I’ve always wondered what the big deal was with OnePlus, with their catchy “Never Settle” philosophy and their ambition to be the Muji of the technology industry.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get my hands on any of their phones. Thankfully, our friends sent us the OnePlus NORD 3, their latest mid-ranger which was just released this month.
Not sure if it’s because of their name, but the NORD 3 only comes in one color (Misty Green) and one spec variant 16GB+256GB). It retails for P29,990 and you can already order it from their official Shopee, Lazada and Tiktok Brand Stores as well as their kiosks and authorized partner stores.
You’ve probably grown tired of the term “flagship killer” being used by so many brands to create hype for their phones, but it’s actually OnePlus who coined that term. Established by Pete Lau and Carl Pei in December 2013, OnePlus’ mission was to create smartphones that would deliver a premium experience minus the exorbitant price tag.
They say you never forget your first, and my experience with the NORD 3 was definitely an exciting one, but does it have everything you could ask for?
n DESIGN: Embracing a fresh design approach, the OnePlus Nord 3 features an understated yet very elegant profile. It is still a dual-glass smartphone with a plastic frame. The Misty Green colorway comes with a subtle and glossy celadon 2.8D silk glass finish. This green hue looks more like jade than emerald, which is different, though I would have preferred a darker tint. The screen is completely flat with Dragontrail glass protection while the back has Gorilla Glass 5 and holds an IP54 rating that offers a bit of protection from water splashes.
The slim 8.15mm design and flat edges make for a comfortable in-hand feel. But while the smartphone’s attractiveness is undeniable, that glass back is a fingerprint magnet and can also be quite bit slippery to hold. That’s why you’d need a protective case especially if you are either too clumsy or living a really active lifestyle.
Exploring the ports and buttons, the volume rocker is on the left, while on the right is the power button and the alert slider—a trademark of OnePlus phones. At first, I thought this slider was unnecessary, but after a couple of days, I now want it to be on all future devices. The bottom edge features a speaker grille, a Type-C port for charging, a microphone, and SIM tray, while at the top edge is a secondary microphone and an IR Blaster.
On the back are two prominent circular cutouts that house the main camera and two additional camera sensors. There’s also an LED flash and an ambient light sensor. The front of the phone has a flat screen with barely noticeable bezels while the punch-hole camera cutout occupies the top center of the display.
SMOOTH OPERATOR: The brand’s mantra of “Fast and Smooth” became synonymous with its products, emphasizing the seamless performance and fluid user interface offered by OnePlus smartphones. To ensure that it delivers on this promise, the Nord 3 5G is powered by an Octa-core MediaTek Dimensity 9000 chipset manufactured using a cutting-edge 4nm process. Compared to the Nord 2T’s chipset this upgrade offers 40 percent better CPU performance and 85 percent better GPU performance.
It also comes with flagship 16GB RAM and 256GB of onboard storage. I seldom use review phones as my daily driver, but since I really wanted to test out this device, I had to put my main phone to rest—and because I was so satisfied with the Nord 3, it looks like it’s going on an extended break. The OnePlus Nord 3 is definitely reliable and can effortlessly handle all my various tasks and constant app switching.
I’ve used it for daily blog posting, social-media browsing and content creation, e-mail correspondence, video and music streaming, and of course photography for event coverages. OnePlus says the device can run up to 44 apps smoothly in the background.
I installed a few games like PUBG, Call of Duty, and Genshin Impact for my nephews to test out and I did notice smoother gameplay that is at par with those of more expensive phones.
They also did not complain of any noticeable lags or frame rate drops. For gamers, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the phone’s excellent graphics performance and its efficient vapor chamber cooling system that minimizes heating.
The OnePlus Nord 3 runs on OxygenOS 13 that is based on Android 13. It’s a familiar experience with ColorOS though I prefer this UI for its cleaner look and lack of annoying bloatware.
DISPLAY: The OnePlus Nord 3 makes for a great multimedia experience thanks to its impressive 6.74-inch Fluid AMOLED display. You get a 2772×1240 resolution and 120Hz refresh rate, and the screen delivers smooth and fluid visuals. Unlike other phones, you get the options to choose between automatic, high or standard refresh rates so whether you’re just scrolling through your social media feed or in a competitive match, the high refresh rate ensures a seamless experience. I also liked its peak brightness that allows clear visibility even in bright outdoor environments.
The OnePlus Nord 3 has HDR10 so whether you’re streaming your favorite movies/shows on Netflix or indulging in multimedia content, you enjoy an immersive visual journey. The same can be said for its audio, thanks to its stereo speaker setup. The sound is loud and crisp both when watching videos or listening to audio. It’s not the loudest, but I’d go for great sound over volume anytime.
SUPERB MAIN CAMERA: The OnePlus Nord 3 has a 50MP Sony IMX890 main sensor with optical image stabilization (OIS)—the same camera in its flagship OnePlus 11, minus the Hasselblad branding. Accompanying the primary sensor is an 8MP ultrawide Sony IMX355 sensor and a 2MP macro lens.
The primary camera is capable of capturing superb photos with nice colors accuracy, plenty of details, and decent dynamic range in daylight and favorable lighting. The main camera can also deliver pretty impressive night shots, but you really need a tripod or stand to achieve it because it can take as long as 10-seconds to complete a shot and even a slight jerk will blur the image.
The 112˚ ultrawide lens also does a good job to help you capture realistic wide-angle photos with less weird warping and distortion. The quality is obviously different but the results are still quite good and useful. As for the 2MP macro lens, it’s just there to puff the spec sheet and not very useful.
For selfie enthusiasts, the OnePlus Nord 3 has a 16MP front-facing camera that again performs exceptionally well under good lighting conditions, capturing clear and precise shots. The selfie lens preserves the natural look of your face, though there are lots of built-in filters that can modify various facial features, including skin tone, eyes, nose and chin, if you prefer the Korean glass skin look.
The OnePlus Nord 3 can record 4K videos at 60fps and there’s also a tripod and steady mode, further enhancing the video recording experience. So far, I’ve been using it for my event coverages and reels and though I’m quite satisfied with the results, its zoom capability is a bit underwhelming especially in videos.
I LOVE BIG BATTS: Like almost every 2023 phone, the OnePlus Nord 3 houses a robust 5000mAh battery. It does have an edge in terms of charging speed as it supports 80W Supervooc wired fast charging. You can get up to 55 percent in just 15 minutes, and fully charge an empty battery in less than 40 minutes.
Battery life proved to be decent as well, as I was able to use it for an entire day of photography when we attended the Anime X Cosplay convention last week and it still had plenty of juice left by the time we got home. It’s worth noting that the Nord 3 offers several battery features such as High-Performance Mode, Optimize Battery Use, Sleep Standby Optimization, Wise Charging, and more, allowing users to optimize their battery life and usage.
FINAL WORD: So, does the OnePlus Nord 3 5G have everything you could ask for?
For a midrange flagship, it does live up to its promises, providing you with a smooth and snappy experience thanks to its powerful Dimensity 9000 chipset, a visual and audio treat with an AMOLED screen and stereo speakers, and a main camera that is capable of taking superb photos for your social media feed.
It is an outstanding mid-range option that offers a compelling alternative for those seeking a different Android brand, though there are a few factors that prevent it from becoming the ultimate “flagship killer.” These include the absence of wireless charging, limited water protection, and subpar secondary cameras. Despite these limitations, the Nord 3 5G stands out as an exceptional choice, providing users with a OnePlus flagship-level experience at a more affordable price.