The OnePlus Nord marked the brand’s return to the entry-level market in 2020. This year, the smartphone is entitled to a new version, called OnePlus Nord CE 5G. It seeks to establish itself in the ultra-competitive field of terminals less than 400 euros thanks to its 5G compatibility as well as its AMOLED screen. Good pick ?
In recent years, OnePlus has increasingly relied on premium smartphones. However, the manufacturer returned to its first love in 2020 with the North, a terminal with an attractive technical sheet at less than 500 euros. While the Series 9 was unveiled at the start of the year, OnePlus is making a move to the mid-range segment with a new mobile labeled Nord: the North CE 5G.
The Nord CE (for Core Edition) is intended to be even more affordable than the very first model, but more upscale than the N10. It is therefore not a successor to the North, which could arrive soon, but a new version which complements an already installed range. It’s sold between 300 and 400 euros, price segment not yet occupied by the manufacturer.
It remains to be seen how this Nord CE 5G stands out from the competition. More so, is it just a good phone? This is what we will determine in this test.
Pricing and availability
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G has been sold since June 14, 2021 on the brand’s official website as well as in Orange stores.
It is marketed in three versions. The first has 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of memory and is displayed at 299 euros. The second is equipped with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of memory and is sold for 349 euros. The last, the “ultimate” version with 12 GB of RAM and 256 GB of memory, is for its part at 399 euros. The smartphone is available in two colors: black and turquoise blue.
An engaging technical sheet for the price
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G is not a thunderbolt, far from it, but it brings an attractive technical sheet for a device in its range. We note the presence of an AMOLED screen with a refresh rate of 90 Hz, which is appreciable, as well as a Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor, modest, but which has the distinction of being 5G compatible. It should also be noted that a fingerprint sensor has made a place for itself under the slab, something rare at this price.
|OnePlus Nord CE 5G|
2400 x 1080 pixels
|BONE||Android 11 + OxygenOS 11|
|Selfie sensor||32 MP|
|Biometrics||Footprint scanner under the screen|
For the photo, OnePlus did not work with Hasselblad as for the 9 series (this collaboration is limited to high-end models), but still offers three sensors, including a main 64 megapixel. Finally, the 4,500 mAh battery with 30 Watts fast charging promises a lot. It remains to be seen how the terminal fares in everyday life.
Read also – Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro test: the new benchmark for mid-range smartphones
On paper, the smartphone therefore seems worse than the Redmi Note 10 Pro, equipped with a 120 Hz screen and an extremely powerful photo module while it is sold at 299 euros. However, OnePlus relies on two strengths in particular to convince: the presence of 5G as well as its know-how in terms of design and software overlay.
A successful design that does not change much
OnePlus hasn’t changed its formula at all for the OnePlus Nord CE 5G, which looks like the classic OnePlus Nord. First thing we notice: the North CE is very pleasant in the hand. Only 170 grams, it has an extremely well balanced mass. Add to that a thinness of 7.9 mm which contributes to this comfort. In everyday life, it is therefore a real pleasure to handle it. The manufacturer has always been able to do it at this level, and this product is no exception.
We said it, the Nord CE is available in two colors: black and turquoise blue. This latest version, which we are testing today, features an imitation metal plastic shell with a matte finish. In addition to not being prone to nasty fingerprints, it offers beautiful reflections on its slightly sloping edges. In the light, the turquoise blue changes to purple. Very pretty.
For the rest, we are in classic from classic. The photo module which consists of three vertical sensors always sits at the top left while the brand’s logo appears in the middle of the hood. It is indeed a northern clone. The module sticks out a few inches, which does not make the smartphone stable when placed on its back. A flaw that we often see and which is not really disabling on a daily basis. A soft plastic shell is provided in the case if you want to protect your property. Other suitable hulls are also available on the manufacturer’s website, but are chargeable.
The slices, on the other hand, are also made of plastic. We find the placement of the buttons specific to OnePlus, that is to say the power button on the right of the screen as well as those dedicated to the volume on the left. Unlike other terminals of the brand, the Nord CE does not have the little sliding button that allows you to quickly switch to vibrator or silent. This absence was justified to us by the smoothness of the telephone (even if between us, there was plenty of room to put it). It is especially annoying. Oxygen OS, the manufacturer’s overlay, does not seem to have been designed for cases where this wheel does not exist. Thus, to set the smartphone to silent or vibrate, you have to tamper with the volume mixer after pressing one of the keys to increase or decrease the sound. Quick handling when you’re used to it, but tedious.
We could also blame overly sensitive volume buttons. While grabbing his North CE with both hands, it is not uncommon to press on it, as well as on the one dedicated to food, which causes him to take an unwanted screenshot. Painful, especially since it does not happen on other models of the brand. We notice the USB Type-C port on the lower edge of the mobile, but also a Jack port, always welcome on a product of this range.
Finally, the screen plate is flat, just like on the first North. If the screen / front ratio is high, at more than 90%, there are still quite thick and unsightly black edges. The frontal AFN, unique unlike the North, is materialized in the form of a punch at the top left. The fingerprint sensor is him directly included under the slab. Like the OnePlus 9, it is placed very low, which can confuse the first few days of use. Other than that, it works perfectly and can pair with Android facial recognition.
Ultimately, the Nord CE does not really stand out from the previous products in the range. OnePlus always offers a neat visual, here reinforced by a turquoise shell of the most beautiful effect and an excellent grip. However, we regret some very painful little things, such as the lack of a sliding button or the annoying tendency to take screenshots with each manipulation.
A well-calibrated AMOLED screen
The OnePlus Nord CE has the same panel as the classic Nord. Here we have a 6.4-inch AMOLED screen with a definition of 2400 x 1080 pixels (20: 9 ratio) as well as a refresh rate of 90 Hz. If we are deprived of 120 Hz, it should still be noted that a rate of 90Hz is still pleasing to the eye and provides a certain fluidity, therefore greater comfort. In the menus, OnePlus of course offers to lower the refresh rate to 60 Hz, but also two predefined color profiles (Vivid and Natural) and a customizable mode.
Of course, we ran the screen under the lens of our probe and it turns out OnePlus did a good job. AMOLED requires, we have infinite contrast. The blacks are therefore deep and the whites are brilliant. In Vivid mode, the colors are logically saturated to flatter the retina. The average delta E here is 3.8 (below 3, the colors displayed are very faithful to the original ones) and the temperature a little high, at 7030 K, ie well above the 6500K of the video standard. . The screen therefore looks blue on a white display. Finally, we note a maximum brightness at 490 cd / m², which is a bit tight on a smartphone. It will therefore be difficult to read on a bright day.
The natural mode looks duller in comparison, which is to be expected. It is also fairer. The temperature here is at 6700K while the Delta E is 1.5 which is great. It is this mode that you should choose to admire your photos or just have a natural image. For its part, the brightness is similar. In short, we have here a well calibrated screen that keeps its promises. All is not perfect, we would have liked a higher brightness, but for a terminal between 300 and 400 euros, it is excellent.
For the audio part, on the other hand … that’s not really it. The Nord CE only has one speaker located on its lower edge. If it is rather well placed (towards the angle), you will still have to be careful not to obstruct it with your hand otherwise you will completely block the sound outlet. The sound, in fact, is worthy of an 80s FM radio. The power is certainly exemplary, but the distortion is felt when the volume is over 70%. Voice timbres are difficult to recognize and listening to music … at your own risk. We must add to this a smartphone that vibrates between the fingers at high volume, which is unpleasant. A failure.
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G is equipped a Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor. The smartphone also offers several configurations, as we have said, with 6, 8 or 12 GB of RAM. A modest technical sheet which, however, has the merit of being compatible with the 5G network, which gives it an advantage over the Redmi Note 10 Pro, the best smartphone in this price segment, which does not have one.
Generally, Qualcomm’s SoC delivers expected performance. Here we are facing a mid-range that does not sparkle, but still shows itself to be decent enough to offer a smooth experience. During our week of testing, we did not experience any slowdowns or crashes. All the applications are functioning correctly and we had no particular concerns to report. The SoC perfectly fulfills its contract for so-called “classic” use of a smartphone. However, it is not certain that this will be the case in a year or two.
Graphics level, the SoC is served by an Adreno 619 GPU which allows you to play the big games of the moment, but by agreeing to make concessions. For example, Genshin Impact, the most greedy title on the PlayStore, runs well at 30 frames per second with graphics set to “low”. In “average”, we begin to feel drops in framerate during fights and a very present heating (but well distributed). In short, not really a phone for gamers.
Oxygen OS, an overlay always on top
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G is equipped with Android 11 with the in-house Oxygen OS 11 overlay. If you read us regularly, you know we think that this is the best builder overlay on the market for Android. We find all the qualities of Oxygen OS in the North CE.
It is always ultra-customizable and allows you to change the layout, themes, animation of the fingerprint sensor or even the main color of the menus as desired. We have nothing to reproach him about that. In addition, it is easy to use with one hand, the main actions being placed automatically at the bottom right of the screen in proprietary applications.
AMOLED also allows for the presence of an always-on-display mode, which is still appreciable. Here again, OnePlus allows the user to choose between several modes (canva, time, summary of the day).
Finally, it should be noted that OnePlus listens to its community a lot. Thus, we can be sure that if a problem or a browsing concern is reported by users, it will be corrected in the next version. In short, an excellent overlay. Moreover, it is a real asset for this Nord CE, a strong point that sets it apart from the competition.
A recessed photo part
With its Series 9, OnePlus has announced its new partnership with optical giant Hasselblad. This collaboration does not however take place on the Nord CE, since it is reserved only for the high-end, that is to say the OnePlus 9 and the OnePlus 9 Pro. So we have a “classic” photo part. OnePlus has never shone in this segment, and that’s not going to change with the North CE. The module includes three sensors: a main 64 megapixel (which is more than the classic Nord), an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle sensor and a 2-megapixel monochrome sensor.
On the whole, the pictures are not catastrophic, but they lack precision, especially in the contrasts. Bright photos don’t look natural, and some in a low-light environment (here in the church, normally very dark) have their brightness artificially adjusted.
The ultra-wide-angle sensor makes a show of presence, the shots obtained are not really good. The terminal has an X10 digital zoom, which gives unusable results (which is not a surprise).
The night mode is rather effective, even if once again, we feel an artificial brightness that comes to the rescue of the end result.
In macro, The OnePlus Nord CE is doing surprisingly well, with decent shots as well as a very responsive focus. It is not difficult to take moving subjects, such as children or animals.
Ultimately, OnePlus does not claim to deliver a photophone with this Nord CE. We have a module barely average that will satisfy the less demanding users. This will be enough to put his meal or travel photos on Instagram.
Regarding the video part, the Nord CE 5G can film up to 4K and 30 frames per second. It is also possible to lock in 1080p at 60 frames per second. That’s good, but classic.
Good battery life, but not so fast fast charging
The OnePlus Nord CE has a 4,500mAh battery, which on paper is fine for the setup and this type of screen. We can also count on an Oxygen OS which is always well optimized. In fact, we have on average held a day and a half with a charge (screen set to 90 Hz, always-on-display mode activated), and this in so-called “normal” use, that is to say a little game, a little social networks, photos, calls, etc. . We are therefore in the current market average. By setting the screen to 60Hz, we were able to last two full days, which is good.
OnePlus provides a 30 Watt charger in the Nord CE box with the promise of super fast charging. She’s not that fast actually. During our tests, we measured recharge from 2 to 100% in one hour and sixteen minutes, which is a bit disappointing. Note that the charging slows down a lot in the last 30 percent and we can recharge the North CE from 0 to 70% in just under 40 minutes. Useful if you run out of battery and have little time in front of you.