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OnePlus Nord CE 3 5G review: Should you ignore the pricier Nord 3?

OnePlus used to be the brand that only made flagship killers, but now it has a whole family of Nord phones that cater to different budget segments and needs. The latest addition is the Nord CE 3 5G, which looks like a twin of the Nord 3 launched last month, but with some compromises in the specs department to bring down the price. Is this phone worth your money? Let’s find out.

A surge of Aqua

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 5G comes in two colours – Aqua Surge and Grey Shimmer. I’m glad I was lent the former for the review because I am obsessed with the way it looks. The phone’s back is sleek and simple, with a refreshing hue that does not play any optical tricks or sparkle like a disco ball like many of the other phones out there – it’s simply all blue. I could gush about the colour for hours, but I should also mention that the phone feels as premium as it looks, with a sturdy build and a nearly bezel-less front.

oneplus nord ce 3 5g review 1 Nearly uniform bezels. (Image: Zohaib Ahmed/Indian Express)

At the top of the phone, you also get an IR blaster, which when paired with the pre-installed IR Remote app, pushed me to neglect my air conditioner’s OG remote in a dark corner of the room.

Special attention to accessories

oneplus nord ce 3 5g review 2 A case you’d never want to take off. (Image: Zohaib Ahmed/Indian Express)

OnePlus also knows how to pamper its customers with the best accessories. The Nord CE 3 5G comes with a premium rubberised case in the box that does an excellent job of making you want to never take it off, with its comfy in-hand feel and cheerful colour. It’s simply not easy to find a high-quality case these days, so if you aren’t selling official cases separately, just include it in the box, please. The rubberised case also doesn’t turn oily after a day’s use like silicone cases do, which is a blessing for hygiene freaks like me.

A non-flagship chip that performs like one

Under the hood, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 5G packs the Snapdragon 782G chipset, which is a souped-up version of the Snapdragon 778G. The phone achieves a respectable AnTuTu benchmark score of around 6,50,000, which is decent for a mid-range phone. The score paired with OxygenOS’s excellent optimisation ensures that the phone’s performance in day-to-day tasks is virtually indistinguishable from flagship phones.

oneplus nord ce 3 5g review 4 The 5,000mAh battery charges from 0-100 per cent in an hour and lasts a full day. (Image: Zohaib Ahmed/Indian Express)

However, gaming performance is a different story. When you crank up the graphics settings on BGMI, you can tell that this is a mid-range device. The highest frame rate (Extreme graphic setting) is only available on the lowest graphics quality.

Where’s the bloatware?

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 runs OxygenOS 13.1 (based on Android 13) and it’s easily one of my favourite Android skins. Sure, it has some flaws, like the app drawer that refuses to budge from its 4-column layout, the annoying reminders that you have cleared all apps (as if you didn’t know), and the clunky status bar. But overall the software is still a skin done right.

oneplus nord ce 3 5g review software One of the cleanest Android skins? (Express image)

For starters, it lets you customise almost everything. With the right combination of wallpaper and theme, I managed to make the phone look as blue as a Smurf, both from the back and the front. Then there’s the clean and simple interface, which reminds me a bit of stock Android, especially when the icons are set circular. I also appreciated the lack of bloatware, which made the app drawer look neat and tidy.

Point and shoot delight

From what I can tell, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 5G and its pricier sibling, the OnePlus Nord 3, feature identical camera systems. That means a 50MP primary + 8MP ultrawide + 2MP macro array at the back and a 16MP sensor upfront. The main sensor uses the Sony IMX890, which is a near-flagship sensor that’s hard to find at this price range.

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It can capture amazing shots with minimal effort, whether you’re in bright sunlight or dim lighting. The only flaw I noticed was some over-sharpening, but that’s a minor issue. The colours are also natural and realistic, just the way I prefer them.

Verdict

oneplus nord ce 3 5g review 3 The OnePlus Nord CE 3 5G in Aqua Surge. (Image: Zohaib Ahmed/Indian Express)

All in all, the Nord CE 3 5G is a stunning deal that gives you a lot of bang for your buck. It’s positioned below the now-crowded Rs 30,000 price point but doesn’t skimp on anything important. It also looks and snaps just like the Rs 34K OnePlus Nord 3, except with a more wallet-friendly processor. That’s not an issue in the slightest, though, if you don’t game on your phone because it’s impossible to tell the difference in everyday use. Even the battery size and charging speeds are identical.

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But if you’re obsessed with performance, then you might want to check out the Poco F5, which features a near-flagship chip called the Snapdragon 7 Gen 2. Or if you prefer a metal body and water resistance, then the Moto Edge 40 might be your cup of tea.

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