Home Reviews Smartphones & Mobile Devices OPPO R9 Plus is a phabulous phablet (review)

OPPO’s new R9 range includes the 5.5” R9, and the 6” R9 Plus and while they share a lot of components and design cues, the Plus is — as expected  just that little bit better.

OPPO have become a name to be reckoned with in Australia – its products are technically advanced and extremely well made. In 2015, its R7 and R7 Plus (predecessors) received iTWire’s recommendation as the best two mid-market smart phones that punch very far above their weight.

In fact, since moving retail distribution to JB Hi-Fi and carrier plans via Optus, OPPO has become one of the top smartphones by market share in Australia in Q1. It’s a cool brand to own!

OPPO have made the R9 Plus' distinguishing feature a 16MP front selfie camera – yes, you read that right, selfie camera. This will scoop the pool as the best 6” phablet at an irresistible price. The Oppo R9 Plus is a “phabulous” phablet.

Out of the box

Let’s look at the base specifications:

  • 6”, AMOLED, 1920 x 1080, 367 ppi, protected by Gorilla Glass 4 – screen to body ratio is an amazing 75.3%.
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 652, eight core.
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM and choice of 64/128GB (52GB free on 64GB model) with microSD up to 128GB (uses second SIM slot).
  • Rear camera  16MP, f/2.0, 77° angle, 1/2.8” sensor, 1.12 μm pixel size, phase detection second autofocus, HDR, single LED flash (missing OIS).
  • Front camera  16MP, f/2.0, 78.1° selfie with fill screen light.
  • Wi-Fi AC dual band, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, OTG support.
  • Fingerprint security (fast 200ms access).
  • Non-removable 4120 mAh battery, with micro-USB VOOC flash charge and cable.
  • Cat 6 LTE – Bands 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 28, 38, 39, 40, 41.
  • 163.1 x 80.8 x 7.4mm x 185g.
  • Android 5.x and Colour OS 3.0 overlay.

These are all well above mid-market specifications.

The R9 Plus looks like an iPhone  that is OPPO’s current design philosophy to suit its Chinese market tastes. I like its look with its very narrow bezels, elegant curved chassis lines and 2.5D glass curve.

The review unit is model X9079 for Australia. You may read overseas reviews referring to it as the Find 9 (Find is its flagship nomenclature) or F1 Plus – it is not, so just look for R9 Plus and the model number.

While it is a phablet it can definitely fit in your pocket due to the very high screen to body ratio and the 7.4mm thinness. Sure, it’s a big phone, but one of the smallest 6” on the market. If you want the smaller 5.5” R9 – a prestige phone without the price tag – you can read iTWire’s review here.

Setup is exceptionally fast and easy — five clicks  and you can avoid Google entirely if you wish.

It ships with a VOOC 5V/4M flash charger that actually charges two internal batteries in parallel, practically halving charge time without over dumping current into it – a great system.

Android 5.x and Colour OS 3.0

Let’s just say any new phone should ship with Android 6.x and it is OPPO’s intention to provide an upgrade soon. The issue is that its Colour OS 3.0 overlay (User experience – UX) is built on Android 5.x and it is one of the reasons why people from China buy this phone. It is very iOS-like and it allows you to forgo any Google apps.

It comes with OPPO’s own versions of mail, contacts, phone, calendar, messages, camera, photo gallery, a security centre (including antivirus/malware and an accelerator) and basic productivity software like Kingsoft Office etc. These apps are more than adequate and comparable with most Google apps which you can download if you want.

Screen – 6” AMOLED at lemonade prices

AMOLED is great – it outperforms LCD/LED with pure blacks and almost infinite contrast. Brightness and image quality look great until you place it beside a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and see the difference – but then you are paying twice the price for the Samsung phone.

Phone/sound

The phone app has all the usual functions. It was fast to connect, and maintained above average signal strength. The microphones on top and bottom are great for hands-free and in-call volume was good.

It has a single mono speaker that is not designed for music – use a headset.

Cat 6 LTE means a theoretical maximum download/upload of 300/50Mbps. I got between 100-200Mbps around Sydney. Most phones at this price are Cat 4 – maximum 150/50 and if you require better speed the P9 Plus is great.

Performance

The AnTuTU benchmark is 84,286 (slightly about the Samsung Galaxy Note 5). It has plenty of power and is fit for purpose with 4GB RAM making it fast and responsive.

Geekbench gives single-core 1694 and multi-core 6844 ratings. The Adreno 510 GPU will play all standard mobile games without issue.

Camera

It is placed at the top left side (like an iPhone) and has the characteristic bump ring. I prefer the camera to be below centre top as I find you can too easily place a finger over it. In all conditions it produced better than average pictures comparing favourably to many flagship cameras.

The default Colour OS camera app is simple – dumbed down may be a better way to describe it. It has HDR, Flash, time lapse, video, beauty and panorama settings. But it also has an expert mode that allows for fine adjustment to white balance, exposure, ISO, shutter speed, focus and RAW modes.

  • Daylight, no flash, with HDR – 9 out of 10

Bright, accurate colours, no noise, and good definition. Autofocus was quick but tended to use the brightest areas for exposure settings. Manual focus on darker areas produced slightly better results. This is a software issue than can be addressed in future updates. HDR places no appreciable delay on autofocus.

  • Daylight, no flash, without HDR – 7 out of 10

You lose definition in the shadows. Better to use HDR in all outdoor shots.

  • Indoors, no flash, with HDR – 8 out of 10

Good low light capability from its f/2.0 lens and 1.12 μm pixel sensor. Good detail and colours. Autofocus is slightly slower as HDR tries to fill in what you would normally miss.

  • Indoors, no flash, without HDR – 6 out of 10

I recommend you use HDR mode as colours become slightly muted and definition is lost from shadows.

  • Indoors, low light, flash, with and without HDR – 6 out of 10

You cannot have HDR and flash on at the same time. HDR compensates for details, but it takes longer to autofocus and produced marginally, if any, better results than flash alone.

  • Speciality shots like panorama, time-lapse, panorama, beautify etc. – 9 out of 10

Panorama was good as it stitches the shot together producing an accurate image. All speciality modes worked well.

  • Video

For 4K video — 2160p x 30fps (about 6MB per second)  I give it 7 out of 10. The result is good quality, good colours, good sound, but huge file sizes. On a few occasions  mainly during fast pans  the processor seemed to slow down and missed frames.

FHD  1080p at 30fps (about2MB/s)  9 out of 10. Its best mode will produce more manageable file sizes. It does not shoot 60fps.

  • Selfies – 10 out of 10

The 16MP, F/2.0 selfie was amazing. It has screen fill light and is optimised to take the best shots in low light, be it at night or day. It produced incredible definition. I loved the beautify 4.0 feature for removing blemishes etc., and the auto-shot gesture mode. OPPO has used an oversized, 1.12 μm pixel sensor that captures four times the incoming light of a typical selfie.

  • Camera conclusion

Overall you will be delighted with the quality of the camera. Is it as good as flagships at up to twice the price?

In reference shots, it is very close to the Samsung, GS7, LG G5, and Lumia 950/XL for outdoors and loses some "acceptable" ground in low-light. It is very much ahead of the 6S Plus in outdoor and on a par in low light.

And it’s a step up from the 13MP snapper in the R9.

Battery – non-removable

The 4120 mAh battery easily gave two full days of use. My worst time was just under 15 hours using Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi and lots of video and web surfing.

But the real winner is VOOC fast charge – 30 minutes for 70% and a full charge in under an hour. You can get a VOOC car charger as well.

The secret to VOOC is that the battery is split in two, with each part getting its own charging board and power channel. This speeds up charging greatly – VOOC is the most efficient fast charging solution out there.

Price and availability

In Australia, OPPO has teamed up with electronics retailer JB Hi-Fi and its phones are offered by Optus stores for outright purchase or on a plan.

Official release is 4 July and the price is an amazing $699.

When OPPO first came to Australia I made the mistake of calling its phones "cheap". OPPO’s response was that they were not cheap but reflected the proper cost of development, materials, manufacturing, distribution, retailer profit, and, of course, their owners' return on investment.

When teardowns indicate that the maximum cost of parts in a flagship phone is about US$200, then you start to see why OPPO have taken a scant two years to be one of the top brands. Simply put, it makes good phones with the features everyone wants at affordable prices.

Conclusion

I like bigger screen phones – phablets. For me it is a function of needing glasses for reading and wanting to do a little more than I can on a smaller screen. I really pity those stuck in "yesterday" with a 4” screen.

Where OPPO have been clever is the high screen to body ratio of 75.3%. If you look at say the iPhone 6S Plus with a 5.5” screen and (67.7%) it is easy to see why this 6” screen will be popular.

OPPO R9 Plus (6” screen)             163.1 x 80.8 x 7.4mm

iPhone 6S Plus (a 5.5” screen)     158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm

The R9 is 4.9mm taller and 2.9mm wider for a half inch (12.5mm) larger screen than the 6S Plus.

It is also more than just a larger version of the OPPO R9. The improvements here in processor speed, rear camera, battery life, Wi-Fi AC Dual band, NFC make this my choice. The R9 is good – the Plus is great. It gets my unreserved recommendation as a mid-market phone and offers features you would expect in a flagship for a far better price.

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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!

 

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