OnePlus Nord N10 review: Nice but kneecapped


OnePlus now has two families of devices available to consumers: the OnePlus 8 series and the OnePlus Nord family. Where the former is the company’s flagship line, the latter is OnePlus’ newer affordable fare. The OnePlus Nord N10 is the middle offering from the Nord family and the first to hit the US market. But can OnePlus’ latest cheap phone make an impression?

We find out in the Android Authority OnePlus Nord N10 review.

About this OnePlus Nord N10 review: We spent a week evaluating the OnePlus Nord N10. The device shipped with Android 10 and OnePlus’ user interface skin, Oxygen OS. It received one minor, bug-fixing update while we used it. OnePlus supplied the Nord N10 review unit to Android Authority.

Design

OnePlus Nord N10 front face

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

  • Gorilla Glass front
  • Rear fingerprint sensor
  • Headphone jack
  • 164.9 x 65.1 x 8.49mm
  • 188g
  • Midnight Ice

The OnePlus Nord N10 comes across as basic. It carries over the OnePlus design DNA in only the simplest terms. If you hold it side-by-side with any other OnePlus phone, the similarities and differences will be clear. The Nord line is meant to be affordable, and the N1o makes that impression abundantly clear. It’s not just a low-cost version of OnePlus’ flagship phones. No, it’s an altogether different animal.

Don’t miss: OnePlus buyer’s guide — everything you need to know about the brand

Materials are the biggest differentiator. At first glance, the N10 may look like a glass sandwich, yet it is anything but. The phone has a Gorilla Glass 3 face, but the mid-frame and rear panel are made from plastics. You can tell right away upon picking the phone up. The plastics feel like plastics. Despite the materials, the Nord N10 features a high-gloss finish that is meant to mirror glass. It almost works. The curved rear panel has a brilliant sheen to it and the blue-tinged Midnight Ice colorway (the only option) is nice. From a distance, you might expect it to be glass, but your hands can tell the difference.

OnePlus Nord N10 rear panel

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The fit and finish of the materials are acceptable though not overly impressive. For instance, the display glass is set into a thin plastic sub-frame which is in turn fitted into the plastic mid-frame. This cheapens the look some. At least the seams are minuscule and tight. I’m not sold on the fit of the rear panel either. Seamless edges line the top and bottom, but distinct ledges appear on the two sides. It’s almost as if the rear panel is a hair narrower than it is supposed to be. The phone does not have an IP rating, though that would be rare at this price point.

It’s a sizable piece of hardware. The OnePlus Nord N10 is definitely bigger than the OnePlus 8, for example, and is more on par with the size of the 8 Pro. I didn’t find it uncomfortable to use — it’s solid without feeling heavy.

OnePlus gave the phone a full allotment of functional controls, save for one. You’ll find the combined power button/screen lock key on the right edge of the phone. However, its usual companion on OnePlus devices — the alert slider — is missing. OnePlus deleted the popular switch from the Nord N10, which is a shame.

The Nord N10 misses out on OnePlus’ beloved alert slider.

The volume toggle is on the left edge of the phone. Both the buttons have a plasticky feel to them when pressed. Some will also be happy to learn there’s a headphone jack on the bottom edge of the phone. It’s right next to the USB-C port and downward-firing speaker.

OnePlus Nord N10 bottom edge 1

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The rear panel is glossy to a fault. I appreciate the curved shape and reflective finish, but this phone collects dirt, oil, and grime far too easily. A fingerprint reader adorns the rear panel and is perched in just the right spot. It’s fast and accurate. A fairly large punch-hole camera module, which resembles those of the Samsung Galaxy S20 and Note 20 series, sits in the upper left corner.

Haptics come across as a bit blunt, however. The motor has a distinct grinding when it spins. I typically prefer something more subtle. Haptics can be toggled on or off, but not controlled with precision.

OnePlus Nord N10 left rear profile

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

See also: Best OnePlus phones

In all, the OnePlus Nord N10 is a fine piece of hardware for the price. It’s not going to bedazzle anyone, but no one should be ashamed to use it as their daily driver.

Display

OnePlus Nord N10 chin

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

  • 6.49-inch IPS LCD
  • Full HD+ resolution
  • 20:9 aspect ratio
  • 90Hz
  • Gorilla Glass 3

OnePlus sort of split the difference with the screen. It’s not a contrasty AMOLED panel, but it does have a 90Hz high refresh rate.

The screen measures 6.49-inches across the diagonal, though the actual visible area is a bit less than that. It’s a punch-hole job, meaning the selfie camera obscures the display in the upper left corner. Nevertheless, it’s a small price to pay to get the all-screen look. A sliver of a chin graces the bottom edge of the phone, but it’s hardly anything to complain about.

As for the screen itself, it’s definitely bright and sharp, but the colors look a bit muted to my eyes. The screen could be punchier and more vibrant. That said, the 90Hz refresh rate really helps add definition and a measure of crispness. Seeing a 90Hz screen on a phone at this price point is unusual, especially in the US. Heck, the iPhone 12 Max Pro, which costs three times as much, still has a 60Hz screen.

Performance

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 690
  • 6GB
  • 128GB UFS2.1 internal storage
  • microSD support (up to 512GB)
  • 4,300mAh battery
  • Warp Charge 30T wired charging
  • No wireless charging

Processor

Any 600 series Qualcomm silicon is a mid-range processor. That means the Snapdragon 690 is a solid, if slightly uninspired, engine for the Nord N10. I didn’t notice any slowdowns or lags in daily performance. It held up just fine at most tasks. Doing things such as surfing the web, downloading apps, and browsing social media didn’t tax the phone at all. I downloaded and played Asphalt 9 and was impressed with the way it ran. It wasn’t flawless; there were definitely some frames dropped here and there, but it didn’t drag the experience down.

When it comes to benchmarks, however, you’ll see that it can’t keep up with Snapdragon 700- and 800-series processors. That’s fine, it’s not meant to. Just don’t expect world-class performance and you won’t be let down. In our GeekBench and 3DMark runs, we noticed the phone achieved middling scores at best.

Battery

The 4,300mAh battery inside the OnePlus Nord N10 provides plenty of power to keep the phone running through the day. It easily logged 7AM to midnight, with plenty of power to spare come bedtime. It routinely bested eight hours of screen-on time despite heavy social media use.

The phone does not support wireless charging, but OnePlus’ Warp Charge makes up for it. Mostly. When used with the included charging brick and cable, the Nord N10 powered up about 50% capacity in just 30 minutes. That’s more than adequate to get you through an evening out. Charging from 0-100% takes just under 90 minutes.

More reading: Phones with the best battery life

5G

The phone supports mid-band 5G and will be sold in the UK, EU, and the US. OnePlus sent us the UK/EU variant of the phone. The company would not say which 5G networks the Nord N10 5G will support in the UK/EU. OnePlus says a separate US variant will be made available in North America. It will have different 5G band support on board when it arrives. Bottom line, we were unable to test 5G, nor can we tell you which networks will work on the phone.

Software

OnePlus Nord N10 against tracks display

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Like all OnePlus phones, the Nord N10 ships with the company’s Android user interface skin, OxygenOS. This version of OxygenOS is based on Android 10, rather than Android 11. That’s a bit aggravating. At this point in the game, companies should be shipping their phones with the latest version of Android. OnePlus knows this. Heck, the OnePlus 8T, which has been available for weeks, ships with Android 11.

Right now, OnePlus speculates that it will be the end of the year or early 2021 before the Nord N10 sees the Android 11 update. In and of itself, that’s not a big deal. What is a big deal, however, is that OnePlus plans only a single system update for the OnePlus Nord N10. That’s just not acceptable. The phone should see at least two major system updates, along with three years of security updates. That the Nord N10 will receive a single system update is a major mark against it — especially since we believe it should have shipped with Android 11 to begin with. This is no good.

OnePlus plans only a single system update for the OnePlus Nord N10. That’s just not acceptable.

The home screens are dead simple to set up and use. They come with a couple of folders pre-populated with apps, but you can dump them and install your own apps/folders on a whim. I like that the left-most screen is reserved for your Google Discover feed. The app drawer and settings menus are all more or less stock, and the Quick Settings shade functions as it should.

OnePlus does offer some nice extras, such as parental controls, as well as themes and customization tools.

OnePlus phones run one of the best Android skins in the market, apart from the stock version used by Google itself, but there’s another gotcha. While the phone ships with the OxygenOS that we know and love, OnePlus has big changes in store. The version of OxygenOS that’s based on Android 11 is not nearly as well-liked as its predecessor. It’s this version of OxygenOS that Nord N10 owners will be stuck with for the bulk of the phone’s life due to the unacceptable update situation.

Camera

OnePlus Nord N10 camera module

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

  • Rear
    • 64MP Main, EIS, f/1.79
    • 8MP Ultra-wide, f/2.25, FoV 119 deg.
    • 2MP Macro f/2.4
    • 2MP Monochrome f/2.4
  • Front
  • Video
    • 4K@30fps, 1080p@30/60fps
    • Super Slow Motion: 1080p@120fps, 720p@240fps
    • Time-Lapse 1080p, 4K 30fps

OnePlus didn’t skimp out on camera features, even if it eschewed the setup preferred by most consumers. The OnePlus Nord N10 has standard and ultra-wide cameras, which are augmented by macro and monochrome cameras. The monochrome camera helps with portraits and shoots true black-and-white images. You won’t find a telephoto lens. Instead, zoom is accomplished with digital cropping.

Related: The best budget camera phones you can buy

I do like the simplicity of the camera application too. It’s a fairly standard arrangement. You have a zoom picker on the right side of the viewfinder, which is next to the mode selector and shutter button. The left side of the screen features toggles to tools such as the flash, timer, and macro camera. Shooting modes include photo, video, slow motion, panorama, timelapse, portrait, nightscape, and pro. Most of these should be self-explanatory at this point. The nightscape tool is for shooting nighttime scenes, such a city skyline, while the pro mode allows you to take full control over the behavior of the shutter, ISO, white balance, and so on. It’s more for advanced users than regular Joes. The app is quick, which is the most important thing to me. There’s no lag when using it.

Photos captured with the main camera and the ultra-wide are fairly decent. I was not expecting much, so the Nord N10 didn’t have to do too much to impress me. Photos look clean and crisp, with on-point exposure. Colors are pushed a bit, but that’s not surprising. I’d say there’s a bit of over-sharpening, but it’s not too bad. Grain is kept to a minimum. The wide-angle camera does suffer from some obvious distortion around the edges, but that’s normal for a lens this wide. The camera was able to improve upon the real-world in ways I appreciated. For example, the shot of the falls and the tree could easily have been blown out thanks to the sun in the background. Instead, the camera balanced everything very well.

Nevertheless, using the digital zoom tool has its limitations. While you’re optically switching from 0.6x to 1.0x with the ultra-wide and main lenses, the 2x zoom is performed digitally. In some instances, it produces sharp results, particularly if you’re close to your subject. When you’re far away, however, you’re less likely to get a usable shot.

The Nord N10 has a dedicated macro camera that you have to turn on manually in the app to use. It allows you to take extreme closeups (recommended range is 1.0-1.5 inches from the subject.) The macro camera takes reasonably sharp shots at close range. See the keyboard sample below.

OnePlus Nord N10 5G photo sample macro

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The N10 also has a dedicated monochrome camera. You have to dig into the filters to find it, but you can shoot native black-and-white photos if you wish. Shame the resolution is limited to 2MP! Most of the time the monochrome camera serves as a depth detector for portrait shots.

IMG 20201112 123357

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The selfie camera does a fine job for a phone in this price range. I was able to get usable selfies and self-portraits. Edge detection was solid and the background falloff wasn’t too severe. Colors looked good and the white balance was accurate.

You have plenty of options when it comes to shooting video, including 4K and 1080p at various frame rates. The basic 4K at 30fps footage looks solid. I was particularly pleased with the colors and clarity, which are excellent. You’ll start to see noise and compression artifacts in low light scenes, but that’s not out of the norm.

Full-resolution samples of the photos are available here.

Audio

OnePlus offers Nord N10 owners two reasons to be happy: a headphone jack and stereo speakers.

We shouldn’t have to spend too much time talking about why the headphone jack is such a big win for the N10. The majority of flagships these days ship without headphone jacks. People shopping the Nord N10 this price range can’t necessarily afford the $150-$300 wireless headphones that others enjoy, which makes the headphone jack that much more important. Allowing N10 owners to use their old wired buds saves cash.

Related: The best phones with a headphone jack

The stereo speakers are a nice-to-have feature that you can’t always expect to appear, especially on phones at this price. That’s why they are a nice bonus. What’s more, they sound pretty good. The bottom-firing woofer tends to distort just a bit when pushed too hard, but if you keep the volume at reasonable levels it sounds nice.

Specs

  OnePlus Nord N10 OnePlus Nord N100
Display 6.49-inch IPS LCD
Full HD+ resolution
90Hz refresh rate
6.52-inch IPS LCD
HD+ resolution
60Hz refresh rate
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 Qualcomm Snapdragon 460
RAM 6GB 4GB
Storage 128GB internal
microSD support (up to 512GB)
64GB internal
microSD support
Power 4,300mAh battery
Warp Charge 30T wired charging
5,000mAh battery
18W wired charging
Ports microSD slot
3.5mm headphone jack
Dual-SIM (Europe and UK)
Single SIM (North America)
microSD slot
3.5mm headphone jack
Dual-SIM (Europe and UK)
Single SIM (North America)
Cameras Rear:
64MP Main
8MP Ultra-wide
2MP Macro
2MP Monochrome

Front:
16MP

Rear:
13MP main
2MP Bokeh
2MP Macro

Front:
8MP

Security Rear fingerprint sensor Rear fingerprint sensor
Connectivity 5G + 4G LTE 4G only
OS Android 10
Oxygen OS 10.5
Android 10
Oxygen OS 10.5
Dimensions and weight 164.9 x 65.1 x 8.49mm
188g
163 x 74.7 x 8.95mm
190g
Colors Midnight Ice Midnight Frost
Availability United Kingdom
Europe
North America
United Kingdom
Europe
North America

Value and competition

OnePlus Nord N10 against tracks

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

  • OnePlus Nord N10: 6GB/128GB — £329/€329 (~$429)

The OnePlus Nord N10 sits in an odd spot when it comes to pricing. At £329/€329 in the UK/EU, it’s only about £50 less than the much better OnePlus Nord. It’s hard to argue against spending that extra money on a device that has a much better processor and better overall performance. At the same time, it’s costs a full £100 more than the lesser Nord N100. As if competition from its own family weren’t stiff enough, there are plenty of other phones competing with the Nord N10 too.

The phone is headed to the US, but OnePlus has not specified when. Moreover, OnePlus has not offered US pricing details for the phone. That makes it hard to peg as far as competition is concerned, even though we have a general idea based on the UK/EU pricing.

The $349 Google Pixel 4a is a solid alternative to the N10 and gets you things like monthly security updates, Google’s clean take on Android, and killer cameras. If 5G is on your must-have list, the Pixel 4a 5G is the phone to get, though that does increase the price to $499. The Samsung Galaxy A51 hovers around the $299 price point depending on where you buy it, and it serves as a reasonable alternative to the N10. The Moto G Stylus packs a stylus and killer battery life for $319. The Nokia 7.2 costs around $299 when on sale and offers a better design, in my opinion, with the same software benefits.

Some solid alternatives in the UK/EU include the Redmi Note 9 Pro as well as the Realme 7 Pro (Realme X50 5G). These are good offerings that deliver fine performance for the money.

OnePlus Nord N10 5G

The OnePlus Nord N10 5G is the middle child in OnePlus’ expanding Nord line. It delivers a quad rear camera, 30W charging, and 5G on a budget.

OnePlus Nord N10 review: Should you buy it?

OnePlus Nord N10 from below

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The OnePlus Nord N10 is not the phone I was expecting from OnePlus in late 2020. It’s an affordable mid-ranger with a pretty face and a pretty price point, but it lacks the depth I want from a phone even at this level.

In its favor, the OnePlus Nord N10 counts a respectable design, a fine display, and better-than-expected cameras. In the con column, the N1o notches average build quality, middling performance, and 5G of questionable value. The biggest problem facing the N10, however, is the single system update.

The OnePlus Nord N10 is not a bad phone, but in a world where the Pixel 4a and Pixel 4a 5G exist, it’s hard to recommend without serious reservations.

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