Is the OnePlus Nord CE3 worth its price? A comprehensive review

An in-depth look at design, display, performance, and more

oneplus nord ce3

OnePlus' Nord series of smartphones was originally intended to be the company's budget offering, delivering value-for-money performance and design without breaking the bank. However, the series has been a bit all over the place, with the Nord 3 launching recently and the Nord 3 Lite a little before that. Priced at Rs. 26,999 for the base model and Rs. 28,999 for the higher model (which I have been using), does the phone justify the price tag? Let's try and find out.

Design: The Nord CE3 follows a simple yet premium design with a glossy plastic back that doesn't feel cheap at all. The back houses a protruding triple camera setup in a cutout format. The phone comes in two colors – Grey Shimmer and Aqua Surge – the latter being the one I tried. The sides are all matte finish – with the volume button and Power/lock keys on the right side; while the left side is left plain. At the bottom, you have your dual SIM card tray, USB Type-C port, primary speaker, and one outlet for the loudspeaker; on the top, you have the infrared port, secondary mic, and secondary outlet for the loudspeaker to go with the ear-speaker grille in the display's top bezels next to the circular punch-hole camera. Speaking of bezels around the 6.7-inch display (20.1:9 aspect ratio), these are quite thin with nearly uniform dimensions. The phone weighs around 185 grams and measures 0.32 inches in thickness, and it never felt slippery to carry around.

Display: The OnePlus Nord CE3 sports a 6.7-inch full HD+ (2412x1080) AMOLED display with support for refresh rates of up to 120Hz and HDR10 for videos. The display is quite bright and usable under direct sunlight. There's a bit of color retention when viewing full HD videos, but otherwise, color reproduction is pretty good with sharp and punchy output. I prefer the natural mode for the display's settings, but you may prefer something else. For HDR, only YouTube supported HDR video playback, which the Nord CE3does a strictly okay job of in terms of contrast and shadows.

Camera: You get a triple camera setup – a 50MP (f/1.8) main camera, an 8MP (f/2.2) ultra-wide camera, and a 2MP (f/2.4) macro camera along with an LED flash. The main Sony IMX890 and ultra-wide Sony IMX355 can produce detailed and well-color-stitched shots for daylight conditions. The subject is often focused with good contrast and dynamic range to go with it. It can struggle with portrait shots even in daylight outdoors with oversharpening of the subject. For videos, you can shoot at 4K resolution at 30FPS, and 1080p videos at 60FPS. The front-facing 16MP (f/2.4) camera takes pretty sharp photos and decent portrait shots when used in suitable lighting conditions, and it is more than good enough for video calls. The camera app loads and snaps quickly with very little shutter lag and has a lot of options to choose from within.

Performance and software experience: Powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 782G chipset (up to 2.7GHz octa-core processor, Adreno 642L GPU, and x53 5G modem), 12GB LPDDR4X RAM, and 256GB UFS3.1 storage (the base model comes with an 8GB + 128GB configuration). The Nord CE3 runs on OxygenOS 13.1 based on Android 13 with the June security patch installed. It handles day-to-day tasks of opening and closing apps, switching between apps, using multi-window, and scrolling within these apps just fine. On the other hand, I did notice that navigating inside an app is almost never done at more than 90Hz refresh rates, which is something seen on previous OnePlus models too. When playing a high bitrate video with HDR, the phone can show a bit of sluggishness in terms of handling playback smoothly. It does not happen frequently but it is reproducible. For gaming, don't expect to play a game like BGMI at its highest settings, though playing at low to medium settings should be okay. As you can see, performance is generally okay, but it doesn't quite hit it out of the park when it comes to smooth scrolling and gaming. You get very few third-party apps pre-installed out of the box, and most of those can be uninstalled too. The Enhanced Intelligent Services option inside Settings is now switched off by default.

Battery life: The Nord CE3 comes with a 5,000mAh battery unit and an 80-watt SuperVooc charger in the box (along with a blue-colored rubberized protective case and USB type-A to C cable). The Nord CE3 lasted me a day around 8 out of 10 times, not requiring charging again during a day almost every time. It charges from 1% to full in about an hour and doesn't heat up significantly either.

Other bits: The call quality and WiFi reception on the Nord CE3 are top-notch as I didn't notice any unusual network drops or bandwidth issues during my usage. 5G connectivity from OnePlus is some of the better implementations on phones, and the Nord CE3 is no exception, giving good speeds and latching on to 5G in most places where it's usually available.

Verdict: The Nord CE3 is a good performer when it comes to providing a neat and clean software experience out of the box with great battery life. On the other hand, it doesn't quite provide you with the best performance and gaming experience at this price point; for that, the likes of the Poco F5 and Realme 11 Pro+ still take the cake. So, if you are somebody that prioritizes how the phone's experience is out of the box without too much tinkering required to be done yourself at first and a camera that is quick to snap photos, the Nord CE3 is a decent option to consider under 30k."

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