also a 50 MP mode if needed. However, this is only useful in scenes with a lot of light when you want to zoom in afterwards. The photos with the main camera have natural colors and many details, and the sharpness is also good. Particular strengths are seen in the dynamic range, where the sensor flexes its muscles.  There is also a 2x to 10x zoom in the camera app, but it is purely digital and can therefore only be used up to 2x and a maximum of 5x.

The optional AI mode usually turns up the color saturation a bit, which should certainly find fans.

Ultra-wide-angle camera: Megapixels are missing here.

Unfortunately, the ultra-wide-angle camera did not receive the same attention as the main camera. Thus, an 8 MP sensor (IMX355) with a 119° shooting angle is still used. The sensor was used as the front-facing camera in the Pixel 3 in 2018, so it has already been around for a few years and was not an outstanding sensor even then. Accordingly, you can notice a strong drop in quality when switching from the main to the ultra-wide-angle camera.

The photos are still “OK” in bright light, but not much more. Colors look a bit washed out, details are missing, and the corners in particular tend to be a bit “muddy”. With only 8 megapixels, it simply lacks the necessary sharpness to keep up with the main camera. Here you notice that you “only” have a €400 smartphone in your hand and not one for €700+. However, it is still enough for a few shots with the somewhat more dramatic ultra-wide-angle effect.

Night mode

The night mode has of course been improved once again and now also hears the marketing name “Nightscape Ultra”, but is still called Night in the app. Since the fast sensor of the main camera already takes good low-light pictures without enabled night mode, the starting point is already on a very high level. Add the long exposure (4-5 seconds) and software magic, and you could think that the photos were taken in broad daylight.

With the ultra-wide-angle camera, the image is unfortunately much different, especially darker. The sensor is simply quite small and the aperture of f/2.2 is not particularly large either. Even the software can’t save too much here. If you can, just always use the main camera at night.

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Portraits

Portraits are always taken with the main camera on the OnePlus Nord 2 5G. Therefore, even the shots with artificial bokeh look razor-sharp and just really good. Nevertheless, you can also choose between the normal view and a digital 2X zoom in portrait mode. The differentiation between the photo object and the background works very well, and the “AI Color Portrait” effect is also well done.

Strong selfies

The front-facing camera continues the trend of the Oppo Find X3 Pro’s cameras that started with the main camera. Like the flagship of the sister company, the 32-megapixel IMX615 sensor is used on the front. It takes sharp and detailed photos with natural colors and skin tones – you cannot expect more from a front-facing camera.

The portraits of the front-facing camera also look good and have fewer problems with the transition between foreground and background than older models from OnePlus. The software has clearly been improved here. The same applies for the selfie night mode, which is surprisingly good.

All up to date: WiFi 6, 5G & Bluetooth 5.2

Thanks to the modem (4×4 MIMO) integrated in the Dimensity 1200, the Nord 2 has two fully functional 5G standalone SIM slots. One supports a whopping 8 (SA) or 9 (NSA) 5G bands and 21 LTE bands. so is well positioned for travel as well. The bands are supported:

  • LTE-FDD: B1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/17/18/19/20/26/28/38/32/34/39/40/41/66
  • 5G NSA: N1, N3, N7, N8, N20, N28, N38, N41, N78
  • 5G SA: N1, N3, N7, N20, N28, N78, N41, N8

However, the full Wifi 6 (ax) support including 2×2 MIMO is more important to me than the admittedly good 5G support. The Bluetooth and GPS standards have not been skimped on either. Thus, Bluetooth 5.2 with support for aptX, aptX HD, LDAC and AAC is included. GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou and NavIC are supported for positioning. In practice, this means that the GPS fix was always extremely fast and accurate, and navigating on foot and in the car worked very well. NFC for mobile payments with Google Pay and other services is of course also present.

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Good battery life & fast charging

The battery is similar in size to that of the Poco F3 at 4,500 mAh and, combined with the efficient 6nm processor, provides good battery life. I finished most days with over 35% battery without paying attention to frugal usage. OnePlus Nord 2 also achieves a good 13 hours and 25 minutes at half brightness in the PCMark Work 3.0 Battery tests. Thus, it lasts longer than the Poco F3 or the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G in the test and in practice. The runtime is about 1.5 days in normal use, but you can certainly get 2 days of runtime out of the battery if you are a bit more frugal.

Nice of them to not only increase the battery size by 9% in the second Nord, but also adapt the charging technology to the current flagships. Thus, a 65-watt charger is included in the scope of delivery. When the OnePlus Nord 2 is charged using the Warp Charge 65 technology, the smartphone is back to 100% in almost exactly 30 minutes. After only 10 minutes, you are already at 43%, which should be enough for another day. Unfortunately, the charger is not exactly the same as the one included with the OnePlus 9 (Pro), since it does not support the USB-C Power Delivery standard and thus cannot charge laptops etc. quickly. At least the optimized and battery-saving charging of the OP8 Pro is available on the Nord 2.

OnePlus Nord 2: Strong competition – even for itself

The OnePlus Nord 2 is a consistent further development of the first Nord with a clear focus on the main and front cameras, battery life and charging time, and strong performance. The Nord 2 can convince in all these categories and thus builds the foundation for a strong smartphone. Add to that the good build quality, the smooth software and nice extras like the vibration motor and the stereo speakers, and offer the whole thing for ₤399, and you have a winner in my eyes.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G Design

However, the Nord 2 is not without its drawbacks. The display is not bad, but there are better ones for less money. The plastic frame could also be a thorn in the side for some, but it seems to be the new standard in this price range. Keyword price range – what does the competition around 400 Pounds do? To be honest, they are rather below or above that, so only the Galaxy A52 5G is in direct company. It loses in the main camera, battery, and performance, but offers the better display, the better ultra-wide-angle camera, and an IP67 rating. If you want the same performance for less money and accept a worse camera, you can also take a look at the Poco F3.

In summary, I can say that the OnePlus Nord 2 is currently the best overall package that 399 Pounds can buy. Even internally, the Nord 2 is the better alternative to the OnePlus 8T, so you are competing with yourself here. What do you think and what would be your alternatives?

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Alex

Part of the China-Gadgets Team since 2016. I love China-Smartphones and all accessories that surround them.

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