OnePlus Nord N20 5G review

$300 for everything but a decent camera

OnePlus Nord N20 5G HERO
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

For less than $300, the OnePlus Nord N20 is an easily recommendable budget 5G phone. Slick performance and a bright, punchy OLED display compensate for the sub-par camera system. There are three rear cameras but two are almost redundant, so OnePlus would have been better off focusing on just one. Put that aside, though, and the Nord N20 gives a lot for very little money.

Pros

  • +

    Stellar processing performance

  • +

    OLED display worthy of a $600+ phone

  • +

    Thin, light, and attractive design

Cons

  • -

    Cameras are only average

  • -

    The vibration motor is weak

  • -

    Only one major software update

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Two-minute review

The OnePlus Nord N20 5G is the successor to the N10 5G, sitting just above the Nord N200 in the company's lineup as another mid-ranger from the company. It’s an attractive-looking phone, and it feels great in the hand.

The Nord line is OnePlus's attempt to offer phones that cost less than its flagship models, and the Nord N20 5G is a great option if the OnePlus 10 Pro costs too much for you.

It has a similar size to the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus, meaning it's on the taller side. This means that reaching the extremities of the screen will be tricky if you’re employing a one-handed grip.

For your money you’re getting an exceptionally bright OLED display, solid performance in both the system and in games, 128GB of storage, and OnePlus’ take on the Android experience. Storage is also expandable on the Nord N20 via micro SD card – a luxury that few phones have afforded us in recent years.

With its decently sized 4500mAh battery, the Nord N20 easily achieves two-day battery life with about 50% charge left at the end of the first day if we started at 100%. And when the battery does get too low for comfort, the fast-charging tech on offer here will save the day. The included charger will juice the phone up by about 20% in 15 minutes. 

Thanks to its combo of a Snapdragon 695 processor and 6GB of RAM, navigating the phone’s Oxygen OS interface is a smooth experience, and we were able to multitask between several open apps with very little slowdown. Even taking full-resolution 64MP or 108MP Extra HD photos didn’t cause the system to chug as it processed those big files. 

One thing to note about the N20 is that it’s a T-Mobile exclusive in the US for now, with unlocked models coming out at a later point. T-Mobile's push service prompts you to install bloat apps multiple times during and after setup, but you can opt out of the majority of them. However, the phone will bug you multiple times during and after setup to install more “premium app suggestions” from the carrier. Most are benign like TikTok and Amazon Shopping, but others are ad-riddled news apps and ‘gacha’ games, which are initially free but quickly start to offer in-app purchases. Make sure you’re not just blindly clicking through the setup process and you’ll be fine. 

The phone is also let down a bit by its underwhelming camera system, which impresses on the design front but which offers only average performance. Photos look very different in the viewfinder than they do after being processed by the phone, making it hard to know if a snap will get much better or much worse once you press the shutter, and we could have done without the gimmicky macro camera. OnePlus could have improved the photography experience dramatically by focusing its efforts on one 64MP camera, but as it is, the setup we’re stuck with leaves a lot to be desired. 

OnePlus Nord N20 5G

(Image credit: Future)

Another pain point on this phone is its haptics. Over the last few years we’ve seen an increased focus on haptics in phones, such as Apple’s Taptic Engine for its iPhones, as well as in-game consoles like the Nintendo Switch and Playstation 5. Haptics on OnePlus phones, however, have always been a hit or miss affair, and on the Nord N20 they’re very much a miss, with some of the weakest and mushiest feedback we’ve ever felt. We occasionally mistyped due to the keyboard’s odd haptics, and it was hard to hear the vibration of the phone even when it was laid down on a table.

The Nord N20 also won’t get any major software beyond Android 12, which rules this phone out if you care about the upgrades coming up in Android 13.

Overall though, the package on offer here represents good value for the money. If you’re looking for a cheap Android phone that will power through tasks with battery to spare, look no further than the Nord N20. 

OnePlus Nord N20 5G price and availability

  •  OnePlus Nord N20 5G price is $282 
  •  Released on April 28 2022 in the US 
  •  T-Mobile exclusive, unlocked models to come later 

The OnePlus Nord N20 5G sells for $282, making it a pretty affordable phone, though it's not the lowest-end mobile OnePlus offers.

It's only on sale in the US, but if you live elsewhere, OnePlus has other Nord models which might appeal to you. You can only pick it up from T-Mobile as well, though an unlocked version is expected to come along later. Take a look at what OnePlus promo codes are currently available too.

OnePlus Nord N20 5G

(Image credit: Future)

OnePlus Nord N20 5G design

  • Slim and light plastic sandwich
  • Button placement is good, fingerprint sensor placement is not
  • Eye-catching camera bump

The Nord N20 has a more boxy shape than its predecessor, the N10, but retains its rounded corners. The front looks strikingly similar to the N10, with the same cutout at the top-left of the display for the 16MP selfie camera. The body is made of plastic, as we’d expect of a sub-$300 phone, but the N20 is constructed well enough that it doesn’t feel like a toy in the hand.

Moving on to the back, the prominent camera apertures catch the eye, as the rear modules complement the design of the phone nicely. Running from top to bottom, there’s the main 64MP f/1.79 camera, 2MP f/2.4 macro camera, and 2MP f/2.4 monochrome camera for the black and white photo mode. They look better than they perform, but we’ll get to that later.

The Nord N20’s plastic construction keeps the phone light and easily graspable, which inspires a bit of confidence if you’re someone who prefers not to wrap their shiny new phone in a case. The button placement is perfect for such a tall phone. The power button is on the right and the volume buttons are on the left, each about two-thirds of the way up, and we were easily able to adjust the volume while maintaining a one-handed grip.

However, we’d prefer that the under-screen fingerprint sensor was just a bit further up the screen. It’s centered very close to the bottom of the display and we found that we had to awkwardly adjust our grip in order to use it. Double-tap to wake is noticeably absent, but upon raising the phone with its Ambient Display active, the fingerprint sensor will become illuminated, enabling an easy unlock. 

OnePlus Nord N20 5G

(Image credit: Future)

The phone has microphones at the top and bottom and a mono bottom-firing speaker. We would have loved to see an amplified earpiece for a stereo effect here, but the headphone jack is a welcome sight in lieu of that. 

OnePlus Nord N20 5G display

  • A 60Hz OLED was the correct choice
  • Hole punch cutout is barely noticeable

The shining star of this phone is its display. OnePlus has weighed the decision between a high-refresh-rate display, or a rich and bright 1080p OLED, as having both would likely raise the price of the phone considerably. The 60Hz OLED display that the company has gone with is fantastic. It’s a 6.43-inch panel with a 1080 x 2400 (FHD+) resolution. Colors are just as bright and vivid in direct sunlight as they are indoors, and viewability is stellar regardless of where you’re doing said viewing.

Punch-holes for front-facing cameras have been the norm on Android phones for a while, so if you’ve used a phone with either a notch or a cutout before, you’ll barely notice the cut-out on the Nord N20. Its placement in the top-left corner of the display means it's arguably less noticeable than a centered cutout, if you don’t mind forgoing the symmetry.

As we’ve mentioned, the under-display fingerprint sensor is in an awkward spot, but it doesn’t adversely affect usage. Registering a thumb took a bit longer than we’re used to, but the unlock process itself is lightning-fast.  

OnePlus Nord N20 5G

(Image credit: Future)

OnePlus Nord N20 5G cameras

  • Overall camera setup is only average
  • Avoid macro mode – you won’t have a good time

The story of cameras on the Nord N20 is a simple one: they’re okay. Not stellar, not terrible, but merely average. You’ll mainly be taking photos with the main 64MP shooter, as the other big sensor on the phone is a monochrome sensor for the phone’s black-and-white photo mode. This mode is pretty much useless, as B&W photos look the same with or without that lens covered. 

Pictures from the N20 look okay: in broad daylight the colors are there, the sharpness is there, but the highlights are just a bit too blown out most of the time. We shot all of our test photos in auto mode (which captures in 12MP using pixel binning), 64MP mode to get higher-resolution images, and ‘Extra HD’ mode to see what that was all about. 

In our testing, pictures taken in auto and 64MP mode are indistinguishable. Any extra detail gleaned from the extra pixels won’t make a huge difference on a FHD+ screen - some pixel peeping reveals a bit of artifacting and aliasing because of the phone’s post-processing though. It’s a shame that this phone can’t capture raw images since theses could be elevated from okay to great with some tweaks to exposure, highlights and shadows. 

OnePlus Nord N20 5G

(Image credit: Future)

Extra HD mode stacks two 64MP images and fuses them to produce a 108MP shot. For us, this mode was inconsistent. Most of the time it just looks like the mode blows out highlights and crushes shadows to produce a very contrasty image. It also doesn’t handle motion well, since it has to take two shots in quick succession. No matter what mode we took photos in, however, photos always looked very different in the viewfinder than they did after the phone was done processing them. They were usually brighter and had shadows boosted, making for an inconsistent experience.

As for the phone’s 2MP macro sensor, you’re better off avoiding this entirely. Shots taken at the suggested 4cm (about an inch and a half) from the subject look blurry, blown out, and sometimes very slightly warped. 

Videos are also of merely decent quality. The Nord N20 can only record up to 1080p at 30fps, so the videos you get out of the phone can only look so good. The electronic image stabilization is pretty effective, however.

Part of us feels like OnePlus should have just stuck with the main 64MP sensor; optimizing the camera software for one sensor would have improved the experience by leaps and bounds. The camera array looks great, sure, but it’s mostly bark with very little bite.

Camera samples