OnePlus is back to doing what it does best—gracefully undercutting the big phone brands. The new OnePlus Nord N10 5G offers an affordable, accessible entry point to 5G with a powerful Snapdragon 690 processor and a beautiful 90hz display. Launching for $300 on January 15th in the U.S. (£329 in the U.K.), the N10 5G is a certified winner with a couple of glaring flaws.
Like other OnePlus phones, the N10 5G knocks performance and design out of the park. I’m excited to tell you about its beautiful display, great build quality, and kickass specs. But I’m not excited to talk about its cameras, which aren’t as reliable as you and I might like. Also, while you’re here I want to clarify that this is a 5G phone. Unless you live in a metropolitan area, you probably won’t benefit from 5G for another year or two. Just something to keep in mind!
The OnePlus Nord N10 5G releases in the U.K. before the end of November, with a U.S. release of January 15th, 2021. OnePlus sent me a European model of the phone for this review, which means that I can’t test 5G. Besides that, my experience is the same as anyone using a North American model of the N10 5G.
Let’s stop mucking around (as the Brits say) and start looking at some specs!
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 690
- RAM: 6 GB LPDDR4x
- Storage: 128 GB UFS2.1 (Faster than eMMC) + expandable to 512 GB
- Display: 6.49-inch 1080×2400 (405 PPI) LCD w/ 90hz refresh rate and a hole-punch front camera
- Cameras: 64-megapixel main camera, 8-megapixel wide ca, 2-megapixel macro lens, 2-megapixel monochrome (black and white) lens, and a 16-megapixel front camera
- Battery: 4,300mAh
- Charging: 30-watt Warp Charging with the included Warp Charger
- Headphone Jack: Yes
- Fingerprint Sensor: Rear-mounted
- Connectivity: 5GNR: n2,5,66,71,25,41
- IP Rating: Nope
- Colors: Midnight Ice
- Dimensions: 163mm x 74.4mm x 8.95mm; 190g
- Price: $300 U.S. and £329 U.K.
By the way, tech nerds might recognize the OnePlus Nord N10 5G as a sequel to the popular Europe-exclusive OnePlus Nord. I’m not going to compare the phones to each other because OnePlus never sold the original Nord in the U.S., and to be honest, the N10 5G doesn’t have much in common with its forebear.
It Looks Good, It Feels Good, It Works Good
As with all OnePlus handsets, the Nord N10 5G is dripping with premium design choices. It looks and feels like a flagship phone, with a beautiful (and massive) 6.49-inch FHD+ display, a glossy glass back, and a massive Samsung-like camera bump. OnePlus also chose a “Midnight Ice” color for this phone, which looks very pretty when you’re outdoors or in a well-lit room.
Build quality is stellar, with components that look great and feel solid. There’s a headphone jack, a set of kickass stereo speakers, and a comfortable rear-mounted fingerprint reader that reminds me of the Pixel 4a. Critics may complain that the N10 5G has a plastic frame, but I don’t care because it makes the phone super lightweight and comfortable despite its outrageous size.
Critics may also complain that the N10 5G has an LCD display. To be honest, it took me a full week of using the phone to realize that it doesn’t have an OLED panel, a fact I discovered while writing out the specs for this review. Contrast and color on the N10 5G look incredible, and with its super-smooth 90hz refresh rate, it feels more futuristic (and makes a better fidget toy) than your standard 60hz OLED panel.
Anyway, a 90hz refresh rate is useless without performance, and the Nord N10 5G runs like a dream. The Snapdragon 690 processor, UFS2.1 storage, and 6GB of RAM make this thing fly, even when you’re multitasking or playing games.
If you asked me to guess the price of this phone based on its performance, build, and display, I’d shoot for around $700. I mean, these specs are incredible for the price. Unfortunately, specs can be a bit misleading, and I’m going to spend the rest of this review clarifying how the N10 5G’s shockingly big battery, massive camera sensors, and speedy 30-watt warp charging are actually pretty average for its £329 price tag. The direct price conversion there is about $432 USD, but again, U.S. price is TBA—as soon as we know, you’ll know.
A Big Battery and 30-Watt Charging
One of the N10 5G’s flashiest specs is its massive 4,300mAh battery. Coupled with 30-watt “Warp Charging,” you’d think that this phone would rarely need a charge. But the N10 5G actually uses quite a bit of power thanks to its 90hz display, juiced-up processor, and 5G antenna. In the end, you have a phone that reaches 25 to 30% by bedtime—great, but not life-changing.
That’s where the value of 30-watt charging comes into question. The whole point in this fancy “Warp” charger (which comes with the phone) is that you can spend less time sitting near an outlet and more time mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Twitter. But if you only charge your phone while you’re in bed, then the extra speed doesn’t matter. I think a lot of people would trade this 30-watt fast charging for wireless charging, a feature that’s missing from the N10 5G.
I’m not saying that the N10 5G loses points for its big battery and 30-watt charging, I’m just wondering whether these features are as life-changing as some people claim them to be. That said, you could probably push the N10 5G’s battery to last for two full days if you set it to 60hz and play around with Power Saving Mode.
I should also reiterate that OnePlus sent me the European version of the N10 5G, so I can’t really test 5G’s effect on its battery life. The impact should be negligible if you don’t use much mobile data, although you might find yourself charging the N10 5G during dinner if you watch Netflix, play games, or download apps while you’re at work or school.
Photographers Beware, You’re in for a Scare!
Camera performance on the N10 5G is underwhelming. The phone takes decent looking pictures in good lighting, but even the best photos look overprocessed and fail to compete with photos shot on Apple, Google, and Samsung phones.
But photo quality isn’t really the issue here. I’m more concerned with the N10 5G’s lack of consistency when taking photos. You really have to work this thing to get a good picture, and you can’t trust what you see through the viewfinder. If you’re a camera nerd or someone who likes to capture spontaneous moments, then beware!
Above are four photos from the OnePlus Nord N10 5G. The first photo was shot indoors with the main camera in portrait mode. It’s a good example of what you can get from the N10 5G when the stars are aligned. The second photo is from the main camera outdoors and serves as a great comparison for the third photo, which is a very blown-out looking ultrawide. The final shot is a macro. I don’t like it, but it’s the only macro shot that I could get in focus.
I think that OnePlus could greatly improve on the N10 5G by replacing its family-sized quad-camera array with a single wide-angle lens. The reason why I hold this opinion is because, honestly, this phone’s 64-megapixel wide camera is the only one worth using. Photos from the 8-megapixel ultrawide lens look blown out and over-sharpened, and the 2-megapixel macro lens is shockingly bad. As for the 2-megapixel monochrome (black and white) camera … what’s the point?
While I wish that OnePlus would focus on building a great, reliable main camera instead of blowing money on extra lenses, I have to admit that the 16-megapixel selfie camera is pretty accurate and consistent. The N10 5G also supports some impressive video specs, handling 4K video at 30 FPS with options for Super Slow-Mo and Time Lapse at 1080p.
The Gist: A Good Overall Phone, but Consider the Alternatives
OnePlus and its sister brands (Oppo, Vivo, etc) tend to focus on big numbers. When you look at the spec sheet, the Nord N10 5G offers faster charging, more cameras, a bigger screen, and a higher refresh rate than any similarly-priced 5G handset.
But you can’t judge a phone by its spec sheet. In the real world, the Nord N10 5G’s performance, usability, and battery life are comparable to many other (often cheaper) devices like the Pixel 4a or the two-year-old Galaxy S9—which I used to shoot the photos for this review. The main draw for the N10 5G is really its gigantic 90hz display, its glass black, its 5G capabilities, and its expensive-looking exterior. If you don’t actually care about that stuff, then you should look around and consider some cheaper 4G alternatives.
Here’s What We Like
- Great price for a 5G handset
- Fantastic FHD+ 90hz display
- 30-watt Warp Charging
- Loud stereo speakers and headphone jack
- Premium look and feel, but still lightweight
- Comes with 30-watt "Warp" charger
And What We Don't
- It has 5 cameras, but none of them are amazing
- No wireless charging
- No official IPX water-resistance rating
- There are better-priced alternatives if you don't need 5G