The Tenty Lite: OnePlus Nord 3 Review! [PART 1]


This phone is such a massive upgrade from the 2T, it’s almost like a OnePlus 10T Lite, and it’s also priced nicely at PHP 29,990.

If you’ve seen our first impressions, you know how we already feel about this phone. It’s an affordable luxury. A step in the right direction for OnePlus. Long story short, after the praise the OnePlus 11 got, which was seen as a return to form, the company continued and built a new identity known for flagship killer phones.

The OnePlus Nord 3 5G is one of many other devices released by the company this year. The others include its siblings, the Nord CE 3 and the Nord CE 3 Lite 5G. That’s right, OnePlus is joining the “confusing product names” club alongside Xiaomi and Sony.

To help you differentiate, the Nord CE 3 Lite 5G is the lowest-end of the bargain, featuring a Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G and is priced around the PHP15K bracket. To be exact, PHP 14,990 in Lazada. The Nord CE 3 is a watered-down Nord 3, featuring almost the same spec sheet but its chipset is nerfed to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 782G.

In terms of names, the Nord 3 is simple and easy to remember. We’re hoping a Nord 3T will follow, just like with the Nord 2 and 2T. Thanks to a massive upgrade in specs, the Nord 3 feels like a true successor. And if you have a Nord 2T, this one is worth upgrading to.

Also, there’s a reason why we called this review The Tenty Lite. It’s not because the phone is generic or ordinary but because of the way it feels, the spec sheet, and most importantly, the chipset, feels like a slightly watered-down OnePlus 10T (apart from the better Sony IMX890 camera of course). Its pricing also makes it feel that way. This is a compliment because it shows that the Nord series can keep up with the Number series, therefore, a massive upgrade from a midrange phone straight to a flagship killer. A segment that the number series used to fulfil.

Before we get into the review proper, here is the spec sheet.

SPECS:

  • 6.7in. 1.5K (1240x2772px) Fluid AMOLED, 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+, 1450nits peak brightness
    • IP54 splash/dust resistance
  • MediaTek Dimensity 9000 (4nm)
  • CAMERAS:
    • 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
  • PRICE:
    • 16/256: PHP 29,990

Its price of around PHP 30K surely looks tempting, especially with the magnificent spec sheet. Does it live up to its price? That’s why we are here to find out.

UNBOXING:

We already mentioned the Unboxing in our At a Glance article so we’ll keep it brief here. The OnePlus Nord 3 is shipped in a black box typical for the Nord series. Inside it is a smaller box filled with paperwork and the SIM Ejector tool, the phone wrapped in a paper-like film, the iconic red cable, and an 80W European-standard charging brick. Because we live in the Philippines, OnePlus sent us an 80W US-standard brick so we don’t have to use an adapter. There’s really no need for it but we appreciate the extra effort.

SOFTWARE/UI/OXYGENOS:

The unit we have initially ran the European version of OxygenOS but was later updated to the global version so now we have access to the OnePlus Store which is useless to us because it is available only for US users. This is the only bloat that is literally bloatware. There are seven other apps pre-installed but most of these are quite useful, including the Notes, Community, Files, and IR Remote apps.

Starting OxygenOS 13, the UI is showing more of its Oppo side. The notification panel is very similar to ColorOS, the app icons are also more ColorOS-like. Which is a shame because we really like the old simplistic UI. However, even then, OxygenOS remains smooth, snappy, and clean. We also like that the app drawer remained. Thankfully, you can change the app icons to match that of older OxygenOS.

Speaking of customization, there is a lot to do with the Nord. Starting with the basic wallpaper. The one we have here is not the default wallpaper. We decided to change it because the default wallpaper lacks the NEVER SETTLE branding (is that a hint that the company settled? Hmmmm). When you select a wallpaper, you can also make it so that the overall theme matches the colour of the wallpaper, similar to Google’s Material You. You can even make abstract wallpapers based on the image you have. This is done purely by AI.

You can also change the font. By default, it is set to Roboto but OnePlus Sans is also available. If you don’t like circular icons, you can also change their shape. These features were carried over from ColorOS by the way, which we also tested using the Oppo A57 4G albeit this one has no ads baked-in so the experience is seamless.

DESIGN:

The OnePlus Nord 3 comes in two colours: Tempest Grey and Misty Green but only the latter is official here in the Philippines. Shame, the matte back of the tempest grey feels satisfying to use and isn’t a fingerprint magnet.

It’s pretty comfortable to hold and does not slip thanks to this matte coating. Both the back and frames are made of plastic but you will not look at it like that at first glance. It was designed to look and feel premium and certainly follows BBK’s design patterns.

The top frame features a peculiar feature for OnePlus: The IR Blaster! Normally, this is only available with Xiaomi phones so we’re glad to see it included here too. This allows you to control appliances without needing a remote control. Beside it is a speaker and a noise-cancelling mic.

Going to the bottom, you will find the Dual SIM slot, USB-C port, an additional mic, and stereo speakers. It’s quite busy down here.

The right frame features the power button and the return of the fan-favourite Alert Slider which allows you to set your phone to silent, vibrate, or ring to receive calls.

LEFT: Nord CE 3 Lite, RIGHT: Nord 3

Its overall design is similar to your typical Nord phone with two camera humps protecting the actual sensor. If you’ve seen the Nord CE 3 Lite, you’ve probably seen this phone too. However, upon closer inspection, the cameras of this phone are arranged differently and the temperature sensor is present on the Nord 3. These are the closest red flags aside from the colour options. The Nord 3 and Nord CE 3 are nearly identical.

These two camera humps prevent the phone from lying down flat and will wobble slightly. A minor inconvenience but we can just brush it off.

It’s light at 192 grams. Lighter than our main unit, the TCL 10 5G. It really keeps its aesthetics shining without it being too flashy.

DISPLAY:

The OnePlus Nord 3 features a 6.7″ 120Hz OLED display with support for Wide Colour Gamut, HDR10+, and L1 Widevine, making the phone a cinematic experience masterpiece. Ideal to watch the latest Barbenheimer once it’s officially out.

The display is not exactly LTPO like the one on the OnePlus 11 5G but still is a high-quality display. Even OnePlus calls it a “Fluid AMOLED” screen. The display is manufactured by Samsung so the green lines are lying in wait. Til then, we’re going to enjoy a non-lightsaber version of this crispy display.

There is an embedded fingerprint reader which can be customized. Also, because it is OLED, you gain access to the Always-On Display (AOD) which is a neat feature that shows you notifications, time, and graphics while your phone is on standby. There is an option to turn it off if you want to conserve battery life. The AOD is also customizable.

The display is quite punchy, as expected from OLED. That 1450nits max brightness is no joke because even outdoors, the display remains bright and sharp and its colours do not wash out. The blacks remain completely black and the whites are truly white.

While not completely QHD+, its resolution is still a few numbers higher than FullHD+ and thus the text remains sharp and crispy. It makes PDF files very easy to read.

We also enjoy watching movies, anime, TV shows, and even playing games with such a satisfying display. The display has a “Pro Mode” option which enhances the viewing experience by enabling either a wide colour gamut or DCI-P3 colour reproduction, making colours pop out well. The stereo speakers make the experience even more immersive.

We said a lot of things already for the Nord 3 and this is just part 1. Stay tuned and we’ll cover the phone’s cameras, gaming performance, and battery life!