Android Central Verdict
OnePlus is playing it very safe with the Nord CE 2. It hasn't made any hardware alternations other than 65W fast charging, and you don't get the latest version of Android either. The fundamentals are good, but with much better alternatives available in this category, there's no reason to buy the Nord CE 2.
90Hz AMOLED screen
Reliable internal hardware
Lag-free in daily use
Now with 65W fast charging
Still on Android 11
Nearly identical to Nord CE
No stereo sound
Strictly average cameras
Limited software updates
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OnePlus has seen a remarkable increase in sales following the introduction of the Nord series. The Chinese manufacturer revealed that it sold over 11 million phones in 2021 and that the Nord series accounted for 10 million sales in the 18 months following the launch of the first-gen Nord.
So it's obvious that OnePlus would want to continue that momentum with another entry in the affordable Nord CE series. As a refresh, CE stands for Core Edition, with OnePlus noting that you get "everything you need" for slightly less than the numbered Nord series. The Nord CE gave us a good look at what this entails last year; it shared a lot of the same fundamentals as the Nord, but with a camera that wasn't quite as good. To offset the move, OnePlus threw in a 3.5mm jack.
A year later, the Nord CE 2 continues in the same vein. You won't find any noticeable hardware changes over the first-gen Nord CE here, with OnePlus instead focusing on the design. The two new additions are 65W fast charging and a microSD slot. But are those enough to make the Nord CE 2 stand on its own in a fiercely contested category? Let's find out.
Price and global availability
OnePlus unveiled the Nord CE 2 on February 17, 2022, and like all Nord devices, it is limited to select global markets. It is available in India for ₹23,999 ($315) for the version with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and there's another variant with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for ₹24,999 ($330).
Over in the UK, it's sold in a single 8GB/128GB model that costs £299 ($400). In Germany and other countries in Europe where the Nord CE 2 is officially available, you'll be shelling out €349 ($385) to get your hands on the 8GB/128GB edition.
If you need a 256GB model, you'll need to pick up the Reno 7, the phone that forms the basis for the Nord CE 2. That phone is conveniently sold in a single 8GB/256GB version for ₹28,999 ($380), and while it is limited to India at the moment, it will make its way to global markets shortly.
The Nord CE 2 comes in blue and grey. OnePlus incentivized the launch with cashback offers in India and free OnePlus Buds Z2 earbuds in the UK, Germany, and other European countries.
OnePlus Nord CE 2: Design
The design is one area where the Nord CE 2 is noticeably different from its predecessor. The phone has a new design for the rear camera housing that's in line with what we saw last year on the Nord 2. It ditches the oblong housing for a larger camera island that sees large rings around the 64MP primary and 8MP wide-angle lenses.
I generally like this sort of camera layout, but it feels a little garish on the Nord CE 2 — the rings look outsized at the back. As for why OnePlus would go with this design, it is likely to do with the fact that the Nord CE 2 isn't actually a OnePlus phone.
Like the Nord N series, the Nord CE 2 is a rebrand of an existing OPPO device — in this instance, the Reno 7 5G. Look at both devices side-by-side and you'll immediately notice the similarities.
For one thing, the Nord CE 2 lacks the alert slider, a mainstay feature on OnePlus phones for the last seven years. That's one of the easiest ways to determine if a OnePlus phone is a new design (albeit one influenced by its BBK siblings) versus a wholesale rebrand.
Now that you know the origins of the Nord CE 2, let's go over the rest of the design. The Bahama Blue model has a subtle hue that shifts between two shades as light strikes its surface. While the back is designed to look like glass, it is made of polycarbonate and has a glossy finish. The sides are also decked out in plastic with the same glossy finish.
The Nord CE 2 has the power button on the right, a volume rocker on the left, a 3.5mm jack at the bottom, and the SIM card tray to the left.
For what it's worth, you can now add a microSD slot in addition to two SIM cards. OnePlus noted that they added the feature because most users that migrate to the Nord CE series are coming from phones that have microSD slots — it has nothing to do with the fact that the Reno 7 has one.
OnePlus Nord CE 2: Display
When it comes to the screen, you'll find little to no difference over last year's Nord CE. The Nord CE 2 shares the same 6.43-inch FHD+ AMOLED panel with 90Hz refresh, and it is backed by a layer of Gorilla Glass 5. Colors look good out of the box and you get a decent amount of customizability to tweak the color balance to your tastes, but there are a few instances where the panel skewed towards cooler hues by default.
Also, while the screen is advertised as HDR10+, it doesn't work for any streaming service. The likes of Netflix and Prime Video default to SDR content, which is in line with what we've seen on other mid-range BBK-based phones over the last 12 months. Similarly, no games utilize 90Hz refresh, so the high refresh rate is limited to social media, browsers, and general UI navigation.
The biggest issue for me is the lack of stereo speakers; this is once again a limitation of the phone being a rebranded OPPO device. The lack of stereo sound means playing videos on YouTube or gaming isn't quite as enjoyable as other phones in this category.
OnePlus Nord CE 2: Performance and battery
MediaTek steadily gained ground over the last 18 months in the mobile semiconductor industry, and that looks to continue this year. The Taiwanese manufacturer gained significant design wins, including OnePlus, Xiaomi, Realme, and Vivo. A big reason for that resurgence is that it successfully undercut Qualcomm while delivering a similar caliber of hardware.
So it's no wonder that the Nord CE 2 is powered by a MediaTek design, specifically the Dimensity 900. You get two Cortex A78 cores that go up to 2.4GHz, and six Cortex A55 cores that run at 2.0GHz. There's also a Mali-G68 that includes four shader cores, and on the memory side of things, we get LPDDR4X.
Unlike last year — where we got the 12GB/256GB version of the Nord CE — OnePlus is limiting RAM and storage to 8GB and 128GB. While 8GB of RAM should be more than adequate for most use cases — even the best Android phones feature 8GB as standard — the storage could become a limiting factor. That said, the phone has a microSD slot that lets you extend the storage.
The lack of a 256GB option has to do with positioning. The Reno 7 is basically the same device as the Nord CE 2, and with that device available with 256GB of storage, OnePlus is filling in the slot for the 128GB model with the Nord CE 2. As to why OPPO would want to do this instead of just launching one phone with two storage options, your guess is as good as mine.
As for daily use, the Nord CE 2 holds up pretty well against its immediate rivals. There's no lag or slowdowns in day-to-day social media usage or browsing, and while the Mali-G68 isn't quite powerful to run visually-intensive games at their maximum settings, it is more than adequate for casual gaming.
I didn't notice any issues with overheating, the vibration motor is quite good for feedback, and the in-screen reader is fast and relatively accurate.
When it comes to battery life, I got a day's worth of use out of the 4500mAh unit, and that's similar to other devices in the BBK portfolio. The 65W charger that's bundled in the box takes just over 40 minutes to charge the phone fully.
OnePlus Nord CE 2: Cameras
The Nord CE 2 is largely unchanged to last year when it comes to the camera hardware: you get a 64MP primary lens, 8MP wide-angle module, and now there's a 2MP macro shooter.
Given that the Nord CE 2 is basically a Reno 7 clone, I figured OnePlus would include its 32MP front camera that debuted this year. That isn't the case though, as the Nord CE 2 gets the same 16MP as its predecessor.
The camera interface is different from last year, and that's down to the ColorOS integration. That said, the UI gives you access to oft-used shooting modes, and you get the usual assortment of toggles and filters.
As the phone uses the same camera hardware as last year, there's not much difference in the resultant images. Shots taken in daylight have a lot of detail and deliver accurate colors, with decent dynamic range and contrast levels.
The camera is strictly average in low-light situations; it struggles with focusing and you get visible noise in most photos. The dedicated Night mode fares slightly better, but the fact is that there are much better cameras in this category.
One of the biggest strengths of the Reno 7 is its front camera, and you miss out on that with the Nord CE 2.
OnePlus Nord CE 2: Software
OnePlus ran into significant issues with OxygenOS 12, and we're at a point where the company is actively ignoring the build and falling back to the stable OxygenOS 11.3 instead. As a result, the Nord CE 2 runs the same base software as the Nord 2 from eight months ago, and it is based on Android 11.
With Android 12 available for nearly six months now and most phones launching in this category now offering the latest version of Android as standard, the Nord CE 2 is at a distinct disadvantage. Combine that with the fact that OnePlus only guarantees two platform updates, and the Nord CE 2 won't get any Android updates past Android 13.
Manufacturers like Samsung are making meaningful progress when it comes to software updates, and even the likes of Xiaomi and Realme have made huge gains on this front over the last 18 years.
Therefore, you'll find plenty of phones in the same category as the Nord CE 2 that have launched with Android 12 and will get more platform updates and long-term security patches.
OnePlus Nord CE 2: The competition
With most Chinese manufacturers launching their 2022 offerings, there's an abundance of choice in this category. The Realme 9 Pro+ stands out for the hardware on offer, along with the fact that it runs Android 12 out of the box. It is available for ₹24,999 ($328), and you get a slightly faster Dimensity 920 under the hood, a 90Hz AMOLED screen with stereo sound, a 50MP camera with OIS that takes fabulous photos in low-light conditions, and a 4,500mAh battery with 60W fast charging.
If you're looking for a Samsung alternative, you'll need to wait a little while for the Galaxy A53 to make its debut. Samsung is now promising four platform updates for its Galaxy A series phones, and with the A53 set to launch with Android 12, it will be updated to Android 16 — three more platform updates than the Nord CE 2.
OnePlus Nord CE 2: Should you buy it?
Even by OnePlus's usual standards, the Nord CE 2 has very little going for it. The hardware is nearly unchanged from its predecessor, which immediately puts the phone at a disadvantage — particularly when there are so many great devices in this category.
Combine that with the inexcusable software decisions, and I don't see any reason to buy the Nord CE 2. If you're interested in a phone for under ₹25,000 ($330), you're better off with the Realme 9 Pro+ instead. Realme is making all the right moves on the software front, and that has allowed the brand to stand out from its BBK siblings in 2022.
Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.