Getting up early, drinking warm water, putting on shoes, and taking a walk are some of the “good” things I’ve started practicing during the pandemic. Whether I’m traveling or at home, I never miss a morning walk. Mornings are also the time I put on my earbuds to listen to music and podcasts or do guided meditations. The OnePlus Nord Buds CE I’m currently reviewing are perfect for this routine. They are a set of true wireless earbuds priced under Rs 3,000. But does the low price mean less-than-stellar audio quality and an odd fit, or are they just as good as a premium TWS? Here’s everything you need to know about the Nord Buds CE, including pros and cons.
Design and Fit
At first glance, the Buds CE look like a remake of the second-generation AirPods, but there are some design differences. Unlike the AirPods, which have longer and thicker stems, the Buds CE have shorter stems. They don’t completely clog your ear canal like the AirPods 2 or newer AirPods 3. There’s one downside to this design: the lack of a replaceable silicone pad. That means you have to put the buds in your ears, which isn’t great for everyone. In my case, however, they are fairly comfortable and stay in place when I walk or sit at my desk all day. They’re fine for light exercise, but I wouldn’t recommend using them for running as they’ll keep falling out of your ears. I still prefer the OnePlus Buds Pro for longer music listening time because they are better suited. The Buds CE are water and sweat resistant and have an IPX4 rating, which means they can be used for training. Just don’t wear them for bathing or swimming.
I’m no audio expert, but these true wireless earbuds sound good to me. Audio quality is actually acceptable for the price. During my testing, the Buds CE stayed clear no matter what type of music I listened to. The sound is crisp and clear. 13.4mm titanium drivers improve bass and reduce high frequency distortion at top volumes. Listening to Rekha Bhardwaj’s Phir Le Aya Dil, the vocals and instruments seem surprisingly balanced. Often, listening to classical music and podcasts on cheap wireless earbuds sounds awful. Things are different here. But yeah, keep your expectations up, as these aren’t the audio quality of Sony’s LinkBuds or AirPods Pro.
In addition to listening to music, I had a satisfying experience using the Buds CE to answer calls. I make and receive a lot of calls, and devices like these true wireless earbuds come in handy when you’re on the go. Microphone performance is okay, but they struggle to remove background noise. But then again, I didn’t expect the wireless earbuds to cost just Rs 2,299 for ANC. However, using the Buds CE to make phone calls or join video calls works well indoors and in quiet environments. You can actually get good results in public places like parks because where I live it’s relatively quiet.
The Buds CE come in an egg-shaped charging case with a hinged lid. The earbuds feel very secure in their case. The case fits nicely in a pocket and has a white shiny plastic finish that picks up light scratches quickly. Once you put these earbuds in the charging case, they start charging automatically. It can be charged via the USB-C cable in the box. OnePlus claims a 4.5-hour battery per charge, and the case can store an additional 20 hours of juice. A 10-minute quick charge gives you 81 extra minutes of listening time, which comes in handy when you’re running late for work and need to take an important call.
Buds CE setup is painless. I unpacked the new wireless earbuds, turned on the Bluetooth connection on the iPhone, opened the case cover, and the earbuds paired with my phone within seconds. The Buds CE work best with OnePlus phones or Android smartphones, but I’ve also used them with my MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini with no issues. There’s a HeyMelody app (iOS/Android) that not only simplifies pairing with your phone, but also lets you customize your listening experience. Unfortunately, as I discovered during testing, the Nord Buds CE wireless earbuds are not yet supported by the app on the iPhone.
Should you buy the new Nord Buds CE?
The idea behind the Buds CE isn’t to compete with premium wireless earbuds, and that’s pretty clear when it comes to performance. Still, the Nord Buds CE stand out in the budget true wireless earbuds segment thanks to their high overall quality, great battery life, and improved sound. The OnePlus brand is also an important factor in attracting consumers to buy the Buds CE. As a user, features like ANC or wireless charging matter less to me. Instead, I’ve been looking for a TWS that sounds good, has great battery life, looks good, and is compact enough to easily fit in my tracksuit pants or jeans pocket when I’m out and about.