OnePlus Nord 2: Impressions from Afar

The Nord 2 signals OnePlus’ direction for the future, and it’s an interesting one, to say the least.

OnePlus officially announced the Nord 2 last week, and I’ve spent the weekend going over the device and developing a feel for it. As a fan of the original Nord, I was anticipating a device that would improve the inconsistencies and letdowns I experienced with its predecessor, but it’s not exactly clear if that’s what happened here.

OnePlus will charge £399 for the Nord 2 which, by the way, won’t go on sale in the States. Instead, it’ll stick to markets like Europe and India where OnePlus sees a bigger audience. Still, the Nord 2 will influence the company’s mid-range lineup going forward, and the particular direction it’s chosen to head in to do so is interesting, to say the least.

The thing that stands out to me the most is how OnePlus is positioning itself. Nowadays, it’s essentially a more well-respected sibling brand of Oppo which is owned by the same parent company. Recently, OnePlus and Oppo announced a sort of merger that would see both teams work more closely with one another. A particular aspect of the companies’ businesses is software, the part of the Nord 2 that signals OnePlus’ greatest fundamental change in years.

Moving forward, OxygenOS will simply be a re-skinned (and rebranded) version of ColorOS, the Android skin Oppo uses on its phones. Early Nord 2 reviews highlight its ability to feel just like previous versions of OxygenOS, albeit a little different. You can bet future flagships from OnePlus will also share a similar experience, for better or worse.

Another important characteristic of the OnePlus Nord 2 is its processor. OnePlus decided not to go with a Qualcomm chipset and instead chose a MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI processor, a custom version of the Dimensity 1200 with stronger focuses on AI-powered tasks. The chip is said to be as powerful as a Snapdragon 870 which isn’t too shabby.

This will be the first OnePlus phone to ship with a chip outside of what Qualcomm offers, so I’m on the fence about feeling weary. The Snapdragon line certainly hasn’t been as innovative as some competitors, nor has it seen any meaningful improvement over the years. Then again, Qualcomm has the brand capacity to promise consumers a reliable experience when they see one of their chips inside a phone they buy. Outside the US, that recognition may be an easy task for MediaTek and other companies, so it should be interesting to see how long OnePlus offers Dimensity chips and whether consumers respond positively or not.

If you researched the original OnePlus Nord at all or simply read my review, reading about the Nord 2 may feel like Deja Vue. That’s because there’s a lot here that can remind you of the original Nord. The screen is still stuck at 90Hz instead of going to 120Hz, and its size is 6.43-inches (0.1-inches smaller than the original Nord). It’s also still 1080p.

The Nord 2 has a selfie camera in the top left-hand corner which is the device’s most differentiating change on the front, while a large camera sensor on the back unapologetically matches the aesthetic of virtually every 2021 OnePlus phone.

The rest of the device is glass and plastic, with rounded corners and sloping edges in tow. There’s nothing here that doesn’t tell you this is a Nord phone. Instead, it simply looks like a 2021 version of the original Nord.

Paired with the Dimensity 1200-AI processor are specs we’ve seen before from OnePlus. There’s up to 12GB of RAM under the hood along with up to 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage. You get a 4,500mAh battery that OnePlus says can recharge in under 35 minutes thanks to Warp Charge 65. You also, of course, get sub-6GHz 5G.

One area of struggle I found with the original Nord was the camera. None of the four sensors on the back of the phone impressed me, and I have a feeling the ones on the Nord 2 won’t either. OnePlus opts for a 50MP main camera paired with an 8MP ultra-wide lens and a 2MP monochrome sensor. The company says the main shooter can take in up to 56 percent more light, while image processing and video capture have also seen boosts in performance.

In my experience, OnePlus cameras have always felt at least a step or two behind the competition. The Nord felt this effect tremendously, and I’m worried the Nord 2 will do so as well. Also worth noting is the lack of a second selfie camera like on the original Nord, whereas the Nord 2 ships with a single 32MP unit.

The OnePlus Nord 2 is giving signals of where OnePlus is going with its mid-range line. It’s clear that the software experience provided will continue to evolve with the merger with Oppo, the company isn’t scared to experiment with different chips, and they’re gonna keep trying to fix those cameras until they land on something that works. Whether their efforts pay off, in the long run, remains to be seen.

In the meantime, we have evidence of OnePlus’ future in the Nord 2 that signals a slightly different direction for the company than in years past. Let’s just see if it’s the right direction before getting excited.

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