Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Mobile news

OnePlus Nord N30 5G review: the best $300 smartphone in 2023?


Someone holding the OnePlus Nord N30 5G outside.

OnePlus Nord N30 5G

MSRP $299.99

“The Nord N30 5G doesn’t have a great camera or a good update policy, but for just $300, it’s one of the better phones you can get at this price.”

Pros

  • Nice in-hand feel
  • Headphone jack and expandable storage
  • 120Hz display looks great
  • Good, reliable performance
  • 50W charger in the box

Cons

  • Bland, smudge-prone design
  • Very poor camera quality
  • Only promised a single OS update

You have $300 to spend, and you need a new smartphone. What’s a person to do? If you ask OnePlus, it thinks you should buy its new Nord N30 5G.

Announced at the beginning of June, the OnePlus Nord N30 5G drives a hard bargain on paper. You get a 120Hz display, a huge 5,000mAh battery, fast 50W wired charging, plus features like expandable storage and a 3.5mm headphone jack — all for just $300. That sounds great, and for the most part, it is. The Nord N30 5G isn’t a complete slam-dunk for OnePlus, but if you’re ready for a new Android phone and have a tight budget, it’s well worth your attention.

OnePlus Nord N30 5G: design and hardware

The OnePlus Nord N30 5G lying face-down on a desk.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

There’s good and bad to say about the OnePlus Nord N30’s hardware. Starting with what’s good, the phone is very comfortable to hold. Despite having a big 6.72-inch display, the Nord N30 is very manageable in the hand. The 195g weight isn’t too heavy, the back isn’t too slippery, and the combo of the flat edges and rounded corners make it really easy to get a good grip. A phone that feels nice to hold is important, and the Nord N30 5G excels here.

I’m also surprised by how nice the buttons feel. The volume rocker and power/lock button both have great tactility. They’re just as nice as the buttons on much more expensive phones. Furthermore, the fingerprint sensor embedded in the power button works great. It quickly registered my thumb during setup and has consistently unlocked the phone with great accuracy and speed. It being on the right side of the phone could be troublesome for anyone lefthanded, but I’ve not had any major issues with it.

Power button/fingerprint sensor on the OnePlus Nord N30 5G.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Also surprising are the dual stereo speakers. They’re loud, have a decent amount of depth, and even sound a bit better than the $800 Motorola Edge Plus (2023). It’s a small detail, but one I really appreciate.

OnePlus got so much right with the Nord N30’s hardware.

I also appreciate two features we rarely see on smartphones today: a 3.5mm headphone jack and a microSD card slot for expandable storage (up to 1TB). The OnePlus Nord N30 5G has them both, and although I personally don’t use either one that much, it’s a big deal for people who do want those things. And, yes, there is NFC for Google Pay.

USB-C port and 3.5mm headphone jack on the OnePlus Nord N30 5G.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

OnePlus got so much right with the Nord N30’s hardware … except for how it looks.

The Nord N30 5G only comes in a single color, specifically, Chromatic Gray. It’s bland, extremely glossy, and attracts fingerprints like you would not believe. Use the OnePlus Nord N30 5G for a couple of minutes, and the back looks like you haven’t cleaned it in weeks — immediately holding onto every smudge and fingerprint possible. The raised cameras on the back also like to attract plenty of dust and lint.

The Nord N30 nails it in so important areas, but OnePlus really dropped the ball with the aesthetics.

OnePlus Nord N30 5G: display and performance

The OnePlus Nord N30 5G playing a YouTube video.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Taking over the front of the OnePlus Nord N30 5G is a 6.72-inch LCD display. It has a Full HD+ 2400 x 1080 resolution, 680 nits of peak brightness, and a 120Hz refresh rate. Of any specification for the Nord N30, the display is one of the most impressive.

Despite having an LCD panel, the quality of the Nord N30’s screen is great. Colors are bright and vibrant, text is plenty crisp, and not once have I found myself wishing it had more oomph. Sure, it’s not the most technically impressive display I’ve ever seen on a phone, but I also can’t find anything to seriously complain about.

That’s especially true of the 120Hz refresh rate. 120Hz screens are commonplace on much more expensive phones like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and Google Pixel 7 Pro, but getting one on a $300 smartphone is a treat. And it looks great on the Nord N30. Scrolling through apps and menus is buttery smooth, and it adds an overall sense of speed to the phone that I genuinely wasn’t expecting. The refresh rate is also adaptive, so it can scale back when you don’t need all that speed (specifically, down to as low as 30Hz). I’ve tried finding a bone to pick with the Nord N30’s screen, but at this price, I just can’t.

The Nord N30’s display is impressive.

What about the processor? OnePlus chose the Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 for the Nord N30 5G. Although it’s not the newest chip in Qualcomm’s portfolio, it’s performed very well for me. Apps? They open quickly. Websites? They load and navigate without a hitch. Games? They work just fine!

Marvel Snap running on the OnePlus Nord N30 5G.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

To be fair, you can feel the limitations of the 695 at times. In Duolingo, for example, lessons sometimes take a few extra seconds to load than they do on more expensive phones. And if I want to hit 60fps in Marvel Snap, I have to knock the graphics down to the Low setting. But those are incredibly small things and quirks I’ve been able to adjust to just fine. The OnePlus Nord N30 5G runs all of the apps I need it to, runs them quite well, and that’s all I can ask for. I wouldn’t recommend this be your ultimate gaming or productivity phone, but for the vast majority of folks, you should be just fine.

OnePlus Nord N30 5G: cameras

The cameras on the OnePlus Nord N30 5G.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

OnePlus decided to make the cameras on the Nord N30 5G quite prominent. But are they any good? Well …

The main camera on the Nord N30 5G is a 108MP sensor with f/1.75 aperture. Unlike many modern smartphones, it’s important to note that there is no optical image stabilization (also known as OIS). You also get two 2MP cameras — one depth sensor and one macro camera — plus a 16MP selfie camera on the front.

Having a 108MP camera sounds impressive on paper, but in reality, it’s actually quite disappointing. Photos taken with the 108MP main camera often look terribly bland, with no character to speak of. It takes photos, but not particularly good ones. A lot of this is due to the lack of OIS. Even in a brightly-lit setting, it’s far too easy to get blurry, out-of-focus shots with the Nord N30. And when the lights go down, expect to see a lot of noise and a lot of blur.

OnePlus also advertises “3x lossless zoom” for the Nord N30 5G. Since there’s no actual telephoto camera on the phone, this lossless zoom is just cropping in on the 108MP camera to get that 3x zoom effect. And it’s not very good! In very good lighting, 3x photos can look OK. But even that’s not always a guarantee. The photo of the trees is way too oversharpened, and the photo of the geese is incredibly soft. And things don’t get any better in less-than-ideal lighting, as seen in the pixelated mess with the photo of my dog laying on the bed.

The 2MP macro camera is passable and a fine addition to a phone of this price. It doesn’t have the best detail I’ve ever seen, but it works. The same goes for the selfie camera. It’ll do for quick Instagram selfies or Microsoft Teams calls, but don’t expect much from it.

OnePlus Nord N30 5G: battery and charging

Battery settings page on the OnePlus Nord N30 5G.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

OnePlus has something of a reputation for offering big batteries and fast charging with its smartphones, and the Nord N30 5G doesn’t brake that mold at all.

Keeping the phone powered up is a 5,000mAh battery, and in my testing, it’s enough for about a day and a half of use per charge — sometimes two days with lighter use. A typical day with the Nord N30 5G goes like this: I start using the phone at 8:00 a.m. with 100% battery, and after racking up 3 hours and 30 minutes of screen-on time, I get to about 10:40 or 11:00 p.m. with more than 40% battery remaining. That includes over an hour of playing Marvel Snap, 30 minutes of scrolling through Twitter, nearly 40 minutes of watching YouTube TV, 30 minutes of listening to a podcast, and 15-20 minutes of Duolingo — among other things. That’s very good endurance, and it easily lasts longer than my iPhone 14 Pro.

Box and charger for the OnePlus Nord N30 5G.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Also great is the OnePlus Nord N30’s charging capabilities. The phone supports 50W wired charging, and unlike so many other phones today, it comes with a charger in the box — and one that supports the full 50W speeds!

Charge the OnePlus Nord N30 5G for about 30 minutes, and expect it to charge from 1% t0 80%. You need to use the included charger to get the full 50W speed, as if you use another charger, the Nord N30 takes over an hour to get up to the same 80%. While not completely ideal, just having such fast recharge speeds for a phone of this price is outstanding. Even the most expensive flagships from Apple, Samsung, and Google don’t come anywhere near the 50W recharge speed offered here. It’s a legitimately great perk to have on the Nord N30 — and one that truly sets it apart from other phones at this price.

OnePlus Nord N30 5G: software and updates

Android 13 logo on the OnePlus Nord N30 5G.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Finally, let’s talk about the software situation. The OnePlus Nord N30 5G ships with Android 13 and OnePlus’s OxygenOS 13.1 interface layered on top of it.

OxygenOS 13 has come a long way since the horrid days of its initial beta, and although it’s still not my personal favorite Android interface, it works well on the Nord N30. OxygenOS 13 is smooth, responsive, and offers ample features to keep you busy.

The notification shade looks nice and offers instant access to your brightness slider without having to swipe down twice (something that drives me crazy with a Pixel or Motorola phone). The home screen is wildly customizable — allowing you to change app icons, transition effects when swiping between home pages, and more. And there are tons of hidden features you can play with in the Settings app, including the ability to run two apps simultaneously in split-screen, being able to run apps in floating windows, and a Smart Sidebar tool that offers quick access to your favorite apps/shortcuts no matter what you’re doing.

Unfortunately, OnePlus drops the ball in regard to software updates. The OnePlus Nord N30 5G is promised just one Android OS update. In other words, once you get the Android 14 update, either later this year or sometime next year, that’s the only major software upgrade you’ll get. You’ll continue to receive bi-monthly security updates for a total of three years, but that’s still behind what the competition offers.

Take the Galaxy A54 as an example. Samsung’s $450 smartphone gets four major Android upgrades and five years of security updates. OnePlus’s commitment to a single software upgrade puts it in line with devices like the Moto G Power 5G — and that’s not a good thing.

OnePlus Nord N30 5G: price and availability

The OnePlus Nord N30 5G is available for purchase right now for $300. You can buy the phone unlocked via Amazon or direct from OnePlus’s website. OnePlus has confirmed that the unlocked model is compatible with AT&T, Cellcom, Google Fi, Mint Mobile, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

Alternatively, the Nord N30 5G is also being sold through T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile in the U.S.

OnePlus Nord N30 5G: verdict

Someone holding the OnePlus Nord N30 5G outside.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

The OnePlus Nord N30 5G is not the best smartphone you can buy for $300 — though it does get very close.

The biggest sin of the Nord N30 5G is how bad its cameras are. OnePlus could have done something special here, but it didn’t. With a main camera that lacks a critical feature and two mostly useless secondary ones, this is a camera system that works in a pinch, but really nothing more beyond that. If you have $300 to spend and a good camera is important to you, the Google Pixel 6a is a far better purchase.

For some people, it doesn’t get much better than the OnePlus Nord N30 5G.

But here’s the thing. If you’re OK with sacrificing camera quality (and getting any new software beyond Android 14), the rest of the OnePlus Nord N30 is fantastic. It feels great to hold, you get classic features like a headphone jack and expandable storage, and there’s NFC for Google Pay. You’re also getting solid performance, a lovely display, long battery life, and very fast charging. That’s a huge list of positives for $300.

Not everyone will be able to overlook the camera situation — and I completely get that! But if your main concern is getting a phone that runs well, has a battery you can rely on, and a display you’ll love to look at — plus one that still works with your wired headphones — it doesn’t get much better than the OnePlus Nord N30 5G.

Editors’ Recommendations








READ SOURCE

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.