At just $282, there’s no better example of how to cram incredible value into a gorgeous-looking and feeling phone shell. Almost everything about this phone screams excellent, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anything even remotely close to this good at this price. It’s hard to imagine it getting any better without being more expensive.
- Gorgeous AMOLED display
- Excellent cameras
- 3.5mm jack and microSD card slot
- 5G connectivity and NFC
- Great-looking and feeling build
- Lots of software features
- Display could be brighter
- Some weird RCS issues
- USB port compatibility issues
When OnePlus first announced the Nord N20, I got excited. As someone who has used just about every OnePlus phone over the years, I’ve seen the company go from the Flagship Killer company to just another flagship company and everything in between. The OnePlus of the last year or two has been a bit of a mess, to say the least, but, for me, the OnePlus Nord N20 5G seems like a turning point for the company.
As I surmised nearly a month ago now, the OnePlus Nord N20 5G is essentially the resurrection of the OnePlus X in all the right ways. At $282, concessions have to be made but OnePlus has seemingly made all the right cuts and kept the most premium-feeling parts in the exact places that need them. An AMOLED display, an actual good 64MP main camera, excellent performance, and nearly 2-day battery life round out what’s seriously the best cheap phone I’ve used in years.
If you’re a T-Mobile or Metro by T-Mobile customer and don’t want to spend very much on a phone, this is absolutely the one you should buy. Our OnePlus Nord N20 review tells you exactly why.
$282 is a very strange price. It doesn’t fit the usual pricing mantra of ending on a zero or a five, but that kind of fits with the rest of the phone anyway. At this price, I wholly expect some big concessions. A sub-par display, mediocre performance, a terrible camera, or really poor software would easily be expected from something in this price range but the OnePlus Nord N20 5G has none of these issues.
In fact, as you’ll see from the section below, there’s almost nothing not to like about this phone. Even the issues that are present should almost all be fixable via software.
But let’s not focus on that just yet. Let’s focus on how seriously amazing this phone is, and not just because of its excellent price. When OnePlus debuted the OnePlus X so many years ago, it made three mistakes that held the phone back. First, the construction was all metal and glass, which drove manufacturing costs up. With the Nord N20, the frame is completely plastic yet feels anything but what you might think of when you hear “plastic phone.”
|Category||OnePlus Nord N20 5G|
|Operating system||Android 11, OxygenOS 11.3|
|Display||6.43-inch 60Hz AMOLED|
|1080 x 2400 (20:9)|
|Chipset||Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 CPU|
|Qualcomm Adreno 619 GPU|
|Storage||128GB UFS 2.2|
|Rear camera 1||64MP, f/1.79, 1080p @ 30 FPS|
|Rear camera 2||2MP, f/2.4, macro lens|
|Rear camera 3||2MP, f/2.4, Monochrome lens|
|Front camera||16MP, f/2.4, 1080p @ 30 FPS|
|Connectivity||5G sub-6, Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5.1|
|Audio||Single speaker, noise cancellation|
|Charging||33W SUPERVOOC fast charging|
|Ports||USB Type-C, 3.5mm|
|Security||In-display fingerprint (optical)|
|Dimensions||159.9 mm tall x 73.2 mm high x 7.5mm thin|
The design of the phone is nothing short of superb. The only time I thought it felt a little “cheap” was when I was peeling off the IMEI sticker that is affixed from the factory. The back lifted in a way only plastic would but, beyond that, I never once thought about the materials used in the build. The color chosen is great looking — especially with the metal rings around the camera humps — and the phone comes away looking much more expensive than it is.
Similarly, this phone is very thin, yet doesn’t shy away from a big battery. I easily got a day and a half out of every single charge, and I imagine some users will have no trouble getting two days out of a single charge. OnePlus even includes a 33W SUPERVOOC charger in the box, so it only takes a few minutes to top up 50% or so if you happen to run the battery dry on a particularly heavy use day.
Now, on to the performance. The second issue with the OnePlus X was the processor, but not because it was bad. Far from it, actually. It was the same flagship processor included in the OnePlus One the year before. With the Nord N20, OnePlus choose a more reserved Snapdragon 695, a chipset that’s not flagship-level performance but won’t have any issues doing basically anything you need it to do.
Comparatively, most phones at this price range opt for a Snapdragon 400-level processor, which has substantially worse performance at every level. While I noticed that it wasn’t quite as responsive as a Snapdragon 800-level processor — which is to be expected given the numbering scheme — it never felt slow. In fact, games like Minecraft ran at a buttery smooth 60FPS at default settings, but more graphically intensive games like Fortnite will need the settings turned down a bit to get a smooth experience.
Further aiding with the performance is the display, which is only a 60Hz panel. Too many inexpensive phones, like the Moto G Power (2022), try to push the display refresh rate too high to give off the aura that this is a more powerful phone than it really is. The problem with that idea is that the processors in cheaper phones simply cannot keep up with higher refresh rates. It’s folly to even try, and I’m glad OnePlus didn’t bother.
Instead of wasting precious manufacturing dollars on a useless high refresh rate display, OnePlus opted for a quality AMOLED panel that looks simply fantastic all the time. It’s got those deep infinite blacks that only AMOLEDs can make, and the colors pop without looking unrealistic. I’d love to see a brighter panel in next year’s phone, but it’s not bad by any means. If anything, it’s just hard to photograph, and you’ll notice my outdoor photos of the display have a decidedly dim-grey look to the display because of it.
Daniel Buck is a teacher and a senior visiting fellow at the Fordham Institute. His writing can be found at Time Plus News, City Journal, and Quillette.