Android Central Verdict
From certain angles, the OnePlus Nord N300 5G is a good-looking phone. However, despite some "upgrades," the phone feels like a step back from its predecessor.
Phone looks great from the back
Lots of software customizations
Great battery life
Low internal storage
Poor camera performance
Only one OS upgrade
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OnePlus makes some impressive flagship smartphones, but the company also has a growing presence in the budget market as well. The latest offering from the company is the OnePlus Nord N300 5G, which makes some interesting changes from its predecessor.
The Nord N300 5G is a budget smartphone meant to give consumers an affordable option for fast 5G speeds, and to do so means making some compromises. That includes a new chipset (the first MediaTek-powered OnePlus phone in the U.S.), curious changes to the display, and an updated camera array. But did OnePlus make the right compromises for this "upgraded" smartphone?
OnePlus Nord N300 5G: Price & availability
The OnePlus Nord N300 5G was announced on October 24 and went on sale on November 3. The device is available through T-Mobile and Metro T-Mobile, retailing for $228. Subscribers are able to purchase the phone via monthly installments, and there are some deals available that can bring the price of this already affordable smartphone down to practically nothing.
OnePlus Nord N300 5G: What I like
Off the bat, there are aspects of the design that I really like. The textured back panel makes the device look and feel surprisingly premium, considering its plastic. It sort of reminds me of the glastic back on the Galaxy S21, and it's great for minimizing fingerprints, even against the dark Midnight Jade colorway. It's contrasted nicely by the rear camera array, which is placed in a glossy housing (I'll touch more on that later).
This is my first time using a OnePlus smartphone, which means it's my first experience with OxygenOS. I've heard many people complain about how the software has evolved over the past few years, but my experience with OxygenOS 12 has been pretty positive.
The software is pretty solid, and the MediaTek 810 chipset seems capable of handling basic tasks, as navigating through menus feels snappy, likely due in part to the 90Hz refresh rate of the display. Plus, it has a ton of customization options. I can change the shape of app icons or the icons on the quick settings menu, set UI colors, edit the status bar, and select through various gestures. It's almost like there's too much to do on this phone, but it does make the experience enjoyable.
|OnePlus Nord N300 5G
|OxygenOS 12 (Android 12)
|6.56-inch, 90Hz IPS LCD, HD+ (1612x720)
|MediaTek Dimensity 810
|Yes, up to 1TB
|Rear camera 1
|48MP wide, f/1.8
|Rear camera 2
|2MP depth, f/2.4
|16MP wide, f/2.0
|5G, Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.3
|33W fast charging, charger included
|USB-C, dual speakers, 3.5mm headphone jack
|163.8 x 75.1 x 8mm
There's also the Shelf, which is a separate pull-down menu with access to a set of widgets. I'm not entirely sure how to feel about it, as it's a bit redundant, but it helps keep the main home screen clear, which I prefer. And it works as a blown-up shortcut page to some of my favorite apps, similar to other app shortcut options on devices from Samsung and Motorola.
In my daily use, the 5,000mAh battery manages to last me through the day. I start my days at 5 am and usually don't have to charge it until the end of the day, which is generally around 10 pm. I can sometimes even go through to the following morning without really worrying about the phone dying during my morning workout.
Even better, the phone supports 33W fast charging with a charger in the box. That sentence alone is more than what I can say about most Samsung flagships. It's a far cry from the 125W charging found on devices like the OnePlus 10T, but it's pretty speedy and gets the job done.
OnePlus Nord N300 5G: What I don't like
Unfortunately, the compromises made to keep the device affordable spoil the experience. For example, the HD+ display is a notable downgrade from the FHD+ display on last year's OnePlus Nord N200 5G, and the lower resolution is pretty noticeable in many instances. Not to mention the decision to house the front-facing camera within a v-shaped notch instead of a hole punch. It makes the phone appear cheap — in stark contrast to the premium-looking rear panel.
As for the software, while I enjoy OxygenOS 12, I find the OnePlus Nord N300 5G is a bit underpowered. The 4GB of RAM can't really keep up, and I've experienced plenty of app crashes and games that would freeze up or take forever to load. The RAM extension or RAM Boost features don't seem to help much, and the software seems pretty aggressive about background apps. For example, I'll be playing a game and quickly switch away to another app. Mere seconds later, I'll switch back, only to find the game has reset, kicking me out of whatever I was doing. The phone would also constantly warn me about apps using too much power in the background.
Additionally, 64GB of internal storage is a bit of an insult, filling up almost completely as soon as I finished setting up the phone and making the RAM extension unusable. Fortunately, there's the option for expandable storage, but that doesn't always help, as not everything can be transferred to a memory card.
Then there's the camera performance. OnePlus upgraded the primary sensor from 13MP to 48MP when compared to the Nord N200, but the output isn't too impressive, and it's the only usable camera of the setup seeing as the other lens is just a depth sensor. Images seem a bit oversharpened with the vibrancy and colors punched way up. Low-light images aren't much better, and nighttime shots capture plenty of light but lack much detail.
Don't expect much from the selfie camera.
Also, beware of bloatware. The device seems very persistent in trying to make you download apps no one wants. You don't have to, but it feels annoyingly aggressive. Thanks, T-Mobile.
Lastly, the OnePlus Nord N300 5G runs Android 12 but will only receive one OS upgrade to OxygenOS 13 (Android 13), alongside two years of software updates. This is standard for cheap Android phones, but it would be nice if OnePlus followed Samsung's example with multi-year OS upgrades.
OnePlus Nord N300 5G: Competition
The Nord N300 5G is sold through T-Mobile, but the carrier also has its own Revvl 6 Pro, which targets consumers looking for a budget 5G option. It has a similar design, although it looks a bit cheaper, especially from the back. It does come with double the storage, more RAM, and wireless charging. That said, wired charging is slower, and its software is pretty dull.
The Moto G 5G is a pretty decent smartphone in this range. It brings impressive multi-day battery life that can easily last up to two days, and the "stock" Android experience is enhanced by Motorola's helpful additions. However, camera performance is weak, there's no NFC, and charging is very slow.
The Galaxy A23 5G is one of the most impressive smartphones at this price point. It's powered by a tried and true Snapdragon 695 chipset, has a 50MP quad-camera setup, a large battery, and multi-year software support. Charging is slightly slower at 25W, and the phone only has 4GB of RAM.
OnePlus Nord N300 5G: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if...
- You're looking for an affordable 5G smartphone.
- You want a phone with fast charging
- You want a phone with good battery life
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You want a good camera
- You like to game on your phone
- You need a lot of storage
The OnePlus Nord N300 5G is an interesting phone. It makes curious trade-offs like including a better camera but with fewer lenses, a better rear design but with a downgraded display, and faster charging but with a fairly mediocre MediaTek chipset. I'm a little confused about the decisions that led to this phone.
If you're looking for a phone that can handle the bare minimum, this is the one for you. OxygenOS has plenty of features to help make this phone more interesting and playful, but the experience may be hampered by the performance of the chipset and the underwhelming image output. Fortunately, battery life is decent, and it charges fast, two things that consumers tend to look for in a phone, according to a recent OnePlus survey.
That said, I have a hard time recommending this phone to anyone. As someone who purchased the Nord N200 5G for my little brother, I am pretty tempted to just recommend that over this, even if it means missing out on Android 13.
Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.