OnePlus Nord first impressions: the new ruler of the mid-range smartphones


After months of leaks, rumors and a carefully crafted launch sequence from OnePlus, the company’s new mid-range smartphone has just been unveiled, giving OnePlus a note-worthy entrant into the ever more important into the sub-$500 smartphone segment. 

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get started. 

Android manufacturers have been dominating the mid-range smartphone segment fore year with Apple refusing to play in the space, but that all changed with the new 2020 iPhone SE, a $400 device. At 400 euro, the OnePlus Nord technically beats the SE’s starting price in Europe by 20%, while still offering a handful of flagship-tier specs without the usual build quality and performance issues we typically see in mid-range devices. 

For starters, this is the cheapest 5G smartphone we’ve tested thanks to the Snapdragon 765G from Qualcomm. It’s nowhere near as powerful as the SD865, but it should be quite competent as a mobile gaming device and the phone’s 8GB of RAM in the base model makes is far more capable than competing devices. If you’re looking to better multitasking performance and more than the 12GB of built-in storage, the 500 euro variant of the onePlus Nord gets upgraded to 256GB of memory and 12GB of RAM – substantially more than the 6GB most 500 euro priced phones have to offer. 

But the high-end features don’t stop there. OnePlus has slapped on a 6.44-inch FHD+ AMOLED panel with a 90Hz refresh rate and a fingerprint sensor mounted below it. The phone essentially has the same camera system from the Oneplus 8 as well, using the 48MP Sony IMX 586 for the main camera. The difference here is that you now have a quad-camera setup with the main camera, 8MP ultrawide with a 119-degree field of view, 2MP macro camera and 5MP depth sensor. The macro camera is a throwaway gimmick here, but the overall camera experience is really good, especially when you consider you get a dual-sensor setup on the front with an ultrawide selfie camera just like the pixel 3 had. Honestly, I wish every smartphone had a similar selfie camera setup. Like other OnePlus devices, you get face unlock as well, but it’s not as secure as what you get on the Pixel 4. 

Crammed inside the phone is a 4115 mAh battery which supports the company’s Warp Charge 30T charging technology for 30-watt fast charging. Unfortunately, there’s no wireless charging, but that’s not a surprise since not even the regular OnePlus 8 has it. 

As for the phone’s build and fit and finish. You honestly couldn’t tell that the OnePlus Nord costs 320 euro less than the Oneplus 8. The phone feels like any other Oneplus device and even has the company’s signature notification slider next to the power button. The only real difference that sets this phone apart from recent Oneplus devices is that the camera module is shifted to the left rather than being centered on the back of the phone. 

But there are a few downsides to this phone as well. The Nord adhered to the flagship smartphone mantra of foregoing the 3.5mm headphone jack while also including a single mono speaker on the bottom of the phone. You also don’t get a microSD card slot for expandable storage, a key feature that many mid-range smartphone buyers still love. In usual OnePlus fashion, there’s no official IP rating either. 

As for the phone’s availability across the globe, the OnePlus Nord is available in India, China Hong Kong, Malaysia and 28 countries scattered across Europe. North America, arguably the company’s most important market is being left out, at least for now. The official word is that the phone isn’t going to be available in the US and Canada, just like last year’s OnePlus 7 didn’t make it over here either. 

Like all devices, the OnePlus Nord isn’t perfect, but it’s one of the most compelling 400 Euro smartphones we’ve ever used. You simply can’t find another smartphone that comes close to offering what the OnePlus Nord does at this price point. Sure there are a few gaming-centric phones with Snapdragon 865 chipsets that sell for around $500, but most of them are purely focused on gaming performance and drop the ball on the software and camera experience. 

The OnePlus Nord offers an incredible balance and should easily be one of the most saught-after mid-range smartphones of 2020.

Nick Gray
I'm a life-long tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC. After writing about tech for more than a decade, I jumped at the opportunity to take on the role of Editor in Chief at Phandroid. Please contact me at [email protected].

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