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OnePlus Nord 3 Review: Almost a Flagship (For Half the Price)
July 6, 2023 Andrew Cheng

The OnePlus Nord series is positioned as the Chinese company’s more affordable mid-range lineup, which is why the new OnePlus Nord 3 is particularly interesting. Not only is it powered by a reasonably powerful MediaTek Dimensity 9000 chip, it feels quite a bit like a flagship phone in other aspects too.

Priced at RM2,199, the value proposition of the Nord 3 is excellent, given its feature set. While it also has its fair share of shortcomings, this is still an easy phone to recommend. Without further ado, let’s get to the review of the Nord 3.

What It Is

Display6.74-inch Super Fluid AMOLED (2772 x 1240), 120Hz
ChipsetMediaTek Dimensity 9000 3.05GHz octa-core
GPUArm Mali-G710 MC10
RAM16GB
Storage256GB, non-expandable
Camera (rear)50MP, OIS
8MP (ultra-wide)
2MP (macro)
Camera (front)16MP
Battery
5,000mAh with 80W fast charging
Dimensions162.6 x 75.1 x 8.1 mm
Weight
193.5g
OSOxygenOS 13.1 based on Android 13
Connectivity5G
LTE
NFC
Bluetooth 5.3
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax
USB Type-C
PriceRM2,199

Looking at its spec sheet, the Nord 3 can easily pass of as a flagship phone, thanks to the Dimensity 9000 chip. It also has a rather capable triple camera system headlined by a 50MP Sony IMX890 sensor, the very same one found in the higher-end OnePlus 11.

Unfortunately, the Nord 3 doesn’t come with a telephoto lens, which limits the camera’s versatility. Nonetheless, I’ll get to the camera performance of the phone further down the review.

The Good Stuff

Performance of the OnePlus Nord 3 is really one of its main highlights. As an upper mid-range phone, the fact that it is powered by a Dimensity 9000 chipset is a big plus point. Even if the SoC is last year’s offering, there’s no denying that it is still a fast, capable chip that offers flagship-tier performance.

In Honkai: Star Rail, for example, the Nord 3 can run the game at a relatively stable 60fps at maxed out graphics settings. It does drop some frames in situations where there are more on-screen elements, but for the most part, the phone can provide a smooth gameplay experience.

Further enhancing the gaming experience of the Nord 3 is its 6.74-inch Super Fluid AMOLED display. It’s a pleasant-looking screen with vibrant colours, deep, true blacks, and wide viewing angles; perfect for both gaming and general content consumption. The panel’s 120Hz refresh rate lends to good motion clarity and smooth animations too.

When it comes to battery life, the Nord 3’s 5,000mAh battery can last quite long. On average, I can get about five to six hours of screen on time with the phone. On a typical workday, I can comfortably get to the end of the day with this level of battery life, even with some gaming time thrown in throughout the day.

Next, there’s the camera performance of the Nord 3, which really surprised me quite a bit. The 50MP main sensor, for one, really does remind me of the OnePlus 11’s image quality; that’s high praise for this much more affordable device. The 8MP ultra-wide angle lens can take some good-looking shots too.

See for yourself with these sample images:

All in all, the Nord 3 is a fast phone with a great-looking display and capable camera system; that’s a winning combination. However, as much as I enjoy using the phone, it does have some notable drawbacks – let’s get to them in the following section.

The Bad Stuff

Although I’m quite happy with the camera performance of the Nord 3, I’m not thrilled by the omission of a telephoto shooter. While there’s option for 2x zoom, this is merely digital zoom of the main 50MP camera. A dedicated telephoto lens – assuming it’s done right, of course – would’ve offered better image quality when I want to snap subjects that are further away.

And then there’s the software experience of OxygenOS 13.1, which is still not up to par. While it does feel lightweight, it also doesn’t feel as responsive as it should be. When I’m accessing the recent apps page, for example, I have to wait a split second before I can start interacting with the screen again. I also don’t like the fact that I can’t swipe down on multiple notifications from the same app to expand them; other versions of Android has this enabled by default.

Last but not least is the build quality of the Nord 3. Don’t get me wrong, it does feel like a solid phone, but it is also very slippery. The glossy Gorilla Glass 5 back panel, as OnePlus puts it, is “flawlessly smooth,” which also makes it quite difficult to get a good grip on the device. With this in mind, I highly recommend getting a case for the phone to get a firmer, more secure grip in daily use.

Is It Worth It?

For only RM2,199, the sheer value for money the OnePlus Nord 3 offers makes it a very easy phone to recommend, even with its drawbacks in mind. Sure, the software experience isn’t ideal, but this – and the lack of a telephoto camera – may not matter as much to other folks.

OnePlus’ product offerings in recent times have gotten quite a bit better, especially after the release of the OnePlus 11. With the introduction of the Nord 3, it’s clear that the brand is heading in the right direction – I’m certainly looking forward to its future products now.

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