The OnePlus Nord 2 has now officially launched, and as far as the entire OnePlus lineup goes, this might be the one to pay attention to.

OnePlus has come a long way in a short space of time, but the brand has almost gone full circle – starting with a line of cheap Android phones and moving away from their roots, only to rebound back toward the affordable end of the spectrum in late 2020.

The original OnePlus Nord proved to be a popular affordable option in certain European markets, and it was easy to see why. Most of what made the OnePlus 8 series so impressive was present with a few missteps in areas that might not matter quite as much given the reduced asking price.

With the weight of Oppo — and recent high-profile releases — now firmly on OnePlus’s shoulders, the OnePlus Nord 2 launches a year later to a different market and with a fairly substantial overhaul.

Video — OnePlus Nord 2 hands-on

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Hardware and design

If you’ve seen the standard OnePlus 9 and original OnePlus Nord, then imagine those two devices fused and the result is the Nord 2. As someone who was a fan of the 9 series design, and the Nord series colors, this is a big bonus.

While I won’t say that the OnePlus Nord 2 feels particularly “premium” in the hand, there’s definitely a heft that assures you that this isn’t a bargain bucket device. Not that I expected it to be, given the original Nord was also well crafted. There’s more glass this time around, and, for whatever reason, it’s a nice touch.

Let’s talk internals though as there are some important and very notable changes on the Nord 2 here. Firstly, OnePlus has decided to use a MediaTek processor for the very first time — specifically a custom Dimensity 1200-AI chip. When OnePlus ditched the 800 series Qualcomm chips in the 2020 Nord, it seemed to work out just fine. Given that the Dimensity 1200-AI benchmarks way above the Snapdragon 765G, we should see quite the leap in performance without any sort of sacrifice.

Display

OnePlus Nord 2 - Display

The 6.43-inch FHD+ display is clocked at 90Hz, and despite a minor decrease in the upper-left punch-hole, is practically the same display as used on the 2020 model. It’s bright, vibrant, and the high refresh rate AMOLED is as good as it gets for an affordable Android phone in 2021.

For biometric security, the in-display optical fingerprint scanner has also returned here too. It’s fast, accurate, and the upgraded haptics really help sell any and all interactions with the Nord 2. OnePlus touts some neat upscaling tech for the colors and video resolution, which can make certain content look weird but in an interesting sense.

It’s hard to deny that the display is one of the strongest portions of the entire OnePlus Nord 2 package.

Software & performance

So far, I can’t really fault the performance levels of the OnePlus Nord 2. While I’m not a huge gamer, I can play Call of Duty: Mobile without the device breaking a sweat. Everything is smooth and consistent, even with the supposed inferior graphical performance when compared to Qualcomm series chipsets.

The biggest jump is undoubtedly in the usage of UFS 3.1 storage this time around. Much like the flagship tier OnePlus 9 series, everything on the OnePlus Nord 2 loads instantly. 90Hz ensures that animations are slick and smooth too. Even if the chipset isn’t quite as capable, loading and UI smoothness are not an issue.

OxygenOS 11.3 runs without a hitch, and while there a definite hints of Oppo’s ColorOS, none of this affects the experience in a detrimental way. The added customization options might actually be a big plus point for longtime fans of this third-party Android skin. Almost all of the tweaks and tricks that have been OxygenOS staples for as long as you can remember are present and correct. If we do see a wholesale integration with ColorOS, it’s not immediately obvious at this early stage.

Camera

OnePlus Nord 2 - Camera

Despite a similar setup to that of the OnePlus 9, the Nord 2 does not include any of the Hasselblad tweaks, but the upgrade over the original Nord is immediately obvious. While I have only had a few days to explore the OnePlus Nord 2, I am confident the larger Sony IMX766 sensor will provide some substantial boosts in overall image and video quality.

Things look sharp with good colors and contrast. It’s far too early to give a proper assessment, but it’s very promising as the camera proved to be the weakest portion of the 2020 Nord package. Removing some lenses to make way for a flagship-tier main sensor was a sensible decision, especially because the result is the removal of the gimmicky additions like a macro camera sensor.

Battery

OnePlus Nord 2 - Battery

Jumping up to a 4,500mAh battery is yet another one of the “sensible” decisions that OnePlus has taken with the Nord 2. That’s almost a 20% increase over last year, and the result is a vastly extended lifespan — or so it seems at this early stage.

During my brief period with the Nord 2, at no point have I felt battery anxiety start to creep in. By upping the charge speeds available to 65W, being able to go from 0 to 100% in just 40 minutes is something I think that buyers will really love.

Initial thoughts

OnePlus has decided that there is no point waiting for another brand to undercut their OnePlus 9 series devices, so they’ve gone and done it themselves. It’s an interesting strategy that might actually pay off, as so far the OnePlus Nord 2 looks like it provides much of what the OnePlus 9 does, but at lower than two-thirds of the asking price.

While I have yet to really put the Nord 2 through its paces, by making incremental upgrades in almost every area, it looks like one of the standouts in the OnePlus lineup. We’ll tackle that properly over the coming days ahead of our full review, but until then, things are looking promising.

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