OnePlus has changed a lot. The brand originally started out by releasing a single flagship phone a year sold at a substantially lower price to its more established competitors. Lately that’s less true. It now has multiple flagship smartphones, like the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro that are priced similarly to rivals from Samsung, and it also offers a lineup of around half a dozen mid-range and affordable smartphones under its Nord brand from its UK store.
At just £299 (€349) the OnePlus Nord CE 2 is about as affordable as the lineup gets in Europe. (The company says it’s not releasing this specific model in the US, where OnePlus sells a different lineup of Nord phones). The Nord CE 2 is pitched as a step down version of last year’s Nord 2, where the “CE” in its name stands for “Core Edition.” In other words, it’s a device focussed on the core essentials of a modern smartphone. That means good battery life, fast charging, a fast refresh-rate display, and good-enough cameras. There’s also a headphone jack. Bliss.
There’s another change that’s been happening at OnePlus over the years. It’s been growing ever closer to Oppo, another brand operated by parent company BBK Electronics. The result is that the OnePlus Nord CE 2 feels more like an Oppo phone than any other OnePlus device I’ve used. And yet, it also feels like the truest continuation of OnePlus’ original spirit: offering great performance at an affordable price point.
- 90Hz OLED screen
- Fast charger in the box
- Low light camera performance not great
- Plastic construction
- Occasional hiccups in performance
Does this matter? Not really. I don’t care what branding my phone’s fast-charging uses (OnePlus tells me the phone should still work with any OnePlus-branded Warp chargers you’ve got lying around) and nor do I mind if this device has technically already been released under a different name. It doesn’t change anything about the device in my hands.
The OnePlus Nord CE 2 is the most Oppo-like OnePlus phone I’ve personally used. But at £300(€349), it’s hard to fault. It feels fast and responsive in everyday use, its screen is smooth and vibrant, its battery easily lasts over a day, and it charges ridiculously quickly when it runs dry. The big compromises here are the phone’s overall build quality, which techreview on feeling a little cheap and plastic-y, and a set of cameras that struggle to take decent shots away from bright daylight.
A lot has been written about how OnePlus has moved away from its roots in recent years and is no longer focused on offering flagship smartphones at a fraction of the price of its competitors. But with the Nord CE 2, it feels like it’s returned to this original promise. More than its recent flagships, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 feels like a true continuation of the OnePlus spirit of old. It’s just ironic that it’s done so in a device that feels like an Oppo phone.