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OnePlus Nord N100 Review 2021

Best known for its excellent midrange lineup, OnePlus is making a splash in the budget smartphone market with the OnePlus Nord N100 ($179.99). The N100 is OnePlus’s least expensive smartphone to date, and it debuts with plenty of hits and only a few misses. Its mediocre cameras and plasticky build fail to impress, but those concessions are common at this price point. The qualities that matter most for day-in-day-out use are display, performance, and battery life, and there the N100 does not compromise. Among phones in the sub-$200 price range, this one is a standout.


A Lovely Display

The N100 measures 6.5 by 3.0 by 0.3 inches and weighs 6.6 ounces. It’s a big phone, but thin and light enough to hold with one hand on long commutes. 

The metallic plastic back looks good but feels very thin.

A 6.5-inch, 1,620-by-720-pixel 90Hz display dominates the front of the phone. The screen is bright with vivid colors and excellent viewing angles. Despite its 720p resolution, the clarity on the N100 is remarkably better than on the similarly priced Motorola Moto G Play.   

On the back of the phone, you’ll find a metallic blue backplate. There’s a slight texture that makes the N100 easier to hold, but it quickly accumulates smudges. The plastic feels very thin and produces a hollow thud when tapped. 

In the top left corner, you’ll find a rectangular camera module. The fingerprint sensor, centered in the upper third of the backplate above the silver OnePlus logo, is easy to reach and responsive.

The top of the N100 is bare; a headphone jack, a USB-C charging port, and a speaker grille sit on the bottom. On the left side, you’ll find a volume rocker and SIM/microSD slot. The right is home to the Power button. Even with small hands, the buttons are easy to reach and click nicely when tapped. 

Durability is what you’d expect for a budget phone. There’s no IP rating, meaning any accidental drops in the sink will probably end in tears. The plastic frame and backplate should weather minor drops and dings just fine, but the Gorilla Glass 3 display is unlikely to fare as well.  


Crisp and Clear Calls 

OnePlus sells the N100 unlocked, but it only works on AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks (which does mean it will work for MVNOs that use either carrier to deliver service). Bands 66 and 71 are noticeably absent. Both AT&T and T-Mobile use band 66 in cities and suburban areas to improve speeds, and T-Mobile relies on band 71 to improve coverage to rural areas.

We tested the phone on T-Mobile’s LTE network in Chicago and recorded impressive results. Speeds averaged 78.2Mbps down and 38.8Mbps up. If you’re not in a city, however, your mileage may vary.

Bottom of phoneThe OnePlus Nord N100 has a headphone jack as well as decent stereo speakers.

Call quality is also a win. Our test calls were crisp and clear, and noise cancellation worked perfectly. The 86dB-maximum-volume earpiece was also loud enough to hear on a busy street. 

The N100’s stereo speakers surprisingly outpace those on the more expensive OnePlus Nord N10 5G. Maximum volume clocks in at 88dB, which is loud enough to fill a room. As on most smartphones, lows are non-existent. Mids are slightly pushed forward, but not as aggressively as we’ve noticed on the G Play and N10. The sound is still boxy and there’s some distortion at higher frequencies, but it sounds pretty good for a budget phone. 

Dual-band Wi-Fi is on board, as is Bluetooth 5.0 for wearable connectivity, but there’s no NFC for mobile payments or boarding passes. 


No Battery Top-Offs Needed

A Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 chipset and 4GB of RAM power the N100. There’s 64GB of onboard storage, with about 46GB available out of the box. A microSD slot makes it easy to add additional storage.

On the hardware front, the N100 has a clear advantage over the Moto G Play. Both have the same Snapdragon 460 processor, but the Motorola phone only has 3G of RAM and half the storage space.

Side view of phone Buttons on the OnePlus Nord N100 are easy to reach with small hands.

Performance is solid for the price. The N100 handles basic tasks such as web browsing and streaming Netflix with ease. There’s an ever-so-slight lag when opening apps or using the keyboard, but it’s not at all bothersome. 

Gaming is pretty much a loss. Sure, you can technically run processor intensive games such as Alto’s Odyssey or PUBG Mobile, but you’ll find it pretty frustrating. We played both for a few hours and experienced long load times and skipped frames. If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive gaming phone, the Google Pixel 4a is your best bet. 

See How We Test Phones

On Geekbench 5, a benchmarking test that quantifies raw computing power, the N100 scored 278 single-core (SC) and 1,294 multi-core (MC). For comparison’s sake, the G Play scored 255 SC and 1,269 MC on the same test. The differences between the two phones are so minor that it’s unlikely you’d notice any difference with normal use. 

Like the G Play, the N100 packs a 5,000mAh battery for plenty of on-screen time. In our battery drain test, which streams HD video over Wi-Fi at full brightness, the N100 eked out 15 hours before powering down. That falls more than four hours behind the G Play (18 hours, 42 minutes), but you’ll still have no problem making it a full day between charges. When you do need to power up, there’s an 18W fast charging adapter in the box. 


Lackluster Lenses

The rear camera module has a 13MP wide-angle lens with an f/2.2 aperture, and 2MP depth and macro sensors with f/2.4 apertures. On the front, you’ll find a 8MP lens with an f/2.0 aperture. 

With good light, the N100 takes a decent shot. Most of our test shots had solid depth of field and good color accuracy. Clarity was good in the foreground, but backgrounds looked soft. Low-light photos appeared flat with blurring throughout and significant noise.

Back of OnePlus Nord N100 with camera stack in focusThe triple camera stack is underwhelming.

The macro lens is, unsurprisingly, bad. Our test shots were uniformly flat and soft. That’s been our experience with most smartphone macro lenses, so we can’t ding a $180 phone too hard for this.

The front-facing camera does an admirable job in good light. Photos were crisp and well defined, with natural depth of field. Low-light photos, on the other hand, are a loss. Our test shots were muddy, flat, and full of noise. 

The N100 lacks a Night mode and some other features you’ll find on the more expensive N10, but it does have a depth sensor for Portrait mode. In our tests, the depth sensor helped create a natural bokeh, though we did notice some issues with object mapping around the shoulders. The selfie camera is also capable of good portraits, but if you look closely, you’ll see some object mapping glitches there as well. 

For a budget phone, the rear camera performs as well as we’d expect. If you’re a more serious shutterbug upgrade and are willing to pay a premium for better cameras, the Google Pixel 4a is the way to go.


Oxygen OS Makes Android Shine

It’s hard to get excited about a phone that ships with Android 10 in 2021, but Oxygen OS definitely elicits an enthusiastic response. For the uninitiated, OnePlus’s custom skin makes Android more useful and elegant without weighing it down with lots of unnecessary apps.

View of display with hole punch in focus The OnePlus Nord N100 has a sharp 90Hz display.

The interface provides a number of customization options, an improved Quick Settings menu, and a few apps (such as Gallery and File Manager) that give Android’s stock options a run for their money. There’s also Zen mode, which allows you to slow down by locking your phone and disabling notifications for a predetermined amount of time, and Reading mode, which gives you the option of toning down the display’s colors or switching to grayscale for more eye-friendly reading. 

An Android 11 upgrade is in the cards for the N100 at some point in the future, but additional upgrades are not guaranteed. It’s disappointing to see OnePlus not offer the same robust software update programs you’ll find on Android One phones or most of Samsung’s Galaxy A series, but it’s not surprising. 


Budget Phone Shoppers, Rejoice

The OnePlus Nord N100 hits a desperately needed sweet spot for budget phone shoppers. It impresses with solid performance, a bright and vivid display, and long battery life. On the flip side, its cameras are mediocre, LTE band support could be better, and the thin plastic backplate feels cheap. 

If you’re willing to spend up to $300, go for the OnePlus Nord N10 5G (our Editors’ Choice winner for budget phones), a much more capable option with 5G. But the N100 handily outpaces the Moto G Play and every other US phone that sells for less than $200.

OnePlus Nord N100 Specs

Operating System Android 10
CPU Qualcom Snapdragon 460
Dimensions 6.5 by 3.0 by 0.3 inches
Screen Size 6.5 inches
Screen Resolution 1,600 by 720 pixels
Camera Resolution (Rear; Front-Facing) 13MP, 2MP, 2MP; 8MP
Battery Life (As Tested) 15 hours

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