It’s been a few years since OnePlus added the Nord series to what was the first spark of expanding the smartphone portfolio. While it started with just one phone, it’s now a range that covers quite a broad spectrum, in terms of price and therefore what you’re paying for. In a way, this helps OnePlus rediscover its roots (as well as the true direction perhaps, as Nord stands for) amid the price brackets of more affordable Android phones. For a market like India, this is particularly important.
The OnePlus Nord 3, which is priced between ₹33,999 and ₹37,999 depending on the configuration you buy, is for the most discerning buyer, but without a flagship budget. Also like the logical successor to last year’s Nord 2T, which was impressive. The characteristics testify to an evolution. MediaTek Dimensity 9000 chip with up to 16GB RAM, 50MP camera leading the troika, while also maintaining good ergonomics, including the convenience of the alert slider to quickly switch between normal, vibration modes and silent.
There’s a significant shift in design language, with the OnePlus Nord 3 adopting a bar-style form factor with flat sides. That’s unlike the predecessors, which mostly had designs that blended into the slimmer sides. It’s a nice change to have, especially if you’re upgrading within the Nord family. From outside that circle of trust too, it looks better.
What also has a distinct visual appeal is the display. A significant upgrade over the predecessor, all things considered. Bigger too, at 6.74 inches instead of 6.43 inches. Is it just us, or is that “punch-hole” front camera cutout smaller than on most phones? Works, freeing up a few extra pixels of usable space. Check the 120Hz refresh rate bit and HDR10+ support for your binging needs. What impresses us the most is the brightness bump – on paper it’s rated at 1450 nits, but numbers aside, it’s more than usable in very bright light strewn with reflections.
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The fact that OnePlus has gone the full way with 10-bit color depth not only makes it a beautiful canvas to behold, but also maintains color vibrancy at higher brightness levels.
One theme that has emerged even with the relatively more affordable Android phones is that they match the much more expensive flagship phones quite well performance-wise, for the most part. The Dimensity 9000 chip does its job (this chip is the world’s first 4-nanometer architecture for mobiles), but the reason it’s able to sustain performance for longer is software improvements.
There is an artificially intelligent solution called RAM-Vita, which works in the background, using machine learning to speed up application switching and faster data transfer between RAM and the processor to run – acceleration of the pipeline improves longevity, with the obvious benefit now being how quickly the phone responds.
OnePlus also offers specific optimizations for games, including maintaining stable frame rates. We didn’t notice any general framerate drops or slowdowns even after an hour of racing on F1 Mobile Racing, and this is just one example. An observation, a noticeable heating in the middle of the rear face, at this place.
The improvements to OxygenOS, now in gen 13.1, seem like a nice course correction with subtle tweaks to make things work better. On the one hand, he felt more stable. Second, there have been no other changes in attempts to bring parity with the software that peppers Oppo’s phones, which could potentially (still) alienate long-time OnePlus users. Apps seem smoother and there are improvements in how notifications come to the phone.
The OnePlus Nord 3 will have no trouble getting you through a day of pretty heavy use, with ease. It’s a 5,000mAh battery and OnePlus has also granted proper fast charging, up to 80 watts. Theoretically that means a nearly 60 per cent battery drain in around 15 minutes, fully charged in 32 minutes and the potential for a reassuring splash and dash before rushing to a meeting.
That said, only time will tell if the company’s battery health engine helps maintain cell quality, charge cycles, and usability.
It continues to baffle how smartphone makers feature the camera combo with a 50-megapixel camera (in this case, specifically), but pair it with an 8-megapixel ultrawide and a 2 megapixel macro certainly avoidable. Our recommendation would be to stick with the main sensor and zoom or crop as needed. Easier said than done for ultra-wide shots, but it’s a trade-off you have to make.
Once you figure out that unnecessary complexity, it’s the typical OnePlus smartphone consistency with photos (we reaffirm, the main camera) that retains the kind of dynamic range that helps with realism (and some headroom for creative edits), fair amount of detail even when zoomed in, and vibrant colors that don’t compromise between different shades (not all the green on the trees will look the same).
A significant step up from the Nord 2T in many ways. The OnePlus Nord 3 had a mandate to keep pace, while progressing. That means it’s a lot faster, bigger too, and overall has a level of performance that allows it to be prominent in a crowded price bracket for Android phones.
There is some room for improvement, as is always the case with software, which, if done well, can refine usability and even give performance an extra boost. Hardware limitations, particularly secondary sensors and lack of image stabilization when recording 4K video, as well as apparent heating after a gaming session, define the trade-offs – a flagship experience, but not at the prices flagship phones.