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OnePlus Nord 2 vs. OnePlus Nord: what's new?

OnePlus Nord 2 vs OnePlus Nord
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

With the release of the excellent OnePlus Nord 2, it was inevitable that the latest OnePlus midrange model would be compared to last year's OnePlus Nord. Both phones remain excellent value devices for the price, but unsurprisingly the more recent phone is probably the best one for most users.

However, the upgrades that make the Nord 2 the superior phone are not as straightforward as you might think. OnePlus made some big changes under the 90Hz screen which may have endangered the all-round excellence of the phone, but fortunately for the company, it paid off.

It can be argued that some of the more unique aspects of the first Nord and its cheaper price mean that you shouldn't ignore the older model. It'll take a very specific kind of user who'll want to use the original Nord instead of the Nord 2 though, especially since the less expensive Nord CE offers similar features to the first phone.

Our OnePlus Nord 2 vs. OnePlus Nord face-off looks at where the differences and similarities lie. Hopefully this will help you decide which Nord is the best for you.

OnePlus Nord 2 vs. OnePlus Nord: Specs

OnePlus NordOnePlus Nord 2
Display6.44-inch AMOLED, FHD6.43-inch AMOLED, FHD
Refresh rate90Hz/60Hz (fixed)90Hz/60Hz (fixed)
Rear cameras48MP wide (ƒ/1.75); 8MP ultrawide; 5MP depth (ƒ/2.4); 2MP macro (ƒ/2.4)50MP main (f/1.88), 8MP ultrawide (f/2.25), 2MP mono (f/2.5)
Front camera(s)32MP (ƒ/2.45) and 8MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.45)32MP selfie (f2.45)
ChipsetSnapdragon 765GMediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI
RAM8GB, 12GB8GB, 12GB
Storage128GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB
Battery4,115 mAh4,500 mAh
Charging30W wired65W wired
Size6.23 x 2.88 x 0.32 inches (158.3 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm)6.25 x 2.88 x 0.32 inches (158.9 x 73.2 x 8.25 mm)
Weight6.49 ounces (184 grams)6.67 ounches (189g)

OnePlus Nord 2 vs. OnePlus Nord: Price and availability

The original OnePlus Nord started at £379, with the more luxurious 12GB/256GB model costing £469. Both of these are now discounted however, and can be picked up for around £329 and £419, respectively.

The Nord 2 costs a little more than the Nord did last year. The base 8GB/128GB version costs £399, while the 12GB/256GB edition is the same as before at £469.

OnePlus Nord review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

OnePlus Nord 2 vs. OnePlus Nord: Design and display

From the front both, phones look almost identical, with the only difference being the front camera notch. The old Nord has two cameras in a double punch-hole notch, while the new Nord 2 uses a single punch-hole with just one sensor.

OnePlus Nord 2 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The bodies of both phones are the same 6.4-inch size, give or take a few fractions of an inch. The phones offer very similar colors too, with both coming in slightly different shades of gray and turquoise blue.

OnePlus has used pretty much the same screen on both phones too. The displays are 6.4-inch, FHD AMOLED panels with 90Hz fixed refresh rates. There are some software improvements on the Nord 2, however. The new phone features AI Color Boost and AI Resolution Boost for more colorful and more detailed video, and Smart Ambient Display, which purports to improve the readability of the screen when you're in bright light.

OnePlus Nord 2 vs. OnePlus Nord: Cameras

Cameras are the area where the two phones differ the most. The OnePlus Nord features six cameras, while the Nord 2 offers a more pedestrian four.

OnePlus Nord

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

On the back of the 2020 Nord, you get a 48MP main sensor, an 8MP ultrawide sensor, a 5MP depth sensor for improved portrait mode images and a 2MP macro sensor for extreme close-ups. The Nord 2 has a 50MP main sensor, an 8MP ultrawide sensor and a 2MP mono sensor for better black-and-white shots.

OnePlus Nord 2 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The first Nord used a 32MP selfie camera and an 8MP ultrawide camera on the front, but this has been trimmed down to a single 32MP camera on the Nord 2. 

OnePlus Nord 2 vs. OnePlus Nord: Performance

The silicon inside the two Nords is different in a number of ways. The first Nord used a Snapdragon 765G, a mid-tier chip from Qualcomm. The Nord 2 however uses a Dimensity 1200-AI, a customized chip from MediaTek that is more powerful than the 765G's successor, the 780G.

Both phones offer identical RAM/storage options. The basic model has 8GB RAM and 128GB storage, while the more expensive model has 12GB RAM and 256GB RAM. Both options are fairly generous for this price point, and help provide the phones with a lot of performance for the price. The Nord 2 is obviously the more powerful.

OnePlus Nord 2 vs. OnePlus Nord: 5G

No matter which Nord you look at from this duo, they both offer 5G, thanks to modems built onto the chipsets. The only issue is compatibility.

Since both phones are intended for sale in Europe and India, they don't offer compatibility with American 5G networks, neither sub-6GHz nor mmWave. That could prove disappointing for travelers to the U.S., or if you make the bold decision of importing a Nord or Nord 2 from overseas.

OnePlus Nord 2 vs. OnePlus Nord: Battery and charging

The first Nord offered impressive charging specs. Its 4,115 mAh battery lasted a long time on a single charge, and with a 30W power brick included in the box it filled up again 

OnePlus Nord 2 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Nord 2 surpasses on all fronts. Its battery is a dual-cell 4,500 mAh model, which allows it to use OnePlus' top-tier 65W charging system. While we've been unable to pit the two phones against one another in this respect, the specs would suggest that the Nord 2 is much better when it comes to charging speed.

OnePlus Nord 2 vs. OnePlus Nord: Software

OnePlus uses its OxygenOS version of stock Android on both Nords. The Nord shipped with Android 10, but has since been upgraded to Android 11. The Nord 2 comes with Android 11 out of the box.

OnePlus' recently revised software update policy means both the Nord and Nord 2 get two years of Android updates and three of security updates. Of course that means the newer OnePlus Nord 2 will last longer since we're already a year into the life of the first Nord.

OnePlus Nord 2 vs. OnePlus Nord: bottom line

Overall, this OnePlus Nord 2 vs. OnePlus Nord face-off reveals a pretty standard generational difference. The latest phone offers benefits for performance, battery, charging and photography in at least some circumstances. The areas where little has changed, such as the display or the design, may be a little disappointing but don't detract from the Nord 2's overall value.

There aren't a huge number of reasons to go for the older model. The different set of cameras, including the unusual front ultrawide lens, might pique the interest of unconventional selfie takers. 

Even then, last year's Nord can now be found at a cheaper price. But given the improvements with the Nord 2, it still might be worth paying up for a new phone.

Richard Priday

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. He's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.