Even though I can’t say I’m a fan of the way each OnePlus product launch is dragged out — with ever-increasing tedium for those of us who have to write about every little tidbit — I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look forward to each launch. In recent years, OnePlus handsets have graduated to become the very flagships the company once sought to kill. This means they’re now among the most critically acclaimed on the market, but it also means that the prices have had to go up. The time is rather perfect, then, for OnePlus to go back to its roots and produce a sub-$500 phone with an enviable feature set.

Nord is the company’s most affordable effort since 2017’s OnePlus 5T, costing £379 (€399) for 8/128GB or £469 (€499) for 12/256GB. You’ll notice the use of pounds and euros instead of dollars, and that’s because just like the OnePlus 7 and 7T Pro, Nord isn’t heading to America (except for a limited beta release, apparently). Europe and India are the key markets being targeted with this release, and US readers will be understandably miffed. From my first impressions, you’re missing out on one of the best value propositions we’ve seen in recent years. For £220 less than the OnePlus 8, Nord comes with a marginally slower processor and some slightly older components, but much of the experience is the same. The RAM and storage configurations are the same, the rear camera setups are very similar, and 30W fast charging is also on board. For many potential buyers hoping to save some cash, it could be an easy decision.

Specs

SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G, Adreno 620 GPU
RAM 8/12GB (LPDDR4X)
Storage 128/256GB (UFS2.1)
Display 6.44-inch Fluid AMOLED (2,400x1080, 480ppi), 90Hz refresh rate, supports sRGB and P3 color gamuts, 20:9 aspect ratio
Rear cameras Primary — 48MP (Sony IMX586), f/1.75, OIS and EIS
Ultra-wide — 8MP, f/2.25, 119° Field of View
Macro — 2MP, f/2.4
Depth sensor — 5MP, f/2.4
Front cameras Primary — 32MP (Sony IMX616), f/2.45, EIS, fixed-focus
Ultra-wide — 8MP, f/2.45, 105° Field of View
Video 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps, slow motion: 1080p at 240fps
Battery 4,115mAh with 30W fast charging
Software Android 10 / OxygenOS 10.5
Connectivity 5G bands: N1, N78, 3, 7, 28, 78; WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4G/5G, 2x2 MIMO); Bluetooth 5.1; NFC
Headphone jack No
Other In-display fingerprint sensor; linear vibration motor; single bottom-firing speaker; alert slider; Dual-SIM, USB-C; Gorilla Glass 5 (front and back); Support for aptX, LDAC, and AAC codecs
Dimensions 158.3 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm
Weight 185g
Colors Blue Marble, Gray Onyx
In the box Pre-applied screen protector, adapter, USB Type A-C cable, clear TPU case
Price 8/128GB — £379, €399
12/256GB — £469, €499

When you get it in the hand, Nord feels every bit like a OnePlus product should, despite obvious cost-saving measures. It’s a hair shorter than the OnePlus 8, and there’s a welcome return to flat edges on the 6.44-inch FluidAMOLED display. The 90Hz refresh rate that OnePlus popularized is on show once again, and it still looks just as good. The bezels are larger, but by such a small margin — this is still a very modern-looking smartphone. OnePlus's in-display fingerprint sensors have always been excellent, and even though this isn't the latest iteration with the larger sensor, it's still fast and accurate. The dual selfie cam seems like overkill to me, but there must be consumers out there who care for this type of thing. You lose some screen real estate as a result, but it’s not a huge deal. The layout of all of the buttons and holes on the frame are familiar, with a single speaker and SIM tray either side of the USB-C port on the bottom. A volume rocker adorns the left side, with the power button and alert slider on the right. Unlike the OnePlus 8 series, there’s no need for antenna lines — Nord’s frame is plastic, albeit with a metallic coat of paint to give the illusion of a more premium material. We’ve become accustomed to OnePlus’s beautiful matte glass finishes on the back or recent phones, but the Nord eschews that in favor of a shiny aesthetic. It’s made from Gorilla Glass 5, so it should be plenty durable.

OnePlus has crammed four cameras into the module on the rear, including the same 48MP Sony IMX586 from the OnePlus 8. Since that phone produced decent photos with its primary lens, hopes are high for the Nord. There’s also an 8MP ultra-wide, but sadly no telephoto lens. A 2MP macro of questionable utility and a 5MP depth sensor round out the rear cameras. The two snappers hiding within the dual punch-hole cutout on the front consist of a 32MP fixed-focus primary camera and an 8MP ultra-wide with 105° FoV. It’s too early to say how Nord’s photography skills compare to the competition, but its versatility could stand it in good stead.

The overall package may not be quite as appealing as either of the OnePlus 8 series phones, but with such a substantial saving to be made over both of those, and many other Android phones with a similar spec sheet, Nord demands attention. If it can offer anywhere near the same software experience and smooth performance as its bigger siblings while producing half-decent photos, we could be crowning a new mid-range Android king before the Pixel 4a has even left the house. I’m putting Nord through its paces right now, so watch out for our full review in the coming days.

The OnePlus Nord wasn't the only thing unveiled by the company during today's live stream — check out our review of the OnePlus Buds (pictured above).