The OnePlus Nord N10 5G represents OnePlus’s first foray into the budget smartphone market, in America at least, but how does it stand up against thrifty options from Apple, Samsung, and Google?
OnePlus is steadily moving along its journey from plucky underdog to household name, but it's fair to say that few people would associate OnePlus with budget smartphones - they make flagship phones that are far cheaper than competing models, but they’re not known for truly budget handsets. That changed last year with the OnePlus Nord, a prototype budget OnePlus handset of sorts that launched in Europe, India, and a few other markets, but never made it to US soil. Luckily, the Mk 2 version has graced American shores with its presence (along with the rest of the world), but was it worth the wait?
The OnePlus Nord N10 5G is a true budget smartphone, with a price tag of just $300/£249. That’s really cheap, undercutting the competing Google Pixel 4A by $50 and the iPhone SE by $100. But what do you really get for your money, and is it worth considering over some of the other best smartphones on the market?
OnePlus Nord N10 review: Networks
While you can’t buy the OnePlus Nord N10 5G directly via AT&T or Verizon Wireless, it is compatible with both networks if you wish to buy the handset outright and then get a cell plan separately. You can buy the OnePlus Nord N10 5G directly from OnePlus or popular retail websites including Amazon.
OnePlus Nord N10 review: Design and styling
As a budget smartphone, the OnePlus Nord N10 5G loses all the fancy materials and design choices that you’d find in the flagship phones. This means you get a plastic shell instead of the metal and glass you’d find in the OnePlus 8T. Despite the cheaper materials, the OnePlus Nord N10 5G still looks great though, with a glossy midnight blue finish. There is only one color option available though, so we hope you like dark blue.
The camera array is up in the top left corner of the handset, so it looks like OnePlus is ditching the central camera array that we saw in older models like the OnePlus 8 for good. That central position is instead occupied by a fingerprint sensor which sits just about the OnePlus logo.
In what feels like a retro throwback at this point, the OnePlus Nord N10 5G has a 3.5mm headphone jack so you can dig those old headphones out of the drawer. Beyond that, there are volume controls on the left side and a lock/unlock button on the right.
Now, we do have one rather odd gripe when it comes to the OnePlus Nord N10 5G - it’s the slipperiest phone we’ve ever come across. Hey, we said it was an odd gripe. We’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve put this phone down on a flat surface only to hear a clunk ten seconds later as it hits the floor. It’s made of Teflon or something, because it simply will not sit still. It has negative friction. Most people will buy a case for it, so that’s not an issue, but for the love of God, don’t put this thing down on your kitchen counter unless you want to see it shattered.
OnePlus Nord N10 review: Screen and audio
OnePlus has always made a big song and dance about refresh rates in its screens, so it's fantastic to see that the Nord N10 has a 90Hz refresh rate. This results in buttery smooth screen transitions and when scrolling through apps and web pages.
The rest of the specs are pretty good too, especially for a budget smartphone. You get a 6.49-inch LCD screen with a display resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels. LCD rather than OLED will mean that colors aren’t as vibrant and the blacks aren’t as deep, but if you’re expecting an OLED screen in a $300 smartphone then you’re probably asking a bit too much.
While the rest of the shell is plastic, the screen itself is Gorilla glass so it should be pretty resistant to scratches and cracks. The screen is flat too, rather than the curved edge display that you’d find in a more expensive model. Overall, we’re as happy as can be with the display on the N10 though. Screen resolution is great, motion is fluid and the colors pop so it’s perfectly suitable for watching movies or playing games on.
OnePlus Nord N10 review: Performance
The OnePlus Nord N10 5G is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 690, which is a decent mid-range chipset to be sure, but it’s a hefty step down from the 765G that was found in the original Nord. Despite this downgrade, we were pleasantly surprised with the N10’s performance for the most part. It usually runs smoothly and is able to handle mobile gaming. We took Forza Street out for a spin (sorry, but we suck at Fortnite) and it ran smoothly without stuttering or overheating. Don’t worry though shooter fans, because some of our mobile gamer friends over at Tom’s Guide took to the battlefield on PUBG and were pretty impressed with the N10s performance. So, if you want a cheap smartphone that can handle some light gaming, the N10 has you covered.
It only comes with one memory option which is 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage, though you can add in additional storage via memory cards.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: Camera
The main area that budget smartphones scale back in is the camera array, but we’re quite impressed with the camera array that OnePlus has managed to squeeze into the N10. You get a 64MP wide lens (f/1.79) as the main shooter, along with an 8MP ultra wide lens (f/2.25), a 2MP macro lens, and a 2MP monochrome lens. The lack of a telephoto lens means that you’re relying on digital zoom, which isn’t the best.
The macro lens is a cool gimmick if you need to take a picture of a ladybug on a leaf or something, but for most users, it’s never going to get touched - we’d really have rather seen a telephoto lens here instead. Likewise, the monochrome lens is largely a gimmick that few people will appreciate. It gives better black and white shots than a filter will manage, but most people won’t notice the difference. Nice to have, but when the camera array has such a glaring omission, these two lens inclusion is a little baffling.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: Battery
While there may have been a few sacrifices along the way to get costs down, we’re happy to say that battery life and charging speed aren’t amongst the casualties. You get a 4300 mAh battery in the OnePlus Nord N10 5G which should comfortably last you a full day, or several days if you’re a light user.
And when you do eventually need to charge the OnePlus Nord N10 5G, it won’t take very long at all thanks to OnePlus’s Warp Charge 30T technology, which means you’ll get over 67% battery in just half an hour’s charge, with a full charge taking 52 minutes. These are the official numbers that OnePlus provided, but they proved to be bang on accurate in our own testing too. This makes the OnePlus Nord N10 5G an incredibly practical device and you’ll basically never have to worry about battery life when you’re using it.
OnePlus Nord N10 review: Software and assistant features
The OnePlus Nord N10 5G uses OxygenOS, a proprietary operating system based on Android. That means it will feel very familiar to anyone who has used a Samsung or Google smartphone.
While the flagship lines like the OnePlus 8T and OnePlus 8 are currently running on OxygenOS 11, the Nord N10 is actually running on the slightly older OxygenOS 10.5. There are very few practical differences between these two versions for the average user, so you’re not missing out on much. It’s still expected that the OnePlus Nord N10 will be updated to Android 11, and OxygenOS 11 in the near future though.
So what fancy features do you get with Oxygen OS compared to your average Android smartphone? Well, there’s plenty of visual customization options with Dark mode if you prefer a moodier look to your OS, along with options to change icon shapes, clock style, and system font.
You also get Zen mode, which lets you turn off all but the most essential notifications from your smartphone, letting you zone out and take some well-earned downtime. It also locks you out from some apps and messaging systems so you won’t be tempted to gawk at Twitter or Instagram when you’re supposed to be taking a screen break. Don’t worry though, you can still receive calls and take photos. We all spend too much time staring at screens if we’re honest, so this is a great feature to help you manage your screen time.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: Price
Even by the standards of budget smartphones, the OnePlus Nord N10 5G is a cheap smartphone. If you’re looking to buy the handset outright, the OnePlus Nord N10 5G costs just $299.99. That brings it in cheaper than the iPhone SE and Google Pixel 4A - our other top choices in the world of budget smartphones.
There are a couple of tradeoffs for that super cheap price point though. As we said earlier, there is only one model of OnePlus Nord N10 5G - Midnight Blue color option with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. So, if you’re looking for a choice, look elsewhere.
The camera array, while decent on paper, is definitely weaker than what you’d find in the Google Pixel 4A. At the same time, the design is hardly stunning with the plastic shell and single color option, so style gurus on a budget might want to look at the iPhone SE.
Should you buy the OnePlus Nord N10?
If you’re looking for a 5G smartphone that ticks all the major boxes and doesn’t have any meaningful weaknesses, then the OnePlus Nord N10 5G is a solid choice… it’s just maybe a bit boring. To be fair though, if budget is your primary concern then you’re not out there hunting for unique features and gimmicks anyway.
It has solid specs, 5G capabilities, a nice big screen, great battery life with fast charging, and a decent main camera lens. For a paltry $300, that’s a hefty offering. The lack of a telephoto lens is disappointing, but even the 8T doesn’t have one of those - it just seems to be the first sacrifice that OnePlus makes when it comes to keeping costs down. If that doesn’t bother you then we’d absolutely recommend the OnePlus Nord N10 5G.