OPPO R9s In-Depth Review – The Camera Phone Just Got Better
- 4GB RAM and 64GB storage
- Smooth and Clean UI
- Excellent build quality
- Long-lasting battery
- Very slim
- 16-Megapixel front and back cameras
- Expandable storage
- 5.5-inch Full HD AMOLED
- Uncreative UI
- Uncreative body design
- Non-removable battery
- Smaller battery size
- No dedicated MicroSD slot
- Most expensive OPPO yet
The OPPO brand name has been reaching the stars lately. With news that OPPO has overtaken Huawei in being the #1 spot in China, they are allowed to lift their heads up a little bit. As you may have imagined though the Chinese market is not an easy market to penetrate, lest conquer. But with the brand new R9s (when we say new; it was launched in China in October 2016) that was launched just a month ago in Malaysia, OPPO hopes to conquer more than just the Chinese market.
The OPPO R9s is the Chinese giant’s latest flagship smartphone replacing the old OPPO F1s. Dubbed the ‘camera phone’ OPPO claims that this device comes with their best camera yet. With 16-megapixels on both the front and rear side of the device sticking true to their ‘camera phone’ claim is also upgraded internals that aims to challenge all the other flagships to date. The familiar aluminium body with glass top combination is a touch different compared to all the other flagships in its class and price range. With a proven track record as well, this device is set to become one hot selling device. Is it that ‘hot’ though? Read on and find out.
To begin with, we have to say that the OPPO R9s’ design and construction has a certain resemblance to a certain Cupertino brand that may be very familiar to probably every person out in the world (ahem, Apple, ahem, iPhone, ahem). While some (including yours truly, actually) may not like the design due to its similarities of a glass top and aluminium back, with striking similarity in camera and button placements to that other popular device; the similarities may not actually be a bad thing. The whole finish of the product can only be described as ‘high-quality’. Even high-quality feels like an understatement for a device that feels solid and properly put together.
The aluminium back is finished in matte, and it a comfort to hold; despite its ‘cold’ feel. The camera placement on the back of the device is, to us, and similar to the other device, very awkward. Without the included case, laid flat on the table, the device will rest on the edge of its slightly protruded camera lens, which means that your device will be slanted to one side, resting on one of the corners of the device. It will not lay flat as well so it will be sort of like a see-saw on two other corners. Without the proper OPPO branding and the differentiating antenna lines at the back though, it does look very similar to the other device.
Despite all of that though, it is a somewhat good-looking device. It is only offered in Gold and Rose Gold options. We had the Gold coloured device for our review and it does look good on camera. Then again, you cannot go wrong with the sort of recipe that OPPO employs on this device. Despite the uncanny similarity with the other device, the ‘carved’, indented antenna lines actually gives the device some of its own character. The aluminium body that wraps to the sides of the device is pleasantly curved at the edges to prevent an eyesore and a much-needed comfort zone, while completing the look of the device. Nothing much can be said about the front of the device though except that it is generic. The touch button looks like something of a trend following these days, but it is not like it does not work, it makes life sort of easier in the sense that you only need to put your finger on it to get to your home screen, or unlock your device with that particular fingerprint. But that home button, again looks like it has been lifted from other devices; hence generic.
This device sets you back (only in Malaysia, for this matter) MYR1,828. In anyway you look at it, the OPPO flagship is priced lower than anywhere in the other parts of the world. It is a flagship though. Or at least OPPO says it is.
For that money, you are getting something pretty mid-ranged. Even the SoC is made for a mid-range device. The size is not that of a mid-range though. It fits an AMOLED 5.5-inch 1080p Full HD display on its very slim 6.6mm body. The 16-megapixel front and rear camera performed well in plenty of conditions and even impresses us from time to time. Paired with almost a flagship staple 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, the device is silky smooth through its UI and even performs well under duress. You even get OPPO’s smart fast-charging for crying out loud.
The big question though is that whether MYR1,828 is money well spent.
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 (8 Cores)
Octa-core 2.0 GHz
Expandable with MicroSD (Max. 256GB)
|Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)||Adreno 506|
5.5-inch (~401 ppi)
1080p Full HD (1,080 x 1,920 pixels)
|Operating System||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with Color OS|
|Battery||Non-removeable 3,010mAh Li-Ion (with VOOC Fast Charging)|
|Connectivity||Dual Band Wi-Fi IEEE802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
3.5mm Audio Jack
Video recording at 4K (30fps)
Fingerprint (front mounted)
Corning Gorilla Glass 5
The OPPO R9s runs on OPPO’s proprietary Color OS that is slapped on top of the Android Marshmallow 6.0.1. The interface is pretty much what you expect from almost any other China manufacturer. You lose the app drawer as well in this case and you have an oversimplified User Interface (UI) on top. Your apps still can be organised by folders and of course you still get the option of using widgets on your home screen or home screens.
The UI is very straight forward in design and very simple to use. It works even for first time Android users, especially if they are coming from a differing, competing ecosystem. You can certainly call the UI familiar as well. The best part about this Color OS UI laid on top of the Marshmallow is its lighter load on the RAM. Since it is a simpler UI without app drawers, you do get a smooth and snappy interface that Marshmallow has always been known for. The app arrangements though can get a little on the unorganised side since you cannot actually arrange it by alphabetical order out of the box. Scrolling through the endless home screens and scanning through apps, in my opinion, can be quite annoying as well but that is why you organise your apps in drawers in the first place. It does not get any better from here.
The Color OS is clearly a very close copy or clone of a certain Californian manufacturer’s proprietary OS UI. It is almost practically identical in functions save for the widget ability. To access your notifications, you need only to drag the notification bar from on top the display, pretty much like usual Android. The quick access toggle though is accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, very similar to the other UI. It even looks very similar to the other with the exact same colour scheme. Though being similar to the other guy may not necessarily a bad thing per se, being identical is far from cool. Even the icon graphics are almost exactly the same.
Benchmarks are a way of telling how the device performs. A good score usually indicates high performing device in terms of raw processing power. In the case of OPPO R9s, the benchmark scores tells only half the story. Of course if you look at benchmarks, there is nothing to shout about with the R9s. The numbers from the R9s does not shout at all and is plenty average at best. It even under performs if you compared it to devices of yester-years for crying out loud.
Despite the mediocre scores you see below the OPPO R9s impresses in practice. The device performs daily tasks very well despite the mid-range processor. It does not heat up for no reason as well. Of course, with such scores from the benchmarks you cannot expect to push the OPPO flagship to too much of an abuse. But in practice, you would seldom need to anyway.
The brand new flagship device from OPPO packs quite a punch compared to the OPPO F1s it replaces. With the sort of fittings you see in the device, the asking price of MYR1,828 is no surprise at all. Being a flagship as well, you get a proper Full HD AMOLED display protected by the latest Corning Gorilla Glass 5.
The SoC that is fitted on the device is a Snapdragon 625; which is not really a flagship sort of processor if you really know your devices. The 2.0GHz headline figure on the octa-core processor does prove that this device is no slouch. It does not scream ‘high-performance’ though. Despite the mid-range processor type, this is so far OPPO’s best device to date in terms of hardware.
Call Quality and Connectivity
You get a slew of antennas that are pretty much standard in smartphones these days. To those looking for USB Type-C on this device though, you might be disappointed to find that this device still comes with MicroUSB v2.0. You are also stuck with Bluetooth 4.0 instead of the 4.2 LE that you see so much of these days. Do not get me wrong though, these things are still good to have. Like any good smartphone these days too you get 4G LTE, HSPA+, 3G, EDGE, and 2G connections. Those are the basics that you should be getting anyway.
The Dual-SIM feature makes a come back as with its popularity in the Malaysian market. You do have to keep in mind that you have to choose to either go Dual-SIM or single SIM with a MicroSD card inserted though. This device also supports VoLTE but we were not able to test it to that extent due to limitations of the carrier used. We were using Celcom to test the device while VoLTE is only available currently from Yes 4G.
Standard calls do sound loud and clear through the earpiece. The active noise cancelling mics do help dampen the ambient noise during voice calls according to the person speaking at the other side of the line. Dropped calls are very rare these days with smartphones and that is also the case with the OPPO R9s. We rarely experience dropped calls with the device when signals are strong. OPPO claims too that the new antenna strips that is etched into the aluminium back of the device helps with connectivity; we do not disagree. Does it make that much of a difference to call qualities and signal strength though? We doubt. It does differentiate the device in terms of looks though.
The speakerphone is probably its weak link. There are more noticeable noise too while using the speakers to communicate (though that could be the problem of the other party). Voices sound a little weak when making or taking calls through speakerphone. You might want to place the device slightly closer to you to be able to communicate to the person on the other side of the line. But then again, that defeats the purpose of using the speakers at all. The mic does pic up your voice into it but the other party also does report is some quality and clarity loss when we were using the speakerphone instead of normally taking the call.
Despite the dropped quality of phone call you can be sure that you are not going to miss any phone calls with the device. The speakers are loud enough for you to hear even in a loud environment. Which is quite strange as calls does sound slightly weaker.
With 4GB of RAM multitasking, in theory should be a breeze with the device. In practice, the OPPO R9s lives up to its expectations in this matter and does even better than expected. The ample 4GB of RAM allows it to cruise through any sort of operation through multiple apps running at the same time. Even when you keep multiple game apps open the R9s handles all the other applications smoothly with no trouble.
The Snapdragon 625 clocked at 2.0GHz is more than enough to handle anything that we could throw at it. There is not a single moment, when shuffling through an array of applications open in the recent apps tray that we thought that the device was slow. We did everything we could to slow the device down by opening all the apps we had, excluding the benchmark apps of course, and the only stutter we had was when we tried closing all that app at once in the recent apps tray.
Even opening the device is fast; the 0.2 second fingerprint sensor function may not sound like a lot of speed compared to 0.3 seconds that so many sensors offer – it is just 0.1 second difference for crying out loud. You feel the difference though when you do turn on the device with your fingerprint. It just seems like there is no delay in putting your thumb on the home button and the device turning on; it just seems instant.
Gaming is usually the Achilles Heel for id-range devices. Plenty of popular games like Injustice takes up plenty of processing power; and processing power is what plenty of mid-range, sub 2k devices lack of. Not with this OPPO though. The respectable Qualcomm Snapdragon, as earlier mentioned is clocked at 2.0GHz at all eight cores it contains. For heavy graphical processing it packs an Adreno 506 that runs along the main SoC. This, in theory means that the OPPO R9s should be able to handle the latest mobile games without much trouble. In truth and experience from past OPPO devices, we did not doubt that the device could run proper, heavy graphics emphasis games. We were confident that they would run, it is just that they will not run as good as they were meant to be; pretty much like any traditional mid-range devices.
That could not be further from the fact that the OPPO R9s actually handles games pretty well. We loaded up games like Hearthstone, Mortal Kombat, Sky Force Reloaded, Implosion, and Ninjump with the device. The results, with the exception of Hearthstone (understandably), the R9s pretty much creams the games. The graphical elements looked good on the 1080p display, the device did not heat up to uncomfortable degrees, there is little to none of that dropped frame rate (very unnoticeable one when playing Sky Force Reloaded, especially when display is busy), and certain games like Implosion loads up surprisingly quickly as well.
OPPO’s new flagship comes with a 3,010mAh battery that is, well not as large as what we thought the device might offer. It is not that small of a device mind you; though it is slim. But to say that the battery is tiny, is not accurate either. With all the battery optimisation that all hardware manufacturers have put into their devices, you should not be surprised to find any devices lasting longer than their battery size suggests.
This R9s is exactly that device that puts all conventions aside when it comes to battery life. It may not be huge but the battery lasts up to two days on a single full charge. Of course, that is if you are using your device as normally as possible. By normal we mean occasional texts, some music and YouTube playing, reading and replying occasional emails, making a few calls there and here, light web browsing, and of course some mobile gaming sessions. In our case anyway, we got a solid two days out of a single full charge of the device. Heavier usage of the device, like playing games for an extended period of time might drastically reduce the battery life to a little less than a day (estimated with the observable power consumption while playing Implosion). For normal use though, you will always get a full day of battery life and more out of the device.
There is no need to worry then, when it comes to power availability on your device. But even if you are running out of power though, your trusty wall plug can quick charge your device in less than two hours (within our tests). VOOC, as it is called by OPPO is the Chinese manufacturer’s version of quick charging and it is a very clever version of it. When you need your R9s to be charged as quickly as possible, merely plug your VOOC charger and the provided cable (with green inserts) to a wall plug and your phone via MicroUSB v2.0. That allows a very quick charge up to 90% within two hours if you are charging an empty battery. To extend the battery’s shelf life, or prevent an immature degradation of the Li-Ion battery in the R9s the VOOC charger slows itself down when your battery level reaches 90%, and even slower when it gets to a full charge. That way, you need not worry about shorter battery life in the future. Only issue with VOOC is that you can only use the provided VOOC charger and cable to quick charge the device. You cannot even use Qualcomm certified chargers for it. But at the same time we do think that getting original chargers, should you need one is always the way to go.
OPPOs of old have always been a slight downer in this area. Not because they fit terrible displays on their previous generation devices, they do have 720p HD displays on their previous phones. But plenty of ‘flagship’ level devices (at least in their manufacturer’s stable) have always gotten Full HD 1080p displays that looks the part. Again, do not get me wrong; 720p displays are great for budget devices with slightly smaller displays, they are even more that what we theoretically need on our phones. But at the same time 1080p always looks better. Nothing says flagship more than displays above the Full HD resolution as well.
This time though OPPO delivered with the 1080p Full HD AMOLED display measuring in at 5.5-inch. Sure, the AMOLED display is costly; it even explains why this new flagship is OPPO’s most expensive device. But you do get very vivid colours from the AMOLED display compared to cheaper, regular LCDs. You get warmer colour tones which means it is easier on your eyes as well. The saturation is great and you get amazing brightness out of the display. Of course if you compare it to Super AMOLEDs , the OPPO’s display is slightly less inviting. But any photos that is taken by the OPPO’s camera looks great without over-emphasising colour depths and quality. YouTube videos look very sharp and very good indeed with the display. You can even see what you are doing on the device under a bright sunlight (albeit, reflections still pose a little bit of a challenge on viewing), and you get very wide viewing angle.
It is not breathtaking, but it works very well. The icons look prettier than before despite being so similar to the other manufacturer it bases on. With 1080p as well, the device can be considered a proper ‘flagship’ of a phone for OPPO.
This is the part that OPPO is highly betting on. They call the OPPO R9s a ‘camera phone’, a replacement to the ‘selfie expert’ that the F1s was. It boasts not one, but two 16-Megapixel cameras that point out the back and front of the ‘camera phone’. They also claim that the OPPO R9s can take photos with qualities comparable to DSLR cameras, they even brought a professional photographer in their Malaysian launch chapter to testify that. So, if you are serious about your photos, this is the device for you. Not really, but it is one of those devices you might want to consider.
16-Megapixel is, in smartphone standards quite a lot. Especially if you consider that the top-selling and top rated smartphones pack only 12-Megapixels to shoot photos. You technically get more detail out of the photos you take and photos should look better in theory. But then again it is down to the device itself and the software it packs for the camera. The OPPO ‘camera phone’ though, does deliver on photos.
Photos actually look sharp with plenty of details within the photos. Higher megapixel counts in this case. The quality of the photos are very impressive. Of course some photos could be a little underwhelming, especially when you take them in low light conditions. In fact, I had a hard time taking low light photos because in most cases I had to just snap and go. For good low light photos, we do recommend really steady hands, then you will get the result you want. No dual-camera style ‘bokeh’ effect though, the f/1.7 aperture do give you some nice depth to the photos.
The selfie camera as well is a 16-megapixel as mentioned earlier. Well, if you are not well acquainted with our reviews you would have to forgive us for our terrible selfies; we are not very good with selfies. So we ‘outsource’ that job to another. The result, with the beauty features built into the software itself is quite spectacular. Selfies are highly detailed and, if you do it right, allows you to change your Facebook profile picture every single day. You might want to get some good light to do selfies though. Even with f/2.0 we could not get very good low light ‘selfies’. Do check out the gallery though for photos and ‘selfies’ taken with the OPPO R9s.