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OnePlus Nord CE4 review: A budget phone with top-tier features

The OnePlus Nord CE4 – the first Nord phone of 2024 – is an upgrade from its predecessor but faces competition from Nothing and Poco

The OnePlus Nord CE4 is the first Nord phone to launch in 2024, starting at 24,999 for the 8GB/128GB variant (an additional 2,000 gets you double the storage but no additional memory).(OnePlus)

By Tushar Kanwar

LAST PUBLISHED 20.04.2024  |  12:00 PM IST

OnePlus sells a confusing array of phones. Not only do you have the numbered flagships and the “almost flagship" R series, but there’s also the Nord series—the mid-range “return to roots" brand for OnePlus—which has its own differently numbered variants. These are followed by a further distilled CE variant that encapsulates the “core experience" of the Nord philosophy at a lower price point, and, finally, a “CE Lite" version.

The OnePlus Nord CE4 is the first Nord phone to launch in 2024, starting at 24,999 for the 8GB/128GB variant (an additional 2,000 gets you double the storage but no additional memory). How does it fare, and more importantly, does it make a compelling case for itself against the excellent Poco X6 Pro or the Nothing Phone (2a)? Let’s find out.

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Design

Drawing inspiration from the OnePlus 11 Marble Odyssey special edition smartphone, the Nord CE4 arrives in a “Celadon Marble" green colour variant that’s quite the looker. There’s also a staid black model.

The flat frame and the mildly contoured rear panel are made of polycarbonate, but the marble finish and texture feel great and well balanced in the hand. What’s more impressive is that the phone weighs just 186g, despite the chunky 5,500mAh battery inside.

Fitted within the back panel is a vertically aligned dual camera setup with a flash, all housed within a transparent pill-shaped module that shows off the marble design beneath.

As with previous Nord CE phones, there’s no alert slider on the CE4, but the phone is IP-54 rated for protection against water splashes and rain. And since it can withstand the odd splash of water, OnePlus has baked in its AquaTouch tech, which allows the screen to be operated when partially wet or with damp fingers.

The flat, 6.7-inch AMOLED display is about par for the course —full HD+ resolution, 120Hz refresh rate with HDR10 playback on OTT apps, and while it’s not the brightest display in its price range, it is usable in the inordinately bright Bengaluru summers we have been having.

Under the hood

Powering the Nord CE4 is Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 7 Gen 3 chipset, paired with a single 8GB memory variant with up to 256GB of UFS3.1 storage, the latter expandable to up to 1TB via microSD, if you only use one of the SIM card slots.

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OnePlus’ clean OxygenOS atop Android 14 is bereft of bloatware and runs day-to-day tasks smoothly, multitasking between apps with no hiccups. Want an iOS-like Dynamic Island that floats a window on the top of the screen when you are in a supported app? Or Live Activities on the always on display? OxygenOS has a bunch of nifty features like these, inherited from Oppo’s ColorOS. But the downside is that OnePlus promises only two years of software updates and three years of security patches, which is a bit low considering three seems to be the sweet spot with Samsung and Nothing, even in this price range.

Loading up games like Call of Duty: Mobile and Asphalt 9 on the CE4, both were playable at 60 frames per second without any lags or heating issues. Where the CE4 pulls ahead is its stupendous battery life, easily delivering a day-and-a-half of moderate use or two if you are not gaming. When it does run flat, there’s 100W wired charging (with the included charger) that tops up the device from empty in under 45 minutes.

Cameras

Switching from the Nord CE3’s triple rear camera setup to a dual camera on the CE4, OnePlus jettisons the 2MP macro camera that is notorious for padding up spec sheets, instead opting for a new 50MP Sony LYT-600 sensor with image stabilisation and an 8MP Sony IMX355 ultra-wide shooter. Photos captured using the primary camera are crisp and detailed, with a good dynamic range and somewhat oversaturated, warmer tones. The ultrawide, though, leans the other way towards cooler tones, and the downgrade in image quality is noticeable. Portraits are good, with great edge detection, though the 16MP selfie shooter leaves a fair bit to be desired.

Verdict

If you are shopping in CE4 territory, the phone represents a solid upgrade from its predecessor, with a fresh coat of paint, a beefier processor and a bigger battery with faster charging. Its toughest challenges lie in its competition. Most notably, the recently launched Nothing Phone (2a), which starts at 23,999.

Objectively, the CE4 performs better across most tests, despite the 2a offering a 12GB memory variant. Battery performance and charging is the CE4’s strong suit, and while its design is fresh, the Nothing Phone (2a) is de-light-fully different.

Nothing edges ahead on overall camera performance and software support as well. Spend a little more than both, and you can pick up the Poco X6 Pro for its significantly better gaming performance, or the realme 12 Pro+ for its premium design and excellent cameras.

Tushar Kanwar, a tech columnist and commentator, posts @2shar.

Also read: OnePlus Nord 3 5G review: An upgrade in almost every other way