When OnePlus launched their first smartphone, way back in 2014, they focused on providing flagship features at mid-range prices. As a result, they won a lot of a fans with their premium quality handsets. However, over the following years, they started to increase prices with a disproportionate improvement in specifications leading to many people to look to other emerging Chinese brands like Realme and Xiaomi to fill this flagship-killer sector.

Now, with OnePlus producing premium flagships with a price to match the best, they have introduced the Nord to try and recapture some of the lucrative market they have lost over the last few years.

Premium construction but no IP68 protection

Due to ship in early August, the Nord is a definite return to OnePlus’s roots being a well-built and specified phone at an affordable price. So, let’s have a look at what you get for your money.

The Nord has 6.44” Fluid AMOLED screen with 86.7% screen to body ratio, 1080p resolution and 408ppi density. It also has what is becoming the standard for higher-priced smartphones in 2020, a 90Hz refresh rate, giving silky-smooth scrolling.

With Gorilla Glass 5 front and back, it is a premium construction, the only thing missing is IP68 dust and water protection that it’s more expensive siblings have. Finally, it weighs in at 184g.

Supports 5G and 3 memory options

It ships with the Snapdragon 765 chipset (and so supports 5G) and Android 10 with the latest Oxygen OS 10.0 on top. There will be 3 memory options available, the entry level has 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. There is also a mid-range 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage and the range is topped off with a 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage model. There is no SD card slot, so like all OnePlus phones, storage is not expandable.

The Nord also sports a single loudspeaker, 3.5mm headphone jack, optical under-display fingerprint reader and supports NFC. The whole setup is powered by a reasonably sized 4115 mAh battery with 30W fast charging, that is claimed will give you 70% charge in 30 minutes.

6 cameras in total but average setup

Onto the cameras, and it is here that some compromises have been made compared to the other latest OnePlus models. Although it has 6 cameras (more than any other current OnePlus handset), these are not as good as could be.

Starting with the rear, this has a quad array located in a vertical alignment in a black mount on the top left. These cameras are a main 48MP f/1.8, 26mm wide with PDAF and OIS, 8MP f/2.3 ultrawide, 5MP f/2.4 depth and 2MP f/2.4 macro. The depth lens is effectively a sensor, so there are only 3 real cameras here. Which although a perfectly respectable setup are lacking overall. For example, no telephoto lens for better optical zooming, and no OIS on the macro making it difficult to focus on close-ups.

However, it is expected that these cameras will give acceptable shots in most light conditions. They will also shoot video at 4K (30/60fps) and 1080p (30/60/240fps), with Gyro-EIS to improve stability at 1080p.

On the front is a dual selfie setup, located top left in a noticeable horizontal pill-shaped unit. The 2 lenses are a 32MP f/2.5 wide and an 8MP f/2.5 ultrawide. These are capable of shooting 4K video at 30/60fps and 1080p at 30/60fps.

Stuck in a rut

Available initially in two colours – Blue marble and Grey Onyx, the entry level model is expected to cost under £400 making it good value at that price. Competition around that price band? Well, you have the iPhone SE (2020) which costs a little more, looks a bit dated and only has 2 cameras in total. A number of the higher Samsung Galaxy A class handsets and the Xiaomi Redmi 10X Pro (which is a bit cheaper) for starters.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a very nice looking and well-built phone. But this is a very competitive sector and the Nord has nothing to really make it stand out. This is probably symbolic of the smartphone sector currently, in that is has become stuck in a bit of a rut with the glass/metal sandwich becoming the de-facto standard. This means that nearly every new handset is just a minor iteration improvement on the previous model – witness the iPhone 11 and no doubt the soon to be 12 and the Samsung S20, compared to the S10.

With the Nord and it’s lack of a wow factor, OnePlus must be hoping their past successes and now-established reputation for producing quality handsets will help them sell more. Only time will tell if that strategy will be successful.

As soon as we get our hands on one, we will producing a video unboxing and short review of the Nord. So, keep checking our social feeds for news of these videos – a new feature we are introducing!