Hands-On, Smartphone

OnePlus Nord Hands-On: A Better Second Attempt

Over the years, OnePlus focused solely on its flagship smartphones. This has been the case for quite some time now, so when the company added another series to its lineup of smartphones last month – the OnePlus Nord – it’s a pretty big deal.

But this isn’t exactly OnePlus’ first attempt to expand its lineup. Back in 2015, the phone maker released the OnePlus X, which didn’t see much success. So then, will the Nord will suffer from the same fate? Well, after spending a brief time with the phone, I’m positive it will be well-received; it has some genuinely great features for a premium mid-ranger.

First and foremost, let’s talk about the Malaysian pricing of the OnePlus Nord. Two variants of the smartphone are available here: the 128GB model with 8GB of RAM retails at RM1,799, while the 256GB option with 12GB of RAM is sold as a bundle with the OnePlus Buds for RM2,399. At the moment, it’s unlikely the 256GB variant will be sold separately.

Anyway, with a RM1,799 starting price, the Nord isn’t exactly cheap, but it is one of the most affordable 5G-enabled smartphones in the Malaysian market now. Of course, 5G networks are not even available here yet, but it does future-proof the Nord to an extend, which is a good thing.

For that kind of money, you’re getting a pretty darn complete smartphone with the Nord. Its 5G connectivity, for one, comes from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chipset. It’s not as impressive as the Snapdragon 865 chip found in most flagship smartphones, but as far as I can tell, it can provide a very good level of performance. The phone feels fast and zippy in my short time with it.

It’s worth noting that the Nord feels extra responsive thanks to its 6.44-inch 1080p Fluid AMOLED screen with a reasonably fast 90Hz refresh rate. Basically, every single animation on this screen will look very smooth; even just navigating through the home screen feels very satisfying.

Trust me, if you’re upgrading from a phone with a 60Hz screen, you will notice the smoother animations and superior motion clarity of the Nord’s faster 90Hz panel. This goes for any phone with a high refresh rate, really.

As for the Nord’s Fluid AMOLED screen itself, it’s pleasant to look at. After all, it’s an AMOLED panel, so it can produce vibrant colours, very deep blacks, and good viewing angles. It can get quite bright as well, so outdoor visibility with the phone is definitely a non-issue.

Just like the OnePlus 8 series, the Nord has a hole-punch cutout on the top left of the screen for the front-facing camera. But there is a small difference: it’s an oblong-shaped cutout instead of a circle. That’s because the Nord actually has two selfie cameras: a 32MP f/2.45 primary sensor and an 8MP f/2.45 ultra-wide angle lens for capturing wider group selfies.

Another feature worth mentioning is the Warp Charge 30T fast charging technology of the Nord. According to the company, the phone’s 4,115mAh battery can be recharged from completely empty to 70% in just 30 minutes; pretty impressive charging rate. Of course, I haven’t had the chance to put this to the test yet, but I’m confident it can do just that.

And then there’s the overall design of the Nord, which I quite like. It has a reasonable heft to it (tipping the scales at 184g), the glass back feels good to the touch, and the frame feels solid. It also looks quite premium, especially this bright Marble Blue colourway of the Nord. If you want something more subtle, there’s the Grey Onyx option.

Last but certainly not least is the camera performance of the Nord. It comes with a quad camera system, which is made up of a 48MP f/1.75 main sensor – the same one found in the OnePlus 8 – an 8MP f/2.25 ultra-wide angle lens, a 5MP f/2.4 depth camera, and a 2MP f/2.4 macro shooter. It would’ve been great if it had a telephoto lens as well, but at least it’s a reasonably capable camera system.

In my short time testing the camera of the Nord, it can take some flattering-looking shots. Detail preservation is good, dynamic range is quite wide, it can lock in focus quickly, and the camera interface feels responsive too. However, I only shot with the Nord in broad daylight, where most phones – especially at this price point – will excel.

Once I have the device in for review, I’ll definitely put the camera through its paces. It’ll be interesting to see if it can still perform just as well in more challenging lighting situations.

The OnePlus Nord, even though it’s not a particularly affordable mid-range smartphone, does offer a number of appealing features. It has a fast 90Hz display, a good level of performance, as well as 5G connectivity; all packed in a sleek, premium chassis.

Granted, the Nord’s RM1,799 starting price puts it close to the price range of flagship smartphones like the Poco F2 Pro, but I’d argue the former has enough going for it to warrant that kind of asking price. Sure, the Nord’s processing power isn’t exactly the best in the market, but it can stand toe-to-toe with flagship smartphones in the same price range in other areas.

But until I’ve tested the Nord thoroughly in a full review, I can’t exactly say with certainty it’s a phone worth getting. For what it’s worth, I am quite impressed with the Nord; even more so than the flagship OnePlus 8 series.