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Lifewire / Andrew Hayward
Incredible value for 5G phone
Fast-charging, long-lasting battery
OxygenOS is smooth
Dim LCD screen
Won't get Android 12
Non-main cameras are weak
No alert slider
The OnePlus Nord 5G counters its modest weaknesses with solid performance and premium perks. This is the best 5G phone you can buy for just $300.
We purchased the OnePlus Nord N10 5G so our reviewer could put it to the test. Keep reading for our full product review.
OnePlus shot to prominence (mostly outside the US) by producing “budget flagship” phones, or smartphones that looked and felt premium but undercut rivals by making smart tweaks in terms of features and components. Lately, however, OnePlus has shifted its main phones into full-bodied flagship territory—as seen with the somewhat underwhelming OnePlus 8T—and that’s made room for a new class of budget-friendly devices.
We didn’t get last year’s standard OnePlus Nord in the States. But the OnePlus Nord N10 5G has arrived to deliver an affordable alternative to the likes of the Google Pixel 4a 5G and Samsung Galaxy A51 5G. At $300 for a large 5G phone, it’s a shockingly good value—and none of the corners cut by this budget phone are especially painful.
Given the price, it’s no surprise that the OnePlus Nord N10 5G employs plastic for both the frame and backing. That’s fine: aluminum frames and glass backs are typically reserved for pricier phones, and even the $499 Google Pixel 4a 5G is all plastic for its backing shell. The Nord N10 doesn’t look cheap, however. It’s curvy and refined-feeling like a flagship, and while the backing plastic is an absolute fingerprint and smudge magnet, at least the reflective Midnight Ice (dark blue/gray) finish is eye-catching.
The Nord N10 5G does have a big “chin” of bezel below the display, but otherwise, it’s pretty much all screen on the front thanks to a small punch-hole camera cutout in the upper left corner of that sizable 6.49-inch screen. It’s a very tall phone at 6.42 inches, but at less than 3 inches wide and a weight of 6.7 ounces, I found it very easy to handle for a large phone. However, there’s no water resistance rating or promises therein, so be careful wielding the Nord N10 near water.
The Nord N10 doesn’t look cheap: it’s curvy and refined-feeling like a flagship.
The fingerprint sensor on the upper rear of the phone is nicely responsive but does feel like it’s placed a bit high on the phone. Sadly, the popular alert slider found on other OnePlus phones—a physical switch that makes it easy to control notification settings—is not found on the Nord N10.
You get 128GB of internal storage here, which is a solid amount, but you can also add up to 512GB more via a microSD card. And the Nord N10 5G, thankfully, has a 3.5mm headphone port, which has been missing from flagship OnePlus phones for a couple of years now.
The 6.49-inch screen here is large and has a very nice benefit in the form of a faster 90Hz refresh rate than the 60Hz standard on most phones, which leads to smoother animations and transitions. That’s a very unexpected benefit for a $300 phone, but the Nord N10’s screen isn’t as impressive as rivals in a couple of other key areas. It’s an LCD screen instead of the OLED panels seen on the Pixel 4a 5G and Galaxy A51 5G, so the contrast isn’t as punchy or striking here. On top of that, this display is a bit dim—it doesn’t hit the peak brightness levels of competing phones.
OnePlus may be an unfamiliar brand to many US buyers, but the Nord N10 5G runs Android 10 at heart and has a similar setup process to other recent Android smartphones. Just hold in the power button to turn on the phone and follow the on-screen prompts, which will guide you through the process of connecting online (via your cellular connection or Wi-Fi), logging into your Google account, and choosing from some basic settings options.
The OnePlus Nord N10 5G runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 5G processor, which is a slightly lower speed class of chip than the Snapdragon 765G used in the Pixel 4a 5G—but the difference is barely noticeable in use. Put side by side, apps would mostly open at the exact same pace between the two phones, but the Pixel occasionally finished a beat faster.
It’s no huge variance overall, and they’re both solid mid-range chips that can handle a wide array of everyday needs, with 6GB RAM helping to avoid any major moments of slowdown. In benchmark testing, the Nord N10’s PCMark Work 2.0 score of 8,061 isn’t significantly far behind the Pixel 4a 5G’s 8,378 or the Galaxy A51 5G’s 8,294.
Gaming performance is decent and better than expected for a $300 phone. Speedy racer Asphalt 9: Legends ran with only occasional hitches on default settings and looked pretty nice, and Call of Duty Mobile was smooth throughout. Benchmark scores are as expected for a mid-range phone, too, with 13 frames per second on GFXBench’s resource-intensive Car Chase demo (same as the Pixel 4a 5G) and a smooth 58fps on the T-Rex demo.
The OnePlus Nord N10 5G is capable of connecting to sub-6GHz networks, but there are conflicting reports over which US carriers actually support the phone. T-Mobile is the only US carrier that sells the device, so you’re good there, but Verizon and AT&T do not seem to officially support the handset.
The Nord N10 5G reached a top speed about three times faster than I usually see on Verizon’s 4G LTE network, and it’s impressive to see a $300 phone wrangle such stellar speeds.
However, I tested the unlocked Nord N10 5G on Verizon’s 5G Nationwide (sub-6GHz) network and was able to pull down 5G speeds. In fact, the 182Mbps download speed was the fastest I’ve seen on Verizon’s 5G Nationwide network (although phones that support mmWave 5G connectivity can tap into dramatically faster speeds on Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network). In any case, the Nord N10 5G reached a top speed about three times faster than I usually see on Verizon’s 4G LTE network, and it’s impressive to see a $300 phone wrangle such stellar speeds.
The OnePlus Nord N10 5G delivers stereo sound via its earpiece and dedicated bottom speaker, which is more than the mono Galaxy A51 5G can say at $500. Still, keep your expectations in check for this budget phone. The Nord N10’s speakers get loud, but playback is a bit flat and lacks bass. It works just fine for music in a pinch or when watching videos, but a paired Bluetooth speaker or headphones will deliver fuller-sounding music.
For a $300 phone, the OnePlus Nord N10 5G’s main camera is largely solid, but the rest are less remarkable. The 64-megapixel main wide-angle sensor takes pretty good shots in ample lighting with a lot of detail and typically well-judged colors. I noticed that the 8-megapixel camera tends to take darker and less-crisp shots, but it can be handy for shooting landscapes and other large scenes.
Low-light and awkwardly-lit shots are decidedly hit-or-miss here, but that’s normal for pretty much any budget or mid-range phone that isn’t a Pixel. Both Pixel 4a models capture wider dynamic range in well-lit shots and are significantly more consistent in most scenarios, providing solid shots even when the lighting isn’t great.
Meanwhile, Nord’s 2-megapixel macro and 2-megapixel monochrome cameras feel unnecessary and gimmicky. A quad-camera system sounds good on paper, but the standard $349 Pixel 4a (non-5G) takes better photos than any of them and has only a single back camera. You don’t need a dedicated camera for macro or monochrome shots.
The 4,300mAh battery pack in the OnePlus Nord N10 5G is a long-lasting cell that has more than enough power to get you through an average day. Most days, I finished with 40-50 percent left in the tank, so there was plenty of buffer for heavier usage of media or games or hitting up the GPS while out exploring.
The 4,300mAh battery pack in the OnePlus Nord N10 5G is a long-lasting cell that has more than enough power to get you through an average day.
Better yet, the Nord N10 5G comes with a speedy Warp Charge 30T power brick that provides rapid 30W charging, so you’ll be able to quickly add a lot of juice in case you forget to charge or do need to recover after heavier use. Starting from empty, the Nord N10 5G bounced up to 64 percent after just 30 minutes on the charger and hit 100 percent after just 53 minutes. That’s incredibly useful, and you usually don’t see that kind of perk on a phone this cheap.
OnePlus’ OxygenOS skin here is based on Android 10. While it’s no big functional departure from Google’s flavor of Android seen on the Pixel phones, I’m a big fan of its clean aesthetic, fluid menu animations, and distinctive system font. There are plenty of customization options available for the look and feel of Android here, but even without tweaks, the Nord N10’s software is very appealing right out of the box. And the 90Hz refresh rate only adds to the buttery-smooth result.
Unless OnePlus changes its plans, the phone will never receive the recently-revealed Android 12 upgrade.
However, there is one big caveat to consider: the Nord N10 5G will only receive the Android 11 upgrade and a minimum of two years of security updates. Unless OnePlus changes its plans, the phone will never receive the recently-revealed Android 12 upgrade. Both the Pixel 4a 5G and Galaxy A51 5G are promised to receive three years’ worth of Android upgrades, but the cheaper Nord N10 5G will apparently stop after Android 11. You’ll still be able to use the Nord N10 5G for years to come, of course, but further feature upgrades and refinements won’t be added.
The OnePlus Nord N10 5G is a shockingly excellent deal for just $300. There’s no other 5G-capable phone that delivers this kind of feature set for the price, and on top of that, perks like the 90Hz screen refresh rate and 30W charging are almost unheard of at this price point. The cameras are just average, and the LCD screen is unfortunately dim, plus the limited plans for Android updates might give some users pause.
If you’re willing to skip out on 5G support and don’t mind a smaller screen, the standard Google Pixel 4a gives you an excellent camera, a better 5.8-inch OLED display, and three years’ worth of Android updates for $49 more. I would personally go that route, but if your budget maxes out at $300 or you’re set on features like 5G speeds and a large screen, the OnePlus Nord N10 5G impresses for the price.
The OnePlus Nord N10 5G is a shockingly excellent deal for just $300. There’s no other 5G-capable phone that delivers this kind of feature set for the price.
With its fantastic cameras, bolder 6.2-inch OLED screen, and years of promised Android updates, the Pixel 4a 5G has notable advantages over the OnePlus Nord 10 5G, but it also costs $200 more. The Pixel 4a 5G is a well-priced mid-range 5G phone, but if you don’t want to spend $499 on a phone, you’ll still get a great device with the Nord N10 5G.
An impressive $300 option.
OnePlus used to excel at making budget flagships, but right now, its most impressive concoction is a budget 5G mid-ranger. The OnePlus Nord N10 is the best 5G phone you can buy for $300—and it’s not even close. It has some of the familiar weaknesses that come with cheaper phones, but it also has some unexpected perks to pump up what is already a pretty strong core experience. With no deal-breaking issues in the mix, this is the 5G phone of choice for anyone who doesn’t want to spend $500 or more on a handset.
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