The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite was among the best budget-friendly 5G phones last year. It offered users a couple of premium features, like a 120Hz display, a 64MP primary camera, and a large battery with 33W wired fast charging, at a rather attractive price. Its successor, the recently-released OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite, ups the ante with an even better camera system, faster charging, and a fresh design at a slight markup.
I’ve been using the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite for a little over two weeks, and while I like some things about it, it isn’t the best phone in this price range. At £300, the device offers great value on paper, with its 120Hz display, 108MP primary camera, and 67W fast charging. However, the older SoC and resulting choppy performance, coupled with the issues I faced with the display, make it difficult to recommend over similarly priced devices like the Redmi Note 12 5G and the Google Pixel 6a. The Redmi Note 12 5G packs a significantly better 120Hz AMOLED panel and newer Snapdragon 4 Gen 1 SoC, while the Pixel 6a’s camera and performance are unbeatable in this segment.
About this review: This review was written after two weeks of testing the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite that was sent to XDA by OnePlus India. The company did not have any input on the contents of this review.
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G
The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is a budget-friendly 5G device that packs Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 695 SoC, a 120Hz FHD+ LCD, an impressive 108MP primary camera, and a large 5,000mAh battery with 67W wired fast charging support. But you’ll get more elsewhere in this price range.
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 695
- 6.72″FHD+ LCD @ 120Hz
- 128GB + microSD card slot
- USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack
- Operating System
- OxygenOS 13.1 based on Android 13
- Camera (Rear, Front)
- 108MP main + 2MP macro + 2MP depth, 16MP selfie
- 165.5x76x8.3 (6.52×2.99×0.33in)
- Pastel Lime, Chromatic Gray
- 195g (6.9oz)
- Impressive main camera
- Great battery life and fast charging
- Decent day-to-day performance
- Pointless macro and portrait sensors
- Back panel is a dust magnet and easily picks up scratches
- Finicky display
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G: Price and availability
The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is up for sale in the U.K. for £300. It comes in a single 8GB/128GB variant, and it’s available in Pastel Lime and Chromatic Gray colorways. The phone is also available for preorder in several parts of Europe for €330, with the open sale starting in a week.
As an early bird offer, OnePlus is giving away a free pair of the original Nord Buds with the device and offering attractive benefits that can save you up to £220/€220 if you trade in your old device. Additionally, the company offers a special 5% discount for students and two months of YouTube Premium for free on each purchase.
Design and build quality: Style over substance
One of the few things new on the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is its design. OnePlus has given its latest budget device a fresh look with an updated camera module design and two new colors. Instead of a rectangular camera island like its predecessor, the Nord CE 3 Lite now has two large circular elements housing its triple-camera setup with an LED flash to the side.
Over on the front, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite has a flat display with a centered hole-punch cutout for the selfie shooter and substantial bezels on the top and bottom typical of budget devices. The phone has flat edges that give it a comfortable grip, and it features a power button on the right side that doubles up as a fingerprint scanner, a volume rocker and SIM tray on the left, and a USB-C port and 3.5mm headphone jack at the bottom.
The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite looks rather premium thanks to its design, but it doesn’t that way due to the plastic frame and back panel. The glossy mirror finish on the back panel looks great out of the box, but it’s a dust magnet and easily picks up scratches. My review unit mostly stayed in my hand, pocket, or on a a desk mat, and it got scratched up pretty badly in just two weeks. So a case is absolutely necessary if you plan on buying this phone.
OnePlus has provided Corning Gorilla Glass protection on the phone’s display, but the company doesn’t specify the version. Given the phone’s price, we don’t expect it to be the latest Gorilla Glass Victus 2. But some protection is better than none. Unfortunately, that isn’t true for dust and water resistance; the phone doesn’t have an official rating, so you’ll have to be extra careful with the device.
Display: Great on paper, but inconsistent
The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite features a large 6.72-inch FHD+ LCD panel that refreshes at 120Hz. It has a 240Hz touch sampling rate, 8-bit color depth, and 680 nits of peak brightness. While these specifications sound great for the price, my experience didn’t live up to expectations.
The display is bright enough for decent visibility in direct sunlight, but it’s not the brightest panel in this price range. The Redmi Note 12 5G and iQoo Z7 feature significantly brighter AMOLED panels at about the same price. While the iQoo Z7’s display is capped at 90Hz, the one on the Redmi Note 12 5G refreshes at 120Hz and feels much smoother compared to the Nord CE 3 Lite.
The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite has two refresh rate settings, High and Standard, with the former offering a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz. On the High setting, the display automatically cycles between 30Hz, 48Hz, 50Hz, 60Hz, 90Hz, and 120Hz based on the content, but it feels like the display operates at either 60Hz or 90Hz in most apps. The phone doesn’t give you the option to force 120Hz at all times. Scrolling through menus doesn’t feel as smooth as 120Hz on other devices, which is a bummer. The display also has a weird issue where it sometimes doesn’t register inputs, and it can get very annoying. I hope it’s a software issue and OnePlus is able to address it with a firmware update.
Performance: A slight improvement over its predecessor
The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite packs the same Snapdragon 695 SoC as its predecessor, coupled with 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM and 128GB of UFS 2.2 storage. As such, the device is only a marginally better performer than the older model. Despite the improvements, don’t expect the device’s performance to blow you away. It’s a budget device, after all, and you will encounter occasional stutters while scrolling through menus or switching between apps. Even when you don’t face any hiccups, the phone feels a bit sluggish, which takes away from the overall experience.
The Snapdragon 695 isn’t particularly great for multitasking or playing demanding games either, so you should keep your expectations in check. I tried playing Pokémon Unite and Teamfight Tactics on my review unit, and the experience was less than ideal. Casual games like Botword Adventure worked fine, though.
If you care about synthetic benchmarks, here’s a quick look at the Geekbench 6 scores for the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite compared with the Google Pixel 6a and the Samsung Galaxy A54.
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite (Snapdragon 695)
Google Pixel 6a (Tensor G1)
Samsung Galaxy A54 (Exynos 1380)
The following screenshots showcase the results of a couple of other benchmarks, including 3DMark Wild Life Extreme Stress and CrossMark tests. The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite completed the Wild Life Extreme Stress test with a stability score of 98.9% and posted an overall score of 599 in the CrossMark test. For comparison, the Pixel 6a delivers an overall score of 846 in the CrossMark test, while the Galaxy A54 scores 642. Although the benchmark scores aren’t an accurate representation of real-world performance, the sheer difference between the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite and the Pixel 6a corroborates my experience in day-to-day use.
As far as the software experience is concerned, it’s pretty much the same as any recent Oppo or Realme device. The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite runs OxygenOS 13.1 based on Android 13, which is virtually indistinguishable from ColorOS 13 and Realme UI 4.0. It offers various customization options, letting you change everything from icons to themes and everything in between. It features the same settings and notification shade layout as more premium OnePlus devices like the OnePlus 11.
OxygenOS 13.1 on the Nord CE 3 Lite offers various customization options, but it also has pre-installed bloatware and duplicate apps.
You also get access to handy gestures to open apps in split-screen mode, take screenshots, or open apps in floating windows. However, it does come with pre-installed apps, some of which cannot be uninstalled. It also has quite a few duplicate apps crowding up the app drawer.
While the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite’s software experience is at par with OnePlus flagships, the device won’t get as many software updates. OnePlus promises only two platform updates and three years of security updates for the device, which could be a dealbreaker.
Cameras: Decent in daylight
While the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite features three rear-facing cameras, only one of them is actually usable. The 2MP macro and depth sensors are pointless additions, as the macro shots are dark and lack details and colors, while the 108MP main camera already captures images with a natural depth of field, so you won’t feel the need to switch to portrait mode. In all honesty, the device would’ve been better with just an ultrawide camera accompanying the main 108MP Samsung HM6 sensor and the 16MP selfie shooter.
The primary camera captures decent photos in daylight with a good level of detail. It outputs 12MP binned images with true-to-life color reproduction, acceptable dynamic range, and a natural depth of field. However, the photos look slightly oversharpened and have some noise in the shadows. However, the camera doesn’t perform as well in low light and has trouble focusing on objects. The included night mode doesn’t make things any better.
The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite also offers a 3x lossless zoom feature that performs well in daylight and delivers usable images. But the color reproduction isn’t as great as in the regular mode, and images look a bit washed out even though they have plenty of details. Images captured in low light using the feature are barely usable and have a ton of noise.
Since the 108MP sensor doesn’t feature OIS, video performance isn’t great either. The 1080p 30FPS videos captured using the phone don’t look great despite the electronic stabilization, and they’re not as detailed as the images. If a great camera is one of your top priorities, you’d be better off with a Pixel 6a. The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite’s 108MP sensor looks good on paper but can’t hold a candle to the Pixel 6a’s 12.2MP sensor.
Battery life: Long lasting and charges fast
Like its predecessor, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite packs a 5,000mAh battery, which is one of its main redeeming qualities. The device easily lasts two days of light use on a single charge and just over a day when playing games or watching many videos. When you do manage to run out of juice, it won’t take long for you to get the phone back to full thanks to its 67W wired fast charging support.
With the included charger, you can get the phone from 0-100% in about 50 minutes and up to 80% in around 30 minutes. That’s pretty great for a phone in this price range, and it’s one of the few reasons you should pick the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite over the competition.
Should you buy the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G?
You should buy the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite if:
- You want great battery life and 67W wired fast charging.
- You’re a OnePlus fan and want the new OxygenOS experience.
You shouldn’t buy the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite if:
- You want a great, responsive display.
- You want lag-free performance in day-to-day use.
The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite seems like a good package on paper, but the several issues I’ve listed above give me little reason to recommend it over other devices in the same price range, like the Google Pixel 6a and the Redmi Note 12 5G. I would’ve overlooked the issues had the device been £50 cheaper, but £300 is tough to justify for a phone that only excels in battery life. You can get it if you really need the 67W fast charging support or if you’re a die-hard OnePlus fan, but there are a couple of other phones in this price range that offer better value for your money.
Although the Pixel 6a has a 60Hz display and doesn’t charge as fast, it has better performance thanks to Google’s Tensor chipset. The Pixel 6a also captures amazing photos despite having a 12.2MP sensor, gives you access to Pixel-exclusive features, and has longer software support for less than £300. The Redmi Note 12 5G is cheaper at around £280, and offers a significantly better 120Hz AMOLED display, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 4 Gen 1 chip, a usable 8MP wide-angle camera, Gorilla Glass 3, and an IP53 rating. On the downside, it’s limited to 33W fast charging and runs MIUI 14 based on Android 12.
In the end, you’ll have to make certain compromises with phones in this price bracket. “Never Settle” just doesn’t work for budget-friendly devices. But if you don’t want to settle and can stretch your budget a bit, you can grab the Pixel 7 for around £475. It’ll offer a significantly better experience than any of the other phones I mentioned. Or you can wait for the Pixel 7a, which will likely be announced at Google I/O next month.
OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G
The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is a budget-friendly 5G device that packs Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 695 SoC, a 120Hz FHD+ LCD, an impressive 108MP primary camera, and a large 5,000mAh battery with 67W wired fast charging support.