POCO F3 GT or OnePlus Nord 2 – the one to buy

Old rivals battle it out with new weapons

It has perhaps been the phone rivalry of July. And it has been between those two old “friends,” POCO and OnePlus. Way back in 2018, POCO had been launched to take on the OnePlus 6, but in its second innings (which had got underway in 2020), Xiaomi’s sub-brand had steered clear of the Never Settler. That changes with the POCO F3 GT which goes toe to toe (in the market and on its Twitter handle too, for good measure) with the OnePlus Nord 2 5G. Both phones are priced within striking distance of each other and were also launched within a day of each other. Each claims to be one of the best phones you can get for under Rs 30,000. One battles on sheer consistency and subtle class, the other is all flash and gestures. So which is the one for you? Let me try to answer that question.
(For the sake of simplicity and reading clarity, I will be referring to the Nord 2 5G as the Nord 2)

Design and appearance


In terms of design, this is the clash being a formal suit and a shiny suit of armour! The Nord 2 sticks to the broad design outlines of the day and follows in the footsteps of the original Nord. With a glass front and back (the frame is plastic, we hear, which is common at this price point), the Nord 2 is a relatively compact phone standing 159.1mm tall and 73.3mm wide, and is 8.2mm thick, and a little on the heavier side for its size at 189g. The back of the Blue Haze variant (the one I received) is glossy but does not get smudged easily and has a touch of understated class about it. It looks very smart and feels solid enough, although its camera bump is significant.

Understated however is not the word that comes to mind when you clap eyes on the POCO F3 GT, which comes with perhaps the most noticeable design we have seen in this price segment for a while. The back and front are glass, the frame is metal and well, the back of the phone (I got the Gunmetal Silver variant) is a delightful array of patterns and engravings with even the camera unit being given a few touches to make it look like a figure of eight and the flash designed like a bolt of lightning. The sides of the phone are also a blend of flat and curved to help the user get a better grip while gaming in landscape mode. The right side also has sliders that make two triggers pop out for gaming, but otherwise lie flat against the surface. Add L-shaped speakers on the top and the base to the mix, and the POCO F3 GT comes across as one heck of a head-turner.

The remarkable thing is that even though it is understandably bigger than the Nord 2 (a bigger display and battery) – it is 161.9mm tall and 76.9mm wide – the POCO F3 GT is almost as slim (8.3mm) and given its size and build, does not seem quite as heavy at 205d. It also has a splashproof IP53 rating – something the Nord 2 lacks. The good thing about the design of the POCO F3 GT is that it manages to grab attention without affecting usability, unlike a lot of other gaming phones, whose size makes them unwieldy for normal usage.

We are not saying the Nord 2 looks bad, but put these two phones on a table and it is a fair chance that only one will be really noticed. Marvel Universe reference alert – the Nord 2 is Tony Stark in a formal suit. The POCO F3 GT is Tony Stark in THE suit! Only one winner here.

Winner: POCO F3 GT

Display


The OnePlus Nord 2 comes with a 6.43-inch full HD+ fluid AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate. It is a good, bright display although perhaps a touch on the oversaturated side (this can be adjusted). However, it definitely gets trumped by the larger 6.67-inch 10-bit Turbo AMOLED display with a similar resolution (full HD+) but a higher refresh rate (120Hz) on the POCO F3 GT. Interestingly, although both displays seem to have similar brightness levels, the display of the Nord seemed a little more colourful. Both displays can be tweaked, but the edge lies with the POCO F3 GT.

Winner: POCO F3 GT

Processor


Both phones are powered by the MediaTek Dimensity 1200 processor. But there is a slight difference – the Nord 2 comes with a Dimensity 1200 AI, a chip that the brand claims to have developed in collaboration with MediaTek and which it says results in slightly better performance in matters like image processing and other tasks. Honestly, the difference is not very apparent to me – both phones are brisk performers. The Nord 2 might have extra initials but I am calling this one a tie.

Winner: Tie

RAM and storage

In terms of RAM and storage, both phones come with 6GB / 128GB and 8GB / 128GB variants, but the Nord 2 has a 12GB / 256GB variant as its top variant while the POCO F3 GT has an 8GB / 256GB one. Neither has expandable storage. It is a marginal call, but the higher RAM variant gets the Nord 2 a win here.

Winner: OnePlus Nord 2

Sound


Although neither phone has a 3.5 mm audio jack, both phones boast stereo speakers. And both sound very good too. However, I felt that the F3 GT’s speakers sounded louder and a little richer than the ones on the Nord 2. The positioning of the speakers on the POCO F3 GT (one at the top, one at the base) as compared to the ones on the Nord (one on the base, and the earpiece) also made the sound from the F3 GT seem a little more surround-y. Both sounded superb on Bluetooth and wired headphones.

Winner: POCO F3 GT

Gaming and multimedia


The POCO F3 GT pretty much cleans out the Nord 2 in this department. Although both phones have variants of the Dimensity 1200 chip and the difference in actual gaming performance is not noticeable, the bigger display of the F3 GT and its better sounding speakers carry the day for it. And this is when we do not even bring the much talked about pop up gaming triggers (which are super handy for some titles at the F3 GT’s specially designed sides (flat at the top and base, curved in the middle for better grip) into play. Pun intended. That display and speaker combination also make the F3 GT a better option for watching shows and films.

Winner: POCO F3 GT

Cameras – rear


It has been a while since we saw a OnePlus device outgun a similarly-priced competitor in the camera department. Well, the Nord 2 does that. Both phones come with triple camera arrangements, with secondary sensors (8-megapixel ultrawide, 2-megapixel mono in Nord 2, 2-megapixel macro in POCO F3 GT) that are more decorative than effective (the ultrawides are handy at best, the others less so). But in the battle between the 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 on the Nord 2 and the 64-megapixel sensor on the POCO F3 GT, the OnePlus runs out a winner. The POCO F3 GT does deliver some very pleasant and slightly over saturated colours but the Nord scores on being more realistic and capturing detail. It also is significantly the better one when it comes to low light photography, with lesser noise and more details (I wonder if OIS is the factor here). In video too, the OnePlus’ edge seemed clear, although the F3 GT is not too far behind. Yes, the POCO F3 GT comes with way more editing and tweaking options thanks to its interface, and all said and done, its 2-megapixel macro sensor is way more useful than the rather odd 2-megapixel monochrome one on the Nord 2, but in terms of performance, the Nord 2 takes this one easily.

Winner: OnePlus Nord 2

Cameras – front


The Nord 2 has ditched a dual-front facing camera arrangement in favour of a single one, but even then, its 32-megapixel selfie snapper takes better pictures than the 16-megapixel one on the POCO F3 GT. The difference is not a great one, but is noticeable, in terms of detail especially. That said, the POCO F3 GT seems to handle portrait snaps better than the Nord 2, which insisted on blurring part of the subject. Again, the richer UI of the POCO F3 GT means you can do more with your selfies on it as compared to the more spare interface of the Nord 2, but again, the Nord 2’s camera does enough to take this round.

Winner: OnePlus Nord 2

Software


When was the last time a phone with MIUI matched one running Oxygen UI in the software department? Well, it might be sacrilege to some but while there is a lot to love about the clean and uncluttered look of the Nord 2’s UI, Xiaomi has changed a lot of things with MIUI 12.5, removing a lot of the clutter while keeping its extensive feature set. The intrusive ads are no longer there, and the mainstream user can do far more on MIUI than on the Nord 2 right out of the box. The greater integration between Oppo and OnePlus might make OxygenOS more feature-rich in the coming days, but as of now, there is not much to separate both phones. Stock Android fans will prefer the Nord 2, while more mainstream users might like the bells and whistles (minus ads now) on the POCO F3 GT. Both phones incidentally run on Android 11. OnePlus does have a formidable (almost to the point of irritating) update record, but Poco has been doing rather well in that regard too. A tie this is, which will surprise many.

Winner: Tie

General usage

In terms of everyday use – for activities such as calls, social networking, messaging, mailing and the like – the two phones are broadly similar. The F3 GT’s bigger display and better sound (on speakers) might appeal to those who consume a fair deal of content on their phones, but the Nord 2’s far more compact form factor makes it a much easier phone to handle. I did find the fingerprint scanner on the side of the F3 GT to be more speedy than the in-display scanner on the Nord 2, although the Nord 2’s alert slider added a different element of convenience in switching between sound modes. Call quality is about the same on both phones and both support 5G (which is handy but not a critical factor right now, as the network is not available in India itself). I am calling this one a tie.

Winner: Tie

Battery life


It is a battle between the 4,500mAh battery on the Nord 2 with 65W Warp Charge support and the 5,065mAh battery on the POCO F3 GT with a 67W charger. But then the Nord 2’s battery has to drive a smaller display with a relatively lower refresh rate. Both phones see off a day of normal usage on a single charge with refresh rates maxed out, although the POCO F3 GT goes a little beyond a day. Both phones charge remarkably fast – generally between 30-45 minutes (the Nord 2 generally in around 35, the F3 GT in around 45). The F3 GT adds a neat touch to the charging process with a L-shaped charging cable. This is going to be a close one, but I am scoring this one to the F3 GT – it is a bigger battery, lasts a bit longer and still charges very fast indeed.

Winner: POCO F3 GT

Pricing


This is an interesting one. The Nord 2 has a 6GB / 128GB variant (available at a later date, we are told) at Rs 27,999, an 8GB / 128GB variant at Rs 29,999 and a 12GB / 256GB variant at Rs 31,999. On the other hand, POCO has come up with a rather different pricing strategy which offers the device at a lower price initially, before settling at its final price two weeks later. So, its 6GB / 128GB variant will be available initially for Rs 25,999 and will settle finally at Rs 26,999, while its 8GB / 128GB variant will start at Rs 27,999 and finish at Rs 28,999. Finally its top variant – 8GB / 256GB – will start at Rs 29,999 and end at Rs 30,999. In sheer numerical terms, the Force is clearly with the POCO F3 GT here, unless one is looking for a 12GB RAM variant. The fact that the base variant of the POCO F3 GT is going to be available well before that of the Nord 2 only increases its advantage in this regard. The POCO F3 GT’s 6GB /128GB and 8GB / 128GB variants are Rs 1,000 lower (in terms of final price) as compared to the Nord 2. Only one winner here, unless you want a 12 GB RAM device.

Winner: POCO F3 GT

Verdict: Never Settle or Go Mad?


So which of the two is the better option? The scores tilt the odds overwhelmingly in favour of the POCO F3 GT, with its (way) more eye-catching design, bigger display, better sound, bigger battery and surprisingly good UI – and yes, all that a lower price. In fact, even if you do not factor its gaming prowess and special gamer oriented features and consider it as a normal phone, the POCO F3 GT is more than a match for the Nord 2 in many departments. In fact, on paper, right now, it seems to have a clear edge over the latest Never Settler from the North.

That is not to say the Nord 2 is out of the running. The Never Settler scores in the camera department, and never really trails the POCO F3 by too much (barring in design). There are going to be lots of takers for its typically clean and unobtrusive UI and also for its more subtly classy and compact design. There is also the chance that the Nord 2 could become a much snappier proposition with software updates that might unlock the potential of the Dimensity 1200+ under its hood.

It really depends on what you need. Marvel Universe alert one more time: if you want Tony Stark, go for the Nord 2. If you want Iron Man, the POCO F3 GT.

Both are Marvel-ous in their own ways.