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3 reasons why I prefer this $300 Android over Google's Pixel 6a

Depending on your feature priorities, the OnePlus Nord N30 5G may be all you need to get work done.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Min Shin
Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Does an Android smartphone with a large 120Hz adaptive refresh rate display, 3.5mm audio port, microSD expansion card slot, 5,000 mAh battery, and fast charging with a 50W charger in the box sound like a compelling option? The OnePlus Nord N30 5G is priced at just under $300 and includes all of this and more.

Also: The best cheap 5G phones starting at $199

The specification story of the OnePlus Nord N30 is a good one, but the phone is also challenged by the likes of the Google Pixel 6a (currently down to $299) and Moto G Power. Phones in this sub-$300 price range always have some compromises in order to be priced a third to a fourth the cost of flagship smartphones. Selecting one of these comes down to identifying what specific features are most important to you.

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The OnePlus Nord N30 stands out in this affordable phone market with an ample 8GB of RAM, a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate display, fast charging, IP54 dust/water resistance, and reliable 5G connectivity.

Review: Nothing Phone 2: If 'being extra' was an Android phone

In terms of compromises, there is no wide-angle camera, the camera results cannot beat Google's Pixel 6a, and the high gloss plastic back constantly needs to be wiped clean. The phone launches with Android 13 and OnePlus will provide one upgrade to Android 14, along with three years of security updates, so it's one of those phones you buy as it is configured without looking for significant changes with future software upgrades.

OnePlus Nord N30 5G closeup
Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Many will naturally look to Google's 2022 Pixel 6A as the preferred option at this $300 price point. However, I've had issues with Google's Tensor chip connecting to cellular networks and don't have the best luck with Google's Pixel hardware reliability. OnePlus also offers a couple features that appeal to me more than Google's camera magic.

For example, I cannot stand how slowly Pixel phones charge and have spent years enjoying the super fast wired charging provided by OnePlus. I've been spoiled by 120Hz display refresh rates on Android phones, so I left the setting at the highest rate and was still able to go a full long day on a single charge. Lastly, the side fingerprint sensor/power button works better for me than under display scanners.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Camera performance is clearly not directly related to the number of megapixels in a camera so having a 108 MP shooter on the OnePlus Nord N30 doesn't mean it results in better pictures than we see from a 12 MP camera on the Pixel 6a. That said, I have been satisfied with the results from the camera for social media and phone-to-phone sharing. The OnePlus Nord N30 is certainly not going to challenge flagship phones for camera performance, but I've seen a lot worse on $300 phones. 

Also: The best phones you can buy right now, based on hands-on testing

I popped my T-Mobile SIM into the OnePlus Nord N30 and used it exclusively as my daily driver for a three-week period. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 and fairly stock OxygenOS UI kept things running smoothly, phone calls sounded perfect, the big display made watching media on my commuter train enjoyable, I was able to plug in my headphones again and not worry about charging earbuds, and the camera did well for those occasional shots of my surroundings. The Chromatic Gray color looks dark green in most lighting conditions and is classy, but I dislike the super glossy finish. Plastic is perfectly fine and holds up well to drops, but matte back panels are my preference on smartphones.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

The OnePlus Nord N30 5G offers a lot for a phone that is just under $300. It is clearly a good option for a new phone owner, second backup phone, or more mature user who wants a big-screen phone that gets the job done while relieving the anxiety of owning a $1,000 glass brick.

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