Specs: 6.4-inch full HD+ screen, Oxygen OS 11 with Android 11, Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor, 6GB with 128GB/8GB with 128GB/ 12GB with 256GB storage, 64MP+8MP ultra-wide+2MP mono camera, 16MP front camera, 4500 mAh battery, 30W Wrap charging
Price: Rs 22,999 onwards
Colour: Blue Void, Charcoal ink
In the Box: OnePlus Nord CE 5G, Warp Charge 30 power adapter, Warp Type-C cable, Phone case, pre-applied Screen protector
Since its first launch, OnePlus has been popular for its reasonably priced flagship smartphone alternatives offering uncompromised performance. But the rising input cost and flagships getting expensive have left a vacuum in the sweet spot of sub Rs 25,000 category. Filling this gap is the mid-budget OnePlus Nord CE. Priced starting Rs 22,999, this 5G enabled Nord CE comes with a decent set of specifications offering great performance. Mind you, this isn't a successor to the OnePlus Nord launched last year. Instead, it's a trimmed-down version, creating a niche of its own.
First thing first. Nord CE isn't a flagship premium yet it looks good. It is a no-nonsense design with an almost borderless display at the front and a vibrant panel curving towards the sides at the rear. Side edges have minimalist controls too -- power button on the right, volume buttons and SIM tray on the left, and the Type-C charging port along with a 3.5mm jack at the bottom. With the Nord CE, OnePlus has done away with the notification slider (popularly referred to as alert slider) -- a very practical feature that used to come in handy when in meetings. Neither does the front or the rear attract fingerprints. Unlike the current range of smartphones in the market, it feels lightweight (170 grams) and is comfortable to hold too.
Complementing the design is the 6.4-inch full HD+ AMOLED display with bright and vivid colour reproduction. The touch response is good and this AMOLED screen is legible in bright daylight too. It also houses a fingerprints scanner, which is quick in unlocking the phone. 90Hz refresh rate offering smoother-looking motion has been turned on by default but can be switched to 60Hz too. The difference can be noticed while gaming. And then there are settings such as vision comfort for adjusting the screen's colour temperature and saturation, and read mode, that are soft on the eyes.
Everyone wants to buy a smartphone with a great camera. Even though the Nord CE does not have fancy camera specs, the triple camera setup does not disappoint either. Restricted at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I mostly tested the phone's camera on my terrace garden -- pointing it at flowers, fruits, birds and beautiful mornings and evening sky. The automatic scene detection on the primary camera (64MP but captures images using pixel binning at 16MP) identified most of the scenarios, resulting in capturing some stunning images. Most shots captured during ample lighting turned out to be sharp with great colour accuracy and details. However, low-light isn't its forte but the Nightscape mode that takes around 7 seconds to capture an image resulted in some brighter shots (with visible noise).
The ultra-wide camera came in handy, while capturing nice scenic shots of sunrise and sunsets with the shades of yellow and orange merging with clouds. I even frame some great black and white images using the mono lens. The simple camera user interface puts everything at fingertips -- from portrait mode to pro mode. The former was a little tricky to work with as it didn't allow me to adjust the background blur but most of the images captured were up to the mark. I'm not a selfie person but the ones captured using the 16MP front camera were acceptable. Sharing the last captured image was easy-peasy -- long-pressing the thumbnail appearing at the bottom right popped up sharing options such as Bluetooth, Google Play services, Duo and more.
All this is further supplemented with the neat Oxygen UI running Android 11, which comes very close to the stock Android user interface. Shortcuts are added to the homescreen with all the apps resting in the app tray. It comes preloaded with Google apps and services, a handful of OnePlus apps, Netflix and Recorder. There weren't any performance hiccups as it handled my daily load of work including checking emails, social networking, documentation, camera testing, video calls, streaming and a little bit of gaming with ease. Powered by a Snapdragon 750G processor, my review unit was the one with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage (Rs 27,999). Even the battery backup and juice cycle are impressive. Accompanied with the 30MW wrap charger that juices the 4500mAh battery in an hour it lasted me a day and a half with ease.
Also read: Xiaomi M11 Ultra: Aiming for the Moon
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