The OnePlus Nord N10 5G is a good phone for a good price. It's just a pity that it struggles to stand out among some very well rounded competitors.
Normally, the release of a low-cost 5G phone like the OnePlus Nord N10 5G would be greeted with a lot of anticipation, particularly from the phone maker's dedicated fans. But this latest budget device has a hard act to follow, with the OnePlus Nord having made its debut in 2020 to enthusiastic reviews — and envious stares from the parts of the world where it wasn't launched.
Starting price: $299/£329
Screen size: 6.49-inches (2400 x 1080; 90Hz refresh rate)
CPU: Snapdragon 690
Rear cameras: 64MP main (f/1.8); 8MP ultrawide (f/2.25); macro lens; monochrome lens
Front camera: 16MP (f/2.05)
Battery size: 4,300 mAh
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 11:48
Size: 6.4 x 2.9 x 0.35 inches
Weight: 6.7 ounces
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The original Nord, and the OnePlus Nord 2 that followed it, have it all — a solid design, better-than-expected specs like a fast-refresh display and 5G connectivity and a low starting price that you wouldn't expect to be attached to such a capable device. But the OnePlus Nord and Nord 2 have been limited to Europe and India, leaving US customers out in the cold.
The OnePlus Nord N10 5G changes that. Like the original Nord, the N10 5G marks OnePlus' return to its roots as a low-cost phone maker, but this time, the trade-off is more pronounced. The processor inside the OnePlus Nord N10 5G isn't as powerful as the first OnePlus Nord, it uses different cameras, and there's only one storage option this time around.
Do these concessions make a difference? Can this phone compete with the Google Pixel a-series or the iPhone SE? In our OnePlus Nord N10 5G review, we find a phone that may not reach the heights of the original OnePlus Nord but that still delivers a lot of value for a shockingly low price.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: Price and availability
The OnePlus Nord N10 5G has been available in the UK since Nov. 14, where it debuted for £329 in a Midnight Ice Option that features 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It landed in North America on Jan. 15, where it costs $299.
That's a very low price for a 5G-capable phone, considering that many of the best 5G phones approach $1,000. Up until the Nord N10 5G's arrival, the cheapest 5G device we've seen has been the TCL 10 5G UW, a Verizon-exclusive that costs $399 — or $100 more than the N10 5G.
You can buy the OnePlus Nord N10 5G from OnePlus itself or from Amazon, Best Buy and B&H. Significantly, T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile will offer the OnePlus Nord N10 5G (as well as a cheaper phone, the $179 OnePlus Nord N100, which lacks 5G). If you want to buy the N10 5G in installments, you'll pay $12.50 a month over 24 months at T-Mobile.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: Design
The design of the OnePlus Nord N10 5G is the first hint that you're shopping in the bargain section for your next phone. It's not that the N10 is ugly, but it doesn't look very premium, and its plastic feel won't fool anyone into thinking you're carrying around a flagship handset.
That said, the Nord N10 5G follows the design cues of recent OnePlus releases — a full-screen display on the front with a rectangular camera array positioned in the upper left corner on the back of the phone. The backside of the OnePlus Nord N10 5G also includes a fingerprint sensor housed just above the OnePlus logo, while you'll find a headphone jack on the bottom of the device next to the USB-C charging port.
At 6.4 x 2.9 x 0.35 inches (163 x 74.7 x 8.95 mm), the OnePlus Nord N10 5G is a little bit taller, wider and thicker than the OnePlus Nord. It's also a quarter of an ounce heavier at 6.7 ounces (190 grams).
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: Display
OnePlus has fitted the Nord N10 5G with a 6.49-inch LCD display that runs interrupted from top to bottom with only a camera cutout in the upper left corner to interrupt your view. There's a noticeable bezel on the bottom of the screen, but otherwise, the front of the phone is all screen.
One area where the OnePlus Nord N10 5G stands out from the competition is its refresh rate. Like the original Nord, this new model refreshes at 90Hz. That's a feature Google reserves for the Pixel 5, so scrolling is much smoother on the OnePlus phones than it is on the Pixel 4a 5G.
The lack of an OLED display makes for some less vivid colors when you're watching videos on the Nord N10 5G. Watching the No Time to Die trailer via YouTube, Daniel Craig's James Bond never really stood out from the shadows, making the darker scenes a little bit more murky.
At least the Nord N10 5G handles color well, as it managed to capture 124.8% of the sRGB color spectrum. That's about what the OLED panel on the Pixel 4a 5G reproduced (128.3%) and it's ahead of the 111.2% and 105.1% turned in by the iPhone SE and TCL 10 5G UW, respectively, which both have LCD screens. The OnePlus N10 5G falls between those phones when it comes to accurately rendering colors with a Delta-E rating of 0.22. The iPhone SE was tops at 0.2 while the TCL 10 5G and Pixel 4a 5G trailed at 0.28 and 0.3, respectively. (Numbers closer to zero are better.)
I found the Nord N10 5G's screen a little hard to see when I was outside, and the phone's maximum brightness of 405.7 nits is likely to blame. That's well behind the Pixel 4a 5G (638 nits), iPhone SE (653 nits) and OnePlus Nord (700 nits). Only TCL's phone is dimmer at 385 nits.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: Cameras
Inexpensive as the OnePlus Nord N10 5G may be, you still get a four-camera array on the back of the phone. Unfortunately, one of those lenses isn't a telephoto one. Instead, OnePlus gives you a 64MP main camera with an 8MP ultrawide angle lens. Dedicated macro and monochrome lenses round out the optics.
One the camera front, OnePlus phones have the reputation of offering good but not great imaging — decent enough for what you're paying, but not anything that challenges the best camera phones on the market. To see if that holds up with the Nord N10 5G, I tried out OnePlus' latest handset alongside a Pixel 4a 5G, which produces some of the best photos I've seen in a sub-$500 phone. OnePlus holds its own in many cases, but it still can't quite catch the top camera phones.
Take this photo of a persimmon tree. The OnePlus Nord N10 5G washes out some of the fall colors; you can see just how dramatically when you contrast it with the Pixel's shot. The reddening leaves aren't as dramatic as they are in the Pixel 4a 5G photo, and even the orange skin of the persimmons looks muted and dull in OnePlus' photo.
The same thing happens when we move indoors and take a picture of some baked sole fresh out of the oven. The fish looks pretty white in the OnePlus Nord N10's photo, missing the light brown sear that the Pixel manages to capture. The green onions I've added for garnish are pretty washed out in the Nord's photo, and the capers dotting the fish on the tray in the background lack sharpness and definition. I know which plate I find more appetizing, and it's not the OnePlus rendition.
I was impressed by the ultra wideangle lens on the OnePlus Nord N10 5G, though, when I tested it by photographing a local church with two distinctive towers. Using the main camera, the OnePlus N10 5G produced a shot that looks every bit as good as what the Pixel 4a comes up with. The sky is a perfect shade of blue, and if you zoom in on the tree leaves, you'll find that the OnePlus camera does a better job of keeping them in focus. Text on both the traffic signs and the church marquees is perfectly legible in both shots.
Pulling out to a wider angle with both cameras, I prefer the OnePlus Nord N10's effort. The darker shades of blue in the sky closest to the clouds draws my attention to where it should be in the photo — at the clouds radiating behind the church's twin towers. That said, the fish-eye effect at the edge of the photo is less noticeable in the Pixel 4a 5G's rendition.U
When it came time to test the night mode, the OnePlus Nord N10 5G simply doesn't measure up to what Google brings to its Pixel phones. My daughter's pink stuffed animal is visible in this low-light shot captured by the OnePlus camera, but it's hard to make out the other stuffies that are clearly visible in the Pixel 4a 5G photo. What's more, you can also see the basketball to the right of the stuffed animals in the Pixel's shot. That ball fades into the blackness of the OnePlus night mode photo.
Similarly, it's no contest when it comes to the portrait mode on either camera, starting with the different approaches OnePlus and Google take to framing their shot. The OnePlus Nord N10 5G shows a lot of the background, adding a minimal blur that helps my daughter to stand out but doesn't really add anything artistic to the mix. The camera's software does a good job recognizing where she ends and the background begins, but it also keeps her face rather pale and smooth, so that you can't really see her freckles.
That's not an issue on the Pixel 4a 5G portrait, which cuts in closer and bathes my daughter in warmer colors. That not only highlights the redness of her hair but the details of her face.
Maybe the OnePlus Nord N10 5G just has a problem with skin tones because the 16-megapixel front camera struggles with sunlight and shadow in this self-portrait. The entire left side of my face is lost in shadow, a problem that the Pixel 4a 5G didn't suffer even though it had to contend with similar lighting. The glare on the right side of my face in the OnePlus shot is also pretty harsh when compared against the Pixel 4a 5G's selfie. Google's software gets overly aggressive with face smoothing in its photos, but here it pays off with a better balanced shot.
As for the other cameras on the OnePlus Nord N10 5G, I confess to remaining skeptical of what dedicated macro lenses bring to the table, and this up-close shot of some hard-boiled eggs flaked with pepper show why. There's nothing particularly wrong with the OnePlus shot. It makes the pepper flakes stand out and you can see the creaminess of the yolk (just the way I like my eggs). But you can also see those same details I shot with the Pixel 4a 5G, which doesn't have a macro lens.
Instead, I got Google's phone as close to the eggs as possible before an on-screen warning flashed up that I needed to back up if I wanted something in focus. I don't think the end result is all that different, which makes me wonder why there's a macro lens other than to pump up the camera count.
The monochrome photos taken by the Nord N10 5G are certainly decent — the details of this Victorian house still stand out even in black and white — but I can't imagine making this camera a regular part of my shooting routine.
Plenty of photography buffs will tell you that a dedicated lens will produce better shots than a simple filter, and they're certainly, right, especially when it comes to accurately reflecting things like shadows. But having a dedicated monochrome lens seems like adding a camera just so you can say that you have X number of lenses. As Google has proven time and again with its Pixel phones, less is often more, especially when you can nail the software.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: Performance
One of the most eye-catching changes between the OnePlus Nord and OnePlus Nord N10 5G is the step down from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G to the Snapdragon 690, one of the first chipsets from Qualcomm's 6 series to feature 5G connectivity. It's also a piece of silicon aimed more squarely at phones in the lower midrange of the market.
When it comes to both benchmarks and real-world use, though, the change in processors doesn't make that much of a difference. On Geekbench 5, which measures general performance, the OnePlus Nord N10 5G posted a single-core score of 606 and a multicore result of 1,843. That actually beat the 602 single-core number posted by the original Nord, though that phone's 1,984 multicore score would suggest that the more expensive Nord is better suited for apps that take advantage of multiple cores.
As you might expect, the iPhone SE, with its superior A13 Bionic chip, dusts the OnePlus Nord N10 5G, with single- and multicore scores of 1,337 and 3,226, respectively. But the N10 actually tops the Snapdragon 765G-powered Pixel 4a 5G, which posted scores of 598 and 1,614 in Geekbench. The Nord N10 5G trails the 1,932 multicore scored posted by the TCL 10 5G UW and its Snapdragon 765 chipset.
It's a different story in graphics, where the OnePlus Nord N10 5G lags behind the competition. Using 3DMark's new Wild Life benchmark, we saw a score of 809 (4.8 frames per second) for the N10 5G. That's behind the score of the Pixel 4a 5G (1,199 or 7FPS), which is not exactly a graphics powerhouse; TCL's 5G phone posted a 1,670 (10FPS) result The OnePlus Nord N10 5G also trailed similar phones when it came to 3DMark's Sling Shot Extreme benchmark, too.
Ultimately, though, this doesn't translate to noticeable performance lags when you use the OnePlus Nord N10 5G. Yes, I've seen sharper graphics when running PUBG Mobile on other phones, particularly those with beefier graphics support. But the multiperson shooter game runs without any hiccups on the new OnePlus phone — certainly nothing that would impact game play. I imagine that unless you're in the habit of running graphically-demanding games on your mobile device, the OnePlus Nord N10 5G will suit you just fine.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: 5G
As noted above, the OnePlus Nord N10 5G offers 5G compatibility and at a price that's much lower than other phones like the $499 Pixel 4a 5G and $399 TCL 10 5G UW.
But there's a caveat to the Nord N10's 5G support. The embedded X51 modem on the Snapdragon 690 chipset doesn't work with high-speed mmWave-based 5G networks. That means the OnePlus Nord N10 will only connect to sub-6GHz 5G networks, which are only marginally faster than LTE at this time. That's likely to improve as wireless carriers build out their 5G coverage, but if you opt for the latest OnePlus Nord, don't expect speeds that reach 1 Gbps. For that, you'd need a phone like the TCL 10 5G that's built to work with Verizon's high-speed 5G towers.
OnePlus also tells me that the N10 5G only works on LTE at AT&T and not with that carrier's 5G network, so in essence, you should only consider the OnePlus Nord N10 5G if you're planning on getting wireless service from T-Mobile or a discount carrier that uses T-Mobile's towers.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: Battery life and charging
OnePlus may have dialed back the processor on the OnePlus Nord N10 5G, but it hasn't sacrificed battery life for the phone. The latest Nord features a 4,300 mAh battery, which helped power it one of the best results on our battery test that we've seen from a 5G phone.
In our battery test, we have a phone surf the web over cellular — T-Mobile's 5G network in this case — with its screen set to 150 nits of brightness until it's out of power. The OnePlus Nord N10 5G held out for 11 hours and 48 minutes on that test. Among the 5G phones on our best phone battery life list, only the LG V60 ThinQ 5G, Motorola Edge, and Galaxy S20 Plus lasted longer (and that latter phone's result was with its 120Hz refresh rate turned off). All those phones are far more expensive than what OnePlus charges for the Nord N10.
As for phones in the Nord N10 5G's expected price range, the OnePlus device handily out-performed them. The iPhone SE lasted a little more than 9 hours on our battery test, while the Pixel 4a 5G ran out of battery just past the 8 hour mark.
The OnePlus Nord N10 5G charges quickly, too, thanks to OnePlus' Warp Charge 30T technology. That's not as fast as what OnePlus 8T owners experience, but it's still plenty speedy for a lower cost phone. Our N10 5G was back up to 68% of its battery capacity after 30 minutes of charging, the same result we got when we tested the OnePlus Nord. The Pixel 4a 5G and iPhone SE only got to 46% and 29% charges, respectively.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: Software and special features
Like all OnePlus phones, the Nord N10 5G uses the company's OxygenOS software which is built on top of Android. In the case of the Nord N10 5G, that's Android 10.5 — an interesting decision when the OnePlus 8T was among the first Android phones outside of Google's own devices to ship with the newer Android 11 installed. That's the price you pay for going with a cheaper model, I guess, but it means new features found in Android 11 aren't available here.
It gets worse — after this review was published, OnePlus confirmed to Android Central that Android 11 will be the only guaranteed update for the Nord N10, other than two years of security updates. OnePlus says that upgrade plan "aligns with industry standards for smartphones in more affordable price ranges," but that's not something you want to see phone makers emulate — particularly when they've previously positioned themselves as a fan-focused company.
You also don't get an in-display sensor like you'd find on pricier OnePlus handsets, a trade-off I suspect bargain hunters won't find. It helps that OnePlus placed its sensor in an easy-to-reach area, and that the sensor proved pretty responsive in my testing.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: Verdict
I wasn't sure what to expect when I started my OnePlus Nord N10 5G review, as some of the stripped-down specs from the OnePlus Nord made me worry that U.S. users would be missing out on the value that the original Nord had brought to other parts of the world. As it turned out, I needn't have fretted.
The trade-offs you make with the N10 5G may be slightly more pronounced than they are with the standard Nord, but this is still a very capable phone for what OnePlus is ultimately charging U.S. customers. If you've been intrigued by 5G but put off by the high price of 5G phones, the N10 5G may be what pushes you to upgrade.
It's undeniable that the cameras are better on Google's Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5a models, and that the iPhone SE offers a more compact design along with the whole iOS experience. But the main and ultrawide angle cameras on the OnePlus Nord N10 aren't bad (even if the macro and monochrome lenses feel superfluous) and the gap in performance from other midrange Android devices isn't that substantial.
Far more noticeable than what you give up is what the Nord N10 5G delivers — a fast-refresh screen, long battery life, fast charging and 5G performance at a lower price than you'd otherwise pay for such welcome capabilities.