OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition hands-on: It’s time to level up

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OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN EditionSource: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central

OnePlus is very different to what it used to be two years ago. For one thing, it now sells phones in the mid-range and budget categories, and it has shifted to ColorOS as the default software on its devices. That said, the bet on the Nord series has paid off handsomely, with the Chinese manufacturer seeing a huge uptick in sales over the last 18 months.

The Nord 2 launched earlier this year and continues to be one of the best mid-range phones you can buy, and it is getting just a little bit more interesting. OnePlus has partnered with Bandai Namco over the OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition, and while this isn’t the manufacturer’s first limited-edition phone by any measure, it is its most ambitious to date.

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OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN EditionSource: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central

The Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition is clearly aimed at an audience that grew up in the ’80s and ’90s on arcade games, and what makes it stand out is the attention to detail that OnePlus lavished on the device. Let’s start with the design, because there is a lot to talk about here. The Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition has a glass back with a plastic mid-frame — just like the standard Nord 2 — but it now features a silver finish that includes PAC-MAN facing a grid of pellets and the OnePlus logo at the bottom.

The rear design immediately makes the Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition stand out, and the fact that the pellets are reflective means the phone is sure to turn heads. There are other design flourishes elsewhere; the alert slider is now decked out in a pale blue finish, and you get a OnePlus x PAC-MAN moniker next to the lenses.

But the Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition’s pièce de résistance is hidden in plain sight. While the back has a distinct design and the silver finish looks great during the day, there’s a fluorescent design underneath the glass panel that glows in the dark. Turn off the lights, and you’ll find a neon maze that pays homage to PAC-MAN.

OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN EditionSource: Alex Dobie / Android Central

That maze also features the Nord moniker and OnePlus logo, and it looks fantastic; you won’t find anything like this on another phone today. OnePlus is at its best when coming up with unique designs, and it has definitely managed to deliver on that front here.

The Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition isn’t missing out when it comes to the extras. The packaging is silver, and features the same labyrinth as the one on the back of the phone. You also get a bundled case that looks quite good, and there’s a DIY phone holder made out of Lego that OnePlus is giving away as a redeemable gift with the device. I didn’t get a chance to look at the phone holder just yet, but if you’re interested in picking up the Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition, know that you’ll get a few goodies.

OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN EditionSource: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central

With the Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition, OnePlus isn’t just focusing on the design; it is also making a lot of modifications to the software. The phone runs OxygenOS 11.3 based on Android 11 out of the box — same as the standard Nord 2 — but the UI has been gamified. You can choose from eight unique backgrounds, there’s a custom loading screen and a new camera filter, custom notification tones and ringtone, system icons styled after retro games, and on the subject of games, PAC-MAN 256 is installed out of the box.

You’ll find a lot of Easter eggs throughout the interface, which plays into the gamification element that OnePlus is going for with this device. Your reward for finding these Easter eggs? Unique ringtones and a whole lot more. While OnePlus isn’t divulging all the Easter eggs; it did reveal a few: leave the phone plugged in for 256 minutes and you’ll unlock a few stickers. You also get additional content when you play the PAC-MAN 256 for 256 minutes, and there’s a challenge baked into the DIY phone holder.

In short, the customization extends to the software as well, and after using the phone for a week, it is the software that makes all the difference in conveying that this is a limited-edition phone. This level of customization was missing from the manufacturer’s earlier limited-edition devices — aside from a few exclusive backgrounds, the software wasn’t any different to vanilla OxygenOS. Now, because of the tweaks that were made to the interface, OnePlus says the phone will get updates a little later than the standard model, but it will follow the same cadence.

OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN EditionSource: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central

As for the rest of the hardware, it is unchanged from the standard model. That means you get a 6.43-inch 90Hz AMOLED screen, Dimensity 1200 with A78 and A55 cores, 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, 50MP camera at the back with an 8MP wide-angle and 2MP monochrome lens, 32MP front camera, and a 4500mAh battery with 65W fast charging.

OnePlus says it focused on three pillars to differentiate the Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition: the glow-in-the-dark back, the gamified UI, and the DIY phone holder. In doing so, it has managed to create a device that is definitely unique, and the fact that it doesn’t cost that much more than the standard version of the Nord 2 is the icing on the cake.

OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN EditionSource: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central

I’ve been fortunate enough to use all of OnePlus’s limited-edition phones to date. The OnePlus 5T Star Wars continues to be one of my favorites for its Sandstone White back, and I was intrigued by what the OnePlus 6 Avengers Edition had to offer as well. As a McLaren fan, I loved the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition for the design and the goodies in the box, and the OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition was more of the same.

But after using the Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition for a week, it’s clear that this phone is the best of the lot. You’re getting a great design with that glow-in-the-dark back, a ton of software extras, and the packaging is also unique. The Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition is sold with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and it is available for ₹37,999 ($512) in India, £499 in the UK ($673), and €529 ($612) in Europe. The standard 12GB/256GB Nord 2 costs ₹34,999 / £469 / €499, and given the customization on offer, you are getting a great bargain here.

If you’re looking to get your hands on a mid-range phone and want something that stands out, you won’t find anything better. On that note, if history is any indication, this phone is likely to sell out soon, so if you like what you see, now is the time to act. Like the regular Nord 2, OnePlus isn’t selling this phone in North America, but it is coming to all the markets where the standard model is available.

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