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OnePlus Nord 2: 5 reasons to love this affordable smartphone

The OnePlus Nord 2 features a powerful processor, dual rear cameras, 5G connectivity and speedy charging all for a reasonable £399 starting price.

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The OnePlus Nord 2, also called the "flagship killer," has some impressive specs and performs well all round. 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

OnePlus calls its new Nord 2 the "flagship killer," and I get why. This phone has impressive specs, performs well and when paired with a reasonable starting price (£399 here in the UK), it's designed to offer everything you'd need from a phone without emptying your bank account. A powerful processor, a solid dual rear camera setup, 5G connectivity, super fast charging -- and it's not bad to look at either. The phone is now available for purchase for those living in continental Europe, the UK and India.

Read more: OnePlus Nord 2 vs. Nord vs. Nord CE vs. OnePlus 9: Comparing OnePlus' latest phones

Like the previous Nord -- and the cheaper Nord CE, launched just a few months back -- the Nord 2 will not be on sale in the US. It's destined for the UK and wider Europe, where it'll cost £399 for the version with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage or £469 with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. For reference, £399 converts to about $540 or AU$740. 

But no, it doesn't really "kill" any flagships. It's not as powerful as a "true" flagship like the iPhone 12 Pro Max or S21 Ultra, nor will its camera skills attract the world's most demanding photographers. The flagship that I feel is most at risk is OnePlus' own 9 series, which shares many features with the Nord 2, yet has a much higher starting price of £629 ($729). 

I've spent a short amount of time with the Nord 2, and here are the five things I like most about it.

A powerful MediaTek processor 

OnePlus has typically used Qualcomm's Snapdragon line of processors for its phones but it went with MediaTek's Dimensity 1200-AI chip for the Nord 2. You'll notice absolutely no difference in use -- it's the same as any other Android phone -- but you will notice that it's surprisingly powerful for the price. 

While it's not up there with the iPhone 12 Pro Max in terms of benchmarks, it did beat the Pixel 5 and wasn't far below the more expensive OnePlus 9. It's certainly powerful enough for gaming, photo editing and video streaming and navigating around the Android 11 interface is smooth and stutter free.

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The OnePlus Nord 2 houses a powerful processor, a dual rear camera setup, 5G connectivity and super fast charging. 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Android 11 software

The Nord 2 runs Android 11 at its core, over which OnePlus has slapped its usual Oxygen software. I really like OnePlus's software as it's neat, easy to use and doesn't try and load the phone up with too many bundled services and bloatware. As a result, the phone remains nippy and trouble-free for longer.

It's particularly important on lower and midrange phones that might not cope as well with being bogged down by services. The result here is a phone with smooth performance that I expect to remain for some time to come. 

OnePlus says it's guaranteed to get at least two years of Android upgrades -- so an update to Android 12 this fall and Android 13 next year is a given -- with an additional year of security updates after that. 

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The OnePlus Nord 2 runs Android 11 software. 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Incredible fast charging

The Nord 2 has the same 65-watt fast charging seen on the OnePlus 9 series and it's amazing. It'll take the phone from empty to full in about 30 minutes, which makes it amazing for giving it a quick boost before you head out from home. The 4,500-mAh battery should still give you a day of use from a charge, but when you can recharge so quickly, battery life becomes somewhat less of an issue.

Even better is that a 65-watt fast charger comes in the box, so you don't need to scour Amazon for one. What the phone doesn't have is wireless charging, but I don't see that as a particular problem. 

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The OnePlus Nord 2 has speedy charging with 65-watt support.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Vibrant, sharp display

The Nord 2's display measures 6.43 inches and boasts a resolution of 2,400x1,080 pixels, which is sufficient to make tiny text look nice and sharp. It's an AMOLED panel, making it extremely vibrant too: great for videos, photos or playing whatever colorful game is currently making the rounds on the Google Play Store.

It has a 90Hz refresh rate which is a touch lower than the 120Hz of the OnePlus 9 series, but I doubt you'd be able to tell any real difference in day-to-day use. It's silky smooth when scrolling around the interface, but you can also turn it down to a more regular 60Hz, which will apparently help save battery life. 

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The main cameras on the OnePlus Nord 2 are a 50-megapixel lens combined with a 8-megapixel super-wide lens.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Decent rear cameras

We haven't done our full suite of camera tests yet, but what we've seen from the cameras so far looks good. The main sensor is a 50-megapixel affair -- the same one seen in the OnePlus 9's ultrawide camera. Outdoor images look well-exposed, with plenty of detail and natural-looking colors. 

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OnePlus Nord 2 outdoor camera test, standard lens.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET
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OnePlus Nord 2 outdoor camera test, standard lens.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET
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OnePlus Nord 2 outdoor camera test, super-wide lens.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET
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OnePlus Nord 2 outdoor camera test, standard lens with 2x digital zoom.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The 8-megapixel super-wide lens is noticeably less detailed, but it too seems capable of capturing good-looking outdoor images. There's an on-screen option for 2x zoom but there isn't a zoom lens, so that 2x is based on digitally cropping the shot. Results still look good, but it's worth keeping in mind that you won't get maximum quality doing this. 

There's also technically a 2-megapixel monochrome sensor, which is totally pointless in my opinion as a photographer. If you want good-looking black and white images, use the regular camera and apps like Adobe Lightroom or Snapseed to have full control over converting to mono. Frankly, I feel OnePlus could have pulled this out and lopped another 20 quid or so off the price. 

OnePlus Nord 2 specs

Display size, resolution, refresh rate 6.43-inch AMOLED, FHD+ (2,400x1,080 pixels), 90Hz
Pixel density 410ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.25x2.88x0.32 in.
Dimensions (Millimeters) 158.9x73.2x8.25 mm
Weight (Grams) 6.66 oz; 189g
Software Android 11
Camera 50MP (main), 8MP (wide-angle), 2MP (mono)
Front camera 32-megapixel
Video 4K
Processor MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI processor
Storage 128/256GB
RAM 8/12GB RAM
Fingerprint reader No
Battery 4,500 mAh
Price In-display
Connector USB-C
Headphone Jack No
Special features 5G-enabled, 65W fast charging, 90Hz, dual stereo speaker, face unlock
Price (USD) Approximately $540 (converted from UK price)
Price (GBP) £399
Price (AUD) Approximately AU$740