The two downsides to this? OnePlus decided to forgo a speedy refresh rate, which would’ve made interacting with the screen feel a smidge smoother. But I’ll take a traditional 60-Hz screen with AMOLED any day over a 90-Hz LCD, so I don’t really see this as a problem. What is annoying is how the screen doesn’t get tremendously bright; when you’re outside on a sunny day, you’ll need to squint.
You get quite a few accouterments, like a decently loud bottom-firing speaker, a reliable in-display fingerprint sensor, and even a MicroSD card slot to expand the 128 gigs of included storage. The phone’s also IP52-rated, so it should be fine in the rain but likely won’t survive a drop in a pool. You even get a headphone jack!
Battery life is nothing to write home about. The 4,500-mAh cell usually lasted a full day for me but not much more. If it ever dies earlier in the day, that’s where the speedy 33-watt wired charging comes in (provided you use OnePlus’ included cable and adapter). It juiced up the Nord N20 5G from 15 to 70 percent faster than you can say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. (OK, it took 30 minutes, which is still crazy fast.)
It helps that this phone’s plastic body doesn’t feel as plasticky as other cheap phones. The flat edges make it easy to grasp, and it feels solidly built. However, the rear cameras protrude so much that after a less than 2-inch drop (I was trying to take a low-to-the-ground photo of my pup), I can already see some minor scratches on the lens and around the edges of the phone. Get a case if you can find one!
Speaking of, there’s a 64-megapixel main camera, a macro camera, and a monochrome sensor—the latter just lets you take true black and white photos. And the macro is for snapping super-detailed close-ups. I’m not much of a macro person, so I didn’t find many uses for it save some dandelions on the ground.
The main camera is … OK. You can get some detailed images when there’s plenty of light about, though colors can feel undersaturated at times, and it can struggle with high-contrast scenes. In low light, the dedicated Night mode tries to add more sharpness and color, but your photos will still be fuzzy or straight-up blurry, depending on how motionless you can make your hands when pressing the shutter button. It lacks the sharpness and natural colors of the Pixel 5A, but you can take some passable photos on the Nord N20 5G that are good enough.
I’m largely impressed with the Nord N20 5G. It doesn’t feel like a OnePlus phone at all—there’s no mute switch, the design is completely different, and even the Night mode in the camera isn’t called “Nightscape” like on every other OnePlus. Nevertheless, it’s incredibly satisfying to be able to use a phone this cheap and never have to deal with annoying stutters. It’s just a darn shame it won’t get any OS updates after Android 12.