Let us not beat around the bush, flagship a.k.a high-end a.k.a premium smartphones are too damned expensive these days. I understand the fact that you can do a whole lot with them but if it costs more than my monthly home or car loan repayment, then it is quite hard to justify paying that kind of money for a device I would end up only using 50-60% of its features.
The good news is for those of us who are on a tighter budget or do not require the latest bleeding-edge features and technology, the more affordable mid-range Android smartphone segment is filled with good options to choose from. Of course, you will have to make a few compromises but at the end of it, you probably will not have to feel guilty about eating into your monthly expenses.
If you just so happen to be in a similar situation, then you definitely should put the OnePlus Nord 3 5G at the top of your list of considerations. Read on to find out why I say so below.
Despite its fairly plain-looking design, the OnePlus Nord 3 5G actually has a spec sheet and feature list that blows the competition out of the water in the areas that in my opinion matter the most to most users. Since I mentioned its design, the Nord 3 5G is actually IP54 rated which means it is dust and splash resistant. It is not the best out there but it will still give you peace of mind when you are caught in the rain or get splashed when you are by the pool.
Then right at the front, you have a very nice 6.74-inch display that has an 18:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 2,772 x 1,240, which is in between FHD and QHD. What makes its display even nicer is the fact that not only does it support HDR10+ but also 10-bit colour depth, which means it can display over a billion colours. To top it all off, the Nord 3 5G has a peak brightness that reaches up to 1,450nits, supports 120Hz refresh rates and uses LTPS technology so it can go down to 40Hz when you are not gaming or watching videos to conserve a bit of battery.
Overall, the display is really good and since it has very thin bezels, it is quite a treat to watch videos on it as it produces deep blacks and punchy colours. I brought the Nord 3 5G along with me for a trip up to Penang and during my food and photo crawl, I had no issues reading messages and taking photos under bright sunlight.
Cameras – Daylight
Speaking of photos, the Nord 3 5G is equipped with a triple camera array that is made up of a 50MP Sony IMX890 Main Sensor with OIS, an 8MP Sony IMX355 Ultrawide Sensor and a 2MP Macro Sensor (sigh.) While the macro sensor is totally forgettable, the other two actually produce good photos, especially in bright or daylight conditions. In these conditions, the 50MP main shooter produces photos that are detailed with colours that veer towards the more vivid and saturated side. It also handles dynamic range quite well so photos look as realistic as possible.
While the Nord 3 5G does not have a depth sensor, the main shooter is still able to produce good portrait shots that have good subject separation and a convincing bokeh effect. Portrait shots are detailed, sharp and colourful.
When it comes to the 8MP ultrawide sensor, it produces very nice photos without any noticeable colour shifting, retains details and handles dynamic range quite adequately.
Performance & Battery Life
In terms of day-to-day performance, I had no problems whatsoever with the OnePlus Nord 3 5G. Of course, I always have to preface this by saying I am not exactly the heaviest user. My daily smartphone usage usually involves chatting over WhatsApp and Telegram, scrolling through Instagram, watching videos on YouTube, streaming music from Spotify while I am at the gym or driving and occasionally playing a round or two of Marvel Snap.
So with that said, the Mediatek Dimensity 9000 processor and 16GB of RAM handled everything I threw it very smoothly. There were no lags or crashes when I was multitasking and the Nord 3 5G just breezed through most of my tasks. Additionally, if you enjoy playing slightly more demanding games such as Genshin Impact, MARVEL Future Revolution and Asphalt 9: Legends, the processor is able to run these games smoothly with medium to high graphics settings.
If your daily phone usage happens to be somewhat similar to mine, then you will also be glad to know that the Nord 3 5G’s 5,000mAh battery will easily last you more than a day especially if your screen-on time ranges between three to five hours. Even on busier days when I had to use the phone for navigation or for photography, it would last me until the end of the day with about 10-15% of juice left. Charging is also really quick as it supports 80W wired charging and as advertised, it takes less than 40 minutes to go from 0% to 100%.
Finally, the OnePlus Nord 3 5G does come with a few nice extras such as an IR blaster and the brand’s staple Alert Slider. Also, similar to other OnePlus devices, the Nord 3 5G is relatively bloatware-free right out of the box, so you have storage space for apps and media that matter to you. As I mentioned before in my OnePlus 11 review, OxygenOS is very close to stock Android and comes with some handy features and tweaks. If you do not like it though, you can always swap it out with a third-party launcher.
What’s not so good?
Cameras – Low light and Macro
First of all, I will not say that the 50MP main and 8MP ultrawide shooters are horrible when it comes to taking photos in low light. Depending on how steady your hands are or if you use a tripod, you can actually get some nice shots. It takes a second or two to capture a photo in Night Mode, which means the phone needs to be absolutely still. So your mileage will vary when it comes to Night Mode. You can either get sharp images with low noise or images that are a blurry mess.
The 2MP macro shooter on the other hand is just there to make up the ‘triple camera’ gimmick and produces images that are blurry, noisy and lack detail. So, just forget it is even there.
Speakers and No Headphone Jack
The OnePlus Nord 3 5G does come with a set of stereo speakers that can get quite loud. On lower volumes, the speakers do produce clear audio with minimal distortions but at higher volumes, since the speakers lack bass, the audio ends up sounding tinny with a fair bit of distortion.
The lack of a headphone jack will surprise nobody but it would have been an extra brownie point if OnePlus decided to add it back in. While wireless earphones are in our pockets, handbags and backpacks these days, there are still some users who prefer wired headphones.
USB 2.0 Type-C Port
This may not be a huge issue as most mid-range devices are still fitted with USB-C ports with USB 2.0 speeds but this does make things like transferring files from your phone to a computer and vice versa slower. However, if you backup or store most of your files on cloud services, this should not be a problem.
What are our final thoughts?
In my humble opinion, for its asking price and what it offers, the OnePlus Nord 3 5G is a very compelling device especially when you are looking for a well-built and feature-packed smartphone that does not break the bank. It might not have the bleeding-edge tech or myriad of features, but its overall performance, battery life, display and cameras are worth making it your daily plus one.
OnePlus Nord 3 5G
Price starts from SGD699 / MYR2,199
Value Proposition ✅✅✅✅✅✅✅✅✅☐
Design & Build Quality ✅✅✅✅✅✅✅✅☐☐
The OnePlus Nord 3 5G is the easiest smartphone to recommend to anyone who needs a capable smartphone that does not break the bank. Heck, I would go so far as to say that it is the better option when compared to some of the more premium options available.