OnePlus Nord 2 review: They’ve not settled yet

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Aesthetically, OnePlus retains the design language that it has courted with the OnePlus 9 series, which is full of glossy textures, a simplified front with a hole-punch camera, a flat panel and a largely a derivative design that will not offend anyone in any way.

OnePlus Nord 2 review: They’ve not settled yet
In the last year, a lot has changed at OnePlus. It now acknowledges its ties with Oppo, so much so that its product teams are deeply integrated. Its mercurial founder Carl Pei has left the company and gone on to found another company called Nothing. It now makes affordable smartphones and expensive phones, and pretty much it doesn’t have something called a flagship killer in its portfolio. It makes a lot of devices too — not just phones even though it has launched four this year alone, TVs in all price brackets, cameras for video conferencing, true wireless earphones and even a smartwatch. OnePlus isn’t an upstart anymore. All of this started with the launch of Nord last year. It was in a way for OnePlus to return to its roots. With the launch of the CE, it kind of demolished that notion by making a decidedly average phone for the masses, however, the encore to the Nord, the Nord 2, is anything but OnePlus settling. It is largely an impressive phone, which doesn’t surprise many ticks off most of the boxes for the people looking for a haloed OnePlus experience at a fraction of the price that it charges for OnePlus 9 series.
OnePlus Nord 2. Image source: Sahil Gupta
Aesthetically, OnePlus retains the design language that it has courted with the OnePlus 9 series, which is full of glossy textures, a simplified front with a hole-punch camera, a flat panel and a largely a derivative design that will not offend anyone in any way. Its USP is that it is ergonomic and comes in soothing colours. But at the same time, it ain’t no head turner. That’s fine too. It is also rather compact at 8.25mm and 189 grams. It is easy to hold. It also retains its screen size at 6.43-inches which was there even in the original Nord. It also gets AMOLED technology and a 90Hz refresh rate. So you get the big screen feel in a rather manageable size by modern standards. The bad news is that it feels quite plasticky on the back and it is a tad slippery, while also catching a lot of smudges.
OnePlus Nord 2. Image source: Sahil Gupta
When OnePlus announced the base code of Oxygen OS will be merged with Colour OS by Oppo, there was scepticism around the much-vaunted OnePlus experience that people have often loved, including myself. The good news is that despite this being the first phone to share the base code, the OnePlus experience is intact, but there are increasingly slivers of elements that draw influence from Samsung’s OneUI than stock Android. Now, this can be a good thing depending on how much you like One UI. But the one piece of bad news, which has been confirmed by OnePlus, is that the Nord series will only be eligible for two Android updates. This is not great considering it's running Android 11 while Google is preparing to deploy Android 12. So you're not going much beyond Android 13, which doesn't speak much about the freshness of the software experience you'll get with this phone.
OnePlus Nord 2. Image source: Sahil Gupta
But apart from that the fast and smooth mantra is retained. In fact, the Nord 2 is an extremely responsive phone which in real world usage is on par with the OnePlus 9R. OnePlus chose to use MediaTek's Dimensity 1200 chip for this phone which is a 6nm chipset and easily the best one the Taiwanese fabless chipset maker has in its kitty. And it delivers excellent performance without the traditional Mediatek drawbacks. It also helps that you get copious amounts of RAM -- 12GB in the case of the top of line phone I tested with it being of the DDR4x type with 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage. So day to day performance will feel rapid and absolutely in the same league as a true flagship phone.
OnePlus Nord 2. Image source: Sahil Gupta
In fact, gaming performance is at times exceptionally good thanks to the Dimensity 1200, which makes sure that graphically intensive games like Call of Duty mobile are running at maximum settings quite flawlessly without any perceptible jitters. It even shows through in hardcore benchmarks like 3D Mark where all the scores are maxed out. It did really well even in the PCMark benchmark and Geekbench. Recently, Geekbench delisted OnePlus for doing software trickery on its phones so that its devices scored favourably on the benchmark. While it's not known if OnePlus has fixed this behaviour on the Nord but what's clear is back when the OnePlus 9 series of phones were reviewed they felt rapid and benchmark or no benchmark they remain among the fastest Android phones you can buy. The Nord 2 may not truly have OnePlus 9 series level of performance but it comes shockingly close.
The main weakness of the original Nord was its camera. The Nord 2 represents a huge improvement as it gets the same 50-megapixel primary sensor as the OnePlus 9 Pro ultra-wide sensor. The merging of the Oppo and OnePlus software code base has also resulted in the camera app borrowing some tricks from Oppo's stellar camera phones. It also gets an ultra-wide lens which has a rather limited field of view of 119.7 degrees. There is also a rather pointless monochrome lens. I suspect OnePlus has started to incorporate some Oppo colour science which dramatically improves the main camera on this phone. Now, if one is looking for a great camera phone in the 30,000 range then the Nord 2 is in play. It has become more consistent, faster and generally takes attractive photos in most conditions. Low light photo capturing also takes a leap forward and it also manages to take better portrait photos. In terms of camera performance, this is a huge leap from the OnePlus 8T and OnePlus 9R. Sure, the ultra-wide camera isn't that good but then again it's not the main camera.
OnePlus Nord 2. Image source: Sahil Gupta
The Nord 2 also delivers on the video front with it taking quite stable and usable footage, thanks to the optically stabilised 6-element lens. Selfies are average at best even though the Nord uses quite a high-resolution 32-megapixel front-facing sensor.
Largely, OnePlus has delivered a very attractive screen, which is great for watching movies or reading content alike. Its 6.43-inch radius has vivid colours, good viewing angles and a pin-sharp resolution. It continues the fast and smooth philosophy by adding the 90Hz refresh rate which remains on actively all the time and yet doesn't become a drain on the battery life. It's impressive, to say the least, and I enjoyed this screen more than the one on the Xiaomi Mi 11X. Perhaps, the only major weakness of this screen is the fact that its peak brightness levels aren’t as impressive which means legibility under sunlight or even cloudy conditions becomes compromised. Indoors it will be great.
There are many other subtle niceties about the Nord 2. For instance, now it gets dual stereo speakers that are very loud and pretty clear. They have probably been tuned the same way as the OnePlus 9 and it shows. The OnePlus Nord CE has horrendous haptics while the original Nord had above average haptics - the Nord 2 gets truly excellent haptics which means typing long emails or articles like this review will be a delightful and rewarding experience.
The battery life on this phone is impressive. Not only does the 4,500mAh battery last impressively long giving out a screen on time of over 6 hours, in day to day usage even though I just tested the phone for 3 days it lasted for more than 12 hours on a single charge. It even managed to do 12 hours on the PCMark loop battery test which is not bad at all. Compounding this is the fact that it also gets the impressive warp charge tech which is a 65-watt proprietary charging system enabling it to juice up the Nord 2 in around 40 mins to 100 percent.
Many folks were worried that this phone wouldn’t live up to the OnePlus reputation for many reasons. Be it the exit of its influential founder, be it the behind the scenes merger with Oppo which now involves Oxygen OS sharing the code base with colour OS or be it the introduction of a MediaTek chip which many people felt wouldn’t do justice.
The fact is that it’s a better phone than the OnePlus 9R in so many ways. Its cameras are better, it delivers similar performance as a Snapdragon 800 series phone while also delivering the promise of great battery life, all in a package that’s rather affordable, with good ergonomics, clean software and a nice screen. That’s what everyone basically needs. There isn’t anything to dislike here.
It’s as much of a credit to MediaTek as much it is to OnePlus, which hasn’t lost its mojo with so much disruption happening around and about it. With the Nord 2, OnePlus certainly hasn’t settled, even though it has matured.

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