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HomeBusinessTurf wars: OnePlus Nord CE4 counters Nothing’s pitch for new-age ₹25k phones

Turf wars: OnePlus Nord CE4 counters Nothing’s pitch for new-age ₹25k phones

Some of you may remember the very first OnePlus Nord phone, in 2020, one that had the company set off in search of the true north. It had a design element that’s so far remained rare. Rivals haven’t exactly attempted to replicate that Blue Marble finish, one that set it apart in a definitive way. Years later, it is a distant successor, the OnePlus Nord CE4 (where CE stands for Core Edition, to distinguish within a broadening Nord portfolio) revisiting that moment from a time gone by. Celadon Marble, as it is called, takes more of a green hue (as against blue earlier), and an attempt to refresh in an era where sameness is prevalent. OnePlus Nord CE4’S arrival now begins in earnest the competition with Nothing Phone (2a) and indeed Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 12 series, which means there’s impressive choice if you’re looking for a phone around the 25,000 price point.

Two variants of the OnePlus Nord CE4 go on sale this time – 24,999 for 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. (Vishal Mathur | HT Photo)

Think of this as the latest iteration to the argument that’s often made about how mid-range Android phones (this is in the upper echelons of that) have become significantly better because of the hardware that’s now available to them. At the core of this, in my opinion, is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 7 Gen 3 chip. OnePlus hasn’t exactly gone wrong with 8GB RAM as the standard spec across all storage choices, but perhaps missed a trick since the Nothing Phone (2a) adds that longevity proposition with 12GB RAM for the highest spec variant. For some users, that extra headroom may just be very handy – and adding another 8GB of virtual RAM from the storage isn’t really an alternative.

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Also Read: Nothing’s resolute personality and value recipe defines an affordable Phone (2a)

Still, the OnePlus Nord CE4 is powerful enough for most use cases, and despite the software adding some bulk (which we’ll get to), there are no annoying stutters or animation jerkiness visible. We had, if you remember, noted this occasional behaviour in the Nothing Phone (2a) though there have been improvements since with OS, or operating system updates. Even when you may have been gaming on the OnePlus Nord CE4, or extensive multitasking including camera usage for a sustained period of time, the Snapdragon 7 Gen 3 chip remains cooler than I’d expected it to. That’s partly to do with the chip’s generational improvements, and also how OnePlus has designed the innards of the phone.

This takes me back to my earlier point about smartphones around the 25,000 price point now significantly more advanced than they were perhaps 5 years ago. Everyone’s played a role, crucially chipmakers, trickling down features and architectural advantages from their flagship chips. Qualcomm’s done something similar with the Snapdragon 7 Gen 3, including core design and AI process handling. Though there’s very little to choose, and there are variables such as optimisations to the software they run, but I do notice the Nord CE4 holding ground slightly better than the Nothing Phone (2a) when strained – the latter has occasional noticeable moments of stutters.

More to the point, two variants of the OnePlus Nord CE4 go on sale this time – 24,999 for 8GB RAM and 128GB storage, but our recommendation would be the option priced at 26,999 (8GB + 256GB). The Nothing Phone (2a) is now priced 23,999 onwards, with the option of choosing a 12GB RAM variant for a bit more (that’s around 27,999 for now).

Apart from being able to hold a performance baseline for longer, by remaining cool, battery life also draws a positive response. The 5,500 mAh battery will regularly return close to 6.5 hours of screen time before you must charge it again. And that’s where OnePlus’ legacy of intent with fast charging pays off, with the 100-watt speeds and the bundled charger, for a quick splash and dash. This is the first time a Nord phone has breached the triple digit mark for charging speeds, and the flagship OnePlus 12 series would be proud. In comparison, Nothing’s 45-watt speed ceiling, looks significantly inferior, but not a deal-breaker. Think about it, even Samsung’s latest Galaxy flagships don’t come close to the Nord CE4, in this aspect.

On the face of it, you may imagine not much has changed with the OxygenOS 14 software. But it has. Realisation soon dawns that those years of OnePlus’ resolve in holding its ground about not preloading third-party apps and using that as a revenue stream, has weakened. You’ll have no choice but to get used to it soon enough.

OnePlus has kept it simple with the camera system – a 50-megapixel Sony LYT600 sensor and an 8-megapixel Sony IMX355 ultrawide. There’s no room for what would have otherwise been a very limited utility 2-megapixel macro, or something on those lines. The flipside, there is no dedicated macro mode. The question is, has OnePlus been able to draw on learnings from camera giants Hasselblad? There seems to be some argument for it. Most photos you’ll take with the OnePlus Nord CE4 return pleasing colours, details that come through well without any hints of boosted sharpening and more than workable dynamic range.

There’s a dedicated 50-megapixel shooting mode too, but from my understanding comparing results of the same shots in 50-megapixel and 12.5-megapixel, the former doesn’t return as much as you’d expect in terms of details and an ability to crop. Stick to the default shooting mode, the latter. Digital zoom, quite usable up to 1.5x, is a bit of a struggle to get right after that. In terms of videos, improvements are needed for stabilisation, particularly if you’re shooting in 4K (why wouldn’t you?).

The case here is simple, mid-range Android phones are yet to find the ideal configuration for cameras. Nothing’s working on it. OnePlus will have to up its game on the photography front too, and fix whichever shortcomings are possible, with software updates. This is where Nothing’s attentiveness with fixes that roll out often within a gap of a week, has improved the Phone (2a) significantly since launch. And that should be the benchmark to stay comparable with.

To conclude, the OnePlus Nord CE4 seems to be walking a tightrope successfully, for the most part. There are no attempts to experiment or complicate matters, with the basics of the spec sheet well and truly ticked off. Both challengers, the Nothing Phone (2a) being the other one, are largely at par in terms of the experience they can deliver. You can always argue that OnePlus could have matched Nothing’s translucency efforts and used a better material than the plastic back, but how would that marble finish be possible?

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