Rarely has any mid-range mobile been as hyped as the OnePlus Nord. For many weeks leading up to the official launch of the new mobile (which took place at a virtual event in Augmented Reality, which of course could only be seen via mobile), the Chinese mobile manufacturer sprinkled a steady stream of small pieces of information about OnePlus Nord to the media ( in the form of press releases) and social media (in the form of memes, photos and videos) to create excitement and high expectations for the upcoming product.
Not least with OnePlus’ many loyal fans, who had long demanded a cheaper mobile: Top models such as OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren and OnePlus 8 Pro – have become more and more expensive in the last couple of years.
Funnily enough, OnePlus already tried the cheaper mid-range mobile a little under five years ago, but OnePlus X, as it was called, was never a great success for the otherwise successful and trendy Chinese tech business.
And now that OnePlus Nord has finally landed with us on the test bench, it will be exciting to see if it can live up to the high expectations, or if OnePlus this time most of all tries to sell us a lot of empty talk without concrete content.
Appearance and construction
OnePlus revealed the name of the new mobile already on June 30 – before we were actually allowed to see the wonder. On Instagram, OnePlus founder Carl Pei explained what the deeper meaning of the name OnePlus North was: a reference to the English term “true north”, and an encouragement to users to follow their inner compass. But until mid-July, only a few glimpses appeared physically.
Therefore, it was honestly a bit of a disappointment when we finally got to see the new model. For although OnePlus is a nicely designed mobile with a precisely cut frame in bluish hard plastic (on the Blue Marble version), a back in a fresh light blue color covered by Gorilla Glass 5, and a flat screen surrounded by a discreet black border. But if it had not been OnePlus in large letters on the back, the phone could just as well have been from Xiaomi, Oppo or ZTE. In other words, with the exception of the color choice, OnePlus Nord is fairly anonymous and not really particularly OnePlus-like. This also applies to the mobile phone’s software, but we will return to that.
That said, there is nothing wrong with the build quality. OnePlus Nord is light and solid at the same time, and since it is both a little shorter and narrower than the top models, it actually fits better in the hand than, for example, OnePlus 8 Pro.
Display and sound
OnePlus Nord does not have the same curved screen as OnePlus’ top models, but like the top models comes the cheaper mobile with AMOLED screen, and it has both HDR10 + and the same 90 Hz refresh rate as last year’s flagship, for example OnePlus 7 Pro.
The screen resolution is actually Full HD, but because the screen is designed in the slightly special 20: 9 format, you get a little more pixels for the money.
Of course, OnePlus Nord can not keep up with this year’s far more expensive mobiles in terms of screen quality, but compared to, for example, the new version of iPhone SE, which is probably a mid-range mobile, but still costs about 2000 more than the Chinese mobile, you get one of the best and most comfortable screens on the market at the price right now with OnePlus Nord.
The mobile also delivers an excellent sound experience. The speech quality is okay, and it is actually only the lack of stereo sound from the phone’s built-in speakers that detracts from the overall character.
The OnePlus Nord primary camera has been equipped with the same 48 Mp Sony IMX586 sensor as the far more expensive OnePlus 8. The primary lens therefore has both optical image stabilization and an aperture of f / 1.75. In addition, there is an 8 Mp 14 mm ultra-wide-angle lens (119 degrees) as well as a macro lens and a depth sensor.
According to OnePlus, the primary camera can take pictures in night mode, both with the primary lens and with the ultra-wide-angle lens. It turns out to be a truth with modifications, something the test images so brilliantly illustrate. Can a software update fix the problem, or has OnePlus just typed it incorrectly?
That said, the OnePlus Nord’s camera delivers better image quality in many other respects than one would normally expect for the price. The bokeh feature in particular benefits from the dedicated depth sensor, while the built-in AI, which according to OnePlus removes image noise and makes the subjects sharper, is a bit aggressive to our liking. However, it is only a problem with slightly more extreme lighting conditions.
OnePlus Nord is also the first product from OnePlus with a dual front camera. The mobile has therefore been equipped with a primary lens 32 Mp as well as an additional 8 Mp ultra-wide angle lens (105 degrees) on the front, so that you can also get your friends on the selfies. It works great, and OnePlus Nord will probably become popular for those users who have Instagram and Snapchat as the most important apps on their mobile.
Together with the Motorola Moto G 5G Plus, which we also have on the test bench right now, the OnePlus Nord is part of a new trend with mid-range mobiles that, despite their lower price, come with 5G. This is possible, among other things, as both mobiles are based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765 processor type, which combined with the Snapdragon X52 Model-RF System ensures 5G support.
We have tested the 5G part by measuring the data speed, which we have done partly by testing with the Benchmark tool Ookla Speedtest and partly by taking the time to download large files. And OnePlus Nord is performing well in both.
The new mobile network technology is a successor and extension of the existing 4G / LTE network. The three major benefits of 5G are, in short: greater bandwidth (theoretically up to 100 times faster than 4G), greater capacity and less (almost non-existent) delay, which provides lightning-fast response times (down to 1 ms). This means that (many) several devices can be connected to the network at the same time, and that the devices communicate quickly and without any kind of delay with each other and servers on the network.
On the other hand, the coverage area for each 5G antenna is very limited. This is a significant reason why the 5G network will be far more fine-grained than previous mobile networks. This must simply be the case to ensure the necessary coverage.
Many experts believe that 5G will mean a complete change for many industries and businesses. Smarter hospitals, factories and self-driving cars (including more intelligent traffic management and increased traffic safety) are just some of the perspectives of the new 5G ecosystem.
The technology behind 5G
New frequencies: 5G will use new frequency ranges, and can be compared to widening a motorway with more lanes. This means much higher speed and capacity – and not least stability.
More antennas: 5G will in its full rollout be based on a fine-meshed network of more and smaller antennas, than for example the 4G network. Furthermore, the signal from the 5G masts can be concentrated by direction determination, which means that extremely fast speeds and high capacity can be achieved.
Independent networks: 5G is not just “a faster 4G” – there are many other differences in the way the network works. Among other things, it is possible to establish independent private networks that can be configured to the customer’s special needs. The private network is not shared with others, and thus there are no bottlenecks in connection with the basic capacity and speed. Independent networks also mean increased control over security and stability.
In Ookla Speedtest, the mobile thus achieved a download speed of 826 Mbit / s as the best result, while the upload speed peaked at an impressive 96.1 Mbit / s. A game like Asphalt 9, which fills over 1.8 gigabytes, was downloaded in just under 23 seconds. That result is in several respects actually better than what OnePlus 8 Pro could perform on the same network, so when it comes to 5G, OnePlus Nord is clearly on par with far more expensive top models.
Performance and features
The price one has to pay for a cheap 5G is a slow processor. We compared OnePlus Nord with the new version of iPhone SE when it came to the screen. That comparison clearly fell to OnePlus Nord’s advantage. But when it comes to processing power and performance, it’s Apple’s mid-range mobile that wins the race. Superior.
In benchmark tests, OnePlus Nord performs on a par with OnePlus 6T (ie OnePlus’ own top model from 2018) and last year’s Huawei P30, which was already at that time closer to the middle class than among the market’s most expensive mobiles. In other words, it is wise not to raise expectations too high when it comes to OnePlus Nord’s hardware performance.
Of course, the phone generally runs quite smoothly, but large apps and games – such as the aforementioned Asphalt 9 – occasionally pull too much and the phone gets terribly hot.
Maybe it’s also to save energy that OnePlus has moved away from its own OxygenOS apps to calls, messages and contacts to instead focus on Google’s own apps from the pure Android version. It works well in everyday life, but makes OnePlus Nord more anonymous and a little less OnePlus-like than you could wish for. At least we hope that OnePlus’ own apps will return in the company’s next mobile phone.
Another point where OnePlus has had to save to make OnePlus Nord so affordable is the wireless charging, which otherwise saw the light of day with the OnePlus 8 Pro. However, you still get 30 W fast charging via Warp Charge 30T, where you can charge the 4115 mAh battery from 0% to 70% in half an hour, so the lack of wireless charging is to live with. Not least because the battery also lasts quite a long time on a charge.
To begin with, we asked if OnePlus tried to sell us an air castle with the new OnePlus Nord. The unequivocal answer must be, “no, but…”
For OnePlus Nord is definitely worth the money. It is an excellent mobile in the middle class – perhaps among the best – not least because of the excellent screen, 5G and a better camera than many other mobiles in the same price range can offer. But even though OnePlus has done its best to make OnePlus Nord something special, all the big arm movements can not hide the semi-boring and somewhat anonymous design, and the fact that OnePlus has removed several of its own central apps, where the special OxygenOS- the user interface has otherwise always been one of the Chinese manufacturer’s most important characteristics.
When we take the price into account, the performance is also approved, but at that very point, OnePlus must probably improve a possible successor to OnePlus Nord a little before we start handing out top marks and our special recommendations. It ends with a weak five for OnePlus Nord, which is certainly more than just bragging, but which still promises a little more than it can hold.