OnePlus Nord Buds CE Review: Excellent budget TWS with good sound

OnePlus Nord Buds CE Review: Excellent budget TWS with good sound

Following the success of the Nord Buds, OnePlus has come out with another pair of Nord-branded earbuds. The new Nord Buds CE are OnePlus’ cheapest truly wireless earbuds yet, and they pack a powerful punch. However, they’re not simply recycled Nord Buds with the same design and a few missing features. Rather the Nord Buds CE are an entirely different beast. They ditch the ear tips for an open-back design which is both an advantage and disadvantage, depending on how you see it. At ₹2,299 (~$29), the OnePlus Nord Buds CE are one of the cheapest TWS on the market. I have been using them for over two weeks, and here’s what I feel about them.

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    The OnePlus Nord Buds are the company's cheapest TWS earbuds. They offer an open-back design that lets you enjoy your music while keeping you aware of your surroundings.

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OnePlus Nord Buds CE: Specifications

Specification Nord Buds CE
Build and Weight
  • IPX4 sweat and water resistance
  • Earbuds: 3.5g (each earbud)
  • Charging case: 33g
Audio
  • Single 13.4mm dynamic driver
  • Driver sensitivity: 128 ± 3dB
  • Frequency response:
    • 20Hz-20KHz
Connectivity
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • Codecs: AAC, SBC
  • Range: 10 m
Battery & Charging
  • 27 mAh (per earbud)
  • 300mAh charging case
  • 4.5 hours of continuous playback
  • 20 hours with charging case (combined)
  • USB Type C port
  • 10-minute quick charge for 81 minutes of playback
Features
  • AI noise cancellation for calls
  • OnePlus Fast Pair
  • Sound Master EQ
  • Game mode (low-latency mode)
In The Box
  • Pair of Nord Buds CE
  • Charging case
  • USB charging cable
  • User guide
  • Safety and Warranty card
  • Nord emoji sticker x1

About this review: OnePlus India sent us the Nord Buds for review. The company did not have any input into the contents of this review.


Pricing & Availability

  • The OnePlus Nord Buds are available in India at ₹2,299.

OnePlus’ new Nord Buds CE are only available in India. They are priced at ₹2,299 (~$29) and can be purchased from oneplus.com or Amazon India. You get two colorways to choose from: Moonlight White and Misty Grey.

The regular Nord Buds are available in the US and Canada, so we hope these make their way to the market too.


Design and Fit

The design of the OnePlus Nord Buds CE is a departure from the regular Nord Buds. While the Nord Buds featured a unique design that set them apart, the Nord Buds CE opt for a more generic design reminiscent of the Apple AirPods. The earbuds and the charging case are made out of plastic and feel well-built. The earbuds have long stalks and an oblong opening at the end of each earcup, similar to the Apple AirPods. Earbuds are hidden inside an oval-shaped charging case that has a magnetic lid. The case has a glossy finish which picks up micro scratches and fingerprints in no time.

OnePlus Nord Buds CE lid half open

The OnePlus Nord Buds CE feature a one-size-fits-all design, so comfort and fit will largely depend on the shape and size of your ear. But in my experience, I found them to be exceptionally comfortable. They don’t enter deep into your ear canal nor create that suction-like sensation you sometimes get with a tight seal created by silicone tips. When I reviewed the OnePlus Nord Buds, I called them the most comfortable pair of truly wireless earphones I have ever tested. But having used the Nord Buds CE for over two weeks, I must admit that they are far more comfortable than the Nord Buds. I can practically wear these earphones all day without a hint of discomfort or pain. Weighing just 3.5g, they are lighter than the Nord Buds, which weigh 4.82g. And despite the open design, the earbuds provide a fairly secure in-ear fit and don’t easily pop out even when doing physical activities such as running or cycling.

OnePlus Nord Buds CE bud held in hand

The Nord Buds CE have standard touch controls that can be activated by tapping the top portion of the stems. A single tap on the left bud to play or pause the audio playback, double-tap to skip the track, and triple tap to summon your phone’s default voice assistant. Out of the box, the earbuds only offer the double tap gesture, but you can assign new actions to each bud using the Hey Melody app, which is available for both iOS and Android.

I can practically wear the Nord Buds CE all day without a hint of discomfort or pain.

The buds are IPX4 sweat and splash resistant, meaning they’re safe for intense workouts and outdoor activities. They’re also great for runners, bikers, and adventurers as the open design easily lets you hear the outside world and music simultaneously.

Sound Quality

  • The OnePlus Nord Buds CE pack 13.4mm dynamic drivers.
  • The overall sound quality is excellent for casual listening.

Listening to music on the OnePlus Nord Buds CE is a very different experience. Since the earbuds feature an open-back design, there’s no noise isolation at all. This isn’t an issue if you mostly use the earphones in a quiet office or at home. But when you’re outdoors in a crowded setting, this becomes a nuisance as all noise creeps right in, and you’ll often find yourself raising the volume level to comfortably listen to your track or podcast.

OnePlus Nord Buds CE laying on a flat surface

Coming to the audio quality, I must say I wasn’t expecting the Nord Buds CE to sound this good. There’s richness and airiness to the Nord Buds CE’s sound that you don’t generally expect from earbuds of this price. The earbuds feature large 13.4mm dynamic drivers and a special closed-tube design that boosts bass response up to 3dB.

There's richness and airiness to the Nord Buds CE's sound that you don't generally expect from earbuds of this price.

For open-back earbuds, the Nord Buds CE produce excellent bass though it’s admittedly not as thumpy and full-bodied as earbuds with silicone tips. If you mostly listen to EDM and Hip Hop music, these might not satiate your needs, but for what’s worth, I think the Nord Buds CE deliver much better bass than Apple’s AirPods Air 2.

Thanks to their open-back design, the Nord Buds CE sound more open and spacious than most earbuds with silicone tips. They also have excellent imaging and stereo separation. This was evident when listening to No Other Heart, where the earbuds accurately pinpointed the sound of kickdrums coming from the right dimension and ukulele, guitar, and piano from the left side, creating a very realistic audio experience.

Overall, the Nord Buds CE punch well above their weight in terms of audio quality, assuming you get the right fit and there’s not much ambient noise. I still prefer the Nord Buds’ quality as they provide more isolation and deeper bass, but the Nord Buds CE are pretty close overall.

If you don’t like the sound tuning out of the box, you can switch to a Balanced, Serenade, or Gentle audio profile using the Hey Melody app.

HeyMelody
Developer: HeyTap
Price: Free

Latency, Call Quality, and Connectivity

  • The OnePlus Nord Buds CE’s AI noise cancellation for calls isn’t effective
  • There’s also a Game mode that reduces audio latency in games.

The OnePlus Nord Buds CE don’t offer high-quality Bluetooth codecs such as aptX or LDAC, which is expected considering their price. You only get SBC and AAC codecs, which are fine for music and video streaming. You also miss out on Dolby Atmos support which is available on the OnePlus Nord Buds.

For gamers, the earbuds offer a low-latency Game mode which drops the latency to as low as 94ms for smooth, lag-free audio while playing games. The official product page mentions that the Game mode is only available on select OnePlus phones. But it appears that this information is outdated since the feature is accessible through the My Melody app on non-OnePlus devices as well. In any case, restrict the use of low-latency mode for gaming only as it significantly compresses the audio stream.

The call quality on the OnePlus Nord Buds CE is serviceable but not outstanding. According to OnePlus, there’s AI noise cancellation at work during calls which reduces wind noises and background sounds. But in my testing, I found this feature to be ineffective as callers could hear a fair bit of background noise when I was in public places and noisy cafes.

One of my biggest complaints about the OnePlus Nord Buds CE is its confusing pairing process. The charging case lacks a pairing/multi-function key, which makes it difficult to force pair a new device. If you want to use the earbuds with a new device, you must first disconnect them from your current device — only then will the earbuds enter the pairing mode.


Battery life and Charging

  • The OnePlus Nord Buds CE provide up to 20 hours of total playback time.

The OnePlus Nord Buds CE deliver up to 4.5 hours of continuous playback time which can be extended to up to 20 hours using the charging case. Those are decent numbers for a pair of truly wireless earphones but not the best in class. The similarly priced Realme Buds Air 3 Neo provide up to 7 hours of playback on a single charge and up to 30 hours of total endurance. I found the Nord Buds CE’s battery life to be perfectly fine for my usage. I never ran out of battery in the middle of use. In my Spotify loop test, the earbuds lasted close to 4 hours before running out of juice.

When you do need to top up the earbuds, there’s fast charging available, claiming to deliver up to 81 minutes of playback in just 10 minutes. The case charges via USB-C port, but there’s no wireless charging.


Should you buy the OnePlus Nord Buds CE?

Buy the OnePlus Nord Buds CE if:

  • You don’t like earbuds with silicone tips.
  • You don’t want to isolate yourself from the outside world while listening to music.
  • You’re looking for an affordable alternative to Apple AirPods.
  • You want earphones that you can practically wear all day.

Don’t buy the OnePlus Nord Buds CE if:

  • You want earphones with effective passive noise isolation.
  • You like deeper bass.
  • You can spend more.

OnePlus Nord Buds CE case

The OnePlus Nord Buds CE are one of the most affordable truly wireless earbuds in India. They might not appeal to everyone as their open design doesn’t isolate ambient noise. But if you’re someone who doesn’t like having silicone ear tips jammed into your ears, these might be perfect for you. They’re also great for runners and outdoor enthusiasts who want to be aware of their surroundings while listening to music. But if you don’t care for the open design, we recommend spending a little more and getting the OnePlus Nord Buds instead, which offers a much better design, effective noise isolation, better sound, and much longer battery life.

    The OnePlus Nord Buds CE are fantastic entry-level TWS earbuds with an open-back design.

The affordable TWS landscape in India has never been more exciting than it is right now. So if you don’t find the OnePlus Nord Buds and Nord Buds CE appealing, you still have plenty of alternatives to consider. The Realme Buds Air 3 Neo is the closest competitor, offering 10mm dynamic drivers with Dolby Atmos support, up to 30 hours of playback time, and IPX5 water resistance for just ₹1,999 (~$25). Meanwhile, the Redmi Buds 3 Lite is another solid, affordable option, offering a bass-heavy sound, 5 hours of continuous playback, IP54 dust and splash resistance, and environmental noise cancellation (ENC) for calls.

About author

Kishan Vyas
Kishan Vyas

A loyal Android user since Android 2.1 Eclair. Direct inquiries to [email protected]

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