Wednesday, 01 June 2016 10:56

OPPO R9 – a prestige phone without the pricetag (review)

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OPPO is making waves in Australia providing high-end Android smartphones at mid-market prices.

It has also helped that OPPO has taken the fourth spot in global smartphone market share. In Australia it has teamed up with electronics retailer JB Hi-Fi and its phones are offered by Optus stores for outright purchase or on a plan.

Its latest handset — the R9  continues its great quality and feature including a great price heritage. It is an interesting phone – not the least of which is a 16MP front selfie camera. Yes, that is 16MP – not 2, 5, or 8MP as are in most other brands handsets.

The OPPO R9 (also called F1 Plus in some markets) is a $599 smartphone that has specifications that punch well above its weight.

These include:

  • Screen: 5.5”, 1920 x 1080, AMOLED, 400ppi, 73.9% screen to body (almost bezel-less), covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 4. It has support for Gloved and Wet Touch Input and has a screen protector
  • Memory: 4/64GB with microSD to 128GB
  • Processor: Octa-core MediaTek MT6755, 8 x 2.0Ghz, Mali-T860MP2 GPU
  • Camera Rear: 13MP f/2.2, 1/3.1” sensor, phase detection focus, LED flash, Ultra HD (51MP images), Various Filters, GIF Animation, HDR, Double Exposure, Expert Mode, Panorama, Beauty, Time Lapse
  • Camera Front: 16MP f/2.0 isocell front – selfie camera with fill light from screen
  • Battery: 2850 mAh non-removable battery, patented VOOC fast charge
  • Security: Fingerprint reader home key
  • SIM: Dual Sim or SIM and SD
  • Dimensions/Weight: 151.8 x 74.3 x 6.6 x 145g
  • LTE: Cat 6 (300/50Mbps) 2 x 20 carrier aggregation, FDD-LTE: 1/3/5/7/8/28 TD-LTE: 38/39/40/41
  • Sensors etc.: Wi-Fi N Dual Band, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, G-sensor, e-compass, light/proximity sensor
  • Missing: NFC, Wi-Fi AC

Out of the box – immaculate

A very nice retail box. Contains the phone, quality buds/mic, VOOC charger, green ‘special’ VOCC USB-A to micro-USB cable, and plastic buffer case.

VOOC capability requires this charger and cable, but you can use any others for standard charging.

It has an exceptionally easy and fast Android set-up. It is easy to avoid Google, and there are no nag screens afterwards.

Once set up, its fingerprint security function is one of the fastest and most accurate I have used.

First impressions: It’s a nice phone – it could almost be an iPhone except for the rectangular, oval home key (instead of a round one). Its rear camera is in the upper left  just like the iPhone. In fact, I got sick of saying it is not iPhone 6S Plus but an OPPOtunity. There is no branding on the front – and a tasteful OPPO logo engraved on the back.

It is extremely well made, metal clad, aluminium body with iPhone’s rose gold colour to boot. A build quality normally found on flagships.

Performance is more than adequate – the 2.0GHz eight-core handles almost everything and it's pretty much on par with the older Samsung Galaxy S5 for GeekBench 3 performance. It is within a whisker of the LG G4. Video performance is OK – it is not a gamer's phone.

Screen – hmmm, AMOLED for this price

AMOLED is great – good blacks, crisp whites and reasonable, not great sunlight readability. Brightness and image quality are great – better than LED/LCD but the Samsung S7 Edge is twice as bright.

Telephone/sound

Good clean Colour OS interface, fast connect, good reception and overall I was very happy with the quality. The two mics – one top and one bottom – are great.

It has a single mono speaker – fine for in call – not for music (buds/mic supplied.) I found it a tad soft for hands-free use

UX – still a bit mixed and iOS like

Colour OS 3.x has been thinned down, but it is getting more Apple iOS-like. It is flatter and a little more vibrant than pure Android. The Chinese market loves it, but the Australian market prefers pure Android. Perhaps we will see OPPO’s Project Spectrum for the R9 soon.

My criticism is that it still sits over Android 5.1, and I would expect a new model to have Android Marshmallow 6.x – that needs to be addressed and I am confident we will see an upgrade soon.

Battery – Non-removable

If Apple et al. can get away with a fixed battery so can OPPO. It allows the R9 to be a svelte 6.6mm thin, and that is apparently what the market wants.

It gives a full day – let’s say 18-24 hours on a full charge under normal use. On a full day with GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and lots of work it lasts for just over 12 hours.

But the real winner is VOOC fast charge – 30 minutes for 70% and a full charge in under an hour. You can get a VOOC car charger as well.

The secret to VOOC is that the battery is split in two, with each part getting its own charging board and power channel. This speeds up charging immensely – VOOC is the most efficient fast charging solution out there.

Camera rear

I have to say that the R9 confuses me – the front selfie camera is a 16MP, f/2.0, ISOCELL and it's better than the rear camera at 13MP and f/2.2. Having said that the rear camera performs well – remember that this is a $599 product and you would have to spend twice that to get better.

The default Colour OS camera app is simple – dumbed down may be a better way to describe it. It has HDR, Flash, time lapse, video, beauty and panorama settings. But it also has an expert mode that allows for fine adjustment to white balance, exposure, ISO, shutter speed, focus and RAW modes.

In testing:

Daylight – HRD on/off. Great quality and very fast auto-focus. Produced accurate colours, crisp definition and good detail. However, it made little difference with and without HDR, but autofocus slowed a little.

Low light Flash/no flash with HDR. You can’t have flash and HDR enabled – one or the other. F/2.2 is a long way from the sub F/2.0 cameras, and it shows in low light. The single LED flash produces adequate detail for a happy snap — say a metre or so away  but that’s about it. HDR is no substitute for no flash unless there is a high level of light.

Video recording is OK at 1080p – better at 720p. No 4K and low light is not good. Dual mics are very effective at sound capture.

Camera front

16MP and beauty mode – works for me. 16MP can show every "pore" so the beauty mode is used to soften the photo, an electronic way to do what actress Joan Collins used to say to photographers and their physical lenses to soften the photo: "just use Vaseline boys". But it has no HDR and lacks a wide angle lens – for two people or "wefies" as they are known.

It has selfie screen illuminate – not a flash, but a gentler fill flash for us double chin types.

Conclusion

I want to compare this to an iPhone at around twice the price but it is not – it is a bargain whereas the iPhone 6S Plus is not.

It’s a $599, very well built, premium handset from a company that has a good track record and, importantly, offices and support in Australia. It’s the ideal phone for most of us when money is too hard to come by.

In its class  mid-market  it’s a class leader for two reasons. First, it offers a lot of premium features found on more expensive phones – AMOLED, 4GB RAM, eight-core processor and a decent rear camera.

Second, OPPO is "local" and is committed to great support should you need it.

It receives iTWire’s mid-market recommendation for a great quality phone from a good company.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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