It is the OnePlus Nord series, with its multiple tiers, that is responsible for taking the brand to the masses. While the original OnePlus phones were created targeting the tech-savvy power user, it's the mid-range Nord phones that gave OnePlus the room to expand. For instance, the newly launched Nord 3.
For the tech media, the Nord 3 arrives in an enormous box. For a regular customer, the package is still not negligible and includes a fat charger for fast 35 to 40-minute charging at 80W for a 5,000 mAh battery. Accessories like a charger, screen protector, red cable, case etc add quite a bit to the cost of a phone so it's nice to see that included in the package — unlike with top-tier expensive phones.
The Nord 3 is priced at a reasonable ₹33,999 for an 8GB RAM + 128GB storage variant and ₹37,999 for a 16GB RAM + 256GB variant. It's available now from the OnePlus Store app, Amazon.in, OnePlus Experience Stores, and select partner stores.
Taking the Nord 3 out of its box, one will immediately notice that it looks premium. The back panel on the dark grey-black unit is smooth and in this variant, matte finish. The other variant, a mint blue-green, is outright glossy and probably displays no end of smudges. If you're a careful person you could get away without a case because the device has a rather nice grip. Slightly stepped or angled edges make it easier to hold than most phones. The back is actually glass (with Gorilla Glass 5 protection) but feels like it could be an interesting form of plastic. Glass and plastic seem to be intersecting on phones so one can barely tell the difference between the two. The frame of the device is plastic and perhaps helps it feel more comfortable to hold without doing anything to detract from its looks. It's a relief not to have that hard, cold hand-feel.
The first thing a OnePlus fan will look for on a phone is the famous 'alert slider,' a sliding button on the side that turns the phone silent, into vibrate, or full ringing mode. This is one of the fastest ways of silencing a phone when you forget to do so in advance and it rings embarrassingly at a meeting and it's implemented extra smoothly on this phone. This time there's also an IR blaster on the top edge which allows the phone to be used as a remote for things like the TV. This is a dual SIM phone and it has pretty good call reception.
The thinned 2.5D edges make the Nord 3 feel quite sleek and even contribute to the display looking nicer. With thin, even bezels all around, the screen looks spacious and atypical for a mid-range phone. The 6.74-inch Fluid AMOLED display has a 1240x2772 pixels resolution and a pixel density of 450 ppi, upgraded from the previous version of this phone. It does come with the 120Hz refresh rate and 1000Hz touch response. It supports HDR10+ streaming. Brightness peaks at 1,450 nits. The display is protected by Dragontrail.
This time around the new Nord phone has had a rather warm reception from tech enthusiasts because there's been a big upgrade in the processor. The 4mm MediaTek 9000 chipset is flagship grade, used, for example, by the parent company OPPO on its foldable phone. It is no slouch with performance. The advanced 16GB RAM and 256GB storage variant tested is a particularly powerful package. The RAM is the faster LPDDR5 variety as is the UFS 3.1 storage. This amount of RAM isn't typical for mid-range phones. Everything flies on this phone, with such specs, and it feels faster and smoother than a lot of top end phones. One can do some heavy gaming at the risk of warming up, but this isn't an outright gaming phone in the first place. Long sessions of tasks like video capturing etc can also make it a bit hot. Optimisations are happening via software updates to ensure less throttling and better temperature handling. Other than that, it handles graphics well.
Software was once OnePlus' trump card. OxygenOS was even considered better than the plain untampered Android. By now, OxygenOS has taken in the philosophy and features of OPPO's ColorOS. Even so, it isn't like the mess you find on many Chinese phones. Everything is fairly logical and intuitive. You also don't have a collection of unwanted apps to deal with. The ones that do come along for the ride - Netflix, Spotify, Google apps etc - are popular essentials for most users.
Another plus point with the Nord 3 is that the primary camera isn't at all bad. The phone should certainly not be bought for the camera, but it is among the best in its category. Like a lot of smartphones these days it has three cameras on the rear. The primary is a 50MP Sony IMX890 sensor with OIS or optical image stabilisation — also rare for the category until now. It produces very nice daylight images. There is both detail and dynamic range. The pictures are just the way the majority likes them - contrasty. There’s a 2X zoom that helps shoot nicely composed pics without too much fuss. The accompanying 8MP ultra wide and 2MP macro lenses are just there for the ride and do an average job. Night or low light photos are rather nice as well. The 16MP front camera is better than usual and doesn't make photos look artificial.
The Nord 3 makes an excellent second phone. One issue with considering this phone though is that it’s very close to the OnePlus 11R in price and that phone means a step-up in the processor department. All the same, perhaps, it’s better to be spoilt for choice than to be limited to just one or two smartphones. And one thing this segment is not lacking in is choice, as a spate of phones in this price range roll in at the present.