OnePlus Nord CE4 Lite could be the best value phone of the year — what you need to know

OnePlus Nord CE4 Lite
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Dropping in a newly-published YouTube announcement, the OnePlus Nord CE4 Lite is here to offer U.K. users, as well as others around the world, a full-blown OnePlus experience for a mere £299.

If you're not fluent in OnePlus-ese, CE stands for Core Edition, meaning this is a cheap (but still well-equipped) member of its mid-priced Nord family of models. One other translation to bear in mind is that OnePlus launched last year's model, the Nord CE3 Lite, as the OnePlus Nord N30, so hopefully this new phone is going to become a Nord N40 for U.S. users later in the year.

We expect the Nord CE4 Lite will at least inherit the spot on our best cheap phones guide that currently belongs to the Nord N30, and maybe even take the fight to the current cheapness champion, the Google Pixel 8a. If you're already convinced, it's up for pre-orders from now until its full retail debut on July 1. But until we have a full verdict to give you, read on for the full specs and feature analysis, and see what you make of it.

OnePlus Nord CE4 Lite: Specs

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OnePlus Nord CE4 Lite
Price £299
Display 6.67-inch AMOLED (1080 x 2400)
Refresh rate 120Hz/60Hz automatic
Rear cameras 50MP main (f/1.8), 2MP depth (f/2.4)
Selfie camera 16MP
Chipset Snapdragon 695 5G
Storage 256GB, microSD support up to 2TB
Battery 5,110 mAh
Charging 80W wired, 5W reverse wired
Software Android 14 with OxygenOS 14
Dust/water resistance IP54
Size 162 x 75 x 8.1mm
Weight 191 grams
Colors Super Silver, Mega Blue

OnePlus Nord CE4 Lite: Design and display

The Nord CE4 Lite's display is a 120Hz 6.67-inch OLED panel with an FHD resolution, which is much larger than you usually get for a phone of this price. Using the same screen tech as last year's flagship OnePlus 11, OnePlus also promises the phone's capable of 2,100 nits peak brightness, which if accurate then the display will shine four times as bright as its predecessor's, and almost twice as bright as the Pixel 8a's.

OnePlus Nord CE4 Lite

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

You can set the Nord CE4 Lite's display with either a 120Hz or 60Hz refresh rate. While it can't scale dynamically like a flagship phone's screen, it still adjust automatically to give you some flexibility between scrolling smoothness or battery longevity.

OnePlus has imbued the screen with a couple of other special powers. Firstly there's 480Hz PWM dimming, similar to Honor phones like the Magic6 Pro or 200 Pro, which theoretically reduces eye strain. The other is Aqua Touch, first seen on the OnePlus 12, which makes the screen more usable when it or your hands are wet.

Audio-wise, OnePlus has kept the 300% "Ultra Volume" mode from the Nord CE3 Lite with the CE4 Lite, allowing you to pump your music or video sound at super-high volume through its stereo speakers. Fortunately for more introverted users, a headphone jack is also provided for when you need it, without needing to fuss with Bluetooth connections.

OnePlus Nord CE4 Lite

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

OnePlus is once again offering a pair of color options, in this instance Super Silver and Mega Blue. The silver model I've been trying looks great, until you get fingermarks all over it, but the blue version apparently comes with greater resistance against smudges like this.

OnePlus Nord CE4 Lite: Cameras

OnePlus has changed out the 108MP camera from the Nord N30/CE3 Lite for a new 50MP main camera, complete with 2x in-sensor zoom, and kept the 2MP depth sensor to aid with portrait mode effects, but removed the older phone's 2MP macro camera. On the front there's a 16MP selfie camera, just like last year.

OnePlus Nord CE4 Lite

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Once again, there's no ultrawide camera, which makes its photo range a little limited compared to other cheap phones, but these are the sorts of sacrifices you unfortunately have to make to get the price down.

OnePlus Nord CE4 Lite: Battery and charging

The OnePlus Nord CE4 Lite's improved on the Nord N30/CE3 Lite's already impressive power and refuelling specs. It now supports 80W charging, although there's no power brick in the box. Meanwhile there's a a 5,110 mAh battery that OnePlus claims will take 50 mins to get to 100% charge and then last you over two days of typical usage.

One unfortunate fact is that the battery of this phone is a larger 5,500 mAh in other markets, but has been limited in Europe due to legislation on battery density.

You're hopefully not going to need all of those milliamps on a given day, so if you're feeling generous, you can use the Nord's 5W reverse wired charging to donate power to your accessories or other people's devices. OnePlus has also promised that the battery will retain 80% of its capacity after four years of regular charging, which should keep your phone working effectively for as long as you'll need it, and then some.

OnePlus Nord CE4 Lite: Specs and software

OnePlus has tapped the Snapdragon 695 to power the Nord CE4 Lite. This is a 5G-ready chip but the same exact chip as you'd find in the Nord N30/CE3 Lite. At least the chip is joined by 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM and 256GB UFS 2.2 storage, a generous amount for the price and one you can expand further with up to 2TB microSD card support. Lower memory variants are being made, but this is the only one we'll get in Europe.

OnePlus Nord CE4 Lite

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

OnePlus has not said anything about software updates yet, but normally OnePlus gives at most four years of updates, a number that it claims balances user value with the capabilities of aging devices. We'd be happy if OnePlus went back on this and decided to offer a Google-matching seven years of full updates, but as long as OnePlus sticks to its four-year plan we'll not fetch our pitchforks.

OnePlus Nord CE4 Lite: Outlook

Our testing of the OnePlus Nord CE4 Lite is still underway, so we're not ready to say if it's one of the best cheap phones, or if the Google Pixel 8a needs to start worrying yet. But there's a lot to like already.

OnePlus Nord CE4 Lite

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Just as in previous years, the Nord CE4 Lite is cheaper than typical cheap phones, which does deprive you of some features like an ultrawide camera, or an up-to-date chipset. But the fact you still get a large 120Hz OLED display, a chunky battery and rapid charging could still be a convincing offering for users who are after a well-priced phone for long streaming sessions or busy days away from a charger. We'll let you know just how well the OnePlus Nord CE4 fulfills this purpose very soon.

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Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, 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.