Best OnePlus Nord CE 5G 2021 Review
OnePlus launched its Nord smartphone last July 2020 as the most affordable offering in the OnePlus lineup. There was a time because of Covid when people were wary of spending too much, and this was one of the first few smartphones that offered 5G for less than Rs. 30,000 OnePlus has now launched a new OnePlus Nord CE 5G, which brings down the price substantially while offering three rear cameras with 5G connectivity.
I am sure that when you hear the name Nord CE 5G, the first question that will come to your mind is “What does CE stand for?” OnePlus says that it stands for “Core Edition” because Nord CE also includes all the basics that one looks for on a smartphone. I tested the OnePlus Nord CE 5G for ₹ 24,999 to find out.
OnePlus Nord CE 5G price in India
Price of OnePlus Nord CE 5G mid-spec variant with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. The base variant phone with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage costs Rs 24,999 in India and Rs 22,999. The top-of-the-line 256GB storage, 12GB RAM variant is priced at Rs. Whereas 27,999. The mid-spec variant with 128GB storage 8GB RAM is priced at Rs. 24,999 has been kept.
All three variants of the phone are available in Dark Charcoal Ink Finish. The 8GB variant is also available in Blue Void color. If you choose the 12GB RAM variant, you can opt for both of these as well as a special silver color option.
OnePlus Nord CE 5G design
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G is a good looking phone and reminds me of the original Nord too, especially in the blue void colour. It is solidly made and feels comfortable to hold. OnePlus has also managed to keep the phone fairly thin at 7.9mm in thickness, and it weighs 170 gm which also feels fairly light compared to some of the other smartphones I’ve tested recently. The Nord CE 5G is balanced well and is curved along the edge which makes it very comfortable to hold.
In the phone, you also get a large 6.43-inch display with the camera hole in the top left corner. The bezels all around the sides and top are very slim while its chin is a bit big. The frame of the Nord CE 5G is made of plastic and all the buttons are centered. The volume button is on the left and the power button is on the right. This placement makes it very easy to reach these buttons without having to hold the phone in hand.However, there is no alert slider, which has been a OnePlus trademark for years. The SIM tray is on the left and can accommodate two nano-SIMs but there is no microSD card slot.
The Nord CE 5G has a 3.5mm headphone jack, which was not present in the OnePlus Nord (Review). It is placed at the bottom along with USB Type-C port and loudspeaker. Rotate the phone and there are only two elements; The triple camera module in the top-left corner and the OnePlus logo in the centre. The camera module is a bit protruding but that’s not a big problem either.
OnePlus has given a 4500mAh battery in the Nord CE 5G which is a slightly bigger battery than the original OnePlus Nord. This phone supports 30Watt phone fast charging and comes with Warp Charge 30T charger in the box.
OnePlus Nord CE 5G specifications and software
Just like the OnePlus Nord, the Nord CE 5G also comes with some interesting specifications for its price. The large 6.43-inch AMOLED display has full-HD+ resolution and 90Hz refresh rate which is a big plus point. It has an in-display fingerprint scanner and Asahi Dragontrail Glass for protection. Powering the OnePlus Nord CE 5G is also the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor, which we have seen in some competition such as the Xiaomi Mi 10i (Review) and Samsung Galaxy M42 5G (Review). You will get 6GB of RAM in the base variant of the Nord CE 5G and 12GB of RAM on the range topping
This smartphone has only two storage options, 256GB and 128GB. The Nord CE 5G supports Bluetooth 5.1, dual-band Wi-Fi, NFC and six satellite navigation systems. Dual 4G VoLTE is also supported, as well as 5G connectivity is also provided.
OnePlus has built its reputation in the market largely because of its clean software experience, and the same is what you get on the Nord CE 5G phone. The smartphone runs OnePlus’ custom Oxygen OS based on top of Android 11. The review unit was running the April Android security patch while I was using it, got an update for the May security patch along with some bug fixes. The OxygenOS is well polished and I found the phone to be fairly easy to use. If you like a clean interface and similar to stock Android, then welcome to OxygenOS. OnePlus company promises two years of Android updates and three years of security updates
Some Google and OnePlus apps will be available preinstalled in the phone, which can also be uninstalled if needed. I haven’t been showered with notifications from any of the apps. Nord CE phones have an always-on display that lights up for incoming notifications. There’s also a Game Mode that will allow you to block incoming notifications and answer calls directly over the speaker while gaming. It has shortcuts for WhatsApp, Instagram and Telegram
OnePlus Nord CE 5G performance and battery life
There were no surprises to me while using the phone, and it worked as expected. Loading apps was fairly quick and my 12GB RAM unit made multi-tasking super easy. I could switch between multiple apps without waiting for the phone to reload. The small size of the OnePlus Nord CE 5G also makes it easy to use with one hand.
I found the in-display fingerprint scanner very convenient to access and it didn’t even require more than a single effort to unlock the smartphone. The AMOLED display is good enough for content viewing and the 90Hz refresh rate makes use feel comfortable. There’s only one bottom-firing speaker, which is sufficient.
I recently tested the Samsung Galaxy M42 5G phone, so I also have a fair idea of how the Snapdragon 750G should perform. The My OnePlus Nord CE 5G phone unit also performed well and managed to score 391,813 on AnTuTu. In Geekbench 5’s single-core and multi-core tests, it also scored 1,830 and 639 points respectively. It managed 17fps in GFXBench and 59fps in the T-Rex and Car Chase tests. The OnePlus Nord CE 5G has also managed to score 2,737 in 3D Mark Slingshot OpenGL. That’s a bit low compared to the Galaxy M42 5G, although the phone also benefits from having a lower resolution display.
Call of Duty Mobile on the OnePlus Nord CE 5G runs on higher presets for both graphics as well as frame rates. I was able to play it without any hesitation and did not notice any degradation in performance during the gameplay of the phone. After playing the game for 25 minutes, I have noticed a 7 percent drop in the battery level. Nord CE felt a little warm to the touch. If you also want to play games on your smartphone, then the Nord CE 5G phone is able to handle the popular titles with ease.
Let’s talk a little bit about battery life. The refresh rate of the Nord CE 5G phone is set to 90Hz by default and I didn’t change it during the review period. Even in our HD video loop test, the Nord CE 5G managed to last for 19 hours 59 minutes. That’s a decent score considering the battery capacity. The phone might be able to deliver slightly better battery life, with its refresh rate as low as 60Hz.
Fast charging is available in the phone and you get 30W Warp Charge 30T Plus charger in the box. This charger took the phone from zero to 67 percent in 30 minutes and fully charges it in about an hour. Although it cannot even be called the fastest charging smartphone, it is better than the likes of Galaxy M42 5G.
OnePlus Nord CE 5G cameras
The camera setup of OnePlus Nord CE Triple is packed in. There is also a 64-megapixel primary camera with an Omnivision sensor, f/1.79 aperture and EIS; 8-megapixel ultra-wide angle camera with 119-degree field of view; And 2 megapixel black and white camera. For easy selfies, it has a 16-megapixel camera with f / 2.45 aperture. The camera app has a simple UI and I also tried out the various shooting modes it offers. The AI was able to detect what I was shooting and it even suggested different modes at times. Using a 64-megapixel primary camera, the smartphone uses pixel-binning resulting in 16-megapixel shots.
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G has managed to take some decent pictures even in broad daylight. It looked great on the AMOLED display. It has also managed to capture fine details of objects in the foreground. Text was legible at 100 percent magnification. The ultra-wide angle camera offers a wider field of view. There was a noticeable slight drop in image quality. The edges of the photos also appeared slightly distorted.
The main camera managed to capture textures well. I noticed that the Keynord CE 5G also managed good background separation. Portrait mode didn’t let me fine-tune the level of blur before taking a shot. The smartphone displays a ‘depth effect’ when the shot is ready to be taken. Edge detection was also good in the output and its depth effect was very good.
Low-light photos turned out to be a bit average. The phone keeps the noise under control but you can still see the sound in the output. With Nightscape enabled, the phone also takes eight exposures and combines them into one photo. This process takes about 7-8 seconds. The resulting images are noticeably brighter, bringing out significantly more detail in shadows. Textures also appeared better in Nightscape shots. OnePlus Nord CE 5G is cropped in the frame to stabilize a nightscape shot, you have to keep that in mind. Can also use nightscape with ultra-wide angle camera but the very difference is subtle.
Selfies were crisp, skin tone was a bit off in outdoor shots, while indoor shots didn’t have this problem. You can take selfies as well as portraits, and the phone managed to have good edge detection as well. The phone can recognize faces even by wearing a mask. Selfies taken in low light were good. Fine grain will only be visible at 100 percent magnification.
Video recording tops out at 1080p 60fps thanks to the 4k 30fps selfie shooter for the primary camera. Footage was stabilized well in 1080p as well as 4K daylight. Only a few tremors were apparent. Video quality suffers in low light. When the phone tries to stabilize the footage, flicker is clearly visible in the output.
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G has enough performance to keep up with what you do. The software experience is quite clean. The company sweetened the deal by promising two years of software updates and three years of security updates, which should keep the phone updated until you start thinking about your next upgrade.