OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 6T: Should you upgrade?

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 6t
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The OnePlus 6T debuted to favorable reviews a couple years ago, thanks to its gorgeous display, fast performance and low cost relative to other flagships. But two years is a long time in the smartphone world, and new features and enhancements have emerged among the best phones that make even the OnePlus 6T feel a little dated.

With flagship phone prices creeping ever upward, OnePlus opted to take a different tack with a more midrange phone that still retains a few premium features. The result is the OnePlus Nord, a much less expensive phone with capabilities that match — and in some cases exceed — what the OnePlus 6T can deliver.

Comparing the OnePlus Nord vs. the OnePlus 6T can show us what progress OnePlus has made as a phone maker, even as it looks to broaden its product line beyond flagship handsets. And who knows? Maybe current OnePlus 6T owners will see enough in the OnePlus Nord to decide that this midrange device should be their next smartphone when it's time to upgrade.

Here's how the OnePlus Nord and OnePlus 6T compare.

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 6T price

Right now, it's hard for any phone to claim that it's a better value than the OnePlus Nord. This is the least expensive phone OnePlus has sold in years, with a starting price of £379 in the UK and €399 in the rest of Europe. (Where's the US price you ask? We'll get to that in a minute.) For that, you get a phone with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

The OnePlus 6T started at $549 for the 6GB/128GB model when it debuted in 2018, though the most popular version of the 6T was likely the one sold through T-Mobile. That phone had 8GB of RAM and 128GB storage for $579, so there's roughly an $80 to $100 difference from the Nord's price once you account for currency conversions. These days, you can find used versions of the OnePlus 6T at online stores for around $300.

While the OnePlus Nord costs less now than the OnePlus 6T did back then, the new phone isn't as accessible — at least not in the US. OnePlus is shipping the Nord in Europe and India first, and while it's hinted that a budget phone may eventually come to the US, it likely will be a model with slightly different specs such as a less powerful processor. For now, you can import a Nord from a country where it's on sale, though reports say the current phone lacks the bands to work with US cellular networks.

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 6T design

Despite its low price, the OnePlus Nord doesn't look much like a budget phone. OnePlus uses metal and glass in the Nord's design, so that it doesn't feel like the cheaper handset it actually is. Place a Nord next to the OnePlus 6T, and you'd be hard-pressed to determine which is the midrange model and which is the aging flagship.

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 6T

OnePlus Nord (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

There are differences, though, starting with the amount of available screen real estate. With the 6T, OnePlus used a teardrop design to host the front camera. While bezels on that phone are minimal, you still have a camera dipping into the top of the display. For the Nord, OnePlus went with an in-screen cutout for the two front cameras. As a result, you get a little bit more screen with the OnePlus Nord vs. the OnePlus 6T, even though both phones have 6.4-inch displays.

Flip the phones over and you'll find a different approach to the rear camera arrays. The OnePlus 6T's two lenses are right in the middle of the phone, while the OnePlus Nord places its multiple cameras in a vertical strip down the upper left corner. Both phones make use of an in-display fingerprint sensor — a bit of a surprise for a low-cost phone like the Nord.

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 6T

OnePlus 6T (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The OnePlus 6T and OnePlus Nord are roughly the same size, though the Nord is shorter than the 6T by a fraction of an inch. The Nord is also marginally lighter than the 6T, at 6.49 ounces to 6.52 ounces. We prefer the Blue Marble color of the OnePlus Nord to the more staid Mirror Black and Midnight Black options for the 6T. (If you're into black, you can always opt for the OnePlus Nord in Gray Onyx.)

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 6T display

As noted above, you won't spot much of a difference in display size between the OnePlus Nord and OnePlus 6T, and the resolution between the phones is pretty similar, too. (It's 2400 x 1080 for the Nord, and 2340 x 1080 for the 6T.) But there's a big difference between the two AMOLED panels OnePlus uses, and it comes down to their refresh rate.

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 6T

OnePlus Nord (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The OnePlus 6T features a 60Hz refresh rate, which is pretty conventional for a smartphone. But starting with the OnePlus 7 Pro, the phone maker started adding 90Hz refresh rates as a feature to its flagship phones. That's continued with the OnePlus Nord, even though fast refresh rates are usually reserved for pricier flagship handsets.

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 6T

OnePlus 6T (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The faster refresh rate on the OnePlus Nord will mean a smoother scrolling experience when you're surfing the web. Games that can take advantage of faster refresh rates also are more immersive. We've looked at a few phones that feature 90Hz refresh rates, and it's definitely an improved experience over standard displays.

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 6T camera

We don't have a OnePlus 6T handy to capture photos to compare to what the OnePlus Nord produces. But just look at the spec sheets for the two phones and taking into account improvements that OnePlus has made to its image processing in the last two years, we'd think the Nord would be a step-up from the 6T's image capture capabilities.

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 6T

OnePlus Nord (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Start with the lenses. The OnePlus 6T made do with a pair of rear shooters — a 16-megapixel main lens and a 20MP secondary camera, both with apertures of f/1.7. Things get a little bit more complex with the OnePlus Nord, where you get a 48MP main camera, 8MP ultra wide lens, 5MP depth sensor and 2MP macro lens.

We can take or leave macro lenses, but the wide angle lens on the Nord allows you to pull back to capture more background details while the dedicated depth sensor should allow the newer OnePlus phone to take sharper portrait shots than you'll get with the OnePlus 6T. The 48MP sensor on the Nord should translate to crisper images as well.

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 6T

OnePlus 6T (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Up front, there's just a single 160MP lens on the OnePlus 6T. The OnePlus Nord doubles your selfie cam pleasure with a 32MP main lens augmented by an 8MP wide angle shooter. The latter lens means you'll be able to squeeze more people into a self-portrait or include more of your surrounding background. (Or both, ideally.)

On the software front, OnePlus cameras have struggled to keep up with the best camera phones, as phone makers such as Apple and Google have really nailed the image processing part of the camera phone equation. The OnePlus 6T marked a step in the right direction, as OnePlus included a Night Mode that's still around today on the OnePlus Nord. OnePlus has also continued to tweak its post-processing since the 6T came out, and while the Nord still can't match the iPhone SE for photos, it's not that far behind. We think if you're switching from a 6T to a Nord, you'll be pleased by the photos your new phone can produce.

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 6T performance

When the OnePlus 6T debuted two years ago, it did with the best Snapdragon chipset available, the Snapdragon 845. The ensuing two years have seen Qualcomm introduce more powerful chips that have closed the gap somewhat with Apple's best-in-class processors, but you won't find any of those inside the OnePlus Nord. Instead, as a cost-cutting move, OnePlus went with the Snapdragon 765G for its midrange model.

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 6T

OnePlus Nord (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Snapdragon 765G is a capable system-on-chip and should easily handle the kind of tasks regular smartphone users throw at it. But it's not going to match up against chips from Qualcomm's 8 Series, even one that is two years behind the times. Our OnePlus Nord review found only average performance from the new phone, so if you're used to running a lot of processor-intensive apps on your OnePlus 6T, it's likely you'll spot some difference when you upgrade. The 6T certainly sports better numbers on graphics testing than the Nord.

The OnePlus Nord can do one thing the 6T can't, though — connect to 5G networks. The Snapdragon 765G contains an integrated 5G modem, while the OnePlus 6T came out at a time when commercially available 5G networks were still a gleam in wireless carriers' eyes. So if you're eager to enjoy faster data speeds, the OnePlus Nord will allow you to hop onto a 5G network near you, at least if you live in an area where that service is available.

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 6T battery

The OnePlus Nord's less beefy processor might be a help when it comes to squeezing more battery life out of your phone, as the Snapdragon 765G won't consume as much power. OnePlus also tips the scales in the Nord's favor by equipping it with a bigger battery than the one you'll find in the OnePlus 6T. That older phone used a 3,700 mAh power pack while the OnePlus Nord increases the battery size to 4,115 mAh.

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 6T

OnePlus 6T (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We haven't run an official battery test on the Nord just yet, as we prefer to calibrate screens at 150 nits and run the test on the same cellular network to produce comparable results. But in unofficial testing where we set the Nord's screen brightness to 50% and then let it surf the web over LTE until it ran out of juice, OnePlus' new phone lasted 11 hours and 18 minutes, which would place it on our list of the best phone battery life. It certainly would improve on the OnePlus 6T's official time of 10 hours and 23 minutes.

The OnePlus 6T could go from a drained battery to a 60% charge in 30 minutes thanks to that phone's Dash Charge technology. But OnePlus has only upped its charging game since then, with the faster WarpCharge 30T technology, which is included in the OnePlus Nord. With WarpCharge 30T, you can get to 70% after 30 minutes. Our Nord got up to a 68% charge, and that's with a larger battery than the one you'll find in the OnePlus 6T. Battery life is definitely an upgrade in this newer model.

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 6T outlook

As good as the OnePlus 6T has been, the OnePlus Nord tops it in several notable ways. That's particularly impressive given that the Nord is by no means a flagship even though OnePlus has managed to cram a few premium features into this budget-minded device.

The faster refresh rate on the OnePlus Nord will mean improved experiences over the OnePlus 6T. OnePlus' cheaper phone lasts longer on a charge and tops off its battery more quickly. We'd also expect the Nord to produce better pictures than what the 6T can do.

You'd make a few tradeoffs in this OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 6T comparison, mostly in the area of performance. We'd need to test the phones side by side to confirm, but the Nord is unlikely to be as peppy as the 6T, even though that phone is two years older.

Still, that's a compromise more than a few smartphone owners will be willing to make, especially if it means paying less than $500 for a first rate phone. The OnePlus 6T remains a capable device, but if you are looking to upgrade, the OnePlus Nord is a formidable option — assuming it's available where you live.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.