5 reasons OnePlus Nord beats the iPhone SE

OnePlus Nord vs iPhone SE
(Image credit: OnePlus/Apple)

The OnePlus Nord is generating a lot of buzz because of how much phone OnePlus crammed in for such a low price. The iPhone SE has a similar appeal, but OnePlus and Apple take different approaches to their cheapest phones. And when you take a hard look at what you're getting for the money, the Nord looks like the better value. 

Yes, the iPhone SE ($399) has the faster A13 Bionic processor, but when you look at other areas like screen size, design, the number of cameras and 5G capability, you can see why the OnePlus Nord (£379, under $500) starts to pull away. Here's why the OnePlus Nord is a better value than the iPhone SE.

A bigger and better screen

The OnePlus Nord has a 6.4-inch display.

The OnePlus Nord has a 6.4-inch display. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Although some people may prefer the tiny 4.7-inch LCD on the iPhone SE, the OnePlus Nord's 6.4-inch OLED panel is bigger and more colorful. OLEDs are technically superior to LCDs in terms of color saturation, black levels and viewing angles. If you're into watching Netflix shows or playing games, the Nord is a no-brainer.

iPhone SE 2020 review

The iPhone SE sports a 4.7-inch screen. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Plus, the Nord offers a 90Hz refresh rate, compared to 60Hz for the iPhone SE. This means you should enjoy smoother scrolling, video playback and gaming on the OnePlus Nord.  The Nord also wins on screen resolution, packing 2400 x 1080 pixels compared to just 1334 x 750 for the iPhone SE.

A design that looks like it's from 2020

OnePlus Nord

You won't find chunky bezels on the OnePlus Nord. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone SE's design has some things going for it, including water resistance and premium looking glass back. However, the OnePlus Nord actually looks like a phone from this year, with minimal bezels around its display.

By comparison the bezels on the iPhone SE look ginormous, including the chin that houses Apple's Touch ID sensor. The OnePlus Nord integrates its fingerprint sensor directly into the display.

The OnePlus Nord wins on color options, too. While the iPhone SE comes in ho-hum hues like white, black and red, the Nord has more interesting options in Blue Marble and Gray Onyx. 

More versatile cameras

The OnePlus Nord houses four rear cameras.

The OnePlus Nord houses four rear cameras. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple proved with the iPhone SE (just like the Pixel 3a did before it) that you can deliver excellent photos with a single rear camera. And that's because of the computational photography magic provided by Apple's A13 Bionic chip. It allows the iPhone SE to pull off Portrait Mode and Smart HDR without needing a second lens.

OnePlus Nord

A OnePlus Nord photo sample in Nightscape mode. (Image credit: OnePlus)

However, it's hard to overlook the versatility of the OnePlus Nord. The handset packs four rear cameras, including a 48MP wide camera, an 8MP ultra-wide lens, a 5MP depth sensor and even a 2MP macro lens. That gives you a lot of shooting options the iPhone SE can't match. Plus, the Nord offers a Nightscape mode for low-light shots while the iPhone SE lacks a Night mode.

The OnePlus Nord also looks to be a better option for selfies, thanks to a 32MP camera up front paired with an ultra-wide camera with a 105-degree field of view. This should let you fit more people into your shots. The iPhone SE makes due with a 7MP selfie cam.

5G speed vs 4G

OnePlus Nord 5G

(Image credit: OnePlus)

Granted, 5G is far from ubiquitous around the world. but even if you're buying a cheaper phone you probably prefer that it's as future proof as possible. After all, you're probably going to hold onto the phone for at least a couple of years. That's why it's good to know that the Snapdragon 765G chipset in the OnePlus Nord support 5G connectivity.

That way you can enjoy faster downloads wherever there's coverage — and if 5G is not in your neck of the woods yet you'll be ready for when it is. The iPhone SE will forever be stuck in the 4G LTE lane.

Bigger battery and faster charging

OnePlus Nord warp charging

The OnePlus Nord offers 20W fast charging standard. (Image credit: OnePlus)

Apple's iPhone SE reportedly packs a 1,821 mAh battery, which didn't deliver great results in our web surfing battery test. The handset lasted only 9 hours and 18 minutes, while the handsets on our best phone battery life list all last over 11 hours on a charge.

The OnePlus Nord should offer more saying power with its much larger 4,115 mAh battery, but it also needs to power a much bigger display than the iPhone SE.

What we do know for sure is that the OnePlus Nord charges faster than the iPhone SE out of the box. And that's because the OnePlus Nord includes a 30W fast charger, while Apple forces you to pay extra for a 18W charger.

Bottom line

The iPhone SE is one of the best cheap phones of the year because it delivers flagship-level performance for hundreds less than flagship phones, along with very good camera quality. But the OnePlus Nord looks like an even better value because you get a bigger and smoother screen, 5G connectivity a much more modern design and more versatile cameras.

The biggest strike against the OnePlus Nord is that the company currently does not plan to bring the handset to the U.S. But overall, the OnePlus Nord looks to be a superior mid-range phone to Apple's handset.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.