OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G Review: Playing It Safe?
The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G is official in India. The new mainstream 5G smartphone is one of the company’s most affordable Nord-branded phones, and it is the successor to the Nord CE 2 Lite 5G (Review). The Nord CE 3 Lite 5G gets notable upgrades in some areas while some aspects have stayed the same. Thankfully for consumers, the phone’s launch price is the same as the outgoing model. The big question is whether you should give the Nord CE 3 Lite 5G an affirmative nod, or look at other phones around this segment? Here is our review to help you decide.
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G price in India
The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G has been launched in India in two storage options. The phone comes with 8GB of RAM as standard. The base model with 128GB of storage is priced at Rs. 19,999, whereas the 256GB variant that we have for review is priced at Rs. 21,999.
In comparison, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite had 6GB of RAM in the base model, so for the same price, buyers are getting more RAM with the latest Nord smartphone.
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G design and display
There’s a lot to like about the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G’s design. I have the Pastel Lime colour and in a sea of smartphones where every option is either green, blue, or black, the Lime Green shade does look a bit refreshing. It does attract fingerprints and smudges though, but because of the bright colour they are not easily visible. Yes, design preferences are often subjective and you might not like this shade as much. In that case, there is the Chromatic Grey colour option.
The Nord CE 3 Lite 5G offers a good in-hand feel. While the frame is flat, the rear panel is slightly curved towards the edges. It does not feel as heavy compared to its on-paper weight of 195g.
While the buttons on the left edge of the phone are quite clicky, I would have liked them to be a bit bigger in size. The power button on the right edge doubles as a fingerprint scanner, which is quick to authenticate and unlock the phone. You still don’t get an ‘Alert’ slider on the Nord Lite series.
The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G has a dual-speaker setup, with the earpiece doubling up as a secondary outlet. This is good to see as its predecessor lacked stereo speakers. The bottom edge houses a 3.5mm headphone jack, next to which, is the USB Type-C port and the primary speaker grille.
As much it looks pretty from the back, the front is sort of above average. The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G features an IPS LCD display, which might not have been the best option considering today’s competition. The likes of the Redmi Note 12 5G (Review) and the Moto G82 5G (Review) offer more vibrant AMOLED displays in the same segment.
This does not mean that the Nord CE 3 Lite’s 6.72-inch display is bad by any means. The phone’s 680 nits of peak brightness is sufficient for outdoor use, but the competition does offer brighter displays with richer contrast, colours, and deeper black levels. You can consume full-HD content on Netflix as the Nord CE 3 Lite gets a WideVine L1 certification.
The display is quite smooth and offers support for an adaptive refresh rate. Depending on the on-screen content, the display switches between 30Hz and 120Hz. During my use case, the display felt quite smooth when scrolling through the user interface (UI). However, most third-party apps seem to be running at 60Hz.
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G specifications and software
The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 SoC and a 5,000mAh battery, which are also found in its predecessor. What has improved though is the charging speed of the battery. The phone supports 67W fast charging, which OnePlus claims can charge the battery from 1 to 80 percent in 30 minutes. The phone also features Bluetooth 5.1, Wi-Fi 5, GPS, 8GB of virtual RAM, etc. There is a hybrid-SIM slot, which supports storage expansion via a microSD card of up to 1TB.
In terms of software, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G boots Android 13-based Oxygen OS 13.1 out of the box. The new Android software mostly sticks to the claim of offering a fluid and smooth user experience. I did not face any major stutters or lag while using the phone during my week-long review period.
RAM management is also quite good. However, if you open any game like Call of Duty: Mobile, chances are that video-streaming apps such as Netflix or YouTube might reload when you switch back. You can choose to lock some apps in memory by tapping on the three dots at the top of individual apps in the multitasking window.
What bothered me was a “Metis” pop-up notification which kept showing up intermittently, even in the middle of playing a game. It wanted permission to access location data for screen projection, as you can see from the screenshots below. Tapping on ‘Exit’ would simply dismiss it temporarily, as it would simply pop up again at a random time later. We informed OnePlus about this, who told us that it was a software bug on our unit and that it would be fixed before the phones went on sale. The company also promptly sent us a second unit, which didn’t seem to have this issue.
Speaking of unwanted notifications, the Theme Store was the only other app that threw a couple of spammy notifications, but this could be disabled.
Moving to the good bits, I like how OxygenOS continues to provide several personalisation and customisation options. You can also opt for Android 13’s colour palette where the system and UI elements match the wallpaper’s colours. In addition to this, there are options to change the font, icon shape and size, themes, wallpapers, etc. You can also enlarge folders or adjust the icon layout on the home screen.
The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G continues to get the previously available OxygenOS features, such as OnePlus Shelf, Zen Mode, etc., which are also found in the more expensive OnePlus 11R (Review) and the flagship OnePlus 11 (Review). It also comes with a few Oppo and OnePlus native apps, such as O Relax, Theme Store, Hot Free Games, etc.
OnePlus has promised to provide two major Android updates, and security patches for three years for the Nord CE 3 Lite 5G.
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G performance and battery life
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 SoC in the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G is still quite a capable chipset, even though it’s not very recent. The phone handles routine tasks like a breeze. Apps switching or load times are not very long and most games run with decent-to-good graphics. I played Call of Duty: Mobile and Asphalt 9 Legends on the phone, and my overall experience was quite good.
I played Call of Duty: Mobile for about 45 minutes straight with ‘Max’ frame rate with ‘High’ graphics and there was no noticeable frame drop or lag. The phone did get a bit warm but nothing worthy worrying about. That being said, the iQoo Z7 5G (First Impressions) with its MediaTek Dimensity 920 SoC around the same price, is a slightly better pick if you are someone who plays a lot of games.
The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite scored 899 and 2,063 points in Geekbench 6’s single-core and multi-core tests. In AnTuTu, the phone scored 412,150 points which is lower than the slightly more affordable but powerful iQoo Z7 5G’s score of 4,36,524 points.
In terms of battery life, the Nord CE 3 Lite 5G can last a full day if your usage isn’t too heavy. On days when I played a lot of games for more than an hour or when binge-watched shows on Wi-Fi, the Nord CE 3 Lite 5G’s screen-on time (SoT) ranged between 7.5 hours to 8.5 hours. On days with lighter use, the average SoT was a few minutes above 9 hours.
In our HD video loop test, the phone ran for 17 hours, 19 minutes, which was above average. The Nord CE 3 Lite 5G takes about 50 minutes to charge from empty to 100 percent. Keep in mind that while the phone comes with an 80W charger in the box, it only supports 67W fast charging.
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G cameras
The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G has a triple-camera setup on the back. There is a new 108-megapixel Samsung HM6 main camera with an f/1.75 aperture. It is accompanied by a 2-megapixel macro camera and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. For selfies, the phone has a 16-megapixel front camera.
The primary camera’s daylight performance is quite good. Photos shot using the main camera offer good colours with enough details. I liked that phone did not oversaturate the images but tried keeping colours closer to real life. The dynamic range performance in HDR shots could have been better.
You will miss the optical image stabilisation (OIS) when capturing images in low light or when using Night mode, where the shutter is typically open for a couple of seconds at least. While night mode images are well-exposed, pixel-peeping reveals loss of details, and the image is not as crisp as it could be. This is the case for portrait images shot in low light, where the colours are sort of alright, but you will notice that the details are a bit soft.
The main camera can capture “3X lossless zoom shots”, according to the company but to gain good details, you need stable hands and ample light. The macro camera is on par with the ones you get on other phones, which is to say it exists for you to just experience macro photography but the final output is generally weak.
For selfies, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G’s front camera gets the colours and details right in most cases. However, there is clearly a different colour tuning for photos shot in portrait mode where faces appear a lot fairer compared to photo mode. Edge-detection accuracy is quite good and the blur also looks quite pleasing.
In terms of videos, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G’s front and rear cameras can only shoot at 1080p 30fps. I would have liked to see an option for shooting 60fps videos using the main camera. But with what’s on offer, the video camera performance is good for the price.
The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G is a good phone for those who want a OnePlus smartphone and have a tight budget. You get the new OxygenOS experience, good battery life, decent performance, and fast charging. While design is subjective, I quite liked the overall in-hand feel and the lime colour of the phone.
The display is also quite tall and smooth to operate. Those who want a better multimedia experience need to look at something like the Redmi Note 12 5G, which also has an ultra-wide camera. There is also the Moto G82 5G (Review) which has the same SoC as the Nord CE 3 Lite 5G and offers an ultra-wide camera, AMOLED 120Hz display, near-stock Android experience, and a 5,000mAh battery. The only trade-off is the slightly slower charging speed.
Once known as the trendsetter, OnePlus seems to have played it safe with its latest Nord Lite smartphone. While the phone has received some upgrades, most of them are not as groundbreaking as I would have liked. The good thing here is that these upgrades do not come with an increase in price, at least at launch. If you are a OnePlus loyalist and want a phone under Rs. 20,000, the new Nord CE 3 Lite 5G is your best option.