Hands on: OnePlus Nord 2 review - a mid-range handset packed with top tech
The Nord 2 is a mid-range phone with AIs on the flagships.
The OnePlus Nord was a big deal for OnePlus. A million-selling mid-ranger that became a best-selling phone on Amazon, it was a huge success for a company that is once again finding its way when it comes to what its core stands for.
While we all knew OnePlus as the company that sold flagship phones at mid-range prices, it has since diversified its portfolio..
In the time since the first OnePlus Nord reveal back in August 2020, we have had six new handsets: OnePlus 8T, OnePlus Nord N10, OnePlus Nord N100, OnePlus 9, OnePlus 9 Pro and the OnePlus Nord CE 5G. A list that is both impressive and exhaustive.
The OnePlus Nord 2 is OnePlus' seventh release in a year then, and one that proves the company can still wow when it comes to offering new features, while only compromising in a few places when it comes to trying to keep the money down.
We've had the handset for some time now - here are 5 things to know about the OnePlus Nord 2 5G.
1. It has a familiar look for OnePlus fans
The OnePlus Nord 2 has been styled in a similar way to the OnePlus 9, with the two rear cameras on the back of the device. While we go into more details about the cameras later on, it's worth noting that the Sony IMX 766 50MP sensor is on board, which is the same that was found in the 9 Series. This marks a 56% improvement on the amount of light the sensor can let in, compared to the OnePlus Nord.
Its dimensions are: Height: 158.9mm, Width: 73.2mm, Thickness: 8.25mm. These are similar to the original Nord. If you are looking for a slimmer phone, then the OnePlus Nord CE lops a few mm off of the thickness. It also ahas a 3.5mm jack that the Nord 2 doesn't have.
2. The screen is slick
At 6.43 inches, the screen is a touch smaller than the original Nord (by 0.01 inch) and the same as the Nord CE. With 90Hz refresh time, this is definitely a phone primed for gaming, movie watching and the like.
We tried it bright light and a darkened room and it handles both extremes well. We were impressed with the daylight readable enhancement feature that kicked in when trying to battle the English heatwave.
OnePlus is also going big in AI this time around, with features called AI Color Boost and AI Resolution Boost. The idea being that no matter the quality of the video or photos you are viewing through the phone, the handset will try its best to enhance them. While we are always weary that adding to much interpolation to images makes them look a little fake, OnePlus has done a good job of keeping things lifelike here - some would say it is subtle, but we'd rather that than the images looking over processed.
It doesn't kick in all the time, but we noticed it when using both Instagram and YouTube.
3 All this AI goodness is because of a new chip
OnePlus has been part of the Qualcomm brigade for a long time now, so we were a little taken back to see that OnePlus has changed chipset for the OnePlus Nord 2. It's shifted to Qualcomm rival MediaTek and is using its fancy sounding MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI Processor. The key here is that this is a near flagship chip which allows for all those AI features the OnePlus Nord 2 boast.
For us, the most important thing was whether the changeover would degrade the quality of the speed and reliability of the phone but in our tests we noticed nothing of the sort. Flipping through Oxygen OS 11.3 (we're fans of the dark mode and zen mode on offer), it was as slick as we have seen on flagships with no sluggishness going between apps, binge watching Netflix and crying while scrolling through the doom and gloom Twitter has to offer.
Gaming, too, was well catered for with the ability to live record what you are doing and some nice 'mis-touch' prevention which came in handy a number of times for us. The phone stayed pretty cool throughout a number of long gaming sessions, too.
We like the speakers of the OnePlus Nord 2 as well. They weren't quite bass laden for our liking, but the sound was expansive and the haptics have also been tweaked which could definitely be felt in the games we played.
4 Cameras are flagship level... last year's flagship
We are very happy that the cameras on board the OnePlus Nord 2 are similar to what is found on the 9 Series. The standout is the 50MP IMX 766 Sony sensor. It delivers rich reproductions and the a large f/1.88 aperture means that a ton of light is let in, making for some fantastic shots. Coupled with OIS and you are laughing. Okay, it is old-ish tech but to see this filter down into the Nord range less than a year after being on OnePlus' flagship is decent.
The 8MP ultra wide angle isn't quite as impressive but does give you enough boost when you want to take those larger landscape shots. Flip the camera over and OnePlus has added its biggest-ever selfie sensor to the front - a 32MP Sony sensor.
When it comes to features, OnePlus is still trying hard with its night modes, with improvements made to landscape and portrait. There does seem to be more detail in the darker shots but it still can't match the likes of Google in this area.
It is taking photography seriously, though, with a new AI photo enhancement mode that can recognise 22 photo scenes and adjust cameras accordingly for them.
The Dual View Video mode is a lot of fun. This is definitely one set up for bloggers, allowing you to film your reaction plus what you can see at the same time. Given the world is all trying to have its 15 minutes of fame right now, it's good to see a feature like this on board.
5 Battery and charging do their best to impress
OnePlus' battery life always seems to be a mixed bag on its phones, but we think it has done a decent job with the OnePlus Nord 2. There's a 4500mAh battery onboard which lasts the day as long as you aren't caning it on the video watching or gaming side of things.
We're a little disappointed not to see wireless charging but can understand why, given that costs need to be kept down. The Warp Charge 65 charger is impressive. We managed to get our phone charged in just over half an hour, which made us worry a lot less about the battery levels getting low.
OnePlus Nord 2: early verdict
Having just had the phone for under a week, we can't quite give a full verdict but we have really liked our time spent with the OnePlus Nord 2. It's a slick, speedy phone that rarely reminds you that it's a mid-ranger.
The screen is powerful and the new chip inside may rankle some but it works well in this device - although some of the AI enhancements are certainly subtle. Battery life is good, but speedy charging is fantastic.
OnePlus has gone big on its Nord range of late, and we can see why. It's a popular, 'money saving' choice that means more people can get their hands on a near flagship phone, but not pay through the nose for it.
The OnePlus Nord 2 comes in 12GB/256GB (Gray Sierra) and 8GB/126GB (Blue Haze /Gray Sierra) varieties and is available from Amazon 28 July from £399.