Tag Archives: smartphone

OnePlus Refreshes the Nord Line



In today’s keynote “Speed Games” presentation. OnePlus announced two new handsets plus a set of earbuds for the Nord range. The Nord range has been a big hit with roughly half the OnePlus phones sold in Europe coming from the Nord product line: I’m sure OnePlus will be keen to continue the success.

The first phone is the Nord 2T 5G, a refresh of the high-performing mid-ranger giving it “flagship killer speed”. I thought the Nord 2 was a great phone so I’m very interested to see what they’ve done here. The second handset is the Nord CE 2 Lite, a wallet-friendly version of the CE 2 and finally, we have the somewhat angular Nord earbuds. Frankly, I think they’d pair well with a Tesla Truck.

The OnePlus Nord 2T 5G, to give its full name, is powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 1300 chipset. That’s a step-up from the Demensitty 1200 of the Nord 2. No real surprises for the screen, coming as a 6.43″ 90 Hz full HD+ (2400 x 1080 pixels) screen with HDR10+.  Round the back, the handset comes in two colours, Gray Shadow and Jade Fog.

The selfie cam is a 32 MP Sony IMX615 with EIS and the main rear camera is 50 MP IMX766 unit with OIS. Both cameras have AI support to help get great pictures every time as the AI will recognise the scene and enhance it appropriately to help the pictures stand out. Low-light photography has been improved by 90% and there’s 960 fps slow-motion video capture for action shots.

There’s super-fast charging with 80 W SuperVOOC (same as OnePlus 10 Pro)  that will give a day’s power in only 15 minutes (67%) and will fully charge the 4500 mAh battery from 0-100% in 27 minutes. The phone will come with OxygenOS 12.1 which is based on Android 12. As with all of the OnePlus’ recent devices, the phone comes with two years of system updates and three years of security updates. Price is UK£369 (399€) which is actually £30 less than the Nord 2 was.

The original Nord CE was a big hit for OnePlus with over 80% of purchasers being first-time OnePlus buyers. Here we have the updated and affordable OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G. It’s a Snapdragon 695 with a slightly bigger 6.59″ 120 MHz FHD+ display. There’s also a bigger 5000 mAh battery but it’s “only” 33W charging which will give 1-50% in 30 mins.  If you need extra storage, the Lite will take a micro SD card up to 1 TB. There’s still the headphone jack for those who prefer wired headphones. Same 2 years of Android updates and 3 years of security ones. Still a little more than you’d expect.

The CE 2 Lite is priced at UK£279 (299€), so it’s £90 cheaper than the full Nord 2T.

Completely new to the OnePlus Nord lineup is the Nord Buds. These kind of look like boxier versions of the Buds Z2s and will definitely set you apart (in a good way) from the Apple sheeple. You get 7 hours listening per charge and as it’s a charging case, there’s 30 hours total listening pleasure. If you do run out, 10 mins of charging gives 5 hours of listening. Feature-wise the Buds support Dolby Atmos and several levels of noise cancellation. These are priced at an astonishing UK£49 (49€). Fifty pounds for noise-cancelling wireless earbuds!

Pre-orders for all the devices are open at oneplus.com.

You can watch the full launch event here. It’s a bit bonkers.


OnePlus Expands Nord Range with Two Phones and Earbuds



Never Settle LogoAfter a couple of leaks and a few heavy hints, OnePlus have announced that two new Nord phones and a set of Nord earbuds will be officially unveiled next Thursday afternoon (19th May).

On the phone side, there’s the OnePlus Nord 2T 5G, an upgraded version of the Nord 2 with the Oppo’s 80 W SuperVOOC charging system: that’s the same charge and battery tech as in the OnePlus 10 Pro. For comparison, the Nord 2 does 65 W and comes in at UK£369.

At the lower end, there’s the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G. This will bring fast charging and a large battery in at an even lower price point than the CE 2 which drops in at UK£299. I doubt either phone will make it to the USA, which has a different OnePlus portfolio.

For Nord’s first audio product, there’s the Nord Buds. And that’s about all we know, though there are a few early release videos and rumours that suggest they’ll be US$40 for a set of wireless earbuds.

In the meantime, I here are my reviews of the Nord 2, Nord CE 2 (also below) and the Buds Z2. Hopefully they’d tide you over until next week…

 

 


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.


OnePlus 10 Pro is Out of this World….nearly



OnePlus LogoOnePlus have announced the launch event for the OnePlus 10 Pro 5G in Europe, North America and India – it’s going to be 1500 BST on Thursday 31st March 2022. That’s next week and yes, the clocks go forward this weekend (if you are in Europe). The 10 Pro’s been available in China for a couple of months now, so it’s good to see it coming to other countries.

To celebrate the news and the on-going collaboration with Hasselblad, OnePlus strapped a 10 Pro to a weather balloon and sent it 38,000 m up to take a few pictures. Ok, so it wasn’t quite as straightforward as that….

The team built a light-weight module, nicknamed The Stratosphone, to house the phones and protect them from the wind and cold (-60 C). As remote control wasn’t possible – 38 km is a bit far for Bluetooth – a special app was developed to help take pictures and try to get the best shot possible. The team were able to retrieve the module and cameras – some of the pictures are spectacular! Click through on any of the photos to see more detail.

The OnePlus 10 Pro is the first OnePlus phone equipped with a camera system to take pictures in full 10-bit colour to deliver a more natural and delicate display of colour in every photo. In theory, the benefit of 10-bit colour is smoother colour transitions in photos without colour banding and the ability to manage 64 times more colour than in 8-bit colour. Although it might seem this would be imperceptible to most people, it means that professionals can work with the full10 bits before any final conversions for output.

Kate Parkyn, Associate Marketing Director, OnePlus Europe, said, “Since the launch of OnePlus 9 series, we have been in a close-knit strategic partnership with Hasselblad to co-create and improve on OnePlus flagship camera technology. This is the second year of our partnership with Hasselblad where we have further developed and improved the colour science with the second-generation Hasselblad Camera for Mobile. Our campaign is inspired by Hasselblad’s historical voyage to space to take images of the moon and we were confident that our camera too will be successful in delivering the same image quality. We are extremely delighted to see the stunning images of the horizon captured by OnePlus 10 Pro and proudly present this trusted camera quality to OnePlus users.

Anyway, great pictures and great news about the OnePlus 10 Pro launch next week (1500 31/3/22). Tune in on all the usual channels. Apparently pre-orders for the 10 Pro will entitle the purchaser to free OnePlus Buds Pro wireless earphones which is a good bonus.


Nothing Announces a Smartphone at the Heart of an Ecosystem



Nothing is Carl Pei’s latest venture after leaving the OnePlus smartphone company in 2020. Now employing 300 people in six countries, the first product, wireless earphones called ear(1), were very well received for their design, audio quality and price. The ear(1) are transparent and have sold over 400,000 units at a reasonable GB£100.

The ear(1) was always intended to the be the first in a range products and in today’s Nothing presentation, Carl promised a revolutionary new smartphone, the phone(1) at the heart of an open ecosystem. The vision is interoperability in the style of Apple without the walled garden, attitude and price.

The new phone will be powered by a Qualcomm processor running Nothing OS. This Android-based OS will be fast and smooth, and stripped of bloatware. Hardware and software would be brought together as one, and design elements would be consistent across the phone. If it all sounds a bit familiar, it’s not terribly different from the vision for OnePlus before it snuggled up to Oppo.

That’s pretty much it. There was no unveiling of the device itself – all that was revealed is the pictogram on the right. The phone(1) is expected to go on sale in the summer.

And if you are thinking that this is all pie in the sky, it’s not. They’ve the financial backing to go with it to the tune of US$140 million and backing from the likes of Google, Samsung, Qualcomm, Sony, BYD and Visionox.

To get a taste of what’s on offer Nothing will be offering, the Nothing OS launcher will be available from April for installation on select existing devices.

I’m looking forward to it.


Xiaomi Launches Redmi Note 11 Series



Xiaomi Logo - an orange squircle with stylised white MI lettersXiaomi‘s first launch of 2022 is the new Redmi Note 11 series with a total of four phones, two sizes and all sharing the same design language. Xiaomi’s Note models are a very popular series with over 240 million Notes sold so this will see Xiaomi well into 2022 and with prices from US$179 through to $379, there’s a phone for everyone.

Announced today were four mid-range phones with the best stealing a few flagship features. Starting at the top and working down, Xiaomi showed off the:

          • Note 11 Pro 5G
          • Note 11 Pro
          • Note 11S
          • Note 11.

Sharing the same look, the 11 Pro 5G and 11 Pro are the bigger phones with 6.67″ screens compared to the 6.43″ displays of the 11S and 11. The style is very much on-trend with flat sides (aka flat frames) rather than the normal Android curves.

Rear of a blue phone showing wave patternLooking at the 11 Pro phones first, they look great and come with glass backs in three colours: Graphite Gray, Polar White, Atlantic Blue (Pro 5G) and Star Blue (Pro). The Atlantic Blue has a lovely wave effect to it.

Taking a look at the camera array while round the back, the Pro 5G has a triple camera array with a massive 108 MP main camera, a 118° ultrawide 8MP lens and a 2 MP macro lens. The Pro is similar but  includes an additional depth sensor for bokeh effects. And of course, both models have a 16 MP selfie camera round the front.

Turning to the 6.67″ display, it’s an AMOLED FHD+ screen with 12,000 nits max brightness,120 Hz refresh rate and 360 Hz touch sampling. Simply that means you can play fast action games outside and it’ll be super smooth. The Corning Gorilla Glass screen comes with all the expected eye protections such SGS Eye Care Certification.

Inside the Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G is a Snapdragon 695 – it’s a well respected leading mid-range processor that keeps the 11 Pro 5G ticking over nicely. For the non-5G 11 Pro, it’s a MediaTek Helio G96. Again, a solid mid-range CPU but without 5G features.

In terms of storage, the two phones max out at 8 GB RAM, 128 GB storage and 1 TB of expandable storage. Dual speakers and a headphone jack round out the media features.

Keeping it all going is a 5000 mAh battery which should give a 2 days of typical phone use. Equipped with turbo charging at 67 W, 15 minutes of charge should be enough to get an 11 Pro and Pro 5G through the day. Both phones use the same MMT battery technology to keep the battery cool while charging. And there’s a charger included in the box!

Pricewise, for the Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G (and there will be regional variations on the price)

  • 6 GB + 64 GB – US$329
  • 6 GB + 128 GB – $349
  • 8 GB + 128 GB – $379

Redmi Note 11 Pro

  • 6 GB + 64 GB – US$299
  • 6 GB + 128 GB – $329
  • 8 GB + 128 GB – $349

And for the especially thrifty, there’s an early bird $30 discount on 16th & 17th February at Aliexpress.

Turning to the smaller Redmi Note 11S and 11, it’s very much the same design language with the devices coming in Graphite Gray, Twilight Blue, Pearl White (11S) and Star Blue (11).

The 11S has the same camera setup as the Pro, with 108 MP main shooter, 118° ultrawide and macro lenses plus the depth sensor. The 11 drops the pixel count on the main shooter to 50 MP, but still retains the UW and macro lenses. The selfie camera on the Note 11S is 16 MP but only 13 MP on the Note 11.

For both devices, the display is an AMOLED FHD+ screen with a 90Hz refresh rate and 10,000 nits brightness covered in protective Gorilla glass. Inside, the Note 11S has the same chipset as the Pro in the shape of the MediaTek Helo G96. On the other hand, the Note 11 returns to the Qualcomm fold with the Snapdragon 680.

It’s the same 5,000 mAh battery across the whole range, though the 11S and 11 have to be satisfied with 33 W fast charging that will charge to 100% in under an hour. That’s still pretty nippy. The fast charger is included here too.

Other features include dual stereo speakers, 3.5 mm jack and expandable storage to 1 TB.

Pricewise, for the Redmi Note 11S (and as before there will be regional variations on the price)

  • 6 GB + 64 GB – US$249
  • 6 GB + 128 GB – $279
  • 8 GB + 128 GB – $299

Redmi Note 11

  • 4 GB + 64 GB – US$179
  • 4 GB + 128 GB – $199
  • 6 GB + 128 GB – $229

Like the Note 11 Pros, there will be an early bird discount of $20 at AliExpress on 28th & 29th January.

Overall, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 series has a great deal to offer in the mid-range. Strong design, high MP main camera, fast charging, decent processor. There’s a much to recommend here.


Early News for the OnePlus 10 Pro



OnePlus LogoIn a break with its normal release schedule, OnePlus has announced the OnePlus 10 Pro, its new flagship device for 2022. Specs are a little light at this point, but it’s going to be a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Mobile Platform processor with a 120 Hz Fluid AMOLED with LTPO display. Dimensions are broadly unchanged from the 9 Pro at 163 x 73.9 x 8.55 mm so expect a similarly sized screen.

The partnership with Hasselblad continues with a triple camera setup (48 MP + 50 MP + 8 MP) with OIS on the rear and 32 MP round the front. As can be seen in the pictures, the camera array with flash is neatly arranged in a square formation.

Keeping it all going on the inside is OxygenOS12 / Android 12 and powering the 10 Pro is a 5,000 mAh battery. As expected on a flagship, the battery can be charged both via wireless (80W) and wired charging (50W), which will fill the battery in short order regardless of connection. Dimensions are broadly unchanged from the 9 Pro at 163 x 73.9 x 8.55 mm.

Two colourways appear to be on offer, a black and green which will undoubtedly be prefixed by some hyperbole: totally-professional-but-boring black and sophisticated-but-in-touch-with-earth green. Actually, I’ve just seen in a tweet from @OnePlus that the colours are Volcanic Black and Emerald Green. Hey, I wasn’t that far off the mark.

This isn’t the first blip in OnePlus’ schedule but not sure if there’s anything to read into it. OnePlus watchers will remember that there was no 9T in the autumn of ’21 and that the Nord 2 was the new release. There’s never been a T Pro variant, so I don’t think this is a delayed 9T Pro.

Obviously, it’s CES this week and while OnePlus were planning to go to CES, the company withdrew in the end. I think we can assume that the announcement’s a little bit earlier than usual to coincide with the event, but don’t forget that OnePlus loves to dripfeed information to generate buzz so no surprises here. There’s no news on availability or price yet, so that’s still to come.

Mind you, I’d be shocked if there was no OnePlus 10…