(Pocket-lint) – For a while, OnePlus was the champion of offering great performance without the price. And that’s still true to an extent, at least when it comes to its Nord family. The OnePlus Nord 2T is a lot of phone for the money, but how does it compare to the competitive mid-rangers from the big-names? Specifically, the Galaxy A53 from Samsung.
Both have very similar full retail prices, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. So which should you spend your money on? Watch the video below to find out our thoughts, or read on below.
- OnePlus: 159.1 x 73.2 x 8.2 mm – 190g
- Samsung: 159.6 x 74.8 x 8.1 mm – 189g
- OnePlus: Glass front and back, plastic frame – no waterproof rating
- Samsung: Glass front, plastic back and frame – IP67 rated water/dust resitance
Unlike some of our other comparisons between similarly priced products, the differences between the two phones are immediately apparent even when it comes to the basics of design. Whether we’re talking shape, in-hand feel or materials used, they’re completely different in ways that actually make a difference to the experience.
For instance, the Samsung has a completely flat back where OnePlus has gone with curved edges. When you add the fact that Samsung has a soft, plastic rear and OnePlus has a glossy glass, it’s hard to imagine them feeling anymore different.
On the one hand, the curved edges on the OnePlus make it more comfortable to hold. However, the glossy, shiny back is a lot more slippery than the Samsung and so you may find it needs a bit more grip to hold it or – at the very least – it will slip off a lot of surfaces.
It’s one of those weird instances where we prefer the in-hand feel of the OnePlus, but for practical reasons, would probably choose the Samsung approach. And that’s without mentioning the camera housing design. Where Samsung has this quite minimal and subtle area that ramps up seamlessly from the same material as the rear panel, OnePlus has a protruding monstrosity that doesn’t look good at all.
As for the front, both have flat displays with punch-hole cameras. Samsung’s opted for the camera right in the middle, which we think makes a lot more sense, if only because we find it gets in the way less, and helps the front have a sense of symmetry.
The other thing worth considering from the design standpoint is water and dust resistance. Samsung’s phone has been certified to IP67 levels, which means it can be submerged in quite shallow water and be fine. Nord has some water resistance and will likely survive the odd splash or daily accident, but it has no official rating.
One minor thing in OnePlus favour – haptic feedback. When you’re typing, the Samsung has a much cheaper buzzy feel as feedback, OnePlus has a more subtle tapping feeling, which is a lot nicer.
Displays and software
- OnePlus: 6.43-inch AMOLED 90Hz – 1080 x 2400 resolution
- Samsung: 6.5-inch AMOLED 120Hz – 1080 x 2400 resolution
- OnePlus: Android 12-based OxygenOS
- Samsung: Android 12-based OneUI
What’s interesting is that – at least from a spec sheet perspective – the two displays are very similar. Samsung’s is slightly larger at 6.5-inches, compared to 6.43-inches on the OnePlus, but the two share the same 1080 x 2400 resolution and both coated with the same Gorilla Glass 5.
With that said, there is still a difference. For instance, Samsung’s 120Hz peak refresh rate is higher than the OnePlus Nord’s 90Hz. However, that might not actually make the difference you’d think. As we’ll discuss in the performance section, the one that should feel smoother and faster doesn’t a lot of the time.
Looking at them side-by-side, with both in their natural modes, there is a difference in colour and contrast too. OnePlus, for instance, seems to be a little more saturated and has higher contrast, which can make images pop a bit more. That does have its draw backs, however. We’ve found with paler/white skin tones, the overall impression is a much pinker/more red look. In fact, oranges, pinks and reds do tend to border a little on the over saturated.
Samsung’s natural look is more natural, and true to life. With a slightly more golden tone, it’s less aggressive on the reds and makes things softer and more pleasant. Of course, both allow you to customise the colours and calibration to some degree, and allow you to choose settings with more vivid colours, plus tweak the white balance.
As for brightness, there doesn’t appear to be much difference here. They’re both relatively bright.
From a software side, they both run Android 12-based systems. Samsung with quite a heavy approach with OneUI and lots of pre-loaded apps from Samsung. OnePlus has OxygenOS, which doesn’t add a lot of additional extras, and is cleaner in a lot of ways.
Samsung however will give you quite a long commitment to software and security patches. OnePlus will give you 2-3 years of major updates.
Performance and battery
- OnePlus: MediaTek Dimensity 1300 processor
- Samsung: Exynos 1280 processor
- OnePlus: 8GB/128GB or 12GB/256GB
- Samsung: 4GB, 6GB or 8GB RAM – 128GB or 256GB storage
- OnePlus: 4500mAh battery with 80W fast charging
- Samsung: 5000mAh battery with 25W charging
On to the performance, speed and battery, and as we mentioned a little in the software section, OnePlus approach to software seems very much about being light, fluid and fast, and that translates to a phone experience that feels a lot more responsive than the Samsung.
The difference in every day tasks, or just navigating the user interface is night and day. It just feels a lot smoother and quicker. Or – rather – more consistently responsive. Samsung’s can feel quick, but as we noticed with the more expensive S22 models, some areas of the interface did seem to lag and stutter a bit.
From a processor perspective, the Nord 2T has the MediaTek Dimensity 1300 processor which – while not flagship level – is a strong performer. We didn’t have any issues with it loading any of our favourite games or apps.
And when you compare them side by side, the Nord was noticeably quicker at loading them than the Samsung. Even basic apps like Twitter, Amazon shopping or YouTube would take roughly a second longer on the Exynos 1280. It also comes with more RAM as standard than the Samsung. In the UK at least, the Nord has either 8GB or 12GB RAM and 128GB or 256GB of storage. The Samsung comes with 6GB and 128GB, but also has the option to expand it via MicroSD card.
As for battery life, it’s probably no surprise that – for the most part – we usually had more left over after a day using the Samsung than the OnePlus. That was expected given the larger 5000mAh battery vs the Nord 2T’s 4500mAh. With 2-3 hours of relatively light usage – social media and such – the Nord would finish the day with somewhere between 35-40 per cent left over, Samsung’s would be more like 50 per cent, making it almost a two day battery.
However, the two couldn’t be more different when it comes to charging time. OnePlus Nord 2T’s 80W wired charger – which comes in the box – can refill the phone’s battery in about 27 minutes. And most of that refill is done within just 15 minutes.
Samsung’s only reaches the heights of 25W, and that’s only if you have a compatible charger. It doesn’t ship with one.
- OnePlus: 50MP primary, 8MP ultrawide, 2MP depth sensor
- Samsung: 64MP primary, 12MP ultrawide, 5MP macro, 5MP depth sensor
While the camera systems are similar in makeup, they’re not identical. Both lead with higher resolution primary cameras. OnePlus goes with 50-megapixel, Samsung 64-megapixel. Then the two have ultra wides – OnePlus 8-megapixel, Samsung 12-megapixel.
Then there are low resolution added sensors. OnePlus has 2-megapixel depth, where Samsung has a 5-megapixel macro and 5-megapixel depth. For this comparison however, we’ll focus on the primary and ultrawide, rather than the lower resolution pointless additional lenses.
What we’ve found when using the Nord alongside the the Samsung is that, for the most part, the main camera on the Nord 2T is strong. It produces sharp images with well balanced highlights and shadows. No crazy over-exposing or horrendous contrast.
Also, compared to the Samsung we found it delivered a more realistic representation of colours. Samsung pushes a little more towards that fake/hyperreal, seen in the greens. OnePlus seems to push more towards a warmer/more orange look. Samsung also seems to over-expose a little at times.
When it comes to ultrawide though, it’s the other way around. The Nord 2T’s camera is noticeably poorer when it comes to detail, balance of highlights and shadow. Results are quite washed out and lacking in sharpness compared to the Samsung.
Samsung does a decent job of balancing the results between the two cameras too. So despite, in our opinion, the Nord having the stronger primary camera, the utlrawide really lets down the experience. We’d rather have two cameras at least somewhat closely matched in terms of results, even if that main one isn’t the absolute best.
- OnePlus: £369
- Samsung: £399
Looking at full retail prices, there’s very little difference in cost between the two phones. You’re looking at a £369 starting point for the 8GB/128GB variant of the Nord 2T.
For Samsung, it’s a £399 full retail price, but most retailers by now have discounted that and you might even find the best deal in your area is cheaper than the OnePlus.
In the end it comes down to two key things: Performance/speed, and cameras.
If you want a phone that feels smooth, loads any app quickly and just gets about its business with some speed, the OnePlus is your phone. Plus, it charges really quickly too and its software experience is less bloat-heavy.
In Samsung’s favour we have the more consistent results between the cameras and the longer battery life. Plus, Samsung has generally been better at rolling out software and security updates in recent months.
Writing by Cam Bunton.