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OnePlus Nord 2 review

The OnePlus Nord 2 5G could be the best midrange smartphone money can buy

OnePlus Nord 2
(Image: © Basil Kronfli)

Our Verdict

The OnePlus Nord 2 features a great primary camera for its price. A lot of this comes down to photo processing, with the phone able to capture with more natural colors than its main rival, the Poco F3 5G; but there’s also OIS working its magic. While it isn’t the most powerful phone for the price, so may not appeal to gamers, between its impressive feature-set, design, battery life, and camera, it’s still a brilliant option and a worthy successor to last year’s OnePlus Nord.

For

  • Great design for the price
  • Fast charging and impressive battery
  • Competitive camera system

Against

  • No wireless charging
  • No telephoto camera
  • Not as powerful as some competition

The OnePlus Nord 2 5G is in for review, and with the phone sitting right below the OnePlus 9, and above the Nord CE, the brand is making a tidy portfolio for itself. Available to order on 22 July, and to buy on 29 July in the UK and across Europe, the Nord 2’s pricing is squarely midrange, starting at £399 (roughly $550). 

Featuring a 50MP main camera sensor as well as an 8MP ultrawide, as with most midrangers, it isn’t the imaging arsenal its flagship counterparts are, with all the focus placed on the primary camera. That said, the phone still captures 4K video, and there’s a 32MP selfie camera on the front too, so it’s here to compete.

Perhaps most interesting for spec geeks is the OnePlus Nord 2’s chipset. This is the first mid to high-end OnePlus handset to feature MediaTek power. That’s matched with up to 12GB RAM and a flagship-sized 4500mAh battery, not to mention OnePlus 9 Pro matching 65W charging speeds. 

In the OnePlus world, the Nord 2 makes perfect sense on paper, but with phones like the Poco F3 5G also on the scene, the Nord 2 isn’t without powerful competition. 

OnePlus Nord 2: Design and screen

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

The Nord 2 is a great-looking phone, just like the original. It’s a medium-sized slab, with a 6.43-inch screen matched with 8.25mm thickness. That said, it isn’t overly hefty, at 189g — exactly the same weight as an iPhone 12 Pro

You can pick it up in three colors, Gray Sierra, Blue Haze and Green Wood; we’ve got the Blue Haze version, which looks refreshingly muted, but still lively enough to grab attention. Despite its reflective back panel, it keeps fingerprints at bay like a champion. 

The Nord 2 shares its button layout with the premium OnePlus phones versus the lower-cost Nord CE, so features a notification alert slider on the right side. It’s speakers also deliver stereo sound from the top and bottom of the phone, and there’s a slight camera bump around the back. 

As for the screen, it’s an AMOLED panel with support for sRGB and DP3 color spaces. With its 2400x1080 pixels and 410 pixel-per-inch clarity, the Nord 2’s resolution and display tech is comparable to the OnePlus 9, however, unlike its bigger brother, the Nord 2’s refresh rate caps out at 90Hz, not 120Hz. Nevertheless, the display looks great, and there are software video enhancements to boost video playback when upscaling standard definition footage to HD, HDR-a-like content.

Cameras

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

The OnePlus Nord 2 5G’s main camera module features a 50MP Sony IMX766 sensor with 1-micron pixels, OIS, and an f/1.88 aperture lens. The secondary camera is an 8MP ultra-wide with a 119.7-degree field of view and an f/2.25 aperture. As for the third sensor, there’s no telephoto camera on the Nord 2, though there is a mono lens, featuring 2MP resolution and an f/2.5 aperture. 

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OnePlus Nord 2

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)
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OnePlus Nord 2 review

Standard and ultra-wide views from the Nord 2's rear cameras (swipe to see each separately) (Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)
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OnePlus Nord 2 review

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

With a front camera resolution of 32MP, as with many midrange phones, the emphasis on selfies is evident, and the high pixel count is matched with a wide-open f/2.45 aperture.

The Nord 2 captures 4K video at up to 30fps, and climbs up to 60fps if you’re happy to drop to 1080 resolution. While this isn’t a Hasselblad branded OnePlus, it features a competent manual mode that shoots RAW photos, features a manual ISO of up to 6400, and a shutter speed as long as 32 seconds. 

Camera performance

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OnePlus Nord 2

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)
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OnePlus Nord 2 review

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)
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OnePlus Nord 2 review

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

What the OnePlus Nord 2 does very well compared to the midrange competition from Motorola and Xiaomi is taper saturation. The main camera is a pleasant, neutral take on mobile photography, capturing impressive detail and respectable dynamic range, day or night. 

In bright environments, the main and ultra-wide cameras are at least good enough. They aren’t as wide as some other phones, so if you’re looking for maximum angle of view, it won’t be here. That said, the detail from both is strong. Drop the lights, though, and while the main camera doesn’t stop impressing, the ultra-wide camera introduces grain into the preview on-screen, and aggressive softening in the final image. 

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

The phone doesn’t feature the mightiest macro power, with much cheaper phones like the Redmi Note 10 Pro’s 5MP telemacro camera sorely missed in those macro moments. That said, the main camera can still handle a relatively close-up shot with a 10cm or so focus distance, and results impress. 

In fact, at its price, the OnePlus Nord 2 is our favourite camera phone of late, given we always prioritise the primary camera. Its quality probably has a lot to do with combining the brand’s image processing, which the 9-series notably improved, and the main lens packing OIS; something few phones under £500/$700 offer.

As for the selfie camera, in well-lit scenes, it’s great, and indoors, in restaurant environments, it manages to handle awkward lighting relatively well. The screen-flash, which fires up automatically, does add an oil painting wash to photos, so you’ll want to turn that off. Still, generally speaking, the Nord 2 combines a strong primary camera, a solid selfie camera, and a respectable ultra-wide in bright environments. 

The phone’s video capture is also impressive. Super stable when shooting across resolutions, footage looks decent from the primary camera, and even in dim scenes, provided you don’t mind a bit of grain, is perfectly shareable.

OnePlus Nord 2: Additional specs

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

Powered by a special edition MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI chipset exclusive to OnePlus, paired with 6, 8, or 12GB RAM, its power sits below the Vivo X60 Pro and Xiaomi Poco F3, and above the Google Pixel 5 and OnePlus Nord. That means it’s still a good gaming phone, packs plenty of power for day-to-day tasks, and balances battery efficiency well for non-power users. 

Running Android 11 with OnePlus’s OxygenOS 11.3 over the top, the Nord 2 has the latest take on OnePlus’s interface experience. It’s a bit complicated in parts — there are a few too many ways to take a screenshot, for example, but that’s also excellent for fans of smartphone geekery. App support is fantastic, and thanks to an in-display fingerprint scanner that gets you into your phone relatively quickly, biometric security outperforms much of the midrange competition.

With either 128GB or 256GB storage, the Nord 2 has plenty of storage space (though no SD card slot). Also of note is its large 4500 mAh battery, matching some of the best camera phones out there with its capacity, including the OPPO Find X3 Pro. There’s no wireless charging which is a shame, however, after 10 minutes charging the phone with its 65W charger (that ships with the Nord 2), the battery shot up to 40 percent, and after 30 minutes, the phone was fully charged; very impressive at the price.

OnePlus Nord 2: Verdict

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

The OnePlus Nord 2 5G is a no-frills quality midrange camera phone. The ultra-wide camera isn’t stellar, but the combination of OIS and OnePlus’s image processing makes the main camera a winner for photography fans who like a more natural looking image.

The rest of the phone is also impressive for the price. It has a great screen, in-display fingerprint unlocking, a very good looking design, and nippy internals (and charging). 

Beyond imaging, perhaps the thing that edges the Nord 2 ahead of the Xiaomi-flavoured competition is its interface. While still busy, OnePlus’s UI is more stable, and we had an uninterrupted six days of smartphone gaming, watching, photographing and videoing while we were using it, even if it doesn’t display at 120Hz. 

In turn, if you’re okay with no wireless charging or 120Hz screen scrolling and don’t crave high-zoom telephoto cameras or top-tier power, then the Nord 2 could give you everything you need from an almost flagship at a very agreeable price — definitely one of the best budget camera phones of 2021.

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Basil Kronfli

Basil Kronfli is a freelance technology journalist with a number of specialisms. He started his career at Canon Europe, before joining Phone Arena and Recombu as a tech writer and editor. From there he headed up Btekt as a director and then Future as a Senior Producer, sharpening his considerable video production skills. 


His technical expertise has been called on numerous times by mainstream media, with appearances and interviews on outlets like Sky News, and he provides Digital Camera World with insight and reviews on camera phones, video editing software and laptops, on-camera monitors, camera sliders, microphones and much more.