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The OnePlus Nord proves that we don't need to chase specs

OnePlus Nord
OnePlus Nord (Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

The OnePlus Nord shows us one thing: what Qualcomm has done with the Snapdragon line of mobile processors is amazing.

I'm not talking about the latest and greatest and "plusest" high-end chip. Those have always been Qualcomm's poster-boy and the pride of its lineup. I'm talking about the 700-series chips that everyone loves to think of as the mid-range line. Like the Qualcomm SDM765 (A.K.A. the Snapdragon 765G) that's inside the Nord and other phones like the LG Velvet.

A phone chip is more than just the processor inside it.

The strength of a phone chipset is measured in more than just raw processing power. If the only thing that mattered was the ability to crunch numbers really fast we would still be using Intel mobile chips. You need to do something with that number-crunching and connect it to the outside world to make a good mobile experience. That's where I think Qualcomm has done some magic with the 700 series of processors.

Qualcomm has taken the number-crunching power of the Snapdragon 845, a chip that's several years old, and combined it with the newer technology it has developed like AI coprocessors, a better DSP and ISP, and Qualcomm's legendarily good modem and RF package. Then it wrapped everything up as a new mid-range SoC (System on Chip) for mobile devices in chips like the Snapdragon 765G. And it's proven to be exactly what most of us need.

ASUS ROG Phone 3

Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

There will always be folks who need more. If you want your phone to play intensive 3D games or need the extra power in something like the upcoming Note 20 and its S-Pen for business, you will need to buy phones like that Note 20 or an ASUS ROG 3.

But most people don't use their phones to play Call of Duty Mobile all day or work as a digital artist or use the S-Pen to log inventory. We use our phone to take photos, browse social media, chat with our friends, and consume digital media in the form of music, video, or casual games.

The OnePlus Nord and its Snapdragon 765G is a great phone for almost everyone.

Every review of the OnePlus Nord says it's great at all of those things, and its price is less than half of a full-on "flagship" Android phone. My first reaction to this is that OnePlus has gone back to its roots and released an affordable phone that goes toe to toe with most flagship phones in the ways we want it to. It couldn't have happened at a better time. The only complaint people seem to have about the Nord is that it's not available in the U.S.

I've said several times that chips like the Snapdragon 855 are overkill in a phone. They are plenty powerful enough to run a tablet or laptop, and the added cost for things like 5G connectivity was going to affect the price to the point where consumers were going to balk. I still say it's true, and I think Qualcomm knows it.

Something had to be done to offset that cost, but whatever that was couldn't affect things like battery life or connectivity. What was done is the Snapdragon 765G. All the network connectivity you want is there, including things like 802.11 ac Wi-Fi and aptX HD Bluetooth, the Adreno 620 is plenty powerful enough to drive the display at 90Hz, the camera is pretty darn good, and the 7nm process means the battery life is good.

Expect more flagship-like phones with mid-range specs (and prices) in 2021.

We're going to see more of this. We are certain that the upcoming Pixel 4a and the Pixel 5 will use a Qualcomm 700-series SoC, and in 2021 we will almost certainly see other flagship-level phones with "mid-range" processors inside. And I think we're going to find that these phones are plenty powerful to do what almost everyone needs them to do.

There will always be a market for expensive phones that use overpowered and overpriced chips. But the new market for flagships is coming; one where phones aren't over $1,000 yet are well-built and well-liked. All Qualcomm needs to do from here is find a way to support the products it sells so Android users can see five or more years of updates as that fruit company does.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

28 Comments
  • iPhones have long since proven that you don't need to chase specs and A13 bionic chip like Apple's previous chips have already proven to be more powerful than Qualcomm Snapdragon Exynos and Hisilicon put together. And the iPhone SE has already proven that you can get the same iPhone 11 experience with the same A13 bionic chip for less than the OnePlus Noord which lacks wireless charging and IP67 water resistance that the iPhone SE has along with far superior software support.
  • Presently I'm using 2 iPhones (the new SE and XS Max) and 4 Android phones (OnePlus 6 and 7T, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, and the Google Pixel 3A XL.) I've very few complaints about any....all are smooth and reliable. I only use the iPhones for brief periods of time because their lack of customazation and widgets. They're excellent devices but I've found that if I use them more than a couple of days I develope eye strain and headaches. If I could only keep 1 or 2 or 3 devices I would would choose the 7T with the 3A XL a close 2nd followed by Note 8. The 8 has the best display and I'm impressed with it's vigor despite being over 2 years old. The 3A XL is the smoothest device I've ever owned....Mr reliable....and the 7T is the quickest gun in the West. I know this wandering pertains to nothing....just ramblings on a Saturday afternoon...
  • Not everyone wants to be held captive in a mediocre garden, though.
  • Not everyone wants to be vulnerable to having their data stolen, a lot of people prefer the simplicity and safety of the walled garden along with the better quality app selection and far superior software and ecosystem and that's without mentioning that the A13 bionic chip is the fastest mobile chip on a smartphone.
  • if someone wants to keep their data, they need to get off FaceBook, Twitter, IG, and the rest of social media. The phone you use cannot protect you from the websites you visit.
  • Yes, some people prefer McDonald's. Big Macs, chicken McNuggets and all that. But sir, this is an Arby's so ...
  • Please stop. iPhone/pixel, your dogma is tiring.
  • I don't give a **** about the Pixel, i will continue to defend the iPhone, I'm free to say what I want, I could never love Android, no offense but since using my iPhone 11 Pro Max for 3 days, I'm reminded why i chose iPhone over Android in the first place as my first smartphone (most apps especially social media are best on iPhone) and iOS is great, you can keep your complicated gimmick features, poor software support and inferior and unoptimised apps.
  • Hmm, I don't know any Android users who have been hacked, but I do know iPhone users who have had their iCloud and photos hacked. You can stop with the "app superiority" bit. It's a myth, just like the "SoC is two years ahead" myth.
  • The app superiority isn't a myth and neither is the Apple A series being 2 years ahead being a myth either, Apple has been killing Android in performance since the iPhone 5s and the rest of the industry mocked Apple claiming 64 bit was a gimmick, when the A7 was the world's first 64 bit chip and it took Android at least 2 years to catch to Apple and are still playing catch. Every tech site including this one has said that Apple is 2 years ahead of Android in performance. You are an iPhone user yourself so you should know that apps on iOS are mostly superior and more polished. And if you're talking about the iCloud hacking from 6 years ago then while I sympathize with what happened, these celebrities should have used stronger passwords. I've personally never had my iCloud account hacked but I have had my Google account hacked and have had go change my password at least 5 times where as with my old iCloud account (my old one which I deleted when I thought I would never come back to iOS), I only had to change my password just once and that tells you all you need to know that a lot of people feel safer with iPhone than Android.
  • How very good for McDonald's shoppers! But sir, this is an Arby's ...
  • Except this website preaches spec-chasing as a religion/cult! Make up your mind. Not everyone needs the latest/greatest/biggest/fastest of everything. Sometimes middle-of-the-road becomes the best for the job at hand.
  • Yes, the flip-flopping is a bit confusing. Brag about the ROG 3 being the fastest phone, even though it's only a smidge faster than the regular 865, then telling us we don't need speed. Reporting that fast charging is bad, then continuing to brag about fast charging. A lot of people I know are just fine with a midranger.
  • I don't. We're individuals here.
  • It's as if you have more than a single contributor.
  • Good point... Good point...
  • What's more annoying is having an audience who doesn't understand the difference between an editorial and a report.
    If they had, you wouldn't be having this complaint.
    Stop being nice to people who don't qualify to complain due to their ignorance. Rip them a new one for having the audacity to write such insolent remarks
  • Mid range has been enough for awhile now. It's the tech sites that constantly push the flagship or bust narrative. It is the updates that were and still are an issue. It is bad enough with android flagships and updates, the midrange is even worse. 
  • The OnePlus Nord - along with a number of very good Motorola, Nokia, ZTE, Huawei, Nexus (Pixel not so much) and even Samsung phones over the years - has proven something that Android fans have always known. It is the reason why Android phones have an 85% market share with an average selling price of about $250 and Android tablets - despite even so called Android sites not writing about them anymore, declaring them "dead" and promoting iPads in their place knowing full well that they are promoting buying the same apps that you have already purchased on one platform AGAIN on another - have 65% market share. But rather than promoting some VERY GOOD mid-range phones, what did this site spend a good 6 weeks doing earlier this year? Endlessly promote the iPhone SE 2. Why? Because the A13 chip was so much faster than any Android chip. Meaning SPECS. Good grief people ...
  • "Because the A13 chip was so much faster than any Android chip"
    Well... on paper at least. Real world use? No so much.
  • Only the CPU part of SD765G is about on par with SD845. GPU is some 33% or more slower. Sti plenty fast though
  • I have to agree with others that "we don't need to chase specs" is an odd statement coming from a site which is constantly chasing specs. The way you pushed Samsungs defective 108mp main camera and it's fake Astro Zoom should be convincing enough. By the way, you don't need to play Call of Duty all day to stress a midrange phone. The Nord drops frames during casual play, struggling with games that two year old flagships play fine. In terms of camera? Not good enough. Although the iPhone SE camera is better, it's still the sensor from the old iPhone 8 which is good but not great. I was involved in a professional camera shootout when the iPhone 8 was the current model, and it did not come out on top three years ago.
  • What were the top three?
  • While we may not need to chase specs, some of us want to, and there's nothing wrong with that.
  • The Pixel 3a didn't do that?
  • Pre-cursor to "Pixel 5 is the best Android phone" and "Pixel 5 is the only Android phone you should buy" articles.
  • "Qualcomm has taken the number-crunching power of the Snapdragon 845, a chip that's several years old..." Several years old??? I know COVID has made 2020 feel like three years crammed into 6 months, but I had to do some checking on that one. The 845 was announced in Dec. 2017. Phones running it didn't even start to sell until March 2018 and it was released in new phones through all of 2018 and into the beginning of 2019. So if several years means 1-2 years ago. "...work as a digital artist..."
    On a phone? No professional artist who gets paid the big bucks is going to use a canvas as small as a smartphone. Maybe to play around while waiting for the doctor, but to perform actual work? I see a tablet computer like an ipad or a surface as a minimum device for professional digital artist work. "All Qualcomm needs to do from here is find a way to support the products it sells so Android users can see five or more years of updates as that fruit company does." Couldn't agree more.
  • I'm done with Android central and you morherfucking nerds who do you think you are? I have my iPhone 11 Pro Max which is better to me than any of the overjoyed good for nothing specs on Android **** all of you. Goodbye for EVER. I'm off enjoy my iPhone 11 Pro Max and will go further into the Apple ecosystem with the iPad and Apple Watch. You'll not be hearing from me again.