The OnePlus Nord 2 has a lot to live up to. Last year’s debut Nord was my favourite mid-range phone of 2020, a near-flawless blend of design and performance that genuinely made it difficult to justify spending more – even on OnePlus’s own flagships.
With a more competitive mid-range market this year – driven by mounting pressure from Xiaomi and Realme – OnePlus would have to pull out all the stops to impress as much this time around.
The Nord 2 doesn’t quite pull it off, which is only to say: the Nord 2 is good, and maybe even great, but not quite the all-singing, all-dancing spectacular it felt like the first time round.
Design & build
- Gorilla Glass 5 body
- OnePlus 9-style design
- Stereo speakers
While the first OnePlus Nord took some inspiration from the flagship that preceded it, the Nord 2 more directly apes the entire design of the OnePlus 9.
That’s most obvious in the phone’s camera module, which moves the flash and drops the Hasselblad logo, but otherwise appears identical to the camera setup on that premium phone.
You’d think that as a cheaper device the Nord 2 might thus look like a bad knock-off of its big brother, but in fact this phone arguably has the edge.
For one thing, it’s slimmer. At 8.3mm it’s not quite thin, but at least it doesn’t feel quite so thick. I’d also take the Blue Haze finish here over most of the 9’s colour options, though the Gray Sierra alternative is admittedly pretty drab. If you’re in India you’ll also have the option of a vegan leather green model that sadly won’t make it to the rest of the world.
Even build quality is the same, with Gorilla Glass 5 on both the display and the phone’s rear, and a plastic frame to hold it all together. Fittingly for the price there’s no water-resistance IP rating on the Nord 2 though, so you’ll have to be a little more careful in the bath.
More unusually, OnePlus has managed to fit stereo speakers into the new Nord – a distinct rarity at this price point. I still feel that smartphone sound quality only really matters to a minority – how often are you blasting music through your phone speakers? – but at least for those who care, this should impress.
The Nord 2 isn’t quite the best looking mid-range phone around – the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G is slimmer, while the yellow leather Realme GT is certainly more striking – but it’s an understated option that looks good, and packs niceties like a Gorilla Glass back and stereo speakers.
- Flat 6.43in display
- 90Hz refresh rate
The display was one of the strongest elements of the first Nord, so it’s perhaps understandable that OnePlus has chosen to leave it almost untouched second time around.
This is also a fast-moving part of the phone industry right now though, which has the knock-on effect that the screen here doesn’t feel quite as competitive 12 months on.
What you’re getting is a flat AMOLED panel that’s 6.43in across the diagonal. It’s a decent size – large enough to feel spacious while small enough to keep the phone itself fairly compact – and it’s bright, with decent colour reproduction and good visibility in most conditions.
The 90Hz refresh rate helps make the phone feel smooth and responsive, and has some frame rate advantages for gaming too. With 120Hz displays now available at this price point and lower, it’s a slight shame not to see that faster standard supported here – but in reality the jump to 120Hz is much less noticeable, so it’s an understandable compromise.
There’s a punch-hole selfie camera interrupting the top-left corner of the display, but not the dual cameras from the first-gen phone. You may miss the extra lens, but it does at least return a little extra screen real estate and make the notch a bit less obnoxious.
Specs & performance
- Custom MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI chipset
- Up to 12GB RAM and 256GB storage
Perhaps the most striking thing about the Nord 2 – for phone nerds like me, at least – is that it’s the company’s first phone not to use a Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset.
Instead, the company has worked with Qualcomm rival MediaTek on a custom version of its Dimensity 1200 chip with a few enhanced AI features. These are mostly fairly unexciting in and of themselves – scene recognition for the camera, and some resolution and colour enhancements for video – but the real draw here is that the Dimensity 1200 is technically a flagship chipset, despite the Nord 2’s mid-range price.
In terms of benchmark performance, this still lags well behind the likes of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 you’ll find in the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro. Compared to the mid-range Snapdragon 765G in last year’s Nord and we saw a 37% performance jump in Geekbench 5, and doubled frame rates in some of the more demanding GFXBench tests.
When using the phone the experience is similarly smooth. Across a week or two using the Nord 2 I’ve not noticed any meaningful slowdown, stuttering, or freezes, and from a pure performance standpoint there’s really nothing to complain about here.
The Nord 2 is available in two main configurations: 8GB RAM and 128GB storage, or 12GB RAM and 256GB storage (the version I’ve been testing). India also gets a cheaper starting model, which offers 128GB storage but drops to just 6GB of RAM, so will suffer a bit more when it comes to multi-tasking and some gaming performance.
The Dimensity 1200-AI includes a 5G modem, so the Nord 2 supports the latest connectivity standard there – along with Bluetooth 5.2 and WiFi 6.
The single selfie camera offers a face unlock option, but the in-display fingerprint scanner is probably the more secure and reliable option.
Battery & charging
- 4500mAh battery
- 65W fast wired charging
- No wireless charging
OnePlus has historically prided itself on the speed of its charging – but even so, it’s welcome to see the company use its fastest wired charging tech in this mid-range device.
The Nord 2 supports 65W wired charging, which in my test topped up 59% of the battery in just 15 minutes – and was already at 100% when I checked back at the half-hour mark. There’s no wireless charging, but that’s reasonable given the price.
The actual battery is 4500mAh – an upgrade from last year’s – which is comfortably enough for a day’s use. I’ve typically been charging the phone every other day, but that is with relatively low use while I work from home. I’d be surprised if anyone found the Nord 2 couldn’t last them the day though.
- 50Mp main camera
- Ultrawide and mono
- Single selfie camera
At a glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that OnePlus had slightly downgraded the camera setup for the Nord 2 – not only has the dual selfie setup become a single shooter, but the rear quad camera is now a mere triple, and all for only a 2Mp bump on the main lens.
Things are quite so simple of course, and it’s perhaps better to look at this as a refocusing: trimming out extraneous lenses to focus more on the ones that matter most.
Let’s take that main lens then. The 50Mp IMX766 sensor used here is the same one the company used for the ultrawide camera in the 9 series flagships, and is also found as both the main and ultrawide in the excellent Oppo Find X3 Pro – one of the best camera phones around.
The large sensor here allows the camera to capture more light, and combined with optical image stabilisation (OIS) that should make it a dab hand at lowlight photos in particular.
In general, this camera does a great job. I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say it’s up there with the Find X3 Pro, despite the shared sensor – better post-processing and a faster chipset help that phone keep the edge – but the results here are impressive.
In especially bright light colours occasionally pop a little too much and it veers into over-saturation, and I’d like to see a stronger HDR effect – the highlights and dark spots can both be a little extreme. But for the most part photos with the main camera are bright, detailed, and attractive – with mostly natural colours outside of those few edge cases.
Lowlight performance remains slightly disappointing, and I’ll admit I’d hoped for more from the large sensor and OIS included here – hopefully this is something that the company can continue to tweak with OTA updates. Even with OIS I found a noticeable drop in detail in night mode shots, and some uneven colour re-production. Shots certainly aren’t terrible, but they’re unlikely to blow you away.
The same can be said for the ultrawide lens, which at 8Mp and f/2.3 is a serious drop from the main shooter. It’ll do the job if you want to capture an impressive landscape or a big group shot, but in both colour and detail it doesn’t hold a candle to the main camera.
The final rear camera is a 2Mp mono lens used to add extra colour information to black-and-white photos. We’ve seen this before on OnePlus phones, and as ever it’s a forgettable extra that only appears to be included to make up the numbers.
On the front you’ll find a 32Mp, f/2.5 selfie lens. The high resolution helps this capture impressively detailed selfies, but the aperture does let it down somewhat. The result is shots that, from my experience, turned out slightly dull and washed out – the opposite of the main rear lens’ tendency to skew to over-saturation.
- OxygenOS now merged with Oppo Color OS
- Two Android version updates promised
The Nord 2 is a surprisingly significant phone for OnePlus when it comes to software, as it’s the first to run on Oppo’s Color OS.
The two companies have slowly been merging in recent years in order to share resources, and in July announced that the next step would be to merge the code bases for the two operating systems. The Nord 2 is the first to boast this new software officially, and officially runs “OxygenOS based on Android 11/Color OS 11.3.”
Concerned OnePlus fans need not worry, as the practical changes are minimal. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to spot the difference between this and previous versions of OxygenOS, with almost every change happening behind the scenes.
The software still looks like Oxygen always has, and boasts the same solid array of customisation options throughout the OS. All your favourite OnePlus apps and software tweaks are here too, from the always-on display to the notification-silencing Zen Mode.
So if nothing’s changed, why did OnePlus and Oppo merge their software anyway? At least in part because merging should help OnePlus produce security patches and other updates more efficiently with the help of Oppo’s dev team.
With that in mind, the Nord 2 also falls within the company’s new update guarantee of two Android version updates (Android 12 this year, and Android 13 next) and a total of three years of security patches. That’s not the most comprehensive update promise around (OnePlus’s own flagships get an extra year of support), but it is one of the better ones.
OxygenOS has always been one of, if not the greatest weapon in the OnePlus arsenal. Only time will tell if merging with ColorOS will begin to negate that, but for now this software is as potent as ever.
Price & availability
The Nord 2 is out now in the UK, Europe, and India – though it’s not set to receive an official release in North America. Here’s how the prices break down:
- 6GB RAM + 128GB storage: ₹27,999
- 8GB RAM + 128GB storage: £399/€399/₹29,999
- 12GB RAM + 256GB storage: £469/€499/₹34,999
You can buy the Nord 2 directly from OnePlus or from Amazon worldwide.
In the UK, if you buy direct from the company you’re also currently eligible for a free Google Stadia Premiere Edition – though the phone is also available from other stores including John Lewis, and on contract from O2 and Three. Check out our full guide to the best Nord 2 deals for more options.
The price puts it right up against the best mid-range phones, and while it mostly holds its own, it’s still worth considering the likes of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro or Realme GT, depending on your price budget.
OnePlus also offers the Nord CE 5G if you’d rather spend a little less, or last year’s impressive OnePlus 8T flagship is now available for not much more than the Nord 2. Check out our full rating of the best OnePlus phones for more options.
It’s perhaps inevitable that the Nord 2 isn’t quite as exciting as the first Nord for those of us who follow the industry closely. It’s not as revelatory or novel, and with so many OnePlus models around now – this is the company’s sixth phone this year – it’s hard to find any release as thrilling.
Stiffer competition in the mid-range market doesn’t help, but the Nord 2 still makes a strong case for itself. The Dimensity 1200-AI chipset is one of the most powerful you’ll find for the price, the understated design remains appealing, and the main camera will outclass most rivals.
And as ever, while Xiaomi and Realme may deliver better value on paper, the OxygenOS software experience still gives OnePlus an undeniable edge, and it isn’t going anywhere just yet.
OnePlus Nord 2: Specs
- Android 11 with Oxygen OS 11.3
- 6.43in Full HD+ (1080×2400) Fluid AMOLED, 20:9, 90Hz, HDR10+
- MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI chipset
- 6/8/12GB RAM (DDR4)
- 128/256GB internal storage (UFS 3.1)
- 50Mp, f/1.9 main camera, PDAF, OIS
- 8Mp, f/2.3 ultrawide
- 2Mp, f/2.4 mono
- 32Mp, f/2.5 selfie camera
- Fingerprint scanner (in-screen)
- Wi-Fi 6
- Bluetooth 5.2
- Dual-nano SIM
- 4500mAh non-removable battery
- 65W wired charging
- 158.9 x 73.2 x 8.3mm