Skip to main content

OnePlus Nord 2 review: the new mid-range phone to beat

It's no lie, the OnePlus Nord 2 really is "everything you could ask for" for a phone of this price

OnePlus Nord 2 review
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

OnePlus has again produced a phone that offers so much for a handset of its price that you may struggle to believe the specs sheet. It's just a pity that it's still not coming to the United States.

For

  • Class-leading cameras
  • Beautiful display
  • Generous performance for price
  • Long upgrade path

Against

  • Fewer unique features than original Nord
  • Refresh rate isn’t dynamic
  • No U.S. availability
OnePlus Nord 2 specs

Starting price: £399

Display: 6.43-inch AMOLED, FHD

Refresh rate: 90Hz/60Hz (fixed)

Rear cameras: 50MP main (f/1.88), 8MP ultrawide (f/2.25), 2MP mono (f/2.5)

Front camera: 32MP selfie (f2.45)

Chipset: MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI

RAM: 8GB/12GB

Storage: 128GB/256GB

Battery: 4,500 mAh

Charging: 65W wired

Operating system: Android 11 with OxygenOS 11.3

Size: 6.25 x 2.88 x 0.32 inches (158.9 x 73.2 x 8.25 mm)

Weight: 6.67 ounces (189g)

Water/dust resistance: "splash-proof" (no IP rating)

The OnePlus Nord 2 makes the confident marketing claim that it's "everything you could ask for." And that’s true if you're asking for a great, reasonably-priced phone, and happen to live in Europe or India.

Ignoring the question of availability, OnePlus has an amazing mid-range device on its hands. The parts that make up the Nord 2 are more than you'd expect for its price, with some components lifted straight from the flagship OnePlus 9 series. Even the places where OnePlus has made big changes — the cameras and the processor on the OnePlus Nord 2 — have paid off, with the quality matching the rest of the phone.

In cutting back the extraneous elements from the first OnePlus Nord, OnePlus has been able to refine what remains, which is ultimately far more important than the extras the Nord 2 lost. If the Nord 2 is sold in your country and you've got a limited phone budget, this new Nord belongs on your shortlist next to the Google and Apple phones you were likely already considering.

OnePlus Nord 2 review: Price and availability

OnePlus is offering the Nord 2 for pre-orders from July 22, and for normal sales from July 28. You can buy the phone at the OnePlus online store, Amazon U.K. and John Lewis; or from mobile carriers O2 and Three. You can pick from one of two versions: a £399 model with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage, or a £469 model with 12GB and 256GB instead.

The OnePlus Nord 2’s chief competitors are the Google Pixel 4a 5G (£499), the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G (£399) and the iPhone SE (from £399). Not only is the Nord 2 competitively priced, but as you'll see below, it tops these other devices in several different areas.

OnePlus isn't selling the Nord 2 in the U.S. sadly. Instead, its current mid-range offerings consist of the cheaper OnePlus Nord N10 and OnePlus Nord N200. Both of these are decent devices for their cost, but don't match the Nord 2 for quality.

OnePlus Nord 2 review: Design

As I unwrapped the OnePlus Nord 2 from its plastic protector, I couldn't help but feel it was a dull successor to the original Nord. Last year's Nord was a brash upstart of a phone, with a huge number of camera lenses on both the front and back and a unique stadium-shaped camera block. The Nord 2, with a single front camera and a rectangular rear block containing just two main cameras, could easily be mistaken for any other budget Android phone out of China.

OnePlus Nord 2 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Nord 2 recovers from its generic design with an excellent selection of colors. The two available in the U.K. are the sophisticated Gray Sierra or the more playful Blue Haze, which I tested. Both colors offer impressive fingerprint resistance, so they'll maintain their good looks through everyday use.

OnePlus Nord 2 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I love the feel of the Nord 2, which stands at 6.4 inches but weighs a delicate 6.7 ounces. Combined with the curved back edges, the Nord 2 feels secure to hold and all parts of the display are easy to reach. Part of the reason for this however is that the phone's back is made of plastic. The old Nord used a glass-like finish to give the impression of extra luxury, but there is no pretension here about materials. 

OnePlus Nord 2 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

OnePlus claims the Nord 2 is splash-proof, but the phone doesn't have an official IP rating for water/dust resistance. This isn't unusual for OnePlus, since it's only just started to list IP ratings on its most expensive flagships.

OnePlus Nord 2 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

OnePlus also deserves kudos for making the Nord 2's box more eco-friendly. All the inserts, aside from the protective wrapping and the shrink-wrap around the charging brick, have been turned from plastic to paper, making them easier to recycle. Although Apple and Samsung went a step further and got rid of the included charging brick — a decision with some major cons — I am glad OnePlus still offers a charging brick by default.

OnePlus Nord 2 review: Display

Keeping to a promise of a fast, smooth display, the Nord 2's Full HD AMOLED screen boasts a 90 Hz refresh rate. However the refresh rate isn't dynamic like you’ll find on more expensive phones, including the OnePlus 9 Pro. You set the 6.4-inch screen’s refresh rate to 90Hz or 60Hz in the settings menu and that's it. So you have to decide whether to prioritize display smoothness or the phone's battery life, and have to go through a few menus every time you change your mind.

Your video viewing experience on the OnePlus Nord 2 is further enhanced with AI Color Boost and AI Resolution Boost on certain apps, including YouTube. I checked out the trailer for Marvel's What If…? and thought the animated series' bold style was well matched by the vividness of the OnePlus Nord 2 display; the phone's stereo speakers made sure the dialog and soundtrack came through with plenty of power too.

OnePlus Nord 2 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Nord 2 also boasts a smart ambient display, which adapts brightness based both on how bright your surroundings are and how bright the content on-screen is. While the phone was just about usable in very bright light, I can't say I noticed any big difference from other AMOLED phones I've used in the same situation.

OnePlus Nord 2 review: Cameras

Cameras on the OnePlus Nord 2 are less extensive than what the original Nord offered. The good news is that this reduced range of sensors allows the Nord 2 to match up to the best cameras in its price range.

OnePlus Nord 2 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The primary camera has a 50MP sensor with optical image stabilization (OIS). The 50MP sensor is the same one you can find behind the ultrawide lens on the OnePlus 9 series, but with added OIS for the kind of stability you need from the main camera.

This shot of a handsome flower head I found in London's Whittington Park is evidence of the overarching theme of the Nord 2's photos —they're bright, at the expense of a little color richness. The Pixel 4a 5G offers some of the best photos from any phone, period, and produces a better-rounded image. However I think personal preference could still mean some users prefer the OnePlus shot.

Swapping to the Nord 2’s full 50MP mode doesn't change much. You can see a little more of the veins in the petals of the flower, but in terms of color and meaningful detail, it's not that much better than the default 12.6MP image.

OnePlus Nord 2 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

OnePlus has also updated its low-light photo capabilities with a new Nightscape Ultra mode, boasting it can take photos even in dark, interior environments. I tested this with a line-up of espresso cups on a shelf in a dark room. Compared to the Pixel 4a 5G's Night Sight, the Nord 2's image is much warmer, seemingly aiming for the impression of the image being taken in daylight. Google's algorithm instead appears to give images a bluer tint. While I normally love the Pixel 4a 5G's low-light shots, in this example I think the Nord 2 offers something better.

The other main camera on the Nord 2 is an 8MP ultrawide camera, ideal for fitting more into frame when up close to your subject. The big difference between these two shots of Whittington Park's World War I memorial is the contrast: the Nord 2's image is so much sharper compared to the Pixel's, it looks like it was drawn in a comic-book style. The Google phone's image remains the better one for color though, offering a more attractive saturation level.

To round out the rear array, OnePlus has added a 2MP monochrome sensor. This doesn't actually take photos itself, but instead acts as an auxiliary sensor for the main camera to help add extra detail and texture when you enable a built-in black-and-white photo filter. This monochrome image of a log certainly turned out well, with the rings and bark all coming across clearly. 

The mono sensor is somewhat superfluous since it's not difficult to turn photos black and white in various mobile and desktop apps, but perhaps some users will find it convenient. Personally, I'd much prefer this to a basic macro camera, the throwaway sensor often found on phones in this price range.

OnePlus Nord 2 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Nord 2 features a single front camera, instead of the main/ultrawide duo OnePlus fitted to the original Nord. It's still an impressive 32MP sensor, which should provide plenty of detail for your selfies, but I kind of liked the utility of being able to fit more scenery or people with an ultrawide front lens.

As we can see from these selfies, the Nord 2 is again producing brighter images. I'm quite impressed with the bokeh effect on the Nord 2, which is of similar quality to the Pixel's. Not only is it attractive, but also the division between me and the background is near-flawless. It's the coloring that draws me to the OnePlus' image more however. In the bright sunlight of a rare British heatwave, the OnePlus can keep me looking more or less my normal self, while the Pixel ends up making me look oddly dark red.

OnePlus Nord 2 review: Performance

OnePlus has broken from tradition with the Nord 2 by equipping it with a MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI chipset, rather than Qualcomm’s Snapdragon silicon it's used since the OnePlus One. The "AI" version of this Dimensity chip is unique to OnePlus, and allegedly offers enhanced machine learning capabilities to the phone's photography and display compared to the vanilla chip.

Joining the Dimensity 1200-AI is either 8GB or 12GB of RAM, and either 128GB or 256GB of storage, OnePlus' habitual memory options for its latest phones. This is another area where the phone maker’s been quite generous, since comparable phones offer only 6GB RAM or less, and of that group, only the iPhone SE lets you spec up to 256GB storage.

The results from the benchmarking apps for my 12GB OnePlus Nord 2 were suitably impressive. On Geekbench 5, a benchmarking app that tests general performance, the Nord 2 achieved scores of 786 for the single core test and 2,757 for the multi-core test. It is still a ways off beating the A13 Bionic-powered iPhone SE's 1,333 and 3,108. But the Nord finished well ahead of the Google Pixel 4a 5G (598 and 1,614) and Samsung Galaxy A52 5G (645 and 1,903), which are powered by the Snapdragon 765G and Snapdragon 750G, respectively.

Looking at the results on 3DMark's Wild Life Unlimited graphical performance test, the Nord 2 crushed the competition. The OnePlus' results were a score of 4,185 and an average frame rate of 25.1 fps. The Galaxy A52’s results of 1,106 and 6.6fps are nowhere near. The iPhone SE, with its flagship-grade chip, still defeats the Nord 2 with a score of 8,000 and a 47.9 average frame rate. The budget iPhone is an outlier, though, and it seems safe to say that switching from Snapdragon to Dimensity chips hasn't done the Nord 2 any harm.

We may need to take these figures with a pinch of salt. OnePlus was recently caught throttling the performance of its 9 series phones on apps aside from well-known benchmarks. This may mean that in terms of real-world performance, these figures don't quite translate.

Nevertheless, I tried out racing game Asphalt 9: Legends and found that my test results matched my real-world experience. While the gameplay was beautifully smooth when in normal graphics mode, the Nord 2 didn't quite have the power to run at the higher graphics setting without occasional stuttering. You'll still need a proper flagship phone if you want to get the best gaming experience.

OnePlus Nord 2 review: 5G

The MediaTek chip within the Nord 2 also adds 5G connectivity. Since this phone is bound for Europe and India rather than the U.S., it only supports sub-6GHz 5G, rather than the faster mmWave format available through some American carriers. What's more, none of the 5G bands listed in OnePlus' press material match up with those offered by U.S. carriers. That means even if you bring your Nord 2 to the U.S., you won't be able to benefit from 5G speed.

OnePlus Nord 2 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

This isn't much of an issue since the Nord 2 isn't sold in the U.S. It's still going to be a bit of a disappointment for overseas visitors though.

OnePlus Nord 2 review: Battery and charging

OnePlus has fitted 65W wired charging to the Nord 2, which is the same charging system used on the OnePlus 9 series; it also remains faster than basically any other charging standard out there. Using that 65W technology, the OnePlus went from empty to 58% in just 15 minutes, and to 100% in an impressive 30 minutes, which means you need never worry about forgetting to plug your phone in overnight.

OnePlus Nord 2 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

You don't get wireless charging though, something that the iPhone SE does offer. As useful as it is to have the option to power up your phone without plugging it in, wireless charging remains a more premium feature and is therefore one of the most sensible omissions OnePlus made to keep the Nord 2's price down.

The zippy charging feeds a 4,500 mAh dual-cell battery, which is again quite impressive for a budget phone since it's again taken directly from the OnePlus 9. As a result, the OnePlus Nord 2 lasts a while. 

I drained the battery by playing a 10-hour aquarium video on YouTube over Wi-Fi, with the display set to 90Hz, OnePlus' AI picture enhancements turned on, the phone's brightness slider fixed to the center and the speaker at mid-volume. It took 6 hours and 33 minutes to drain the phone from 50% to empty. While I don't have other phones to compare that result against directly, being able to watch more than 12 hours of video on a single charge seems to guarantee that the Nord 2 won't ever leave you in the lurch by suddenly switching off when you need it most.

OnePlus Nord 2 review: software

Running the show on the Nord 2 is OxygenOS 11.3, possibly one of the last OnePlus phones to use its own Android skin before the phone maker adopts Oppo's ColorOS on future devices. The switch is a shame since OxygenOS has consistently been one of the prettiest and best laid-out versions of Android around, and this upgraded version of Android 11 is no exception. 

Even better than the handsome visuals, OnePlus has pledged to two full Android upgrades and three years of security updates for the Nord 2, which is particularly generous for a low-cost phone. Between this and the 5G compatibility, there's no rush for you to upgrade from the Nord 2 as it ages, at least compared to the average Android phone.

A related point to software is the Nord 2's introduction of Haptics 2.0, which makes the Nord 2 just as nice to type on as the OnePlus 9 Pro. I still prefer Google's phones when it comes to the perfect tap feedback experience though.

OnePlus Nord 2 review: verdict

OnePlus was brave when to choose its "everything you could ask for" slogan, but it's been proven correct in our OnePlus Nord 2 review. The Nord 2 ticks basically every box when looking at its specs, and is a capable new rival in the premium mid-range market, even if its claims of being a flagship killer aren't quite borne out. 

OnePlus Nord 2 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Nord 2 is a phone to go for if you prioritize display quality and charging speed, but not one if you want the best performance. If you're a phone photography fan, the Nord 2 doesn't quite edge out the competition on image quality alone, but its cheaper price may convince you it's a better buy than a Pixel 4a 5G or an iPhone SE.

The only major complaint I can levy at the Nord 2 is the fact that American readers can't buy it. Sure U.S. phone buyers can pick the Nord N10 or Nord N200, but they are far cheaper phones with more distinct flaws. The Nord 2, like its predecessor, is an outstanding mid-range phone that is unfairly kept from large numbers of potential customers.

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.