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OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite review

Lite on your wallet. And features too.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G front view with the display turned on
(Image: © Future / Sachin George)

TechRadar Verdict

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite will not blow your mind away if you’re still used to the premium features of the previous lineup. In order to make the smartphone more accessible and affordable, OnePlus makes you compromise on the AMOLED display, faster-charging speeds and camera performance. For those who are looking to be part of the OnePlus ecosystem, it would be better to consider other Nord offerings. For everyone else, there are better budget options to consider in the market from Realme, Motorola and Xiaomi.

Pros

  • +

    5,000 mAh battery pack

  • +

    Bright display

  • +

    Smooth 120Hz refresh rate

  • +

    Good gaming performance

Cons

  • -

    No AMOLED display and HDR support

  • -

    Overall camera performance

  • -

    No stereo speakers

Two-minute review

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G launched back in May and comes with a 6.59-inch FullHD+ LCD display with a high refresh rate of 120Hz. This would be the glaring difference you would notice when you first pick up the device. It won’t support any HDR content. So, if you’re into a lot of content consumption this won’t be the device for you.

The 5,000 mAh battery pack is great and can be topped up rather quickly using the 33W SuperVOOC charger - which thankfully ships with the device.

The phone comes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 chipset which comes with a max clock speed of 2.2GHz. It also comes with the Adreno 619 GPU. The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite is a good budget performer and the chipset provides the energy efficiency that it promises. There is a noticeable especially when you push it to an extreme use case scenario.

The smartphone also comes with a 64MP primary camera along with a 2MP depth sensor and macro lens. You also get a 16MP front-facing camera for selfies and video calls. The images come out good in daylight conditions and struggle under artificial lighting, which is typical of most devices at this price point.

You’ll also get to experience Oxygen OS 12 based on Android 12 out of the box. Now the software is a combination of both Oxygen OS and ColorOS, the UI and icons are just like every other OnePlus smartphone. You’ll either hate it or love it. There are minimal lags for sure, but we still miss the near-stock Android experience.

For anyone still hanging on to their 3.5mm headphones, you’ll be happy with the port on the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G.

OnePlus entered the market with affordable flagship devices. They then concentrated on providing premium quality devices at more premium prices. The Nord series was introduced to provide the best of both worlds. With the new offering, the company has added a device that anyone can get their hands on.

Priced below Rs 20,000 for its base variant, the smartphone fails to provide a premium experience. There are other devices from Realme and Xiaomi that offer better features at similar price points.

Pricing and availability

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G is available in two colour options - Blue Tide and Black Dusk. In terms of the configuration, the smartphone comes with 6GB RAM with 128GB of internal storage and 8GB of RAM clubbed with 256GB of storage.

The base variant is priced at Rs 19,999 while the latter retails at Rs 21,999. OnePlus is providing an instant discount of Rs 1,500 to ICICI credit cardholders (excluding Amazon Pay ICICI cards) on both Amazon as well as its own online store.

We received the Black Dusk 8GB RAM variant for the purpose of this review.

Design

At first glance, the smartphone will feel familiar. OnePlus has taken reference from Oppo’s K10 and tweaked the glossy camera island. There are no brandings, except for the OnePlus logo on the back. So, you do get a clean and minimal look. Though we would have preferred if the company brought something original to the table.

The front of the device is like any other Android smartphone on the market, while the rear comes with a triple-camera setup with a slightly raised camera island.

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite has a sturdy plastic body with a brushed metal texture that gives it that premium look. At the top is a secondary noise cancellation microphone, while the bottom of the device houses the 3.5mm headphone jack, Type-C port and speakers. 

I wished that the smartphone would come with stereo speakers. From a personal experience, I found that the speakers were occasionally covered when gaming. I would then have to adjust the way I held the smartphone to avoid it happening again.

On the left side of the smartphone, you’ll find your volume rockers and the SIM card tray. The fingerprint scanner is integrated into the power button on the right side of the device. This design may be a problem for left-handed users.

Overall, the company's efforts to cut down costs are clearly visible. And you get better cost to value performance even from the Nord CE 2 5G.

Display

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G display

(Image credit: Future / Sachin George)

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G sports a 6.59-inch LCD display with a Full HD+ resolution. The colour profile is set to Vivid by default and I didn't find the need to change it. The display also supports a high refresh rate of 120Hz. You can also conserve battery life by bringing down the refresh rate to standard 60Hz as well.

The brightness of the display is good even in direct sunlight. But is not ideal to watch video content for extended sessions in outdoor conditions. Furthermore, it will take a toll on the battery performance in doing so.

The touch response is quick and I didn't face any problems. This is evident even when playing games like BGMI and Apex Legends Mobile. Other games like Subway Surfer and Candy Crush also registered finger inputs quickly.

Similar to the LCD display on the iPhone 11 and SE models in the past, there's not much wrong with the quality of the display here. It does the job and you'll be satisfied with it for basic internet browsing. However, if you're someone who watches a lot of movies or binge-watch shows on your phone, it would be better to go for the OnePlus Nord CE 2.

On the Lite version here, you miss out on an AMOLED display and support for any HDR content. In 2022, having an AMOLED display on a sub Rs 20,000 device is a must and OnePlus looks to have purposely dropped the tech.

Performance and Battery

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G performance

(Image credit: Future / Sachin George)

Running at the heart of the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G chipset clubbed with 8GB RAM and 128GB of UFS 2.2 internal storage.

The phone performs well even on heavy loads and we saw minor lags only when stretching the device to its limits. Games were smooth and you can confidently leave apps open in the background due to the large RAM. You can also extend the RAM virtually by up to 5GB.

During the initial hands-on with the device, OxygenOS did feel a bit buggy when playing games. The Game Mode UI kept appearing every 2-4 seconds while gaming, and it was sort of a bummer. But the advantage of being part of the OnePlus ecosystem is that feedback is taken from many users. The device received two updates back to back and the bug was fixed.

No matter how smooth the experience is, the initial setup of the device will greet you with a few bloatware apps. Compared to other competing devices, the number of apps was less. But it still feels miles away from the legacy OxygenOS that we all came to love.

Battery life is good and we were easily able to get through a day and a little more on the second day. We did feel the device get warm towards the centre of the device when gaming heavily. But this was expected and is not much of a deal-breaker. The 33W SuperVOOC fast charger will top up the 5,000 mAh battery pack in under an hour. Being an LCD display, you will need to keep in mind that it will use more power if the brightness is increased. Leaving auto-brightness turned on would be a good idea.

Camera

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G primary camera setup

(Image credit: Future / Sachin George)

The camera performance was as expected from a budget device. And it's the main reason that will put you off from getting the device. As a point and shoot, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G takes good shots in really good daylight conditions. But if you zoom in, you will notice that there is not much detail in the images.

The device does come with a 64MP camera mode, but the results are only marginally more detailed than the standard picture mode. The outdoor shot in the sample images has a vibrant colour reproduction. 

Out for dinner with friends at a local restaurant that was well lit, the camera does maintain good colour accuracy. However, it still struggles to provide the details. The front-facing camera on the smartphone also provided pretty much the same results.

Now, being a budget device and comparing it with other devices on the market, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite doesn't perform well. Xiaomi's Redmi Note 11 Pro Plus provides better performance in comparison.

Should you buy the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G?

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G front

(Image credit: Future / Sachin George)

Buy it if...

You want a budget gaming experience

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G holds its grounds when it comes to performance and battery life. The Snapdragon 695 is capable of handling heavy tasks and gaming sessions. The device also stays warm even during extended sessions of gaming.

You want reliable software experience

It's true that the original OxygenOS experience is missing from the newest addition to the Nord series. But the company has been updating the software experience to keep it bug-free. To get the stock Android experience, you could choose to install a different launcher anytime you get tired of the UI.

Don't buy it if...

You're into a lot of content consumption

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G replaces the AMOLED display technology that is available on all the other Nord series phones with LCD. In 2022, AMOLED and HDR support is a must. The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G gets the basics wrong. Even Motorola's G52, which is priced much lower, comes with a pOLED display.

Camera performance is your priority

Had the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G performed well in the camera department too, it would have been a decent all-rounder. But at the price that it retails, the more premium Nord CE 2 5G just feels like a better choice to go for. And as previously mentioned, the Redmi Note 11 Pro Plus also provides better images.

A Malayali-Mumbaikar, Sachin found an interest in all things tech while working in the BPO industry, often spending hours in tech blogs. He is a hardcore foodie and loves going on long bike rides. Gaming and watching TV shows are also some of his other hobbies