Beautiful phone with some questionable options

The OnePlus Nord N20 5G is in the house, and there’s a lot here for a cheap Android phone. The successor to the Snapdragon 690-powered Nord N10 5G, the Nord N20 features the Snapdragon 695 with an improved CPU and the same GPU. Apart from the internal improvements, there is a better camera, a 60Hz AMOLED display instead of a 90Hz LCD, and 33W SuperVOOC charging. It comes with a brand new design, which actually reminds me of the OnePlus X (that’s right; we’re going back they day).

There’s a lot to unpack here. That’s great, some bad, and frankly, most of the bad goes away when you factor in the price point for the intended market.

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OnePlus Nord N20 5G: Specifications

Specification OnePlus Nord N20 5G
Show
  • 6.43-inch FHD+ AMOLED
  • 60Hz refresh rate
society Qualcomm Snapdragon 695
RAM and Storage
  • 6GB RAM + 128GB Storage
  • expandable up to 512GB
battery is charging
  • 4,500mAh
  • 33W Wired Fast Charging
Security in-display fingerprint scanner
rear camera
  • Primary: 64MP
  • Monochrome: 2MP
  • Macro: 2MP
front camera 16MP
Port USB Type-C
Audio n/a
connectivity
  • 5G
  • 4G LTE
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
Software OxygenOS 11 based on Android 11

About this hands-on: OnePlus US shared the OnePlus Nord N20 5G with us for review. OnePlus had no input in this hand.

OnePlus Nord N20: Design and Display

I want to clarify that in my opinion, this is the most beautifully designed OnePlus device we have seen in a very long time. I wish it was OnePlus 10 Pro; It looks great. The Nord N10 5G looked like a plastic version of a premium OnePlus device with a smaller camera housing. In other words, if you placed a Nord N10 next to the OnePlus 9 Pro, it was clear that Nord was the cheapest sibling.

It is not so now. The Nord N20 has a flat back and flat sides, something we haven’t seen in a OnePlus device since the Snapdragon 801-powered OnePlus X. In fact, despite the 8-series processor, the X was the firm’s first foray into the mid-range, so the throwback is fitting.

The blue color glows in the light, and it is a delight to watch. This is a device that looks and feels premium.

OnePlus Nord N20 Side ViewOnePlus Nord N20 Side View

OnePlus Nord N20 5G sports the headphone jack. I didn’t test it because, frankly, I haven’t used a headphone jack in years. But the choice is there for users who want, and that’s what matters.

OnePlus Nord N20 Side ViewOnePlus Nord N20 Side View

Like its predecessor, the Nord N20 doesn’t have my favorite OnePlus feature, an alert slider to toggle notification sounds on and off. On the OnePlus 10 Pro and other flagships, it has settings for Sound, Vibrate, and Silent. You won’t find it here, so you’ll have to toggle the sound state off software as you do on every other Android device.

OnePlus Nord N20 top-down viewOnePlus Nord N20 top-down view

The OnePlus Nord N20 5G flaunts a 6.43-inch 2,400 x 1,080 AMOLED display with a refresh rate of 60Hz. Thanks to the AMOLED technology, you get true blacks and more vibrant colors than on the backlit LCD on the N10. However, as is the case with such budget phones, it does come with trade-offs. The screen is really beautiful, but it doesn’t have the 90Hz refresh rate that we saw on the N10.

I don’t want to go too deep into the refresh rate, because frankly, this is a sub-$300 phone and the scope of this article is not to compare it to the 120Hz screen on the OnePlus 10 Pro. That would be silly. The OLED screen is beautiful, but it’s not quite as smooth as the N10’s screen. Devices outside the US come with a better positioned 90Hz AMOLED which would have been a nice upgrade for this Nord series, but the US market has fewer options when you cut the budget. So you get 60Hz AMOLED instead. The phone also comes with a hole-punch cut-out, which is slightly smaller than its predecessor.

Close-up of hole-punch cut-outClose-up of hole-punch cut-out

Ultimately, I love the design of this device, and for the price, I love the display as well. This is a phone that feels good to carry, and I think the average consumer shopping in this price range will agree on these points as well.

The OnePlus Nord N20 5G has a 64MP f/1.8 camera, what it needs to work

OK, I admired the design, so now is the time to look at something that just doesn’t work. That’s the camera. I have no doubt that OnePlus will improve upon this with a few updates in the first few weeks of availability, but you shouldn’t count on that happening.

blue phone on brown chairblue phone on brown chair

The OnePlus Nord N20 5G has a 64MP main sensor with f/1.8 aperture, and that’s it. There’s no ultra-wide sensor, and no telephoto lens. It has two sticker cameras, including a 2MP depth sensor and a 2MP macro lens, both of which will give you zero value throughout the life of the phone. We call them sticker lenses because they can also be stickers, and they only serve the purpose of allowing OEMs to say this is a triple-lens camera.

First, let’s go straight to the samples, including some from the 16MP front camera.

I didn’t go too crazy, as this is just a practical article and I only have the phone for a short time. You have some low light photos from when I went out to dinner, and some night photos. There are some issues here. First, we’re going to compare one of these photos with a picture taken from the iPhone 13 Pro. Yes, I know it’s silly to compare a $300 phone to a thousand dollar phone, but it’s not about the quality of the hardware. It’s all about color reproduction.

OnePlus Nord N20 5G iphone 13 pro
OnePlus Nord N20 5G sample 6OnePlus Nord N20 5G sample 6 iPhone 13 Pro sample 1iPhone 13 Pro sample 1

To be clear, I originally had no intention of shooting this shot with my iPhone, and to be clear, it is the iPhone that is accurate while the Nord is completely washed out. The reason I took my iPhone out was because I saw the results on Nord and realized how bad they were. it’s really bad.

Here is the issue. In my opinion, smartphone cameras require a lot of trust. Even with a $300 smartphone, the user is going to be using that camera, and they need to know what they’re getting when they take that phone out of their pocket to get that shot. Is. The biggest drawback is taking a picture and not knowing whether you will get the desired result. Other photos looked fine. It looks terrible.

The camera’s other drawbacks are pretty typical for such a mid-ranger. Night-time photos don’t handle difficult light very well, and parts of images like flowers are hard to focus on.

33W SuperVOOC Charging is Fast

This year’s OnePlus 10 Pro ships with 80W SuperVOOC charging (and 65W SuperVOOC in the US), but we shouldn’t overlook how fast 33W SuperVOOC is on a sub-$300 device. The Nord N10 supports the Warp Charge 30T, and I’ve noticed relatively slow charging speeds from plugging the 33W SuperVOOC charger into it. Frankly, it’s neither here nor there, since the charger comes in the box, so you probably won’t be using a Nord N20 charger to charge a Nord N10, or vice versa.

I compared the charging speed to the OnePlus 10 Pro, which actually uses 65W SuperVOOC in the United States, so to be clear, 80W charging isn’t being used here.

OnePlus Nord N20 Charging ChartOnePlus Nord N20 Charging Chart

The OnePlus Nord N20 5G took 73 minutes to charge from 0-100% thanks to its 4,500mAh battery, which is great. With double the wattage, the OnePlus 10 Pro takes half the time, which shouldn’t be surprising. You can get up to 80% in less than 45 minutes, so you’re still getting a lot of juice in a short amount of time.

Performance is solid, but incremental

The OnePlus Nord N20 5G is powered by a Snapdragon 695 chipset and 6GB of LPDDR4x RAM with 128GB of UFS 2.2 storage. This is a slight improvement over the Snapdragon 690 that the Nord N10 had, especially considering that the predecessor had the same RAM and the same amount of storage, although the storage in the N10 was UFS 2.1. You retain the microSD slot on this device as well.

geekbench single-core geekbench multi-core antutu
OnePlus Nord N10 5G 605 1,847 345,671
OnePlus Nord N20 5G 687 1,956 375,885

Looking at the price, I think you are getting more than what you are paying here. The biggest competitor in the space will be Motorola’s Moto G, and I don’t think they’re as competitive as they used to be. Even the latest Moto G costs $100 more than this, with an HD 90Hz display, 6GB of RAM, and the Dimensity 700.

Also, oddly enough, the Nord N20 runs Android 11, which seems like an odd choice given that Android 13 is just around the corner. OnePlus is promising a major update that will bring the device to Android 12 in the future. The device should have launched in 2022 with Android 12, which then will give any water to the update promise – otherwise, OnePlus is just playing catchup. The company also promises a total of three years of security updates.

conclusion

There’s a lot I love about the OnePlus Nord N20 5G, and there’s a lot I don’t like. Let’s start with the bad.

Camera is unacceptable. The reason this is unacceptable has nothing to do with low-light performance or general image quality. If that were the case, it would be a matter of managing expectations. This is unacceptable because you won’t know if you’ll get a good photo. Most of the time things may be fine, but then you’ll go on shooting the wrong colors in the wrong light, and suddenly, you won’t be able to capture that memory the way you remember it.

Angled view of oneplus phone on a treeAngled view of oneplus phone on a tree

The display feels shaky if you’re used to high refresh rates, but this AMOLED screen certainly looks beautiful. And I have to say, if I’m choosing between this 60Hz AMOLED display or the Nord N10’s 90Hz LCD, I’m choosing this one. Your opinion may differ, and yes, a 90Hz AMOLED would have worked for the best of both worlds.

And yes, the design of this phone is very cool. I wasn’t kidding when I said I thought it was the prettiest phone since the OnePlus X. It’s a touch of the Pacific Blue iPhone 12 Pro with the frosted back, a touch of LG Velvet with the lack of a large camera housing, and yet it’s still decidedly OnePlus. You’ll love carrying it around. The 33W SuperVOOC charging is pretty sweet too. A lot of companies still aren’t including charging with this wattage in flagships, let alone low to mid-tier devices.

The OnePlus Nord N20 5G is available now from T-Mobile for the full price of $282, or it’s free if you add a new line. At that price, it becomes difficult to see the flaw, even though some of the options on the phone may be considered questionable. There aren’t a lot of great options in a US smartphone under $300, and if you care about the experience beyond the simple spec sheet, the OnePlus Nord N20 ticks that box and lets you get a phone that looks great. It happens that it works for what it says to do. Previous Nords have done well in the US market, and there’s really nothing here that basically stops it from doing so again. So if you are in the market for a budget smartphone, the OnePlus Nord N20 is worth considering.

    OnePlus Nord N20 5GOnePlus Nord N20 5G

    The OnePlus Nord N20 5G looks to succeed the Nord N10 in the US market, but makes some curious decisions in the process such as a lower refresh rate but AMOLED display, Android 11, and more.

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