The OnePlus North had signed the brand’s return to the entry-level market in 2020. This year, the smartphone is entitled to a new version, called OnePlus North CE 5G. It seeks to establish itself in the ultra-competitive field of terminals less than 400 euros thanks to its 5G compatibility as well as its AMOLED screen. Good pick?
In recent years, OnePlus has increasingly relied on premium smartphones. In fact, the manufacturer returned to its first love in 2020 and also the North, and terminal with an attractive technical sheet at less than 500 euros. While the 9 series was unveiled at the start of the year, OnePlus is making a move to the mid-range segment with a new mobile stamped North: the Nord CE 5G.
The Nord CE (for Core Edition) is intended to be even more affordable than the very first model, but more upscale than the N10. It is therefore not a successor to the North, which could arrive soon, but a new version that completes a range already installed. It is sold between 300 and 400 euros, a price segment not yet occupied by the manufacturer.
That remains to be seen how this Nord CE 5G stands out from the competition. More so, is it just a good phone? This is what we will determine in this test.
OUR COMPLETE TEST OF THE ONEPLUS NORD CE 5G IN VIDEO
PRICING AND AVAILABILITY
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G has been sold since June 14, 2021, on the brand’s official website as well as in Orange stores.
It is marketed in three versions. After all, first has 6 GB of RAM with 128 GB of memory and it is displayed at 299 euros. The second is equipped with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of memory and is sold for 349 euros. The last, the “ultimate” version with 12 GB of RAM and 256 GB of memory, is for its part at 399 euros. The smartphone is available in two colors: black and turquoise blue.
AN ENGAGING TECHNICAL SHEET FOR THE PRICE
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G is not a thunderbolt, far from it, but it brings an attractive technical sheet for a terminal in its range. We note the presence of an AMOLED screen with a refresh rate of 90 Hz, which is appreciable, as well as a Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor, modest, but which has the distinction of being 5G compatible. It should also be noted that a fingerprint sensor has made a place under the slab, something rare at this price.
2400 x 1080 pixels
|Bone||Android 11 + OxygenOS 11|
|Selfie sensor||32 MP|
|Biometrics||Footprint scanner under the screen|
For the photo, OnePlus did not work with Hasselblad as for the 9 series (this collaboration is limited to high-end models), but still offers three sensors, including the main one of 64 megapixels. Finally, the 4,500 mAh battery with 30 Watts fast charging promises a lot. It remains to be seen how the terminal fares in everyday life.
On paper, the smartphone, therefore, seems worse than the Redmi Note 10 Pro, with a 120 Hz screen and an extremely powerful photo module while it is sold at 299 euros. However, OnePlus relies on two strengths in particular to convince: the presence of 5G as well as its know-how in terms of design and software overlay.
A SUCCESSFUL DESIGN THAT DOES NOT CHANGE MUCH
OnePlus has absolutely not changed its formula for the OnePlus Nord CE 5G, which looks like the classic OnePlus Nord. The first thing we notice: the Nord CE is very pleasant in the hand. At only 170 grams, it has an extremely well-balanced mass. Added to this is the fineness of 7.9 mm which contributes to this comfort. In everyday life, it is, therefore, a real pleasure to handle it. The manufacturer has always been able to do it at this level, and this product is no exception.
As we said, the Nord CE is available in two colors: black and turquoise blue. This latest version, which we are testing today, features an imitation metal plastic shell with a matte finish. In addition to not being prone to ugly fingerprints, it offers beautiful reflections on its slightly angled edges. In the light, turquoise blue turns into purple. Very pretty.
OnePlus Nord Sensor
For the rest, we are in classic from classic. The photo module, which is made up of three vertical sensors, always sits at the top left while the brand’s logo appears in the middle of the cover. It is indeed a northern clone. The module sticks out a few centimeters, which does not make the smartphone stable when placed on its back. A defect that we often see and which is not really disabling on a daily basis. A soft plastic shell is provided in case if you want to protect your property. Other suitable hulls are also available on the manufacturer’s website but are chargeable.
The slices, on the other hand, are also made of plastic. We find the placement of buttons specific to OnePlus, that is to say, the power button on the right of the screen as well as those dedicated to the volume on the left. Unlike the other terminals of the brand, the Nord CE does not have a small sliding button that allows you to quickly switch to vibrator or silent.
This absence was justified to us by the smoothness of the telephone (even if between us, there was plenty of room to put it). It is especially annoying. Oxygen OS, the manufacturer’s overlay, does not seem to have been designed for cases where this wheel does not exist. Thus, to put the smartphone in silent or in vibrator, you have to tamper with the volume mixer after pressing one of the keys to increase or decrease the sound. Quick handling when you’re used to it, but tedious.
OnePlus Nord Volume Button
We could also blame too sensitive volume buttons. By grabbing his North CE with both hands, it is not uncommon to press on it, as well as on the one dedicated to food, which makes him take an unwanted screenshot. Painful, especially since it does not happen on other models of the brand. We notice the USB Type-C port on the lower edge of the mobile, but also a Jack port, always welcome on a product of this range.
Finally, the screen slab is flat, just like on the first North. If the screen / front ratio is high, at more than 90%, there are still quite thick and unsightly black edges. The frontal AFN, unique unlike the North, is materialized in the form of a punch at the top left. The fingerprint sensor is directly included under the panel. As on the OnePlus 9, it is placed very low, which can confuse the first days of use. Other than that, it works flawlessly and can pair with Android’s facial recognition.
Ultimately, the Nord CE does not really stand out from the previous products in the range. OnePlus always offers a neat visual, here reinforced by a turquoise shell of the most beautiful effect and an excellent grip. However, we regret some very painful little things, such as the lack of a sliding button or this annoying tendency to take screenshots at each manipulation.
A WELL-CALIBRATED AMOLED SCREEN
The OnePlus Nord CE has the same panel as the classic Nord. Here we have a 6.4-inch AMOLED screen with a definition of 2400 x 1080 pixels (20: 9 ratio) as well as a refresh rate of 90 Hz. If we are deprived of 120 Hz, we must nevertheless point out that a rate of 90Hz is always pleasing to the eye and brings a certain fluidity, therefore greater comfort. In the menus, OnePlus of course offers to lower the refresh rate to 60 Hz, but also two predefined color profiles (Vivid and Natural) and a customizable mode.
Of course, we put the screen under the lens of our probe and it turns out that OnePlus did a good job. AMOLED obliges, we have an infinite contrast. The blacks are therefore deep and the whites are brilliant. In Vivid mode, the colors are logically saturated to flatter the retina. The average delta E here is 3.8 (below 3, the colors displayed are very faithful to the original ones) and the temperature a little high, at 7030 K, i.e. the 6500K of the video standard. . The screen, therefore, draws towards blue on a white display. Finally, we note a maximum brightness at 490 cd / m², which is a bit tight on a smartphone. It will therefore be difficult to read on a bright day.
OnePlus Nord CE
The natural mode looks duller in comparison, which is to be expected. It is also fairer. The temperature here is at 6700K while the Delta E is at 1.5 which is great. It is in this mode that you must choose to admire your photos or simply have a natural image. For its part, the brightness is similar. In short, we have here a well-calibrated screen that keeps its promises. Everything is not perfect, we would have liked a higher brightness, but for a terminal between 300 and 400 euros, it’s excellent.
For the audio part, on the other hand… it’s not really that. The Nord CE only has a speaker located on its lower edge. If it is rather well placed (towards the angle), it will still be necessary to be careful not to obstruct it with the hand under penalty of completely blocking the exit of the sound. The sound, in fact, is worthy of an 80s FM radio. Certainly, the power is exemplary, but the distortion is felt when the volume is over 70%. The timbres of voices are difficult to recognize and listen to music … at your own risk. We must add to this a smartphone that vibrates between the fingers at high volume, which is unpleasant. A failure.
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor. The smartphone also offers several configurations, as we have said, with 6, 8, or 12 GB of RAM. A modest technical sheet which however has the merit of being compatible with the 5G network, gives it an advantage over the Redmi Note 10 Pro, the best smartphone in this price segment, which does not have one.
Overall, Qualcomm’s SoC delivers the expected performance. We are here facing a mid-range that does not sparkle but is still correct enough to offer a fluid experience. During our week of testing, we did not experience any slowdowns or crashes. All the applications are functioning correctly and we had no particular concerns to report. The SoC perfectly fulfills its contract for the so-called “classic” use of a smartphone. However, it is not certain that this will be the case in one or two years.
Graphics level, the SoC is served by an Adreno 619 GPU which allows you to play the big games of the moment but accepting to make concessions. For example, Genshin Impact, the most greedy title on the PlayStore, runs correctly at 30 frames per second with graphics set to “low”. In “average”, we begin to feel drops in framerate during the fights and very present heating (but well distributed). In short, not really a phone for gamers.
OXYGEN OS, AN OVERLAY ALWAYS ON TOP
The OnePlus Nord CE 5G is equipped with Android 11 with the in-house Oxygen OS 11 overlay. If you read us regularly, you know that we think it is the best manufacturer overlay on the market for Android. We find all the qualities of Oxygen OS in the North CE.
It is always ultra-customizable and allows you to change the layout, themes, animation of the fingerprint sensor, or even the main color of the menus at will. On that, we have nothing to reproach him with. In addition, it is easy to use with one hand, the main actions being placed automatically at the bottom right of the screen in the proprietary applications.
AMOLED also allows for the presence of an always-on-display mode, which is still appreciable. Here again, OnePlus allows the user to choose between several modes (canva, time, summary of the day).
Finally, it should be noted that OnePlus listens to its community a lot. Thus, we can be sure that if a problem or a navigation problem is reported by users, it will be corrected in the next version. In short, an excellent overlay. Even more, it is a real asset for this Nord CE, a strong point that sets it apart from the competition.
A RECESSED PHOTO PART
With its Series 9, OnePlus has announced its new partnership with the optical giant Hasselblad. However, this collaboration is not current on the North CE, since it is reserved for high-end only, that is to say, the OnePlus 9 and the OnePlus 9 Pro. So we have a “classic” photo part. OnePlus has never shone in this segment, and that’s not going to change with the Nord CE. The module includes three sensors: a main 64-megapixel (which is more than the classic Nord), an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle sensor, and a 2-megapixel monochrome sensor.
On the whole, the shots are not catastrophic, but they lack precision, especially in the contrasts. Bright photos do not appear natural and some in a low light environment (here in the church, normally very dark) have their brightness artificially adjusted.
The ultra-wide-angle sensor makes his presence felt, the shots obtained are not really good. The terminal has an X10 digital zoom, which gives unusable results (which is not a surprise).
The night mode is rather effective, even if once again, we feel an artificial brightness that comes to the rescue of the end result.
In macro, the OnePlus Nord CE is doing surprisingly well, with correct shots and a very responsive focus. It is not difficult to take moving subjects, like children or animals.
Ultimately, OnePlus does not claim to deliver a photophone with this Nord CE. We have a barely-average module that will satisfy the less demanding users. This will be enough to put his meal or travel photos on Instagram.
Regarding the video part, the Nord CE 5G can film up to 4K and 30 images per second. It is also possible to lock in 1080p at 60 frames per second. It’s good but classic.
GOOD BATTERY LIFE, BUT NOT SO FAST FAST CHARGING
The OnePlus Nord CE has a 4,500mAh battery, which on paper is fine for the setup and this type of screen. We can also count on an Oxygen OS which is always well optimized. In fact, on average we lasted a day and a half with a load (screen set to 90 Hz, always-on-display mode activated), and this in so-called “normal” use, that is to say, little games, some social media, photos, calls, etc. We are therefore in the current market average. By setting the screen to 60 Hz, we were able to last two full days, which is good.
OnePlus provides a 30 Watt charger in the Nord CE box with the promise of ultra-fast charging. She’s not that fast actually. In our testing, we measured a 2 to 100% recharge in one hour and sixteen minutes, which is a bit disappointing. Note that the charge slows down a lot in the last 30 percent and we can recharge the North CE from 0 to 70% in just under 40 minutes. Useful if you run out of battery and have little time in front of you.
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All image credit to Phonandroid.com