OnePlus Nord Hands-On: Headed in the Right Direction

oneplus_nord_displaying_website_held_in_hand
Ste Knight

The OnePlus Nord—the latest handset released by the popular mobile brand—drops today. It follows the release of the popular 8-series, and while it doesn’t carry the price tag of a flagship handset, it certainly comes loaded with the features OnePlus users have come to expect.

The phone is launching August 4th in Europe and India, priced at £379 for the 8GB/128GB model and £469 for the 12GB/256GB version. At the time of writing, there are no announcements for any other markets, including North America.

I’ve managed to get my grubby mittens on the Nord and, given that the phone is lauded as a less-expensive mid-range handset, I’m suitably impressed with the results. While I have yet to really put it through its paces (hey, I’ve only just received it, give me a break) I do have some initial thoughts to share with you.

Let’s check out the main details before we take a first look at what the OnePlus Nord has hidden up its proverbial sleeve. The Nord packs all of this:

  • 6.44-inch, 2400×1080p, AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate
  • OxygenOS 10.5 based on Android 10
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G 5G processor
  • 8 GB/12 GB RAM
  • 128 GB/256 GB storage
  • Type-C USB port (supports Type-C headphones – no headphone jack)
  • Power switch, volume rocker, sound mode slider
  • Rear cameras
    • 48 MP main camera
    • 8 MP ultra-wide-angle camera
    • 2 MP macro camera
    • 5 MP depth sensor
  • Front cameras
    • 32 MP main camera
    • 8 MP ultra-wide-angle camera
  • Bluetooth 5.1, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4G/5G
  • In the box: OnePlus Nord Handset, Type-C charging cable, WARP Charge 3.0 adapter, pre-applied screen protector, clear smartphone case
  • Specs as reviewed: 256 GB/12 GB

I have to say, given that this has been billed as a non-flagship priced phone, it certainly feels like one. It is so nice to hold, thanks to its minimal weight and perfectly hand-sized dimensions. It also has a Gorilla Glass rear, which adds that pro touch. Without a case, its back is very smooth against the palm; it really is a good looking smartphone.

oneplus_nord_front_face
Ste Knight

It comes in two colors: Blue Marble (which I’m testing and which looks fantastic) and Grey Onyx. The rear of the handset has an almost milky blueness to it, with the edges of the Nord carrying an icy blue, metallic strip. The screen has a pleasingly thin bezel, which is nice as it doesn’t take up much real estate up-front.

The rear of the phone carries a camera strip with four lenses. Next to this is the dual-LED flash for ensuring your snaps are bright and well-defined. The top left of the screen features an extra-wide “hole punch” for the camera lenses, which includes an 8 MP ultra-wide-angle camera. Dual front cameras are a first for OnePlus, but the company tells us that this will make taking selfies even easier.

oneplus_nord_rear_face

So, these are the details about the internal machinations of OnePlus’ latest handset, but what do I actually think about it? I mean, these are my first impressions after all. Well, I’ll give you my initial thoughts now, but hang fire on a full review until I’ve had a chance to fully test it over time. Here’s what I think:

  • The overall dimensions of the phone are ideal. At least they are for me, and I don’t have the biggest hands in the world. I found I could easily reach whatever icon or key I needed, even when I was only using the phone one-handed (I smoke, this is important on a smoking break). It also doesn’t feel too heavy in the hand which is good.
  • It may be a fairly small point, but the fact that OnePlus included a case in the box (as is common for OnePlus and some budget phone makers) is a stroke of genius. My girlfriend actually had the OnePlus 3T and she dropped it the day it was delivered. This cracked the screen. Had she had a case in the box this wouldn’t have happened. More smartphone brands need to take note here. Having to go and buy a case after receiving your handset is, frankly, a pain in the ass.
  • The flat screen is a welcome return to form. The 8-series has a curved screen. My current non-OnePlus handset has a curved screen. I don’t really like curved screens. They encourage accidental gesturing and have resulted in an infuriating loss of information when I have been filling forms out online and accidentally navigated away from the screen. The flat screen also makes the phone more secure in your hand, I find.
  • The Type-C USB charging port is obviously great for charging. However, if you want to listen to music with a wired connection, you’ll need a pair of Type-C headphones—there is no 3.5mm jack. Either that or you’ll need a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter which is sold separately. This is a notable lack in a mid-range phone—compare it to the Pixel 3a series, which included a headphone jack after the more expensive Pixel 3 dropped it. It’s a good thing that OnePlus is releasing its first set of true wireless earbuds today too, eh?
  • I love the display. Colors are bright and bold—they don’t seem at all washed-out or dim in the manner of some inexpensive handsets. Lines are crisp and well-defined. As a first impression, I’d say the screen is definitely flagship-quality, although a full test with varied sources will reveal how it performs across the board.
  • The sound-mode slider is a welcome touch and has been consistently present on all recent OnePlus smartphones. Not all handsets have these and they are very useful for quickly shutting your phone up if it accidentally launches into a full-blast version of your No Woman, No Cry ringtone at your Auntie’s funeral. Having to do this on-screen simply serves to prolong the pain. It is a very welcome convenience that is worth mentioning.
oneplus_nord_with_box
Ste Knight

So, there we have it—a first look at the OnePlus Nord. The handset is available for pre-order right now during a limited-time OnePlus pop-up shop, so head to its website if you’re interested in grabbing an initially-impressive yet inexpensive smartphone. And if you miss out on grabbing the handset today, you can visit a 24-hour-long John Lewis pop-up shop on July 31.

The Nord will officially go on sale directly from OnePlus, Three, John Lewis, and Amazon starting on August 4. Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for my full review, coming very soon.

Ste Knight Ste Knight
Steven is a freelance copy and content writer within the tech industry and beyond, hailing from Liverpool, UK. He's an expert reviewer, covering everything from the latest smartphones and audio to robot vacuums and electric scooters. If it's a cool new piece of tech, Ste will give you the lowdown on what it's really like to use. Read Full Bio »

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