scorecardOnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G Review — The most affordable OnePlus smartphone
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OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G Review — The most affordable OnePlus smartphone

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G Review — The most affordable OnePlus smartphone
News10 min read
  • OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite launched at a price of ₹19,999.
  • The latest Nord is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G SoC.
  • The smartphone features a 6.5-inch LCD display with 120Hz max refresh rate.
OnePlus today launched the budget-centric Nord CE 2 lite 5G and the Nord Buds along with the OnePlus 10R in India. This is the third Nord device we have seen in the last 10 months and it seems like the number is only going to increase from here. It doesn’t come as a surprise as the company has already shared its plan to go full frontal in the budget segment with the Nord series — It started with Nord, then a CE variant, and now a CE Lite. Not only that, we now have a budget TWS earbud under the Nord moniker.
Nord CE 2 Lite 5G launched for ₹19,999
Nord CE 2 Lite 5G launched for ₹19,999

The Nord CE 2 launched in February and garnered decent feedback for its UI and battery specs in its segment. The CE 2 Lite promises to offer the same standard of experience at an even lower price. Does it live upto the OnePlus standards and can it make a mark in a segment mostly dominated by Xiaomi and Realme? I will try to answer that in my review.

Price and Availability


The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite starts at ₹19,999 for the base variant that comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. You can get an upgraded 8GB of RAM by spending ₹21,999, with similar storage. You can buy the Nord CE 2 Lite from the Amazon India website or OnePlus’s own website.

Design & Build Quality


This latest Nord is a fresh take on the classic OnePlus’ design. It has the shades of its elder sibling CE 2 but adds a more contemporary approach to it. Sporting a plastic build, the Nord CE 2 Lite makes it evident that it’s a budget phone and the signs of cost-cutting are obvious in this department.
OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G's Bahama Blue color
OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G's Blue Tide color looks good

The phone is thick and weighs 195 grams, and you can feel the weight while using it in one hand, which might be an issue with those with a small palm. The big 5000 mAh battery is sort of a reason, but I feel OnePlus could have done better with the weight distribution. On the back, there is a protruding camera bump, but we can’t complain about that anymore since it’s a common smartphone trait. Yes, it does wobble a bit when you put it on the table, however, slapping on the bundled case takes care of that issue.

The unit with me is in a new Blue Tide color which has a tint of green in it as well. Looking different from the Bahama Blue on Nord CE 2, this color definitely stands out. The matte finish only adds to the appeal since it provides a better grip and is less prone to smudges.

The rest of the design characteristics are closer to the Nord CE 2. For starters, just like the former, CE 2 Lite does not get an alert slider. I would have ranted about it, but here the absence can be passed as it comes at a low price point. We do get a headphone jack, which is a rare feature on phones these days. Right next to it is a Type-C port placed along with the speaker grill.
Nord CE 2 Lite has a protruding camera bump.
Nord CE 2 Lite has a protruding camera bump.

For the first time on any OnePlus phone, the fingerprint sensor is embedded into the power button on the right side. It’s responsive and unlocks the phone with a gentle tap. While modern phones have moved on to in-display fingerprint sensor, a lot of OEMs like Samsung and Realme are now shifting back to the side-mounted fingerprint sensor, which was first introduced by Sony. I personally prefer the in-display fingerprint sensor, but this one is also perfectly functional and performs very well.
Side-mounted fingerprint sensor
The smartphone features a side-mounted fingerprint sensor

The volume rockers are on the left side, which is of good quality material and does the job well. There is a hybrid SIM card slot on the CE 2 Lite which supports either 2 nano SIMs or a nano SIM and a micro SD card.
Headphone jack
There is a headphone jack on the Nord CE 2 Lite

OnePlus claims the phone is vigorously tested to withstand water splashes and dust, however, it’s not IP certified, which means it might withstand drizzles and splashes but a heavy downpour may damage it. The phone does feel robust, but an official IP rating adds psychological satisfaction to the consumer.

Display - The ‘average’ of both worlds
Nord CE 2 Lite features a 6.5-inch LCD display
Nord CE 2 Lite features a 6.5-inch LCD display

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite has followed suit with its counterparts and has an LCD screen. The latest Nord features a massive 6.5-inch punch-hole display with 2412x1080 pixels resolution. Being used to gorgeous displays on OnePlus devices including the Nord CE 2 with an AMOLED panel, the CE 2 Lite leaves you wanting for more. It doesn’t mean that it’s bad by any means, the colors look vibrant and the display manages to reproduce crisp images and retain details. Watching content on it is also satisfactory, however, you do miss out on deeper blacks, sharpness and vibrance of an AMOLED panel. You need to set it to max brightness in order to view the content on the screen under direct sunlight. I was using the auto-brightness initially, but it wasn’t adjusting the brightness as required. It was not only slow but also failed to detect the light intensity in some cases.
Nord CE 2 Lite features a 120Hz refresh rate
Nord CE 2 Lite features a 120Hz refresh rate

The display comes with 120Hz refresh rate. There is no adaptive refresh rate, but a user can simply switch between the standard 60Hz and 120Hz. During my testing the display was set to 120Hz, adding a zing to my experience. The smooth flowing animation and the responsiveness of the screen made the interaction wholesome.

While OnePlus has tried to do justice to the user with the LCD panel, it is important to point out that Samsung did a better job on the Galaxy F23 5G. With similar specs, the LCD display on the Galaxy F23 5G is brighter and the adaptive refresh rate feature comes in handy when you switch between content, playing games or just scrolling through web pages.

OnePlus combines the display with a single loudspeaker that delivers quality sound. It compliments the screen well while facing the same issue that every bottom-firing speaker does - your palm can block it in landscape orientation. But when it doesn't, the audio experience is satisfactory.

UI - The USP


Running on Android 12 out of the box, the latest Nord comes with Oxygen OS 12 skin. As clean as it can get, the CE 2 Lite’s OS is perhaps its strongest characteristic, especially for an affordable phone. There is practically no bloatware, except for OnePlus’ proprietary apps like community and the OnePlus store. You also find Spotify and Netflix onboard both of which can be uninstalled.
Nord CE 2 Lite features Android 12
Nord CE 2 Lite features Android 12

The result is a clean user experience that is easy on the eyes and quick to understand. OnePlus has introduced some new shortcuts for better productivity, like the ‘shelf’. A swipe on the top right brings down a tray that has all the essentials one needs. From data to weather and even app widgets. It is also customizable, I relied on it heavily for changing music and replying to my emails.
Shelf feature on the Nord CE 2 Lite is handy.
Shelf feature on the Nord CE 2 Lite is handy.

You can also play around with the themes of the device by downloading them from a dedicated theme store. However, I would suggest keeping it classy and sticking to the stock skin. It’s subtle and easily understandable.

You can do more aesthetic customizations on the phone like changing app icon styles and transitions. All of these make the experience intimate and you feel closer to the device.

So far I have not come across any bugs that trouble me. But we have to note that this is a brand new unit, and the performance tends to go down eventually.

OnePlus provides both fingerprint and face recognition on the CE 2 Lite. While the fingerprint sensor is snappy as I mentioned earlier in the piece, the face scanner struggles to unlock the device. And if you are wearing a mask, then there is no chance of it unlocking.

Performance - Surprisingly fast

Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G SoC the Nord CE 2 Lite, puts itself in a respectable space. Yes, its direct competitors like the Samsung Galaxy F23 come with the Snapdragon 750 5G chipset, but the performance in real-time is at par.

The device with me packs in 8GB of RAM and delivers snappy performance. Boot-up speed is quick and you can expect the phone to start in a blink. Memory retention so far has been satisfactory, and the device usually boots up applications from the point where I left them.
This includes heavy games like BGMI.
This also brings us to the gaming performance on the phone. I played 3 action-packed rounds of BGMI on the CE 2 Lite and the experience was by far the best I have seen on a budget device. Running the game on HD settings, and high refresh rate there were minimal frame drops. The 120Hz refresh rate also adds to the experience. There is also a game mode on the phone that uplifts the experience. A simple swipe opens up a menu tray to look at the thermals, put the phone on silent mode and even record the screen.

Yes, the phone does heat up while playing games, but it was only in the third round when I felt the heat. Yet, it is not unbearable, and in line with the output, you are getting.

Before we move on to the battery performance it’s important to highlight the storage. The 128GB storage on my unit should be enough for most generic users. However, if you want more you can put in an SD card for upto 1TB capacity.

Time to talk about battery life. Packing in a 5000 mAh cell, the Nord CE 2 lite, is a powerhouse. On a working day, the smartphone gave me a mileage of about 5 and a half hours and then some. This involved mostly calling casual social media, and occasional gaming.

With the 35W SuperVOOC charger in the box, CE 2 Lite would charge from 0-100% in about 50 minutes.

Clearly, the numbers are strong with this one. But, note the battery life mostly depends on your usage.

Camera - The weak link
The CE 2 Lite is a classic case of camera specs not translating to performance. The smartphone comes with a triple camera set up on the back.
Primary camera performs well in natural lighting
Primary camera performs well in natural lighting

The main camera is a 64MP shooter that supports electronic image stabilization (EIS). I had some decent expectations from it, but I was thoroughly disappointed. The camera, while being quick in taking snaps, tends to fail at capturing natural colors. Some of the pictures look oversaturated and show noise.
Image quality dips in low lighting
Image quality dips in low lighting

There is a night mode on the phone as well, but it doesn’t boost the results in any way.

Yes, occasional photographs might be fine with this one, but if you are looking for a phone for mobile photography, then this isn't the best device for you.
Macro mode results are favorable.
Macro mode results are favorable.

The video performance is also sub-par with the camera capable of recording 1080P videos at 30 fps. The video results are nothing to write home about, and the camera performs well only under well-lit conditions. The audio recording is also not of the best quality, but decent for the price.

Then there is a 2MP depth sensor for those portrait shots. The edge detection is satisfactory and the portraits do come out well. However, this is again limited to well-lit conditions.
Edge detection on portrait shots is satisfactory
Edge detection on portrait shots is satisfactory

Finally, there is a 2MP macro sensor that delivers satisfying results. I clicked pictures of different subjects and wasn't disappointed.

Selfies look soft and under saturated.
Selfies look soft and under saturated.

The selfie camera is a 16MP shooter, this is the same Sony IMX471 sensor as we saw on the CE 2. The performance is also similar and the output is fairly decent. You can use AI as well to tweak your images. From nose shape to cheeks you can fiddle around with everything.

Verdict


The Nord CE 2 Lite 5G is a trimmed down version of an already toned down version of the Original Nord- which is also a budget offering from OnePlus. Do you see the paradox here?

By itself, this smartphone seems to be a strong contender against its counterparts like the Samsung Galaxy F23 5G or Realme 9.

However, I feel its real competitors are from its own family. If you want the OnePlus experience on a budget, and can spend some more money then I would recommend going for the CE 2.

This device is meant for users who want reliable performance in terms of battery, display and a clean software experience. However, if you are looking for a great camera then you should consider Mi 11 Lite.

See also


Samsung Galaxy F23 5G Review

Realme 9 Speed Edition review – Great performance for price but underwhelming camera

Redmi Note 11 Pro+ 5G review – excellent display, great battery life but slightly pricey




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