OnePlus Nord CE3 5G review: a safe, reliable choice

Review Summary

Expert Rating
8.0/10

Design
★  
7.5
/10
Display
★  
8.0
/10
Software
★  
8.5
/10
Camera
★  
8.0
/10
Performance
★  
8.0
/10
Battery
★  
8.5
/10

Pros

  • Lovely screen
  • Acceptable performance
  • Day-long battery life
  • Decent cameras

Cons

  • Lowlight photography could have been better
  • Plastic build
  • No alert slider

The OnePlus Nord CE3 5G fills the gap for the brand under Rs 30,000, which had a void after the launch of the regular OnePlus Nord 3 5G (review). Priced starting at Rs 26,999 for the 8GB RAM variant and Rs 28,999 for the 12GB RAM option in India, the Nord CE3 5G smartphone shares several features with its older sibling, the OnePlus Nord 3 5G. These encompass a 50MP triple camera setup, a 5,000mAh battery, 80W fast charging support, and a 120Hz refresh rate display, among other notable aspects.

Here’s my review of the OnePlus Nord CE3 5G after using it for the better part of the week:

Verdict

The OnePlus Nord CE3 5G is a capable device at what it does. It delivers a good combination of hardware and bloat-free software, resulting in a smooth user experience. However, the only niggle is that upon comparing it with the competition, the OnePlus Nord CE3 5G doesn’t seem to have any standout feature worth shouting about.

Design and display

  • Despite its affordable price point, the OnePlus Nord CE 5G rivals the sleek appearance of the pricier OnePlus Nord 3 5G. The new handset boasts a rather compact form factor with flat edges, making it quite ergonomic for everyday use. Furthermore, the handset sports dual camera rings, as well as an LED flash, around the back. On the bottom edge, you’ll find a USB Type-C port, a speaker grille, and a SIM tray. The top edge houses an IR Blaster, while the right side features a volume rocker and power button for easy access.
  • However, a few compromises can be observed here and there. To begin with, the Nord CE 5G lacks an alert slider, which allows for seamless switching to silent or general mode without waking the screen. There is no dedicated autofocus sensor as well. Moreover, the handset features a plastic frame and polycarbonate glass on the back, rather than actual glass. Good thing though, the Nord CE3 5G is almost 9 grams lighter than its elder sibling. The handset weighs just 184 grams, ensuring you don’t get a wrist workout while holding the device for too long.
  • On the display front, the OnePlus Nord CE3 5G sports a 6.7-inch Fluid AMOLED panel with FHD+ resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, 2,160Hz PWM dimming, and HDR10+. In comparison to the OnePlus Nord 3 5G, the display lacks dynamic refresh rate and has marginally thicker bezels. That said, the viewing experience remains pretty much the same, and the colours look punchy and vibrant. The outdoor legibility of the screen is also impressive. I did not face much trouble reading the text or watching content even under direct sunlight.
  • Speaking of content consumption, the Nord CE3 holds Widevine L1 certification, enabling seamless FHD streaming on platforms such as Netflix. Enhancing the entertainment experience, the phone features a stereo speaker setup that delivers clear and robust audio. The handset supports both Dolby Atmos and Hi-Res audio.
  • Be that as it may, the handset lacked HDR capabilities at the time of writing this review. Moving on, there is an in-display fingerprint scanner on the device that works quite effortlessly.

Cameras

  • The camera performance of the OnePlus Nord CE3 5G closely matches that of the OnePlus Nord 3 5G. This smartphone boasts a triple rear camera setup, featuring a 50MP OIS Sony IMX890 primary sensor, an 8MP ultra-wide sensor, and a 2MP macro sensor. In daylight conditions, the primary sensor captures 12.5MP images with impressive details and well-saturated colours. However, there is a slight issue with the dynamic range, which can result in slightly blown-out areas and fewer details in shadows. Nevertheless, the overall image quality remains quite acceptable.
  • The phone’s secondary camera is a typical 8MP ultra-wide sensor commonly seen in this price range. It captures images with a 112-degree field of view (FoV) that have some distortion around the edges of the frame and slight inaccuracy in terms of colours. Moving on, the 2MP macro sensor produces usable shots, but the colours and details look quite average.
  • In lowlight, the OnePlus Nord CE3 5G performs decently well. The focus speed isn’t as good as the OnePlus Nord 3, which has a dedicated sensor for autofocus, but you can still expect a good shot with a respectable level of detail at least from the 50MP primary sensor. The phone’s night mode is quite reliable too. As for its portrait mode, the edge detection is good but not great. There is a noticeable distortion on the subject if you zoom in on the subject.
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  • For selfies and video calling, the handset utilises a 16MP front-facing camera in the punch-hole setup. This camera captures near-accurate skin tones and offers a decent level of facial detailing.

Performance and software

  • Coming to performance, the OnePlus Nord CE3 5G is powered by Qualcomm’s mid-range Snapdragon 782G SoC under the hood. The chipset contributes to the handset’s decent performance on benchmarking sites, with scores of 643,348 on AnTuTu v10 and 1,118 and 2,767 on Geekbench’s single-core and multi-core tests, respectively. However, during the CPU Throttle test, the handset throttles to 76 percent of its peak performance and gets a bit warm while handling 50 threads for a duration of 30 minutes.
  • Fortunately, I did not encounter any of those issues during real-world usage. The handset executed every task seamlessly, allowing for smooth multitasking and gameplay, such as with BGMI using ‘HDR’ graphics and ‘High’ frame rate settings, with minimal lag or stutter. The handset’s thermal performance also remained cool even during a half-hour gaming session.
  • Furthermore, the RAM management for apps was commendable. The Nord CE3 5G retained most apps in the background with their last activity intact. For those who may not be aware, the Nord CE3 5G is available in two RAM and storage configurations: 8GB+128GB and 12GB+256GB. The RAM can be expanded virtually, while the storage can be bumped using a microSD card.
  • The OnePlus Nord CE3 5G supports all the major 5G bands in India, including the n77 and n78. Here’s a speed test done on the device using Airtel 5G Plus network in Faridabad, Haryana:
OnePlus Nord CE3 5G test
  • Software-wise, the OnePlus Nord CE3 5G runs OxygenOS 13.1 based on Android 13 out of the box. The device is future-proof with two years of major Android updates and three years of security updates. The Oxygen OS 13.1 UI looks pretty much the same as OPPO’s custom Android ColorOS skin but with no third-party pre-installed apps or ads.

Battery and charging speeds

OnePlus Nord CE3 5G PCMark battery test
  • The OnePlus Nord CE3 5G houses a 5,000mAh battery, capable of comfortably lasting a full day. The device achieved a score of 14 hours and 23 minutes on the PCMark battery test. In my usage, which encompassed activities like browsing, scrolling through social media apps, gaming, and streaming movies and TV shows, I consistently attained nearly 6 hours of screen-on time.
  • When it comes to charging speeds, the handset can fully recharge from 0-100 percent in about 30-40 minutes with the 80W SuperVooc fast charging solution. A compatible power adaptor is included in the box.

Final verdict

Everything said and done, the OnePlus Nord CE3 5G faces fierce competition from the feature-packed POCO F5 (review) in this segment. The POCO F5 not only boasts the latest chipset but also offers a more advanced 12-bit display, surpassing the OnePlus smartphone’s 10-bit display.

Another strong rival to the OnePlus Nord CE3 5G is the Motorola Edge 40 (review) smartphone. This handset comes with a premium leatherette back, a curved OLED display featuring 144Hz refresh rate, and a near-stock version of Android. The handset is also IP68 water and dust resistant certified. For those who don’t necessarily need stock Android, the Realme 11 Pro Plus (review) is worth checking out. Compared to the Nord CE3, the Realme 11 Pro Plus comes with a 200MP primary camera and flaunts a premium, aesthetic design.

The OnePlus Nord CE3 5G doesn’t seem to have any standout qualities to differentiate itself from the competition, but it remains a reliable option under Rs 30,000. The handset excels in its functionality with its reliable mid-range chipset, gorgeous AMOLED display, excellent battery life, bloat-free software, and good daylight cameras. If you are a OnePlus fan, you can’t go wrong with this device.

Editor’s rating: 8 / 10

Reasons to buy

  • The viewing experience on the OnePlus Nord CE3 5G is quiet.
  • Whether it is gaming or multi-tasking, the handset can execute every task seamlessly.
  • The handset offers impressive battery life that can comfortably handle your everyday tasks throughout the day.
  • The camera performance of the OnePlus Nord CE3 5G closely matches that of the OnePlus Nord 3 5G.

Reasons not to buy

  • The lowlight camera performance is slightly underwhelming.
  • The handset has a plastic look and feel.
  • There is no alert slider to seamlessly silence the call/ notifications without waking the device.

Key Specs

OnePlus Nord CE 3 5G
RAM8 GB
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 782G
Rear Camera50 MP + 8 MP + 2 MP
Front Camera16 MP
Battery5000 mAh
Display6.7 inches (17.02 cm)
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OnePlus Nord CE 3 5G Price
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Rs. 19,999.00
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