I have never been more confused by a smartphone than by the OnePlus Nord N30 5G. Its predecessor, the Nord N20, was one of my favorite budget devices of last year. It offered a near-flagship quality OLED display, stellar battery life, and a sleek build — all for $300. And with such an impressive platform to build on, the N30 should’ve been an easy layup.
OnePlus could’ve updated some of the specs, refreshed the camera, and the job would’ve been done. But like the 1998 Florida Marlins, who chose to dismantle their roster after winning the World Series the year before, OnePlus decided to toss away key parts of the N20, leaving us with something different altogether. The N30 is not a bad phone, but the conversation is a lot more complicated than you might expect.
OnePlus Nord N30 5G
The OnePlus Nord N30 5G features a 5000mAh battery and solid performance, but it falls short when compared to last year's OnePlus Nord N20.
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G
- 6.72-inch FHD+ LCD, 120Hz adaptive refresh rate
- 8GB LPDDR4X
- 128GB, microSD card slot
- USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack
- Operating System
- OxygenOS 13.1 (Android 13)
- Front camera
- 16MP, f/2.0
- Rear cameras
- 108MP Samsung HM6 f/1.7; 2MP depth-assist; 2MP macro
- 165.5 x 76 x 8.3 mm
- Charcoal Grey
- 50W SuperVOOC wired charging
- Solid gaming performance
- Bright display
- Good enough battery life
- Downgrade to LCD this year
- Poor build quality
- Subpar camera performance
Price and availability
The OnePlus Nord N30 is available through OnePlus, Amazon, and Best Buy. Like last year’s N20, T-Mobile offers the best deal: $264. If you want your N30 5G unlocked for use with all major carriers, you’ll have to shell out at full price. OnePlus offers the N30 in one color — Chromatic Gray — with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
Design, hardware, what’s in the box
One look at the Nord N30’s design tells you this is a different phone from last year. Part of the reason for the departure is that the N30 isn’t a true successor — it’s a rebadged Nord CE 3 Lite released overseas earlier this year.
Regardless of its origin, the Nord N30 has a significant problem with its build materials. I review close to 20 devices a year and am quite careful with all of them. Despite heavy use, my N20 is still in pristine condition. After only a few weeks, you’d think I ran my N30 through a tumble cycle in a dryer. Whether it’s the plastics used or the coating, this phone shows significant scratching. The coating used on the material around the camera lenses also shows signs of rubbing off. As if that weren’t bad enough, the glossy finish makes it a fingerprint magnet. It’s a dramatic downgrade from last year’s build.
The side-mounted fingerprint sensor sits flush with the plastic frame on the phone's right side. The sensor works fine, but the button's lack of texture or depth necessitates a hunting expedition with my thumb every time. I would’ve preferred a raised sensor or some sort of texture to make no-look unlocking less frustrating. The Nord N30 also features no IP rating, so swimming with your OnePlus is out.
The haptics here are so bad that, If you’ve never played one of those electronic tabletop football games from the 70s, I have no other point of reference to describe my displeasure. The N30 makes a loud, cheap noise every time a notification rolls in, and the vibrations numb your fingertips. Turn off haptics as soon as you get the phone.
It’s not all bad news. The 3.5mm headphone jack remains on the N30, as does expandable storage, thanks to a MicroSD card slot. NFC is included for contactless payments — not always a given on these budget phones. OnePlus has also added a second speaker this year. This setup is a noticeable improvement, and the 200% Ultra volume boost sounds as loud as the name implies. However, sheer volume is no indication of quality, and the N30 speakers struggle at times with sounding hollow.
Despite its ups and downs, OnePlus has consistently provided chargers in the box. A 50W SuperVOOC charger and their iconic red USB-C to USB-C charging cable are included with the device. You’ll also have another SIM tray tool to look forward to.
While I mourn the loss of the N20’s OLED display, the LCD panel on the N30 is actually pretty good. The 6.72-inch 120Hz display has vibrant color reproduction and gets decently bright, even outdoors. I had no issues seeing the Nord N30’s panel in direct sunlight, and viewing angles were consistent, with only minor off-axis distortion.
Netflix movies and YouTube videos were enjoyable to watch, and I was surprised by how good the games looked on the N30. Colors in Pokemon Go came alive, and Call of Duty Mobile pops off the screen during rounds. Because it’s an LCD, there are some limitations. True blacks and darker scenes don’t translate well — the backlighting doesn’t allow it. Another casualty of an LCD is the always-on display — it isn’t available on the Nord N30. While I will always prefer an OLED, this isn’t a bad display to live with.
The OnePlus Nord N30 launches with OxygenOS 13 based on Android 13. OxygenOS has been through quite a journey for the last three years. From the botched release of OxygenOS 12 to the partial rollback of the ColorOS integration, OnePlus has had its hands full. With that said, OxygenOS 13 is finally dialed in. The lag and glitches that plagued Android 12 on OnePlus devices are gone, and while the aesthetic may or may not appeal to you, it’s mostly smooth sailing.
If you are coming from a Samsung or Google device, there is an adjustment period, but some familiar features are here. If you’re a fan of Samsung’s Edge Panels, Smart Sidebar offers a similar experience on your Nord N30. The notification shade is well laid out, with plenty of toggles and settings at your fingertips. A lot of the UI customizations available on Pixel devices since Android 12 have been available on OnePlus devices for years. If you want to try out a new skin, OxygenOS is worth a look.
Despite the $300 price tag, I’m disappointed by the promised software support for the Nord. OnePlus has slated the N30 for one major update of Android and three years of security patches. With Samsung and Google offering significantly more Android upgrades and security patches for their mid-rangers, it would be good to see OnePlus beef up its support to match.
The saving grace of the Nord N30 is the Snapdragon 695 that powers it. If that sounds familiar, it’s because last year’s Nord N20 also used the 695. While I don’t love the idea of OnePlus using a chipset from last year, the performance speaks for itself.
Daily tasks are easily handled, and it can power a 120Hz display without frame drops. OnePlus has bolstered the performance with an additional 2GB of RAM. The extra memory allows the N30 to cache more apps and alleviate some RAM management issues OxygenOS is known for.
Instagram scrolling is smooth, and Twitter runs with barely a hiccup. Gaming is surprisingly good on the Nord N30, with titles like Call of Duty Mobile able to run on high settings. I limited Genshin Impact to low settings, but I’ve seen a lot worse from devices costing much more than the N30. Pokemon Go took advantage of the 120Hz display for a Silcoon-smooth experience.
I don’t question the current performance of the Nord N30, but I do worry about it in the future. With the Snapdragon 695 being a year old, how much longer can it punch above its weight? For now, it’s not an issue, and the Nord N30 can handle almost anything you’d throw at a $300 smartphone.
I don’t know if it’s the LCD panel or an OxygenOS 13 issue, but despite the Nord N30 running the same chipset as the N20, the battery life is markedly worse. My N20 typically gets over nine hours of screen-on-time without breaking a sweat, while my N30 hovers around six or seven. By no means is that bad battery life, but it is a noticeable step-down.
Thankfully, SuperVOOC is once again available for all your fast-charging needs. OnePlus has included 50W charging to replenish the 5,000mAh battery quickly. If you’ve never seen a OnePlus phone charge at high speeds, it’s impressive — 30 minutes will get you close to 80% on the Nord N30.
Because OnePlus thinks Americans are terrified of their batteries exploding — thanks, Samsung — they have included multiple charging safety measures. While 50W charging is modest when considering speeds available overseas, it’s still welcome to see OnePlus include sensors that keep temperatures in check to prolong battery life.
While the Nord N30’s camera system isn’t quite the potato the N20’s was last year, it’s still not best-in-class. The 3x lossless zoom helps with some photos, but overall image quality is spotty at best. On more than one occasion, I had to take multiple shots to get one that wasn’t blurry.
The main 108MP shooter’s first instinct is to blow out shots. For best results, get used to using the manual white balance to maintain depth in images. With some effort, you can take quality images with the N30, but don’t expect point-and-shoot images to look sharp every time.
A 2MP depth sensor adds portrait mode on the rear camera, and edge detection is passable in good lighting. The 16MP selfie camera takes a crisp selfie image but struggles with clean edge detection for portrait mode.
Night photography is about what you’d expect from a phone in this price range for anything other than the Pixel 6a. Images become soft with distorted colors as the sensor can’t pull in enough light.
If you’re into videography, the Nord N30 is not the phone for you. It’s only capable of 1080p at 30FPS, and while the electronic image stabilization does an acceptable job, it doesn’t make up for the overall lack of video quality. The video is dark and lacks the sharpness you expect, even from 1080p.
For $350 (or less, with frequent sales), you can purchase a Google Pixel 6a. Despite being a year old, it’s still a formidable competitor. With the 6a, you’ll get a significantly better camera system, stronger build, longer software support, and the raw performance of the first-gen Tensor chip.
With sale prices bringing the price down to $375, I would also look at the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G. The A54 features a gorgeous OLED panel, premium build quality, and years of software support. While it doesn’t have the camera system the Pixel 6a does, it will still come out ahead of the Nord N30.
Even though it’s not the norm, last year’s Nord N20 is also a competitor to its successor. It features the same chipset but adds a better build, OLED display, and longer battery life. If you add in creature comforts like an always-on display and in-display fingerprint reader, there is a case to be made that the Nord N20 is the better value.
Should you buy it?
If you want to upgrade from the OnePlus Nord N10, consider picking up the N30. You’ll get a much better screen and a performance boost from the Snapdragon 695. I can also see a case for picking up the N30 if you’re coming from a less expensive Samsung A-series device and looking for something new. If you already own a OnePlus Nord N20, there’s absolutely no reason to upgrade.
The 1998 Florida Marlins went 54-108. While I’m not sure the Nord N30 is as big of a dropoff from such a previous high, I hope this can be a lesson to OnePlus — don’t mess with success.
OnePlus Nord N30 5G
The OnePlus Nord N30 5G is a new take on one of our favorite budget phones of last year. It loses out on the refined design and AMOLED display that won us over in 2022, but keeps the same level of performance in an affordable package.