OnePlus has now officially announced its Nord N10 5G is headed to the US and it sent Android Headlines a review unit ahead of that announcement, giving us a better look at what's headed this way. And, as anybody who has been a fan of the brand for any length of time will attest, it's going to be good news almost all around.
Put more succinctly, OnePlus Nord N10 5G is a budget-end midrange smartphone with perks coming straight from the OnePlus flagship line. And it delivers performance to match the implications of that. If there were a category similar to 'flagship killers' in the mid-range segment, the Nord N10 5G would likely lead the charge.
Not only does this phone offer 5G at under $400 — assuming everything holds from its across-the-pond £329 price tag. It offers stellar performance, a decent quad-camera, and enviable battery life. And the latter should be even better following an update that arrived as this review for the OnePlus Nord N10 5G was being wrapped up.
There are, of course, drawbacks at this price too. But, as we'll see throughout, those don't begin to outweigh the positive points and aren't dealbreakers. So let's dig in.
Nord N10 5G hardware has caveats but the design and build are brilliant
Upon unboxing my review unit, it became immediately clear that the design language utilized by OnePlus for its Nord N10 5G is meant to be premium. To begin with, it's minimalistic and modern while also representing OnePlus increasingly modern build and quality. Complete with glass everywhere and a classically-placed rear-mounted fingerprint reader. That reader is as snappy as any flagship.
The cameras, conversely, are more modern. OnePlus places them in a rectangular housing that sits just a little too high for comfort. Or at least a little too high for a phone that doesn't ship with an in-box protective case.
There's also a slight lip between the back panel and edges, repeated on the front side of the phone. That lip seems to add some grip. Which is a good thing since the OnePlus Nord N10 5G is one of the most slippery phones I've ever used. The gadget still has a great in-hand feel, with no sharp edges and curves to fit the palm. But it's slippery enough that will become a problem for some users.
Ports, plugs, and buttons are as clicky and well-built as would be expected from one of OnePlus's flagships.
Aesthetically speaking, the Midnight Ice color found on the OnePlus Nord N10 5G sent out for review is gorgeous. The color's name suits it. The almost-black blue hue shifts to a shimmering white and silver glint when hit with direct sunlight. That gives the backplate a stripey, ice-like look that blends seamlessly with its base color.
All told, this smartphone not only feels solidly built and great in-hand. It looks the part. The design, while decidedly slippery, could never be said to look 'cheap'.
OnePlus isn't playing around with this screen but you definitely will be
OnePlus isn't taking any prisoners with the display on its Nord N10 5G. Not only is the display resolution higher-than-average with a FullHD+ 6.59-inch display panel. That's a 90Hz display panel.
Put another way, that means a clear and easy-to-read display panel that's already larger than might be expected at the price. And it's clear even when the graphics pick up in intensity thanks to a higher refresh rate. Or at least a higher refresh rate than is found in most comparably-priced smartphones.
Now, there is a drawback to this display too, just as with a few other aspects of this device. For the screen, that's the fact that it doesn't quite get bright enough for direct sunlight. It's still usable. So it isn't a real dealbreaker. But it does take more effort to use under those conditions.
At any rate, the display refresh rate, resolution, and size mean the OnePlus Nord N10 5G served as a particularly great device for entertainment throughout my review.
OnePlus put its best foot forward for the Nord N10 5G battery
The battery is easily one of the best attributes for the OnePlus Nord N10 5G. That's something I knew in advance of this review since it comes with a 30W charger, bringing OnePlus Warp Charge 30T fast charging to the Nord N10 5G. But just how good that would be was less certain. I was not disappointed.
On the charging side of things, it only took 15-minutes to hit a 37-percent charge. And 30-minutes pushed that up to 67-percent. An additional 15-minutes saw the battery percentage rise above 90-percent. A full charge took under an hour.
Now, I did notice that it only took a couple of hours to drain a percent while on standby, on that side of the equation. But that shouldn't be a big issue. While not every user's experience will be the same as mine because the battery is subjective, the actual time from full to drained was impressive.
I actually left all battery savings off and kept the brightness maxed out, for example. Despite that, this phone lasted 14-hours and 51-minutes on a single charge. And only around 3-hours and 51-minutes of that was spent on standby. That puts the battery life, in terms of screen-on time, at 11 hours. And that was just about evenly split between gaming, video and media streaming, and everyday usage such as messaging, web browsing, or calls.
11-hours of screen-on time is impressive under any circumstances, let alone under my battery test conditions with a 90Hz display panel. So it's safe to say that this phone not only charges incredibly quickly for a mid-range device. It also lasts an inordinately long time without extra weight or a bulky design.
Performance from this phone was mostly on-point
Now, this segment of the review is typically filled with where a smartphone does well but for OnePlus Nord N10 5G, we'll be examining the opposite. And that's because we can be more concise by talking about where this phone seems to get hung up. For effectively every other circumstance, the performance was near perfect. Especially when it comes to the interruption-killing, graphics- and performance-enhancing, and networking boosting dedicated game mode.
Setting that aside, the only two areas where I saw any discrepancy in performance from this OnePlus handset was in multitasking. There will, it goes without saying, be other areas where a flagship will do better. Particularly in media-editing tasks where a faster chipset helps with post-processing. Or for mobile games that absolutely require the processing power of those chips.
But, for the most part, the caveat with the Snapdragon 690 included in the OnePlus Nord N10 5G is in multitasking when intensive apps are in use. Conversely, that mostly became a problem when more than a dozen apps were opened up. So most users likely won't notice the issue at all. However, it's worth being aware that periodically clearing open apps is a must with devices in the price bracket. And that includes the Nord N10 5G.
Otherwise, this phone showed almost no lag whatsoever. And the one or two times lag appeared, under the above-mentioned circumstances, it never lasted for more than a second.
The audio from OnePlus Nord N10 5G was a disappointment
Audio is, unfortunately, one area where the OnePlus Nord N10 5G fell well short of expectations under review. The experience wasn't exactly terrible. In fact, it was decently balanced. But I found myself wishing there was a bit more power across the board, regardless of what listening method I was utilizing.
For clarity, all of the audio is well balanced and feels well represented. But it's also very quiet and that results in details being lost in the mix for music. For video playback, the result is a lack of any real punch when it was needed.
That trend didn't necessarily carry over to headphones. This phone supports audio over Bluetooth, aux cable via the 3.5mm audio jack, and USB-C. It feels too quiet compared to other smartphones, regardless. Only Bluetooth seems to correct that to any extent, albeit not enough. There is still quite a bit missing in terms of depth. And balance without depth does not equate to great audio.
Even audio over the earpiece is decidedly muted compared to this phone's competition. I didn't hear any complaints from the other end. So the mics work well enough. But it remains the case that, at least on the audio front, OnePlus has some work to do if it's aiming for an experience that can match the rest of this smartphone.
This camera comes close to exactly what you'd want at this price
The photographic capabilities of the OnePlus Nord N10 5G speak for themselves via the photos in our sample gallery via Flickr. Color capture is generally fairly accurate and details are high, especially in 64-megapixel mode. For almost any circumstances most users will find themselves in, this camera performs exactly as I'd want it to for the price. And better than at least some competitors in the space.
Two areas this camera does not do as well as could be hoped, though, are Macro Mode and Nightscape.
Now, shots that were taken in Macro during this review with the OnePlus Nord N10 5G turned out well enough. The quality and detail capture doesn't quite live up to what can be seen from some competitors. And the camera can only be held within one to one-and-a-half inch from the subject. Other phones can be held within centimeters. But the quality is acceptable for the price.
Nightscape, the dedicated OnePlus Night Mode for this phone, does not do so well.
To begin with, on an empty night sky with clouds and stars, the clouds are washed out or the stars barely show up. The colors are also somewhat inaccurate and grainy pixels commonly appear. The worst of it though is the autofocus. When tapping on a subject to focus on at a distance, the camera produces blur and, on occasion, nothing else. So this isn't going to be the camera to buy if you absolutely need night shots.
OnePlus held to its widely-lauded, near-stock leanings with Nord N10 5G
OnePlus is home to OxygenOS and in the case of the Nord N10 5G, at least during this review, that's Android 10-based OxygenOS. For clarity, the overlay is widely considered to be among the best if not the best version of Android. And, upon review, that's not without good reason.
OnePlus starts with what looks and feels like stock Android. The pre-installed apps are almost exclusively Google-branded. With just a couple of exceptions such as the dedicated Game Space app, a Notes application, file manager, transfer app, Recorder, and Community app. And that carries over all the way down to live captions that aren't found on just about any smartphones aside from Pixel devices. At least, outside of the flagship market.
For clarity, Live captions show captions for speech anytime it's detected in media played on the device. And it's a headlining feature for the Google Pixel lineup.
OxygenOS is a variant that, for lack of better terms, performs more smoothly and quickly than should reasonably be expected. Especially with consideration for the underlying hardware.
Better still, OnePlus improves its firmware much more frequently than many other popular brands. So, not only did I receive at least one update during my review period. It can be fully expected to receive updates over its lifespan and beyond what other mid-range phones do. And those updates have a tendency to deliver handy, intuitive features not found on other smartphones.
If a great software experience is what you have in mind, it's going to be difficult to argue against the OnePlus Nord N10 5G.
The best connectivity feature is right there in the branding
Of course, the biggest bonus for this smartphone is listed right there in its branding. Namely, it's an inexpensive smartphone running Android that delivers next-gen networking. And, since this phone isn't necessarily locked down to any carriers, it's going to be a great choice for those on MVNOs with 5G available.
For my review, I used OnePlus Nord N10 5G on Google Fi. Access provided by T-Mobile and US Cellular on that carrier ensured I was able to access 5G with no issues. And, as would be expected, the connection was as solid as any other with this phone. 4G LTE was also readily accessible and, although slower, worked as expected.
As noted elsewhere in this review, all other connectivity options work as expected. From Wi-Fi 5 to Bluetooth 5.1 and NFC.
So what's the Nord N10 5G takeaway?
As noted at the beginning of this review, as of this writing, there isn't an official price point for the Nord N10 5G in the US. But, holding with its price overseas — set at £329 — the Nord N10 5G will arguably be among the best budget smartphones on the market. And it certainly earns recognition as a device that falls just short of the company's "flagship killer" origins.
Battery life that lasts well beyond what most competitors can and performance that doesn't drop despite that fact. The display is by no means a slouch either, although not as bright as might be hoped. And the Nord N10 5G cameras, while perhaps not as great in some regards, won't disappoint most users.
All packed inside a great design. Albeit one that almost certainly needs to be put inside a protective case with a screen protector.
Anybody looking to save some money on a 5G smartphone should be considering OnePlus and this phone absolutely proves it.