The OnePlus Nord 2 is a particularly significant new smartphone as it is the first time OnePlus has released a phone without the Qualcomm Snapdragon chip. The Nord 2 uses a customized version of MediaTek’s Dimensity 1200 flagship chip, and it’s arguably the company’s highest-profile partnership to date, at least outside of Asia. While OnePlus will clearly be looking for success, MediaTek will also be watching closely.
Plus, it’s a big moment for the Nord range. The original Nord managed to return OnePlus to its value-based roots, but it lacked recognition. OnePlus recognizes the Nord 2, but strangely, by doing so, it has mistakenly created another OnePlus 9 phone, leading me to question what the Nord range is.
There’s a lot of riding on Nord 2, so how’s it? I spent four days with the phone, which is enough time for a detailed initial evaluation but not enough for a final, in-depth review. I’ll be back on this review after more time with the Nord 2, and so the score given at this point in time depends on how the phone performs.
Let’s talk about the color of our review model. It’s called the Blue Haze, and it’s totally stunning. OnePlus usually gets its colors right, but this is probably the best one yet. The aquamarine color has a glossy finish, but doesn’t attract fingerprints at all, and smudges are disguised very effectively by the Gorilla Glass 5 panel. It keeps looking clean and sharp.
The camera module uses the same shade, but reflects light differently, not being made of glass, and it adds a lot of character to the back of the Nord 2. Glass manages to hide the ugly legal text that is stamped on it. on the back. I think the Nord 2 looks great, and I love how it fits in with the design of the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro, making it feel like part of the family.
Another important family icon is the alert slider on the Nord 2’s side, which lets you quickly switch between silent, vibrate, and ring modes. It’s fast and convenient, and it’s a feature that sets OnePlus apart from other brands. The presence of the slider and the beautiful design make it look and operate like a true OnePlus phone, something that I felt the OnePlus Nord CE did not.
The construction – a fiberglass frame with a “metalized” finish – and the shape is basically the same as the first OnePlus Nord, with a 73mm width and 8.2mm thickness, making the phone easy to handle and use with one hand. It feels solid and substantial, and the modest 189-gram weight makes it pocketable without bothering.
There’s no water-resistance rating, but I’ll attest to the Nord 2’s durability. It’s quite slippery, and on the first day of using it, the phone slipped out of my pocket and fell on the floor slab. It survived with only a minor notch in the upper-right corner of the chassis. Glass rear and screen is fine. I might get lucky, so a case is justified if you have a tendency to leave phones slippery.
I found the Nord a bit faceless at first, but OnePlus has swapped it out for the Nord 2, effectively turning it into the OnePlus 9 Lite. That’s not a bad thing, and in fact, it’s the name that would better fit the Nord 2. Leaving the Nord name on a cheaper model like the Nord CE, which lacks important OnePlus elements, might be a better strategy.
Confusing branding aside, the Nord 2 is well proportioned, well made, and — provided you get one at Blue Haze — an absolute aesthetic too.
It comes complete with a 6.43-inch, 20:9 aspect ratio, Fluid AMOLED screen on the Nord 2, 90Hz refresh rate and 2400 x 1080 resolution. It doesn’t seem to have HDR10+ certification like Nord, but it does have two artificial intelligence (AI) modes called AI Color Boost and AI Resolution Boost. However, these only work with certain apps. Both cooperate with YouTube, but AI Color Boost otherwise only works with MX Player Pro and VLC, while AI Resolution Boost works with Snapchat and Instagram.
The screen of the Nord 2 is lovely, and its similarity to the 9 Pro makes the phone highly desirable.
The screen is brighter and more vibrant than the screen on the Nord CE, and when watching videos, there’s surprisingly little to divide between it and the OnePlus 9 Pro. AI Color Boost boosts saturation, taking it beyond the 9 Pro. Turn it off, and it’s not that attractive. The AI resolution boost is less noticeable because there’s already more YouTube content available than 1080p.
When not watching video, the Nord 2’s screen isn’t as bright as I’d like, but is still readable outside in the sun. Beyond that, the Nord 2’s screen is lovely, and its similarity to the 9 Pro makes the phone highly desirable. Audio comes from stereo speakers that are surprisingly loud but not too sophisticated. I had no desire, and really no need, to take it in excess of about 40%.
OnePlus’s Oxygen OS user interface, version 11.3, is installed and is based on Android 11. It’s pretty much the same as the OnePlus 9 Pro for the most part, but there are some strange differences in the settings. For example, on the OnePlus 9 Pro, you can change the ambient display, icons, and fonts in the Customization menu, while on the Nord 2, you do this under the Personalization menu. Performance so far is great, with smooth scrolling through apps and menus.
My review phone has received a software update since I started using it, and I’m still in the process of assessing the software and its everyday reliability.
Nord CE’s camera was inconsistent, and previously Nord’s cameras suffered from poor performance. The Nord 2’s camera improves on the specification with both a 50-megapixel main camera with optical image stabilization (OIS) and an 8MP wide-angle camera with electronic image stabilization (EIS). A 2MP monochrome camera completes the rear setup, along with a 32MP selfie camera with EIS.
I’ve only taken about 100 photos with the Nord 2 so far, so there’s still some in-depth detail to be had. However, at this stage, it is clear that the Nord 2 is an improvement over the Nord and Nord CE, but because OnePlus takes a while to really refine the performance of its cameras, there are still some problems, but the possibility of an update Come to address them.
The focus, color management and dynamic range of the Nord 2 are mostly pretty good. Shots on a sunny day outside can introduce slight oversaturation, while edge enhancement and processing can be harsh and noticeable. There’s a difference in exposure between the main and wide-angle cameras, but it’s not drastic. OnePlus annoyedly adds quick access to 2x and 5x zoom to the camera app, but these are digital zoom modes, and the quality really suffers. The selfie camera deserves attention, as it has a lovely natural tone with lots of detail.
So far, Nord’s camera has taken some great shots that are highly shareable without any editing, but it has also disappointed with its aggressive processing. Camera performance has not yet been included in the score. It is also worth remembering that unlike the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro, the camera work has not been done by Hasselblad.
The focus, color management and dynamic range of the Nord 2 are mostly very good.
The MediaTek Dimension 1200 that OnePlus uses for the Nord 2 is the first to come out of MediaTek’s Dimension Open Resource Architecture (known as DORA) initiative, which allows phone makers to work better with the hardware. Allows to tweak the chip. There’s a choice of 6GB, 8GB, or 12GB of RAM, and 128GB or 256GB of storage space. My review phone is the 12GB/256GB version.
At the time I’m using the Nord 2, a software update has improved the performance and reliability of the phone, which was a bit unstable before. Nothing terrible – notification support was hit-or-miss, and some apps were slow – but that seems to have solved the problem now. I’ve played Asphalt 9: Legends And haven’t seen any slowdowns or problems affecting the gameplay. However, it does get a little warm to the touch after about an hour.
I haven’t put the Dimension 1200 through its pace yet, but for everyday tasks, it hasn’t made itself known at all. This may sound like a downside, but it is not. Good processors just do their job, and we shouldn’t pay much attention to them. You quickly know if a phone has a badly configured chip. It looks positive for Dimension 1200 at this level.
However, it does get a little warm to the touch after about an hour.
The battery life so far suggests that two days of moderate usage will be possible, but if you play a game, watch a video and make a video call, it will drop to 30% by the end of the first day. OnePlus’ super-fast Warp Charge 65T charger takes a 4,500mAh cell from flat back to 100% in less than half an hour. This is the same system used in the OnePlus 9 Pro and is a step up from the Warp Charge 30T used in the Nord CE.