Watch out Apple and Samsung, Oppo is in the building, and is aggressively entering the NZ market with a premium device at a nice price. PAT PILCHER reviews its merits.
Oppo has long been a brand that savvy AV addicts have known about and admired, but beyond that they’re still an unknown entity for most New Zealanders. Oppo are launching their smartphone range, and I was lucky enough to get some hands-on time with the R9s.
Unboxing the first Oppo smartphone available to NZers, I was a tad cynical. The company’s earlier model, the R9, had built up a solid following by virtue of its great specs and decent bang for buck, but was the R9s just a warmed-over version of last year’s model with an ‘s’ tacked on by a lazy marketing exec seeking to make their sales targets for 2017?
The Oppo R9s resembles the love child of an iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7. That said, that’s an attractive combo. It feels supermodel thin at a mere 6.6mm, and looks aside, the slimline build also makes it very pocketable.
The phone’s eye candy looks gets helped along by an all alloy body. It sports curvy chamfered edges and a roomy, vivid 5.5-inch screen encased in Gorilla glass 5. I’d usually say that an Apple/Samsung mashup is the stuff of nightmares, but Oppo have taken the best bits from both and made them into something that is very comfy to use.
While the above iPhone and Galaxy comparisons are inevitable, the R9s sometimes comes out better in the wash than both.
The antenna bands on the rear of the R9s are a typical example. Where the iPhone 6 has several chunky bands that mar its smooth rump, Oppo has three fine lines. [But does it have any holes? Salacious Ed]. It’s a cleaner, subtler look.
Then there’s the lozenge shaped home button on its front. It looks almost identical to the one on a Galaxy, but like an iPhone 7, it is instead a solid-state fingerprint sensor/home-button.
Even though you’ll want to buy a case for the R9s, it is still a tough wee beastie. The review unit lived in my jacket pocket along with coins and keys, and its Gorilla Glass 5 front didn’t scratch at all. That said, I’d still buy a case.
Oppo opted for a 1080p AMOLED display, and this is a good choice as it’s battery friendly and dishes up a peeper-pleasing 401ppi, which is pretty much equal to the iPhone 7 Plus.
If selfies are your thing, then the R9s may be the smartphone you’re looking for. Both front and rear cameras use 16MP sensors, while its rear camera has dual phase detect auto-focussing like that used with the S7 Galaxy Edge. In non-techie speak, this translates into rapid and accurate focussing.
Oppo have customised Android 6.0, and re-named it Colour OS, which is a clean looking makeover. They also win points for keeping the R9s shovel-ware free. They have also engineered the hardware and OS to wring an improbable amount of battery life out of the phone.
By default, Colour OS is pretty aggressive when it comes to power management, but it will suspend app activity if apps in the background are consuming too much power. In use, this is great for battery life but is also an annoyance for apps that need to run, but thank goodness, it’s also tweakable. Oppo have also baked in a Low Power Mode, which springs into action when battery life goes below a certain threshold. Both mobile and Wi-Fi connections get disabled, but it translates into two and a bit days’ use.
Speaking of battery life, the R9s also packs what Oppo call VOOC rapid charging, where getting to a full charge takes a mere 45 minutes rather than several hours, and throwing the R9s into the charger for 20 in the morning gave me 59 percent charge before I headed out the door.
Thanks to its high-end build quality and large display, the R9s feels like a flagship device. Specs-wise it’s more of a top of the line mid-range device, in that it packs a Snapdragon 625 CPU and 4GB RAM along with 64GB of storage, which is expandable via a dual SIM tray which can take a microSD card instead of a second SIM. The dual SIM is an added bonus that’ll appeal to anyone traveling overseas. While overseas, purchasing a local prepaid SIM can save you a bundle, and with the dual SIM option, you get to keep your local number too. Calls and texts still pop up, but calls/texting and data are cheaper using the local SIM.
You know that a phone is good when you feel sad having to send the review unit back. This was definitely the case with the R9s, which stands on its own thanks to cameras that take great photos, solid battery life and VOOC fast charging. Considering its mere $699 sticker price, it also offers solid value.