The OnePlus Nord CE 4 aims to be a solid mid-range device which is expected to deliver the basics going by the brand’s ‘Core Experience’ philosophy. While the Nord CE series started off as a watered-down version of the numbered Nord series, OnePlus has been adding interesting updates that somehow seem to reduce the gap between the CE and non-CE Nord models over the years. This year, unlike previous releases we see OnePlus releasing the new Nord CE 4 before the Nord 4. While there is no indicator that OnePlus will announce a Nord 4 this year, the OnePlus Nord CE 4 seems to have enough new hardware to warrant an upgrade from its predecessor the Nord CE 3.

While it makes for a good upgrade for Nord CE3 users on paper, I’m not too confident about recommending it and here’s why.

OnePlus Nord CE 4 Review: Price in India

The OnePlus Nord CE 4 unlike last year’s Nord CE3 is available in a single RAM variant. Buyers only get to choose between two storage variants this year. The phone is available in an 8GB RAM and 128GB storage variant which is priced at Rs. 24,999 and 256GB storage option which is priced at Rs. 26,999.

The device is available in two colourways, Dark Chrome, which has a glossy grey finish and Celadon Marble that has a mint-green appearance. We received the 256GB variant in Celadon Marble for review.

OnePlus Nord CE 4 Review: Design

Unlike previous releases the Nord CE 4 also feels special because it also ushers in the new design language that should have ideally been introduced by the more expensive Nord 4. But since there’s no sign of the OnePlus Nord 4 (launched as the Ace 3V in China) releasing in India yet, the Nord CE 4’s design sure feels fresh and new when placed next to any currently available Nord series device available in India.

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The rear cameras appear like they have been placed in a large drop of water

 

The phone’s rear panel is still made out of polycarbonate and has a glossy finish and so it gathers fingerprints within minutes. But thanks to this bright colourway these are not visible unless you view the phone at an angle. Its curved edge design along with its marble-like texture sure looks the part for a mid-range device. I also like how OnePlus has kept the slightly raised and elongated (capsule-shaped) camera module transparent, which reflects the marble design below it. It looks as if a large water droplet assembled itself on the rear panel with the contrasting dark camera cutouts and lenses floating in it.

The frame just like before is also made from polycarbonate. It has bevelled edges and flat sides that are a contrast to the curved edges of the rear panel. It’s not sharp but does poke a bit into my palm and so I was happy to find a soft silicon-like TPU colour-matched cover in the box, which looks and feels quite premium.

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The OnePlus Nord CE 4 comes with an official IP54 certification for dust and water resistance

 

OnePlus claims that its Nord CE 4’s design is durable enough to withstand a drop from 1.5 metres and not disassemble itself or shatter from the fall, which is something I did not want to test out, even though the phone felt quite solid in terms of build quality. I did try out spraying some water on the phone as its design is now IP54-rated for dust and water resistance. The phone survived, but it’s a very basic rating as far as IP certifications go. There are budget smartphones that offer the same level of dust and water resistance and devices that offer far better ratings at a slightly higher asking price.

And since it can withstand splashes of water, OnePlus has also baked in its AquaTouch technology from the OnePlus 12 series, to ensure that the screen can be used with damp fingers.

I love the skinny bezel of the front display. The AMOLED panel also enables features like always-on display (AOD) and an optical fingerprint reader which is embedded into the display itself. However these features aren’t new to the Nord CE series. What I did not like is the sharp plastic lipping (or insert) at the edges of the display glass, which creates a bit of friction when using swipe gestures. The display is also a proper smudge magnet and gets messy quickly upon use.

OnePlus Nord CE 4 Review: Specifications and software

The OnePlus Nord CE 4 packs a fairly new Qualcomm Snapdragon 7 Gen 3 SoC, which is manufactured using the 4nm process node. The processor offers good power efficiency and mid-range performance and sits a notch below the newer Snapdragon 7+ Gen 3 SoC. The SoC is paired with 8GB of LPDDR4x RAM and offers up to 256GB of UFS3.1 internal storage. The phone uses a hybrid SIM arrangement which is good for 2 nano SIM cards or a SIM card and a microSD card combination, which offers storage expansion up to 1TB.

Communication standards include dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.4, a USB Type-C port (USB 2.0), support for several 5G bands and the usual global positioning systems. The phone is powered by a 5,500mAh battery and comes with a 100W charger in the box.

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The OnePlus Nord CE 4 offers OxygenOS 14 with Android 14 out of the box

 

Coming to software, the phone offers OxygenOS 14 which is based on Android 14. The phone has been updated to the latest March 2024 Security Patch as well. OnePlus promises 2 years of software updates and 3 years of security updates, which considering that it’s already on Android 14 is pretty good.

The software experience is pretty good, and the phone comes with just one third-party app – Netflix, which is useful. Customisation options include the ability to change and adjust fonts, icons, add themes and modify or customise the colour accents. I wasn’t spammed by any unwanted notifications but I did notice a few double-apps like two browsers and two file-managers.

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The Dynamic Island-like Fluid Cloud feature also makes it to the OnePlus Nord CE 4

 

The phone comes with the usual suite of new features that have trickled down from Oppo’s ColorOS 14. This includes Fluid Cloud which is an iOS-like Dynamic Island implementation that floats in the status bar upon minimising a supported app. Thanks to AOD support, the phone can also push out Smart Suggestions, which are like Live Activities in iOS but with limited support for just two apps – Zomato and Swiggy. There’s also lighter AI-enabled features like Smart Image Matting (for picking objects and people from images) and Smart Touch (for extracting text from a screenshot). Lastly, File Dock lets you drag and drop files or images from the Smart Sidebar into supported apps.

OnePlus Nord CE 4 Review: Performance

The OnePlus Nord CE 4, as its name aptly describes, is all about delivering a well-tuned, yet basic smartphone experience. From a software standpoint, it manages to do that really well with no hiccups, no lag, efficient multitasking, and buttery smooth performance.

With synthetic benchmarks, the phone managed scores that were on par with devices both at and above its price point. At the same time, the phone still falls short of more performance-oriented devices like the Poco X6 Pro.

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The OnePlus Nord CE 4 offers a massive 5,500mAh battery with 100W wired charging

 

The OnePlus Nord CE 4 managed a score of 8,14,981 points in AnTuTu and scores of 1,154 and 3,000 in Geekbench’s single and multi-core test suites respectively. In graphics benchmarks, the phone managed scores of 5,423 in 3DMark’s Wild Life and 5,553 points in Wild Life Unlimited test suites. GFXBench returned scores of 60 FPS, 60 FPS and 39 FPS in its T-Rex, Manhattan 3.1 and Car Chase test suites.

Loading up Call of Duty: Mobile, the phone felt a bit limited offering a maximum of High graphics and Max frame rate. While the device barely warmed up during the 60 FPS gameplay, the 240Hz touch sampling lagged, leading to plenty of lost tournaments. Asphalt 9: Legends performed as expected for a mid-range device and also offered a 60 FPS mode, which made for buttery smooth graphics and gameplay. Simply put, the phone offers mid-range graphics performance but falls short when it comes to fast-paced first person shooter games.

The phone’s 6.7-inch AMOLED 120Hz display remains unchanged from the previous model and also retains its HDR10 certification. It also offers stereo speakers which I found sufficient while playing games and watching movies. HDR10 support is also available in streaming apps like Netflix and content appears bright and with good dynamic range making for some impressive visuals when watching supported HDR10 content. Brightness is more than sufficient to tackle direct sunlight and the display offers good colours in its Natural screen colour mode. Text and images appeared sharp despite its full-HD+ resolution. The in-display fingerprint reader also worked reliably.

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The large 6.7-inch AMOLED panel offers a 120Hz refresh rate and is HDR10 certified

 

Battery life thanks to the massive battery was pretty good. Our standard battery video loop battery life test managed a jaw-droppingly impressive 32 hours and 21 minutes. The phone offers about a day and a half of battery life with casual usage which also includes an hour of 3D games and about 2 hours of video streaming along with 15-20 minutes of camera usage, which is quite impressive. With heavy and continuous usage, the phone still delivered a whole day of battery life and a bit more. With no camera or gaming usage, it is possible for this phone to last two days on a single charge.

And when the battery does die out, there’s 100W wired charging to bring the phone back to life. The device manages a full charge in just 39 minutes, which is impressive compared to other smartphones available at this price point.

OnePlus Nord CE 4 Review: Cameras

OnePlus has replaced the tried and tested Sony IMX890 sensor (from the Nord CE3) on the primary camera with a new 50-megapixel LYT600 ½-inch type sensor with an f/1.8 aperture. The 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera (Sony IMX355) and a 16-megapixel selfie camera remain the same as the previous model. Also omitted with this new camera setup is the dedicated 2-megapixel macro camera from the Nord CE3. The camera interface is typically OnePlus, with plenty of customisation when it comes to camera modes.

OnePlus Nord CE 4 daylight camera samples. Top to bottom: Ultra-wide camera, primary camera, 2X digital zoom (Tap images to expand)

 

The primary camera captures vibrant images with saturated colours. Dynamic range is impressive, so there is good detail in shadows when shooting in bright daylight. Photos aren’t oversharpened and there is a good amount of natural depth and separation when shooting objects or people. Switching to the 2X digital zoom, the results as expected aren’t too great. These are digital crops from the primary camera and are good to get a better close-up or for framing, but these aren’t of the lossless variety and so you will notice a drop in image quality and detail overall. While it’s possible to get decent photos in 2X mode, the frame needs to be flooded with light.

The phone does not have a dedicated macro camera, so shooting extreme close-ups is not possible like with the previous Nord CE3. However, you can get close enough (15-20 cms) to objects and thanks to the wide f/1.8 aperture, there’s a natural bokeh behind these objects.

While the Nord CE 4 does not have a macro camera/mode, you can get close enough to objects using the primary camera

 

When shooting in low light, details take a hit and textures appear a bit flat and end up looking like paintings in areas with dim lighting. Dynamic range is on the lower side and so there’s less detail in the shadows and dark areas when shooting street-lit scenes. The photos also appear quite washed out and don’t show accurate colours. Perhaps some optimisation is needed with future updates.

Switching to the ultra-wide camera, the photos have decent dynamic range with good detail in the shadows but appear a bit soft. Texture details are on the lower side and pretty much average for a smartphone at this price point. Low light photos come out soft and blurry.

OnePlus Nord CE 4 Low light camera samples. Top: Selfie camera (Night mode), bottom: Primary camera (Night mode) (Tap to expand images)

 

Shooting selfies in daylight shows decent facial details but shows below-average edge-detection when using the Portrait mode. In low light, selfies are low on facial details and you will need to fire up the flash to get decent results.

Video recorded at 1080p (30fps and 60fps) appeared scaled down, lacking resolution and detail. However, these do a better job at stabilisation than the 4K 30fps footage. 4K 30fps footage appears too shaky when both panning or walking around but it offers better resolution and detail. Sadly, there’s noticeable noise in the 4K footage even when shooting video in daylight. Low light video recordings at any resolution are too noisy to be usable.

OnePlus Nord CE 4 Review: Verdict

The OnePlus Nord CE 4 is a solid upgrade when compared to its predecessor the Nord CE3. It gets users a fresh design with an IP rating, a more powerful processor, decent camera performance and a bigger battery with faster charging.

However when compared to the current competition, its pricing is worrisome. This is mainly because its only standout feature seems to be battery life and fast charging. I really wished that it performed better in the camera department.

At the same price point, there’s devices like the Poco X6 Pro (Review) which offers similar camera performance but is a lot better when it comes to gaming and raw performance, which is something the Nord’s target audience (youth) will desire. There’s also the Motorola Edge 40 (Review) which offers good performance, near-stock software experience, quality cameras, wireless charging and an IP68 rating at a now discounted Rs. 26,999.

At a slightly higher price point, sits the very capable Realme 12 Pro+ (Review) which does not offer the raw performance of the Poco X6 Pro, but has a premium design (with an IP65 rating), excellent cameras with good low-light and telephoto performance and good battery life as well.

It’s a bit hard to recommend the OnePlus Nord CE 4 unless all you are interested in for your next mid-range smartphone upgrade is big battery life and fast-charging, which as we know is not bad on the newer competing smartphones either. But if you are on a tight budget and want a smooth and stable software experience, OnePlus’s Nord CE 4 may just the be right smartphone at the right price.


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