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OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G, practicality: OnePlus’ most affordable handset could offer a better price

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Pros

  • 120Hz display
  • Good performance
  • Good battery life

cons

  • IPS instead of AMOLED screen
  • Mediocre cameras
  • No warning slider or IP rating

OnePlus is known for its solid service in the mid-range smartphone market, but I was disappointed that some components hadn’t been upgraded in the recently reviewed OnePlus Nord 2T 5G, which starts at £369. There’s also disappointment with the new Nord CE 2 Lite 5G – not so much with the phone itself, but because in a crowded market this £279 phone is arguably more expensive than it should be: as the ‘Lite’ version is just £20 cheaper than the Nord CE 2, which we reviewed in March , OnePlus could have pushed its cheapest device further on price (see the comparison of the specifications below). Like its Nord CE predecessors, the Nord CE 2 Lite 5G is not officially on sale in the US.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G: 6.59-inch 120z IPS display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G chipset, 6 GB RAM, 128 GB internal storage (expandable via MicroSD card).

Images: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

There are two color options, Black Dusk and my reviewer’s rather arresting Blue Tide, whose refracting back changes between baby blue and slightly deeper hues. The top portion of the back houses a large camera body that stands very proudly, making for a lot of desk rock and roll when poking the unwrapped phone’s screen. Vertical stripes running the full depth of the camera bump and the full width of the phone isn’t the best design idea I’ve ever seen – it looks like someone put scotch tape on this part of the phone.

As with the Nord CE 2, OnePlus omits its trademark Alert Slider, which lets you switch between silent, vibrate and ring modes. However, the internal specifications impress. The Nord CE 2 Lite is powered by Qualcomm’s fast mid-range Snapdragon 695 5G chipset with 6GB of RAM, a platform that gave Geekbench 5 CPU scores of 685 (single core) and 1945 (multi core). In comparison, the MediaTek Dimensity 900 based Nord CE 2 with 8 GB RAM scored 719 (single core) and 2143 (multi core).

There is 128 GB of internal storage of which 108 GB is free out of the box. The 5G support is evident in the name of the handset and users have the choice between two SIM cards or one SIM card and a MicroSD card.

There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom and a fingerprint sensor built into the power button on the right.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G

A fingerprint reader is integrated into the power button on the right, but OnePlus’ handy Alert Slider is missing.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The screen is quite good considering the price of this device. It’s an IPS panel rather than AMOLED (like on the Nord CE 2), but at 6.59 inches and 2,412 by 1080 pixels (401ppi), it looks bright and sharp. The 120Hz refresh rate is also nice to see in a phone at this price.

There are few surprises in terms of software, with Android 12 and OxygenOS 12 offering a fairly clean experience, with a pleasing lack of bloatware. I could do without Netflix and TikTok cluttering the place, but both can be removed. The Nord CE 2 Lite 5G includes the OnePlus ‘shelf’, where you swipe down from the top right corner of the screen to access a range of widgets. Some users find this disturbing because they can accidentally hit it when opening the notification bar, but I find it easy enough to work with.

There are three cameras on the back, the main one being a 64MP f1.7 unit that takes a decent picture. The other two are less useful: a 2MP f/2.4 depth-assist camera and a 2MP f/2.4 macro lens that should be 4cm from the subject for best effect. You can record 1080p video at 30 fps and slow-motion 720p video at 120 fps. The front camera is a 16MP f/2.0 unit that takes acceptable selfies and captures 1080p video at 30fps.

The battery capacity is a generous 5000mAh. Although the Nord CE 2 Lite refused to complete the PCMark for Android Work 3.0 battery life test, I noticed it lost 15% of a full charge after running YouTube video for hours on end. This suggests a total battery life of 20 hours. OnePlus supplies a 33W charger, which should bring the handset from empty to 50% in half an hour. There’s no support for wireless or reverse charging, as you’d expect from a handset in this price range.

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G is a neat and decently specified handset, but it’s arguably a bit overpriced, as the Nord CE 2 gets you an AMOLED display for just £20 more (albeit with a 90Hz refresh in instead of 120 Hz), slightly better performance, comparable battery life, faster charging (65 W), an ultra-wide-angle camera and Wi-Fi 6 instead of 5.


OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite Specifications

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite OnePlus North CE 2
Dimensions 75.6mm x 164.3mm x 8.5mm 73.2mm x 160.6mm x 7.8mm
Weight 195g 173g
Display 6.59-inch IPS, 1080 x 2412 (20:9, 401ppi), 120 Hz refresh rate 6.43-inch AMOLED, 1080 x 2400 (20:9, 409ppi), 90Hz refresh rate, HDR10+, Gorilla Glass 5
Screen to body ratio 84% 85%
OS Android 12 + Oxygen OS 12 Android 11 + Oxygen OS 11
chipset Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G MediaTek Dimension 900
RAM 6GB 8GB
Storage 128GB 128GB
MicroSD card reader yes (via shared SIM slot) yes (dedicated)
Battery 5000mAh 4500mAh (2x 2250mAh)
Charge battery 33W SuperVOOC 65W SuperVOOC
Rear cameras 64 MP f/1.7 wide angle (EIS) • 2 MP f/2.4 depth assist • 2 MP f/2.4 macro 64 MP f/1.79 wide angle (EIS) • 8 MP f/2.2 ultra wide angle (119°, EIS) • 2 MP f/2.4 macro
Front camera 16MP f/2.0 16MP f/2.4 (EIS)
Networking 2G GSM, 3G WCDMA, 4G LTE, 5G SA+NSA 2G GSM, 3G WCDMA, 4G LTE, 5G SA+NSA
SIM slots dual Nano SIM dual Nano SIM
Wi-Fi Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
Bluetooth 5.2 5.2
NFC Yes yes (dedicated)
Place GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, QZSS GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, QZSS
Sensors side-mounted fingerprint scanner, accelerometer, electronic compass, gyroscope, ambient light, proximity, sensor core in-display fingerprint scanner, accelerometer, electronic compass, gyroscope, ambient light, proximity, sensor core
Ports USB-C, 3.5mm audio out USB-C, 3.5mm audio out
Tests gestures and screen navigation, volume, on/off gestures and screen navigation, volume, on/off
audio 1x speaker 1x speaker
In the box OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G, 33W SuperVOOC power adapter, USB-C cable (supports USB 2.0), phone case, screen protector (pre-applied), SIM tray ejector, welcome letter, quick start guide, safety information and warranty card OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G, 65W SuperVOOC power adapter, USB-C cable (supports USB 2.0), phone case, screen protector (pre-applied), SIM tray ejector, welcome letter, brand sticker, Red Cable Club membership card, quick start guide, safety information and warranty card
Price from £279 from £299

Alternatives to consider

As the cost of living rises, many smartphone buyers are shifting their focus from expensive flagships to mid-range and budget handsets. There’s more and more choice at lower prices – here are three leading contenders around £300 / $350.

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