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OnePlus Nord N20 5G Review: A $300 Value Pick That’s Missing a Spark

The OnePlus Nord N20 5G’s $300 price matches up with the initial OnePlus One from 2014, but beyond that, much has changed from what OnePlus now offers as of this cheap. The 2014 $299 “flagship killer” phone was built as rival to the very best devices from Samsung, Apple and HTC, filled with a “Never Settle” mantra.

The N20 5G instead earns several nice conveniences from the high-end — as an in-screen fingerprint sensor and faster 33W charging — but mixes them in with a less powerful processor and so-so cameras.

A few of that is to be likely when coming up with a phone for a fraction of the $900 or $1,000 price top-of-the-line devices charge. And the N20 5G possesses some surprisingly solid value your money can buy, but don’t expect it to punch high above its price class just like the OnePlus phones of years past.

I am utilizing the phone in the last couple of weeks, and discovered that as the phone lacks excitement, it might include enough features to perform much of the thing you need within the $300 cost range.

Read more: Best Phones Under $500

Decent specs, fine performance

OnePlus Nord N20 5G playing Call of Duty

The OnePlus N20 are designed for games like Call of Duty Mobile just fine, nonetheless it did have struggles with YouTube TV.

Eli Blumenthal/CNET

Whereas the initial $300 OnePlus One ran on a then top-of-the-line Qualcomm processor, the N20 5G uses Qualcomm’s cheaper Snapdragon 695 chipset with 6GB of RAM. Although it requires a minute get started after turning it on, once it loads up it appears to be fine albeit with occasional hiccups once the battery was under 10%.

Even then, I could multitask watching The Departed on Netflix while texting and browsing the net without major issues, though scrolling did improve when I only had one app open at the same time. Doing offers like Call of Duty Mobile also worked fine.

The display, a 6.43-inch AMOLED screen looks good, too, though AMOLED panels on budget phones are nothing new, as Samsung has already established it on a few of its affordable Galaxy A string devices.

The N20 5G’s 60Hz refresh rate makes me skip the 90Hz panels OnePlus has applied to the majority of its phones recently, particularly if scrolling through text-filled websites as well as opening the app tray. Even cheaper phones, just like the $200 TCL XE 30 5G, offer 90Hz displays at cheap points. Flicking through TikTok or YouTube, however, was fine on the OnePlus even though browsing with a minimal battery.

Read more: Best Phones Under $200

Oddly, the telephone struggled to play live content from YouTube TV, with constant frame drops and lagging that made watching live content extremely difficult. Watching with DirecTV Stream was a little better, nonetheless it still had some stutters and frame drops when viewing live TV.

The mono speaker isn’t great and lacks fullness, nonetheless it will get loud and is okay for playing music on Spotify or streaming a movie or Television show, particularly if in a quiet room.

On the plus side, there exists a fingerprint scanner included in the display also it is effective, recognizing my thumb and unlocking the telephone quickly and reliably. Gleam 3.5mm headphone jack and a microSD card slot for adding yet another 512GB of storage. Additionally you get NFC for tap-to-pay mobile payments, an attribute that even some $400 phones just like the Moto G 5G lack.

Beyond the display’s lower refresh rate and processor, there are some the areas where OnePlus has scaled back in comparison to its flagship devices. The telephone is IP52-rated, so that it should survive dust and raindrops, but don’t take this to a pool or in to the shower. In addition, it lacks wireless charging, that is a common omission for some sub-$300 phones.

OnePlus says it’ll get one major Android software upgrade (from Android 11 to Android 12) and 3 years of security updates. Most higher-end Android phones promise at the very least 3 years of major software upgrades, and Samsung even pledges 2-3 years of software updates with four years of security updates on its cheaper Galaxy A phones. Seeing OnePlus settle here on just one single major upgrade is really a bit disappointing — particularly when the phone is still running on Android 11.

I also wish the vibration motor was a little stronger in this 173g phone, because the haptic feedback when texting felt inconsistent and the buzzing for notifications like calls and texts was weak.

Three rear cameras have macro aspirations, marginal results

The front camera on the OnePlus N20 5G.

The 16-megapixel front camera on the N20 5G.

Eli Blumenthal/CNET

The cameras on the N20 are the following: a 64-megapixel main shooter alongside 2-megapixel macro and 2-megapixel monochrome lenses. The primary shooter does a good job with environments with ample lighting. Daylight shots at a Mets game or perhaps a bar looked fine with a good quantity of detail and color.

Daylight shot of bottles in a bar from OnePlus N20 5G.

Daylight shots are passable for sharing with friends on social media marketing.

Eli Blumenthal/CNET

As you might expect with a budget phone, night photography isn’t a feature for the N20. It includes a “Night Mode,” but those photos still looked quite dark. In this example, the brand new York Mets apple appears to merge with the darkness of the sky.

Night photo of the Mets apple from the OnePlus N20 5G.

Night shots are unimpressive.

Eli Blumenthal/CNET

The macro lens, meanwhile, pays to for fulfilling a specs count of “three rear cameras” however, not ideal for much else. The macro camera was inconsistent with focusing and the effect lacked sharpness and detail. I wish more companies would stop including these cameras and use that money to upgrade more worthwhile features just like the display, processor or speakers.

There is a monochrome lens, but no dedicated setting to shoot with it also it instead seems made to help the primary shooter like on other OnePlus phones.

Macro picture of flower taken on OnePlus Nord N20 5G

A macro shot from the OnePlus N20 lacks details and clarity.

Eli Blumenthal/CNET

A 16-megapixel camera rests in top of the left corner. Just like the main rear shooter, selfies look fine when given ample light.

The included gallery app is frustrating even though using basic features like pinch-to-zoom. I came across that whenever I gestured to zoom out that the N20 lagged. Zooming in, however, often worked fine.

Solid battery life, with an easy charger included

OnePlus does stick out a bit by including a 33W fast charger with the telephone, that is notable as manufacturers continue steadily to leave that out from the box.

After 15 minutes of charging, the N20 5G’s 4,500-mAh battery went from 0% to 22%. Around 30 minutes of charging took the battery around 49%, with a complete charge taking around one hour and 20 minutes.

While I haven’t run any rigorous tests, I didn’t have any problems with battery life in my own mixed usage of the telephone.

Settling down

The side of the OnePlus N20 5G.
Eli Blumenthal/CNET

With the OnePlus Nord N20 5G you can see where in fact the company is skimping on features to help keep costs down. It still handles most of the basics well, that could be enough for all those on T-Mobile or Mint Mobile searching for a solid, but affordable option at the carrier.

OnePlus recently has expanded the N20 5G to now be accessible unlocked aswell, though its 5G support is bound to only providers that use T-Mobile’s 5G network (such as for example Mint, Google Fi and Metro by T-Mobile).

This is a shame that OnePlus has deviated up to now from what brought everything the initial success, because the US market greatly needs more strong, lower-priced alternatives to Samsung and Apple. The N20 comes close, but way too many compromises keep it from ever being great.

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