OnePlus Nord CE4 Review: A robust, reliable smartphone with refreshing design

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New Delhi: You cannot help but feel a bit excited every time you open up a box with a red cable in it. Sure this may not be a flagship or a special edition, but the core editions always have something special to offer beyond the promise of delivering the essential smartphone experience. OnePlus entered the market as a midrange offering that could take on the top end flagships, but could never settle on an appropriate price point. The OnePlus Nord lineup fulfills that promise to a great extent, particularly when it comes to the core edition devices.

What is in the box. (Image Credit: Aditya Madanapalle/News9).

There is no pricing for the device on the box, but the OnePlus Nord CE should be available at around the 25K price point. In the box is the device itself along with a soft silicone case, the SIM ejector tool, the red charging cable, a card for the Red Cable Club, a sticker, the instruction manuals, a proof of ownership certificate, and a rather hefty adapter. There is no 3.5 mm audio jack in the device, and we really, really wish that the box included an adapter for a USB 3.0 to 3.5 mm audio jack. You just know looking at this massive brick that can easily work as a doorstopper or a weapon that the fast charging is going to be just great. The device is pretty eye catching too.

Build and Design

The device comes in two finishes, or what OnePlus refers to as ‘colourways’. There is a Dark Chrome oone, and a Celadon Marble one. We got the Celadon Marble one, and once again OnePlus is offering a pretty unique finish. The case of the phone itself looks like a cover, and surprisingly enough the cover looks like it could be a phone case. There is a lime green and white pattern, similar to a slab of marble. However, it is far, far more shiny than marble, with a fine-grained glitter texture that catches the light in interesting ways.

The marbled texture catches the light in interesting ways. (Image Credit: Aditya Madanapalle/News9).

The glass on the back curves at the edges to fit into the frame, with a similar approach used for the camera island. The camera island on the back has a pair of cameras, a wide angle lens and the primary shooter. The third circle is the flash, which is a nice, large, white ring flash. Here, we really liked the camera island, which does not extrude too much from the back of the device. The camera island is not similar to the Nord CE3, but is similar to the Nord CE2, only instead of a squarish layout, OnePlus has opted for a straight bar with rounded ends for the Nord CE4.

The camera island does not extrude too much from the back. (Image Credit: Aditya Madanapalle/News9).

The frame itself has a metallic lime green finish which complements the Celadon Marble colourway. On the bottom edge is a speaker grille to the right, the charging port right in the middle, and the SIM tray towards the right. The microphone is nested between the charging port and the SIM tray. There are no buttons on the left side of the device, while the right side has the volume rocker buttons and the power buttons. The fingerprint sensor is located underneath the punch-hole display, for the benefit of the selfie shooter. There is another microphone on the top of the frame, along with with a speaker grille, which is just a single perforation.

The volume rocker and power buttons are located on the right side. (Image Credit: Aditya Madanapalle/News9).

The device has a height of 16.25 cm, a width of 7.53 cm and measures 0.84 cm in thickness. It weighs about 186 grams, with the screen emasuring 17.02 cm or 6.7 inches across. This is a reasonably large screen for consuming content. However, the device is light enough and sleek enough to comfortably fit in your pocket. The screen has fairly thick bevels, and there are phones with edge-to-edge displays in the segment, but not many. Just pushing the screen-to-body ratio and passing over the cost to the consumers is not something that is appreciated too much by the market anyway, so we think this was a sensible choice.

The SIM tray has a solid build quality. We also liked the emoji in the SIM eject tool. (Image Credit: Aditya Madanapalle/News9).

In all, this is a solid device. There are no problems with the quality of the materials used, and the device is vibrant and bright, and this is for the finish as well, not just the AMOLED display. The buttons feel strong, without any wonkyness. One of the things that we examine to understand the build quality of the phone is the SIM tray. These are mostly hidden away, but they can often be too bendy and made up of cheap quality materials. The OnePlus Nord CE4 has one of the most robust SIM trays that we have seen, with a metal skeleton holding the whole thing together. The device can support two SIM cards, or a SIM card and a memory card to expand the storage.

Performance

The Nord CE4 features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 7 Gen 3 Mobile Platform, with a Qualcomm Kryo CPU clocked at 2.64 GHz, paired with an Adreno 720 GPU. The chipset is supported with 8GB of LPDDR4x RAM. There are two variants available when it comes to storage, with consumers having the option of choosing between 128GB and 256GB versions. The smartphone is powered by a 5,500 mAh battery. These are adequate specifications for the device to handle anything that is thrown at it.

There is no 3.5 mm jack on the device. (Image Credit: Aditya Madanapalle/News9).

One of the things that you notice straight away is just how fast and responsive the device is, for the most part. There are hardly and freezes, stutters or lags while using the device. It is also possible to multitask, without any problems with either the background or the foreground app. You can play Smashkarts while using Discord comms, and you can just as easily play Codenames on a web browser with Clubhouse running in the background. It is also possible to talk on the phone with the speaker while playing a game. There is no deterioration in the performance of either the foreground app or the background app.

There is a tiny speaker grille on the top, but one that packs a punch. (Image Credit: Aditya Madanapalle/News9).

The vibrant and bright screen goes a long way in reproducing the textures and lighting in games, making the digital experiences visually stunning. We tried Asphalt 9 and BGMI on the phone, and the responsiveness of the phone certainly enhanced the experience, if not providing an edge in the actual gameplay. Very rarely, we noticed some slight framing and freezes, but the phone recovered from these within milliseconds. One of the things that we really liked was that the device never heated up, even during stress tests. There was a slight heating to the right of the camera island, but that was about it. The phone does not become unbearably hot or an iron box.

The left side of the device has no buttons. The device hardly heats up under heavy use. (Image Credit: Aditya Madanapalle/News9).

Now there is a bit of bloat on the system, but not much. Both Netflix and YouTube Music are preinstalled on the system, which is okay, if not outright useful. There is also the Agoda app along with a bunch of games – Bubble Pop!, Tile Match and Word Connect. These games are probably there are part of tie-ups, do not even showcase the hardware, and may just be flimsy excuses to deliver ads. Apart from these, there are is no bloatware on the phone. Here is a look at some synthetic benchmarks.

OnePlus Nord CE4 Benchmarks. (Image Credit: Aditya Madanapalle/News9).

The battery lasts for almost 17 hours of continuous use on a single charge, which is incredibly impressive. This is a phone that can easily go for three days without requiring a top up. What is even more impressive is the fast charger. That massive brick of an adapter that we talked about earlier? Well, that supports 100 watt ‘supervooc’ charging, which provides the same charging speed as the OnePlus 12R. The fast charging is so great that it can juice up the device to 100 per cent within 30 minutes. We actually clocked it going from 20 to 50 per cent in just three minutes.

The area to the right of the camera island heats up just a little bit. (Image Credit: Aditya Madanapalle/News9).

One thing that the OnePlus Nord CE really excels at is the everyday tasks, such as working with spreadsheets or word documents. The incredible responsiveness adds to the ease of use. Even large spreadsheets load easily on the device, and it is possible to navigate through the various sheets rapidly, including using functions such as find and search and replace. When it comes to the editing apps, the device does struggle a bit when it comes to editing 4K video, but that is expected for a mid-range device. We also noticed that the loading times was on the longer side for graphically intensive titles, but the games played well once they started.

The portrait mode effect is pretty good. (Image Credit: Aditya Madanapalle/News9).

OnePlus has provided a versatile camera kit without explicitly including a telephoto lens in the offering. The low-light performance is good enough for both the wide angle lens as well as the primary shooter. Switching between the primary shooter and the telephoto setting is fast and smooth, but there is a bit of a lag when switching to the wide angle camera from either of these options.

The stacking by the camera allows the depth of field to be modified after a capture. (Image Credit: Aditya Madanapalle/News9).

One feature that we really liked was the ability to adjust the depth of field for portrait mode shots after capturing an image. The camera does this by capturing a series of images, or what is termed as image stacking, so if you are capturing subjects that are moving rapidly, such as children or pets, then the actual images can change as you change the depth of field. Still, apart from this small niggle, the depth of field effect after capturing an image works like a charm. There is also a dual mode video capture mode for creators, who can shoot themselves along with whatever is in front of the camera at the same time.

The different zoom levels of the camera kit. (Image Credit: Aditya Madanapalle/News9).

OnePlus always makes it a point to provide users with granular control options when available, and the Pro mode of the camera is a great example of this. Users can individually control the sensor speed, the shutter speed, the exposure, the focal length and the white balance, all from a handy interface. When each of these options are tapped, a slider shows up that allows you to choose the appropriate setting. This mode provides users with plenty of room for experimentation, and we really wish all smartphones had these settings instead of relying on AI to adjust the settings depending on the subject.

The camera kit is pretty versatile. (Image Credit: Aditya Madanapalle/News9).

We recorded the device reaching a maximum volume of 97 decibels, which is definitely beyond safe listening levels, but something that is a major demand in the Indian market. The Nord CE4 works as a great multimedia consumption device, and is loud enough to fill a room. The bass is not really punchy, but is well defined. The highs and mids are well represented. We were suspicious of the speaker grille on the top because of how small it is, but the smartphone does do a good job at providing a stereo experience. There are no connectivity issues when using wireless audio devices.

The tiny speaker grille manages to pull of stereo sound that can fill a room. (Image Credit: Aditya Madanapalle/News9).

We have always found biometric authentication to be a bit tricky, especially when it comes to the fancy new tech such as under-display fingerprint scanners or fingerprint scanners integrated into the power buttons. On the Nord CE4 though, the unlocking works smoothly, and like a charm every time. Since there is both face id and fingerprint unlocking at the same time, either one can kick in and unlock the phone earlier. There is an icon displayed on top of the screen to direct users to the specific location to place the finger on. The biometrics on this device works, and works reliably.

Verdict

One of the things that we were super impressed by is just how fast the charging is. The fast charging is not the only feature that OnePlus has borrowed for this device from its flagship, there is also the RAM-Vita tech. This is the tech that ensures that switching between apps and starting up new apps does not interrupt your workflow. We guess this is the reason why multitasking is so smooth and just works so well on the Nord CE4.

We were impressed by how smooth and responsive the device is. (Image Credit: Aditya Madanapalle/News9).

Another thing that we were impressed by was the camera. Apart from the granular control options, and the ability to modify the depth of field after capturing an image, it is the speed at which you can go from phone in pocket to image captured that makes a big difference when it comes to capitalising on opportunities to capture something fleeting. The image stabilisation also ensures that the images are not blurry when you have zoomed in. The camera kit is versatile enough for you to capture images in most situations. We just wish that the front facing camera was a bit wider though, to accommodate group selfies.

This is the first Nord device with Oxygen OS 14. (Image Credit: Aditya Madanapalle/News9).

OnePlus has committed to providing two major Android updates, as well as a third year of security updates. This is a device that can easily last for four years or more, provided it is cared for. This is an incredibly competitive segment, and one big contender in the category is the Nothing Phone 2a, just for its incredible design. We would still prefer the Nord CE4 here for the charging, and the fact that it ships with a charging adapter in the box. The Realme 12 Pro has a great telephoto lens, and that should be the alternative to consider if a telephoto shooter is a priority for the device.

The OnePlus Nord CE4 can easily last for four years. (Image Credit: Aditya Madanapalle/News9).

All things considered, OnePlus has provided a good mix of features, focusing on just the right things that is demanded in the category. The stereo speakers, the versatile camera kit, and the large screen all make it a great device to both consume and produce multimedia experiences. This is a solid and reliable phone on the performance front, and you will not find yourself interrupted or irritated by random bugs, glitches, freezes or lags. The device multitasks beautifully, and as such is an easy recommendation for the price bracket.

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