With the Nord, OnePlus is once again focusing on the mid-range segment. The phone has all the core features from recent OnePlus flagships, including a fluid 90Hz AMOLED panel, 30W wired charging, OxygenOS software with timely updates, and the same 48MP camera as the OnePlus 8. The chipset isn't quite as powerful as the one on the OnePlus 8, but the value on offer here is incredible.
The OnePlus 8 combines flagship hardware with a gorgeous design. There's a 90Hz AMOLED dual-curved screen, the latest internal hardware money can buy, 30W fast charging, and clean software with fast updates. Even though the 48MP sensor is the same, you get better photos on the OnePlus 8 thanks to the Snapdragon 865. The OnePlus 8 may not deliver the same value, but it is available globally.
OnePlus is back to making mid-range phones with the Nord. The phone is making its debut in India and European markets, where it is available for $450; undercutting the OnePlus 8 by a couple of hundred dollars. So what are you missing out on the Nord, and does it make sense to pick it up over the OnePlus 8? Let's take a look.
OnePlus Nord borrows a lot of features from the OnePlus 8
The Nord is OnePlus' first sub-$500 phone in over two years, and there's a lot of excitement around the phone. While the device itself is aimed at the mid-range segment, it comes with a lot of the key features that made OnePlus' flagships stand out over the last 15 months: there's a 90Hz panel, 30W fast charging, 48MP camera at the back, and clean software.
Let's start with the design: the Nord has a similar design aesthetic as the OnePlus 8, with the same curves at the back, the same oblong camera housing, the same grille for the speaker, and the same rounded edges. The key difference between the two phones is that the Nord has a plastic mid-frame. The sides of the phone feature a chrome finish that's designed to mimic the feel of metal, but the frame itself is finished out of plastic and not metal.
The Nord doesn't necessarily feel like a cheap phone, and that's mostly down to the fact that it has the same glass back with Gorilla Glass 5 coating as the OnePlus 8. The plastic chassis isn't a huge letdown, and the design itself, as well as the fit and finish, is top-notch. OnePlus did a decent job updating the design for the mid-range segment, and the Nord looks just as striking next to the OnePlus 8.
OnePlus is rolling out a stunning Blue Marble color option with the Nord, and it makes the phone stand out. The OnePlus 8 also comes in attractive colors, but there's something about the particular blue hue on the Nord that gives it an added elegance.
There are other design tweaks on the Nord: the rear camera housing sits on the left instead of the central positioning on the OnePlus 8. The Nord is the first OnePlus device to offer two cameras upfront, so you get a wide hole-punch cutout. The Nord also gets the alert slider, and the positioning of the buttons is identical across both phones.
One of the more positive changes with the Nord is the flat display. The phone has a 90Hz AMOLED panel, but unlike the OnePlus 8, the screen isn't curved. That makes it easier to hold and use the Nord, and if you're not a fan of curved screens, you now have an alternative with the same high refresh rate as the OnePlus 8.
The panel on the Nord is just as vibrant as the OnePlus 8, and it is just as fast in day-to-day use. You don't notice any slowdowns on either device, and the 90Hz refresh rate makes every interaction that much more fluid. You also get HDR10+ on the Nord, and the same set of customization options to tailor the color balance of the screen to your tastes.
The last point of differentiation in this category is the onboard audio. The OnePlus 8 has stereo speakers — with the secondary speaker located at the top — but the Nord has a single speaker. You still get decent sound from the single speaker that's located at the bottom, but you miss out on stereo separation.
OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 8 specs: Nailing the basics
The OnePlus Nord is the first OnePlus device to be powered by a Snapdragon 7xx series chipset, but the Snapdragon 765G does a fantastic job in day-to-day use. Sure, it isn't as fast as the Snapdragon 865 on the OnePlus 8 and you will see some lag when playing demanding games, but for the most part, it is a reliable workhorse.
OnePlus is selling the Nord with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage exclusively in India, but in other markets, the device comes with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage — same as the OnePlus 8. Both devices have LPDDR4X RAM modules, but the OnePlus 8 has a newer UFS 3.0 storage module, with the Nord offering UFS 2.1. You also get 5G connectivity on both phones, with both phones offering the same bands.
Neither device has a 3.5mm jack, and you also miss out on wireless charging. Carrier models of the OnePlus 8 in the U.S. offer IP68 rating, but the global variant doesn't have it. Here's the full breakdown of the hardware:
|Header Cell - Column 0||OnePlus Nord||OnePlus 8|
|Operating system||Android 10|
|Display||6.44-inch 90Hz Fluid AMOLED|
Gorilla Glass 5
|6.55-inch 90Hz Fluid AMOLED|
Gorilla Glass 5
1 x 2.4GHz A76
1 x 2.2GHz A76
6 x 1.8GHz A55
1 x 2.84GHz A77
3 x 2.42GHz A77
4 x 1.80GHz A55
|GPU||Adreno 620||Adreno 650|
|RAM||6GB/8GB/12GB LPDDR4X||8GB/12GB LPDDR4X|
|Storage||64GB/128GB/256GB UFS2.1||128GB/256GB UFS3.0|
|Rear camera 1||48MP (IMX586), 0.8um|
4K at 30fps
|48MP (IMX586), 0.8um|
4K at 60fps
|Rear camera 2||8MP wide-angle, f/2.25|
|16MP wide-angle, f/2.2|
|Rear camera 3||2MP macro, f/2.4||2MP macro, f/2.4|
|Rear camera 4||5MP portrait lens, f/2.4||❌|
|Front camera 1||32MP, f/2.45 (IMX616)|
0.8μm, EIS, fixed focus
1080p video, fixed focus
|Front camera 2||8MP wide-angle|
f/2.45, 105-degree field-of-view
|Connectivity||5G Sub-6, SA and NSA|
Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.1
NFC, AptX HD, A-GPS
|5G Sub-6, SA and NSA|
Wi-Fi 6 2x2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.1
AptX HD, NFC, A-GPS
|5G Bands||Europe: N1/3/7/28/78|
Warp Charge 30T (5V/6A)
Warp Charge 30T (5V/6A)
|Water resistance||❌||IP68 (Only on U.S. carrier models)|
|Security||In-display fingerprint (optical)||In-display fingerprint (optical)|
|Dimensions||158.3 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm|
|160.2 x 72.9 x 8.0mm|
|Colors||Blue Marble, Grey Onyx||Onyx Black, Glacial Green, Ultramarine Blue|
OnePlus Nord has the same 48MP camera as the OnePlus 8
One of the standout features on the OnePlus Nord is the 48MP camera at the back — the same as the OnePlus 8. Both devices feature the same Sony IMX586 sensor, but the Nord has two extra auxiliary cameras, one at the back and one at the front. The Nord comes with an 8MP wide-angle lens along with a 2MP macro lens and a 5MP portrait module. The OnePlus 8, meanwhile, has a 16MP wide-angle lens and a 2MP macro module.
At the front, you get a 32MP + 8MP camera configuration on the Nord, with the secondary lens serving as a wide-angle shooter with a 105-degree field of view. The OnePlus 8 has a 16MP selfie camera that's unchanged from last year's 7T.
OnePlus Nord to the left, OnePlus 8 on the right
Because the primary camera is the same across both devices, the resultant photos are near-identical. Both phones take vibrant shots in daylight conditions with plenty of detail and great dynamic range. The wide-angle lens on both phones also does a decent job in daylight scenarios, and the color profile is on par with the primary lens.
The OnePlus 8 has a slender edge in low-light conditions, delivering images with better colors and less noise. OnePlus has a habit of rolling out security updates with camera tweaks shortly after its latest phones go on sale, and my Nord unit already received two such updates. We'll likely get more updates over the coming weeks to fine-tune the software processing, but for now, what you need to know is that the Nord delivers the same caliber of photos as the OnePlus 8.
OnePlus Nord delivers the same great software experience as the OnePlus 8
Purely from a software point of view, there is no difference between the Nord and OnePlus 8. Both devices are running OxygenOS 10.5 based on Android 10, and will receive two platform updates along with three years of security updates.
That's a big deal because even though the Nord costs $300 less than the OnePlus 8, OnePlus isn't posing any limits on the software experience. Most devices in the sub-$500 segment fail to get two platform updates, so it is great to see that the Nord is getting the same level of attention as OnePlus' flagships.
What that ultimately means is the Nord is the default choice in this category if you're looking for a phone with clean software and promise of timely updates. The only other device that has the same update longevity is the Pixel 3a series, and most of the mid-range options that you can buy right now just won't get anywhere close to the same amount of updates.
Then there's the interface itself: OxygenOS has a clean UI that's devoid of any clutter, and you don't get any bloatware. There are plenty of meaningful additions like a native screen recorder and Zen Mode, and you get a system-wide dark mode and Android 10's native navigation gestures.
Here's why you should buy the OnePlus Nord instead of OnePlus 8
With the Nord, OnePlus is delivering all the key features that make the OnePlus 8 stand out. There's the same 90Hz AMOLED panel, same 48MP camera at the back, same 30W fast charging, and the same great software.
The 32MP camera on the Nord is better than what you get on the OnePlus 8, and the selfie wide-angle lens is a useful addition. The flat display also makes it easier to use the Nord, and OnePlus has committed to two platform updates and three years of security updates for both phones.
So where exactly is the Nord missing? The plastic build makes the phone feel slightly less premium, and on the hardware side, the Snapdragon 765G isn't as powerful as the Snapdragon 865. But the difference between the two is negligible in most day-to-day use cases, and unless you play a lot of games on your phone, the Snapdragon 765G is more than adequate.
Ultimately, it comes down to value. The Nord has everything you're looking for in a mid-range phone, and with the device offering the same key features as the OnePlus 8 for around $300 less, there's no reason to pick up the OnePlus 8 anymore.
This mid-range phone has it all
With a sublime 90Hz display, 48MP camera, 30W fast charging, and clean software, the OnePlus Nord ticks all the right boxes. There isn't anything missing on the device, and while the Snapdragon 765G isn't quite as powerful as Qualcomm's flagship chipset, the difference is negligible in day-to-day use. What that ultimately means is that the Nord is one of the best bargains in 2020.
Premium design with a suitably-high price
Need a device with the latest internal hardware and a premium design? The OnePlus 8 is the way to go. But because you'll find all the core features that the phone has to offer on the Nord for $300 less makes it less enticing. That said, if you're in a country where the Nord isn't available, the OnePlus 8 is your only option.
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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.