The Nord was a bit of a breakthrough device for OnePlus, it was a smash hit everywhere it was sold and spawned multiple derivatives, including the very nice Nord CE 5G that I reviewed here a few months ago, but this time it’s back with the Nord 2, a full-on refresh of the original Nord, and OnePlus wants this to be everything you could ask for, and you know what, I think they got it.
- Great performance
- Great Screen
- Great Battery Life
- Main Camera impressive
- Relatively inexpensive
- Ultrawide Camera is disappointing
- Software updates are unknown
- Jump to… Spec Sheet
- Jump to… Performance & Use
- Jump to… Camera & Samples
- Jump to… Software
- Jump to… Battery
- Jump to… Final Thoughts
- 6.43” AMOLED screen
- 2400x1080p resolution
- Gorilla Glass 5 covering
- MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI
- 1x Cortex A78 @3.0Ghz
- 3x Cortex A78 @2.6Ghz
- 4x Cortex A55 @2.0Ghz
- Mali G77 MC9
- TSMC 6nm
- Custom OnePlus AI addition
- 50MP Sony IMX577 main camera
- F1.9 aperture
- 24mm equivalent focus distance
- 1/1.56” sensor size
- 8MP Ultrawide Camera
- F2.3 Aperture
- 119 degree field of view
- 2MP Monochrome Camera
- F2.3 Aperture
- 32MP Sony IMX615
- F2.5 Aperture
- ½.5” sensor size
- 4500mAh Li-Po battery
- 65w WarpCharge 65T
- Android 11
- OxygenOS 11.3
Performance & Use
OnePlus hasn’t taken design too far here, this is obviously a OnePlus device, and it is obvious from the same era as the 9 series, from the rear, it looks a lot like the 9 and 9 Pro, that’s not a bad thing by any means, it’s sleek and well designed. Taking a hardware tour from the front we have the gorgeous 6.43” AMOLED screen with a small punch hole in the top left for the 32MP selfie camera. The absolute sliver of an earpiece is once again hidden in between the frame of the screen and the frame of the phone. Bezels around the sides are pretty small, the chin is a bit larger than expected, but that is nit-picking.
On the right-hand side rail, we have the 3-state alert slider switch which, whilst I don’t always use, I sorely missed it on the Nord CE 5G, so it’s nice to have it back. Below the alert slider is the power button, nice and tight in the frame without any wiggle but it doesn’t require a ridiculous amount of force to press. Flipping to the left-hand rail there is the volume rocker, much like the power button there is no excessive movement nor does it require a lot of force to depress the buttons beneath.
On the top of the phone, there is nothing but a secondary microphone port, this helps with noise-cancelling in phone calls as well as when recording audio in videos. The bottom is a bit busier. On the right there is the main speaker behind 2 slits, next to that is the USB-C port, next to that is the main microphone port, and lastly the NanoSIM slot, this holds 2 NanoSIMs but no MicroSD sadly, also there is no eSIM support here for what that is worth.
On the rear we have the large camera hump in the top left, this looks like a mix between the OnePlus 9 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2. The top camera is the main 50MP Sony IMX577 and the lower camera is the 8MP Ultrawide, then the bottom houses the monochrome camera and the LED Flash.
The entire phone is plastic apart from the screen which is covered with Gorilla Glass 5, whilst I don’t mind the rails being plastic, the glossy plastic of my Blue Void unit is so ungodly slippery that I’ve almost been forced to use it in a case to keep it in a case. I might order a skin from someone like XtremeSkins or Dbrand to see if that helps, because whilst the cases OnePlus sell for the Nord 2 are lovely, I’m not and have never really been a case person.
Performance is where the Nord 2 shines. There was a lot of digital ink spilt about whether going to MediaTek was the correct choice for the Nord 2, and I can unequivocally say that yes it was. Performance is outstanding, thermals have been great, battery life has been impressive and finally, the ISP (Image Signal Processor) has been made competitive. I have heard reports that if OnePlus were to have gone Qualcomm for the Nord 2 they would have either had to use the 765G again or jump to the 780G and bump the cost more than they would have liked.
The Dimensity 1200-AI in the Nord 2 is a semi-custom version of the Dimensity 1200 chip from MediaTek, their current top of the line chip, and it is a beast. The Cortex A78 cores are as performant as I had hoped and thermals are in check, never getting hot to the touch apart from when the UK was undergoing a heatwave and I left my phone in my car. So what’s the AI designation as the end, what makes this semi-custom? Well, OnePlus worked with MediaTek to customise some of the DSP (digital signal processors) on the chip for their specific AI needs, in this case, photo upscaling (think making Instagram and Twitter photos look better) as well as Video enhancement, almost like an SDR to HDR conversion, but turning crappy web videos into much less crappy web videos.
I’ll post screenshots of benchmark apps here but they don’t tell the story, for a while I was able to use the Nord 2 and the OnePlus 9 Pro side by side and I would be lying if the Snapdragon 888 powered 9 Pro felt noticeably faster than the Dimensity 1200-AI Nord 2, the MediaTek Chip is that good.
Camera & Samples
Look, I’ll be real, Cameras haven’t always been great for OnePlus, and even on the 9 series when they partnered with Hasselblad it wasn’t fantastic, so going into the Nord 2 review, with one of the same cameras as the 9 Pro (it’s the ultrawide on the 9 Pro, as the main here), with a MediaTek chipset that hasn’t had the best reputation for Image processing, I wasn’t expecting much here, but I was pretty impressed for the most part.
The main camera here, the Sony IMX577 like I said before was used on the OnePlus 9 Pro, the 50MP sensor was the ultrawide there, but it is using a different lens here to be the main 24mm equivalent, and you know what, 95% of the time I get great shots out of this, much better than the Nord CE 5G, and about as good as the 9 Pro I think. The Ultrawide 8MP is a bit disappointing mainly because of the sensor size and resolution, I would happily get rid of the monochrome sensor for a larger Ultrawide sensor. Using the Nord 2 camera is refreshingly easy, despite the fact the new camera app is a port of the Oppo ColorOS camera app, everything works and works how you would expect, it is fast, with surprisingly fast auto exposure and white balance, and much to my excitement, focus is fast, unlike the Nord CE 5G wherein I lost lots of shots because of shutter lag of opening lag.
The Main camera has obviously been tuned to produce a very specific image and those are punchy contrasty beasts. They almost look like Samsung ISOCELL images, very vibrant reds and pinks, with greens looking like they belong in the Springfield nuclear reactor plant, I have gone on record saying that I like those choices and I do like them here as well, I like the output of the Nord 2, even if it does over sharpen a bit, and the minimum focus distance is a bit farther than I’d like.
The ultrawide is a bit disappointing, looks like it’s pulled from the same parts bin as the other BBK electronics phones, which is a bit disappointing, there are great 12MP or 16MP out there that would allow you to shoot 4K in the ultrawide and pass-through from wide to main without an issue, but we can’t do that here. These shots are fine if you are static, but any motion and this ultrawide falls apart, and don’t even attempt to use this at night without a tripod.
The front camera is actually pretty decent, when I heard they were updating the sensor from the previous phones I wasn’t expecting much, but this does seem to be doing something, once again it does aggressively sharpen, which I’m not the biggest fan of, but that’s a software tweak in the future if they decide that. I do wish the front camera was a slightly wider field of view, whilst I don’t take group selfies often, especially at the moment, this is wide enough for one person, no Groufies here (I’m so, so sorry for bringing that term up)
Video recording is another area that not only OnePlus phones struggle with, but most Android Phones do, and most MediaTek powered phones suffer harder, so colour me surprised when the 4K30 video recording on this came out as well as it did, sure the wind noise is a bit overbearing but it was much worse in real life trust me. The colours were true to life, the focus, white balance and exposure were quick and reliable. In 1080p the phone let me down a little bit, 1080p60 was a bit too pixelated for my liking almost like it was very low bitrate, and 1080p30 was just smeary. The front-facing 1080p30 footage on the other hand was really quite good, kudos OnePlus.
The software story on the Nord 2 is a bit different than in previous years. OnePlus has recently been subsumed as a fully owned sub-brand of Oppo, instead of as a separate sister company, one of the bigger thing’s we’re going to see is OxygenOS slowly going away in favour of ColorOS, and we’re starting to see that already here. In a few places, the Nord 2 is more ColorOS with an OxygenOS theme on top, this is not necessarily bad, things that have been broken on OxygenOS but fine on ColorOS work fine now, but some of the more OnePlus-y features are less prominent here.
The settings app for instance when placed next to the Realme 8 Pro (RealmeUI is ColorOS) the setup is nigh on identical with different icons, it is much closer to the Realme than it is to the OnePlus Nord CE 5G for instance. I spoke earlier about how the Camera app is almost a direct port, the same with the phone cloning app, OnePlus’s app has gone out in favour of a lightly skinned Oppo variant.
Is this the beginning of the end? Kind of yeah, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. OxygenOS got heavier and more bloated as the years went on, and didn’t have the same development muscle as ColorOS has. ColorOS/RealmeUI has been my favourite forms of android for over a year now, they’re cohesive, performance and customisable in a way that feels more consumer-friendly than OnePlus does.
The OxygenOS 11.3 on the Nord 2 is built on Android 11 and will get Android 12 sometime in the future, and I hope this is soon, not because the current version on the phone is bad, but because the last issue with MediaTek has been aftermarket support, Android versions, drivers etc have meant that phones get launched, might get a single software update and be forgotten, OnePlus cannot let that happen, and I honestly think that MediaTek doesn’t want to throw away the goodwill it’s earned with the Dimensity line.
This one is easy. The 4500mAh is suitable for a day and a half of heavy use. The only day I killed it in one was when I recorded all the video samples, drove around doing 5G testing and played some Monument Valley (and more time on TikTok than I’d like to admit). In my earliest of testing, there was a software bug that only let the phone charge to 65% when plugged in at night, and even then, waking up with only 65% of battery, I was only able to kill that twice, that bug has since been fixed.
Charging this dual-cell 4500mAh battery is a breeze, the USB-C port on the bottom takes in 18w USB-PD which is lower than I’d like (33w USB-PD isn’t that hard or pricey, come on OnePlus) but the phone does come with a 65w Warp Charge brick in the box, sadly this is not the same brick as the 9 and 9 Pro, which had 45w USP-D output and USB-C ports, this is a USB-A connector, boo. Aside from that little niggle, 65W charging is just as insane as ever, there are rare times I will need charging this fast, but having it really is a game-changer, and the phone doesn’t get overly warm to the touch either, a nice upgrade from the Nord CE 5G too.
In the end, the Nord 2 is what it sounds like, it is a successor to the wildly successful Nord, and in their marketing materials OnePlus is hoping this phone is everything you could ask for, and they are so damn close, with the exception of the ultrawide camera, this is a truly stellar device and I feel comfortable saying this: If you live in a market where the Nord 2 is on sale with the 9 and 9 Pro, there are incredibly few reasons to buy the latter.
With a lightweight design, impressive screen, endurance champ battery, charging that’d make Usain Bolt blush and finally a capable chipset from MediaTek, the Nord 2 truly is a killer Flagship.