OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G Review: Balancing Price and Performance

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OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G Review Summary:

Editor’s rating: 3.6/5

Design

Display

Performance

Battery

Camera

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Pros

  • Appealing looks
  • Good battery life
  • Decent Primary camera
  • 67W fast charging

Cons

  • Average display
  • Macro sensor is not that impressive
  • Bloatware

After prioritizing high-end flagships for a decade, OnePlus for the second time in its ten-year-long journey attempted to make it in the under Rs 20K segment with the Nord CE 2 Lite. The Nord phone was received well by the budget-conscious consumer thanks to its large fast refreshing screen, speedy wired charging, and large camera.

OnePlus has now launched the successor to the Nord CE 2 Lite, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite, which is priced at Rs 19,999. On paper, the Nord CE 3 packs impassive hardware. However, the pressing question now is whether the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite justifies its price tag and if it is the best smartphone under Rs 20,000 in India.

Prior to its launch, I had the opportunity to spend some time with the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite and gain insight into the latest addition to the OnePlus lineup. In this review, I will share my thoughts on the device.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite Price in India

It’s impressive that OnePlus has managed to maintain the same price point as its predecessor while providing top-of-the-line features in the Nord CE 3 Lite.

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is available in two models: an 8GB LPDDR4x RAM plus 128GB UFS 2.2 storage variant priced at Rs 19,999, and an 8GB LPDDR4x RAM plus 256GB UFS 2.2 storage variant priced at Rs 21,999.

The device is offered in two colors: Pastel Lime and Chromatic Grey. The first sale for the Nord CE 3 Lite will take place on April 11 and can be purchased through various platforms such as OnePlus.in, Amazon, the OnePlus Store app, and the OnePlus experience stores.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite Unboxing

When you unbox the Nord CE 3 Lite, you will find the essentials: the phone itself, a transparent silicone case for protection, an 80W SUPERVOOC charger for quick charging, and a charging and data cable.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite Specs

  • Dimensions and Weight: 165.5 x 76 x 8.3 mm; 195g
  • Screen: 6.72-inch, 1080 x 2400 pixels resolution, 8-bit, 680nits, Up to 120Hz IPS LCD
  • CPU: Snapdragon 695 (6nm); Octa-core (2×2.2 GHz Kryo 660 Gold & 6×1.7 GHz Kryo 660 Sliver)
  • GPU: Adreno 619
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128GB / 256GB UFS 2.2
  • Rear cameras: 108MP wide-angle with OIS + 2MP depth, 2MP macro
  • Front camera: 16MP Camera
  • Battery: 5000mAh with 67W fast charging support
  • OS: Android 13 with Oxygen OS
    Misc: Dual Stereo Speakers, 2 Microphones, fingerprint scanner, Dual-band WiFi 6, GPS, Bluetooth 5.1, 5G+5G, USB Type-C port

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite Review: Design

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite’s design bears striking resemblance to the Realme 10 Pro, with slight variations. The phone boasts a sleek, boxy design, and the plastic backing doesn’t diminish its premium look and feel. OnePlus has opted for a capacitive fingerprint sensor embedded in the power button, which is placed on the right side.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review

On the left side, you’ll find the dual SIM tray, while the volume buttons, which are on the right side of the Realme 10 Pro, have been relocated to the left for a more familiar OnePlus design. The phone’s top has a microphone and a slim grille for the earpiece, which also doubles as one of the loudspeakers.

At the bottom of the phone, you’ll find a second microphone, the other loudspeaker in the stereo pair, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The phone also features a USB-C connector that supports USB 2.0 speeds. The phone’s back closely resembles the Realme 10 Pro, with dual circular elements for the cameras; however, there are now three cameras instead of two, and the flash has been moved to a central location with a wider aperture.

It is recommended to use a cover with the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite since the rear panel is prone to collecting fingerprints easily. The phone features a center-placed hole punch display with slim bezels on three sides and a slightly thicker chin, which does not impede the viewing experience. The front of the device is constructed with Asahi Dragontrail Star glass instead of the more premium Corning glass used in costlier smartphones. However, the front glass now appears to have an improved oleophobic coating, which was either absent or of inferior quality in the Nord CE 2 Lite.

Despite being primarily composed of plastic, the build quality of the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is commendable. The casing does not display any signs of flex or creaking, and the phone feels robust in hand. However, there is no claimed ingress protection or coating for the device.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite Review: Display

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite boasts a large display with a higher screen refresh rate but falls short of the AMOLED panel typically found in this price range. The device features a flat 6.72-inch LCD display and as per the company, it can deliver a typical brightness of 550 nits and a peak of 680 nits. Although the display may not be the brightest, most colour accurate, or vibrant of panels in this segment, it does get bright enough to be visible outdoors under direct sunlight, and it gets the job done satisfactorily.

In terms of refresh rate, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite offers a range of options including 30Hz, 48Hz, 50Hz, 60Hz, 90Hz, and 120Hz, which is great as it covers all the popular frame rate combinations. By default, the display refreshes at 120Hz on the home screen and in some default apps, but it can switch to different rates based on the content being viewed, ensuring a smooth and seamless user experience.

The display offers an 8-bit colour depth so streaming HDR content is out of the question. The device is certified for Widevine L1, which allows for HD streaming on OTT platforms. However, some backlight bleeding around the punch-hole camera at the top can be noticed.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite Review: Performance and Software

Under the hood, the Nord CE 3 Lite is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 chipset, which is the same as the one found in the Realme 10 Pro and the previous generation Nord CE 2 Lite. The phone comes with 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM and is available with either 128GB or 256GB of UFS 2.2 storage that can be expanded via microSD. Additionally, a virtual memory expansion feature allows users to make 4/6/8GB of storage to act as RAM.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite UI

The Nord CE 3 Lite performs well with moderate workloads such as browsing the web, scrolling through social media, listening to music, and casual gaming, but struggles with more demanding tasks. It can smoothly run games like BGMI and COD: Mobile at medium graphics settings without any lag. However, continuous gaming does tend to heat the device, particularly during summer. Nonetheless, the phone quickly cools down as well.

The benchmark tests conducted on the phone revealed impressive results, particularly in the CPU Throttling test, where the phone only experienced throttling up to 82% of its peak performance after 15 minutes, which is a noteworthy achievement for a phone that costs less than 20K. Moreover, the AnTuTu and Geekbench benchmarks also delivered respectable scores, placing the Nord CE 3 Lite on equal footing with other devices in its category. As for the overall performance, there isn’t a significant improvement in the new Nord CE Lite compared to its predecessor.

Regarding its software, the Nord CE 3 Lite runs on OxygenOS 13.1, and during our review, it had the latest security update released in March 2023. Although the phone’s complete update cycle is unknown, it did receive an OTA update while we were testing it. Over the past year, OnePlus OxygenOS has been gradually aligning itself with OPPO’s ColorOS, a trend that is also evident in the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite software. This includes borrowing elements such as themes, icon packs, and quick settings from ColorOS. However, unlike OPPO phones, OnePlus devices have relatively less bloatware, although some pre-loaded apps and Hot Apps are present. According to the company, the Nord CE 3 Lite is slated to receive two significant updates of OxygenOS and three years’ worth of security updates.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite Review: Camera

On paper, the Nord CE 3 Lite represents a significant improvement over its predecessor, especially in terms of its camera specs. The phone boasts a triple camera setup on the rear panel, with a 108-megapixel primary Samsung HM6 sensor, accompanied by a 2-megapixel depth sensor and a 2-megapixel macro lens. Additionally, the front camera features a 16-megapixel sensor, which can capture high-quality selfies and facilitate video calls. Considering the price point, the camera specs on the Nord CE 3 Lite appear quite impressive.

In daylight conditions, the main camera of the Nord CE 3 Lite delivers satisfactory results, with a good level of detail. However, it tends to oversharpen images seemingly to justify the hype around the 108MP sensor. The Nord CE 3 Lite’s primary camera performs well in terms of color reproduction but at times it struggles with HDR, particularly in capturing the sky.

In low-light situations or when using Night mode, the absence of optical image stabilization (OIS) becomes evident. Night mode images are generally well-exposed, but upon closer inspection, there is a loss of details, resulting in less crisp and detailed images. This is also true for portrait images captured in low light, where the colors may look decent but the details appear soft. Overall, the lack of OIS may affect the quality of photos taken in low light and in situations where a longer shutter speed is required.

The primary camera on the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G can capture 3X lossless zoom shots, but it requires stable hands and ample light to capture good details. The macro camera is typical of those found on other smartphones, providing a mediocre final output.

If you flip the phone over, you’ll see a single 16MP hole-punch camera situated at the top of the display.

The Nord CE 3 Lite 5G’s front camera is well-suited for capturing selfies in good lighting conditions, producing images with ample details. However, it tends to lighten skin tones, even when the beauty mode is turned off. While portrait selfies turn out decent with a nicely blurred background, the edges of the subject aren’t as crisp as one might hope for.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review: Battery life

The Nord CE 3 Lite 5G provides a decent battery life that can last a day with moderate usage. However, heavy usages, like extended gaming sessions or video streaming, may drain the battery faster, resulting in a screen-on time of around 7.5 to 8.5 hours. Conversely, with lighter use, the phone can deliver an average screen-on time of just over 10 hours. Charging the device from empty to full takes approximately 50 minutes with the included 80W charger, but it only supports 67W fast charging.

Review verdict: Should you buy OnePlus Nord 3 CE Lite 5G?

While the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite doesn’t bring much of an improvement in terms of display and processing power compared to its predecessor, it still delivers a solid performance for consumers on a budget. It fulfills the essential requirements of users who are looking for a phone under Rs 20,000. However, it does come with a better stereo speaker setup, faster charging speeds, and an upgraded 108MP main camera, which sets it apart from its predecessor. Even though it may not exceed your expectations, it can be considered a worthwhile option for OnePlus fans who are mindful of their budget.

Reasons to buy OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite

  • Appealing looks
  • Good battery life
  • Decent Primary camera
  • 67W fast charging

Reasons to not buy OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite

  • Average screen
  • Macro sensor is not that impressive
  • Bloatware
Deepak RajawatDeepak Rajawat
Experienced technology journalist with over 7-years of experience. Before embracing online journalism, he has worked with several legacy publications including print editions at Hindustan Times and The Statesman. He also has a keen interest in Sports, which he used to cover with equal enthusiasm in his early career.

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