Sunday, 10 May 2020 18:23

OPPO A91: premium features mean it is in a class of its own

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The OPPO A91. The OPPO A91. Supplied

The OPPO A91 is a good choice for the budget-minded, impatient user, offering as it does much superior hardware specs than cheaper models from the same manufacturer, while at the same time not calling for overspend.

At $499, it is not possible to call this a mid-range smartphone, given that at the top end of the scale one finds models from all brands in the $1500+ margin. Indeed, OPPO itself has a $1499 5G model which iTWire reviewed last year.

So where does one lump the A91? Perhaps as OPPO does, one can call it the best sub-$500 device! Not that there are many phones priced the same; one tends to see devices a little higher, or a little lower and therefore OPPO may have created a price niche for itself with this RRP.

But there is plenty of phone for the price, with the 2400x1080 AMOLED display, octa-core Mediatek MT6771V Helio P70 (12nm) processor and 8GB of memory; that last spec makes a great difference to the speed of operations. And there is 128GB of storage, with a slot for an additional 256GB SD if needed, and two nano-SIM slots.

dog

The only animal willing to sit for a portrait. Taken using the Portrait mode on the A91.

The device itself is sleek at 7.9mm and weighs just 172g. Like many OPPO models, it comes with headphones, which are more than just adequate, and a protective case. Like many people who buy a smartphone, I don't mind paying whatever the device costs, but one tends to go into Scrooge mode when peripherals have to be paid for.

The A91 has a decent battery at 4025mAH which is claimed to charge from flat to 10% in 5 minutes, to 35% in 20 minutes, and to 50% in 30 minutes. The charger uses 4A current at 5V, which is said to be safer. In practice, those claims largely held up.

But the meatier specs mean more demand on battery than its lower-specced cousins, and with medium to heavy use, I was able to use it for about a day and a half before requiring a fresh charge. Light use meant an interval of about three days before one had to charge the device.

mothers day spread

A spread for Mothers' Day.

While the charger has a USB C connector and the supplied headphones have a similar connector, there is an element of forethought displayed for the headphones, with a bog standard headphone jack also available.

The main camera has a 16MP front sensor and four rear sensors: 48MP, 8MP, 2Mp and 2MP. The photos are very good, though one who has used the same company's Reno 5G 10x Zoom would tend to moderate praise. While the coronavirus lockdown did not allow one to go out in search of subjects, the images within this article would provide some idea of the range and accuracy of colour and detail.

The A91 has a fingerprint sensor and facial recognition, both of which work very fast. The only time the phone could not recognise my face was after a shower, when I picked it up before putting brush to hair. But it had no problem recognising me after I had shorn my locks completely!

lonely

Shopping centres look like haunted houses these days.

The NFC function works smoothly and one is only left wondering when OPPO — or rather its parent company, BBK Electronics — will set up its own pay service. For the moment, Google Pay works as it should – but the degree of trust one has in the chocolate factory is somewhat limited, given its tendency towards data slurping.

This being the third OPPO device that I have reviewed, it is possible to gain some degree of insight into the company's marketing tactics as well, seeing as how it has come from being a little-known brand to one that is now quite mainstream and spoken of in the same breath as much bigger competitors.

OPPO has models in all segments of the market; BBK has cheaper devices (vivo) that aim at the lower end of the spectrum, and more sophisticated models (OnePlus) that take aim at the high-end markets. In the US, the OnePlus has now reached the stage where it is being sold on plans by both T-Mobile and Verizon – and it has reviewers swooning. And apart from that, BBK also has the iQoo brand which focuses on performance and gaming – and has the Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli as its brand ambassador!

rain lash

Rain makes parts of Melbourne look even more forlorn than they are.

The company reserves specific models for specific markets and the release of a model here or there appears to be carefully timed. With Huawei now being marginalised to some extent due to its blacklisting by the US — and hence Google — there is room for someone to take the lead.

All 5G phones that have hit the market — there are three in Australia, from Samsung, LG and OPPO — are built to use the non-standalone version of 5G NR, which is built on top of existing legacy LTE networks, and was finalised in December 2017.

shades of inside

Life inside does tend to get somewhat depressing.

But every phone manufacturer is aiming for takeoff when the 5G market matures and it comes time to release models that take advantage of the standalone 5G New Radio specs that will have much less latency.

That will be the time when some will fall by the way and others will establish themselves as market leaders. At a conservative estimate, it will not be before mid-2022.

The A91 has been on sale since early April and retails for $499; it is available from JB HiFi, Officeworks, Amazon, MobileCiti, Woolworths Mobile and Vodafone.

SPECS

Body Dimensions 160.2 x 73.3 x 7.9 mm (6.31 x 2.89 x 0.31 in)

Weight 172 g (6.07 oz)

Build Glass front (Gorilla Glass 5), plastic back, plastic frame

SIM Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)

Display Type AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors

Size 6.4 inches, 100.4 cm2 (~90.7% screen-to-body ratio)

Resolution 1080 x 2400 pixels, 20:9 ratio (~408 ppi density)

Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 5 430 nits typ. brightness (advertised)

OS Android 9.0 (Pie); ColorOS 6.1

Chipset Mediatek MT6771V Helio P70 (12nm)

CPU Octa-core (4x2.1 GHz Cortex-A73 & 4x2.0 GHz Cortex-A53)

GPU Mali-G72 MP3

Memory Card slot microSDXC (dedicated slot)

Internal 128GB 8GB RAM UFS 2.1

Main Camera Quad 48 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/2.0", 0.8µm, PDAF 8 MP, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide), 1/4.0", 1.12µm 2 MP B/W, f/2.4, 1/5.0", 1.75µm 2 MP, f/2.4, (depth)

Features LED flash, HDR, panorama

Video 1080p@30fps, gyro-EIS

Selfie camera Single 16 MP, f/2.0, 26mm (wide), 1/3.1", 1.0µm

Features HDR

Video 1080p@30fps

Sound Loudspeaker Yes

3.5mm jack Yes

Comms WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot

Bluetooth 4.2, A2DP, LE

GPS Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS

Radio FM radio

USB 2.0, Type-C 1.0 reversible connector, USB On-The-Go

Features Sensors Fingerprint (under display, optical), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass

Battery Non-removable Li-Po 4025 mAh battery

Charging Fast charging 20W, 50% in 30 min (advertised) VOOC 3.0

Colours Lightning Black, Blazing Blue

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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