PAT PILCHER is mighty impressed with a mid-price smartphone that battles it out with the top echelon.
This crossed my mind as I unboxed Oppo’s latest mid-range phone, the A77, which sells for a pocket pleasing $529. Based on my experience with the Oppo R9s phone, I wondered if they’d crafted another a giant killer. Has Oppo pulled yet another rabbit out of the metaphorical smartphone hat?
The A77 feels more flagship than affordable. There’s no creaky plastic here, and instead it’s hewn out of Alloy and glass. Both get used to good effect and give the A77 an upmarket look and feel.
Like earlier Oppo smartphones, the A77 is very iPhone-like, with its rounded corners, chamfered edges, and its small, round rear camera. This isn’t a bad thing, as the A77 costs a fraction of what you’d cough up for an iPhone. Price aside, about the only things missing are the Apple logo and a round front home button.
Extra brownie points should go to Oppo for bundling a silicon case in the box with the A77. It’s a simple case that doesn’t add bulk. As it’s transparent, it also doesn’t detract from the A77’s eye- catching design.
Oppo have been talking up the camera functionality of their phones for some time, and it’s evident with the A77. The use of Sony image sensors plus clever image processing ensures colours look natural. Captured images are also detailed and sharp, while the use of Phase Detection makes for a fast and accurate autofocus. This will be a boon for parents or pet owners looking to capture impromptu action shots.
The A77 is also aimed at the selfie crowd. Unlike most phones, its front camera uses a 16MP image sensor, while the rear shooter is a lower spec 13MP sensor. The camera app is also well featured. Given the emphasis on selfies, the inclusion of a Beautify mode wasn’t a huge surprise. It smoothed out skin and hid wrinkles, which allowed me to change focus after shooting. There is only so much magic that the A77 could work with my ugly mug, but in use, it did work well. Its front wide-angle lens also proved ideal for snapping group shots.
All told, the A77 seems to have a lot in common with that ‘80s icon, the mullet. There’s a party at the front with its secondary shooter, which is capable of lots of shooting tricks. Around the back it is all business. The primary 13MP shooter uses MediaTek silicon to carry off a bunch of nifty features, my favourite of which is that it’ll take several images and choose the best. There’s also an Anti-shake feature, in the form of electronic image stabilisation. In use, it reduces the number of blurred images when testing and came into its own in low light conditions.
The rear camera also supports an Ultra-HD mode. This works by the A77 taking several shots and overlaying them to provide a 50MP image. It might sound gimmicky, but in use I was able to zoom in heaps before I hit any pixelisation. Last but by no means least, the rear camera uses a 1/3-inch sensor with 1.2 µm elements. These made for good low-light shooting. Not bad, considering its very reasonable $529 sticker price.
The A77 uses a Meditek MT6750T chipset, which consists of an octa-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 CPU. This gets coupled with a Mali-T860MP2 GPU, 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage, which is expandable to 256GB using a Micro SD Card. It might not be able to decode the human genome, but it helps make sure that the A77 boxes well above its spec.
Its display is a 5.5-inch 1080 HD (401ppi) LCD beastie, which does a decent job of delivering peeper pleasing on screen goodness. The screen gets protected by a slab of Gorilla Glass 5, which is something you’d find on more expensive phone hardware. Combined with the bundled silicon case, the A77 feels durable, even if it isn’t waterproofed.
Another particularly nifty feature with the A77 is its Dual 4G SIM configuration, which means that personal and work SIM cards can be in the same phone. This allows you to de-clutter pockets and purses, and allows you to buy a local SIM when travelling and still receive incoming texts/calls on your NZ SIM. Dual SIM phones are newish, but their sheer versatility will see them being in big demand.
While the A77’s camera impressed, I was also taken with its battery. They’re a rarely discussed smartphone spec, but one the more crucial components of a smartphone. The A77’s 3200 mAh battery gave me a whopping two-and-a-half days of use before demanding quality time with a charger. Not too shabby at all.
As nice as a Stellar battery is, it’s next to useless if the phone must spend hours connected to a charger. Oppo have this covered with their VOOC fast charger. With it I could get the A77 charged to almost 75 per cent in 30 minutes. For getting enough juice into the phone before rushing out the door, VOOC is the business.
The only real negative I found with the A77 is the fact that it runs Android Marshmallow 6.0, when Nougat 7.0 is the norm. Oppo’s Colour OS overlay does however give Android an intuitive UI. It’ll be familiar to IOS refugees, and intuitive for even the most phone phobic users.
The A77 is a classic Oppo device. It feels like a million bucks, yet it costs $529. Oppo has balanced a solid mix of features, specs and price. This makes the A77 a good option for someone looking for high-end phone functionality on a budget. It might not be water proof, it might not have wireless charging, but it is an excellent smartphone.