OnePlus has expanded its low-cost Nord lineup with the new N10 5G, but the second Nord phone is not the cost-effective mid-range phone its older sibling was.
While the Nord from this summer proved that an excellent phone could cost $600, the new N10 demonstrates what corners shouldn’t be cut when making a budget phone.
As far as low-cost devices go, the Nord N10 5G is fine, but compared to the excellent OnePlus Nord, it’s a considerable letdown.
What makes this a Nord
OnePlus is making big moves by launching two new low-cost phones in the U.K., with North American availability coming at a later date.
However, it’s not worth waiting for these devices since they don’t offer a lot that isn’t already covered by current low-cost phones in the North American market.
The N10 5G packs an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 chipset, which falls well behind the first Nord’s Snapdragon 765G in terms of power. That said, playing relatively resource-intensive mobile games like Mario Kart Tour and Call of Duty Mobile on the N10 didn’t result in any lag. Using apps was also fairly smooth. I wouldn’t say that the apps open at a blistering pace, but once they load, you can use them as you would on any smartphone.
There is also 6GB of RAM in the new Nord, which is enough for most day-to-day tasks, but as I mentioned above, the phone isn’t the fastest mid-range device I’ve used.
Sadly, the OnePlus Nord N10 5G also has terrible haptic feedback. While I usually like to leave vibration turned on for my keyboard, I had to turn it off with this Nord because it was too intense. This is an understandable tradeoff to keep the phone’s price low, but I wish the vibration was a little more nuanced.
All of this is packed into a plastic shell that OnePlus calls ‘Midnight Ice,’ which in reality, is a really dark and glossy navy blue. This gives the phone a less than ideal feel in your hand compared to OnePlus’ high-end glass and metal phones, but I can forgive this since the device has such a low price. It should be mentioned that it’s also a fingerprint magnet.
The buttons are clicky, which is nice, but OnePlus didn’t add the alert slider this time around. This is disappointing given the rest of the company’s phones feature one.
On the bottom, there is a USB-C port capable of using OnePlus’ proprietary 30-watt warp charging tech. This can top up the Nord N10 5G’s phenomenal 4,300 mAh battery relatively quickly, which is nice to see on such a low-cost device. The phone easily lasts all day, and I was often surprised at how much battery I had left at the end of each day.
There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack and a speaker. The speaker gets quite loud, but the sound is a bit too crisp for my liking. That said, considering the price of this phone, it’s actually quite competitive with the OnePlus 8T and the iPhone 11.
The phone’s front features a massive 6.49-inch LCD screen with a 406ppi resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate. The screen is pretty nice, but it isn’t as vibrant as the OnePlus 8T from earlier this year. That said, for a $600 phone, it’s not bad and I’d argue it’s comparable to the excellent LCD display featured in the iPhone 11. There’s also a small hole punch display in the top left corner of the phone, just like OnePlus’ other phones from 2020.
The OnePlus Camera crusade
OnePlus has once again loaded this phone with a bunch of unnecessary cameras. That’s not to say all of the cameras are bad, but more of a “why are there four cameras in a budget phone?” question.
On a positive note, the 8-megapixel wide-angle lens and the 64-megapixel primary camera are perfect examples of OnePlus excelling at smartphone photography. These cameras take detailed images, and the 119-degree ultrawide is one of the better ultrawide angle lenses the company has featured in one of its smartphones.
I’ve been a fan of OnePlus’ camera since the 7T, and the fact that this Nord competes with that level of quality is astonishing. On top of that, OnePlus’s camera app is well laid out and offers a variety of useful modes like ‘Nightscape’ and ‘Portrait.’
On the other hand, the monochrome and macro cameras are still questionable add-ons for the very remote circumstances that those two cameras get used. For instance, I use OnePlus phones all the time, and I never even remember that these cameras are there since I rarely use them.
The monochrome is honestly the weirdest addition since almost no other devices even have this and everyone has accepted that shooting with a black and white filter is better, especially since all other cameras on major phones feature a higher megapixel count than the two-megapixel monochrome sensor. I really can’t help but think that this is only here so that OnePlus can say that this phone has a quad-camera array.
My thoughts on the macro camera echo how I feel about the monochrome lens. It can take interesting close-up shots, but it’s not a worthwhile addition to this phone.
I know it’s impossible to make trades, but if I could swap out these two cameras for an AMOLED screen or a processor upgrade, I think it would make this phone a much better value.
OnePlus’ latest Nord smartphone isn’t the dream mid-range device that its older sibling was. It’s not bad, but it has some considerable tradeoffs.
The N10 5G is a low-cost contender
Beyond its two decent cameras and the solid yet plastic build quality, there’s a lot to love about the N10 5G.
As I said before, the phone has a massive 4,300 mAh battery that easily lasts for a day and a half or more with regular usage. This is the biggest win for this low-cost phone. Beyond that, the main and wide-angle cameras are super great for such a cheap phone.
The rear-mounted fingerprint sensor is also fast and responsive. I’d say it is about twice as fast as the OnePlus 8T.
I am upset that OnePlus decided to ship this phone with Android 10 instead of the company’s excellent Android 11 skin. Nonetheless, Android 10 is still a relatively modern version of Android. OnePlus says the Nord N10 will get updated to Android 11 at some point and it will receive two years of security updates.
The Nord N10 has 5G connectivity, but that new network standard isn’t really prevalent enough yet for it to be worth factoring into a phone buying decision.
When it comes down to it, the Nord N10 is a solid low-cost phone. It’s snappy enough to be used as a daily driver but it’s not masquerading as a flagship-level phone like the original Nord, unfortunately.
That said, the Nord N10 5G competes with other phones in the $500-$600 price range and outdoes almost all of them, except for the excellent and cheaper Google Pixel 4a. While the first Nord was a mid-range phone competing in a flagship space, the N10 5G feels like a low-cost phone masquerading as a mid-range device
"When it comes down to it, the Nord N10 is a solid low-cost phone"