OnePlus Nord 2 5G hands-on: Is it a true flagship?


The OnePlus Nord 2 was officially released this Thursday, July 22, as the new flagship from the affordable segment of OnePlus’ catalog. This smartphone was presented as a true flagship with a “regular” price tag of €399 — something around $470. This rather audacious device looks set to cause some ripples in the industry, and I would like to provide you with my opinion in this OnePlus Nord 2 hands-on story.
Good

  • 90 Hz AMOLED screen
  • High-end MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI SoC
  • Warp Charge 65T
  • 50 MP main camera lens
  • 2 Android versions and 3 years of security updates
  • Dual stereo speakers
Bad

  • Small 4500 mAh battery
  • No dedicated telephoto lens
  • No wireless charging supported
  • No IP certification
  • No microSD slot or 3.5 mm jack

My brief impression of the OnePlus Nord 2

The OnePlus Nord 2 will go on sale on July 28, 2021, where it will arrive in two configurations: 8 GB RAM/128 GB and 12 GB RAM/256 GB with a price tag of €399/$470 and €499/$590, respectively. This smartphone will come in two colors – Blue Haze and Grey Sierra.

The OnePlus Nord 2 is clearly the flagship model of the Nord catalog, being a more premium handset than the recently released OnePlus Nord CE. Hardware specifications include a 90Hz AMOLED display, a MediaTek 1200-AI SoC, a triple 50 MP camera module, and a 4,500 mAh battery that supports Warp Charge 65T for fast charging.

Before I begin, I would like to remind you that this is a hands-on review and my opinion is not final in any way. I will refrain from drawing any concrete conclusion since I have not used the smartphone for a reasonable period of time yet. This article will be updated next week once the entire review protocol is complete.

As for my initial impressions, they are rather positive. OnePlus’ promise with the OnePlus Nord 2 is to go beyond that of the original OnePlus Nord. The idea is no longer confined to simply offering a mid-range smartphone with a bit of premium hardware here and there. No, OnePlus clearly positioned its OnePlus Nord 2 as a flagship handset.

oneplus nord 2 hands on slogan
Everything you could ask for / © OnePlus

Given its starting price of €399/$470 which is the same price as the first OnePlus Nord when it was first launched last year, you would inevitably suspect that the manufacturer had to make some sacrifices. I can tell you right away that this is indeed the case with the Nord 2. However, I find those compromises to be more acceptable in the Nord 2 compared to its predecessor – for now, at least. 

Design and screen: Colorful with a 90 Hz refresh rate

The OnePlus Nord 2 sports a colorful glass design and a 6.43-inch Fluid AMOLED display and a 90Hz refresh rate.

NextPit OnePlus Nord 2 test
The Blue Haze color of the OnePlus Nord 2 / © NextPit

The OnePlus Nord 2 comes in two colors for those who reside in Europe: Blue Haze and Grey Sierra. The grey version is supposed to be inspired by a “luxurious sports car chassis” with a matte finish that really appeals to me. For my hands-on, OnePlus loaned me the Blue Haze version which features a type of turquoise green that looks like the seminal OnePlus Nord, albeit in a little lighter and slightly more glossy finish complete with a porcelain effect.

NextPit OnePlus Nord 2
The OnePlus Nord 2 Blue Haze features a glossy glass finish that’s supposed to resist fingerprints / © NextPit

Looking at the back, the triple camera module is vertically arranged on a rectangular island which does not protrude too much. The Alert Slider button and the power button are located on the right side as usual, with the volume controls on the left. Gorilla Glass 5 graces both the front and back, with the frame of the OnePlus Nord 2 being made of plastic.

NextPit OnePlus Nord 2 side
The Alert Slider button is there / © NextPit

The OnePlus Nord 2 features a dual SIM carriage but does not support microSD memory cards for further expansion. It also lacks IP certification (which was missing in its predecessor as well) and a 3.5mm jack. The rounded corners provide it with a good grip.

As for the screen, the OnePlus Nord 2 boasts of a 6.43-inch Fluid AMOLED panel with a resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels, or 410 ppi at a 20:9 ratio. The refresh rate remains at 90 Hz (this is the second compromise). The display of the OnePlus Nord 2 was supposed to benefit from the AI features of the MediaTek Dimensity 1200 chip, just so that you are aware.

NextPit OnePlus Nord 2 usb
The OnePlus Nord 2 has a plastic frame / © NextPit

The average brightness level of 430 nits should be all right with most users, offering a maximum brightness of 600 nits that is average at best. OnePlus mentioned the AI Color Boost feature that claims to improve the colorimetry of images as well as AI Resolution Boost that upscales selected video content to HD (this feature is compatible with YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram).

NextPit OnePlus Nord 2 front camera
The OnePlus Nord 2 has a flat, non-curved 90 Hz Amoled screen / © NextPit

User Interface: OxygenOS 11.3 and its “high performance” mode

The OnePlus Nord 2 runs on the latest OnePlus OxygensOS 11.3 skin that is based on Android 11.

This is the first smartphone to run on the common codebase between ColorsOS and OxygenOS ever since the announcement of their “merger” in early July. On the surface, there is not much in terms of features or visual identity, at least for now. This merger should allow the manufacturer to facilitate better and more frequent software maintenance of its devices, among other benefits.

In terms of software support, OnePlus promises two major versions of Android and three years of security updates, although they did not disclose the security update frequency. 

oneplus nord 2 review ui
OxygenOS and ColorOS are now based on the same codebase / © NextPit

As for the rest of the mobile operating system, it should not take too long for you to settle comfortably if you are used to OxygenOS 11. I was surprised to see how much bloatware has been reduced with the Nord 2. Apart from the Google suite of apps, only Netflix came pre-installed on my review unit after setting it up.

Mucking around with the settings, I found a new option in the battery utility that I do not have on my OnePlus 9 which is powered by OxygenOS 11.2.7.7. This option is known as “High performance”. I do wonder whether this option has anything to do with OnePlus’ recent setbacks concerning performance throttling on the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro. I’ve asked OnePlus about this and am still waiting for their response.

oneplus nord 2 oxygenos 11 3 high performance mode
OxygenOS 11 offers a new “high performance” mode / © NextPit

Performance: MediaTek and the power of AI

The OnePlus Nord 2 features a MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI SoC, a high-end chip and the first SoC in a OnePlus smartphone that is not from Qualcomm.

NextPit OnePlus Nord 2 display
The OnePlus Nord 2’s MediaTek SoC is a high-end chip / © NextPit

The Dimensity 1200 is indeed the flagship chip rolled out by MediaTek in 2021, manufactured using the 6 nm process with a 1+3+4 CPU configuration that is built around a Cortex-A78 core with a clock speed of 3 GHz, a trio of Cortex-A78 cores clocked at 2.6 GHz, and four Cortex-A55 cores with a clock speed of 2 GHz.

The “AI” suffix refers to the Dimensity Open Resource Architecture program, which allows some manufacturers to directly customize MediaTek chips so that they can be calibrated according to their needs. Hence, the specific photo and video features that were mentioned above.

OnePlus Nord 2

Graphics benchmark
Benchmark Score
Geekbench single/multi 811/2690
3DMark Wild Life 4175
3DMark Wild Life Stress Test – best/worst loop 4181/2515
3DMark Wild Life Stress Test – best/worst loop – high performance mode 4308/2532
PassMark Disk/Memory 69.304/31.648

In terms of performance, these AI improvements from the MediaTek chip will supposedly allow more efficient network usage in reducing latency in (online) games as well as offer a reworked GPU scheduling algorithm that further reduces power consumption by up to 10%.

I’ll have to do more benchmarking and use the smartphone longer in real-world scenarios in order to tell you more about its performance. In any case, I only noticed a small improvement in the benchmark results once the famous “high performance” mode was activated.

oneplus nord 2 review wild life stress test
The stability rate in intense gaming use (simulated) is far from optimal, but that is to be expected / © NextPit

Once again, we’ll have to wait for the full review before I can make a definitive statement about its performance. I had no problem running Call of Duty Mobile smoothly with the graphics cranked all the way to maximum level just in case you were wondering.

Photo: 50 MP triple camera module worked just fine

The OnePlus Nord 2 packs a triple camera module that is powered by a Sony IMX766 ultra-wide angle main sensor, which is the same one found in the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro.

NextPit OnePlus Nord 2 camera
The triple photo module of the OnePlus Nord 2 spares us the anecdotal macro and depth sensors / © NextPit

OnePlus Nord 2

Camera specifications
Component Specs
Sony IMX766 50 MP ultra-wide angle main lens f/1.88 aperture, 119.7° FOV, OIS
8 MP ultra-wide angle lens f/2.25 aperture, 119.7° FOV, EIS
2 MP monochrome sensor f/2.5 aperture
Sony IMX615 32 MP selfie lens f/2.45 aperture, EIS

Once again, I’m not going to make any final judgements as I haven’t taken enough shots or have been able to examine the results in greater detail. However, I can only welcome the ditching of the 2 MP macro and depth lenses, although the 2 MP monochrome sensor was retained.

50 MP main lens and 8 MP ultra wide-angle

ALT-Tag Photo 1Main lens 1x ALT-Tag Photo 28 MP Ultra Wide-Angle Lens

During the day, the ultra-wide-angle lens captures some pretty decent shots. The sharpness is there, allowing us to achieve a good degree of details.

50 MP Main Lens and 8 MP Ultra Wide-Angle

ALT-Tag Photo 1Main lens 1x ALT-Tag Photo 28 MP Ultra Wide-Angle Lens

50MP Main Lens and 8MP Ultra Wide-Angle Lens

ALT-Tag Photo 1Main Lens 1x ALT-Tag Photo 28 MP Ultra Wide-Angle Lens

The AI Photo Enhancement feature is supposed to operate like a scene detector that we’ve seen in other manufacturers. Specifically, the OnePlus Nord 2 is supposed to be able to recognize up to 22 different scenes before making automatic adjustments on the image processing side for a better result.

I will obviously have to test this option out more, but I feel that it saturated the colors a wee bit too much, harming the dynamic range and overexposing the scene in the process. But I only have one example below, hence my assessment might be too premature at this point in time.

50 MP main lens with and without AI

ALT-Tag Photo 1Main lens 1x with AI off ALT-Tag Photo 2Main lens 1x with AI enabled

In terms of zoom, the OnePlus Nord 2 doesn’t offer a dedicated telephoto lens (which is another compromise) and its main lens is capable of up to 10x digital zoom. As long as you remain close enough to the subject, results captured at 10x are still usable, with the image looking sharp at 2x or even 5x albeit with an acceptable degree when it comes to detail loss.

Main lens 50 MP

Main Lens 50 MP

As soon as you move away from a given subject, it’s best to stick with the 2x magnification and not try too hard to go beyond that. It’s ultimately a pretty similar experience as with the OnePlus 9 considering how both smartphones feature the same primary lens.

50 MP main lens

Main Lens 50 MP

As for selfies and night mode results, I’m saving these for my full review. I would just like to point out that the OnePlus Nord 2 also debuts with a new video feature known as Dual View, where it allows you to record using the rear and front camera modules simultaneously.

Battery life: Warp Charge 65T

The OnePlus Nord 2 comes with a 4,500mAh dual-cell battery that supports
Warp Charge 65T (65 Watts) fast charging.

Obviously, I am not able to say much about the battery life of the OnePlus Nord 2 right now. I do, however, regret the redesign of the battery utility. In particular, I find that the battery usage history is less accurate compared to my previous experience.

Instead of having a graphical representation in the form of a curve to depict your battery use over the past 24 hours, you will be served statistics in terms of percentage across the past three days. I preferred the previous way of depicting my battery usage as it allowed easy reference at a glance.

As for the Warp Charge 65T, it’s still as efficient as ever and enjoyable to use on a daily basis. The promise of charging the OnePlus Nord 2 from empty to full in just 30 minutes holds true once again. However, the smartphone does not offer wireless charging (yet another compromise).

NextPit OnePlus 8T charger
The Warp Charge 65T was first introduced on the OnePlus 8T last year / © NextPit

OnePlus Nord 2: Technical specifications

OnePlus Nord 2

Technical data
Components Specifications
Processor
  • MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI
  • Octa-core up to 3 GHz
  • 6 nm
  • Mali G-77 GPU
Memory
  • 8/128 GB; 12/256 GB
  • UFS 3.1 / LPDDR4X
Expandable storage? No
Screen
  • 6.43-inch AMOLED
  • Full HD+ 1080 x 2400
  • 90 Hz refresh rate
Camera module
  • 50 MP main lens: f/1.88 aperture, PDAF, OIS
  • 8 MP ultra-wide angle: f/2.25 aperture, 119.7° FOV
  • 2 MP monochrome: f/2.5 aperture
  • 32 MP selfie: f/2.45 aperture, EIS
Video
  • 1080p at 30/60 FPS
  • 720p at 30/60 FPS
Battery
  • 4,500 mAh
  • 65W fast charge
OS OxygenOS 11 based on Android 11
Audio

Dual stereo speakers

Connectivity Wi-Fi 6 / Bluetooth 5.2 / LTE / 5G / NFC
IP certification None
Dimensions & Weight
  • 158.9 x 73.2 x 8.25 mm
  • 189 g
Colors Blue Haze / Grey Sierra
Price & Availability €399 / €499 from 28 July 2021 — Around $470 / $580

Conclusion: My initial impressions

This is not my final verdict of the OnePlus Nord 2. However, as I bring this hands-on to a conclusion, I would say that the promise of the OnePlus Nord 2 as a full-fledged flagship is a very bold marketing slogan.

I’m not in a position to say whether this handset is a winner or not right now. I’ve intentionally highlighted every major compromise made in the hardware specifications to make it clear that there were necessary sacrifices made to achieve this price (at the expense of making nearly zero profit, of course).

In any case, I’m a fan of the OnePlus Nord 2 so far, and I cannot wait to check out its performance in everyday use. I can already say that the few concessions made by OnePlus seem to be more well-thought-out compared to the original OnePlus Nord, especially where the camera is concerned.

In any case, I’ll return next week with my full review and final verdict about the OnePlus Nord 2.



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