OnePlus Nord vs iPhone SE - Which midrange champ is better for gaming?
There's an exciting new battlefront in the gaming phone war: the reasonably priced mid-ranger.
Many have begun to conclude that they don't want to spend £1,000 on a new phone, even if it does mean being able to play mobile games at their absolute best.
Manufacturers have clearly spotted this trend, and have started to release highly capable phones at less than half the price. On the Android side, this is represented perfectly by the OnePlus Nord, while on the iOS side we have the iPhone SE.
They're both great phones that manage to approximate the experience of using their bigger brothers for around £400. But which is better for gaming?
ScreenThere's no question which display is more conducive to an immersive gaming experience.
The iPhone SE still essentially uses the same kind of 4.7-inch 1334 × 750 IPS LCD display as the six-year-old iPhone 6. It's a little brighter and more vibrant, sure. But things haven't moved on all that much.
Now consider the Nord, with its 6.44-inch 2400 x 1080 AMOLED display. It's much bigger, sharper, and more vibrant. What's more, with a refresh rate of 90Hz, it updates 50% faster than the iPhone SE screen.
When it comes to games, or any other use case for that matter, the OnePlus Nord screen wins out over the iPhone SE. There's more space for your fingers to go, more space for pixels to shine, more colours... just more of everything good.
Winner: OnePlus Nord
Performance OnePlus Nord vs iPhone SEAfter a bit of a pasting in the display department, it's the turn of the iPhone SE to hand out a hiding of its own.
Its A13 Bionic CPU is the very same chip that powers the £1,149 iPhone 11 Pro Max, albeit in a downclocked format, and with less RAM to back it up. That would be enough to compete with most Android flagships on performance, let alone mid-rangers like the OnePlus Nord.
Not that the Nord disgraces itself. The Snapdragon 765G at the heart of it is a mid-range chip that's been tuned for better gaming performance. Sure enough, it runs games very well. PUBG runs fluidly on its middle-of-the-range default settings (the same as the SE, incidentally). Slick 2D fare like Dead Cells also runs well on the Nord.
But the iPhone SE simply runs games better. Take that extra headroom and combine it with Apple's famed legacy support, and it's likely to be running games well for many years to come. We can't quite vouch for the Nord with the same kind of confidence.
Winner: iPhone SE
OnePlus Nord vs iPhone SE BatteryIt's not just the iPhone SE's screen that belongs to a previous era - it's the phone's entire approach to design.
That's evident in a teeny-tiny 1,624 mAh battery, which is considerably less than half the size of the 4,115 mAh OnePlus Nord battery. Size isn't everything, of course, and the iPhone SE benefits from a more efficient CPU, a less power-hungry display, and Apple's famously power-sipping software.
Both phones will get you through a day of usage, but the OnePlus Nord won't make you sweat quite as much in our experience.
And when it comes to hitting the games hard, the OnePlus Nord rules. After 10 minutes of PUBG Mobile, with the screen brightness ramped up to the max on both phones, the Nord had lost half as much of its charge as the iPhone.
Winner: OnePlus Nord
GamesSo far we've talked all about the hardware involved with both phones, but we've only touched upon the most important part - the games.
All hardware considerations aside, iOS and the App Store provide a better gaming platform than Android and the Google Play Store. iOS plays host to more of the best games, which tend to be available there sooner (often exclusively), and in a generally better-optimised state.
Android has made up loads of ground in this regard over recent years, and you can be sure that many if not most of the big releases will see there way to Google's platform eventually. Simultaneous iOS/Android releases are way more common than they used to be too.
But it continues to lag behind its big rival, and a general reluctance to spend money on apps from many Android users, not to mention a continuing piracy problem, mean that few developers treat Android as their lead platform.
Apple Arcade is just the cherry on top - a subscription service filled with exclusive, high-quality games made specifically for Apple. But it's a mighty tasty cherry that Android doesn't have (no, Play Pass doesn't count).
Winner: iPhone SE
Overall winnerWe make that two category wins each. So, in this fight between the OnePlus Nord and the iPhone SE, is it a draw?
Not quite. While both make for brilliant-value gaming machines, not to mention excellent phones in general, we have to consider the importance of each category.
And the iPhone SE's combination of blistering performance and - most importantly - a deeper well of gaming goodness from which to draw - makes it the winner in our books.
There's a lot to be said for the Nord's way, way better screen and superior stamina. But if you have £400 to spend on a phone, and you want guaranteed access to the best mobile games around for the next several years, Apple has the ideal phone for you.