The smartphone experience on the OnePlus Nord CE 5G
First of all, we love the software experience on the OnePlus Nord CE 5G. The operating system is very well optimized: no bloatware in sight and many usability tweaks that improve the Android experience. The 90 Hz AMOLED display complements the software nicely, offering a user experience that feels fast and smooth. Also, its brightness makes it pleasant to use both outdoors and indoors.
The essential apps that most people use work well on the OnePlus Nord CE 5G. Yes, this smartphone can’t compare to flagships in terms of speed, but it never feels sluggish. Gaming works reasonably well too, as long as you don’t want high-quality graphics. Watching movies is an enjoyable experience when you use a headset. However, the mono speaker on the OnePlus Nord CE 5G delivers an underwhelming experience for people who care about audio quality. Don’t set its volume to the maximum, as the high-frequency sounds will sound too loud and high-pitched.
Phone calls made on the OnePlus Nord CE 5G are clear for both parties, and we didn’t encounter signal reception issues. However, we used it only in urban areas with good mobile coverage. On the OnePlus Nord CE 5G, we enjoyed slightly higher call quality than on other smartphones with a similar price. The suppression of ambient sounds works well indoors as long as there aren’t any loud noises around you, while voice calls using the built-in speaker work reasonably well. However, don’t expect to hear the other person well when you are far from your smartphone.
Both the fingerprint sensor and the face unlock work fast and are precise. Decide which one you want to use depending on your personal preference. As you can see below, the fingerprint sensor is placed on the bottom of the display and not on the Power button, as is the case with other 5G smartphones.
The 90 Hz AMOLED display on the OnePlus Nord CE 5G needs a bit more power than other types of displays, so don’t expect this smartphone’s battery to last more than a day of regular use. However, fast charging is truly fast for an affordable mid-range smartphone. In just 30 minutes, the OnePlus Nord CE 5G charges from 0% to somewhere between 64% and 70%. In just one hour, it charges to 100%.
OnePlus Nord CE 5G is a well-rounded smartphone that delivers almost everything you need, fast-unlock options that are precise and fast, and truly fast charging. All this at a moderate price that many people can afford.
The camera experience on the OnePlus Nord CE 5G
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G is advertised as having a high-quality 64 Megapixels main camera. However, the photos you take using automatic settings have only a 16 Megapixels resolution, and that’s for a good reason: when you take 64 MP pictures, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G chipset is a bit slow at postprocessing them. Therefore, you can’t take several photos in quick succession, and the picture-taking experience becomes slow and frustrating if you try that. Plus, all your pictures will take up a lot of storage space when using 64 MP without having a clear advantage in terms of quality. For this reason, we decided to take pictures using the default 16 MP resolution for this review.
One upside is that the Camera app on the OnePlus Nord CE 5G is simple and easy to use for most people, and it includes a useful Pro mode. Turning on the 64MP pictures is a bit weird, but that’s about the only complaint we have about it.
When it comes to picture quality, in good lighting conditions, the photos you take with the OnePlus Nord CE 5G are excellent, with good contrast and level of detail. The dynamic range looks good too. However, when we shot portraits, we noticed that the camera tends to misrepresent the colors. As you can check for yourself in the gallery below, portrait photos often have too much magenta in them, and they also feel soft. In more difficult lighting conditions, like during the night, the camera performs well enough for the average user that can’t afford a premium smartphone. Still, just like in portraits, night photos feel a bit too soft overall while having significant graininess and loss of detail in darker, more shadowy areas. The macro pictures we took are also pretty average: they feature good colors and a nice bokeh effect, but the focus is struggling when the subject is very close. For a better understanding of this smartphone’s camera performance, take a look at the picture samples below:
Recording 4K videos on a smartphone with an affordable price like this one doesn’t make much sense. Its cameras just can’t compare to that of premium smartphones. That’s why it is better to record videos in 1080p resolution as we did in our samples. Shooting landscapes and more static videos works great on the OnePlus Nord CE 5G. In good lighting conditions, the videos have good contrast and well-represented colors. However, the sky and the clouds appear to be a bit oversaturated, which leads to a loss of detail.
When recording video in low-light, there’s a lot of graininess and detail loss in the darker areas. Zooming in and out isn’t a smooth operation either, and we hope that OnePlus will improve this in future updates for the OnePlus Nord CE 5G.
The electronic image stabilization does its job reasonably well, but it can’t compare to what you get from premium smartphones.
OnePlus Nord CE 5G offers a reasonably well-balanced picture taking and video recording experience. On paper, its camera system may sound better than it is, but we aren’t disappointed by the results we obtained, as is the case with many mid-rangers.
Android 11 and bundled apps
OnePlus Nord CE 5G comes with Oxygen OS 11 - a custom operating system developed by OnePlus, based on Android 11. We’re fans of this operating system because it is very clean in terms of built-in apps. It has few personalization options outside the basics offered by Android, and all of them are only about improving the user experience. OnePlus will offer two years of software updates for OnePlus Nord CE 5G and three years of security updates to top things off. This support window is not as long as the one advertised by Samsung, but it is longer than many other manufacturers with similarly-priced phones.
For the sake of transparency, alongside the standard Google apps that are found in Android, OnePlus Nord CE 5G comes with the following:
- Community - an app where OnePlus users can get help, exchange tips and ideas, and access the OnePlus Store.
- File Manager - a helpful app for managing the files and folders found on your smartphone.
- Games - an app for optimizing the performance of your mobile games.
- Netflix - the popular movie streaming service that needs no introduction.
- OnePlus Switch - an app that helps you move your files and apps from another smartphone to your new OnePlus Nord CE 5G.
- Recorder - records audio and uses your smartphone as a microphone.
- Weather - we all need a weather forecast now and then. Most people are going to use this app too.
The Oxygen OS 11 on the OnePlus Nord CE 5G is a slim Android version, with few built-in apps and useful customizations on top of the standard Android experience. It has three years of security updates and two years of software updates. We’re fans of the approach taken by OnePlus with its software, and we hope that more manufacturers are going to follow their lead.
Performance in benchmarks
To evaluate the performance of this smartphone as objectively as possible and compare it with other phones, we ran several benchmarking apps. The first was Geekbench. OnePlus Nord CE 5G got 636 points in the Single-Core tests and 1884 in the Multi-Core tests, similar to what you get from a Samsung Galaxy A52 5G.
We then used PCMark for Android to measure how well OnePlus Nord CE 5G fares in productivity tasks. The final score was 8190 points, proving that this phone has enough grunt for most apps people run on their smartphones.
In the 3DMark benchmark app, we ran the Sling Shot test. OnePlus Nord CE 5G rendered an average of 25.20 frames and 13.7 frames, respectively, and it had a score of 3876 points, which is almost identical to the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G.
For mobile gaming, we also ran the Car Chase and 1080p Care Chase Offscreen tests from GFXBench. OnePlus Nord CE 5G rendered an average of 17 frames per second and 19 respectively, and it obtained scores similar to a Samsung Galaxy S9+, a flagship smartphone from 2018.
To evaluate the autonomy offered by OnePlus Nord CE 5G, we used PCMark’s Work 3.0 battery life test with the display brightness set to Auto. The battery lasted 15 hours and 34 minutes, about four hours more than its predecessor, the OnePlus Nord N10 5G.
Unfortunately, we don’t have 5G connectivity in our area, so we couldn’t test the mobile data speed you get with this smartphone.
The benchmarks we ran confirmed that OnePlus Nord CE 5G offers solid mid-range level performance for general productivity tasks and good battery life. Although this smartphone is not a great choice for gaming, this is a complaint we can make about all smartphones in its price range.
Do you like the OnePlus Nord CE 5G?
Now you know what we like and what we don’t like about the OnePlus Nord CE 5G. In general, it is a good smartphone that offers a lot of bang for the buck, even though it has a few shortcomings. Before closing this review, tell us your opinion about it in a comment below.