The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G is a cheap budget smartphone, but it finds itself undercut by cheaper rivals and compared to the excellent OnePlus Nord CE 2. It won’t disappoint anyone, but there are better and more exciting options. .
Today’s best prices: OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G
The OnePlus line-up continues to grow in 2022. You might assume that the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G shares a lot of DNA with the OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G, but you’d be wrong.
This new entrant into the affordable mid-range market is a completely different kettle of fish with a different spec list, but a price tag just £20 less than its nearly-identically named sibling. OnePlus is effectively competing with itself, which is somewhat misleading.
While it’s undoubtedly a solid phone, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G lacks the flair, poise and sense of value of other OnePlus phones. It’s a bit louder and a bit overpriced.
Design and manufacture
OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G is a bigger and heavier phone than OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G. You wouldn’t call it bulky, but at 8.5mm thick and weighing 195g, it certainly defies any lightweight expectations you might have based on its all-plastic construction.
The back of the phone has a pretty general layout and shape with the usual curved back panel and rectangular camera module.
Two details provide some interest. One is my test model’s Blue Tide color, which appears to shift from a deep blue to an almost turquoise shade with bright yellow highlights. There’s also a Black Dusk model if you insist on a stealthier look.
John Mundy / Foundry
Another detail of note is a patch of faint thin vertical lines running the width of the phone and the length of the camera module. It has no texture or function, but it makes the phone look less run-of-the-mill than it is.
Below the power button is a side-mounted fingerprint sensor, which is nice and reliable. The bottom edge of the phone is filled with a USB-C port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a slightly smaller mono speaker.
The Nord CE 2 Lite is far from the reliable display used in the Nord CE 2 and other Nord handsets, and it’s a bit underwhelming.
Instead of its sibling’s 6.43in AMOLED, what you get is a 6.59in IPS LCD. Yes, that means it’s big. It’s also smoother with a 120Hz refresh rate than the Nord CE 2’s 90Hz.
Both displays have FHD+ resolutions, but the IPS LCD used here doesn’t output anything like the CE 2’s vibrant colors or deep blacks. It just doesn’t look premium.
John Mundy / Foundry
It also doesn’t feel as premium. The screen has a greasy, dusty feel that had me trying to clean it on my t-shirt within minutes of handling it for the first time. OnePlus doesn’t mention that it has Gorilla Glass 5, as the Nord CE 2 has, which makes me suspect it isn’t.
In the screen’s default Vivid Screen color mode, I recorded a gamut coverage of 99.6% sRGB, 80.8% Adobe RGB, and 97% DCI P3, which isn’t bad. However, if you want to optimize the balance and accuracy of that output you may want to switch to normal color mode.
When you consider that the Poco X4 Pro 5G gives you a 6.67in 120Hz AMOLED display for even less money, the Nord CE 2 Lite’s screen is really nothing to write home about.
Specs and performance
The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 695 5G, which is the same low-end chip that powers the similarly priced Poco X4 Pro 5G. It is supported by 6GB of RAM, although it can be expanded by temporary virtual RAM up to 5GB on the fly.
It’s a set-up that helps the CE 2 Lite feel reasonably fast and fluid in general navigation. It can also handle more advanced tasks properly. At High/60fps settings Genshin Impact remains playable, if far from silky smooth.
In benchmark tests the phone lags slightly behind the OnePlus Nord CE 2, both in terms of CPU and GPU. It’s more or less on par with the Poco X4 Pro, as you’d expect given the same components.
On the storage front you’ll get 128GB as standard, with the added bonus of a microSD slot.
OnePlus has packed this affordable phone with one of those triple camera systems that is really a single camera system. You get a 64Mp main wide-angle sensor, which is all well and good, but then a 2Mp macro and 2Mp depth sensor that don’t really do much.
In other words, it’s a similar set-up to the Nord CE 2, minus the ultrawide. As that phone, the Nord CE 2 Lite mostly delivers the goods in good light.
John Mundy / Foundry
Colors are deep and vibrant without looking completely false, detail is good, and dynamic range is on point. It can pretty much do what you want at this price.
It struggles a bit once the light falls, where the small sensor and lack of optical image stabilization (OIS) start to cut in, but I still got usable results with the provided night mode.
There’s no dedicated telephoto camera but that main sensor is pixel-dense enough to make digitally cropped 2x shots look passable. It’s that overlapping exclusion that really bites here.
On the front is the 16MP selfie camera, which struggles a bit with exposure and a certain softness, but is otherwise passable.
Video recording is only up to 1080p and 30fps. That’s well below the Nord CE 2 and its 4K at 30fps or 1080p at 120fps.
Battery life and charging
OnePlus has equipped its affordable phone with a 5000mAh battery, which matches the Poco X4 Pro 5G and exceeds the non-Lite model.
This is enough to drive the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G through a full day of moderate use (3 hours 30 minutes screen on time) with more than 50% of the time. That’s a strong result, although the Poco X4 Pro 5G achieved something similar.
For some reason, the PCMark Work 3.0 battery test repeatedly failed to complete during my time with the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G, so I can’t offer any general benchmark comparisons.
On the recharging front, OnePlus packs its phone with a 33W charger. It will get you from 0 to 51% in 30 minutes, and you will reach 100% within 1 hour and 15 minutes.
It should be noted that the OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G gives you a 65W charger for less money, while the Poco X4 Pro 5G gives you a 67W charger for a little less.
John Mundy / Foundry
OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G runs Android 12 and the company’s custom OxygenOS 12.1 on top.
Oppo’s takeover renders it a different version of its own ColorOS, not the boldly independent Android UI of the latter. But it keeps its attractive font and icons, at least, and it’s nice and easy to use.
I’m not a big fan of the OnePlus Shelf, a menu full of widgets that is accessed by pulling down from the top right of the screen. It looks a little clumsy, and it feels oddly divorced from the rest of the UI. Still, at least it’s possible to disable it within the settings menu.
OnePlus will deliver two major Android updates and three years of security updates. It’s about as good as it gets at this end of the market, and should see a phone with Android 14.
Price and availability
The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G is available from the OnePlus website and Amazon in the UK. The only model available in the UK retails for £279, which gets you 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage as standard.
In Europe it is on sale from OnePlus in France for €319 and in Spain for €309.
It is also on sale in India direct from OnePlus for ₹19,999.
While this puts the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G well and truly in the affordable phone category, it still feels a little overpriced. The Poxo X4 Pro 5G and Realme 9 5G are similarly specced, but cost £20 to £30 less.
Perhaps the challenge from within is more problematic. The OnePlus Nord 2 CE 5G is a much better phone in most respects, but it costs just £20 more.
Check out our best budget phones and best mid-range phones articles for more challenges.
John Mundy / Foundry
The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G is yet another highly capable affordable phone from the established brand.
It’s solidly built, has a fluid 120Hz display, and runs reasonably smoothly. The 64Mp main camera, meanwhile, is capable of capturing images with real pop.
However, there’s no getting away from the fact that this is one of the least exciting OnePlus phones we’ve seen in a while. In some ways, it feels completely unnecessary.
For just £20 less than the OnePlus Nord CE 2 you’re getting a phone with an inferior LCD display, inferior performance, slower charging, and a less flexible camera system. Meanwhile, rival efforts from Xiaomi and Realme offer similar or slightly better specifications for less money.