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OnePlus Nord 2 vs older OnePlus phones: Should you upgrade?

How does the Nord 2 stack up against other OnePlus phones?

Published onJuly 31, 2021

OnePlus Nord 2 with OnePlus Nord and OnePlus 9
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

With OnePlus’ flagships getting more expensive, the company introduced its Nord series in 2020 to provide a mid-range, and more importantly, more affordable alternative to its high-end devices. The original Nord was a success, but just a year later, its successor — the OnePlus Nord 2 — is facing an extremely saturated mid-range market with phones offering a lot of bang for your buck.

The Nord 2 seems to tick all the right boxes. It mimics a flagship design, features high-end performance, and offers almost everything that OnePlus fans love. However, is the OnePlus Nord 2 a worthy upgrade compared to OnePlus’ older devices? We look at how the Nord 2 stacks up against all the OnePlus smartphones that came before it to see if it’s time for you to upgrade.

Our verdict: OnePlus Nord 2 review

OnePlus Nord 2 vs OnePlus 6, 6T, and older

OnePlus 6 and 6T from the back
Oneplus 6t and 6

The OnePlus 6 and 6T were the last of the company’s “flagship killer” era. The OnePlus 6T, in particular, was an extremely popular device, offering the right mix of high-end specs and features with a price tag that was hard to beat. Despite how much the smartphone landscape has changed in the last few years, the OnePlus 6 and 6T don’t feel old, with these devices setting design and feature trends that continue to this day.

The OnePlus 6 was the first from the company to feature a notch to house the front-facing camera, and with the 6T came the waterdrop notch and an under-display fingerprint scanner. The curved glass back and near bezel-less front hold up as well. The Snapdragon 845 processor backed by 8GB of RAM is still a capable processing package. While the camera was never OnePlus’ strong suit, the dual-camera setup is more than serviceable.

OnePlus history: The company’s entire lineup so far

That said, there’s plenty that shows the age of these phones. The display’s 60Hz refresh rate is distinctly old school compared to current alternatives. And the 20W charging, while “Warp Charge” at the time, feels quite slow now when pitted against the 65W fast charging of devices like the Nord 2. Of course, you won’t get 5G support either, but that’s not really a big deal unless you live in an area with a strong 5G signal. OnePlus also delayed its Oxygen OS 11 rollout, with the phones expected to receive the software update later this year. Unfortunately, that is also the end of the road for these devices, with neither expected to get Android 12.

There are plenty of reasons why the OnePlus Nord 2 is worth buying if you’re still rocking the OnePlus 6 or 6T. You get a faster processor, a better display with a higher refresh rate, better cameras, and faster charging. Anyone looking to upgrade to the Nord 2 won’t face the jarring price hike they would if buying OnePlus’ latest flagships either.

OnePlus Nord 2 vs OnePlus 7 series

OnePlus 7T Pro rear in hand taking photo

OnePlus started its Pro iterations with the OnePlus 7 and 7T series, which started its push into true flagship territory in terms of both features and price. There was a clear distinction between the OnePlus 7 and 7 Pro, with the latter coming with a triple rear camera setup, faster charging, a QHD+ AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate (compared to the FHD+ 60Hz screen of the regular version), and an all-screen front with a pop-up camera.

Things got a lot more muddled with the 7T series. The 7T Pro was largely an iterative update, with the only difference being the upgrade to the Snapdragon 855 Plus processor. OnePlus also brought the best features of the Pro editions — except for the display resolution and the design — to the regular 7T.

OnePlus guide: Everything you need to know about the brand

Even though these phones are from 2019, they aren’t particularly far behind the Nord 2. The Snapdragon 855 and 855 Plus still hold up really well, you get 8GB of RAM, and these phones will likely get an upgrade to Android 12. The 7 Pro, 7T, and 7T Pro all come with 90Hz display refresh rates, and the Pro editions feature a higher resolution than the Nord 2. You also get triple-camera setups across the board, and the Nord 2 doesn’t come with an IP rating or wireless charging either.

The Nord 2 has a few advantages, of course, courtesy of being a newer release. It’s a better performer, you get much faster charging, and the cameras are better, even though real-world performance isn’t up to the mark just yet. The Nord 2 will also get software updates faster. If you already have the 7T or the Pro editions and are considering an upgrade, you might be better off with the OnePlus flagships unless you’re looking for an affordable option.

OnePlus Nord 2 vs OnePlus 8, 8 Pro, and 8T

OnePlus 8T showing the rear of the phone and camera module.
Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

If you have the OnePlus 8, 8 Pro, or the 8T, you probably aren’t looking to upgrade anyway, and if you are, the Nord 2 isn’t the device you should be considering. The Nord 2 is a mid-ranger through and through, and while the 8 series might be a year older at this point, its flagship chops continue to shine through.

The OnePlus 8 Pro is understandably the better of the two 8 series models. You get a QHD+ display with a 120Hz refresh rate, compared to the FHD+ 90Hz screen of the regular model, and wireless charging. The Pro also comes with an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance, and a much better camera setup. The 8T also brings the best features of the 8 Pro to a more affordable package, with a higher display refresh rate and faster wired charging. However, you miss out on the QHD+ screen, an IP rating, and wireless charging compared to the 8 Pro.

OnePlus 8 buyer’s guide: Everything you need to know

The Nord 2 offers similar performance and charges faster than the 8 and 8 Pro. However, it’s behind when considering everything else, and there’s certainly nothing here to justify an upgrade from the three 2020 releases.

OnePlus Nord 2 vs OnePlus Nord

OnePlus Nord 2 placed next to OnePlus Nord
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The OnePlus Nord 2 is a decent upgrade over its predecessor. Its Dimensity 1200 processor offers better performance, the camera setup is arguably an improvement, and not only is the Nord 2’s battery bigger but it can be charged much faster too. The Nord 2 also borrows design elements from the OnePlus 9 series and looks and feels more premium. That’s where the differences end though.

Both phones come with similar displays and identical RAM and storage configurations. The older Nord has more cameras as well, with a quad-camera setup on the back and dual front-facing shooters, compared to the triple camera package and single front-facing unit of the Nord 2. However, the number of cameras is no indication of quality, and the Nord 2 will likely be the better of the two after OnePlus sorts out some launch day issues with software updates.

OnePlus Nord buyer’s guide: Everything you need to know

This is the only match-up that really matters among OnePlus’ more recent releases. Even then, if you have the OnePlus Nord, it might be too soon to upgrade to its successor, and there isn’t enough here to make the jump just yet.

OnePlus Nord 2 vs OnePlus 9 series

OnePlus Nord 2 vs OnePlus 9 back side by side
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

This comparison is a no-brainer. The OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro are the company’s latest flagships and are obviously better than the Nord 2. There’s absolutely no reason why you’d want to get the Nord 2 if you already have a 9 series phone.

The 9 and 9 Pro come with the Snapdragon 888 under the hood, a 120Hz display refresh rate, identical batteries, and the same wired charging speeds. For the first time, OnePlus also brings wireless charging to the non-Pro model, even though you get much faster 50W wireless charging with the 9 Pro. The 9 Pro also has a higher resolution display, an IP68 rating for water resistance, and a better camera package.

OnePlus 9 buyer’s guide: Everything you need to know

The Nord 2 actually doesn’t look that different from the regular OnePlus 9. It even keeps the primary cameras from its flagship sibling. However, that’s where OnePlus’ partnership with Hasselblad for its flagship series makes all the difference. The Nord 2’s camera capabilities aren’t anywhere near the 9 series, for now at least, despite similar hardware. And that’s disappointing because the camera is the only area in which the Nord 2 could potentially match the flagships.

The only reason you should consider the Nord 2 is if you haven’t bought a 9 series phone yet and if you’re looking to save a whole lot of money. At close to a thousand dollars, the Nord 2 is less than half the price of the 9 Pro and quite a bit cheaper than the regular 9. And that’s pretty much the only saving grace for the Nord 2 compared to the current OnePlus flagships.

Should you upgrade to the OnePlus Nord 2?

OnePlus Nord 2 top down view outside with foliage
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The problem with a mid-ranger is that it’s difficult to justify an upgrade compared to what were all flagships at the time. The Nord 2 is definitely an improvement over the 6, 6T, or older phones and is the only upgrade I can safely say yes to. It has its advantages over the 7 and 7T series, but unless you’re looking for a more affordable option, the Nord 2 isn’t the “upgrade” you’re looking for.

If you're rocking a OnePlus 6T or older, the Nord 2 would make for a fine upgrade.

Things are similarly unclear with the older Nord. The Nord 2 is the better phone, but the Nord isn’t old by any means, and it might be too soon for an upgrade. Finally, there’s absolutely no reason why you’d want to switch to the Nord 2 if you already have the OnePlus 8, 8 Pro, 8T, or either of the two 9 series smartphones.

OnePlus Nord 2 5G from the back standing upright
OnePlus Nord 2
The OnePlus Nord 2 follows up the company's mid-range debut from 2020. The phone builds on last year's formula with a new design, faster processor, and the 50MP camera sensor from the higher-end OnePlus 9 series.

Will you be upgrading from an older OnePlus smartphone to the OnePlus Nord 2? Let us know in the comments!

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