OnePlus Nord review

GSMArena team, 10 August 2020.

Oxygen OS 10.5

Oxygen OS is a core and major part of the OnePlus experience. Always has been and especially now that the popular custom ROM has been through so many years of upgrades, iterations, polish, and most importantly - a constant user feedback loop. That's one of the things OnePlus does best. And sure, just like any software, it's not perfect, but its large loyal following in itself is indication enough of its quality.

OnePlus Nord review

Our review unit OnePlus Nord is running Oxygen OS 10.5.2, on top of an Android 10 core. In keeping with tradition, it retains a close to AOSP appearance, with all of the additional features carefully and unobtrusively stacked on top. Truth be told, modern Oxygen OS is a far cry from the near vanilla experience of old. The Nord is packed to the brim with various additional features. Even so, thanks to its careful iterative approach and major focus on low-level, input and output latency optimization, OnePlus has managed to maintain what is still one of the snappiest and most responsive Android experiences in the industry.

OnePlus Nord review

Oxygen OS is very welcoming to new users too. OnePlus Switch is the built-in data transfer tool that's compatible with other Android devices through the OnePlus switch app or iOS devices via iCloud login that will pull the data from a backup. It's one of the more versatile migration solutions out there.

OnePlus Switch - OnePlus Nord review OnePlus Switch - OnePlus Nord review OnePlus Switch - OnePlus Nord review OnePlus Switch - OnePlus Nord review
OnePlus Switch

First introduced with the 6T, the in-display scanner has made its way into the Nord as well and is just as quick and reliable as always. One thing worth noting is its relatively low placement on the display of the Nord. An odd reality, seeing how the OnePlus 8 Pro specifically moved the reader up a bit for better comfort. On the Nord, you do have to resort to some thumb-stretching.

Security options - OnePlus Nord review Fingerprint setup - OnePlus Nord review Fingerprint setup - OnePlus Nord review Fingerprint setup - OnePlus Nord review Fingerprint setup - OnePlus Nord review Fingerprint setup - OnePlus Nord review
Security options • Fingerprint setup

In addition to fingerprint, you can register your face to unlock the phone, just know it won't be as secure. In any case, it works quickly and reliably.

Face unlock - OnePlus Nord review Face unlock - OnePlus Nord review Face unlock - OnePlus Nord review
Face unlock

The lock screen is standard for many Android UIs. Notifications populate here and a couple of shortcuts, each for Google Assistant and the Camera app can be reached by swiping from either the lower left or lower right corners.

Lock screen - OnePlus Nord review Lock screen - OnePlus Nord review
Lock screen

An always-on display feature has probably been the most requested upgrade in the Oxygen OS community for quite some time now. It is finally a reality, in the shape of a customizable Ambient Display clock.

OnePlus Nord review

The AOD UI also contains optional notifications, as well as contextual controls, for things like music playback. You also get to choose whether to show the AOD upon picking up the phone or tapping the display. You can also enable both.

Ambient display settings - OnePlus Nord review
Ambient display settings

By default, the app drawer is accessed by vertically swiping. You can also opt to disable the app drawer, as is more popular with Chinese Android skins.

Home screen - OnePlus Nord review App drawer - OnePlus Nord review Google Feed - OnePlus Nord review
Home screen • App drawer • Google Feed

And that's just the tip of the iceberg of launcher customization options. The drawer can be set to automatically trigger the app search function, instead of just dropping you in a list of apps. The swipe-down gesture, typically reserved for bringing down the notification shade and quick toggles can also be remapped to show the proprietary Oxygen OS Shade, instead.

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Launcher settings

Shelf contains quick access to a Toolbox, memos a digital wallet, weather, as well as a custom app shortcut list. Apparently, however, the particular screen wasn't seeing too much, since in recent versions of Oxygen OS a traditional Google Feed has taken its old spot as the left-most pane on the home screen. At least OnePlus didn't remove it entirely.

OnePlus Nord review

The notification shade is a standard affair. The second pull-down shows a manual brightness slider. Meanwhile, Quick Settings available include a "Reading mode" which reduces colors for a more comfortable reading experience, Zen Mode, Focus Mode, Screen recorder, and you can add additional ones like Data saver, VPN, Invert colors, Bedtime mode, and Live caption (which is also found in the volume menu).

Notification shade - OnePlus Nord review Quick settings - OnePlus Nord review Edit Quick settings - OnePlus Nord review Edit Quick settings - OnePlus Nord review
Notification shade • Quick settings • Edit Quick settings

There are plenty of visual customization options in Oxygen OS as well, found under a dedicated Settings menu. Here, you can change the look of the UI, and you can choose a light theme (Illuminating light), dark theme (nuanced dark), or a semi-dark theme (vibrant tints).

Dark mode is technically a theme on Oxygen OS, so there isn't a way to schedule it to come on after dark like some other UI skins. Dark mode isn't to be confused with "Night Mode" which can be scheduled but deals with the screen's blue-light filter.

Customization menu - OnePlus Nord review Light and dark themes - OnePlus Nord review (not to be confused with) Night Mode - OnePlus Nord review
Customization menu • Light and dark themes • (not to be confused with) Night Mode

That is not to say that if you want dark mode, you are only limited to one of the default themes. On the contrary. You can mix and match visual elements to your heart's content and tweak different aspects of the look and feel. The Tone option, in particular, has a dark mode, alongside a regular "single accent color" light mode and a colorful one. No colorful dark mode for now, though. If you go for a single accent color option, you can choose exactly what that color is in the corresponding menu.

Tone settings - OnePlus Nord review Accent Color settings - OnePlus Nord review System icons - OnePlus Nord review Icon packs - OnePlus Nord review Icon packs - OnePlus Nord review
Tone settings • Accent Color settings • System icons • Icon packs

Some of the other customization menus allow you to change the shape of quick setting icons, and set a different icon pack if you wish. Oxygen OS offers standard compatibility with most popular packs already on the Play Store. Finally, you can set a new font as well. The default is Roboto, but you can also set it to OnePlus' own "Slate" font.

Continuing with the customizations menu, here you can also change the wallpaper, the clock style for Ambient Display and the fingerprint unlocking animation. "Horizon light", as seen on the OnePlus 8 Pro is notably absent. Since there are no curved edges on the Nord's flat display to light-up, OnePlus decided to skip the feature.

Customizing: Wallpaper - OnePlus Nord review Customizing: Clock - OnePlus Nord review Customizing: Fingerprint unlock animation - OnePlus Nord review
Customizing: Wallpaper • Clock • Fingerprint unlock animation

Live Caption is a relatively new feature, now making its way to OnePlus devices and Oxygen OS. It is actually a Google feature, first introduced with Android 10 on the Google Pixel 4 duo, that can transcribe any audio into on-screen captions without needing an internet connection. It is helpful for deaf or hard of hearing users since it can transcribe stories or other kinds of media where closed captions are otherwise unavailable. As of this writing, it only supports English and has its ups and downs. Music lyrics trip it up more often than not, but it consistently nails articulate speech.

Live Caption - OnePlus Nord review Live Caption - OnePlus Nord review Live Caption - OnePlus Nord review Live Caption - OnePlus Nord review Live Caption - OnePlus Nord review
Live Caption

Here are some other notable features that are part of Oxygen OS under the "Utilities" menu in the Settings. The first is called Quick Launch and is accessed through the fingerprint scanner. If you unlock the phone and keep holding your finger, a carousel will pop up. From here you can drag your finger to a set of customizable shortcuts or apps.

Utilities menu - OnePlus Nord review Quick launch - OnePlus Nord review Quick launch - OnePlus Nord review Quick launch - OnePlus Nord review Quick launch - OnePlus Nord review
Utilities menu • Quick launch

Oxygen OS supports dual instances of supported apps in its Parallel Apps feature. You can use it to manage a second account on Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp, WeChat, or any other app that many not support multiple logins.

App locker will block selected apps from being used until you enter the phone's passcode or a fingerprint. This isn't to be confused with "Hidden Space", which is a sneaky way of hiding apps in the launcher.

Parallel apps - OnePlus Nord review App locker and Hidden space - OnePlus Nord review App locker and Hidden space - OnePlus Nord review App locker and Hidden space - OnePlus Nord review App locker and Hidden space - OnePlus Nord review App locker and Hidden space - OnePlus Nord review
Parallel apps • App locker and Hidden space

If you play a lot of mobile games, Oxygen OS has its own game-optimizer tool called Game Space. If you want to go all-in on your gaming experience, Fnatic mode will block all notifications, restrict background activity, and even disable the second SIM to make sure that all resources will go to the game.

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Game Space

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Fnatic mode

Despite including most aspects of AOSP, oxygen OS still has quite a few in-house apps for basic features. Often times, doubling existing Google solutions. These are typically styled consistently and play along with system-wide UI customization, which is a plus.

Clock - OnePlus Nord review Calculator - OnePlus Nord review File manager - OnePlus Nord review Notes - OnePlus Nord review Recorder - OnePlus Nord review Weather - OnePlus Nord review
Clock • Calculator • File manager • Notes • Recorder • Weather

The built-in gallery app is versatile and offers few, but well-implemented and essential editing tools.

Gallery app - OnePlus Nord review Gallery app - OnePlus Nord review Gallery app - OnePlus Nord review Gallery app - OnePlus Nord review
Gallery app

Synthetic benchmarks

OnePlus has a solid track record of optimizing the performance of its handsets. Through a combination of lean software and some fine-tuned low-level enhancements to things like CPU governors and schedulers, OnePlus devices have frequently ended-up on top performance charts, for their respective silicon.

OnePlus Nord review

That being said, the Nord is not a flagship, with its Snapdragon 765G chipset and we need to adjust our expectations accordingly. It has two Kryo 475 custom ARM cores at its helm, the Prime one, running at 2.4GHz and its Gold sibling reaching 2.2 GHz. Then there are six 1.8GHz Kryo 475 Silver units. On the GPU side of things - an Adreno 620. Nothing to phone home about, but perfectly adequate to deliver solid all-round performance. More than plenty for the average Android user.

The Snapdragon 765G chipset is paired with plenty of RAM and storage in our review unit. We are examining the top-tier 12GB, plus 256GB one. This, in itself, could result in a small boost in some benchmark numbers. If nothing else, bugger flash chips tend to be a bit faster than their slower counterparts. Even so, the RAM here is LPDDR4X and the storage chips operate at UFS 2.1 speeds. It's not cutting edge hardware, but well suited for the class and solid enough for most users. Plus, with its small 7nm manufacturing process and integrated X52 5G modem, the Snapdragon 765G is engineered for efficiency first, rather than blazing performance.

Starting with some pure-CPU tests and GeekBench, we can see the OnePlus Nord holds its ground well, basically squeezing as much performance as possible form the Snapdragon 765G. For the sake of thoroughness, we also ran GeekBench with the OnePlus Fnatic mode on. Having it on does not measurably influence benchmark scores, with numbers coming in within margin of error. This is expected, since Fnatic and the OnePlus Game mode are meant to ensure steady and high performance for prolonged sessions. Not to push the chipset harder for short bursts, as required by benchmarks.

GeekBench 5.1 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • OnePlus 8
    3399
  • Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro
    3332
  • Realme X50 Pro
    3175
  • OnePlus 7T
    2858
  • OnePlus Nord
    1953
  • OnePlus Nord (Fnatic)
    1945
  • vivo X50 Pro
    1937
  • Motorola Moto G 5G Plus
    1898
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro 5G
    1815
  • Oppo Reno4 Pro
    1781
  • Samsung Galaxy A71
    1733
  • Motorola One Fusion+
    1705
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite
    1694
  • Realme 6 Pro
    1666
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro
    1517
  • Sony Xperia 10 II
    1413

GeekBench 5.1 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • OnePlus 8
    919
  • Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro
    916
  • Realme X50 Pro
    911
  • OnePlus 7T
    776
  • vivo X50 Pro
    636
  • OnePlus Nord
    610
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro 5G
    609
  • OnePlus Nord (Fnatic)
    605
  • Motorola Moto G 5G Plus
    589
  • Oppo Reno4 Pro
    569
  • Realme 6 Pro
    565
  • Samsung Galaxy A71
    542
  • Motorola One Fusion+
    542
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite
    521
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro
    398
  • Sony Xperia 10 II
    315

Moving on to more compound tests and AnTuTu 8, we once again find the OnePlus Nord making the best out of its hardware. Once again, the vivo X50 Pro, rocking the same Snapdragon 765G chipset, manages to inch out a slight lead. However, it's a marginal one, at best, and impossible to translate in real-world performance terms.

AnTuTu 8

Higher is better

  • Realme X50 Pro
    592447
  • OnePlus 8
    564708
  • Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro
    538221
  • OnePlus 7T
    485585
  • vivo X50 Pro
    323736
  • OnePlus Nord (60Hz)
    315641
  • OnePlus Nord
    312794
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro 5G
    308231
  • Motorola Moto G 5G Plus
    299926
  • Realme 6 Pro
    268785
  • Motorola One Fusion+
    267980
  • Samsung Galaxy A71
    263396
  • Oppo Reno4 Pro
    261359
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite
    253271
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro
    227810
  • Sony Xperia 10 II
    196545

Since AnTuTu has quite a few GPU components to its test runs, both off and on-screen ones, this is the point at which we started running our tests in both the basic 60Hz mode and the higher 90Hz one. Like we already mentioned in the display section of the review, the high refresh rate behavior on the Nord is a bit complex and not straight-forward. Not all apps are guaranteed to take advantage of it in any way. AnTuTu is one of those apps. We verified that regardless of refresh rate settings, it always ran at 60Hz. Hence, the extremely close test results we got between the 60Hz and "90Hz" runs.

What about true GPU benchmarks then? GFXBench did, in fact, comply with the 90Hz setting and did not bump the refresh rate down while running. However, the Adreno 620 GPU only had enough power to push a maximum of 50fps onscreen in the lowest-intensity Manhattan OpenGL ES 3.0 test, we still run. That, in turn, makes the current refresh rate a moot point.

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • OnePlus 8
    127
  • Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro
    126
  • Realme X50 Pro
    123
  • OnePlus 7T
    112
  • Huawei P30 (perf. mode)
    90
  • Huawei P30
    88
  • OnePlus Nord (60Hz)
    56
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro 5G
    56
  • OnePlus Nord
    55
  • vivo X50 Pro
    51
  • Motorola Moto G 5G Plus
    50
  • Oppo Reno4 Pro
    42
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite
    42
  • Samsung Galaxy A71
    41
  • Realme 6 Pro
    41
  • Motorola One Fusion+
    38
  • Sony Xperia 10 II
    19

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • OnePlus 8
    60
  • Realme X50 Pro
    60
  • Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro
    60
  • OnePlus 7T
    59
  • Huawei P30
    59
  • Huawei P30 (perf. mode)
    59
  • OnePlus Nord
    50
  • OnePlus Nord (60Hz)
    50
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro 5G
    48
  • vivo X50 Pro
    45
  • Motorola Moto G 5G Plus
    43
  • Samsung Galaxy A71
    37
  • Realme 6 Pro
    37
  • Oppo Reno4 Pro
    36
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite
    36
  • Motorola One Fusion+
    34
  • Sony Xperia 10 II
    16

As we ramped-up the test difficulty, this trend remained consistent. We ended-up getting the exact same numbers, both on-screen and off-screen, with just the occasional margin of error deviation of a single frame. These results are also about as high as we can expect from the Snapdragon 765G and its Adreno 620 GPU, meaning, once again, that the OnePlus Nord is making the most out of the hardware it has to work with.

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • OnePlus 8
    88
  • Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro
    87
  • Realme X50 Pro
    86
  • OnePlus 7T
    79
  • Huawei P30 (perf. mode)
    56
  • Huawei P30
    54
  • OnePlus Nord
    38
  • OnePlus Nord (60Hz)
    38
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro 5G
    38
  • vivo X50 Pro
    36
  • Motorola Moto G 5G Plus
    33
  • Oppo Reno4 Pro
    31
  • Samsung Galaxy A71
    30
  • Realme 6 Pro
    30
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite
    30
  • Motorola One Fusion+
    27
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro
    20
  • Sony Xperia 10 II
    13

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Realme X50 Pro
    60
  • OnePlus 7T
    59
  • Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro
    59
  • Huawei P30
    48
  • Huawei P30 (perf. mode)
    48
  • OnePlus Nord
    34
  • OnePlus Nord (60Hz)
    34
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro 5G
    32
  • vivo X50 Pro
    31
  • Motorola Moto G 5G Plus
    29
  • Samsung Galaxy A71
    27
  • Realme 6 Pro
    27
  • Oppo Reno4 Pro
    26
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite
    26
  • Motorola One Fusion+
    25
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro
    17
  • Sony Xperia 10 II
    10

GFX 3.1 Car scene (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • OnePlus 8
    52
  • Realme X50 Pro
    51
  • Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro
    51
  • OnePlus 7T
    48
  • Huawei P30 (perf. mode)
    33
  • Huawei P30
    29
  • OnePlus Nord
    21
  • OnePlus Nord (60Hz)
    21
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro 5G
    21
  • vivo X50 Pro
    20
  • Motorola Moto G 5G Plus
    19
  • Oppo Reno4 Pro
    18
  • Realme 6 Pro
    18
  • Samsung Galaxy A71
    17
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite
    17
  • Motorola One Fusion+
    16
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro
    7.3
  • Sony Xperia 10 II
    7.1

GFX 3.1 Car scene (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • OnePlus 8
    46
  • Realme X50 Pro
    45
  • OnePlus 7T
    41
  • Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro
    40
  • Huawei P30 (perf. mode)
    28
  • Huawei P30
    26
  • OnePlus Nord
    19
  • OnePlus Nord (60Hz)
    19
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro 5G
    18
  • vivo X50 Pro
    17
  • Motorola Moto G 5G Plus
    16
  • Realme 6 Pro
    16
  • Samsung Galaxy A71
    15
  • Oppo Reno4 Pro
    15
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite
    15
  • Motorola One Fusion+
    14
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro
    7.4
  • Sony Xperia 10 II
    5.6

The OnePlus Nord did exhibit slightly odd behavior during the most-intense GFXBench Aztek runs. Both while using the OpenGL ES and the Vulkan API. Certain results don't quite line up neatly. Then again, looking at other similarly-equipped devices, like the Motorola Moto G 5G and the Oppo Reno3 Pro 5G, we can also see sporadic behavior. Perhaps, we are bumping against some odd software bottleneck of the benchmark. Regardless, this is an unreasonable and unrealistic amount of stress to put on a mobile GPU in terms of real-world use. Android games are extremely well-optimized nowadays and you even with the heaviest titles, you can expect smooth performance and automatic behind-the-scenes readjustments taking place. In that sense, the OnePlus Nord might not be flagship-grade, but is not starved for power, either.

3DMark SSE OpenGL ES 3.1 1440p

Higher is better

  • OnePlus 8
    7290
  • Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro
    7223
  • Realme X50 Pro
    7221
  • OnePlus 7T
    6296
  • Huawei P30 (perf. mode)
    4279
  • Huawei P30
    4055
  • OnePlus Nord
    3285
  • vivo X50 Pro
    3214
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro 5G
    3214
  • OnePlus Nord (60Hz)
    3187
  • Motorola Moto G 5G Plus
    3031
  • Oppo Reno4 Pro
    2512
  • Realme 6 Pro
    2506
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite
    2467
  • Samsung Galaxy A71
    2464
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro
    1243
  • Sony Xperia 10 II
    1125

3DMark SSE Vulkan 1440p

Higher is better

  • OnePlus 8
    6720
  • Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro
    6660
  • Realme X50 Pro
    6472
  • OnePlus 7T
    5540
  • Huawei P30 (perf. mode)
    4264
  • Huawei P30
    4163
  • OnePlus Nord
    3067
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro 5G
    2995
  • vivo X50 Pro
    2983
  • OnePlus Nord (60Hz)
    2960
  • Motorola Moto G 5G Plus
    2821
  • Oppo Reno4 Pro
    2377
  • Realme 6 Pro
    2334
  • Samsung Galaxy A71
    2253
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite
    2248
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro
    1551
  • Sony Xperia 10 II
    1121

3DMark did manage to properly run at 90Hz, as well and with its combination of off and on-screen tests did manage to put the difference in refresh and hence, maximum potential frame rate in numbers. Not terribly practical numbers, though.

The main takeaway here is that the OnePlus Nord lives up to OnePlus performance claims and manages to get the most out of its hardware. Unlike its OnePlus 8 siblings, it does not have flagship silicon at its disposal. But its number-crunching potential is perfectly adequate for most users.

The extra attention to smoothness and fluidity constantly being put into Oxygen OS, from the surface all the way down to the kernel optimizations, does pay off. The Nord is very snappy and responsive. A true pleasure to use.

Reader comments

  • Anonymous

Bro which one is best in camera & video iphone8+ or nord??

  • nik

Actually there are some people who dont know how to capture images even they are provided with best phone in the market, in my personal opinion one of my friend cannot capture with 8 pro and other one did best photo using nord. It all depends on you ...

  • Lucky

True💯