OnePlus Nord Review: Excellent 5G Android Phone, Great Value

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OnePlus Nord: Audio Quality, Performance, and Battery Life

OnePlus Nord Audio, Data, and Call Reception

We used the OnePlus Nord primarily on AT&T’s 4G LTE network in San Francisco, and on T-Mobile’s sub-6GHz 5G network in Portland, OR. Support for 5G on T-Mobile was unexpected since the Nord isn’t destined for the US -- no compatible 5G bands are listed in the specs, so this might be a fluke. Our AT&T SIM is only provisioned for 4G, so we didn’t get a chance to test 5G on AT&T. The Nord also works fine on Verizon’s 4G LTE network.

OnePlus Nord 03

Overall, we didn’t experience any issues with call quality or data speeds. The mono speaker sounds adequate, and while there’s no headphone jack, the Nord supports both analog and digital USB Type-C audio devices. As a bonus, the built-in DAC and amp sound pretty decent with an analog dongle. The Nord also features Dirac audio enhancement for both speakers and headphones, plus aptX HD and LDAC for lossless Bluetooth audio.

OnePlus Nord Performance

When it comes to performance, two things stand out. The benchmarks (see details below), and the way the Nord feels. It’s the first time we’re reviewing a phone equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G and we’re impressed. Still, keep in mind that the engineers at OnePlus are skilled at optimizing Android performance, so the Nord is snappy right out of the box. 

Looking at the numbers, it’s clear the SD765G falls halfways between the SD670 and the SD865, slotting somewhere between the SD845 and SD855 in terms of actual performance. That’s not bad, yet the OnePlus Nord feels quicker than that. In day-to-day use, it seems faster than phones like Google's Pixel 4 XL, almost matching the perceived performance of the current crop of flagships. Obviously, the 90Hz refresh rate helps.

As for the user experience, the OnePlus Nord is incredibly responsive. We only noticed a speed difference when we put it side-by-side with the OnePlus 8, or when playing the most graphically demanding games. Mind you, our review unit came with 12GB of LPDDR4X RAM and 256GB of UFS 2.1 storage. Other versions include 8GB / 128GB and 6GB / 64GB (India only). There’s no microSD support.

Futuremark PCMark For Android
General Purpose Pocket Computing Performance Metrics
Futuremark's PCMark for Android is an excellent suite of tests if you want to benchmark a wide range of tasks on any handset -- things like image and video editing, as well as lighter-duty, everyday workloads such as email and web browsing. When you see the test running live, it's clear the scripted application tests are carefully selected and tuned to make use of the each mobile platform in a very controlled way...

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The OnePlus Nord scores between the Snapdragon 845-equipped Pixel 3 XL and the Snapdragon 855-equipped Pixel 4 XL. While the Snapdragon 765G powering the Nord clearly doesn't match the performance of current flagships for the workloads used in PCMark for Android, these results are still respectable.

AnTuTu 8 And AITuTu
Platform Benchmarks
AnTuTu’s latest benchmark returns a number of metrics ranked with somewhat nebulous scores, rather than frame rates or time to complete. Here we're running the latest version of AnTuTu across an multiple Android devices. AnTuTu returns four top level performance results which are all included here: CPU, RAM, 3D, UX (or User Experience), along with a total score...

antutu oneplus nord

We saw more of the same in the AnTuTu benchmark. Here, the OnePlus Nord comes in right between the Snapdragon 670-equipped Pixel 3a XL and the Snapdragon 855-equipped Pixel 4 XL.

AITuTu evaluates the AI performance of a device by leveraging two mainstream neural network models for machine learning and AI -- Inception v3 for Image Classification and MobileNet-SSD for Object Detection. The benchmark determines the device’s accuracy and speed when inferring data from each workload...

aitutu oneplus nord

OnePlus has clearly done a good job optimizing AI workloads on the Snapdragon 765G. In AiTuTu, the Nord actually scores better than the Snapdragon 865-equipped LG V60 ThinQ 5G.

3D Graphics Benchmarks: 3DMark And GFX Bench
Pushing The Pixels
Next we're checking how the OnePlus Nord compares in GFXBench, which has been one of the standard mobile graphics/gaming performance benchmarks for years. To ensure that display refresh (v-sync) and resolution aren't limiting factors, we're comparing off-screen test results here. GFXBench tests OpenGL ES graphics workloads and we're specifically testing OpenGL ES 2...

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Graphics performance clearly isn't the Snapdragon 765G's strongest suit. Here, the OnePlus Nord's scores are consistently slightly less than half the scores of current flagships.

Futuremark's 3DMark Sling Shot is a newer benchmark module that's been added to the 3DMark mobile suite. Unlike previous gen 3DMark mobile tests, Sling Shot is a much more advanced OpenGL ES 3.1 and Metal API-based benchmark that employs more advanced rendering techniques, like volumetric lighting, particle illumination, multiple render targets, instanced rendering, uniform buffers and transform feedback.

3DMark Sling Shot Test
Futuremark 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme Benchmark

We're running this test in off-screen mode once again to remove display resolution differences from the equation. This lets us compare cross-platform results more reliably...

sling shot oneplus nord

The OnePlus Nord also performed worse than current flagships in these 3DMark tests. It scored about half what the Snapdragon 855-equipped Pixel 4 XL scored, but still 3.5x better than the Snapdragon 665- and 675-equipped TCL 10-series.

OnePlus Nord Other Features and Battery Life

The remaining specs are comprehensive, and include WiFi 5 (802.11ac), Bluetooth 5.1 (LE), NFC, A-GPS/ GLONASS / Galileo / BDS / NavIC, plus the usual suite of sensors. Strangely, the Nord lacks WiFi 6 (802.11ax), even though the Snapdragon 765G chipset supports it. OnePlus didn’t skimp on the linear vibration motor, though: it feels really nice. Ditto to the optical in-display fingerprint sensor, which is fast and accurate.

battery life oneplus nord

We’re also very satisfied with battery life. Despite the relatively small 4115mAh cell, the Nord lasted 12 hours and 41 minutes in our PCMark battery test (on LTE) -- with the display set to 90Hz, no less. That’s one minute longer than the OnePlus 8 and its 4300mAh cell. Of course, the SD765G is more power friendly than the SD865 since the X52 5G modem is integrated into the SoC. Still, well done OnePlus. 

Finally, the OnePlus Nord supports 30W fast charging (Warp Charge 30T), and includes a matching charger in the box. That’s pretty awesome for a mid-range handset -- after all, some flagships only support 18W (cough, Moto Edge+, cough). As we already mentioned, the Nord lacks wireless charging. That’s understandable when you consider that the OnePlus 8 Pro is the first (and so far only) OnePlus phone with wireless charging.

Next up: the software, pricing, and the verdict...


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