OnePlus wanted to go back to flagship killing with the Nord, but now that the company launched the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro, we need to ask ourselves if it’s really willing to eat into its own high-end offers. How does the sub-£400/€400 phone compare to its much more expensive brother, the OnePlus 9, and which should you buy?
The OnePlus 9 and the Nord are pretty similar in size, though the flagship is just a tad bigger. Both phones also share basic design elements — they both have plastic frames disguised to look like metal, and they both have the signature OnePlus alert slider above the power button. The differences are more apparent when you start looking at the details like the OnePlus 9’s Hasselblad-branded camera array, and things diverge further when you turn on the screen. The OnePlus 9 has mostly even bezels all around the screen while the Nord has a noticeable chin at the bottom. Its display is also a tad smaller at 6.44 inches versus 6.55 inches and only has a refresh rate of 90Hz, not 120Hz, though both phones share the same resolution and have similar OLED panels.
|OnePlus 9||OnePlus Nord|
|Chipset||Snapdragon 888||Snapdragon 765G|
|RAM||8/12GB (LPDDR5)||8/12GB (LPDDR4X)|
|Storage||128/256GB (UFS3.1)||128/256GB (UFS2.1)|
|Display||6.55-inch OLED 2400×1080 (20:9), 120Hz||6.44-inch OLED, 2400×1080 (20:9), 90Hz|
|Battery & Charging||4,500mAh, 65W Warp Charge, 15W Qi wireless||4,115mAh with 30W fast charging|
|Rear cameras||48MP primary, 50MP ultrawide, 2MP monochrome||48MP primary, 8MP ultrawide, 2MP macro, 5MP depth sensor|
|Front cameras||16MP||32MP primary, 8MP ultrawide|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, 5G sub-6GHz (dual SIM internationally)||Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, dual SIM 5G|
|Colors||Astral Black, Artic Sky, Winter Mist||Blue Marble, Gray Onyx|
|Dimensions||160 x 74.2 x 8.7mm||158.3 x 73.3 x 8.2mm|
|Software||OxygenOS 11 / Android 11||Oxygen OS 11 / Android 11 (launched with Android 10)|
|Price||8/128GB: £629, €699 12/256GB: £729, €799||8/128GB: £379, €399 / 12/256GB: £469, €499|
On the inside, the Nord can be considered lower high-end, but its hardware still can’t quite compare to the OnePlus 9. In contrast to the latter’s top-of-the-line Snapdragon 888, the Nord only has the (absolutely capable) Snapdragon 765G. Its battery is considerably smaller at 4,115mAh versus 4,500mAh, and it can only charge wired at a (still impressive) maximum of 30W while the 9 reaches an eye-watering 65W when hooked up to a brick and 15W via Qi. The 9 also supports a few newer standards for future-proofing: There’s Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, and sub-6GHz 5G (both have dual SIM internationally, but the US version of the 9 only has one slot). Neither phone has a headphone jack.
At first glance, the camera situation looks pretty similar across the two phones with both having a 48MP primary shooter. But the OnePlus 9 adds a 50MP ultrawide to the mix while the Nord has to make do with 8MP. The 9’s ultrawide is also a “freeform lens” that reduces distortion at the edges, making it better at super closeup shots than even the Nord’s dedicated 2MP macro. OnePlus also decided to add a 2MP monochrome to the 9, but it’s mostly useless. The Nord wins the selfie game on paper with a 32MP primary lens and an 8MP ultrawide, but the setup comes at the expense of a much bigger and uglier display cutout, and we found the secondary lens pretty superfluous in our review.
Almost all of this may make the Nord look pretty old compared to the OnePlus 9, but as someone who uses a Nord almost daily, I can tell you that it’s still a fine and capable phone, and you only really notice it’s slower than a flagship when you use them side-by-side. I’d certainly say that you should go for the OnePlus 9 if you prefer a more premium, future-proof experience, but the Nord should be good enough for at least the next year to come.
Ever since OnePlus updated the Nord to the Android 11-based OxygenOS 11, the software experience on both phones is mostly identical. They both share the same default homescreen with the Google Discover feed, a redesigned notification panel, and first-party software optimized for one-handed usage. They offer always-on panels, Parallel Apps (for services that support only one account at a time), and screen-off gestures to quickly launch apps without waking the screen. All OnePlus phones are also known to kill apps in the background aggressively, which might help with battery life, but also routinely leads to unexpected behavior.
You can expect the OnePlus 9 to get software updates faster than the Nord, though. It’s likely that the company will first focus on updating its flagships before turning its attention to its midrange offers, and the Nord is effectively part of the latter. In any case, you shouldn’t buy a OnePlus phone in the first place if you value timely updates. The manufacturer has gotten a lot slower over the years and only promises a pretty limited number of security updates and OS updates, regardless of flagship or not.
The most glaring difference between the phones is the price. The OnePlus 9 starts at €699 in Europe ($729) while the Nord can be bought for just €399 (roughly $470 — it’s not available in the US). That’s a difference of €300, a sum that you could use to buy another phone, a Chromebook, or a tablet. You have to consider carefully whether the advantages the OnePlus 9 offers are really worth it for you.
The Nord is certainly a capable smartphone that offers incredible bang for the buck, but if you have the money to spare, the 9 is a no-brainer. It’s better across the board with its bigger and faster display, a top-of-the-line processor, faster charging and a bigger battery, the latest connectivity standards, and so on.