OnePlus, once used to compete with the flagship smartphones by releasing its “Flagship killers” to provide premium hardware at much lower prices. The brand has changed from a flagship killer brand to a more premium one. Like every other premium brand, OnePlus has also started to compete in the mid-range segment. The Nord lineup is for those who desire to own a OnePlus but don't want to spend too much. OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is one of the smartphones from the brand to compete in the sub 20,000 rupees smartphone category.
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite Review
So what does the Nord CE 3 Lite offers at the price that other smartphones at this price don't? We will answer this question in this in-depth review of the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite. But first, let's see what accessories you get inside the retail box of this smartphone.
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite: Unboxing
The unboxing experience of the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is as premium as the high-end devices. Here is the list of all the accessories you get with the smartphone.
- OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite
- A silicon case
- OnePlus-themed Red Type C cable
- An 80-watt wall adapter
- Sim card tray ejector
- Quick Start Guide
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite: Design and Build
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite comes in a fresh new color called Pastel Lime that we haven't seen in a while. This color is very different from what you think of lime color, as it is a very pale version. The brand tried to match the frame with this new color but couldn't. The rear panel is polycarbonate but doesn't feel like one; it has a smooth finish on top. You cannot tell if it is a polycarbonate panel, even if you hold it. The edges are flat, which I am not a big fan of because it makes the phone feel blocky and makes one-hand usage more difficult.
The phone's rear is populated with two large camera modules, which look modern and give the smartphone a premium feel. The OnePlus Logo looks very contrasty against the device's lime color. OnePlus' signature alert slider is not available on most Nord phones, and this phone is no exception. Apart from that, you get all the buttons and ports you expect on the phone. It has volume buttons, a SIM tray slot on the left, a power button with a built-in fingerprint sensor on the right, and a secondary microphone hole on the top. The bottom edge comprises the loudspeaker, Type-C port, microphone hole, and 3.5mm audio port.
The smartphone is 195 grams, and most of the weight is concentrated on the bottom half where the battery is. It is 8.3mm thick and gives a better hand feel, and the phone looks sleek. There is a case provided in the box, which is a clear silicon case to protect the smartphone against scratches. You also get a screen protector pre-applied to the smartphone, so there is no need to buy a screen guard, at least for a few months. OnePlus gave deep thought to this design and improved it greatly since last year.
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite: Display
The display that OnePlus choose here is very popular among smartphones in this price range. You get a large 6.7 inches LCD with FHD+ resolution. It has a 120Hz high refresh rate and 240Hz touch sampling rate to keep the interface smooth and fast. There are a few exceptions in the market where you get AMOLED display, but you won't get the high refresh rate sweetness there. The display has very thin bezels on either side, but the bezel thickens on the top, and the bottom looks oddly more than the sides.
This display scored over 300 LUX on the brightness meter, a decent score at this price. You will easily be able to read the content of this display outdoors under the sunlight. However, the experience may deteriorate under direct sunlight, but overall it is a good brightness for outdoor usage. This display supports the sRGB and Display P3 color range; there is a setting that lets you change the color profiles for more vivid colors.
Overall the display is great and best for the price you are getting it for. However, I would have traded the high refresh rate for AMOLED for better contrast. A high refresh rate has no better use in a smartphone running a budget chipset.
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite: Performance
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite comes with Snapdragon 695, one of the most popular processors in this price range. Paired with this processor, we get 8GB RAM and 256GB internal storage. It is a UFS 2.2 storage for smoother multitasking and quicker app loading. The storage can be expanded to 1TB using a microSD card. The phone runs smoothly for the most part, with no lags or stutters so far. A RAM expansion feature in the settings lets you increase the RAM by using a few gigabytes of your smartphone's storage.
Now when coming to real-life performance and synthetic benchmarks, the chip performed great. The AnTuTu benchmark score was 411831, which is a bit higher for this chipset. The thermals are where the smartphone seems to be lacking; when we ran the throttle test, it throttled to 79 percent of its max performance. But if you don't go by the numbers, we had no issues with the performance so far. It can easily hold a lot of apps in the background, and switching to them won't reload the apps, which is great.
We played several games, including Call of Duty and Asphalt 9. Call of Duty Mobile ran smoothly with 60 fps on Very high Graphics, and I found no stutter or frame drops. But the Asphalt 9 experience wasn't smooth at all. We only got 30 fps on the game on the Default graphics settings. So if you only do some casual gaming, you will not be disappointed by the performance of the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite.
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite: Camera
OnePlus carried on its camera strategies from last year and provided a triple-camera setup, from which you only get one usable camera. It has a 108MP main sensor, a 2MP macro camera, and a 2MP depth sensor. It got a 16MP shooter placed as the center punch hole on display for selfies. The 108 MP sensor at the back is from Samsung, the only useable sensor; the other two sensors are just there as supporting actors.
The 108 MP sensor at the rear works great; it captures great details, but color accuracy is a big issue with this sensor. The colors come out very inconsistent, and the pictures lose details as soon as you step inside. There are many instances where the camera captures very pale colors of the same object we took a few seconds ago. It feels like the camera app uses machine learning techniques to increase color saturation.
The macro and depth sensors are just there to increase the camera count on the smartphone. We captured some macro images and found the results to be very decent for the most part. OnePlus could have easily replaced these two 2MP sensors with a good ultrawide sensor that would have been more practical than a macro camera.
Regarding video recording, it can only do 1080p at 30fps max, which is okay as it is the maximum quality the chipset can handle. It comes with EIS for video stabilization which works as intended and is good enough for shaky hands. Overall the camera is the only part that disappointed me in various ways, but I think a software patch can solve most issues with this camera. If the camera is one desired feature in your list, you can get much better options than OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite.
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite: Software
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite comes with Oxygen OS 13.1 based on Android 13, and since we know Oxygen OS is ColorOS, we found a few traces. There was an app that you only find in OPPO smartphones running Color OS; HotFreeGames. But after an update, this has been completely removed from the app drawer, which is good. But we still have to live with the fact that Oxygen OS is gone, and you are no longer getting a “near-to-stock” experience on a OnePlus smartphone.
Apart from that, the OS is smooth and responsive on this 120Hz display, but I found that not every app can take full advantage of this high refresh rate display. Even Google Chrome is capped at 90Hz, so you don't get that 120Hz smoothness in scrolling on the web pages. There are many good features in this new OxygenOS 13, like opening apps on the popup window, customizable icons, and more.
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite: Loudspeaker
Usually, we don't add a loudspeaker section in any review, but this smartphone has a unique feature. It has a stereo speaker setup where the earpiece is used as a secondary loudspeaker. And while playing any media through the smartphone speakers, the volume goes to 200 percent. This makes the smartphone sound way louder than a regular smartphone loudspeaker. Of course, enabling 200 percent volume brings down clarity, but at least you are getting a feature.
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite: Battery
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite has a 5000 mAh battery with 67 Watt SUPERVOOC charging support. The smartphone has an 80-watt charging brick that charges 100 percent in 30 minutes. It can charge up to 80 percent, which is impressively quick charging. The smartphone can easily give you a longer screen on time than most smartphones in this price range. If you are not a gamer or an intensive user, you will easily get more than a day of usage on this smartphone.
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite: Pros and Cons
After spending my time with the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite, here are the Pros and Cons to summarise my review:
- Premium design
- Large 120Hz display
- Large battery
- 67Watt Fast charging with 80Watt charging brick
- Camera performance is inconsistent and mediocre
- The refresh rate is capped at 90Hz in a few apps
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite provides good value for money and a premium-looking design. There are a lot of smartphones in this price range that provides similar specifications but with a much better camera. If you don't care about the camera that much, then the Nord CE 3 Lite will be a great choice for INR 19,999.
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