Oneplus Nord 2 review: charging in 35 minutes and best in class camera
By: Nickolay Polovinkin | 15.09.2021, 00:00
It seems that OnePlus engineers have outsmarted themselves. The Nord 2 competes with other manufacturers' top models more fiercely than the main iconoclast OnePlus 9. It practically discourages the need to pay more for some flagship chips. Power - is plentiful. The camera - is the best for the money. Great display with HDR10+, 5G and Wi-Fi 6, stylish body and all sorts of tricks like a hardware silent mode switch, tricked out vibration feedback, stereo speakers and a full charge in almost half an hour. For a telephoto lens, moisture protection, wireless charging and a little more power (I'm now listing things that are typical of smartphones-no-goods) you have to shell out almost twice as much. Yes, there will always be fans of these features with fat credit limits wallets, but for the role of a weighted purchase Nord 2 claims unequivocally.
5 reasons to buy Oneplus Nord 2:
consistently high performance;
excellent camera with optical stabilization and mode "picture-in-picture";
very fast charging: 100% in 35 minutes from the included power supply;
quality AMOLED display with always on and HDR10+;
Wi-Fi 6 support (and 5G in case it comes in handy).
3 reasons not to buy Oneplus Nord 2:
you need an even cooler camera with a telephoto lens;
would really like to have moisture protection in the smartphone;
memory card support is critical for you (well, whatever).
Who needs these cool and expensive top models anyway? -said Oneplus and released... their own top models, also cool and not at throwaway prices either."Ahem, let's try killing flagships from the other side", -must be, thought the developers and released the Nord model. Not top-of-the-line, but designed to probably pack in so many features that flagships become unnecessary. The first flip didn't look like a bad one, but it seems that the second one will be more interesting. Let's meet Oneplus Nord 2 and find out if it can replace twice as expensive smartphone.
What's in the box?
Continuing the tradition of the recent Nord CE, Oneplus didn't skimp on the size of the box and its contents. The Nord 2 also comes with a translucent case made of dense silicone, a branded red USB cable, a quick charger and paper documentation. The display is covered by a thin protective film, glued directly to the factory. A small thing, but nice. For fans of the brand, there is a block of branded logo stickers.
The charger is even faster than before: the new version of WarpCharge has a power of 65 watts! Yes, the power supply is capable of delivering 6.5A and 10V, but the classic 5V / 2A mode is also supported. In the photo below, you can see the new power supply (it's on the left) compared to the old WarpCharge.
What does it look like?
The Nord 2 looks very similar to the older Oneplus 9 models. On the front - display with thin bezels and a round cutout for the camera. The front camera here, unlike the first Nord, is single, so the cutout is smaller. There is no fingerprint scanner on the body, it is built under the screen.
The above-mentioned similarity with the flagships is evident when looking at the back side. The same large round camera lenses are immediately noticeable here. The rear panel itself is covered with Gorilla Glass 5. The glossy surface looks something like a glazed ceramic, especially considering the peculiar green blue. Against the glossy background, the matte metal with shiny chamfers stands out the surface of the camera unit.
And in general this green color turned out to be interesting. For some reason I call it green, but in fact it's more turquoise or mint, whichever is more understandable. And the manufacturer actually thinks it's blue, or more precisely, Blue Haze. In addition to it, there is a more subdued gray version of Gray Sierra and a really green-green Green Wood.
On the frame that surrounds the case, in addition to the usual power button on the right and volume buttons on the left, there is a three-position hardware silent mode switch. I don't know about you but I like this idea, the hardware buttons rule. The more so that this switch turns out to be remarkably tactile, it locks into each of the positions with a convincing click.
I do not approve of refusal of a headphone jack. But let's consider that without it the case of Nord 2 has cleared a space for something necessary and important. The only connector on the bottom side of the case - is standard USB-C. Beside it, there is a loudspeaker, a talking microphone and, suddenly, a SIM-card tray. The tray itself has an unusual design, the cards are installed on both sides of it, not in a row as usual. The second microphone is on the top edge. The frame of the smartphone itself looks as if it is made of polished metal, slightly tinted to match the color of the body. But it looks like it's plastic after all, though it looks and feels very solid.
How good is the screen?
As an advanced device, the Nord 2 has an AMOLED display. With all its features, including high maximum contrast and deep black from the off pixels. The fingerprint scanner is placed below the screen at the bottom of the screen.
The display diagonal is 6.43" (1080x2400) and a thin frame makes the device relatively compact, if that word even applies to modern "shovelphones". Look how the dimensions of the Nord line devices correlate: Nord N10, Nord N100, Nord CE and Nord 2 are on the photo from the bottom up. Anyway, nominally their displays diagonals are slightly different too, so it's not only the frames - the compactness is just what comes to mind.
The maximum refresh rate - 90 Hz, the competitors sometimes have more, though in practice it is difficult to notice the difference. But you can try to find it while watching content with a wide dynamic range, because HDR10+ is supported here. Picture quality is good with the default settings, but if you want you can adjust the color temperature and select P3 mode for brighter colors or sRGB for a softer picture. There's an Always On feature, with which clocks and notifications are displayed in white on a black background of off pixels.
What about performance, memory, sound and battery life?
If you haven't been following the news about this model, you're in for a surprise. At the heart of a device with a claim to high performance is a platform developed not by Qualcomm, but by Mediatek. But it's not a dull budget-built knockoff, but a brisk 6nm MT6893 chip, also known as the Dimensity 1200 5G. Of the eight cores, four Cortex-A55 save battery run at 2GHz, three more overclock to 2.6 and one - to 3GHz (the second four are quicker, this Cortex-A78). For graphics is responsible chip Mali-G77 MC9, the system is available 8 or 12 GB of RAM. The stuffing turned out to be very productive, it shows good results, both in synthetic tests and in real applications. According to Geekbench, the performance of the Nord 2 is comparable to the Samsung Galaxy S20+ (Exynos 990) or Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro (Snapdragon 855), you can see screenshots of the tests below. Very moderate heating and stability of the processor is pleasing. Trottling takes off less than 20% of the maximum performance, and predictably, with no random spikes. To be honest, I don't know why anyone would need more performance in real life. By way of exception, I accept the following versions: ponts, aiming for ten years of use, hardcore gamming and cryptocurrency mining.
Speaking of gaming. The promotional materials mentioned a certain "high-frequency mode" (special optimized high-refresh gaming mode) for Brawl Stars. But I haven't found anything specific for this game. During the battles observed values FPS (80-90), achievable on less powerful smartphones. Unless the GPU load usually does not rise above 40%. Oh, and then there is the game mode itself for all games in general. There's a special menu with the ability to turn off messenger notifications, record video from the screen, display service information like FPS and hardware load, and so on. But this is not an exclusive feature of the model, other Oneplus smartphones also have it.
Characteristic (and correct) features of the budget phones include memory card support and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. The Nord 2 is apparently too cool to splurge on such minutiae, and its users must suffer like all noble owners of expensive smartphones. If the refusal of the mini-jack I can still understand (economy of space in the case and simplification of the moisture protection which, however, is not present here), then the economy on memory cards support I don't understand resolutely.
Okay, let's talk about the good, there are more of them anyway. Oneplus Nord 2 supports fifth-generation (5G) mobile communication, which we will use for a while, and sixth-generation wireless networks (Wi-Fi 6), which are already in full operation on modern routers.
It's nice to be able to talk about something more interesting than NFC support (it's clear that it's here). Now, the Nord 2 has the improved vibe of Haptics 2.0. I want to believe that the headphone jack was not lost in vain, making room for the new vibration motor, which really changes the feeling of working with a smartphone. Many things, from the accompaniment of typing keys to the movement of sliders in the settings, feel new. It feels good. Stereo sound is also nice, and quite loud, both speakers play: main and conversational.
Nord 2 can not boast a particularly capacious battery, it fits the average on the market 4500 mAh. But the fast charging - is a real rocket bomb. From the included charger smartphone "accelerates from zero to a hundred" in 35 minutes! And 50% of the capacity discharged to zero the device gets in 18 minutes. So far, not very often you can see a smartphone in which the level of charge in the percentage is literally growing in front of your eyes, and steadily and evenly. Wireless charging is not provided, but at such speeds wired it is not really needed. Interestingly, the battery does not discharge as quickly as it could, given the fast charging. The 6nm processor is quite economical, and the smartphone shows over 17 hours in the PCMark Battery life test.
What's up with the firmware and interface?
Same as other modern Oneplus smartphones. The same Android 11 with OxygenOS 11.3 shell. The shell itself is traditionally free of garbage and unnecessary apps. File manager, migration wizard, weather, calculator, and other little things. The installed applications are located on the horizontal screens, but they can be kept in the pull-out menu.
The smartphone can be unlocked using the fingerprint scanner built into the display, a facial image or the good old-fashioned password. The face shot is not verified by any 3D technology, it is simply recognized by the front camera. Therefore, I would recommend using the scanner. It works quite fast, but is still, in my opinion, inferior in convenience to the individual capacitive scanners. To minimize the inconvenience associated with it, you can use the on-off function when you move. You pick up your smartphone, a scanner icon appears on the screen, you place your finger on the screen and unlock the device with a single tap. You press the power button first, and then you scan. They've invented technology on their heads.
What is the situation with the camera?
Judging by DxOMark tests, Oneplus Nord 2 has a rare ratio of cost to camera quality. In other words, there's an abnormal amount of camera for little money. The main module has a 50-megapixel sensor, wide-angle optics with f/1.9 aperture and an optical stabilization system. Behind the second, large-looking lens hides a much more modest 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle module. The third camera itself does not shoot anything, it is a monochrome depth of field sensor with a 2 megapixel sensor. Backlighting is provided by a dual-tone LED flash, quite powerful.
The camera interface in Oneplus smartphones is different, it is different in all models for some reason. I will not list the menu items, they can be seen in the screenshots below. But I will tell you about some important features.
By default, the camera shoots photos in 12-megapixel mode with a resolution of 4096x3072, but you can enable all 50 megapixels and the frame size will be 12032x9024. There is also a non-obvious intermediate mode of 8192x6144, called "EXTRA HD" and hidden under "also".
There is a professional video mode "movies", in which manual settings of exposure, sensitivity, shutter speed, white balance, and even manual focus are available. But, alas, the zoom is not available in this mode, you can only switch between the main and wide-angle cameras. There are no resolution and aspect ratio settings either.
The professional photo mode has all the same, plus the ability to save pictures in RAW, but there is no switch to 50MP mode. And the icons on one of the two settings panels don't rotate when you rotate the camera.
For both stills and video, you can activate the artificial intelligence feature, which probably improves things. At least when it's a bit dark in the frame, it shows the bar "Night" and adjusts the shooting settings accordingly.
Okay, I'm stopping my outrage at the interface and getting to the point. The main camera of the Nord 2 has a 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 sensor, exactly the same is used in "ultra wide" senior model Oneplus 9. Both indoors and outdoors, in bright light and at night you can get pictures of very decent quality. Optical stabilization allows you to not be afraid of blurring when using the zoom even in low light. Here are some pictures taken in different conditions.
If you don't want to bother with professional mode by manually setting all the parameters, you can trust the automatic night mode. Below you can see an example in the form of two photos taken with and without night mode. Interestingly, automatics, realizing the peculiarity of the situation, has reduced the sensitivity from 5557 to 2254 ISO units, shifting the responsibility for exposure to a slower shutter speed: only 1/6 instead of 1/20. Had it not been for stabilization and the algorithm trained to use it, the shot would have come out much noisier.
We remember that the DxOMark researchers praised the zoom in the Nord 2, which in fact is not here. More precisely, there is no telephoto lens, and the zoom as such is available from 0.6x to 10x. The former uses an ultra-wide angle lens, the latter is the maximum software zoom. It turns out to be quite plausible. In the far teleposition the work of algorithms is noticeable, they reduce graininess, but give the picture a peculiar, slightly "plastic" look.
The 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera here is about "like everywhere else". It's useful for your creative ideas when shooting both photos and video, but predictably "soaps" and "darkens". Especially in the background of the main camera. The situation worsens as the light decreases, although the progress of cameras in mid-priced smartphones is still impressive.
The third camera module is used to create the effect of depth of field. It defaults to "Portrait" and can be applied when "bokeh" is turned on during video shooting. Here's how the photos look with and without the blur effect in a direct comparison:
Videos can be shot in 4K, 1080p and, surprisingly, 720p. The latter format has begun to disappear from smartphone cameras, although it can still be relevant when memory space is low. Despite the powerful stuffing, the smartphone does not support shooting at 60 fps for 4K video, although for the other two formats there is such a possibility. Very strange, there is a suspicion that this is a software oversight. Even in night conditions you can get good quality video clips. Unless, of course, you demand too much from the software zoom.
Optical stabilization of the main camera works very effectively. It is enabled by default in standard mode and can be turned off in "cinematic", if you need it for something. Below you can see an example of a video shot handheld on the run. The stabilization quality is high and there are few artifacts.
Slow motion has two modes: 720p and 1080p. But for some reason there is no option of choosing the frame rate. Apparently, they forgot to add the menu item again.
There is an interesting and rare trick in the video mode: the possibility to shoot simultaneously on the main and front cameras. The picture from "frontal" in this case either is embedded in a rectangular or circular box at the top left, or takes a whole half of the screen, assigning the second half to the image from the main sensor. A real boon for video bloggers: one smartphone is enough and there is no need to waste time on editing.
The front camera itself isn't bad either, 32-megapixel. In the interface, there are beauty filters with very detailed settings, as well as the function of backlighting with the screen. In this mode, the display is brightly lit, leaving only a circle in the center for you to control, by which you can compose a frame. Video writes in 1080p or 720p, there's no frame rate selection, but we're no longer surprised. May fans of the brand forgive me, but Oneplus approach to camera interfaces looks a bit chaotic: a bunch of interface solutions appear and disappear in random order in different models and in different firmware versions of the same model. If we were to get together and do everything properly it would be a real fire, thankfully the hardware would permit it.
Who does Nord 2 compete with? With a price of about $ 400 for the lowest package (8/128) it is a little out of our range "up to 10 thousand UAH", but in the current edition it would easily outpace all its leaders in performance, and the camera too. If we look a floor higher, in the rating "up to 15 thousand", the Nord 2 is generally superior to the Realme X2 Pro, but somewhat inferior to the Mi 10T Pro in the set of parameters. That said, the Oneplus offering is more affordable than both, and is ahead of them in terms of price to features ratio. Unless, of course, you have some specific requirements like an IR port, for example.
Three things to know about the Oneplus Nord 2:
It's the best of the Oneplus 2021 non-flagship smartphones on the fast Mediatek Dimensity 1200 5G platform with a 6.43" AMOLED display that supports HDR10+;
Equipped with an excellent 50MP camera with optical stabilization and an 8MP wide-angle;
From the included 65-watt charger fully "refills" in 35 minutes.
Specifications OnePlus Nord 2 5G (DN2103)
Fluid AMOLED, 6.43 inches, 1080x2400 (aspect ratio 20:9), 409 ppi, refresh rate up to 90 Hz, HDR10+
AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE Some posts may contain affiliate links. Gagadget.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates
Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking