OnePlus released the Nord in Europe some time ago with the promise that it would eventually arrive on our US shores. They later released the OnePlus Nord N10 5G and Nord N100 in Europe with promises to eventually bring them to the US. I’ve been testing the European OnePlus Nord N10 5G, and I am quite impressed. It is an excellent phone in its own right, and it represents OnePlus returning to its roots and the approach that first put it on our radar.
The OnePlus Nord N10 5G is impressive, and there is a lot worth exploring. Before we do, though, I want to take a moment to explore why I believe this phone represents a return to OnePlus’ roots.
The OnePlus One was released in the spring of 2014. To build enthusiasm, the company only released a limited number of units. To have the “honor” of purchasing one, you had to get on a waiting list and… wait. Judie and I both got on the list and, a few weeks later, we both purchased the first OnePlus device, the OnePlus One; it was something special. The unlocked device was just $300, yet it didn’t feel like a budget or mid-tier device. When you had the OnePlus One in hand, you quickly realized that the company slogan of “Never Settle” really captured its approach. The OnePlus One felt like a premium device, but it was far less expensive than the other marquis smartphones at that time. Here are some comparison shots.
OnePlus began a regular release schedule of new devices that made clear they were planning to be around for the long term. At the same time, with each new release, OnePlus seemed to increase the price of their phones. The OnePlus 8T, for example, sells for $749. That’s still less than Apple’s latest offerings but, then again, we know that Apple’s devices are overpriced. Over time, OnePlus phones got better and better, but they also got pricier and pricier. Eventually, OnePlus’ phones were expensive enough that they began competing with devices carrying more familiar names. In the process, they lost one of their key advantages over those same better-known brands.
With the introduction of the Nord Series, OnePlus is getting back to basics. Once again, they are offering fantastic devices at prices that everyone can afford. That’s where the Nord N10 5G fits in and why it is worth serious consideration for those seeking a powerful smartphone that won’t break the bank once it arrives on US shores.
As OnePlus explains,
In case we haven’t officially met, we’re OnePlus. If you know us already, feel free to skip to the checkout page. For everyone else, allow us to introduce ourselves. Since 2014, we’ve launched 8 game-changing smartphones across more than 50 countries. Now, we’re bringing you a new mid-range line, “Nord”, and hope to continue bringing great mobile tech to more people than ever before.
So let’s take a look at the OnePlus Nord N10 5G.
When you unbox the Nord N10 5G, you are immediately met with a device that looks and feels refined. The front is all screen, although you can see the front-facing camera in the upper left corner. It’s not a huge disruption of the otherwise pristine display, but it is noticeable. I’ve never been bothered by the cutouts and disruptions that result from accommodating a large, edge-to-edge display and a front-facing camera; if you are a purist who is easily disturbed by such things, you have been warned. You can, of course, “hide” the camera cutout by going into the settings and changing the advanced display settings, but that adds an upper bezel to the display. This balances the large bezel at the bottom of the screen but is, in my opinion, an unnecessary loss of screen real estate.
The 6.49” LCD display has a resolution of 2400 by 1080 pixels resulting in a pixel density of 405ppi. Using an LCD is an interesting choice that may initially disappoint some potential buyers. That is especially so when one considers that most OnePlus phones have AMOLED screens. Obviously, this was done to shave something from the price. It isn’t a huge compromise when using it on its own, although, when placed next to a premium phone with an AMOLED screen, I have little doubt the differences will be easy to see. But that’s the thing, who places phones side by side in daily life? The obvious answer is no one, and, that being the case, the screen is more than enough! Movies and photos look great, and the 90Hz refresh rate makes everything look and scroll beautifully. I’ve encountered no notable slowdowns or lockups.
On the right side, there is a power/sleep/wake button.
On the left side, there is a volume rocker and the sim/expandable storage slot. At the top of the phone, there is a pinhole for the microphone.
And if you look hard enough, you can see the small, thin grill behind which sits one of the two speakers. The speaker grill is so thin and designed so well that you won’t know it is there until you try to watch a video with the phone in landscape. When you do, though, you will be delighted by the audio this phone delivers!
At the bottom of the phone is the USB-C charging port, the grill for the second speaker, a microphone, and… a 3.5mm headphone jack! Yes, this phone has one of those!!
The back of the phone has a soft curve that lets it taper a bit on either side. It’s aesthetically pleasing but, more than that, it makes such a large phone easier and more comfortable to hold. The back is plastic, but its quality is such that I didn’t initially think that was so. The midnight ice blue finish is gorgeous, and it feels as solid as phones with pricier glass backs. The OnePlus name sits toward the bottom of the phone back, and the company logo is almost in the center. Directly above the OnePlus logo is the fingerprint reader. The lack of the in-screen fingerprint reader seen on OnePlus’ flagships might seem like a significant downgrade, but I’m kinda digging the “old school” fingerprint reader; it is fast, convenient, and works well.
The now-ubiquitous camera bump takes up a portion of the back’s upper left side. Four cameras and a flash are great to have on a phone, but the bump to accommodate them, something we see everywhere these days, is hideous.
Missing from the N10 5G is the toggle to silence the phone. I don’t really miss it, but I wish more companies would add dedicated camera shutter buttons to their devices. When the camera app is open, the volume buttons will perform this action, but they are not located in a position that makes them practical when using your phone to take a series of pictures.
The bottom line to all this is that, from an outward perspective, there is nothing budget or mid-tier about this phone. It looks and feels like a premium device. Digging a bit deeper reveals some key features that one would not expect to find in a “budget” device. These include Warp charge 30T (more in a moment), 5G Ready, a 90 Hz Smooth Display, 6GB RAM, 128GB Storage with the ability to add storage via a microSD card, and dual stereo speakers.
Let’s run down some of these features:
Warp Charge 30T: The N10 5G doesn’t have Qi wireless charging. This is likely another of the ways OnePlus kept the price down. To a large degree, the Warp Charge 30T compensates for the lack of wireless charging by giving you a full day’s charge in just half an hour. That requires you to use the included adapter and cable. Other adapters and cables will deliver a different, likely slower, speed. So while the lack of wireless charging may turn some people off, the large capacity battery and the Warp Charge 30T go a long way to compensate for this. Just don’t lose the stock wall adapter or the included cable!
5G Compatibility: The next big chapter of mobile technology is currently rolling out. It’s not as easily recognized since it isn’t a new smartphone design or a tablet that breaks new ground, but 5G is huge news. The N10 5G’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 chipset powered by an octa-core CPU makes the N10 5G ready to take full advantage of the 5G network as it expands. I’m glad this was NOT one of the ways OnePlus kept costs down.
A 90 Hz Refresh Rate: I don’t usually dig into specs in my reviews. Many people are fascinated by them, but what really matters is the experience of using the device; specs alone do not an experience make. At the same time, the 90Hz refresh rate of the N10 5G’s display is worth noting. Yes, as OnePlus notes, it means this “display refreshes 50% faster than standard 60 Hz displays” (excellent use of math), but what it really means is a display that is more responsive and smoother than you would expect. Most people assume mid-tier phones will be a bit slow to respond and a bit jumpy when scrolling. That is not the case with the N10 5G; it delivers an experience that feels like you are using a premium device.
Stereo Speakers: As someone who uses headphones much of the time, I’ve never been one to care about the speakers on my phone. However, I will admit that the stereo speakers built into the N10 5G make a huge difference. I watched a few videos on the phone during testing and the experience, particularly when the phone is in landscape mode where the speakers are to the left and to the right, and it is quite nice. Still, if you get this phone, I would encourage you to use some of the money you saved to buy a really good pair of headphones — wired or wireless, since either will work.
The Cameras: One of the most surprising aspects of the N10 5G is the camera array. The phone has four rear cameras. The main camera is a 64MP shooter. It sits alongside a 119 degree ultra-wide, a macro, and a monochrome lens. I don’t really get the monochrome lens. Why would I want to shoot in black and white and be stuck with “only” black and white when I can shoot in color and then convert it to black and white? The macro camera is also a bit of a mystery to me. And while I like the IDEA of the macro camera, the fact that it is only a 2MP shooter means it delivers what one might expect with a 2MP camera.
The main 64MP camera and the 119 degree ultra-wide are, however, impressive. That is especially true when you consider this is a mid-level phone.
It is worth noting that the main camera shoots at 16MP by default. That is more than sufficient for most situations, but it is good to know that you can shoot at the full 64MP when necessary. The 10X digital zoom does a good job of letting you get closer than ever to your subject, and the HDR effect works well.
The OnePlus Nord N10 5G also has a low-light mode they call Nightscape. I wasn’t super impressed, but I’ll let you decide based on these images. Each was taken with minimal light and no flash.
The zoom works decently, but, as one might expect, as you zoom further in, the picture quality rapidly degrades.
Overall, the cameras look impressive on paper, but — while they get the job done — they aren’t the phone’s biggest selling point by any measure.
All told, from a numbers perspective, the phone is a bit of a mixed bag. Thankfully, from a user perspective, the numbers don’t really make a difference. This phone ran smoothly and handled pretty much anything I threw at it. The Snapdragon 690 processor isn’t as fast or powerful as the Snapdragon 765 chipset found in phones like the Pixel 4A or even the OnePlus Nord, but it doesn’t seem to matter in actual usage.
That may be the result of the N10 5G having a respectable 6GB RAM. This is paired with a large 4,300mAh battery. I haven’t done any formal battery tests, but I easily got through a day with plenty of battery life to spare. That’s what happens when a phone with a slower processor and power-hungry screen is paired with the same size battery as the OnePlus 8T.
Judie reviewed the OnePlus 8T recently and was impressed. That flagship came with Android 11 and an updated version of OxygenOS, OnePlus’ unique interface. Unfortunately, the N10 5G has an older version of OxygenOS and only runs Android 10. I figure that is the “price” you pay for a phone with a lower price tag. Besides, for most consumers, that really isn’t a big deal. Also, OnePlus has been fairly good at releasing updates, so their promise to support this phone for two years suggests it will see updates at some point.
I love this phone, but there’s no arguing the OnePlus Nord N10 5G cuts a few corners to keep the price down. These include:
- An LCD rather than OLED display
- No in-screen fingerprint sensor
- Powered by an older and slower processor than other 2020 OnePlus phones
- No wireless charging
- No water resistance
- Runs the older Android 10 OS and OxygenOS 10.5
- It has no alert slider
Corners were cut to keep the price down, but I don’t care. This phone looks and feels like a premium device. It has 5G, a large 90Hz display, a massive 4300 mAh battery, expandable memory, it takes dual SIMs, and it has a headphone jack. It also feels great in hand. The OnePlus Nord N10 5G runs well into a second day before needing to be charged; it doesn’t stutter or lock up, and it outputs a rather impressive stereo sound. When it arrives in the US, you will be able to purchase two or perhaps three N10 5Gs for less than I paid for my iPhone 12.
If you are a fan of OnePlus devices, or if you want an Android phone that will get the job done but won’t break the bank, check out the OnePlus Nord N10 5G when it finally arrives in the US. With the N10 5G, OnePlus went back to its roots. And that’s a very good thing!
The OnePlus Nord N10 5G sells for $299.99; it is available directly from the manufacturer.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Mid-tier pricing for a phone that feels premium; Big battery; 3.5mm headphone jack; 90Hz refresh rate; 5G ready; Advanced camera technology; Dual stereo speakers
What Needs Improvement: Noticeable cost-cutting can be found in the lack of wireless charging, water, and dust proofing, and the use of an LCD display; No longer has a notification toggle; Camera array looks impressive but yields results that are fine but not great