Tom's Guide Verdict
At just $240, the OnePlus Nord N200 is the budget 5G phone to beat. Performance and cameras won’t wow you, but for the money, it’s an incredible phone. It also has a good display with a 90Hz refresh rate, something that’s not too common in this price range.
Nice display with a 90Hz refresh rate
Good battery life
Bad software update policy
Why you can trust Tom's Guide
OS: Android 11 / OxygenOS 11
Display: 6.49-inch IPS LCD (2400 x 1080)
Refresh rate: 90Hz
CPU: Snapdragon 480 5G
Storage / Expandable: 64GB / Yes
Rear cameras: 13MP (f/2.2), 2MP (f/2.4) macro. 2MP (f/2.4) depth
Front camera: 16MP (f/2.1)
Video: Up to 1080p at 30 fps
Battery: 5,000 mAh
Battery life (Hrs:mins): 10:28 (90Hz), 10:36 (60Hz)
Colors: Blue Quantum
Size: 6.42 x 2.95 x 0.33 inches
Weight: 6.67 ounces
OnePlus decided to get into the budget phone space last year with the launch of the Nord series. We got the Nord N10 and the Nord N100 here in the US, but OnePlus decided that 2021 required the Nord N200 5G. All around, this is the best phone for less than $300 and one of the best 5G phones under $400.
Despite some shortcomings when it comes to both performance and camera output, the Nord N200 is a good phone. It features a nice IPS LCD with a 90Hz refresh rate, a headphone jack, a big 5,000 mAh battery, and the excellent OxygenOS based on Android 11. However, OnePlus has only promised a single OS upgrade for this phone, meaning that it'll only see Android 12 which comes out in a couple of months.
Budget-conscious customers will want to give the Nord N200 serious consideration for their next phone if updates don't matter to you. Seeing 5G and 90Hz on a phone this cheap is quite impressive, and it does most of what you’d want a phone to do. However, you can get better cameras with the $349 Pixel 4a and much more powerful hardware in the $399 iPhone SE (2020).
Read on for our full review of the OnePlus Nord N200 5G.
Editor's note: We crowned our picks in the Tom's Guide Awards 2021 for phones. The OnePlus Nord N200 5G won a highly recommended award.
OnePlus Nord N200 5G review: Price and availability
The OnePlus Nord N200 5G comes in one variant, 64GB/4GB for $239.99. You can buy it unlocked from OnePlus. It will also be available from T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile.
If you prefer a different retailer, Amazon, B&H, and Best Buy will also stock the Nord N200 for the same starting price of $239.99.
OnePlus Nord N200 5G review: Design
The Nord N200 looks and feels like a more expensive phone. It’s got this soft-touch plastic back in a beautiful blue-ish, dark aquamarine color. The triple camera array hangs out in the top left corner, looking a bit like the module from the OnePlus 9 series. It’s nice to see some design language parity between the two product lines.
Around front is the 6.49-inch LCD with the selfie cam in the top left corner. The bezels on the OnePlus Nord N200 5G are incredibly slim. The whole phone, in fact, feels quite svelte despite the large 5,000 mAh battery tucked inside.
On the bottom of the phone is the USB-C port, speaker, and headphone jack. If you’re still rocking 3.5mm wired headphones or aux cables for your car, you’re in luck here. The Nord N200 comes with dual-SIM functionality, plus a micro SD card on top. I’m glad to see expandable storage here, since this phone only comes with 64GB of on-board capacity.
The power button along the right side of the N200 also houses the fingerprint sensor, which is quite responsive in my experience. Some of you might prefer this to an in-display sensor found on more expensive phones since you won’t have to touch your screen to unlock your phone.
For $240, I expected much less of the Nord N200, but the build quality is top-notch.
OnePlus Nord N200 5G review: Display
The Nord N200 sports an IPS LCD panel with FHD+ resolution. It’s definitely a nice display, especially for the price, and it’s easy to use in a dark room or out in the sun. While the N200’s LCD screen lacks the true blacks of an OLED panel, most people will enjoy it when they’re looking at photos, watching videos, or playing games.
One of the standout features of the Nord N200 has to be the 90Hz refresh rate on the display. There are phones that cost quite a bit more than the Nord and are stuck at 60Hz. That’s quite impressive and in real life, it makes Android buttery smooth. Scrolling on webpages or in Google Discover is a breeze and you can enjoy content at higher framerates where supported and applicable.
Genshin Impact looked great on the Nord N200’s display, and other games that support high refresh rates (like Dead Cells) played well, too. The FHD+ resolution helps make text super crisp and wide color reproduction helped make some of my films pop — most notably the heavy orange scenes toward the end of Blade Runner 2049.
We tested the Nord N200’s display and found that it reproduced 160.7% of the sRGB spectrum. That’s extremely good, especially with a Delta-E color accuracy rating of 0.26 (where 0 is perfect). Compare that to the $349 Pixel 4a’s OLED screen, which managed 105.8% of the sRGB spectrum with a Delta-E of 0.29.
For a $240 phone, the Nord N200’s display is excellent. You lose out on some of the finer intricacies of an OLED panel, but I doubt many people will care.
OnePlus Nord N200 5G review: Cameras
The Nord N200 features a triple camera setup, with a 13MP main shooter leading the charge. Along with that camera comes a 2MP macro and a 2MP depth sensor, neither of which proved useful in testing. Around front, you get a 16MP selfie cam.
Although OnePlus has upped its photography game for its flagship phones, particularly the OnePlus 9 Pro, here at the low end, it’s not pretty. Compared to the Pixel 4a, which uses a single lens, the Nord N200 flounders in practically every setting. From outdoors to portrait mode, the camera performance here did not impress.
Starting off outside, this photo of a bush tested both phones’ use of depth and foreground focus. They each had to capture the details of the bush while keeping everything in perspective without flattening out over overexposing the image. The Nord N200 struggled with overexposure, blowing out the final image. The Pixel 4a kept things reined in. The light levels are more even in the Pixel’s shot, and the bush is clearly in focus. At least the Nord N200 handled that part well, too.
In this second outdoor image, the Nord N200 once again struggled with controlling for the bright sunlight. The flag looks washed out compared to the Pixel 4a’s more controlled tone. The flag’s colors are richer on the Pixel’s shot, and the flowers in the background pop. Looking at the Nord N200’s photo practically sears the eyes.
Inside, both phones performed more alike one another. The only noticeable difference is that the Nord N200’s image is slightly warmer, giving a very slight yellowish tint. The Pixel 4a’s shot of Merida is plenty bright enough, despite it feeling subdued. The Nord N200 kept up quite well in this image.
Immediately, you can see a big difference in the portrait shots from either phone. The Pixel 4a takes a zoomed-in, artistic approach to portraits and it often works well. The Nord N200 does the opposite and I think the end result suffers overall. Not only is the blur radius weak, but the image is too warm and the focus on me is too soft. I don’t like the Pixel’s much better, but it has the qualities of a decent portrait. Also, the Nord N200 seems to have done some kind of smoothing to my face, whereas the Pixel captured more facial details.
Perhaps the most damning comparison yet, the Nord N200 didn’t even attempt to shoot a proper night time photo. The Pixel 4a’s Night Sight created a clear picture where you can make out the details of the smoker and it frankly looks like there’s a lot more lighting in the backyard than there actually was. The Nord N200, meanwhile, couldn’t even muster an attempt. It’s like OnePlus forgot to include a proper night mode, though even Nightscape on its higher end phones struggles to match Google’s Night Sight. Even so, this photo comparison startled me with the stark difference between the two phones.
So the rear cameras on the Nord N200 are a bit of a bust, but what about the front camera? Again, the differences stand out immediately.
I may be a pale individual, but the Nord N200’s photo makes me look like a ghost. There is very little detail in my face, my natural ruddiness is just obliterated by the aggressive face smoothing, and the image is, once again, too bright. The Pixel 4a, meanwhile, captured my skin tone and fine details, even showing off the green of my shirt better. In my opinion, there’s no contest here — the Pixel 4a wins hands-down.
OnePlus Nord N200 5G review: Video
The OnePlus Nord N200 5G supports up to 1080p video recording at 30 frames per second. Those aren’t exactly stellar specs, but at least you can record FHD video on a $240 phone.
In practice, the video quality produced by the N200 is just alright. The stabilization needs some work, since the final footage shows noticeable bouncing while I’m walking. The Pixel 4a, which I used in the other hand simultaneously, produced a much more stable video.
Mic quality on the Nord N200 is okay, though not great. The phone’s two mics seemed to struggle to pick up my natural voice volume at half an arm’s length away. The Pixel 4a did much better and it balanced out the surrounding noises like cars and cicadas better, too.
OnePlus Nord N200 5G review: Performance
While we don’t expect mind-boggling camera performance from a $240 phone, the OnePlus Nord N200’s true disappointment comes down to its overall performance. The Snapdragon 480 5G that powers this new Nord is a good chip for its affordability, but it struggles to keep up with more intensive tasks, like gaming. And with 4GB of RAM, I found that several apps got kicked from memory, like Spotify while I was actively listening to music.
This isn’t the first phone with the Snapdragon 480 5G. I just reviewed the Moto G Stylus 5G, which was similarly disappointing in terms of performance, but it costs $160 more than the Nord N200. That said, Motorola’s midrange 5G phone also has that extra 2GB of RAM, which can make a small difference in day-to-day, real-world use.
Gaming on the Nord N200 requires you to drop many settings down to low or medium at best. Genshin Impact, one of the most taxing games on the Play Store, struggled to hit a reasonable frame rate. It’s not the end of the world, but don’t expect the Nord N200 to be a mobile gaming powerhouse. It’s not built for that.
Of course, when it comes to performance in the sub-$500 category, we can’t forget about the iPhone SE (2020). It packs the A13 Bionic processor which absolutely stomps any Snapdragon in this price range — hell, it can go toe-to-toe with Qualcomm’s best system-on-chips. If you’re platform-agnostic, then the iPhone SE is the best option if you want the best performance for the least amount of money.
In benchmarks, the Nord N200 scored 1,602 in multicore in Geekbench 5. The pricier Pixel 4a with its Snapdragon 730G scored 1,647 in multicore, while the iPhone SE managed a whopping 3,226. The SE also handily beat the Nord N200 in the 3DMark Wild Life Unlimited test, where the Nord N200 managed just 5.8 frames per second. Compare that to the iPhone SE’s 47.9 fps.
It’s the same story we’ve been telling since Apple surprised everyone with the iPhone SE last year. While there are comparable experiences at or below $400 in Android land, people wanting the most out of their phones ought to look to the SE. That said, phones like the Nord N200 handle most daily tasks. Other than games, the phone only really struggled with rapid photography, where I noticed lag when clicking the shutter button multiple times in quick succession.
OnePlus Nord N200 5G review: Battery life and charging
With a 5,000 mAh battery, the OnePlus Nord N200 ought to last for a long time on a charge. That’s true, though it falls short of the devices on our best phone battery life list. The 90Hz display impacts the longevity a little bit, though not as much as you might think.
In the Tom’s Guide battery test, where a phone is left to reload web pages endlessly over a cellular connection until it runs out of power, the Nord N200 managed 10 hours and 28 minutes in its default 90 Hz mode. Setting the display to 60Hz improved that time to 10 hours and 36 minutes. With that in mind, you’ll get more enjoyment out of the phone if you leave it at 90Hz since it makes a negligible difference in overall battery life.
Being a budget-friendly device, the Nord N200 does not feature OnePlus’ hallmark Warp Charge technology, which charges your phone blazingly fast. Instead, you get support for 18W wired charging, which got a drained N200 back to 32% after 30 minutes of charging.
OnePlus Nord N200 5G review: Software
The Nord N200 comes with Android 11 out of the box, with OnePlus’ popular OxygenOS 11 software on top of Google’s OS. With OxygenOS, you get access to several customization options, a great default launcher, and an indescribable level of refinement. It’s basically the same software experience as the much more expensive OnePlus 9 Pro.
OnePlus has said that the Nord N200 will receive a single OS upgrade, which means that this phone won't see Android 13 and beyond. I railed against Motorola for this in the Moto G Stylus 5G review and I won’t give OnePlus a pass, either. Simply put, limited software support for cheaper Android phones is bad and these companies should be ashamed.
While the Nord N200 is an excellent value overall, the Pixel 4a or iPhone SE enjoy longer support (especially in the iPhone’s case). Considering that the Nord N200 will only see Android 12 later this year (plus three years of security patches, apparently), I struggle to restrain my distaste for seeing what is otherwise an excellent phone get less than a year of platform support.
OnePlus hasn't even committed to three years of platform and four years of security updates for the flagship 9 series, unlike like Google and Samsung. I suppose that I can't that I'm surprised that OnePlus has chosen such a lazy update policy for the Nord N200.
OnePlus Nord N200 5G review: Verdict
For $240, the OnePlus Nord N200 delivers a lot of phone — it’s also the best 5G value available in the US. That said, OnePlus’ latest has noticeable flaws, especially with its cameras. The secondary and tertiary lenses are borderline useless and the Nord N200’s main shooter struggles to not blow its photos out. The selfie cam is also just not good and video recording quality is mediocre.
Performance is underwhelming and OnePlus has decided on a shoddy update schedule. Still, for $240, this phone exceeded many of my expectations going in. It looks nice, it’s built well, and it has a good display. You get sub-6GHz 5G, too.
Obviously, the N200 won’t perform to the same level as more expensive phones, so I would strongly encourage you to save up the extra cash for a Pixel 4a or iPhone SE (or a Pixel 5a if that phone arrives in a few months as expected). Both phones are superior in most ways, especially the cameras, and they’ll both be supported for a while, far longer than the Nord N200 will be. The only things they lack are 5G and a 90Hz display, neither of which seem like compelling advantages for the Nord N200 in comparison.
Then again, those phones cost at least $110 more than the Nord N200, so if budget is your primary concern, the Nord N200 5G is your best bet. It delivers a lot of higher-class features for less than $300 and we should applaud OnePlus for that accomplishment.
Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over six years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.