With its latest mid-range R9, Chinese smartphone manufacturer Oppo continues to carve a niche for itself in the selfie-smartphone segment - which is the only advantage the phone has going for it.
One expects a premium midrange phone at its price, and the R9 meets that need on the hardware front.
It is slim, light and has a front that is reminiscent of the Samsung Note in appearance. The screen is large and bright, and the full-HD display will meet the bare requirements for decent video- and photo-viewing.
The R9 is the first Oppo phone to sport a front-facing fingerprint sensor, and the feature is extremely fast and convenient.
I like how the phone immediately unlocks with just a press of the front button with a fingerprint-registered finger. The tactile feedback makes it feel very solid.
But these fancy features alone do not sell the phone. Rather, the R9's niche lies in its unwavering selfie focus, which is evident in its 16-megapixel front-facing camera, compared with its 13-megapixel rear camera.
The front camera is quick to auto-focus on faces and performs well in a variety of settings, even indoors in low light.
And since no selfie truly exists unless it is uploaded to social media, the R9 comes with pre-installed features that make it easy to add quirkiness to your photos.
You can make animated gifs, slap on various filters, or use the "beautification" options that let you tweak your features to be as fair or rosy as you want to be.
The latter tends to be very obvious when pushed to extreme ends though - my face ended up looking so freakishly smooth I felt like an animated character.
There is also a selfie panorama that is catered towards group selfies by letting you pan the camera from left to right for a wider shot.
The back camera performs significantly worse than the front, especially in low light where graininess was very visible. Video quality is decent in natural light, but disappointing in artificial and low lighting.
Oppo's ColorOS, which runs on a modified version of Android 5.1, may not be to everyone's liking. It continues to eschew the app drawer for an approach that collects all your apps on the homescreens.
Gesture controls make a return in the R9, but one problem with these controls is that they do not play nice with the fingerprint sensor.
For instance, you can set custom gestures, such as opening a commonly used app with a down swipe on the screen - but it takes you to a page prompting you to enter your passcode or fingerprint, which defeats the point of the gesture controls' convenience.
To use gestures effectively, you would have to disable the fingerprint function so that the app automatically launches. But given a choice between gestures and fingerprint sensor, I'd pick the sensor.
PROCESSOR: MediaTek MT6755 (OCTA-core 2.0GHz)
DISPLAY: 5.5-inch, Full HD, 1920 x 1080 pixels, 401 PPI pixel density
OPERATING SYSTEM: ColorOS V3 (Android 5.1)
CAMERA: 13MP, f/2.2 (Rear); 16MP, f/2.0 (Front)
MEMORY: 64GB (microSD expandable up to 128GB), 4GB RAM
BATTERY: Non-removable 2,850 mAh
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
BATTERY LIFE: 4/5
- Verdict: Pick the R9 if you demand only the best for your selfie habit, or if you want a light, slim phone with a large enough screen.
This article was first published on May 11, 2016.
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