In 2020, OnePlus returned to its bases with the North. Smartphone thought of as a “flagship killer”, it offered an experience worthy of a high-end product to its users, for less than 500 euros. In 2021, the brand is doing it again with the Nord 2. The latter adopts the same philosophy as its predecessor and remains in its right lineage. But is it still so convincing?
The aptly named Nord 2 uses the formula of the first terminal released last year. The idea of OnePlus is to go back to its first love, that is to say to release phones that touch high-end devices while offering an attractive price. This new model improves on the first in many ways, but also recycles what made it successful.
In terms of novelties, we have some interesting things: a brand new photo module, the fast charging of 65 Watts, but also and above all a new SoC: the MediaTek Dimensity 1200 AI. This processor, designed by MediaTek in partnership with OnePlus, really wants to be the strong point of the smartphone. Theoretically as powerful as a Snapdragon 865, it has to be up to the task. Note that the Nord 2 is also the brand’s first terminal not to be equipped with a Qualcomm SoC.
Discreet novelties that should appeal to technophiles. But will it be enough to attract a wider audience in an increasingly competitive market in this price segment? Wouldn’t OnePlus rest a little too much on its laurels with this Nord 2? This is what we’ll see right away.
Our complete test of the OnePlus Nord 2 in video
Pricing and availability
The OnePlus Nord 2 relies on its price to seduce. It is sold in two versions. The first has 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage and is marketed at 399 euros. The second, with 12 GB of RAM and 256 GB of memory, is logically more expensive, displayed at 499 euros. Both products are available from July 28, 2021.
A very wise technical sheet
The OnePlus Nord 2 does not sign a revolution compared to the first North of the name. We said it, the main change is in its processor Dimensity 1200 AI from MediaTek. For the rest, we notice a better photo module (with a 50 megapixel main sensor) as well as a fast charge of 65 Watts. The battery has also been improved, since it is 4500 mAh.
2400 x 1080 pixels
20: 9 ratio
Gorilla Glass 5
|Chipset||MediaTek Dimensity 1200 AI|
|BONE||Android 11 + OxygenOS 11.3|
|Main sensor||Main: 50 Mp
Ultra wide angle: 8 Mp
Monochrome: 2 Mp
|Selfie sensor||32 MP|
|Biometrics||Footprint scanner under the screen|
However, there are still some weaknesses. The screen, for example, is certainly an AMOLED, but has a 90Hz refresh rate. This is a bit fair, especially when you see the competition offering 120 Hz in the same price segment. This is the case of Samsung with its A52 5G or of Xiaomi with its Redmi Note 10 Pro. The photo part, which is not designed in partnership with Hasselblad as on the 9 (this collaboration is reserved for the high-end) can also be dubious. We indeed know the weakness of the manufacturer on this point. But overall, we have a nice spec sheet for the price. If all is not perfect, you will theoretically get your money’s worth. It remains to be seen how the Nord 2 fares in practice.
A very successful design
Take a OnePlus Nord and mix it with a OnePlus 9. You get a OnePlus Nord 2. With this terminal, the brand wanted resume his recipe for success. We therefore have a smartphone that is visually very close to its predecessor, especially with this shiny hardened glass shell in an intense turquoise blue (the Nord 2 is also available in gray). We notice that the photo module is strongly inspired by that of the series 9. We have the two huge sensors (which stand out a few millimeters) included in a brushed aluminum rectangle.
In hand we always have such a pleasant smartphone to handle. Weighing a good 190 grams on the scale, it still has a balanced weight. We will also note a thickness of 8.9 mm, it is not very thin, but in the average of current smartphones. It should also be noted that OnePlus provides a rubber shell to protect your property. It doesn’t look great, but gets the job done. Other, prettier ones can be found on the manufacturer’s official website.
On the shiny plastic slices, there are several gimmicks of the brand. The first is the placement of the buttons. We have the volume keys on the left as well as the dedicated ignition keys on the right. Usually on Android smartphones, all buttons are placed on the right. If you are not from a OnePlus terminal, then it will take some getting used to.
On the right, we also find the traditional button dedicated to silent mode which we had missed so much on the OnePlus Nord CE 5G. This notched key can be set in three different positions (silent, vibrating and ringing) and it is possible to change the mode even when your terminal is locked. Very practical.
No 3.5mm jack port on the Nord 2 (as on 1), OnePlus focusing on wireless, especially with its Buds Z. No microSD port either, only two SIM slots. You will have to do with it and choose the model best suited to your storage needs.
Finally, the screen part takes that of the OnePlus Nord first of the name. We always have a 6.44-inch flat panel with a screen / front ratio of 90%, despite the presence of clearly visible and unsightly edges. The front camera (32 megapixels) takes the form of a punch at the top left of the display.
Finally, the Nord 2 embarks a fingerprint sensor directly under the panel. This is not the first terminal in this segment to offer one, but its presence is still appreciable, giving a little “premium” to the product. We will note all the same that as on the 9 and the 9 Pro, it is placed a little low. In the first days, we will therefore have the reflex to put our finger higher, missing the sensor. But once you get used to it, it is formidably effective. We haven’t seen a single miss in a week of testing.
In fact, the OnePlus Nord 2 is therefore a real success. It’s no surprise there, since the brand has always been very effective in design. We particularly appreciate the attention to all details, which gives the Nord 2 the appearance of a premium smartphone. Special mention to the color, really pleasing to the eye.
Read also – OnePlus 9 Pro test: an excellent smartphone weighed down by a nasty flaw
A well calibrated screen, but which is satisfied with 90 Hz
The Nord 2 has exactly the same slab as the first Nord of the name. OnePlus has in fact chosen not to improve this aspect, already very successful, to focus on something else. A bit of a shame, given that the competition has offered better since then. We think in particular of Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 10 Pro, very good for its price, or the Galaxy A52 5G.
The Nord 2 is therefore equipped with a 6.44-inch AMOLED panel with a definition of 2400 x 1080 pixels (20: 9 ratio). Its refresh rate is 90Hz, which seems a bit light compared to the 120 Hz of its competitors. In fact, 90 Hz already provides greater image fluidity than 60 Hz and therefore greater visual comfort. If you wish, you can switch back to 60 Hz in the options in order to gain autonomy.
We of course analyzed the screen using our probe and the results are correct, but deserve some adjustment. Let’s start with the maximum brightness, which is good at 500 cd / m². This means that in direct sunlight, your screen will remain readable. A good thing. AMOLED requires, the contrast of the panel is infinite. We have deep blacks and crisp whites. Great for gaming or movie watching.
As far as the color temperature is concerned, the results are a little less brilliant. The screen displays a score of 7300K, well above the 6500K of the video standard. This means it looks good blue on a white display. However, OnePlus allows you to set the temperature in the options to adjust it. By lowering it a little, we find a more balanced screen. Unless you have a catheter, it will have to be done with the naked eye.
Finally, with regard to the respect of colors, OnePlus is at the rendezvous. The smartphone has two preset profiles, Vivid and Soft. Vivid mode “explodes” the colors and displays an average Dela E of 3.6 (below 3 being impeccable), which is already good. Here, it is the reds, yellows and greens that tend towards fluorescent. Soft mode displays an average Delta E of 3, which is excellent and offers great respect for the original colors. Apart from that, all the results obtained are similar between the two modes. In the facts, we therefore have a well calibrated slab. We regret the high color temperature a little, but it is possible to resolve this problem in the options. It’s up to you to find the right setting if that bothers you.
Regarding the sound, the picture is less flattering. Despite the presence of two speakers, the stereo is almost absent on the Nord 2. If you put your palm on the one on the lower edge (well placed, however), you will quickly realize that the other, located above the screen, just acts of presence, the sound being well muffled. Regarding the audio itself, there is an unpleasant sound to the ear, clearly lacking in low midrange. The result is nasal voices and music worthy of an old transistor. The Nord 2 still has some power, but marred by very high distortion. On this point, the manufacturer therefore misses his subject.
The most powerful smartphone under 500 euros in its segment
The big novelty of the North 2, this is its MediaTek Dimensity 1200 AI processor. For the first time in its history, the manufacturer is therefore infidelities to Qualcomm. Here, OnePlus has taken the Dimensity 1200 from the Chinese manufacturer to modify it to its liking. He claims to have used algorithms to make the experience smoother and improve certain aspects, especially in the photo and video. No need to go four ways: the experience is successful. Note that the Nord 2 is available in two versions: one with 8 GB of RAM and one with 12 GB of RAM. The model loaned to us has 12 GB of RAM.
OnePlus promised us a processor as powerful as a Snapdragon 865. In view of the benchmarks carried out by us, we see that the promise has been kept. We therefore have a powerful smartphone, fluid in all circumstances. It can run all the big games in the Play Store. For example, Genshin Impact runs flawlessly at 60 frames per second on “average”. Note that after about twenty minutes, the processor begins to heat up under the fingers, which makes handling unpleasant, while causing a few jerks not very bad, but present, which disappear definitively by making some concessions at the level shadows. With the graphics set to ultra, this observation is immediate.
The work of OnePlus on the Dimensity 1200 is above all about the image. Thus, the manufacturer mentions a Color Boost, which allows the colors to be adjusted in real time according to use. A feature so discreet that we didn’t even notice it (it’s not for lack of trying) and looks like more of a marketing argument than anything else.
The other improvements concern the video and the photo. In video, HDR and light are automatically adjusted while shooting, which is convenient and visible. In photography, the SoC seeks to improve the rendering of pictures and to beautify faces in real time. The smartphone is also able to recognize certain scenes (22 in total) in front of the sensor in order to adapt the brightness. In short, small improvements that we have already seen elsewhere and which do not upset the experience, but on which the manufacturer relies a lot. What should be remembered above all from this Nord 2 is its power which allows it to familiarize with high-end smartphones on the market.
One final important point to note: the Nord 2 is 5G compatible. It’s not necessarily useful for everyone today, but it’s always good to be prepared just in case.
Oxygen OS, an overlay that is still just as well thought out
The OnePlus Nord 2 obviously runs on Android 11. As always, this is the Oxygen OS overlay which enriches the user experience. We hear a lot about its replacement by Color OS, but OnePlus assures that Europe is not affected. At least not for now.
For North 2, Oxygen OS is upgraded to version 11.3, mainly to make improvements related to the processor (in the photo, in particular). However, the manufacturer has introduced some interesting new features in terms of customization, with a new always-on-display mode, additional animations for unlocking fingerprints as well as a reorganization of some menus.
Modifications that take detail, but which enrich an already well-designed overlay. If you are used to reading our tests, you know which we greatly appreciate Oxygen OS. We even consider it to be the best software overlay on the market. The Nord 2 is no exception to the rule and therefore offers a very enjoyable experience. A safe bet, always.
A perfectible, but correct photo part
The photo module is part of one of the big improvements of the Nord 2 over the first. Small clarification, first. OnePlus has signed a partnership with the optical giant Hasselblad for its photo modules. This collaboration only concerns the high-end, namely the Series 9 (for now). The photo part of the OnePlus Nord 2 is therefore entirely designed by the manufacturer. Here we have a module with three sensors. The main one is a Sony designed IMX766 and 50 megapixel (f / 1.8). It comes with an 8-megapixel ultra-wide angle (f / 2.3) as well as the eternal 2-megapixel monochrome sensor (f / 2.4).
Generally, the OnePlus Nord 2 takes good photos with its main sensor. If we note a color management that is not always fair (the software tends to saturate them), we appreciate the good management of the brightness. Note that the IA mode is relatively efficient, allowing you to automatically manage the snapshot for a better rendering possible. The improvements are notably visible on the faces, which it is possible to smooth, or to modify slightly (reduce the nose, the chin ect), and this dynamically. If the Nord 2 suffers when compared to the Redmi Note 10 Pro, which is excellent in this area, it does not fare so badly.
The Nord 2 does well in landscape mode, but also in macro mode. The photos taken up close look very good and provide perfect results for Instagram, for example.
Note that the smartphone has an X10 digital zoom, which is proof of the presence, the pictures obtained being unusable.
Night mode, for its part, is one of the terminal’s weaknesses. The North 2 tends to artificially increase the brightness, which gives strange results. Shots taken without are even better.
Note an ultra-wide-angle sensor that is not really efficient, especially in terms of light management, but which is not catastrophic either.
Photo software is very fluid and responds to the finger and the eye. If the sensor is reactive on stationary subjects, it is however more complicated to take stock of moving models, such as animals or children. In these cases, you will have to be more patient.
On the video side, we have already said that the SoC is fulfilling its contract. To activate automatic HDR management, simply activate the IA button at the top of the display. The Nord 2 is also capable of shooting at 4K and 30 FPS or 1080p and 60 FPS, a good thing.
Good battery life and really fast, quick recharging
The OnePlus Nord 2 has a 4,500 mAh battery, is a notable improvement compared to the first model, which had a 4115 mAh battery on board. During our week of testing, we noticed a battery that held up in so-called classic use (a bit of gaming, a bit of photography, GPS, social networks, web, video). Under these conditions, in 90 Hz mode, we lasted almost two days. The smartphone fell flat in the early evening on the second day. By switching to 60 Hz, it is possible to quietly hold two full days. Good performance which can be explained by a battery of an adequate size, but also by the energy-efficient SoC which manages its autonomy very well. On this point, the North 2 wins its bet.
It also welcomes fast charging at 65 Watts, until then reserved for premium smartphones of the brand. Of course, the special charger is included in the box. During our tests, he impressed us. We have indeed observed a recharge from 1 to 100% in 32 minutes. This is a record on our test panel! A success. Finally, note that the Nord 2 does not have wireless charging.