OnePlus Nord N20 5G Review: Great Value Never Looked So Good

OnePlus Nord N20 5G Review: An Affordably Priced, Beautiful Smartphone

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For better or for worse, OnePlus is changing. In the past year, the company has merged with Oppo, transitioned OxygenOS to Oppo’s ColorOS code base, and replaced Warp Charge with Oppo’s SuperVOOC. But here in the US, OnePlus also grew almost 3x thanks in no small part to its affordable Nord N series handsets. And while the OnePlus Nord N10 5G ($300) missed the mark somewhat, we really enjoyed the OnePlus Nord N200 5G ($240).

Today, we’re checking out the newest member of the Nord N series, the OnePlus Nord N20 5G ($282), an ultra-stylish 5G phone that gains a Snapdragon 695 processor and an AMOLED screen, but otherwise splits the difference in price and specs between the N10 5G and the N200 5G. It’s coming to T-Mobile first, but will be available unlocked “at some later date”. We just spent a few days testing the N20 5G and here’s our full review.

OnePlus Nord N20 5G Hardware And Design

While the OnePlus Nord N10 5G’s cheap, fingerprint-happy design left us feeling a little flat, the OnePlus Nord N200 5G’s blue gradient and Oppo Reno-inspired camera bump made it significantly more attractive. The OnePlus Nord N20 5G cranks things up to eleven with a sleek design that looks downright premium. At 159.9 x 73.2 x 7.5mm and 173g, our Blue Smoke review unit is slimmer and lighter than its predecessors.

Sure, the N20 5G is primarily made of plastic, but upscale touches abound – from the iPhone 12/13-like flat sides, to the sparkling dark blue faux-glass back, to the way the display appears to float above the handset’s frame, to the circular gold chamfer around two of the rear shooters. In addition, the contrast between the back cover’s overall satin finish and the glossy band along the bottom harkens to the iPhone 5, 5S, and SE (first gen).

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There’s no camera pod here, only those two lenses protruding elegantly from the rear cover, with a third sensor and LED flash mounted flush between them. Like the OnePlus 10 Pro we recently reviewed, the N20 5G’s design stands out by being unique and sophisticated, and while we expect this from a flagship, it’s a pleasant surprise on a phone costing only $282. The N20 5G is even rated IP52 for dust and water resistance.

Unlike its predecessors, which shipped with 90Hz LCD screens, the N20 5G comes with a 60Hz AMOLED panel. It features an optical in-display fingerprint sensor, reasonably small bezels, and a punch hole in the top left corner for the selfie camera. But there’s one detail that betrays the N20 5G’s affordable price: this screen exhibits a larger than usual chin for an AMOLED panel – presumably for the display connector.

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As for the rest of the layout, it’s typical OnePlus. You’ll find the power/lock button on the right side, plus a mono speaker, USB Type-C port, primary mic, and headphone jack along the bottom edge. The left side is home to the volume rocker and combination SIM / microSD tray, and there’s a secondary mic on top. Unfortunately, the N20 5G lacks OnePlus’ excellent alert slider, just like the other Nord N series handsets.

But first, watch our OnePlus Nord N20 5G unboxing video:

OnePlus Nord N20 5G Specs And Features

Processing and 5G Platform Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G + integrated Snapdragon X51 5G Modem
Display 6.43" FHD+ (20:9) AMOLED, 2400x1080 resolution, 60Hz
Memory 6GB LPDDR4x
Storage 128GB UFS 2.2 + microSD
Rear-Facing Cameras 64MP f/1.79 Main PDAF - 2MP f/2.4 Macro - 2MP f/2.4 Monochrome
Front-Facing Cameras 16MP f/2.4
Video Recording Up to 1080p @ 30fps, 720p slow-mo
Battery 4500 mAh, 33W wired charging, no wireless charging
OS Android 11 With OxygenOS 11.3
Dimensions 159.9 x 73.2 x 7.5mm
Weight 173 grams
Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5.1+LE, NFC, USB-C, LTE, sub-6GHz 5G
Colors Blue Smoke
Pricing Find the OnePlus Nord N20 5G @ Amazon, Starting at $282

OnePlus Nord N20 5G Display Quality

The OnePlus Nord N20 5G boasts a 6.43-inch FHD+ AMOLED screen (2400 x 1080 pixels, 409ppi) with a 20:9 aspect ratio and a 60Hz refresh rate. While it delivers punchy colors, deep blacks, and wide viewing angles, it’s a little too dim in direct sunlight – at least here in sunny California. Regardless, this is a quality display overall, and other than the paltry 60Hz refresh rate and noticeable chin, we’re pretty satisfied.

OnePlus Nord N20 5G Camera Performance And Image Quality

In terms of imaging, the OnePlus Nord N20 5G inherits most of the OnePlus Nord N10 5G’s shooters – the 64MP f/1.79 0.7-micron PDAF main camera (without OIS), 2MP f/2.4 1.75-micron macro lens (without AF), and 2MP f/2.4 1.75-micron monochrome sensor. Sadly, it drops the most useful secondary rear shooter, the 8MP ultrawide. A 16MP f/2.4 1.0-micron selfie camera completes the package.

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That 64MP main shooter – likely Omnivision’s OV64B – “bins” (combines) groups of four pixels into larger 1.4-micron pixels and outputs 16MP images. But that 2MP macro lens is all but useless without AF, and it’s unclear what benefits that 2MP monochrome sensor brings to the table.

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OnePlus Nord N20 5G main camera

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OnePlus Nord N20 5G (2x zoom)

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OnePlus Nord N20 5G (5x zoom)

An ultrawide would really have made more sense, but OnePlus tells us this would have made the phone thicker. That’s questionable, considering other thin handsets like last year’s Xiaomi’s Mi 11 Lite (just 6.8mm thick) include an ultrawide shooter. As you’d expect, the N20 5G’s main camera performs about the same as the N10 5G’s, and it's a mixed bag. It takes decent photos in daylight, but low-light performance is sub-par.

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OnePlus Nord N20 5G main camera (night mode)

Given enough light, the N20 5G handles colors, exposure, and dynamic range pretty well, and zoomed-in shots are usable up to 3-4x. In the dark, though, the main shooter quickly loses detail. And while night mode helps, it only turns lackluster pictures into barely serviceable ones. For close-ups, you’re better off ignoring the macro, and using the main camera’s 2x zoom. On the plus side, selfies are surprisingly pleasant.

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OnePlus Nord N20 5G macro

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OnePlus Nord N20 5G selfie camera (portrait mode)

Shooting modes include portrait, night, and panorama (main/selfie), plus expert (pro), macro, text scanner, 64MP, and Extra HD (main only). The N20 5G captures stabilized video with stereo audio at up to 1080p 30fps, plus slow motion (720p 120fps), time lapse (1080p 30fps), and dual-view (720p 30fps). Extra HD stacks multiple 64MP images and uses subpixel interpolation to generate 108MP photos.

OnePlus Nord N20 5G Audio, Data, And Call Reception

We tested the OnePlus Nord N20 5G on T-Mobile’s sub-6GHz 5G network in and around San Francisco, and didn’t experience any problems. Calls sounded clear and data speeds (like 313Mbps down and 34.6Mbps up on mid-band 5G) matched our expectations.

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Right now, the N20 5G is exclusive to T-Mobile, but an unlocked version is on the way. It will probably support Verizon’s sub-6GHz 5G networks, but not AT&T’s.

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On the audio front, the N20 5G features a mono speaker with Dirac audio enhancement. It sounds decent, but it’s nothing spectacular. Thankfully, this phone also includes a 3.5mm headphone jack with a quality DAC. As a bonus, the amp is powerful enough to drive a wide variety of wired earbuds and headphones. If you’d rather go wireless, the N20 5G supports aptX HD and LDAC lossless audio over Bluetooth.

OnePlus Nord N20 5G Performance And Battery Life

The OnePlus Nord N20 5G packs Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 695 6nm mid-range 5G SoC and comes with 6GB of LPDDR4x RAM and 128GB of UFS 2.2 storage (plus microSD support up to 512GB). We ran a few benchmarks (see below), and the Snapdragon 695 often bests the Snapdragon 690 found in the OnePlus Nord N10 5G. In fact, it almost matches the popular Snapdragon 765G in several tests.

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Subjectively however, the N20 5G doesn’t feel as quick and responsive as previous mid-range OnePlus handsets. Between the 60Hz display and the new ColorOS-based software, the N20 5G doesn’t quite deliver the ultra-smooth experience we’ve come to expect from OnePlus. 

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nord n20 5g pcmark

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That being said, the N20 5G handled our standard roster of productivity and entertainment apps without hiccups, and we think most users will be satisfied.

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Battery life is fantastic, especially for a phone with a 4500mAh cell. The N20 5G lasted an impressive 16 hours and 14 minutes in our PCMark battery test. Clearly, the 60Hz refresh rate, AMOLED screen, and 6nm chip help maximize efficiency. Filling back up is a breeze, too. The N20 5G supports 33W fast charging and even ships with a 33W charger in the box. Obviously, there’s no wireless charging here.

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The remaining specs are pretty standard for a mid-range Snapdragon-equipped device. The N20 5G features sub-6GHz 5G, CAT 15 LTE, WiFi 5 (802.11ac), Bluetooth 5.1 (LE), NFC for contactless payments, and dual-band A-GPS / GLONASS / Galileo – plus the familiar collection of sensors. The optical in-display fingerprint scanner is fast and reliable, and so is face unlock. Haptics feel pretty cheap, but get the job done.

OnePlus Nord N20 5G Software And User Experience

OnePlus usually delivers excellent software, and overall, that’s still true with the Oneplus Nord N20 5G, which runs OxygenOS 11.3 on top of Android 11. But unlike last year’s OxygenOS 11 on the OnePlus Nord N200 5G, this newer version of OxygenOS is based on Oppo’s ColorOS. So basically, this is ColorOS skinned to look like OxygenOS. And as we wrote in the performance section above, this makes a difference.

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While the N20 5G’s software is still clean and refined, it’s not as quick and responsive, so the experience isn’t nearly as smooth. Obviously, the 60Hz refresh rate is partly to blame for this too, but we occasionally noticed random hiccups in animations when navigating the UI, so we believe there are some software optimization issues as play here. That being said, this isn’t a deal breaker – hopefully OnePlus will fix this in a future update.

Regardless, you’ll still enjoy OxygenOS’s helpful customizations, which you can read more about in our OnePlus 8T review. For the N20 5G, OnePlus is promising one OS upgrade and three years of security updates. Unsurprisingly, the T-Mobile handset we reviewed came with some pre-installed bloatware, including Amazon Shopping, McAfee Security, and a half-dozen useless carrier apps. You’ve been warned.

OnePlus Nord N20 5G Final Verdict

Yes, OnePlus is changing. But if the OnePlus Nord N20 5G is any indication, the company still has some of its mojo left. This phone’s design is absolutely brilliant, the AMOLED screen is gorgeous, battery life is fantastic, and the software – while slightly different – remains pleasant to use. Oh, and there’s a headphone jack and a 33W charger in the box. Most importantly, here in the US, the N20 5G brings excellent value to the table.

Still, there’s room for improvement. The 60Hz refresh rate is a bummer, the lack of ultrawide shooter is a miss, and performance needs some fine tuning. Finally, an alert slider and stereo speakers would have sealed the deal. But if you can live with these limitations, the N20 5G will be available for $282 (or $11.75 per month for 24 months) from T-Mobile starting April 28, and will be coming to OnePlus (unlocked) soon.
  • Affordable 5G
  • Stylish design
  • Beautiful AMOLED display
  • Headphone Jack
  • Impressive battery life and fast 33W charging
  • Clean and refined software
  • No alert slider
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • So-so cameras and no ultrawide
  • Mono speaker
  • Just OK performance

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