The mid-range smartphone segment has been bustling with action over the last couple of years, with high-end grade features making their way on more inexpensive devices. The market is brimming with options to choose from under Rs 25,000, and OnePlus has gone ahead and added another option to the mix – the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite. The 6 GB RAM + 128 GB ROM variant is available at Rs 19,999 and the 8 GB RAM variant is available at Rs 21,999. This is the watered-down version of the OnePlus Nord CE 2 that launched in February. So, naturally, there are some things missing on the Lite variant that is present on the regular one including an AMOLED display, an in-display fingerprint sensor, and an ultrawide lens.
Either way, the Nord CE 2 Lite is still brimming with a fair number of features that make it look like an attractive purchase on paper such as 120 Hz refresh rate, 5,000 mAh battery, 64-megapixel primary sensor and 33 W fast charging. But faced with competition such as the Realme 9 SE, the Redmi Note 11 Pro+ and the Redmi Note 11T, will the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite still prove to be a compelling value for money device, or will it be overshadowed by its competitors? Let’s find out.
OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite: Build and display
Let’s talk about what’s inside the retail box of the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite first. You get a 33 W SUPERVOOC power adapter and a USB Type-C charging cable with the characteristic OnePlus Red and White colours. You also get a TPU silicone case, a SIM ejector tool, a pre-applied screen protector and some paperwork.
Moving on to the build and design, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite is a well-built phone that feels comfortable enough to hold. However, the weight distribution is slightly offset to the lower end of the phone. The back of the phone has a mix of a matte finish and a textured glossy finish. The textured glossy part is quite a fingerprint magnet, and we wish OnePlus had gone with a fully matte design instead. The OnePlus logo on the back is pretty nondescript, which we prefer.
The phone is available in two colours – Black Dusk and Blue Tide. We got the latter for review and it has a nice dual-tone shimmer to it – looking yellow-ish blue in some lights and sky blue in others. The camera module houses three lenses and juts out slightly leading to a slight wobble when on a flat surface. The rear panel is made of polycarbonate but it feels pretty robust when held. The edges and sides are rounded leading to a comfortable feel in hand. However, the phone’s smooth matte texture felt slightly slippery to us and we felt more comfortable using it with the provided TPU case.
The right side houses the power button with a built-in fingerprint sensor. The sensor worked decently during our testing period, but there were some instances of misreadings. So, we suggest recording the same fingerprint twice to minimise misreadings. The left side houses the volume buttons and the SIM tray. We prefer the volume buttons on the right since it is more intuitive that way to us. The SIM tray can house two SIMs or one SIM and a microSD card for expandable storage. At the bottom, you have a speaker, the USB C charging port, and a 3.5mm audio jack (yay!).
The front houses a 6.59-inch display with pretty noticeable bezels and a large chin bezel. So, it certainly isn’t a very glamorous-looking display. The selfie camera is tucked in a punch-hole cutout on the left side of the screen. The 6.59-inch LCD panel sports a resolution of 2412 x 1080 pixels (FHD+). Relatively standard, so far. However, one area where the display shines is the refresh rate.
The screen supports 120 Hz refresh rate and 240 Hz touch sampling rate, making it pretty good for smooth scrolling and gaming. During our testing, we activated the Show Refresh Rate setting within Developer Settings and found that the refresh rate is, in fact, variable. It switches between 60, 90 and 120 Hz for the most part, which is good news for battery life. The display is also WideVine L1 certified for all your HD streaming action on apps such as Netflix and Prime Video.
While the display is WideVine L1 certified, it doesn’t support HDR viewing. Its competitor – the Realme 9 SE does come with HDR viewing support, so it has a leg up in that regard. The phone also doesn’t come with stereo speakers, another area where some of its competitors have an advantage. HDR viewing and stereo speakers would have added to the overall immersion. OnePlus has dubbed this phone as a “media consumption juggernaut” so giving these features a miss doesn’t sit well with us.
Nevertheless, the phone’s display is decent for media viewing with the brightness peaking at 462 nits when on manual mode and 558 nits when on Automatic Brightness. The visibility in sunlight is pretty impressive for the price and we had no problem reading the text on the screen even on sunny days. The colour accuracy is pretty decent and the viewing angles are excellent.
OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite: Performance
The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 SoC running on a 6nm process. It features an octa-core CPU with a maximum clock speed of 2.2 GHz. The phone features the Adreno 619 GPU for graphics. The phone is adept at handling day-to-day tasks such as calling, texting, social media, and multitasking. We generally faced minimal lags and stutters in our regular usage. The phone’s 6/8 GB of RAM suffices for pretty heavy multitasking, and OnePlus has also provided the option for additional vRAM or virtual RAM up to 5 GB. You also get 128 GB of internal storage with an option to expand it via a microSD card.
We also saw pretty great sustained performance with the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite. We ran the CPU Throttling test where the device throttled to 90 per cent of its peak performance after 15 minutes, which is pretty decent. So, it can run pretty close to its maximum potential even after running intensive tasks for a while. We played multiple rounds of Call of Duty: Mobile and we noticed minimal frame skips even at the end of our gaming session.
Using GameBench, we found that the phone ran COD Mobile at 60 fps at 93 per cent stability, which is excellent. We played the game at the high graphics and high frame rate settings. The Realme 9 SE ran COD Mobile at 60 fps at 92 per cent stability and the Redmi Note 11 Pro+ falls behind, running COD Mobile at 49 fps at 97 per cent stability. So, for gamers, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite is a pretty compelling option in the mid-range segment.
Moving on to other benchmarking apps, the phone scored 401308 on AnTuTu. The Redmi Note 11 Pro+ and the Vivo T1 house the same SoC and they managed similar scores as well. The Realme 9 SE with its Snapdragon 778G SoC scored significantly higher though. As for GeekBench, the phone roped in a decent score of 683 in the Single-Core test and 1965 in the Multi-Core test. Again, the Redmi Note 11 Pro+ was in the same ballpark but the Vivo T1 lagged behind. The Realme 9 SE, however, blazes ahead with significantly higher scores.
In PCMark, the phone scored 7823 points which is on the lower end when it comes to mid-range phones. So while the phone is completely capable of handling tasks such as web browsing and photo editing with relative ease, phones such as the Redmi Note 11 Pro+ and the Realme 9 SE do a better job.
In 3D Mark Wild Life, the phone scores 1212 but the Realme 9 SE is far ahead yet again. The same trend continues in GFX Bench as well. However, synthetic benchmarks don’t always provide the full picture and as we saw above, the phone is more than capable of running COD Mobile at the same fps and similar stability as the Realme 9 SE, although the Realme 9 SE may be slightly more capable at handling Very High graphics and Max frame rate.
The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite runs Android 12 out of the box with OxygenOS 12.1 on top. OnePlus promises two major Android updates and three years of security updates as well. Now, OxygenOS isn’t what it used to be before the ColorOS and OxygenOS merger. The phone has quite a bit of bloatware from Netflix and Spotify to OnePlus apps such as Community and OnePlus Store. While some of these can be uninstalled, the whole experience is a lot clunkier than before. Bloatware isn’t as rife as on Xiaomi and Realme phones though, but we’re fearful of where OxygenOS is headed.
OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite: Camera
The performance offered by the cameras on the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite is a mixed bag. The phone features a triple rear camera setup consisting of a 64 MP primary lens, a 2 MP macro lens, and a 2 MP depth camera. The absence of an ultrawide lens is clearly felt at this price point. You also get a 16 MP Sony IMX471 selfie camera. Both the primary camera and the selfie camera can shoot with 1080p at 30 fps and support EIS (Electronic Image Stabilisation).
In daylight, the primary lens can shoot detailed photos with good dynamic range and decent colour reproduction, for the most part. Highlights aren’t over-exposed too much and the shadows have pretty good detail. The 64-megapixel lens offers a shallow depth of field with good natural background blur without portrait mode turned on. You can even turn on unbinned mode where you get a 64-megapixel shot with more details visible when you zoom into pictures.
However, when it comes to skin tones, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite’s camera disappoints. There’s an obvious orange tint on skin tones that make subjects look unnatural. This orange tint is exaggerated when you turn on Portrait Mode, which is a disappointment. The problem is with the lens and not the AI processing, since the front camera doesn’t show the same issue, with skin tones looking natural on photos taken from it. The Portrait mode also has poor edge detection with the subject’s hair often being incorrectly cropped.
In low light, the phone impresses with shots looking detailed enough with good colour. There is some noise and softness but turn on Night Mode, and you’ll get a photo with more light let in and added details.
The Macro camera doesn’t have any stabilisation, so the images often come out blurry and lack detail. The colours look good but aren’t as saturated as the main lens, so they don’t look as lively. There’s no ultrawide lens on the phone, which some competitors such as the Redmi Note 11 Pro+ have. There’s no 4K video recording, which is a bummer, and even 1080p video is capped at 30 fps. So, video recording isn’t as good as expected on a phone priced at Rs 21,999. Here are some photo samples for you to check out:
OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite: Battery
The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite houses a 5,000 mAh battery with support for 33 W fast charging. The battery is quite efficient in daily use. With 120 Hz refresh rate enabled, the phone can easily last a day; about 8-9 hours of screen on time. Our day consisted of playing games, running benchmarks, running GPS, watching videos, and general web and social media browsing.
In our video loop test, we played a local video file on VLC Media Player and the phone lasted for 11 hours and 2 minutes on a full charge. This is an excellent score in this price range. The Redmi Note 11 Pro+ which also comes with a 5,000 mAh battery lasted 9 hours and 52 minutes in this video loop test. Streaming Netflix for 30 minutes brought the battery down by 5 per cent and 15 minutes of COD Mobile also brought the battery percentage down by 5 per cent.
The 33 W SUPERVOOC charger is capable of topping off the phone pretty fast. When you need some battery percentage in a pinch, plugging the charger in can charge the phone to 50 per cent in about 20-30 minutes. The phone took 55 minutes to go from empty to full battery.
OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite: Verdict
The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite is a value-for-money proposition on a budget, no doubt. It is a well-built, solid performer with impressive battery life. However, while it does shine in these areas, there are some areas where it falters. The camera isn’t adept at taking pictures of people due to its aggressive colouring of the skin and the macro lens simply doesn’t do a good job of taking detailed, close-up pictures due to lack of stabilisation. OxygenOS is also packed with unnecessary bloatware. The phone’s display supports 120 Hz refresh rate but doesn’t come with any HDR capabilities. The lack of HDR and stereo speakers make it average for media consumption. So, if you are looking for a well-built phone that performs swimmingly in most situations, we’d ask you to consider the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite. But if camera and content consumption are your primary concerns, we’d suggest you look elsewhere.