It’s exactly a year since we checked out the Nord CE 2 Lite. Back then it was the only OnePlus smartphone under Rs 20K and was launched along with the first set of OnePlus Nord brand TWS earbuds. This year again OnePlus has launched its strong budget challenger phone along with the second edition of the Nord Buds (stay tuned for our deep-dive). The Nord CE 3 Lite 5G picks up the baton from last year’s CE 2 Lite as the brand’s most affordable smartphone and it’s 5G ready. The bigger question is whether it will satisfy folks wanting to buy into the OnePlus brand experience without breaking the bank.
Lime green for the summer
I have a predilection for smartphones with funky colours. That’s one reason why I was sold on the design language of the new CE 3 Lite. This one comes in a bright, almost fluorescent shade. One Plus calls it pastel lime but it’s definitely too funky for the ‘pastel’ description. It’s easily one of our favourite colours on any smartphone now. But we understand that this is a subjective call, it’s one of those ‘love or loathe’ things. If you’re on the loathe camp, there’s the chromatic grey. Aside from the summer bling we also like the overall design, especially the bold rear camera module and the overall heft and weight distribution. This device feels great in your hand.
Just OnePlus things
OnePlus understands that performance is a key purchase driver for its legion of fans. This might be a sub Rs 20K phone and yet there are still expectations for everyday speed. OnePlus hasn’t upgraded the processor from last year’s CE 2 Lite. This one is also powered by the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 processor. We checked out the 8GB/256GB variant; there’s also an 8GB/128GB option. Both variants offer expandable via Micro SD card support up to 1TB. The overall performance is quite solid. The device didn’t stutter even when we pushed it on gaming mode for close to an hour. The device notched a score of 2111 on our Geekbench (multi-core) test that represents a marginal improvement over its predecessor. It’s not just the overall performance, fast charging sweetens the deal too. The in-box 67W Super VOOC charger can give you a day’s power in just 30 minutes. Battery life is quite solid.
Value seekers unite
One of our favourite features of the OnePlus Nord CE 2 lite was the display. OnePlus stretches the display slightly from 6.59-inches to 6.72 inches (2400x 1080 pixels / 391 PPI). Gaming is fun on this device that comes with a 120Hz refresh rate. OnePlus has also tweaked the camera. The CE 3 Lite comes with a 108MP primary lens (the CE 2 Lite offered a 64MP lens) with a 2MP depth sensor and 2MP macro lens. It doesn’t have a huge impact on camera performance which is average especially in lowlight. We still think an ultra-wide lens is a more ‘usable’ option than a macro lens. But that can boil down to your use case scenarios.
The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is almost a case of ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. OnePlus doesn’t change the formula of last year’s CE 2 Lite too much; this is more a design refresh with some minor hardware tweaks. And that’s why we think the CE 3 Lite is one of the best smartphone buys under Rs 20,000.
The OnePlus Nord CE3 Lite comes in Pastel Lime and Chromatic Grey and is priced at Rs 19,999 for the 8GB+128GB and Rs 21,999 for the 8GB+256GB variant