Best Camera Phone Under 20000: Capture Your Memories in Style

After nearly a decade of discontinuing its flagship, OnePlus decided to leave the Gear and affordable phone segment last year. Nord CE 2 Lite was their first attempt, which had an attractive launch price. Undoubtedly, the formula couldn’t be wrong. Finally, a budget phone from such a fast-paced brand should have caused a sensation in the market. And it did; the device sold remarkably well, becoming the second-best selling smartphone in the first half of 2022.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G

  • Camera: 108 MP Main Camera with EIS; 2MP Depth-Assist Lens and 2MP Macro Lens; Front (Selfie) Camera: 16MP
  • Rear Camera Mode: Hi-res 108MP mode, 3x Lossles Zoom, Photo, Video, Nightscape, Expert, Panoramic, Portrait, Macro, Time-lapse, Slow-motion, Long exposure, Dual-view video, Text Scanner, 1080p/720p@30fps, Video zoom: 1080P@30fps, 720P@30fps, Slow motion: 720P@120fps, Time-Lapse: 1080P@30fps, Steady Video EIS support

However, there were some areas for improvement. The charging speed was a bit slow, and it didn’t quite match the performance prowess of its sister brands. So, naturally, there are high expectations from its successor, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite.

Nord CE 3 Lite comes with some fantastic new colors and the same old price, but it offers a much-improved charging experience. At 19,999 rupees, it’s an impressive package, but let’s dive into the review to know more.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite: Design and Build

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite doesn’t attempt to impress with funky or modern designs. Instead, it goes for a sleek plastic back with a refined look. It comes in two color options, Chromatic Grey and Pastel Lime, and we got the latter. It’s the first time we’ve seen a green shade on a Nord smartphone, and it’s quite attractive. The frame is made of matte-textured plastic and complements the color of the rear panel.

The design of the rear camera is reminiscent of Oppo and Realme smartphones we’ve seen this year – two large camera rings housing three sensors and a flash. The device’s flat frame and large logo make it challenging to grip for extended periods, but the slim profile helps to carry it in your pocket comfortably.

As for ports and grilles, there’s a USB Type-C port, a microphone hole, speaker, and surprisingly, a headphone jack at the bottom. On the top side, it’s relatively clean with just the secondary microphone. Most Android smartphones have all the physical buttons on the right side, but that’s not the case with the CE 3 Lite. Instead, there are two separate volume buttons on the left side, while the right side houses a solitary power button with an embedded fingerprint sensor. It took us a while to get used to this placement.

Talking about durability, we have no issues with OnePlus’ Generation Display Protection against Gorilla Glass, as it has performed well on other devices we’ve used in the past. However, the lack of an official IP rating is a disappointment.

Best Camera Phone Under 20,000

Charging and Battery Life

Charging Speed is one of the key marketing points for the Nord CE 3 Lite. Compared to the 33W charging of the CE 2 Lite, the 67W SuperVOOC charging is a significant improvement, so let’s discuss it before other technical aspects.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite packs a traditional 5,000mAh battery, but the interesting part is the bundled ‘Endurance Edition’ charger, which has an 80W capacity, but the phone can charge at a maximum of 67W.

You may wonder, “What’s the ‘Endurance Edition’?” In simple words, OnePlus claims that with this charger, the CE 3 Lite should be capable of managing 80% battery health after four years of use. Additionally, OnePlus has started taking heat management seriously, so there are several safety mechanisms around the battery module to avoid explosions and overheating.

In terms of charging time, the CE 3 Lite takes about 50-55 minutes to reach a full charge. It rapidly charges to 80% in around half an hour, after which the charging speed slows down.

Regarding battery backup, Nord CE 3 Lite can handle about a day of moderate use, thanks to its clever battery management. However, the screen-on time was a bit weak due to its LCD display, lasting roughly six to six and a half hours on average.

OnePlus claims that the 80W Endurance Edition charger is compatible with USB-PD, so it should be able to manage up to 25W charging for a Galaxy S23, for example.

Best Camera Phone Under 20,000: Capture Your Memories in Style

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite Display

We believe that the Nord CE 3 Lite’s LCD display will be a major point of contention for most people, as Moto and Redmi’s many rivals are now starting to present AMOLED panels. However, we have no issues with an LCD as long as it’s bright, responsive, crisp, and vibrant.

So, the main takeaway is that the 6.72-inch Full HD+ display with a 120Hz refresh rate gives the front of the CE 3 Lite a blessing. It’s not as contrary to AMOLED, but the colors and viewing angles are good. It’s also super responsive, which is partly due to OnePlus’ excellent optimization. It’s not very bright in direct sunlight, and many times, we had to struggle to find directions while riding a bike with it. Nonetheless, the colors are good and appealing, and you have the option to change the color profile in the settings.

OnePlus has also presented a pair of stereo speakers here, which provide a good balanced output.

Netflix and Prime Video benefit from the widevine L1 certification of the CE 3 Lite, offering full HD playback. To test it out, we rewatched a few episodes of Breaking Bad. Except for some deep scenes, most parts offered an enjoyable visual and auditory experience. Unfortunately, there are limitations with the LCD panel, and sometimes the fun might diminish while gaming.

software and performance of the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite

Nord CE 3 Lite faced criticism for not living up to OnePlus’ ‘performance is everything’ philosophy, as it chose to equip it with the run-of-the-mill Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 to keep things running. To our disappointment, Nord CE 3 Lite retains the same chipset options of 8GB/128GB and 8GB/256GB, despite the availability of several new chipsets in the market.

The biometrics work well, except that the side-mounted scanner is eager to log you in with your fingerprint. Sometimes, when we put it in our pocket, it unlocks itself and keeps registering input.

We hope that the next generation of OnePlus will bring a new, cutting-edge chipset, keeping the focus on performance-oriented features.

Best Camera Phone Under 20,000: Capture Your Memories in Style

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite’s camera

As for the camera, the UI experience is very user-friendly, and that’s what matters the most, regardless of how strong the phone’s hardware is. The pre-loaded apps and hot apps are a bit bloaty, but there’s nothing intrusive, and everyone can disable third-party services without any hassle or annoying login prompts.

In terms of performance, it offers an overall good experience both in synthetic benchmarks and real-world usage with similar results.

Nord CE 3 Lite scored 409,141 in AnTuTu v9 and 687 in single-core and 1,961 in multi-core tests in Geekbench v5, respectively. On the other hand, the iQOO Z7 with the MediaTek Dimensity 920 scored over 480,000 in AnTuTu, making it seem like a generational leap.

In real-world usage, it handles daily tasks well, such as scrolling on social media, web browsing, navigation, listening to music, and casual gaming. However, when you load it with heavy tasks, it starts to lose its speed. For example, while playing Apex Legends, it managed an average of around 27 FPS on normal graphics and frame rates. Nonetheless, thermal management was excellent, and we never found the phone getting hot. You can watch its gaming test in the video below.

Regarding software, Nord CE 3 Lite runs OxygenOS 13.1. At the time of review, the phone had received the latest security update from March 2023. However, there is no official word on its support for full update cycles via OTA, but we received an OTA update during our review.

With straight-out-of-the-box images, the primary sensor can capture some beautifully detailed shots with accurate colors during the day. Except for shots with hazy backgrounds, it also handles backlight situations well. The bokeh effect around the edges of leaves is something we haven’t seen before. Due to its high-resolution sensor, it tries to take photos with 3x digital zoom, but they appear quite artificial, so we don’t prefer them much.

It performs excellently with human subjects, bringing out the natural texture and colors of the skin. The portrait mode is also lovely, offering a natural and consistent application of defocusing algorithms throughout the frame.

Night photography is also good, but only when you specifically shoot in the night mode. In default camera mode, images have a lot of noise and are blurry. The night mode enhances the sharpness and liveliness of photos and takes no time to process. Even in low light, the night mode performs well.

Conclusion

OnePlus has launched a smashing flagship and mid-premium phone this year, but their new budget phone falls a bit short of our expectations. Admittedly, Nord CE 3 Lite has improvements in charging, the easiest UI in this segment, and the new attractive green color is a breath of fresh air. However, its older processor, though appropriately priced, doesn’t match its brand image. The primary camera is genuinely good, but the lack of an ultra-wide might disappoint potential buyers. Let’s be honest; despite agreeing with the LCD, its potential buyers might not consider it as equally good as the competition. There are no shortages of alternatives. If you can overlook the charging speed, the Realme 10 Pro is an option with nearly identical specs. The iQOO Z7 offers an excellent deal with a fantastic display and hardware, but it might be a little inflated. Moto G73 could be another option for those who fancy it. A clean UI experience and an AMOLED display.

We hope that the next generation of the Nord CE series will bring some exciting developments, especially after witnessing such thrilling progress in this year’s top-tier OnePlus smartphones.”

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G

  • Camera: 108 MP Main Camera with EIS; 2MP Depth-Assist Lens and 2MP Macro Lens; Front (Selfie) Camera: 16MP
  • Rear Camera Mode: Hi-res 108MP mode, 3x Lossles Zoom, Photo, Video, Nightscape, Expert, Panoramic, Portrait, Macro, Time-lapse, Slow-motion, Long exposure, Dual-view video, Text Scanner, 1080p/720p@30fps, Video zoom: 1080P@30fps, 720P@30fps, Slow motion: 720P@120fps, Time-Lapse: 1080P@30fps, Steady Video EIS support

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