OnePlus Nord CE3 hands-on review: Best Review With Pros & Cons

The OnePlus line’s Nord CE3 could be the final Nord model slated for 2023. This phone comes after the Nord 3 and the CE3 Lite and offers a great blend of features from both phones.

Situated closer to the Nord 3 in terms of similarity, the Nord CE3 boasts the same camera and battery configurations as the slightly pricier sibling. Along with that, the majority of its dimensions are mostly identical as well. In terms of display, it follows the AMOLED route rather than the LCD, but the resolution is a bit different.

The Nord CE3 does, however, take to heart some features of the Lite model. Like the Lite, it’s got a plastic body. As a minor irritation though, this model doesn’t include the alert slider just like the Lite. Nonetheless, with its combination of features, it just might be the most bang-for-your-buck choice.

The most noticeable distinction with these three phones is all about the chipset. The Nord CE3 runs on a Snapdragon 785G, which isn’t as robust as the dimensity 9000 found in the Nord 3, but it’s a definite improvement from the Snapdragon 695 on the Lite version.

With a price tag hovering around the midpoint of the other two Nord phones, the Nord CE3 may just come out as the top choice. So, let’s keep our eyes peeled and see how it does!

OnePlus Nord CE3 specs at a glance:

Body: 162.7×75.5×8.2mm, 184g; plastic frame; plastic back panel.

Display: 6.70″ Fluid AMOLED, 1B colours, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1080x2412px resolution, 20.1:9 aspect ratio, 394ppi.

Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 782G (6 nm): Octa-core (1×2.7 GHz Cortex-A78 & 3×2.4 GHz Cortex-A78 & 4×1.8 GHz Cortex-A55); Adreno 642L.

Memory: 128GB 8GB RAM, 256GB 12GB RAM; UFS 3.1; microSDXC (uses shared SIM slot).

OS/Software: Android 13, OxygenOS 13.1.

Rear camera: Wide (main): 50 MP, f/1.8, 24mm, 1/1.56″, 1.0µm, multi-directional PDAF, OIS; Ultra wide angle: 8 MP, f/2.2, 112˚, 1/4″, 1.12µm; Macro: 2 MP, f/2.4.

Front camera: 16 MP, f/2.4, 24mm (wide), 1.0µm.

Video capture: Rear camera: 4K@30fps, 1080p@30/60/120fps, gyro-EIS; Front camera: 1080p@30fps, gyro-EIS.

Battery: 5000mAh; 80W wired, 1-61% in 15 min (advertised).

Connectivity: 5G; Hybrid Dual SIM; Wi-Fi 6; BT 5.2, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive; NFC; Infrared port.

Misc: Fingerprint reader (under display, optical); stereo speakers.

Design

The Nord CE3 bears an expected resemblance to the Nord 3 and the Nord CE3 Lite. You won’t find many differences in size as well, particularly aligning with the Nord 3. However, the Nord 3 gets bonus points for its weight, thanks to the fancy glass back that adds a premium feel!

The face of the phone boasts sleek, flat glass and fairly thick bezels. These bezels are slimmer than those found on the Nord CE3 Lite, but they don’t quite match the ultra-thin look of the Nord 3. The plastic frame features a matte finish, smoothly textured completion, and delightfully curved edges.

Flip things to the right side of the phone and you’ll find the power button. And here’s a unique bit – the volume buttons are also on this side, which is quite unusual for a OnePlus phone. However, they might need a bit of getting used to as they are positioned surprisingly high, almost as if they were added in a hurry without much thought for practicality.

Remember how OnePlus made a big deal about including it in the Nord 3? They even had a laugh at the expense of reviewers who missed it in previous phones, as highlighted in the Nord 3’s reviewer’s guide. Now it’s just a few months later, and surprise, surprise – another OnePlus phone launches and the slider is gone again. No biggie, but if you’re going to tease us about it, at least keep it in your up-and-coming phones.

You’ll see a speaker, USB-C port, microphone, and hybrid card slot all situated snugly at the bottom. Meanwhile, the top is home to the second speaker, another microphone, and of course – the IR blaster.

OnePlus Nord CE3

It sports a very neat and classy look, with the primary attraction being dual camera rings stationed at the top. Plus, there’s a separate cut-out for the flash. Did I mention the rings? They’re made of stainless steel and trust me, they look pretty cool. About the colour schemes – we are playing with two different finishes here. Take the Aqua Surge model, for example, it carries a vibrant, colour-shifting effect that subtly changes hues as you frolic with the phone under varying light conditions.

The Nord CE3 seems impressively strong when you hold it. It’s got a reliable frame that doesn’t bow or squeak without serious force. Plus, it’s got an IP54 rating, which means it’s water and dust-resistant. Keep in mind, though, that it’s mostly made from plastic, from its frame to its back. Consequently, it might not feel as fine as its higher-priced sibling, the Nord 3.

Display

So that you know, the Nord CE3 comes with a sizable 6.7-inch AMOLED screen having a resolution of 2412 x 1080. What’s more, it can deliver a whizzing refresh rate of up to 120Hz! Also, it supports sRGB and Display P3 colour spaces in full. But that’s not all! It also offers a quite impressive 10-bit colour depth and doesn’t fall short on the HDR10+ certification either. You’re definitely in for some vibrant, true-to-life colours there.

The display gives you two cool options – the Vivid profile which seems to target Display P3, and the Natural profile aimed towards sRGB. Plus, you have room to play around a bit. You’re free to manually tweak the colour temperature to your liking.

 

A neat feature is the display’s capability to support refresh rates of up to 120Hz, although it can also work perfectly fine at 90Hz and 60Hz. However, the phone’s refresh speed potential created a bit of a mixed experience compared to other recent models from OnePlus. One minor hiccup is that most apps are capped at 90Hz, so enjoying a full 120Hz refresh rate is a rarity. And, gaming mostly caps at 60Hz, limiting the utilization of the phone’s high refresh rate capability.

The Nord CE3 shows a more solid performance at the 60Hz refresh rate compared to other OnePlus phones, even the high-end ones. Do you know how apps like YouTube get strangely stuck at 60Hz on some OnePlus devices? Well, they smoothly scroll at 90Hz on the Nord CE3.

Even Instagram, which is famously tricky and choppy on several OnePlus phones (yes, even the fancy OnePlus 11), scrolls without a hitch at a fixed 90Hz on the Nord CE3. Alright, we’re not super thrilled about the cautious use of the 120Hz refresh rate, but the ace panel quality and the not-quite-perfect-but-still-consistent refresh rate manage to put the overall display experience of the Nord CE3 a notch above some of the other OnePlus models we’ve tried out.

Charging test

The Nord CE3 comes with a dual-cell 5000mAh battery and supports 80W SUPERVOOC fast charge. In the box, you will also find a compatible 80W charger and the needed cable to get you up and running pronto. The charging prowess of this device is nothing short of remarkable and maintains the superfast charging tradition we have come to associate with OnePlus phones. It gets to a full charge from just 1% in 31 minutes and just a quick 15-minute charge can replenish over half your battery capacity.

Speakers

The Nord CE3 is fitted with two stereo speakers placed at opposite ends. Although they produce acceptably nice sounds, their performance surprisingly improves when you cup them in your hands. The audio balance between the speakers is commendable; they both output similar sound quality.

Apart from the stereo speakers, the Nord CE3 has support for Dolby Atmos. It’s the second Nord phone with this feature after the Nord 3. The Dolby effect is always on for the loudspeakers, but you can easily turn it off when you’re using wired or wireless audio. There’s a bit of a letdown though – unlike the Nord CE3 Lite, the Nord CE3 doesn’t have a headphone jack. You’d need to either get an adaptor or use wireless audio.

Software

The OnePlus Nord CE3 lands on your doorstep, all set to go with Android 13 and OxygenOS 13.1 straight out of the box. OnePlus is on the ball, they’ve pumped out the OxygenOS 14 beta already! But, hold your horses as the final version for this specific device is still a little way off. No sweat though, OnePlus has got our backs. This phone should be good to go with updates for a hearty three years from launch.

Just popping in to chat about OxygenOS 13.1 on the Nord CE3. But honestly, there’s not a ton of fresh tea to The info’s pretty much the same as what’s been discussed over the last year or so for any OnePlus, Oppo, and Realme gadgets. All these devices come with the same foundational software and user interface – and as it seems, this trend isn’t stopping anytime soon. Whether we think it’s good news or bad news, it just is what it is.

Performance

Meet the Nord CE3 – it’s powered by the solid Qualcomm Snapdragon 782G chipset. This beast of a chip boasts an octa-core design, including:

  • 1x 2.7GHz Kryo 670 Prime core
  • 3x 2.4GHz Kryo 670 Gold cores
  • 4x 1.8GHz Kryo 670 Silver cores
    Add to that the Adreno 642L GPU and you’ve got yourself some serious power.
    Fancy some choices? Of course, you do! Here are your options:
  • You can go for 8GB or 12GB of LPDDR4X memory
  • Opt for 128GB or 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage

The Snapdragon 782G performance is almost the same as the Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 that we see in the Honor 90. So, what does this mean? While the CPU performance is pretty fine for normal use, the GPU could have been better.

Camera

The Nord CE3 sports a three-lens camera system at the rear which includes a 50MP f1.8 primary lens, an 8MP f2.2 ultra-wide lens, and a tiny yet significant 2MP macro lens. Interestingly, the 50MP IMX890 lens is identical to the one found on the high-end OnePlus 11. However, it does not have the Hasselblad tuning. It’s worth noting that all these lenses are also found on the Nord 3.



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Conclusion

The OnePlus Nord CE3 is a lovely mid-tier smartphone that you’ll really find impressive! It springs to life with its top-notch display performance. Plus, its UI is smooth, user-friendly and responds quickly to your touch. While the Nord CE3 may not wow you with its mediocre graphics performance, absent alert slider, unstable 4K video, and below-average image quality from all but the main camera, these shortcomings aren’t its whole story.

Priced at a friendly INR 26,999 (or around $325), the Nord CE3 definitely gives you more bang for your buck, certainly more than the Nord 3, which simply can’t make sense of its steeper price tag of INR 33,999. Unless you’re seriously into gaming, the Nord CE3 should tick most of your wish list, making it the perfect buy for most users and clearly the star among the three new 2023 Nord phones.

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