Oppo R9s Review: Best Ever From Oppo?

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The mid-range smartphone market needs no introduction. There are currently hundreds of models offered by so many different brands from around the world that are priced below RM2000. Moreover, the competition gets so hot that it is not just about making a phone and then put it on sale. Some of these brands offer smartphones that claimed to provide flagship experiences while at lower price. Names like Oppo is not foreign when it comes to mid-range smartphones. After their success with the similarly priced F1 Plus and lower-prices F1s, Oppo is back again, this time with the new R9s, with flagship-like specs, premium design, all wrapped up in a package that costs only RM1798. So, has Oppo outdone themselves with this new R9s? Let’s see.

Unboxing

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The unboxing experience is like any other Oppo devices. You just get the sense that the box it came with has been shared with other Oppo devices, which is not a bad thing, probably a big plus to cut down on production costs. The device is presented on the top as usual, covered in protective films. There is a small folder that separates the phone and the accessories at the bottom, in which contains the usual documentations as well as a soft transparent case. The rest of the box contains the usual earphones, a USB wall adapter as well as a microUSB cable, with both the latter supports Oppo’s own VOOC Flash Charge quick-charging technology.

Design

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At a glance, it just looks like any other more recent Oppo devices. In fact, from the front, you can’t really tell what Oppo device that is as they look quite similar. Going along with their theme of offering flagship feeling device at a much lower price, it’s all quite well, especially when they get their design inspiration from one of the most popular flagship smartphones, but at a much thinner and compact package. With a 6.6mm thickness and only weighs 145-grams, the overall package is done quite well, especially considering the fact that the choice of premium feeling materials are great, the chamfered edges and smooth corners around the phone. Not all are well, as you’ll constantly get the sense that the phone might fall off due to the lack of grip, especially when operating the phone with one hand. The transparent soft case that Oppo has kindly included solves the problem, even though you might have to go one step further by getting the standard screen protector replaced with a more durable tempered glass protector.

The front panel is just usual Oppo. It does feature Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5 technology. As for the layout and overall look, I’m not exaggerating at all if I say that they’ve taken the front panel straight out of the F1s and just put it in the R9s. The main feature of the front is still the 5.5-inch display, and like the F1s, the bezel on each sides are not too small where it’ll pick up unnecessary inputs when resting your thumb on the sides. The top is where the 16-megapixel front facing camera, earpiece and sensors live, and the camera lens did blend in with the other components even though its sort of a selfie-oriented phone. The button features the usual hardware Android navigation buttons, with the middle being a touchpad for the home button with a fingerprint sensor built in. It’s not an actual button, but it will provide a haptic feedback when touched. The fingerprint sensor built-in is extremely fast and accurate, and it does claim to be one of the best in the business. The moment you rest your finger on it, it quickly unlocks. On both sides live the recent apps and back button.

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The volume rocker is conveniently located on the left side of the phone, while the right houses the power button. Due to its unibody design with non-removable back, like most other phones these days, it has a removable tray, in which contains 2 slots. The Oppo R9s continues the trend, where the primary slot takes a nano-SIM card, and the secondary slot takes either a secondary nano-SIM card or a microSD card. While it’s smart to have both slots utilized most of the time, it definitely leave out those who wish to run both SIM cards at the same time, while still enjoying the ability to expand their storage space.

The bottom is where the rest of the ports live. From the left you have the loudspeaker, a microUSB port, a standard microphone as well as a 3.5mm earphone jack.

The back of the R9s features a familiar design as well, apart from the antenna lines. Oppo is very proud of their ultra-fine “six-string” antenna lines that ran across the back of the phone, and is definitely the first in the business. Oppo claimed that this new design definitely improves network performance whilst providing a fresh look to the back. There is a slight buldge for the camera lens, in which sits another 16-megapixel sensor, along with a single LED flash. The body is definitely premium to the touch, and it does not matter whether you go for the gold or rose gold colour offered, they look equally stunning. If you are looking to stand out in the crowd, there is a Black Edition where every panel is blacked out, as well as a Valentine Red Edition, with red body and black front glass. Both, however, are just limited runs.

Specs and Performance

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As an advertisement for having a high specification at a mid-range price, the Oppo R9s does look quite good on paper. For starters, Oppo has turned to Qualcomm for some supplies in the processor department. It’s not Oppo’s first device to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors, but after looking at how poor the usual MediaTek processors that Oppo usually went with performed, I am glad that they are back with Qualcomm for this one, especially when they went with the mid-range Snapdragon 625. It is a 64-bit architecture processor, with 8-cores and clocked at 2.0GHz. All 8-cores are equally low-powered, thus it is important to spread the tasks over all 8-cores to carry out tasks efficiently. It is also aid by the included 4GB RAM.

So, how does everything stack up? It does perform very well for every day lower-performance tasks. Even with the heavy skin on top of its standard Android interface, there is no problem performing standard tasks. The Snapdragon 625 easily sends power across all cores that results in extremely efficient processing, and rarely heats up and drains the battery even during heavy processes. It does struggle during heavy processes as it lacks high-powered cores, which is the only weak point for this processor.

Using Geekbench 4 as our benchmarking app, the Oppo R9s scores a rather average 845 for single-core score and 3130 for multi-core score. While both numbers are not high, it does perform quite well in the real world.

Also included in 64GB of eMMC 5.1 storage. If that is not enough for you, it will also take microSD cards up to 256GB as storage expansion, which of course, you’ll have to give up on dual-SIM functionality. Other connectivity options include dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and LTE. Sadly, NFC and an IR blaster is nowhere to be seen on this phone.

Speaker Performance

The performance of the mono loudspeaker is rather average. While it offers the right amount of loudness, things start to distort at high volumes. The speaker itself sound muffled and does not offer high amount of bass or treble. Output from the 3.5-mm headphone jack to an external device on the other hand is rather good, and you can make adjustments via the built-in Dirac Real HD sound equalizer.

Display

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For a mid-range device, the display really packs a punch. For starters, it measures 5.5-inches diagonally. It does not disappoint when it comes to screen resolution either, as it has a Full HD resolution (1080 X 1920). This gave us a screen density of around 401 pixels-per-inch, which is quite good. The display is crisp and sharp.

In addition to the sharp display, the good news continues to the fact that they have turned to an AMOLED panel for their display rather than a more natural IPS display. Images projected from the panel have rich colour, wide colour gamut as well as deep blacks, and it looks especially good when watching a video. Due to its reflective panel, it’s not as good as other AMOLED displays out there under the sun, but still it will bump up the brightness to the max. Viewing angle is not bad either.

Camera performance

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The biggest deal of any smartphones these days are its cameras, and the Oppo R9s is no exception. Oppo has previously focus more on the front facing camera of the F1s than the rear, but this time round they have decided to treat both equally. The primary camera on this phone is now on the back, rather than the front like what they do with the F1s. It is a 16-megapixel camera with a customized 1/2.8-inch Sony IMX398 sensor that is developed exclusively for the R9s, with an aperture of f/1.7.

So, can you rely on the Oppo R9s for some good quality photos? In most cases, yes. Under sufficient lightings, the camera can really capture some fantastic images. Details are well preserved and with very little artificial effect to it. Colours are vivid too, and it’s especially good to view images taken with the camera on the AMOLED display. The HDR mode is quite aggressive at blowing things up, and under sufficient lightings, it worked well for most of the time.

Sadly, it does not perform the same under low-light conditions. While it is rather good, has little to no noise and images produced are rather bright, it tends to jump around quite a lot between different exposures, before making the choice to stay at a right exposure. Sometimes it will just blow things up with high exposure, other times it decides to ruin the image with HDR, which completely wipes off any natural colours.

The Oppo R9s, does record videos in 4K resolution, but still, there is more room for improvement. Videos produced are rather choppy, especially during low-lighting condition. It is quite sharp though. Stepping down to 1080p is a lot better as its more natural and smooth, and you can go all the way down to 720p if you want. No matter what resolution you choose, they will only record at 30 frames-per-second, and all of them suffers from compression artifacts.

On the other side of the phone, there is a 16-megapixel front-facing camera, with aperture of f/2.0. Unlike the F1s, Oppo just didn’t simply throw in a 16-megapixel sensor and call it a day, it is much improved compared to the F1s. Images are sharper and colours are more vivid when compared to a more standard front-facing cameras of other smartphones, and you can definitely count on the Oppo R9s for some fantastic selfies. You’ll still have to hold the camera rather close to your face to get your face perfectly focused, but that’s a small issue to deal with. It also features Oppo’s Beauty 4.0 beautification software, and it works for both the front and rear cameras. While it does work somewhat well with the settings in the middle, like all other beautification software, things started to look ridiculously unnatural with huge amount of artificial effects at higher settings.

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The camera app included is rather familiar looking if you have used iOS devices before. When you launch it, it will automatically bump up the screen brightness to full so you can have a good look at what is on the screen. The entire interface is simple and easy to use, as it’s not cluttered with huge amount of settings. You do get toggles for flash, HDR mode, timer and different modes and filters. It does include an Expert mode, which allows you to adjust the white balance, exposure, ISO, shutter speed as well as the focus.

To view samples taken with the Oppo R9s, click here.

Software

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Oppo R9s does come with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow right out of the box, but with Oppo’s own heavy customization on top. Known as ColorOS 3.0, it is a mixed bag. It has been designed specifically to look more iOS like rather than Android, and it spreads all across pre-loaded applications. Even the home screen lacks app drawer like a normal Android would, and there are not many widgets on offer too. All the apps are scattered around the home page and bares little to no resemblance of vanilla Android apps. It does offer minimal amount of bloatware, which is a good plus. Even though the overall performance is rather good, it could be a lot better without all the heavy skins and unnecessary functions scattered around the entire operating system.

Battery life

The built-in 3010mAh battery also impressed us. It is slightly less than the F1s’s 3070mAh, but it makes no difference. In the real world, with 1 SIM card running on a busy day with lots of mobile data usage, at the end of the day, it still manages to return over 20% battery. In fact, we were able to use this phone for just a little over 16 hours before it shuts itself off. Still, you musn’t worry about charging as the Oppo R9s comes with VOOC quick charging capability. Using the supplied charger and cable, we were able to get the Oppo R9s charged from a dead 0% to 65%, which is rather impressive.

Conclusion

We can clearly see Oppo’s effort to gain some serious market share in the mid-range smartphone market, and we are proud to say most of Oppo’s hard work has paid off. This is a serious player in the market, and you are getting quite a lot for your money. It’s stylish, sophisticated and offers quite a lot of premium touches. It’s a phone that we can finally say: go ahead and add it into your list.

Recap:
5.5-inch AMOLED display, 1080p resolution, 401 ppi
Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, octa-core, 2GHz
4GB RAM, 64GB internal storage, microSD support up to 256GB
16-megapixel rear facing camera, 4K videos
16-megapixel front facing camera
3010mAh non-removable battery
Fingerprint sensor

Pros:
Blazing fast and accurate fingerprint sensor
Good performance for its price
Premium styling and functions
Quick charging
Fantastic, sharp AMOLED display

Cons:
Cameras do suffer during low-light
Annoying user interface
4K videos are choppy
Speaker performance is rather average to poor
Struggles during heavy processes