Home Mobile devices OPPO R9s – get far more than you pay for (review)

OPPO R9s – get far more than you pay for (review)

OPPO’s new 5.5” AMOLED R9s Android smartphone offers far more than its mid-range price indicates and its quality and performance place it way ahead of its class.

The OPPO R9s is a new $598, 5.5” that could easily be sold for a few hundred dollars more – but then I said that about the OPPO R9 and R9 Plus, not to mention its far lower cost F1s at $318. But OPPO is not just about value – it is how it works, how it performs, how long it will last, and what support structure is in place.

OPPO is a name you will be hearing much more about in Australia. Over the past two years its invasion of the Australian smartphone market has been gathering momentum (it has conquered China already) and while you could resist it may be futile and you could buy a much worse phone.

Michael Tran, executive director of OPPO Australia, said that Australia was both a tough market, but one with a big thirst for new technology. If OPPO can make it here (and it has opened its own warehouse and office) then it can make it in any Western market.

Out of the Box

OPPO R9s black backOPPO has nailed the art of packaging – it is beautifully presented in a solid, elegant, Apple standard, cream box. There is a certain expectation that this is not your average smartphone.

The box includes a VOOC fast charger and micro-USB cable, a set of premium buds, a clear bumper cover (cases are becoming easier to get) and it has thoughtfully applied a screen protector as well.

I received the new black satin finish colour that makes it look far less like an iPhone 7 Plus copy. At last, OPPO is developing a style that is its own with the “six-string” antenna system that looks so much better than two imposing white antenna lines on the back.

This is a very good looking, slim, almost minimalist design that looks like a flagship.

Technical specs: OPPO R9s (Australian website)

  • Screen: 5.5” AMOLED, 1920 x 1080, 401ppi, 73.4% screen to body ratio, Gorilla Glass 5, 1.66mm narrow side bezel, pre-applied screen protector.
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon eight-core, 625, 2GHz.
  • RAM/Storage: 4GB RAM, 64GB storage, MicroSD support.
  • Camera rear: 16MP. f/1.7, 1.12µm pixel, auto HDR, Dual PDAF (phase detection auto-focus like the Samsung GS7), oversized 1/2.8” Sony IMX389 “dual pixel” sensor, 4K @30 fps video with EIS, Ultra HD mode (combines 4 shots to 50MP image).
  • Camera front: 16MP, 78.2°, f/2.0, 1µm pixel, auto HDR, Beautify 4.0, oversized 1/3.1” sensor, HD recording, screen flash, panorama mood for 120° stitched photo, voice-activated shutter.
  • Battery: 3010mAh with OPPO VOOC 5V, 4A ultra-fast charge, 74-hour endurance.
  • Fingerprint: new solid state reader with “slight touch” technology under a hydrophobic water-resistant membrane. Up to five different fingerprints to launch different apps. The backlit App Switcher and back “buttons” are part of the lower bezel giving maximum screen usage.
  • Six-string antenna (2 x 3 fine antennae strings operates on six frequency ranges).
  • Android Marshmallow 6.0 and ColourOS 3.0 lightweight user interface overlay.
  • Other: Wi-Fi AC, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, Micro-USB with OTG.
  • LTE: Cat 6. Bands 1/3/5/7/8/20/28/38/39/40/41, VoLTE.
  • Size: 153 x 74.3 x 6.58 mm x 147g (The 5.5” iPhone 7 Plus is 158.2 X 77.9 X 7.3 mm and 188g).
  • Colours: Gold and Black.
  • What’s missing: NFC, OIS on rear camera, IP rating, wireless charging.

Performance

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 is one of the latest mid-range system-on-a-chip (SoC) that sits one level under the current 8XX series flagship processors. The chip features:

  • 8 x ARM Cortex A53 cores and Adreno 506 GPU – this uses a straight 8 core, not BigLittle and delivers power saving rather than raw performance.
  • X9 LTE modem for Cat 13 uplink, 2 x 20MHz carrier download/upload aggregation for 300/150Mbps data speeds, VoLTE.
  • 2 x image sensor processors for up to 4K @30fps and in this case a composite 50MP still image.
  • Native H.264 and H.265 video processing.
  • Fluence HD noise cancellation and noise cancellation.
  • Bluetooth 4.1, USB 3.0, OTG, GPS, Dual sim, Wi-Fi AC dual band, MU-MOMO.

The SoC was chosen, along with the HD AMOLED screen, for battery life matched to performance, battery life and advanced camera processing. It is no powerhouse like the 8XX series but in two weeks of testing it never lagged or stuttered.

In tests, its raw and video performance were above Moto G4 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy J7. It is commensurate with other 625 processors.

Out of the box, it has 2.4GB of the 4GB memory available and 52GB of the 64GB storage.

The screen

It’s a Samsung made, Diamond Pentile, 1920 x 1080, 401ppi, AMOLED covered in the latest Gorilla Glass 5.

In tests besides the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (4K), Sony XZ (IPS), LG G5 (IPS) and iPhone 7 Plus (IPS) it was second to the GS7. Given my predilection for AMOLED and its colour and daylight readability, I put it ahead of the IPS screens by quite a margin. Given that the iPhone 7 Plus has a contrast ratio of 1362 versus 12,844 for the R9s you can see why.

Colour accuracy is good and even although it lacks Chroma adjustment. It has blue light protection at night to reduce the effects of shortwave blue light.

It is a very good HD display that won’t tax the battery.

Battery

There is a 3010mAh battery that with VOOC charged to over 50% from empty in under 30 minutes. Unlike other fast charging systems, OPPO simply split the battery into two (parallel) and deliver 2A to each (it uses a 4A, 20W charger). It is safe, does not overheat and is quick. It also can use a standard USB charger.

It does not have wireless charging, a feature found on very few flagships.

ColourOS 3.0 also has some smarts and will kill background tasks — you can selectively enable this — and in all, it has a 74-hour endurance rating that makes it the absolute mid-range class leader.

Rear camera

On paper, it has everything to take good shots in most conditions and it lives up to that. It has a 16MP sensor, uses a Dual Phase autofocus (like the GS7), a bright f/1.7 lens, auto-HDR and more. It still has the Apple camera bump and placement (top left) that I dislike as it is too easy to put your fingers over it – but if Apple can get away with it then why not?

It lacks “big” pixels and has no optical image stabilisation (it has electronic image stabilisation – EIS - for video).

All tests were with settings to auto – idiot proof and it produced some of the best, clear, sharp images under typical lighting conditions.

Daylight, no flash. The 16MP sensor and f/1.7 lens are amazing capturing great details and auto-HDR really fills in the shadows and eliminates glare spots. It is as good as, if not better than any flagship camera with lesser MP.

Daylight, low light dusk. The 16MP sensor and f/1.7 lens captures every bit of luminance and works well with auto-HDR to give great shots. But the lack of OIS means you need to hold the camera still or risk blurry shots as automatic exposure times will increase.

Indoors, good light, no flash. The 16MP sensor and f/1.7 lens work well and produce some of the best indoor shots I have seen.

Indoors, flash. The camera captures all available light but the single LED flash could be stronger and gives a slight yellow cast. If you use a tripod and have a still subject, you will achieve good results. If you have a bunch of moving kids forget anything but selfies – seriously use the selfie camera for tight, moving kid shots. The Samsung GS7 is still the undisputed winner here.

Panorama. 2500 pixel tall, very detailed, very high res, and great stitching – take it to the Grand Canyon for the vista.

Ultra-HD mode. It will shoot four images and overlay them to produce, in theory, a 50MP image.

Video: it will shoot 4K @30fps but with a very narrow field of view. It shines in 1080p @30fps creating files about 30% of the former size.

Selfie. The 16MP, f/2.0 with fill flash, autofocus, OIS and Beautify 4.0 meant very good selfie shots.

Camera summary: It is an A$598 smartphone with a 16MP camera that in most cases beat phones costing twice as much. Excellent.

ColourOS

Since I started reviewing OPPO handsets in 2014 I have tolerated the ColourOS. A factory visit in 2015 confirmed that it is what the home market wants – bright colours, icons and more. But it has evolved to version 3.x and I now quite like it – I can see where it adds value over stock Android.

My son uses an R9 Plus and I have other friends using older R7s. In comparison, the new ColourOS is faster, has better battery management, has a cleaner look, and some good security features. It’s apps like Phone, Mail, Calendar and Contacts work well and add some value to Google apps that are provided anyway.

Home key/Fingerprint reader

You can enrol up to five fingerprints (different fingers and different actions) or family members. The new home/fingerprint button is solid state – that is no moving parts. The button is more for show and provides a little haptic feedback to indicate you pressed it.

It is very fast, almost 100% accurate, and can also be used to encrypt files.

Telephone/audio

Easy to use phone app – either keypad or contacts with a log of calls. It gets caller ID from Google or its own Contacts.

Callers had no issues hearing me. There is a single bottom firing speaker and a noise cancelling mic. Handsfree was excellent – loud ringtones and good voice.

Music from the speaker was tinny but the audio output via Bluetooth or 3.5mm headphone jack was excellent.

Pros

  • Delightful 5.5”, HD, AMOLED screen in Gorilla Glass 5
  • 4GB RAM and 64GB storage
  • Full metal jacket – a solid, strong and attractive “iPhone-esque) case
  • 16 MP front and rear cameras produce well above average shots and PDAF is very fast
  • VOOC fast charge is safe and fast, great battery life
  • Fingerprint recognition and multiple fingerprint enrolment
  • Specifications usually higher than others in the mid-range – more bang for buck

Cons

  • No IP rating, wireless charging or NFC

Conclusions

If you remember the price of A$598 first you will compare it to phone costing twice as much and apart from some raw horsepower under the bonnet it does everything a flagship does.

I prefer the black over the white – it loses that iPhone clone look and it is class leading.

As a mid-range phone, it is a 9.5 out of 10 and as a flagship, it would be a credible 7.5 out of 10.

Available

JB Hi-Fi, Officeworks, Woolworths Mobile, Optus, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone.

OPPO R9s header1

 

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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!