OnePlus Nord N100 Review

One of the best budget smartphone options

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3.6

OnePlus Nord N100

OnePlus Nord N100

Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

What We Like
  • Very affordable

  • Long battery life

  • Fast charging

  • 90Hz screen

What We Don't Like
  • Sluggish performance

  • Low-res screen

  • Middling cameras

  • No Android 12+

Considering the price, the OnePlus Nord N100 packs a few solidly impressive qualities, although the tepid performance is a drag.

3.6

OnePlus Nord N100

OnePlus Nord N100

Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

We purchased the OnePlus Nord N100 so our reviewer could put it to the test. Keep reading for our full product review.

OnePlus is known for making cheaper alternatives to robust flagship phones, even if the “budget flagship” tag doesn’t really apply anymore to its most recent top-tier models. But the OnePlus Nord N100 is something different: the least-expensive phone OnePlus has ever made by a solid margin, and a legitimate budget phone at a mere $180.

Even so, have you seen a sub-$200 phone with a smooth 90Hz refresh rate? Even some much pricier phones, like the iPhone 12, don’t pack that feature. OnePlus phones always stand out from the pack in terms of features and execution—and that’s definitely true with the very affordable Nord N100—but it can’t escape the functional limitations of cheaper components with tepid performance and mediocre cameras onboard.

Design: Large but slim

The OnePlus Nord N100 is nearly identical to the $300 Nord N10 5G that was released at the same time. It’s a tall phone thanks to the sizable screen and considerable bezel, but it looks solidly refined for a budget handset.

The Nord N100 is clearly packing plastic for both the frame and backing panel but doesn’t look cheap or blandly designed, although the thin backing panel feels a bit clunky to the touch. In fact, the matte Midnight Frost backing looks more refined than the N10 5G’s reflective backing, and the N100 doesn’t collect nearly as many visible smudges or fingerprints either. The fingerprint sensor here is even higher up on the back than on the Nord N10 5G, however, which can make it awkward to reach for. It’s accurate and responsive but feels just slightly out of reach.

The Nord N100 is clearly packing plastic for both the frame and backing panel, but doesn’t look cheap or blandly designed.

Thanks to a punch-hole camera cutout, the Nord N100 is nearly all screen on the front, although it features a very prominent “chin” of bezel below the screen and a lesser chunk on top. The Nord N100 is nearly 6.5 inches tall, which makes it difficult to navigate the screen one-handed at times, although I found it easy to grip and hold onto the phone thanks to a width just under 3 inches and a slim-feeling build. I have large hands, admittedly, but this isn’t as unwieldy as some other large phones out there.

OnePlus Nord N100

Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

As with the Nord N10 5G, you don’t get OnePlus’ handy alert slider—a physical switch for easily swapping between notification settings—from its flagship phones. But you do get a 3.5mm headphone port, as well as a MicroSD slot for expanding upon the modest 64GB internal storage. Like most budget phones, however, there is no IP rating for dust and water resistance, so be careful around the elements.

Display Quality: Low-res but fast-refreshing

As mentioned, the 90Hz refresh rate is a premium perk that makes an unexpected appearance here, delivering smoother transitions and animations than a typical 60Hz screen. That said, you’re not going to see the full benefits on a budget phone with a low-end processor, given the frequent bits of slowdown that permeate the everyday user experience. Still, I’d rather have it than not, and it’s a noticeable enhancement here and there.

The low 720p resolution stretched across a sizable 6.52-inch panel means that the Nord N100’s screen isn’t particularly crisp, and it’s an LCD panel, so it lacks the punchy contrast and deep black levels of OnePlus’ usual OLED screens. All that said, this is a better-than-average screen for a phone this cheap, and it even gets a smidge brighter than the N10 5G’s dim 1080p screen.

The 90Hz refresh rate is a premium perk that makes an unexpected appearance here, delivering smoother transitions and animations than a typical 60Hz screen.

Setup Process: Nothing out of the ordinary

The OnePlus Nord N100 runs on Android 10 out of the box, and even with the company’s OxygenOS skin on top of it, the setup process is very typical and straightforward. Just follow the on-screen prompts after holding in the power button to fire up the phone. You’ll need a Google account and an internet connection, either via your SIM card or a Wi-Fi network, but otherwise, it’s just a matter of choosing between simple options and tapping through the prompts.

Performance: It’s slow going

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 processor here (paired with 4GB RAM) is a lower-end chip meant for budget phones, and unsurprisingly it’s sluggish here. Apps take a few extra beats to load at times, plus there are bits of stuttering and unresponsiveness along the way.

The Nord N100 is certainly usable as an everyday phone, but the tepid performance can be frustrating. That’s the trade-off with a sub-$200 phone. OnePlus might have polished the design, but a low-end chip is undoubtedly going to give you low-end performance. Benchmark testing bears that out, as well: the 5,840 score registered on PCMark’s Work 2.0 test is significantly lower than the Nord N10 5G’s score of 8,061, and there’s a real performance gap in everyday usage too.

The Nord N100 is certainly usable as an everyday phone, but the tepid performance can be frustrating.

Keep your gaming expectations in check, too: the Nord N100 can’t handle 3D games very well. Flashy racer Asphalt 9: Legends was very choppy and had major visual hitches but is playable if you can tolerate the jankiness. GFXBench results of 9.1 frames per second on the Car Chase benchmark and 33fps on the simpler T-Rex benchmark are pretty typical for a budget phone.

Connectivity: Good LTE performance

The unlocked OnePlus Nord N100 works on all of the major U.S. carriers but doesn’t support any level of 5G connectivity, unlike the Nord N10 5G. On Verizon’s network just north of Chicago, I saw typical 4G LTE performance with the Nord N100, including download speeds typically within the range of 40-60Mbps.

OnePlus Nord N100

Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

Sound Quality: Gets the job done

The Nord N100’s top earpiece and bottom-firing speaker combine to deliver decent stereo output, which is an upgrade over some of the mono speakers seen on some lower-end phones. Still, while these speakers get loud and work just fine for speakerphone, they don’t pack much bass or range. They’re fine for music in a pinch and for watching videos, but you’ll be better off pairing it with an external speaker via Bluetooth or a headphone cable if you can.

Camera/Video Quality: Only decent in daylight

The OnePlus Nord N100’s 13-megapixel main camera can take decent-looking daytime shots, at least when you’re looking at them on that 720p screen, but they show a lot of noise when zoomed in on crisper displays. At times, results looked a bit washed-out too. You don’t get a lot of crispness or dynamic range here, but that’s normal for the price.

OnePlus Nord N100

Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

Low-light scenarios are a struggle for the Nord N100, too, which typically results in either blurred results or amplified noise, plus there’s no night shooting mode (like the N10 5G has) to try and wrangle decent shots from the darkness. Ultimately, it’s fine for quick, well-lit shots, but don’t expect much otherwise. And the 2-megapixel macro (close-up) and bokeh (portrait-style shots) cameras don’t add much to the equation, especially at such low megapixel counts.

Battery: Ready for two days

With a robust 5,000mAh battery pack to power these low-end components, you can easily pull two full days’ worth of usage out of the OnePlus Nord N100 with modest usage. I’d typically end an average day with 50-60 percent left in the tank, so there’s plenty of buffer for days when you’re spending a lot more time with the screen on. On top of that, OnePlus bundles in an 18W fast charger for speedy top-ups, so you can juice it up quickly.

You can easily pull two full days’ worth of usage out of the OnePlus Nord N100 with modest usage.

OnePlus Nord N100

Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

Software: OxygenOS is great, but support is limited

The OnePlus OxygenOS skin atop Android 10 looks great here, as it does elsewhere, although there’s no obscuring the aforementioned performance hitches. That’s not the fault of the skin: OxygenOS is much smoother on the Nord N10 5G and runs like a dream on the flagship OnePlus 8T, but you can only do so much with this meager processor. Still, it looks nice and is functional.

Budget phones typically don’t see extensive software support, however, and OnePlus has affirmed that the Nord N100 will only receive an Android 11 upgrade—nothing further. That’s a little disappointing, but it’s very much the norm for phones this cheap. You’ll still be able to use the Nord N100 for years to come if you please, but it likely will not see any significant feature upgrades beyond Android 11 unless OnePlus changes plans.

Price: It’s a good pick at $180

Price is arguably the most important part of the OnePlus Nord N100 offering. It’s $180 for a well-designed, long-lasting, large-screened phone—albeit one that disappoints on performance and can’t offer much in the way of camera skills. Still, if my budget was limited to $200 or less and couldn’t stretch, I would buy the Nord N100. It feels better than expected for such an affordable handset.

OnePlus Nord N100 vs. OnePlus Nord N10 5G

In every meaningful way, the OnePlus Nord N10 5G is your better option. For $300, it delivers a much smoother performance, 5G connectivity, better cameras, and a crisper screen. It’s very similar in design to the Nord N100, but markedly improved in execution thanks to higher-end components. The OnePlus Nord N10 5G is well worth stretching your budget for, and it’s the best $300-or-less phone on the market right now.

Final Verdict

An appealing budget concoction.

For an entry-level smartphone under $200, the OnePlus Nord N100 is one of the best options on the market right now. Everyday performance is tepid, and the screen and cameras aren’t great, but it’s hard to complain much at this price. The OnePlus Nord N10 5G is a recommended upgrade at $300, but if that’s outside your budget, the Nord N100 is a solid buy at $180.

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Specs

  • Product Name Nord N100
  • Product Brand OnePlus
  • UPC 6921815613046
  • Price $180
  • Release Date January 2021
  • Weight 1.08 lbs.
  • Product Dimensions 6.49 x 2.96 x 0.33 in.
  • Color Midnight Frost
  • Warranty 1 year
  • Platform Android 10
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 460
  • RAM 4GB
  • Storage 64GB
  • Camera 13MP/2MP/2MP
  • Battery Capacity 5,000mAh
  • Ports USB-C, 3.5mm audio
  • Waterproof N/A
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