OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite hands-on review

GSMArena Team, 4 April 2023.

Design

The design of the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is very similar to that of the Realme 10 Pro, with some minor changes.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 lite hands-on review

On the front is a flat glass display with the same large cutout in the center at the top for the front camera. The bezels are thicker at the bottom of the display but the Nord CE 3 Lite also seemingly has thicker bezels at the top than the Realme 10 Pro. This could be due to having slightly higher dimensions despite having the same display.

Along the sides, the Nord CE 3 Lite has a power button on the right that also doubles up as the fingerprint sensor. It's far less convenient to use than a display-based sensor since it's on just one side, making it difficult to use with the left hand or when the phone is lying on its back. It also gets triggered all the time while just holding the phone in your hand and when you are actively trying to press it, it's hard to locate since it's flush with the frame.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 lite hands-on review

Not found on the right side of the phone is OnePlus' usual alert slider. We have seen this in the past when the rebranding effort from Oppo's other products has been lazier than usual and this being a budget-friendly model likely doesn't help. Whatever the reason may be, one of the most iconic OnePlus features isn't present on this OnePlus phone.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 lite hands-on review

On the left side of the phone is the dual SIM tray. The volume buttons have been moved to the left as they are on the right on the Realme 10 Pro. The new layout will be more familiar for those used to other OnePlus phones.

The top of the phone has a microphone. A slim grille can be seen for the earpiece wedged between the display and the top of the frame. The earpiece also acts as one of the loudspeakers.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 lite hands-on review

The bottom of the phone houses a second microphone, the other loudspeaker in the stereo pair, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Also present is a USB-C connector that supports USB 2.0 speeds.

The back of the phone is fairly similar to that of the Realme 10 Pro. It has the same large dual circular elements for the cameras, except this time there are three cameras in there instead of two. The flash has also been moved to a more central location with a wider aperture.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 lite hands-on review

Being an entry-level model for the Nord series, the CE 3 Lite is unapologetically plastic. Everything from the frame to the back cover is made out of plastic. The front is made out of Asahi Dragontrail Star glass instead of a Corning model you find on more expensive devices. The front glass seems to have a better oleophobic coating this time around, as the Nord CE 2 Lite either had a much worse version or no coating at all. The plastic back however gets covered in smudges in no time at all and is also more scratch prone than glass.

The build quality is fine for a phone that is primarily made out of plastic. There is no flex or creaking in the casing and the phone feels sturdy enough in hand. No ingress protection or coating has been claimed for the phone.

The Nord CE 3 Lite comes in two colors, Chromatic Gray and the bright Pastel Lime seen here. All marketing material for the lime variant shows it as a flat green color but looks significantly different in real life due to the iridescent finish that shifts the green hue around in different lighting.

Display

The Nord CE 3 Lite has a 6.72-inch 2400x1800 resolution IPS LCD display. The display supports refresh rates up to 120Hz. The up to part is important, as most apps actually don't work at 120Hz on the phone but more on that later.

OnePlus claims a typical brightness of 550 nits and a peak of 680 nits. This display didn't quite achieve the 680 nits figure when we tested it on the Realme 10 Pro but it got close enough at 619 nits. Regardless of the numbers, the display does get sufficiently bright to be visible outdoors under direct sunlight.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 lite hands-on review

OnePlus claims Display P3 support but we don't know to what extent it covers the color space. At any rate, it does have full support for sRGB. Out of the box, color accuracy is substandard, something we have come to expect from Nord phones as the company rarely bothers calibrating them. The main culprit is the color temperature, which is visibly too cool out of the box and even setting it to the warmest manual level doesn't make it warm enough for standard sRGB values.

Contrast and black levels are worse than a typical OLED panel but not to the level of being distracting or even noticeable if you don't know what you are looking for. Viewing angles are actually better than they tend to be for budget OLED panels with no weird color casts when viewed off angle.

The device does not support HDR, which is just as well as the HDR experience with LCD displays is mediocre at best.

On the topic of refresh rate, the display can refresh up to 120Hz, which it does on the homescreen and in some of the default apps. The display can also switch between 30Hz, 48Hz, 50Hz, 60Hz, 90Hz, and 120Hz based on the content, which is a good thing as that covers all the popular frame rate combinations.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 lite hands-on review

Unfortunately, the good news ends there. The Nord CE 3 Lite has one of the most aggressive and draconian implementations of dynamic refresh rates we have seen. The majority of the time, the phone is either operating at 60Hz or 90Hz. Most of the apps we tested on the phone, regardless of what they did, were either refreshing at 60Hz or 90Hz. Only a handful of apps refreshed at the full 120Hz, and even when they did it felt more like a fluke than an intentional decision.

Of course, as is typical for OnePlus phones, almost all games run locked at 60Hz only.

This results in the 120Hz advertised claim being just a marketing buzzword as you will rarely see the phone hit that figure during regular use. It's so severe that we would go as far as calling it false advertising and potentially opens up OnePlus for lawsuits if they don't fix it in an update.

Finally, the dynamic refresh rate adjustment doesn't work in all apps. While the phone could detect the video frame rate in the YouTube app and adjust the display refresh rate accordingly, in all other video apps the display would just stick to 60Hz. Even when it did change in the YouTube app, it would occasionally go back and forth between the correct refresh rate and 60Hz every now and then for no apparent reason.

Charging

The Nord CE 3 Lite has the same 5000mAh battery as on the Realme 10 Pro. You can check out our full review of that phone to get a complete lowdown on the battery life figures. What we were more interested in checking out here were the charging speeds, since that was the only advertised change with the Nord CE 3 Lite. The phone comes with an 80W charger but supports up to 67W, which is still a big improvement over the Realme 10 Pro's 33W.

Unfortunately, the faster charging just didn't seem to have been enabled on the tested firmware. When we did our charge test, the Nord CE 3 Lite charged 1%-55% in 30 minutes, which is identical to what we got on the Realme 10 Pro with a 33W fast charger. A full charge took 1 hour 11 minutes, which is also identical to the result from the Realme 10 Pro.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 lite hands-on review

When checking for input power, the phone also reported a maximum of 27W, which is on par with what you'd expect from a 33W charger (the advertised claim is what it pulls from the wall). Whatever internal change required to enable the full 67W charging simply wasn't present on our review unit and the device is still behaving like it's a Realme 10 Pro.

We expect this to be an issue with the review unit and not something retail units will experience. We will have to wait and see if a future update changes anything so we can update this section.

Update: After a software update, our review unit is now charging correctly. A 30-minute charge provided 78% battery, which is close enough to the claimed 80% figure. The phone reported 100% charge after 43 minutes although a true 100% charge takes 53 minutes as the phone keeps charging even after reporting 100%.

Reader comments

  • Harshita
  • 08 Apr 2024
  • rJj

The camera quality is very bad please do some changes in phone

  • Ispy
  • 27 Mar 2024
  • nw}

yes it is nfc

  • Anonymou
  • 29 Feb 2024
  • rx2

Agreed, there aren’t many websites that test pwm.