OnePlus is best known for its affordable flagships, however, the company is trying its darndest to accrue budget-conscious buyers under its umbrella too. To do so, the brand recently announced the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite, which hopes to ruffle some feathers in the cutthroat sub Rs 20K price segment. So, is the device worthy of your bucks or will you be better off with a phone from Redmi or Realme’s stables? Well, let’s find out in this review.
The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite is a suitable choice for OnePlus loyalists. That said, buyers who don’t have an affinity for OxygenOS will find a plethora of more well-rounded devices in the Nord CE 2 Lite’s price segment, including but not limited to the Redmi Note 11 Pro Plus, which, by the way, ships with an AMOLED display and a stereo speaker setup as well.
- OnePlus has a penchant for making stylish Android phones and the company’s latest is no exception to the rule. The Nord CE 2 Lite employs a velvety polycarbonate back that comprises a dual-tone finish. I was sent the Blue Tide variant for review which makes use of a matte veneer on three-quarters of the back panel, with the top area of the phone (the bits adjacent to the unit’s camera module) utilising a glossier texture. All said and done, the smartphone looks elegant and the matte finish manages to keep smudges at bay too, which is great. Moving on, the smartphone’s camera array consists of two vertical camera lenses that are flanked by a macro sensor and an LED flash module. Truth be told, the smartphone’s design is reminiscent of a couple of other Realme and Vivo phones. Be that as it may, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite’s tasteful design will find plenty of backers. It also helps that the unit’s chassis offers adequate robustness and the smartphone’s frame doesn’t bend or flex either.
- OnePlus has done away with its trademark alert slider for the Nord CE 2 Lite, which is a bummer. What’s more, unlike some competing devices, the smartphone ships with a side-mounted fingerprint scanner that’s embedded within the power button. That’s not all, as the device doesn’t ship with stereo speakers either. That’s quite disappointing, seeing how most devices in the Nord CE 2 Lite’s price range offer a dual-speaker setup. On the bright side, the smartphone comes equipped with a headphone jack, that can be found towards the bottom of the phone, alongside the unit’s USB Type-C port.
- The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite ships with an IPS LCD display that refreshes at 120Hz and offers an FHD+ resolution. Understandably, prospective buyers might be tempted by competing brands which offer OLED screens with their devices that lend users significantly better viewing angles, richer contrast ratios, and even exhibit vibrant colours. Now, credit where credit’s due – the Nord CE 2 Lite’s LCD implementation is not too shabby and the display gets plenty bright for outdoor usage too.
- What’s more, OnePlus offers a slew of display customisation features including the ability to flip through various colour profiles, a temperature slider, and an eye-comfort toggle. The panel is WideVine L1 certified for HD content on OTT platforms too, however, can’t relay HDR media from apps like Netflix. Making matters worse, the handset’s punch-hole notch evinces backlight bleeding, which could be distracting whilst watching videos on the phone. Thankfully, the screen refreshes flawlessly at 120Hz and the device keeps the browsing experience as fluid as possible.
- As for imaging, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite features a 64MP primary sensor which is supported by macro and depth shooters. I was impressed with the OnePlus Nord 2’s camera performance in the mid-tier segment. That said, the absence of a dedicated ultra-wide sensor doesn’t help the phone’s case among budding photographers. Be that as it may, shots from the primary camera offer bountiful details.
- The colours in the composition appear a tad saturated but that is the case with most, if not all competing handsets too. I should also point out that I didn’t run into any focusing issues on the device, and the sensor’s shutter speed felt adequately snappy too. The usual UHD 64MP mode is present to take higher resolution shots although I usually stick with the pixel-binned 12MP shots. Portrait mode shots turn out to be quite well with good background separation and a sharp focus on the subject.
- Low-light images are not the best from the device and the device tends to oversharpen the elements in the frame. The viewfinder in particular shows a rather blurry preview of the scenario too. What’s more, the dedicated Night mode brings up the saturation in the hues to a very unlikable level as well. Rest assured, the Nord CE 2 Lite could do with some tweaks to improve its lowlight camera performance.
- The macro sensor, like any other 2MP shooter, is not as adept at squeezing information from a given shot as the main sensor. That said, you can get some creative photos with the unit that will look good on your Instagram feed. As for selfies, the smartphone outputs passable self-portraits with satisfactory details. However, more often than not, the subject’s skin tone is rendered incorrectly.
- The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite is backed by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 SoC, which can be found on a slurry of other mid-range phones as well. Now, my only qualm with the chipset is that it isn’t geared towards hardcore gamers and correspondingly, you’ll have to limit your expectations when running graphically intensive tasks like BGMI at a higher frame rate on the set. That said, the average joe will face no problems with the phone and the device is more than capable of running several resource-hungry apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Pixlr simultaneously in the background.
- I don’t recall a single instance when the device froze up while switching between any of the apps or navigating through dozens of Chrome tabs. Benchmark numbers are decent enough with Antutu V9.3 packing an overall score of 402,165 and CPU Throttle showing a peak performance of up to 88 percent. As for BGMI, the phone operates at a maximum frame rate of Ultra (45fps) on Smooth graphics. In terms of RAM and storage, the Nord CE 2 Lite has options for up to 8GB LPDDR4X and 128GB UFS 2.1 respectively. You can expand it up to 1TB using a microSD card slot.
- Understandably, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite is 5G-ready too. Now, as things stand, India’s telecom infrastructure is not compliant with 5G services and therefore, you will have to make do with 4G LTE services on the phone. To that note, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite worked flawlessly with my Jio SIM and I was netting commendable download and upload speeds with the phone.
- As for software, the device works on OnePlus’ OxygenOS 12 which is based on Android 12. Since the company’s merger with OPPO earlier this year, the UI does inculcate some features from ColorOS. However, the interface is mostly free of bloatware and the utility is quite user friendly too. You can read more about the custom skin in my colleague’s OnePlus 10R review, so for now, let’s take a closer look at the device’s battery stats.
- On the battery front, the Nord CE 2 Lite sports a standard 5,000mAh cell that can be charged at 33W. I used the phone over the weekend to binge-watch Moon Knight and I got through five, 40-minute episodes before the battery dipped below 40 percent. I consider this to be more than optimum for my daily usage. A little bit of gaming can make you reach for the charger by the end of the day but with fast 33W charging speeds, the device can be juiced up completely from 0 to 100 percent in less than 90 minutes.
The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite starts at Rs 19,999 and for the price, the device brings a slew of enticing features to the affordable segment. That said, the smartphone isn’t perfect and from the unit’s LCD display to its mono speaker setup, the Nord CE 2 Lite will leave media-buffs wanting for more.
Thankfully, the Nord CE 2 Lite employs a capable, 5G-ready chipset which – while not the quickest – is more than proficient at tackling everyday tasks. What’s more, unlike the competition, the device offers a bloat-free custom skin too, which is great. All said and done, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite is a decent phone for OnePlus loyalists. However, if you don’t mind a different interface layered on top of Android, then you’ll be better off with the Redmi Note 11 Pro Plus (review), which offers more well-rounded specs, or the Realme 9 SE 5G (review), which is backed by a more powerful processor.
Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5
- Good design
- Decent performance
- Clean UI
- Cameras are not the best
- Mobile gamers should look elsewhere
- Lacks stereo speakers