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OnePlus Nord CE 2 review

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 is a phone that hits the price and performance sweet spot.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 review
21 February 2022

OnePlus may be a brand in a state of flux at the moment, as it aligns itself closer to parent company Oppo, but this hasn’t stopped it from releasing handsets that continue to impress.

Case in point: the OnePlus Nord CE 2. At £299, it’s a mid-range phone that keeps the core of what makes Nord such a compelling range for OnePlus and its fans (CE, means Core Edition acronym buffs), and strips away some of the more expensive features, leaving not just a decent phone but one that comes with a bargain price.

We’ve been using the OnePlus Nord CE 2 for a few weeks now, here are five things you need to know…

1 The screen is worth the price tag alone

OnePlus Nord CE 2 review

OnePlus has gotten the most important part of the Nord CE 2 right: the screen. At 6.43 inches, there’s plenty of real estate for movie watching, catching up on your social network of choice and when you need to use it as a camera screen.

It’s not just the size that impresses but the pixel count, too. It’s AMOLED with 2400 x 1080p on board. Add to this HDR10+ and a 90Hz refresh rate and it’s one incredibly bright experience. We’re impressed that a phone at this price has a screen of this quality.

2 Battery life is decent, too

OnePlus Nord CE 2 review

At 4,500mAH, the same as the full-fat OnePlus Nord 2, we had no issues with the battery life of the OnePlus Nord CE 2. This phone is all day-er and then some, which surprised us given the quality of the screen the Nord CE 2 is packing.

We had around 35% of battery life by the end of the day most days and that was with fairly heavy use - from morning Wordles to night-time Netflix binge-watching.

There is fast charging on board. Something called 65W SuperVOOC charging means you can pretty much juice up your phone in around 30 minutes.

3 Design is plastic, nearly fantastic

OnePlus Nord CE 2 review

Looks-wise, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 is up there with its more premium range of phones. The aforementioned display is beautiful, the camera array on the back is sizeable but designed well, while the colour options are really something.

Touch-wise, though, you can feel where OnePlus has made some changes to make sure the phone is affordable. The back of the thing is plastic.

The good news is that whatever plastic has been used holds up well to wear and tear but it does cheapen the phone slightly (literally, when it comes to the price). Saying that, it feels fine in the hand - the chassis is lovely and slim, with a decent curve on the sides of the back, so no sharp edges to annoy you.

It's worth noting (especially given the recent storms that have battered the UK) the phone isn't waterproof but it should take a splash here and there.

There are only three buttons on the device, an on/off button on the right-hand side and volume rocker on the left. It’s here that you also get a dual SIM tray.

On the bottom of the Nord CE 2 there’s a 3.5mm audio port (which is great news given the price of the phone), a USB-C connector and one speaker grill.

4 Cameras make light work of photos

OnePlus Nord CE 2 review

If you are familiar with the OnePlus Nord CE then you will be familiar with the cameras on the OnePlus Nord CE 2.

They are pretty much the same: a 64MP main camera, 8MP ultrawide camera, and a 2MP macro sensor. Flip to the front and there’s a pinhole camera situated on the top-left of the device that is there for all your selfie needs and is 16MP.

These are downgrades from the rather brilliant Nord 2 camera array (which included a lovely 50MP IMX 766 Sony sensor) but there is still quality to be found, especially when natural light is at its brightest.

Quality wise, there’s plenty of detail in the shots we took, coupled with a nice amount of natural colour. Nothing we took in the day looked too over processed, but some of the shots we took with night mode did suffer from this.

While the specs are impressive for the cameras, it is worth noting that there isn’t the option for an optical zoom. There is a 2x digital zoom on board when using the main camera, though - this can be pushed to 20x but that's where potato quality lies.

Selfie wise, OnePlus has done well with its bokeh effects, so you get decent background blur.

When it comes to close ups, the 2MP macro camera works well but we didn’t feel that it was really needed on the device - saying that, close-up focusing worked really well and that’s not always the case with phones at this price.

Surprisingly, there are a lot of pro features on board to help you take better pictures, offering up a hefty amount of manual control.

5 Performance is ace for the price range

OnePlus Nord CE 2 review

OnePlus hasn’t scrimped on power with the Nord CE 2. There’s a pretty powerful 5G chip on board (although the MediaTek Dimensity 900 processor is a performance level down to the chip that’s found in the full-fat Nord 2). This is coupled with 8GB of RAM and 128GB storage.

The Nord CE 2 whizzed through basic tasks with no problems at all. Flipping in and out of apps showed no lag and there was a fluidity between using things like the camera and then loading up a game.

The phone is running an older version of Android (or its version, OxygenOS) which will rankle those who want to have the newest of everything but we reckon there will be an update to Android 12 in the near future.

The good news is that OxygenOS remains, for us, the best variant of Android other than the ‘clean’ version of the OS that Google offers on its Pixel range.

When it comes to security, it was good to see on-screen fingerprint technology baked into the OnePlus Nord CE 2 - it’s really quick to use, too.

OnePlus Nord CE 2: final verdict

OnePlus Nord CE 2 review

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 is a perfectly priced phone that has a few features that separate it from other handsets in its price range. These include: speedy charging, a decent display and commendable camera array.

OnePlus has done exactly what it should with its Core Edition handsets - kept the core of what makes the Nord range great and only pruned features where absolutely necessary, nicely hitting that price and performance sweet spot.

Pre-orders for the OnePlus Nord CE 2, which costs £299, start 3 March - head to OnePlus' site for more information.