Category Archives: review

GE BIAX CFL Light Bulb Long Term Test



Way back in the mid-noughties, my wife and I were preparing to have a family. Our small house suited us perfectly but to cope with little ones we needed a bit more space and so converted our roof space into bedrooms. During the conversion, our downstairs hallway was completely trashed installing the staircase but with a spot of redecoration, all was well. There were new light fittings and I needed eight 40W-equivalent bulbs.

Looking back at 2007, LED bulbs were rare and expensive, so the choice was incandescent or CFL. The lights in the hallway are probably the most used of all our lights, so with an eye for the running costs, I went with CFL and ended up with a pile of GE 9W “Extra Mini” bulbs, officially GE BIAX Electronic. That’s 72 W total instead of 320 W with old-style bulbs.

This evening, I think the very first one of these failed. That’s over 15 years of use and surprisingly when I got a spare out of the cupboard, that’s exactly what it says on the box!

To formally review these bulbs, they output 480 lumens in a warm white. The bulbs turn on instantly but take a few minutes to come to full brightness and whiteness. They won’t work with dimmers. The short stubby size means that the bulbs will fit in most light fittings but they’re not great to look at. Opaque shades only. And they last for 15 years. Buy.

I only have one spare bulb which is now in use, so as the others start to fail, I’ll have to switch over to LED bulbs. They’ll only consume about 5 W and cost about £3 each from a reputable manufacturer.

The price of light is amazingly cheap when you think about it.


What’s the best Bluetooth tracker for Android?



Arriving in Spring 2021, Apple’s beautiful AirTags shook the Bluetooth tracker market in a way that only Apple can, by combining great design with large market share to create an almost irresistible product. When every iPad and iPhone is looking out for your AirTag, it’s a fantastic proposition.

For those of us Android users on the other side of the mobile fence, it’s a different situation. Samsung is probably the only OEM which could mount a viable challenge to Apple: it’s top dog worldwide, though Xiaomi and OPPO are snapping at its heels. Both Samsung and Xiaomi do have Bluetooth trackers in their portfolio but I’ve only ever seen the Samsung SmartTags.

The Bluetooth tracker marker is a tough one. I was a big fan of TrackR for years but they shut up shop in 2021. Those with long memories will recall that they were one of the first big Indiegogo successes and were feted at CES back in 2015, though they’d been in operation for longer. I reviewed the Mynt Tracker in 2017: a stylish Red dot-winning product but it too has gone. I would imagine Tile is the longest lasting of these companies, starting out in 2012 and still going, though it’s recently been taken over by Life360. Chipolo is only slightly younger than Tile, going back to 2013.

So today I’m looking at Bluetooth trackers from Tile, Chipolo and Samsung from the perspective of an Android owner. What’s the best for returning my gear when it’s been misplaced? Let’s take a look at each in turn.

Tile has the widest range of the three suppliers on review here with four different trackers. Sticker (£25), for sticking to things such as a laptop or remote control; Slim (£21), for keeping in wallet; Mate (£20) for attaching to key rings or bags and Pro (£30) for long-range tracking. Disappointingly, only the Pro has user-replaceable battery: that’s not the way to go in this age of reducing electronic waste and I can’t find anything about recycling on their website. The previous generation of Mates did have a replaceable battery and that’s the one on test here. Plus points go to Tile for producing plenty of special editions throughout the year in different colours.

Chipolo has four trackers in its product line up, though really they’re variants of only two models, a wallet card and a round tag. Chipolo’s Spot range is designed to work with Apple’s Find My feature and the non-Spot variants of the Chipolo ONE (£22) and Chipolo CARD (£30) work with the Chipolo app, which available for both Android and iOS. Confused? As we’re only talking about Android we don’t have to worry. The Chipolo ONE comes in plenty of colours and has a user replaceable battery. The CARD battery can’t be swapped out but recycling through Chipolo entitles you to replacement at half price.

Samsung has two trackers in the range, the SmartTag and the SmartTag+. The former is your basic Bluetooth tracker whereas the latter is equipped with UWB (ultrawide band) which allows an augmented reality app to direct you straight to the missing tag. A SmartTag costs around £25 but the plus ones are closer to £40, though discounts are available for packs of two or four.  Samsung doesn’t have a card-style tracker for wallets but points in the SmartTags favour are a range of colours and replaceable batteries.

Samsung’s SmartTags integrate with SmartThings and appear as a device with the smart home system. However, this brings me to their biggest failing. The SmartTags only work with Samsung phones and tablets. If you are sporting anything else, you’ll get a message saying, “SmartTag is only supported on Galaxy devices running Android 8 or higher.” If you are fully invested with Samsung and live where Samsung is popular, these could well be the trackers for you. For anyone with an Apple, OnePlus, Motorola, OPPO or Xiaomi phone these are totally useless. I think this is a big fail from Samsung as I would otherwise be keen personally due to the integration with SmartThings.

However, if you are in the Samsung world, this devices do appear to work well and as will be seen from Test 3 there are enough Samsung phones out there to make tracking lost items a real possibility.

The Tests
I conducted three tests with all three trackers to see how they each perform. Test 1 was a simple loudness test to check the tracker would be heard from down the back of the sofa. All three passed this test with flying colours and no real discernible difference between trackers.

Test 2 was a simple range test: how far away could the tracker be before it lost touch with the phone (or in this case a Samsung Galaxy Tab S6) in free air. Each tracker’s “Find my phone” feature was used to ensure a working connection and I didn’t simply rely on what the app said: the tracker had to be able to ring the tablet.

First place goes to both the Samsung SmartTag and the Tile Mate. Both managed to maintain a connection at 100 m (at which point I ran out of road). Bring up the rear was the Chipolo One. It lost connection at around 50 m which was disappointing as the specs say 60 m.

Test 3 involved putting the tracker into the postal system to see whether a lost tracker was ever picked up by someone else. I wasn’t terribly confident that this test was going to work at all but happily I was proved wrong. Each tracker was put in a padded envelope and dropped in a post box outside of a popular shopping centre. They went in the post box late on Saturday knowing that they wouldn’t get collected until Monday, maximising the chances of the signals being detected by strangers.

The expected path of the trackers in the postal system should have been:

  1. Post box
  2. Collection depot
  3. Sorting office
  4. Delivery hub
  5. Home

The Chipolo One performed the worst. It was only detected by myself in the post box and when it finally arrived home. It was not detected at any time within the postal system. Obviously there aren’t any other Chipolo users in the area.

The Samsung SmartTag easily performed the best. It was detected quickly in every location and sometimes while on the road between the sites. This undoubtedly reflects the large number of Samsung phone users out and about – there’s easily as many Samsung users as Apple users here in Northern Ireland.

The Tile Mate came somewhere in the middle. The Mate was detected in every location but always after the Samsung was picked up and fewer times. It was never detected between the main locations. Frankly, I was surprised at the outcome given that Tile isn’t a phone manufacturer and has to rely on Tile users, not phone owners.

A commanding win by Samsung with a good show by Tile.

Conclusions
To bring the test to a close, here are my recommendations.

  • Forget Chipolo. The range was the shortest and it was never once picked up while in the postal system. There’s not a critical mass of users to make it effective.
  • If you are in the Samsung ecosystem, go with the SmartTags – it’s a no brainer. Range was excellent and the SmartTag was picked up by Samsung Galaxy devices on multiple occasions during its trip through the post. The Tag was detected in at all the locations plus a few times between locations. It’s a real shame that Samsung doesn’t allow its use with other vendors’ phones.
  • Tile is a worthy contender. The range was as good as the SmartTag and the Mate was detected in two locations by others. If you aren’t into Apple or Samsung, this is the one for you but there’s that pesky £30 subscription cost for features that others offer for free. And don’t forget the current Tile Mates don’t have replaceable batteries, so that’s another big cost every few years.

With hindsight, the postal test was going to be an easy win for Samsung. There are loads of people with Samsung phones and my guess is that the tracking features are built-in to the phones – someone doesn’t have to own a SmartTag to contribute to the search effort, they only need a Samsung Galaxy S-whatever and pass by.

In contrast, only people who have Tile trackers will have the Tile software installed, which makes it even more surprising that the Mate was found as often as it was. If you are thinking of going with Tile, the big downside is that Tile charges a subscription fee of nearly £30 to get the most of out of the trackers and the current Tile Mates don’t have user replaceable batteries.

Personally, I’m disappointed with Samsung too. I’m bought into the SmartThings ecosystem and the SmartTags fit into it nicely but I can’t use the Tags with my OnePlus 9 phone which makes them pointless for everyday tracking. It’s actually doubly bad in that I can’t even see the current location of the Tag in SmartThings even when it’s being detected by a different device. You just get a final “SmartTag is only supported on Galaxy devices running Android 8 or higher.” Come on Samsung, do they right thing and setup SmartTags on other phones.

That’s it. Samsung SmartTags competes well with Apple AirTags, and Tile’s available for everyone else.

 


Anker Wireless Vertical Ergonomic Mouse Review



Anker is best known for its chargers and battery packs but one of its outlier products is a vertical ergonomic mouse. The idea is that holding the mouse in an upright position keeps the wrist and forearm in a straight line and avoids the twisted position needed for a conventional mouse. This may help with conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) or repetitive strain injury (RSI). Of course, it goes without saying that I’m not a medical professional but let’s take a look.

The Anker Wireless Vertical Ergonomic Mouse is a full-sized device and my male hands rest easily on it. I think most adults would be able to use the mouse but those with small hands or short fingers might struggle with the scroll wheel. (They might want to consider Lift from Logitech.)

Vertical computer mouse in front of laptop keyboard. USB dongle rests in front.

Under the fingers, the mouse has left and right buttons plus a scroll wheel acting as a centre button. By the thumb are buttons for page up and page down. The buttons click satisfactorily and the scroll wheel is easy to turn. That’s all fairly standard but the Anker mouse has one trick up its sleeve. There’s an extra button on the top edge which toggles the mouse’s “dots per inch” between 800, 1200 and 1600 dpi. Simply this means that the amount of screen movement for a given mouse movement can be adjusted on the fly. It’s handy for games and such.

Vertical computer mouse in front of laptop keyboard with pencil for scale.The mouse runs off two AAA batteries stored in the bottom and the on/off toggle switch is up at the pointy end. To keep it safe, the USB transmitter (2.4 GHz) can be stored in the underside of the mouse when moving between computers. Battery life was “months” and the wireless range is easily a few metres.

I found the mouse comfortable to use but it takes a little bit of time to get used to the vertical orientation. Once that’s done, it’s plain sailing and I personally found it less tiring than using a standard mouse. Ultimately, I found the Logitech Trackman Marble trackball more suited to my needs for daily use, though sadly it seems to have been discontinued now.

Vertical computer mouse to the side of black keyboardThe only downside of the mouse is that it’s covered in that soft touch rubber which eventually gets a bit sticky. I’ve had my mouse for a few years and it’s getting to that point where it’s becoming unpleasant. There are some tricks on the internet on how to strip the coating but I’m not sure that I can be bothered given its rare use now.

The Anker Vertical Mouse is available in two versions; one wired, one wireless. Obviously, this is the wireless version. Priced at US$30 / UK£24, it’s available direct from Anker and other good retailers. The wired version comes in at £17. Unless there’s a really good reason for the wire, I’d splash the cash and get the wireless one.

Vertical ergonomic mice are available from other suppliers such as Logitech but they’re three times the price so I’d be tempted to try out the Anker and see if it works for you first. I’ve noticed that what appears to be the same mouse is available from other suppliers such as Trust and Perixx so do shop around.

For the purposes of disclosure, this was a personal purchase.


Xiaomi Mi 12 Hands-On Review – Lots to Like



Xiaomi Logo - an orange squircle with stylised white MI lettersAccording to Counterpoint Research, Xiaomi has consistently taken the #3 spot in worldwide smartphone shipments behind Samsung and Apple over the past three years and that’s without even officially selling smartphones in the USA. However, there’s no such problem here in the UK and I’ve managed to borrow a Xiaomi 12 smartphone from their PR folks for a couple of weeks and put it through its paces. And you know what, I can see why it’s #3. Let’s take a look.

Smartphone resting on boxWhile the Xiaomi 12 looks like so many of the current generation of smartphones with a six-inch plus screen, gently curved sides, frosted back and camera array top left, overall it leaves a good first impression of quality with a bright clear screen, a smooth without being slippy back, a little weight to the device and a power button resting just under my thumb. This is not a phone to be embarrassed about even if the name’s a little hard to pronounce. The phone comes in three colourways simply described as grey, blue and purple without additional hyperbole. It’s the purple version in my paws.

Let’s check out the specs to see how it shapes up on paper. Physically, the phone is 152.7 x 69.9 x 8.2 mm and weighs in at 180 g, so it’s slightly smaller than some of the recent phones I’ve reviewed but it’s millimetres to be honest. In other characteristics, there’s a USB-C port on the bottom, power button on the right, volume controls a little above, stereo speakers top and bottom. The SIM tray is at the bottom next to the USB port and supports two SIMS that are inserted back-to-back and a SIM ejection tool is included in the box. Unsurprisingly, there’s no audio jack.

Smartphone face down on boxOnto the screen: the Xiaomi 12 has a lovely 120 Hz AMOLED display with slightly rounded vertical edges. These seemed to be a happy medium between a completely flat screen and some of the very curved screens on other phones. The glass itself is Gorilla Glass Victus which should provide some protection against scratches. With a resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels (FHD+) and a screen size of 6.28″, it comes out as 419 ppi, and I think the colours look great – bright and vibrant. The front-facing camera is a centre top hole punch, and there’s an in-display fingerprint sensor which I found accurate but perhaps not as nippy as the sensor in the OnePlus phones

Under the hood, and there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, paired with an Adreno GPU. The RAM is LPDDR5 and storage is courtesy of UFS 3.1 at either 128 GB or 256 GB. Naturally there’s 5G (it’s 2022!) Performance-wise, after a couple of runs with GeekBench 5, I had average scores of 1225 single-core and 3540 multi-core which puts it comfortably into the upper ranges of the scoring benchmark. The Snapdragon 8 is more than capable of playing Fortnite and there’s a selection of gaming tools to avoid interruptions and enhance play (Game Turbo), but the Xiaomi 12 didn’t seem to support video out over USB C.

Moving onto the cameras, there’s a 50 MP main lens, a 13 MP ultrawide with a 123° field of view and a 5 MP telemacro camera for close-up shots. The front camera is a 32 MP unit. The cameras do stick out the back by a couple of millimetres, so a case of some kind is going to be essential to avoid scratching. I thought the cameras took some good shots, though one thing I did discover is that night mode only works on the main lens. The photo app on the 12 is comprehensive with features like motion tracking, eye tracking focus and blur reduction on motion. Here are a few photos that I took around the neighbourhood – the two on the beach show the difference between the standard and wide-angle views, and those are the mountains of Mourne. Normally the beach would be deserted but there was a warm spell and the whole country went to the seaside. I’m no photographer but I was happy with the snaps: colours were good and the night shots came out better than expected.

Inside the phone is a 4500 mAh battery and 67 W charger, which I found charged the phone from 21% to 94% in 30 minutes. That’s very usable. The Xiaomi 12 has 50 W wireless charging – I wasn’t able to test high speed charger but it worked fine with my 10 W Anker wireless charger.
In terms of power consumption, I felt that the Xiaomi was better than average – I’ve no hard proof of this, but I often left work after an average day at the office with more than I would expect from my personal phone which as a similar size battery.

MIUI 13 is Xiaomi’s take on Android 12 along with a rich user interface. It’s definitely a bit more colourful than the stock Android experience and there’s some nice theming and wallpapers. There are a few special effects that look good, e.g. when an app is deleted, the icon explodes and the other icons jump in shock. There’s fair amount of customisation and settings aren’t always in where you’d expect them to be. For example, “Date and time” has been casually relocated to “Additional settings” along with settings like “Beautify for video calls and “Quick Ball”. Quick Ball itself is an interesting utility that provides fast access to a selection of shortcuts via a small ball on the screen. Xiaomi have lots of these little enhancements and it’s difficult to call out all of them. Sometimes the enhancements aren’t always an improvement, e.g. notifications are presented as individual bubbles rather than in a contiguous block. Looks good but there’s less info on the screen.

That largely wraps up this quick review of the Xiaomi 12. Any downsides? I have a few issues but nothing terribly serious.

  • The factory-installed screen protector is a dust magnet. I’ve seen this on other phones too.
  • Adverts. A couple of the factory-installed utilities display adverts. I think that cheapens the experience for a premium phone.
  • Placeholders for a couple of promoted games. Annoying but easily removed.
  • OEM versions of Google standard apps. For example, Xiaomi has its own version of Find My Device. Why?
  • Fingerprint scanner not quite as snappy as some other phones.
  • Notifications sometimes on the wrong side

Pricing-wise…

Xiaomi 12
8 GB + 128 GB – GB£749 (currently £649)
8 GB + 256 GB – GB£849 (currently £699)
12 GB + 256 GB – not currently available

The Xiaomi 12 is available to purchase from Xiaomi directly and a word to the wise…Xiaomi frequently has promotions where there’s sizeable discounts so if you aren’t in a hurry, watch out for those deals. The current deal at £699 for 8 GB + 256 GB seems good value.

Overall, what’s my opinion? There’s much to like here. The phone is well-designed and feels good in the hand. It’s fast with good battery life. The cameras hold their own against the competition. MIUI 13 might be an acquired taste but there is some significant value-add in there. Ignore the cruft. The Xiaomi 12 is a strong contender in the tier of not-quite-flagship-phone (there’s a 12 Pro) and this saves £300 off the bottom line. Obviously there’s some competition out there (OnePlus 10T comes to mind) but it’s definitely worth taking a look at the Xiaomi 12.


Paramount+ Arrives in UK on Roku



Months after launching in USA (and the subsequent Star Trek Discovery PR disaster), Paramount+ finally arrived in UK today. Priced at £6.99 per month, the crown jewels are undoubtedly the Star Trek catalogue, but with ComedyCentral, ShowTime and MTV, there’s over 8000 hours of premium content including classics like Cheers! and Frasier. The new Halo live action series debuts on the service bringing another dimension to Microsoft’s long-running game series. It really is a golden era for television.

If you want to watch Paramount+, there are apps available from the app stores for Apple and Android devices as you’d expect. For the big screen, it’s bundled with Sky’s Cinema subscription but if you’re not a subscriber, a media streamer like a Roku is likely your best bet for now. The Paramount+ channel can be loaded from the Roku store and it’s then just a case of logging in with your credentials. I’m assuming Paramount+ will come to smart TVs and consoles soon but it’s not yet showing up on my LG TV or Playstation.

If you don’t have a Roku and want one, I’d recommend the Express 4K model which offers HDR and 4K output (if supported by the programming). It’s easy to use and is way less confusing that the Fire TV. Crucially, the Roku comes with a remote control so there’s no need to find your mobile phone to get going. Priced at GB£39.99, there are sometimes discounts for special events like Father’s Day so keep an eye out for those.

If you want to know more about the Roku Express 4K, check out my fairly comprehensive review below.

 


FIFINE Microphone T669 Mic Kit Review



The FIFINE T669 Microphone kit is a budget USB Microphone with everything you need to get started with an adjustable scissor arm, shock mount, desk clamp, and alternative desk stand. It even includes a windscreen. I was honestly pretty shocked that it contains everything you need to get started at $50. My Mac instantly detected the microphone and easily connected to my audio recording software.

I was pretty surprised by the build quality of the microphone stainless steel, and the microphone grid is wire mesh. The gain control is on the front of the mic, and I never had to have the gain over 50%, and the noise floor was remarkably low. I was shocked at how good the audio sounded at the price point of this kit. I have tested several USB microphones, and often the difference is in the diaphragm of the capsule; at 16mm, it matches other USB microphones that are twice as expensive.

This microphone is a great entry point microphone with all the hardware you need to record a podcast and stream online. Typically microphones do not come with a boom mic, and mount the boom I started with years ago was $100 plus. Because of this, the coolness factor is significantly higher in that while the mic has a small profile, you can put it close to your mouth while keeping your hands free to do other things. Table stands that come with most microphones end up never being used, but the boom mic and mount are perfect for those that may be live streaming.

Pick up the Mic and Kit today on Amazon.
10% discount code for Amazon FIFINE store: 10MICROPHONE
End date: 06/02/2022 11:59 PM PST


OnePlus Nord CE 2 Hands On Review



OnePlus LogoThe OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G updates last summer’s original “Core Edition” to keep up with the mid-range, or as OnePlus would like us to believe, “A little more than you’d expect.” As with the original, it takes the best of the Nord series, distils it down and sells it at a great price, so expect a focus on “fast charging, powerful cameras, smooth display, good battery and a headphone jack.” Round two…ding,ding. Who’s the champ?

The Nord CE 2 arrives in the same black cardboard box with Nord branding picked out in reflective navy blue. No changes here and maintains the contrast between Nord black box and the red boxes reserved for the higher-end models. Opening the box reveals the CE 2 5G phone itself, along with a semi-transparent bumper case, a SIM tray tool, a few small manuals, the now rebranded SuperVOOC charger and a USB charging cable. We’ll come back to SuperVOOC later but as a green bonus, I think all the packaging is some kind of card so should be recyclable.

Unwrapping the Nord CE 2, it’s clear that this is not quite the same phone as last time and steps a little away from the expected OnePlus design. This phone is smooth, really smooth. There’s even a smooth chamfer up to the camera array. Why is this? Well, if you haven’t read any of the comments from other commentators, it’s because this isn’t a OnePlus designed phone – it’s really an Oppo Reno 7 with a few tweaks. Does it matter? Probably not – it’s still (as we’re going to see) a great value phone. But I can look at OnePlus 9 and a Nord 2 to see clearly that they’re from the same stable. Sometimes I think it would be really nice if phone companies designed the phone and stuck with it for a year or two, just upgrading the internals. You could use the same case as last time…

Moving on, it’s a polycarbonate back and in Gray Mirror: I think you can see why it’s “mirror” (the other colour is Bahama Blue). The CE 2 feels sturdy enough but I think it would be prudent to pop it in a case to avoid tears. Other than the total smoothness, there’s nothing to write home about – flat Gorilla Glass front, pinhole camera top left, power button on right, USB C on the bottom and triple camera array, though you can hardly see the third lens. As with the original, no alert slider and the 3.5 mm headphone jack remains. As I’ve mentioned before, I think the retention of the jack is a good move at this price point. Size-wise, the Nord CE 2 is thin too, at only 7.8 mm thick. The other dimensions are 161 mm x 73 mm, weighing in at 173 g, so it’s pretty much the same size as last time (but it won’t fit in the same case).

One other change that’s of note: the SIM card tray has been improved and now takes two SIMs and a microSD card (up to 1 TB). That’s definitely new to the CE phones and I’m fairly sure that it’s new to OnePlus phones. On the back of being able to add storage, there’s only going to be one variant in each territory and for most, it will be 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage. (There will also be a 6 GB version for some areas.)

Turning on the CE 5G begins to show off the lovely 90 Hz Fluid AMOLED 6.43″ display (2400 x 1080 pixels, 410 ppi). It looks good, it’s fast and it has the controls of its more expensive siblings – screen calibration, refresh rate, vision comfort, reading mode. I do like the dynamic wallpapers that OnePlus offers though I’m not sure there are any new ones this time round, just an expanded range of static ones (I could be wrong). Anyway, that’s diverting from the point that this is a fantastic screen.

In terms of sound, the audio through the jack is good. For speakers, there’s only the one at the bottom next to the USB C port, which is the same as last time. Also as last time, it’s fairly loud but distorts over about two-thirds volume and there’s limited bass. What did you expect from 7.8 mm?

Now we come to one of the major changes. Moving away from Qualcomm, a MediaTek Dimensity 900 octacore 9 nm CPU paired with an ARM Mali-G68 GPU powers the Nord CE 2. I’m told the 900 should deliver a 20% CPU performance improvement over the Snapdragon while increasing battery life by 20%. Is this true? I used GeekBench 5 to look at the Nord CE, CE 2 and Nord 2.

Phone Single-Core Multi-Core
Nord CE 630 1807
Nord CE 2 726 2152
Nord 2 807 2677

Ok, so it’s not quite a 20% uplift but in use the Nord CE 2 is snappy. Frankly, no one really cares what’s inside as long as it does the job. Pokemon Go runs great and despite a warning that the phone isn’t officially supported, Fortnite is playable (a game controller is recommended though) with a few stutters at moments of high action. The phone has a Gaming Tools enhancement that provides quick access to WhatsApp and Discord, and keeps track of the phone temperature. As with the screen, there are no quibbles here – the phone is responds quickly to touches and it’s all very smooth.

Powering the phone is a 4,500 mAh battery which easily gave me a day of use as long as I wasn’t burning through it with non-stop gaming. Sadly Warp has been relegated to the past with the introduction of SuperVOOC charging from Oppo. I liked Warp and Dash charging. SuperVOOC just sounds cheap. Anyway….this 65W charging should take the phone from 0% to 100% in 32 minutes and in my tests, it wasn’t far off at all, taking 34 minutes and 10 seconds. The charger is in the box (hurrah) and has a USB A socket, so the charging cable is USB A to USB C. No, there’s no wireless charging before you ask.

Cameras….The Nord CE 2 5G officially has three cameras on the back and one selfie camera around the front. The smartphone uses the same camera app as all the other OnePlus phones as far as I’m aware and offers time-lapse, panoramic, slow-motion, video, photo, portrait and nightscape and pro modes. Starting with the selfie cam, it’s a 16 MP Sony IMX471 that OnePlus has used many times. I feel it takes good enough selfie photos with reasonably accurate skin tones. For the rear, there’s a 64 MP main camera, an 8 MP ultra-wide with 119° field of view and a macro 2 MP unit for close-ups. The camera app is enhanced by AI features that help with scene detection to help get the absolute best from the images. In particular, low-light photos should be improved as well and video performance has been enhanced. The Nord 2 introduced these smart features and they’ve been brought to the Nord CE 2 courtesy of the MediaTek CPU chipset.

In reviewing the cameras, there are definitely some improvements over the original Nord CE. One of the original problems was a kind of motion blur on the edge of wide-angle shots and I’m pleased to say that this has gone. Colour saturation can still be a bit iffy – the sky tended to come out over blue (it’s not the Caribbean, y’know) courtesy of the AI and but sometimes large areas of colour could be stronger. In the picture on the right, the tiles are green, not grey.

Having said all that, I did take some other pictures that I’m really quite pleased with. The basket with pine cones is a favourite. No editing to these shots other than resizing.

   

Overall, the camera has improved since the original CE and for the average person, there’s not much to argue with. The AI does it’s best to create a good photo and you can always turn it off.

Lastly, the CE 2’s OxygenOS 11 is based on Android 11 with OnePlus keeping tinkering to the minimum but adding value where it can. That’s the OnePlus way and to extend that value, the company is committing to 2 years of software updates and 3 years of security updates. Android 12 is promised later in 2022.

Clearly, the Nord CE 2 has loads of other features that you’d expect as standard: Wi-Fi bgnac, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, GPS, in-display fingerprint reader, dual SIM slot and so on. Rather than review each in turn, I’ll simply confirm that everything is as you’d expect.

Let’s talk about covers…the bumper covers are back to being sandstone which is a definite improvement over the previous generation.

On to the pricing….OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G 8 GB + 128 GB: GB£299 / 329€. Incredibly, there’s no price inflation, which is great to see.  Unfortunately, the CE 2 5G is a European and Indian release only so our American cousins will be disappointed.

So does the OnePlus Nord CE 2 meet expectations as a “Core Edition” focussing on what’s really needed without all the frippery? On the whole yes: 5G, great screen, powerful enough processor, day-long battery life, fast charging, 2 years of software updates, lovely colour. Considering there’s a jump of about £70 to the Nord 2, I think it’s good value. It’s not perfect but for the price, I’d have no hesitation in recommending it to friends and family.

Available now. See more in the video below.

Thanks to OnePlus for supplying the Nord CE 2 smartphone for review.