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Review: One Plus Nord N200 5G brings 5G to the masses

This beautiful budget phone is both future-proofed and future-hampered.

I’ve loved OnePlus phones since the OG OnePlus One was released back in 2014. The idea of the plucky startup enthusiast brand (contrived as it may have been) was immediately appealing, as was the value proposition of getting really good hardware (with some acceptable drawbacks) paired with clean, beautiful software at an affordable price. It’s a legacy that OnePlus has managed to hold on to and develop over the years, even as its prices pushed higher and higher with each upgrade cycle.

Even though the company’s flagship devices like the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro have received critical acclaim over the past couple of years, opposing forces have been trying to pull the company back downmarket. Some of that comes from longtime fans who miss the days of its value devices, but much of it comes from the company’s leadership. The real area for smartphone growth right now is at the entry-level and mid-tier. With the exit of companies like LG and the incoherent product strategies of companies like Motorola, the time was right for OnePlus to reclaim its lost territory with its budget-focused Nord brand. Recent statements from the company echo this sentiment:

To us, the success of OnePlus Nord is a sign that people’s relationship to technology is shifting. The world no longer shouts for more and better specs but rather a fine-tuned and reasonably priced device that enables more
people to do the things they want… Providing users with more product choices at a wider range of prices is the best way to bring our technology to more people.

We’ve reviewed many of the Nord phones over the past year, but only recently have these devices come to North America. Earlier this year, we saw the Nord N100 and N10 5G release, and while I missed out on the chance to test those devices, there was no way I would pass up the opportunity to write this OnePlus Nord N200 5G review. Here are my impressions of this budget buster after spending a little over a week with the phone.

OnePlus Nord N200 5G

Bottom line: There is so much to like about the Nord 200 5G that it’s easy to forget about the areas where it lets you down. The phone looks and feels more like a flagship than any other sub $300 phone I’ve used, with a gorgeous 90Hz screen and solid matte plastic Blue Quantum body. Its Snapdragon 480 chip handles everyday tasks surprisingly well, and its battery life is jaw-droppingly good, but its cameras are middling, and its long-term software support is underwhelming. The phone will only see one major platform update (Android 12), though it will get up to three years of security updates. That’s frustrating for a device that otherwise could easily last you three or four years.

The Good

  • Looks and feels more premium than its price
  • One of the cheapest 5G phones you can buy
  • 90Hz Full HD+ display is welcome at this price point
  • Side-mounted fingerprint sensor is easy to reach and responsive
  • Amazing battery life and standby time
  • NFC, 18W fast charging, and 3.5mm headphone jack are all welcomed

The Bad

  • Cameras are not great
  • No mute switch/alert slider
  • Lower expandable storage option than N100
  • Only 1 platform update
  • No IP rating
  • No wireless charging

$240 at Best Buy$240 at OnePlus$240 at T-Mobile

OnePlus Nord N200 5G: Price and availability

The OnePlus Nord N200 5G was announced in mid-June 2021 and became available for purchase on June 25, 2021, in the United States and Canada. A single configuration of the handset with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage in a gorgeous Blue Quantum color is available for $240. It is a carrier exclusive to T-Moble and Metro by T-Mobile, but you can pick up an unlocked version directly from OnePlus or Best Buy. The Nord N200 5G is OnePlus’s cheapest 5G phone to date, and it’s also one of the most affordable 5G devices worldwide.

OnePlus Nord N200 5G: Nord family comparisons

The N200 5G is the latest low-cost device from OnePlus’s expanding Nord lineup which includes the original Nord (2020), the Nord N100 (2021) the Nord N10 5G (2021), and the recently released Nord CE 5G (2021). At $240, it slots in quite nicely between the N100 at $180 and the N10 5G at $300. Its specs also fall somewhere between those two devices, as you might imagine at its price point.

OnePlus Nord N100 vs. Nord N200 5G vs. Nord N10 5G: Specs

OnePlus Nord N100 OnePlus Nord N200 5G OnePlus Nord N10 5G
Operating system Android 10
Oxygen OS 10.5
Android 11
Oxygen OS 11
Android 10
Oxygen OS 10.5
Display 6.52-inch 90Hz IPS LCD
1600×720 (20:9)
Gorilla Glass 3
6.49-inch 90Hz IPS LCD
2400×1080 (20:9)
Gorilla Glass 3
6.49-inch 90Hz IPS LCD
2400×1080 (20:9)
Gorilla Glass 3
Chipset Snapdragon 460 Snapdragon 480 Snapdragon 690
GPU Adreno 610 Adreno 619 Adreno 619L
RAM 4GB 4GB 6GB
Storage 64GB 64GB 128GB
MicroSD Slot Yes (Up to 512GB) Yes (Up to 256GB) Yes (Up to 512GB)
Rear camera 1 13MP f/2.2 13MP f/2.2 64MP f/1.8
Rear camera 2 2MP macro, f/2.4 2MP macro, f/2.4 8MP wide-angle, f/2.25
119-degree field-of-view
Rear camera 3 2MP portrait, f/2.4 2MP monochrome, f/2.4 2MP macro, f/2.4
Rear camera 4 2MP portrait, f/2.4
Front camera 16MP 16MP 16MP
Connectivity 4G
Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0
5G, LTE
Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.1
5G
Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0
Battery 5000mAh
Non-removable
5000mAh
Non-removable
4300mAH
Non-removable
Charging USB-C 2.0
Warp Charge 30T (5V/6A)
USB-C 2.0
18W fast charging (9V/2A)
USB-C 2.0
Warp Charge 30T (5V/6A)
Audio USB-C
Stereo speaker
3.5mm headphone jack
USB-C
Mono speakers
3.5mm headphone jack
USB-C
Stereo speaker
3.5mm headphone jack
Security Rear fingerprint Side fingerprint Rear fingerprint
Colors Midnight Frost Blue Quantum Midnight Ice

As you can see from the table above, the Nord N200 5G is the natural successor to the N100. It has a better chipset with 5G connectivity, though its memory expansion doesn’t quite measure up to the cheaper device. On the other end of the spectrum, the N200 5G gets you essentially the same display as the N10 5G, but a lower-powered chipset, and again, less storage (and RAM).

The N200 5G’s charging tech is a bit behind its siblings (18W fast charging compared to Warp Charge 30T), and the side-mounted fingerprint sensor is just … different. Not functionally better or worse, just in a different place. It is perplexing that the N200 has a lower capacity for microSD memory card expansion than the N100, but 256GB is probably enough for most people. Whatever you think of OnePlus’s product strategy for the Nord lineup, it appears to be working, as both the N100 and N10 5G have already been selling quite well, growing the company’s sales by as much as 15% through some retailers and carriers.

OnePlus Nord N200 5G: What I liked

From the moment you unbox the N200 5G, you immediately feel like you’re holding a OnePlus flagship device. It’s scooch taller (6.42″ vs. 6.29″) and imperceptibly wider (2.94″ vs. 2.92″) than my OnePlus 9, and from the front and back, you can easily see the family resemblance. The camera housing has the familiar 9 series vertical rectangular shape, size, and position, and the selfie camera cutout is slightly larger, but otherwise, they don’t look strikingly different from the front (aside from the lack of an in-display fingerprint sensor on the N200 5G).

The Nord N200 5g doesn’t LOOK like a budget phone, nor does it feel like one.

Even though the N200 5G feels lightweight in hand, it still feels solid and substantive. The back panel is made of plastic, but to me, it feels every bit as nice as the “glasstic” on the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE that I got to use last fall. And since it’s matte plastic, I wasn’t as worried about putting a case on to protect from smudges, scratches, or drops. It was surprisingly grippable too, and I didn’t feel like I was going to drop it when laying in bed scrolling through the news, nor when my hands got all sweaty and slippery out on the hot and humid trails behind my home.

The phone is only available in one color, but oh, what a pretty shade it is. The Blue Quantum hue harkens back to the beautiful blues from OnePlus phones like the 7T and 7 Pro, with a lovely gradient that catches the light and changes the look depending on how and where you hold it. If I were to hand this device to any of my non-techy friends (which is most of them), they’d probably believe me if I told them that this was a flagship phone and not a budget device.

The phone has a USB-C port on the bottom that supports “fast” 18W charging. This doesn’t match up to the Warp Charge 30T option available on other recent OnePlus phones, but it’s in line or even ahead of many other phones at this price point. Not that you need to charge much, though — this phone has a 5,000 mAh battery that lasts forever. Seriously, I couldn’t come close to killing it in a day, and I was blown away by the standby time. When it’s not in use, it was able to hold onto a charge like my iPhones have, which is impressive for a budget Android device.

As far as performance goes, I didn’t notice any issues using my regular suite of social and productivity apps. The Snapdragon 480 may not be a powerhouse chip for gaming or intense work, but it’s an improvement over the N100’s 460, and it was able to handle my daily usage just fine. I suspect this will be the case for many others who buy the N200 5G as well. The 90Hz Full HD+ display also looks great. Colors were sharp and on point, and the screen got plenty bright enough for outdoor use.

The N200 5G has a fast and reliable fingerprint sensor, but it’s not where you’d expect it. Rather than being placed under the display or on the back of the phone, it’s mounted on the side as part of the power button. This isn’t a new approach by any means, but it’s one we haven’t seen from OnePlus to date. The N200 5G can also use the selfied camera for Face Unlock. It isn’t as secure as the fingerprint sensor, but it’s there if you want it. Personally, I actually really enjoyed using the fingerprint sensor. For me, it’s placed right where my right thumb naturally rests when I pick up the phone, and let’s face it — I’ve never really been a fan of rear-mounted fingerprint sensors anyway. Go ahead and call me crazy; all of my coworkers already have. Here’s what OnePlus had to say about the sensor placement.

The OnePlus Nord N200 5G has a side-mounted fingerprint scanner so that there is ease of use, accurate and fast unlocking of the device. There is no muscle memory required with an individual using a side-mounted scanner built into the power button.

Rounding out the ports and buttons, we have a volume rocker and SIM/microSD card slot on the left, and a mono speaker, a microphone, and a 3.5mm headphone jack along the bottom of the phone. The N200 5G also has NFC support for Google Pay, and while it comes with 64GB of storage, you can expand that up to 256GB, which is probably enough for most folks. Having 5G support is huge. Along with the phone’s build and battery, it should be a reliable device for several years to come (notwithstanding the software update situation).

Finally, I can’t talk about a budget phone without mentioning the price. This phone feels like it’s priced just right at $240, which, as far as I can tell, makes it not only OnePlus’s most affordable 5G phone but the cheapest 5G handset that you can purchase right now in the U.S. As well as the N100 and N10 5G have done so far this year, I think that T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile are going to have another hot seller on their hands.

OnePlus Nord N200 5G: What dissapointed me

OnePlus Nord N200 5G left, OP 9 right

If you’re going to spend under $250 on a smartphone, you can’t expect it to be perfect. There will be multiple areas where it falls short of more premium and expensive devices to hit that lower price point, and the N200 5G is no exception here.

Oh, how I missed that iconic OnePlus alert slider!

While I applaud OnePlus for making an attractive, durable, and long-lasting device, there are a few hardware omissions that kind of baffles me. For starters, the iconic OnePlus alert slider is missing just as it was on the more recent budget Nord phones like the N100, N10 5G, and Nord CE. It’s not an essential piece of equipment, and I guess it makes sense that OnePlus would try to shave off costs by axing it, but I did miss it.

The N200 5G only comes with one storage configuration (64GB), which is acceptable at this price point, particularly since the phone offers expandable storage options. However, it is a bit odd that you can only expand up to 256GB when the N100 and N10 5G both allow expansion up to 512GB. 256GB is still enough for most people, but why the downgrade here?

OnePlus’s haptics in its premium phones like the 9Pro and 9 have been pretty good, in my opinion, but here on the N200 5G, they definitely feel budget-grade. The first thing I did when I set up the phone was turn off the haptics. Trust me.

You didn’t really expect to get wireless charging on a phone at this price, did you?

The lack of wireless charging and an official IP rating is not surprising, but they are worth pointing out. As I noted above, the battery should last you quite a long time, and the fast wired charging will get you topped off fairly quickly, so hopefully, not having wireless charging won’t negatively affect you that much. OnePlus hasn’t opted to push for IP certification in the past, but it claims that the phones sport a degree of water resistance, even if they don’t carry an official IP rating.

Some people may comment on the “large” bezels and “huge” chin, but I think they look perfectly fine, especially for a phone in this price range. I only bring it up here because I know people will comment on it, but it’s not an issue.

The N200 5G has a triple camera setup on the back of the phone, but as you might expect from a budget device, the results are mixed. In good light and outdoors, the main 13MP shooter performs admirably, though it does tend to blow out the highlights in the sky, and while colors are accurate, they’re a bit muted for my tastes. It features electronic image stabilization (EIC) instead of optical image stabilization, and I thought it did a decent job of correcting my shaky hands most of the time. You can shoot 1080p and 720p video at 30FPS, and it also features a super slow-motion mode at 720p/120FPS and a time-lapse mode at 1080p/3FPS. Oh, and don’t look for that Hasselblad badge; that partnership hasn’t extended to the Nord lineup yet.

Here are a few of the better images I captured form the 13MP main sensor:

Photos zoomed to 2x were less reliable, with darker colors that almost seemed from a different camera (well, they were), and shots at 5x were basically unusable. Here are the 2x shots:

And the 5x zoom:

Now I will say that I was actually impressed with portrait mode on the main camera and the 16MP selfie shooter, as you can see from the images below.

And finally, we get to the macro camera, which apparently warranted its own sensor, but its controls are buried in the camera settings menu.

The N200 5G ships with Oxygen OS 11 built on Android 11, but it only promised to deliver one major platform update. Since we expect to see Android 12 later this year, it’s safe to assume that is the last big update the phone will get. Thankfully it will continue to receive security patches for up to three years, but at least two platform updates would have been preferable (like Nokia delivers with its 5.4).

You can purchase the N200 5G unlocked directly from OnePlus or Best Buy, but the only carrier carrying it is T-Mobile and its Metro by T-Mobile sub-brand. OnePlus and T-Mobile have had a strong relationship for several years, and carrier exclusives are nothing new (particularly in the budget and mid-range space), but they’re not ideal for consumers either.

OnePlus Nord N200 5G: Competition

Over the past year or so, the competition among the best cheap Android phones has really started to heat up. It used to be that you weren’t able to get a great value under $300, but that has changed thanks to cheaper and more powerful chipsets becoming more widely available, as well as display and camera tech innovations trickling their way down from the more premier tiers.

When considering the closest competitors to the N200 5G, you really don’t have to look much further than OnePlus’s other entry level Nord devices that it introduced earlier this year. The N100 has similar specs to the N200 5G and really only falls behind the newer device thanks to its sup-par display and lack of 5G. The N10 5G has the same display as the N200 5G, but it has a more powerful chipset, more storage, and slightly better cameras. However, it also costs $60 more.

2020’s TCL 10L and 2021’s Nokia 5.4 both have pros and cons when weighed against the N200 5G. IN the case of the TCL 10L, you get a larger and more vivid display, more memory and storage, and better cameras, but its battery is smaller. The Nokia 5.4 also has a bigger display (though it’s only 720p), dual-SIM support, and a cleaner Android One software experience, but again, a smaller battery. Both phones are priced right around $250, though, so they merit consideration here.

Finally, we come to the elephant in the room when it comes to Android phones — Samsung. The company’s A-series of phones has helped redefine the budget and mid-range phone space, and its A32 5G is one that a lot of folks will compare directly against the N200 5G. The A32 5G has a comparable chipset in the MediaTek Dimensity 720G and a more impressive camera setup, but it has an inferior TFT display with a 720p resolution.

OnePlus Nord N200 5G: Should you buy it?

You should buy this if …

  • You’re on a tight budget and need a solid 5G phone
  • You like Oxygen OS and the OnePlus experience
  • You need a long-lasting battery

You shouldn’t buy this if…

  • You really want premium features like wireless charging or an official IP rating
  • You need a lot of on-device storage
  • You want multiple platform updates

3.5
out of 5

The OnePlus Nord N200 5G is a good phone, but it’s no flagship. Spec-chasers will steer clear of this device anyway, but those who have a tight budget should be pleased with their purchase. For under $250, you get excellent build quality and design, a beautiful screen and software experience, and outstanding battery life. The addition of 5G to such an affordable phone should open up new worlds of connectivity to those who previously didn’t have access to it, and that is commendable.

The cameras aren’t the best, but that shouldn’t come as a shock, and in the right hands and under the right conditions, you should be able to get some good shots. The biggest letdown here (and with the other Nord phones) is that the N200 5G is only scheduled to get one major Android platform update. I don’t expect miracles at this price point, but other OEMs offer at least two years of Android updates. But if that doesn’t matter that much to you, you’re going to come away with a really nice device for the price.

OnePlus Nord N200 5G

Bottom line: If you’re looking for an affordable device with good performance, good looks, an excellent display, and fantastic battery life, then you’ll be quite happy with the Nord N200 5G. Just go into your purchase with realistic expectations about the camera prowess and software updates.

$240 at Best Buy$240 at OnePlus$240 at T-Mobile

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