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OnePlus is falling behind and the Nord 2 proves it

Rating: 7/10 | Price: from £399 at Amazon and OnePlus


Stylish, understated design; decent performance


Underwhelming display; sub-par speaker; uncompetitive camera

Sorry OnePlus, but “pretty much everything you could ask for” is a dangerous advertising slogan. The Nord 2 isn’t a bad phone. Far from it. But Xiaomi’s Poco F3 is just better. Better screen. Better price. And far better suited to an “everything you could ask for” tagline.

It doesn’t all come down to the Poco F3 though, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro tops the Nord 2 in a good few ways, too. And goodness help OnePlus if the Snapdragon 888-sporting Realme GT gets a full release in the UK and Europe. 

The picture is clear. OnePlus is falling behind budget rivals. So our recommendation is don’t buy the Nord 2, buy a Poco F3. Here’s why.

Who’s it for?

No product is bought in a vacuum, but, if you were in some kind of OnePlus bubble, the Nord 2 looks like a near-complete all-rounder. It’s one of the best-looking budget phones, it’s got fast Warp Charge 65T and OnePlus’s signature clean OxygenOS. 

The specs get a 2021-flavoured bump, too, with some added intrigue provided by a switch to a MediaTek chip from the Snapdragon 765G last time out. 

However, a deeper examination shows it to be behind competitors in either display quality, slimness of design, camera capabilities, value-for-money, performance or various combinations of all these. So look elsewhere if you care about the best budget phone in those categories.


One area in which OnePlus has most of the budget competition beat is in its looks. While the Nord 2 doesn’t have a design that stands out, the composition of the sensors on the back with the metal-look camera module set against a glossy back does appear smart. Conversely, its fierce rival – the Poco F3 – opts for an extremely reflective back, for the Night Black model in particular, and a two-tone busy camera module.

The Nord 2 looks very similar to the OnePlus 9, and, while the understated design is stylish, it may also underwhelm some. Also, the phone design does disappoint in the hand. The Poco F3 is slightly thinner, but the difference feels bigger once holding these devices. 

While Nord 2 feels a tad chunky for a modern device and slightly cheaper, the F3 does a good job of mimicking the sleekness of a more premium phone like a Samsung or top-end Xiaomi – a true flagship-killer requirement.

Living with it

OxygenOS is one of the best Android skins around, if not the best outside of Google Pixel, and has been for some time. This remains true for the Nord 2 – things are kept simple and unencumbered by a lot of bloat you get from other budget rivals. 

The day-to-day use of the Nord 2 is a breeze and the shift away from Snapdragon doesn’t appear to have hurt it much in this area. Our testing did show it to fall behind the Snapdragon 870 in the Poco F3 in general benchmarking, but then match up in games testing. Our Nord 2 sample did have the advantage of 12GB RAM versus the F3’s 8GB RAM. But, the everyday performance difference was negligible.

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With the smooth 90Hz refresh rate, nigh-on faultless browsing and flitting between apps you get from the Nord 2, it does its job in making you question why you’d need much more performance from your phone. 

However, while the internals may be up to snuff, the presentation of its capabilities are let down by its screen. The 90Hz 1080p AMOLED is decent enough, but it won’t wow. It doesn’t get that bright, and colours are uninspiring. By contrast, the Poco F3, with its 120Hz 1080p AMOLED, is on a completely different level. It instantly leaves you admiring that such a good display is on a sub-£300 device – luxurious detail and bright colours abound. This makes it a phone that’s far more pleasing to use minute-by-minute than the mediocre screen offering of the Nord 2.

The difference in display quality is the most important factor that leaves the Nord 2 floundering in terms of day-to-day experience, but another feature is also a big problem. The side fingerprint scanner of the Poco F3 is snappier and more conveniently placed than the in-display scanner on the Nord 2. The Nord 2’s isn’t slow, so if you do prefer the in-display solution, you’ll be happy – but the Poco F3 feels far more intuitive.

Another daily-use coup for the Poco F3 comes in the form of surprisingly pleasing stereo speakers. In contrast, the stereo setup of the Nord 2 is harsh, and not something to be used regularly. Grab a Bluetooth speaker or some headphones instead. 

Killer feature

OnePlus has long prided itself on its fast-charging capabilities, and the Nord 2 does have the Poco F3 beat in the charging department. The 65W charging offered by OnePlus gets you fully charged in around 30 minutes, while the Poco F3 takes about double that time. Regular OnePlus users might be used to this impressive faster charging now, so may not want to take a backwards step, making this something to sway potential Nord buyers.

However, the battery life of both phones is intriguing. They are a similar size, but the 120Hz adaptive refresh rate Poco F3 matches the 90Hz adaptive refresh rate Nord 2 in how long it lasts, with both typically getting you to the end of the day with a little extra in the tank. 

OnePlus's claim that the Nord 2 is “everything you could ask for” also feels a tad lacking when wireless charging isn’t present. Few rivals offer this, but it seems like an obvious absence if you're going to claim to truly offer everything.

Why oh why…

We’re here again with OnePlus: the camera isn’t great. Admittedly, it’s not bad, it’s not something that should put you off if you aren’t an avid photographer, but – again – it’s worse than the Poco F3. 

When it comes to point-and-shoot capabilities – something that you hope budget phones aim to excel at when more complex features are out of reach – the Nord 2 falls behind in detail and often provides rather dim results. The Poco F3 provides more true-to-life, brighter and detailed results.

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It’s not something we can know for sure, but it begs the question if the final images come down to image processing and, potentially, enhanced abilities on offer with the Snapdragon 870 compared to the MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI. 

The differences in enhancement strategy interestingly see the Nord 2 provide some better zoom shots than the Poco F3. The OnePlus also seems to put less effort into “fixing” blurry zoom shots, leaving it more natural, while the F3 tries a bit too hard. But when the Nord 2 is presented with a closer and busier scene that’s got multiple objects and bright colours, the images are quite harsh and you’ll often find over-sharpened portions.

Going tit-for-tat when it comes to more complex features, once again, the Nord 2’s portrait images are a tad better, providing accurate colour. But the Poco F3 provides much better video stabilisation for those who like to record on the move.

So, should I buy it?

If you love OxygenOS, the Nord 2 is a decent all-rounder and solid follow-up that won’t leave you too disappointed. However, with the Poco F3 matching it in most areas, and topping it comfortably in others (the display is simply stunning and it’s between £60 and £130 cheaper), the Xiaomi flagship-killer wins easily. 

Neither phone wows in the camera department so, if that’s your thing, you should look to the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro or Pixel 4a and 4a 5G.

Ultimately, the Nord 2 is a great value proposition when compared with flagship phones, but, right now, rivals are offering the same thing, but doing it better.

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This article was originally published by WIRED UK

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