A step in the right direction?
OnePlus sent us the Nord 3 for review. It’s been so long actually. We have been dreaming of holding a OnePlus phone since the 3T hit the scene back in 2016. We keep ourselves up to date with news articles about the company, even when Oppo started absorbing them and changing OxygenOS to what’s basically a ColorOS clone.
The company has been on a downward trend since the OnePlus 9 Pro was announced. It ditched what the company was known for: a killer-flagship price. To add insult to injury, the Alert Slider was gone. The Hasselblad branding did not do much to improve camera performance, making the collab seem nearly pointless.
The succeeding phone, OnePlus 10 and 10T did not receive much praise either. In fact, Marques Brownlee called the 10T the worst phone of the year when it was released, citing it was a generic, yet another expensive flagship phone. The 9 Pro was released when Carl Pei left the company which was when Oppo started taking over more which upset some users.
However, that criticism did not bog down OnePlus and even took it as a challenge. When the OnePlus 11 was released, it received a much better reception. Even the Alert Slider was back. The price is also much more reasonable. In the Philippines, it costs PHP 45,990. The phone is competing against the Samsung Galaxy S23 duo.
The phone was seen as a return to form. Not perfect, but it was seen as OnePlus hearing feedback from users and reviewers and making necessary compensations to make up for the mediocrity of the 10T.
The Nord 3 5G is in the same direction, and the company is moving forward to a much better position. The phone is a huge step forward from the 2T and is very similar to the 10T, albeit with a slightly less generic look. Though, the latter is not saying much considering almost all Nords use the same basic design.
We have unboxed a lot of phones, even before we started writing. Sometimes, they are creative. Most of the time, they’re just plain boxes with the phone plastered on them. The Nord box feels like a mix of both. We understand why manufacturers do this though. It saves them time designing a box and focuses on more important factors because, let’s face it, a company like OnePlus makes a lot of phones every few months. Designing a box for each individual phone is the least of their concern.
Despite that, I noticed there’s an effort to make this “Nord-generic” box. We like the texture of it. There’s this “seam-like” feeling when you touch it, it’s satisfying. Second, the black box makes it stand out among the sea of white boxes we normally have. Other phone brands would have opted for a plain white box. So we’re giving applause to OnePlus to make this template of a box unique.
It’s not over yet until we see what’s inside. We are amazed at how many things OnePlus could put in one box. Though, honestly, we were a little disappointed by a lack of a free silicone case, as with many other phones released in the Philippines. We’re guessing it’s just like that in Europe.
CONTENTS OF THE MAIN BOX:
- A smaller box (we’ll talk about what’s inside this later)
- OnePlus Nord 3 5G
- Red USB-C cable
- Europe-standard 80W Charging Brick
Speaking of Europe, the phone that was shipped to us was the EU model but thankfully, the company is kind enough to ship us an 80W US-standard brick as this is the type that is commonly used here. That’s also why you see two charging bricks in the image above.
The Nord Box is sealed and when you open it, you’re greeted with a smaller box. Underneath this is the phone wrapped in a paper-like material and support. Remove the phone and you would be greeted with the USB-A-to-USB-C cable and 80W charger. We’re stunned they actually put an 80W brick in instead of a lame 10W default.
The smaller box has more stuff going on inside, including a membership card for the Red Cable Club. I also have received a kind letter from OnePlus. It has an excited tone, thanking me for supporting OnePlus (You’re welcome!). No, don’t worry, the phone arrived just in time.
If you were curious, this is what that letter said.
DESIGN and HANDS-ON:
The moment we laid our hands on this device, we knew we’re in for a great device. Grey and Black are colours that may be not everyone’s cup of tea, but it works so well here. It’s probably because the phone has a matte finish. Unlike the Misty Green colour (which I initially wanted) with its glossy back, this grey colour isn’t a fingerprint magnet.
The colour we have is Tempest Grey. There’s also Misty Green which frankly, all our other colleagues seem to have. In our press release, it’s only that colour that was announced to be available in the Philippines. We got the grey one because it originated from The Lab.
While the colour is great, the phone looks similar to other Nord phones. This can be a good and bad thing, depending on your perspective. To us, this is a good thing because the phone looks similar to the Nord CE 3 Lite albeit with the bottom cameras placed vertically. This makes the Nord 3 a little less recognizable and so we could shoot with it even if the phone is yet to be official in the Philippines. The bad part? It looks generic.
Both of these phones use plastic but the Nord 3 of course, uses far more premium materials. It also is lightweight. Using our trusty weighing scale, the phone weighed 192 grams. It’s certainly lighter than my main phone, the TCL 10 5G, which weighed 208 grams.
When it comes to phones, We prefer squarish designs over curved ones. It’s the reason why Sony phones still appeal to us. The OnePlus Nord 3, in that sense, is quite appealing too because of the less rounded corners.
By the way, that wallpaper is customized. The default wallpaper has no “Never Settle” branding. It could be a sign that the company has finally settled. We’re hoping this isn’t the case. The wallpaper we used is the default wallpaper used for the OnePlus 6T.
The phone is also pretty easy to hold and does not slip. This is one of the main advantages of non-glossy backs. The Nord 3 is also much thinner than my TCL 10 5G even without a case. This makes it also strain less on the hands.
Speaking of the back. The large camera bumps are beautiful aesthetically but that also means the phone cannot lie down flat on a surface. When you put it on a table, it will wobble slightly. A small inconvenience but we don’t mind it.
The frame is also made of plastic. It’s busy on all fronts. There’s the power button on the right. The volume rockers on the left, the Dual Nano-SIM slot, USB-C, and speaker at the bottom, and hello… is that an IR Blaster we see at the top? That’s rare in any OnePlus phone. It’s a niche feature but a welcome one. This little number helps you control multiple appliances ranging from TVs to Air Conditioners.
In case you’re wondering. Yes, the iconic Alert Slider is present on this phone. The buttons of the Nord 3 are well-placed. They are positioned where our fingers are naturally. However, the Alert Slider is placed way too high so we constantly need to adjust our hands to use it which is a bit cumbersome.
The OnePlus Nord 3 5G is a huge step in the right direction for OnePlus. The jump from using a midrange chip to a flagship chip, a flagship 50MP Sony IMX890 camera sensor, and a 120Hz refresh rate makes it a tempting upgrade from the 2T. It also boots with OyxgenOS 13 from the get-go, so you’re already updated.
However, internals aside, we do feel that the design looks generic. It can get away with it because it’s not the main Number line, unlike the OnePlus 10T or 11 5G.
Speaking of the 10T, we already have heard of the price of the Nord 3 and its official price in the Philippines potentially cannibalizes the 10T which offers a similar experience. The 10T is sold for PHP 35,990. The price of the Nord 3 is cheaper but not by a large margin. If you’re team Snapdragon, go for the 10T. If you prefer MediaTek, the Nord 3 is the answer. Most MediaTek phones are also cheaper than Qualcomm phones.
The phone has launched globally but is yet to launch in the Philippines. My fellow colleagues also received the Nord for review and I wanted to hear their thoughts as well. One thing is for sure, their first impression follows along the lines of “affordable premium”.
The phone is available in both Tempest Grey and Misty Green. The latter is made of glossy glass while the former is made of plastic with a matte coating.
OnePlus Nord 3 SPECS:
- 6.7in. 1.5K (1240x2772px) Fluid AMOLED, 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+, 1450nits peak brightness
- IP54 splash/dust resistance
- MediaTek Dimensity 9000 (4nm)
- 50MP (Primary), f/1.8, 23.6mm, Sony IMX890, OIS, 4K@60fps video
- 8MP (Ultrawide), f/2.2, 112°, Sony IMX355
- 2MP (Macro), f/2.4
- FRONT: 16MP, f/2.4, 84.1°
- OxygenOS 13.1 based on Android 13
- 5000mAh, 80W Fast Charging
- 1-100% in 30 minutes (advertised)
- 5G services, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, Hi-Res Audio, Dual Nano-SIM Card
- In-display fingerprint scanner, IR Blaster, Virtual RAM
- Tempest Grey, Misty Green