OnePlus Nord 2T 5G review: Nord 2 with minor upgrades
In many ways, Nord 2 has been the best all-round smartphone launched by OnePlus in the past 12 months or so. On either side of it, you either had some of their overpriced flagship phones or the under-powered Nord CE phones that also lacked a couple of key features. The Nord 2 had a great mix of features and performance under Rs. 30,000 and seemed to adhere to OnePlus' old business strategy of creating 'flagship killers'. Nine months later, we now have its successor. While the news of the OnePlus Nord 2T's impending launch had me excited, its spec-sheet did not. On paper it seemed way too similar to its predecessor, and here's a spoiler - that part is true in reality too. Despite that, it is arguably the most buyable phone from the company at this point. Read on to know why.
Elegant design, sharp display, but still with 90Hz refresh rate
The OnePlus Nord 2T does look elegant, and one area where it differs from its predecessor is the back panel. Whether it looks better than the Nord 2 is a matter of individual taste; I vote for the Nord 2. The Jade Fog variant has a glass back with a mirror finish and a very light and pleasant shade of green. It has a plastic frame that feels sturdy, but the glossy rim tends to attract smudge marks and so does the glass back. This is where the ceramic-like finish on its predecessor's back came in handy to make the smudge marks a lot less conspicuous. The rectangular camera module at the back is noticeably larger here despite hosting the same three cameras. The front camera is embedded in a punch-hole at the top left of the screen. The in-display fingerprint scanner is highly responsive but could have been placed a little higher where it would have been easier to reach. The SIM tray that can accommodate two Nano-SIMs, a USB-C port and a speaker are placed along the bottom edge. The classic OnePlus alert slider that's missing on Nord CE phones is present here. OnePlus has again opted for the same display that was present on the Nord 2 and even the first Nord. You get a 6.43-inch AMOLED Full HD+ display with HDR10+ compliance and a 90Hz refresh rate. Time to move to 120Hz, OnePlus; your competitors already have for a year now. The screen is protected against scratches by a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 5. The Nord 2T display is well-calibrated with very good contrast and color reproduction. You get Vivid and Natural color profiles and can adjust the color temperature too. Ambient display is available, which does impact the battery if you leave it on perpetually. Best to set it to turn on for a few seconds when you lift or move the phone.
Not a big performance jump, but acceptable for the segment
OnePlus has jumped from MediaTek's Dimensity 1200 SoC to Dimensity 1300 on the Nord 2T, which is just a minor upgrade, but not a bad SoC for this segment. It is powerful enough for day to day tasks as well as gaming at medium to high settings. You get either 8GB RAM and 128GB of UFS 3.1 internal storage option or 12GB RAM and 256GB storage. Our review unit had the former combination and it was smooth enough at handling any task we assigned it. Did I mention the phone is 5G ready? In synthetic benchmarks, there was an average jump of 5% across the tests in favor of the Nord 2T when compared to the Nord 2. The only exception being the PC Mark Works 3.0 benchmark where we saw a good 15% jump. In comparison to Qualcomm chips, this performance is close to the Snapdragon 870, and hence, as I said before, Dimensity 1300 is not a bad choice despite the modest performance jump over its predecessor. The phone generally stays cool and does not heat up alarmingly even after 30 minutes of gaming. The phone has two speakers - one behind the earpiece and the other along the bottom edge, and they deliver a fairly loud output with an impressive stereo effect. The audio codec support is quite extensive on the Nord 2. In addition to the usual aptX, aptX HD and LDAC codecs compliance over Bluetooth 5.2, it also supports LHDC codec which is still lacking on several more expensive OnePlus phones. We had no complaints about the call quality either. A memory card slot or a 3.5mm headphone jack are not available on this phone.
OxygenOS 12 (yawn!); good battery backup, super-fast charging
The OnePlus Nord 2T runs the latest Android 12 with OxygenOS 12.1; yes, that! We already made our displeasure known in the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite review, and there is nothing new to talk about it. Our personal dislikes aside, it's very much usable, and if you haven't experienced older versions of OxygenOS, you won't even know what the fuss is about. At times, ignorance is bliss indeed. The learning curve isn't steep, and most importantly, you do not get ads or many unwanted notifications like some of its competitors. There's some good news for the fans of older OxygenOS too. OxygenOS 13 is expected this week, and if it indeed does what it is supposed to, it may regain its past glory. Of course, it won't arrive on the Nord 2T in the same week, but the company has promised two years of major Android updates and three years of security updates for this phone. So you will surely get OxygenOS 13 on the Nord 2T sooner or later. The battery capacity is the same as its predecessor and so is the battery life. The 4.500mAh battery lasts for well over a day of moderate use that includes messaging and social media apps, browsing, making calls, clicking photos, watching videos and not more than half hour of gaming. That's perfectly acceptable battery backup. Fast charging has been bumped up from 65W to 80W, but don't get too excited. You barely save a couple of minutes tops. The 80W Super VOOC charger takes just over half an hour to juice up the Nord 2T fully, which is quite similar to the time taken by the 65W charger to charge a similar capacity battery on the Nord 2. While 80W may just be more of marketing than real world gains, the fact remains that charging times in the 30 minutes ballpark are still very impressive.
Good primary and selfie cameras; rest make up the numbers
As I mentioned earlier, the OnePlus Nord 2T has the same bunch of cameras as the Nord 2. You get a triple camera setup at the back consisting of a 50MP primary camera with the Sony IMX766 sensor and optical image stabilization (OIS), an 8MP ultra-wide camera with 120 degrees FOV and a 2MP monochrome camera. At the front, you get a 32MP selfie camera with a Sony IMX615 sensor. The primary camera captures some impressive shots in good lighting, and can hold its own in average lighting too. Colors are close to natural with good dynamic range. There is no macro camera here, but it does a more than decent job with close-ups shots, though you can't shoot from too close. Similarly, zoom is limited to digital zoom as there is no telephoto camera here. Shots with 2X zoom in good lighting are very usable. The Portrait mode works well here with good foreground and background separation. The camera app also lets you adjust the level of background blur. The ultra-wide camera is a mixed bag. The output is comparable to the main camera in well lit conditions, but as the light starts to drop, so does the detail in captured images. The main camera is your best bet for low light photography. It captures a good amount of detail and keeps noise in check. Night mode improves things further by brightening certain areas of the image. The 32MP front camera is good enough to have the selfie enthusiasts interested. You can click portrait shots too using the selfie camera. It can record videos at 1080p resolution, but not in 4K. The rear cameras can record 4K videos at 30 fps and 1080p videos at 60 fps. You also get Super-Slow-Motion videos up to 960 fps at 720p resolution. 4K videos captured on the main camera look quite sharp, and 1080p videos don't lag far behind in quality either.
Not a bad phone at all, but competition offers better
The OnePlus Nord 2T is available for purchase in India for Rs. 28,999 for the 8GB RAM and 128GB storage variant and Rs. 33,999 for the 12GB RAM option with 256GB storage. That makes it Rs. 1,000 cheaper than the Nord 2. So is it still worth buying? Let me answer that in two parts. OnePlus had nine months to make further enhancements to the 2T to make it stand out from the Nord 2, but they did not. But had the Nord 2 been available currently, I would still be recommending it. If you keep aside the lack of enhancements for a moment, the Nord 2T is a phone with a polished design, good primary and selfie cameras, slightly better performance and also a bit more affordable than the Nord 2. By that logic, it is still a very good option under Rs. 30,000 and probably the best value for money phone OnePlus has to offer currently (along with the 9 Pro after its price drop, but that operates in a completely different price bracket). Now if you look beyond OnePlus, the competition hasn't been sitting still in those nine months. While the Nord 2 had limited competition at launch, the Nord 2T has a major fight on its hands. There are some excellent options available under Rs. 30,000 in India currently starting with Xiaomi's new POCO F4 5G and Redmi K50i with more powerful processors and comparable cameras. Then you have the Motorola Edge 30 with a slightly less powerful processor but more versatile photography department with dual 50MP cameras. In addition to that, it also offers a 144Hz refresh rate OLED display and a near stock user interface making it a tempting prospect. Some of Nord 2's old competitors are still around too, like the Realme X7 Max. Thus, a lot of flagship-killers to contend with for the Nord 2T.