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The OnePlus 8T has a Nord problem
2020 was an interesting year for OnePlus. The company greatly expanded its traditionally small annual portfolio, with phones now ranging from premium flagships to flagship killers to budget phones. Despite the range of options, the steady improvements to the premium mid-segment have made one thing clear — devices like the OnePlus Nord are more than enough for most and user experience always trumps a spec sheet. For me, this has never been clearer than while using the OnePlus 8T. So which phone is better, the OnePlus 8t vs OnePlus Nord?
There’s a growing sentiment that OnePlus might be releasing too many models and blurring the lines a bit too much. Now, with the OnePlus 8T, it appears that the company is taking inspiration from the mid-tier option rather than aiming for the premium segment.
I talked about this issue earlier in 2020 when OnePlus launched the Nord and how it compared favorably to the vanilla OnePlus 8. Those talking points ring a whole lot truer with the OnePlus 8T.
The OnePlus 8T seems closer to the budget Nord than the flagship 8 Pro.
The company’s latest offering seems like a half step forward, and one step back. OnePlus might have widened the gulf between the Nord and the OnePlus 8T just a smidgen compared to the OnePlus 8, but the fact remains — the OnePlus 8T is closer to the budget Nord than the flagship Pro.
Android Authority’s own Ryan-Thomas Shaw noted in his OnePlus 8T review that the OnePlus Nord might offer better value for most buyers given how similar the experience is between the two phones. In this article, I want to dive a little deeper to see how close the two phones are and whether or not the OnePlus 8T is worth the extra cash, while also briefly looking ahead at how the all-new Nord N10 fits into the puzzle in the US market.
Is the OnePlus 8T really worth the extra €170?
To get a better understanding of where the two phones lie in relation to each other, it is important to know how they’re priced. The OnePlus 8T starts at £549 (~$708) in the UK and Rs 42,999 (~$585). The higher-end 12GB RAM/256GB storage version is priced at £649 (~$837), Rs 45,999 (~$626). Unfortunately, the US only gets the higher-end version, which is priced at $749.
Meanwhile, the OnePlus Nord starts at a significantly more affordable €399 (~$469), £379 (~$488), and Rs. 27,999 (~$375) for the 128GB model with 8GB of RAM. It goes all the way to €499 (~$587), £469 (~$604), and Rs. 29,999 (~$401) for the high-end 256GB model with 12GB of RAM. India gets an even more affordable model with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage for just Rs. 24,999 (~$340) making it an absolute steal. Sadly, the OnePlus Nord is not available in the US.
I’ll make it easy for you. If you want all the specs possible, €170 isn’t a huge premium to pay.
Yes, the Snapdragon 865 on the OnePlus 8T is most definitely more powerful than the 765G on the Nord, as we discovered in our in-depth Snapdragon 865 vs 765 comparison. In fact, the chipset in the Nord is closer to a Snapdragon 845 from two years ago than Qualcomm’s top-tier silicon from 2020.
The 120Hz display on the OnePlus 8T will also be smoother. 65W charging is almost twice as fast as the Nord’s maximum charging speed too. However, the real question is how much of that really matters? After all, a spec sheet isn’t the be-all and end-all of a smartphone.
There are numerous instances where even top-of-the-line specs haven’t been enough to save a smartphone. Clean, well-optimized software and overall execution are so much more important for the user experience. As it turns out, OnePlus is right up there with Google in making sure that Oxygen OS is one of the speediest takes on Android around.
2020 has been all about building smartphones that embody the “OnePlus experience.” And in creating the Nord, a phone that offers a speedy, clean, and intuitive UX on a budget, OnePlus has made it that much harder to recommend its higher-end smartphones.
There's more to a phone than specs, and the experience between the OnePlus Nord and OnePlus 8T isn't massively different.
Over the last few months, with over 300 apps installed on my phone, and juggling through dozens of them on a daily basis, I’ve never run into any issues at all with the Nord. The phone has been a constant companion as a secondary device since launch. It has kept up with everything I’ve thrown at the hardware.
My anecdotal evidence was backed up by Android Authority’s testing earlier this year. The Nord and its Snapdragon 765G chipset beat the Snapdragon 855 powered OnePlus 7T Pro at sustained performance. That’s more than enough power for the vast majority of smartphone buyers, and the difference in day to day usability isn’t nearly enough to justify the price bump.
See also: OnePlus 8T vs older OnePlus phones — Should you upgrade?
Meanwhile, the OnePlus 8T is powered by the exact same processor and RAM combination as the OnePlus 8, instead of the gaming-optimized Snapdragon 865 Plus. A curious change in strategy considering the 7T-series of phones did, in fact, get the Plus variant of the Snapdragon 855.
Design is just as important. The OnePlus Nord switched up its styling with a smaller display and cut corners with the polycarbonate mid-frame. Nevertheless, it might have set the ball rolling as far as the design language is concerned at OnePlus.
The premium looking frosted back of the 8T has been replaced by a colorway that is highly inspired by the Nord’s pastel blue shade. The enamel-like paint finish shifts colors from blue to green and looks plenty good, but I wouldn’t place it in the same premium league as the OnePlus 8 Pro.
With the OnePlus 8T, the company has brought the 120Hz display from the OnePlus 8 Pro to the 8T, while dropping the resolution down to Full HD. Elsewhere, the phone even adopts the flat display from the Nord.
Here’s the deal though — the switch from 90Hz to 120Hz isn’t nearly as apparent as the upgrade from a 60Hz screen. I’m not saying that it serves no purpose, but if the vast majority of our readers are to be believed, 90Hz is more than enough. In fact, just shy of 47% of readers in a recent poll suggested that a high refresh rate display wasn’t key to their buying decision at all.
Personally, in daily use, I simply cannot see the difference between 90Hz and 120Hz displays, unless I’m actively looking for it. My smartphone use involves jumping into apps to reply to messages, finish up task lists, or checking up on social media and emails — none of which particularly benefit from a 120Hz panel.
That’s not to take away from the high refresh rate display. In fact, smartphone gamers are bound to enjoy the screen on the OnePlus 8T. However, calling it a must-have is a bit of a stretch.
On the imaging front, the Nord and the OnePlus 8T have practically the same camera setup. Sure, the ultra-wide sensor gets an upgrade to 16MP, but the dual front-facing cameras on the OnePlus Nord are vastly more versatile on a day to day basis. Honestly, I was hoping to find an upgraded version of the dual-camera setup on the OnePlus 8T due to the extra flexibility it affords. A definite win for the Nord.
Ultra-fast charging is incredible, but the frugal chipset and large battery on the Nord lasts longer.
And that brings me to the next big feature — 65W charging. I’ve got to give it to OnePlus, the ability to charge your phone in half an hour is incredible.
However, you know what I’d rather have? A phone that lasts longer. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the lower-powered Snapdragon 765G is more frugal. Paired up with a battery that is almost as large, it lasts just as long as the OnePlus 8T, if not longer. In my use of both phones and under similar workloads, the Nord has consistently outlasted the OnePlus 8T by a small margin.
OnePlus 8T vs OnePlus Nord: Which one would you prefer?
Look, I’m not saying that the OnePlus 8T doesn’t bring quality-of-life improvements. However, for the vast majority of buyers, the Nord is more than enough. Moreover, between the flat display, very similar camera chops, and the not-so-premium colorway, the OnePlus 8T comes across as more of a Nord Pro than a flagship killer.
Would you buy the OnePlus Nord over the OnePlus 8T?
The situation in North America, however, is odd. The main Nord phone simply isn’t available, and the only OnePlus 8T on the market is the top-end 12GB variant. Priced at $749, the OnePlus 8T goes up against alternatives like the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE or even the Google Pixel 5. Both phones offer added value in the form of drastically better cameras, an IP rating, wireless charging and, at least in the case of the Pixel, faster software updates.
Read more: OnePlus 8T alternatives: 5 other phones to check out before you buy
The OnePlus Nord is the true winner in the company’s 2020 line-up, and by taking design cues from it, the OnePlus 8T has highlighted just how close the two phones really are. Sure, there’s value in paying for extras. However, almost none of them are must-haves for anyone but speed freaks and hardcore OnePlus fans.
A $400 OnePlus Nord would have been a sure winner in the North American market. The $749 OnePlus 8T has enough competition, and the lack of market awareness isn’t going to make it any easier.
What about the OnePlus Nord N10?
Of course, this is all complicated even further when you look at the Nord phones that were released to the US — the Nord N10 and Nord N100. The latter is an ultra-budget phone retailing for just $179 that put OnePlus in the entry-level segment for the first time. The N10, meanwhile, is an interesting addition to the OnePlus portfolio.
Priced at $299, the Nord N10 makes cutbacks to the original Nord in the processor, overall design, the display, and the selfie camera, but adds a headphone jack, a microSD card slot, and a higher resolution primary camera. The slightly more expensive vanilla Nord seems like the better buy on paper in regions where it’s available.
Our initial analysis of the regular OnePlus Nord still holds true. By making the phone such a good deal, the company has simply made it way too hard to justify shelling out the extra money for such a half-hearted update as the OnePlus 8T.