In January 2016 Oppo had announced that it would be launching its series of F series smartphones that focussed on the camera. Soon we heard about the F1, and then we reviewed it. It garnered a bit of interest, but it brought nothing new to the smartphone space (including its own lineup), apart from the 8MP front-facing sensor. Clearly, it just was not enough.
But Oppo still had a another smartphone up its sleeve and this one indeed seemed to be the revamp that many were looking forward to. Why? Well, this is because it was to be the smartphone, that would pack in at least some of the impressive innovations that the company showcased at the MWC 2016 held at Barcelona. Impressive components (fingerprint reader, Super Fast VOOC charging etc.) that are also expected to appear in smartphones made by other manufacturers in the industry. Oddly, none of those components made it to the Oppo F1 Plus, but as we reviewed the smartphone, we did discover plenty of improvements and new additions that should be enough to help Oppo stand out in a market crowded with smartphone brands.
Build and Design: 8.5/10
After the flagship Oppo Find 7 arrived in India (it was a delayed launch), there was indeed nothing special that came from Oppo in terms of design. The R7 was nothing great either and Oppo kept on producing similar looking smartphone designs until of course came the F1 Plus.
For those of you who follow mobile technology, the Oppo F1 Plus is indeed a carbon copy of the Oppo R9 Plus which was recently launched in China. And while the smartphones immediately got branded as iPhone 6 Plus look-a-likes, there is indeed plenty to admire here.
Since we did mention the Apple iPhone 6 Plus, (well to an extent it does look a bit similar) this applies more for the back, than the front of the device. But Oppo has worked on its design and this shows. The front face shows a flat slab of glass with white bezels all around, the sensors, receiver and the front-facing camera at the top and the capacitive navigation keys at the bottom (which includes the fingerprint reader than can be pressed down).
Flipping it over, there's the metal unibody design with minimal antenna gaps for inserts unlike the thick double bands that you get on recent iPhone models.
The top side is just features the secondary mic, while the left side hosts the volume keys. The right side consists of the SIM tray and power button, while bottom area has the maximum number of exposed components including the speaker, microUSB port, primary mic and the 3.5mm headphone jack, which really seemed to take up the width of the device that is just 6.6mm thin.
Just to compare, the iPhone 6 Plus (that is my daily driver) felt chubby and heavy at best and also more difficult to grasp and hold. The Oppo was lighter, slimmer, and narrower thanks to its non-existent bezels (just 1.66mm thin) on the left and right side of the display. Despite the large fingerprint reader at the bottom and the capacitive navigation keys, the F1 Plus felt a lot smaller and confident to hold even with its 5.5-inch display in the center.
Indeed, this is one Oppo smartphone that looks premium, thanks to its slim waistline and quality construction.
The Oppo F1 Plus is not a flagship smartphone. It is a mid-range device that comes with a premium design and some capable imaging chops. With that said, Oppo has managed to squeeze in quite a bit into the slim body of this beauty.
There is the 5.5-inch, 16 million colour AMOLED, Full HD display with a pixel density of 401ppi and it comes with Gorilla Glass 4 screen with rounded edges.
Inside, we get a MediaTek MT6755 (Helio P10) that is a relatively new piece of silicon. It is clocked at 2.0GHz and packs in 8x Cortex-A53 cores. There's 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage that is expandable up to 128GB using a microSD card (via the SIM card slot). The graphics are handled by a Mali-T860MP2 GPU.
Coming to the cameras we get a 13MP f/2.2 unit with PDAF, LED flash on the back and a massive 16MP fixed-focus f/2.0 unit up front. As for connectivity, the smartphone packs in Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth V4.0, microUSB v2.0 port and an A-GPS unit.
All of the above is fueled by a non-removable Li-Po 2850 mAh battery with Oppo's Color OS 3.0 masking Google's Android 5.1 Lollipop for the software.
With specifications like an 5.5-inch Full HD AMOLED display with 401ppi there is indeed nothing to worry about here. This is no special display unlike the 'Sunlight' ones that Xiaomi includes in its newer smartphones, but it certainly gets the job done.
The colours are bright and well-saturated, while text and images appear sharp and crisp. Sunlight and brightly lit situations were no problem for it as the saturated colours helped images pop, while the brightness levels ensured that text and images where clearly visible. The display also supports gloved and wet touch input.
What did disappoint us, were the lack of options to customise the colours and saturation levels or a 'Screen Mode' that lets you adjust the properties of the smartphone's display. We did however have an 'Eye protection display' mode that works great by cutting off blue light for night reading. Another minor issue that we did encounter was the colour shifting. This was visible while viewing white images and backgrounds only. It is a common problem with AMOLED panels (even on premium flagships like the Samsung Galaxy Note 5) but it was not drastic and did not affect our photo and video viewing experience.
The Oppo F1 Plus is indeed the first smartphone to run Oppo's ColorOS 3.0. The new custom skin that runs atop Android 5.1 Lollipop is certainly a big refresh and rides on minimalism delivering a buttery smooth UI with minimal lag and stutter. But we simply cannot wrap our heads around why it is inspired by iOS through and through.
From the translucent lock screen, to the notifications tray, down to the icons and even the multi-tasking menu there is plenty of evidence everywhere in the user interface about where the inspiration for its design comes from. Being an owner of an iPhone 6 Plus, it was not easy to digest ColorOS 3.0, but I gradually got used to it and soon enough began to appreciate the level of uniformity and polish that it brings to the Android-based interface. And in this case, it makes sense.
Moreover, it is how smoothly the software runs with underlying hardware, that impresses the most with animations and transitions that show no signs of dropped frames.
Eventually, I forgot that this was a copy of Apple's UI and came to a consensus that it works well for the smartphone. Adding to that was stocked up theme store along with plenty of customisation options and some handy options like swiping down on the homescreen to access Google Search.
But while this minimalist approach works on iOS, such customisations on Android does take a lot of effort and... space. ColorOS for instance hogged up more than 10GB of the smartphone's internal storage, which is a lot for a mobile OS.
The heads-up notifications that pop up from the top are not actionable and will simply take you to the app without giving the option to reply or archive even for native apps like Gmail and SMS. The same can be said about the lockscreen notifications that will simply let you preview the message with no option to expand them. You can however do a two finger swipe down in the notifications tray to expand on notifications.
Lastly, there are some shortcomings of this minimalist UI like the absence of a battery stats chart. At no given point did we know how much up time we had available with current charge, which was pretty disappointing.
While the ColorOS even with with huge 10GB footprint kept things running smoothly without noticeable lag or stutter. The benchmarks gave us results that were more to do with budget to mid-range smartphones. Games ran without a hint of slowdown and third-party apps scrolled with minimal stutter. I needed to remind myself that this is not a flagship smartphone thanks to its not so premium innards.
Talking about the innards, the MediaTek Helio P10 is no slouch even with its low powered Cortex A53 cores (all eight of them). The chip is built using TSMC's 28nm HPC+ process which allows for reduced consumption. To give you a reference as to where these cores are usually found, you can pick up the recently launched Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 that starts at Rs 9999. The smartphone packs in a Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 chipset with an octa-core set up that is built using the same 28nm process. But in the case of the 650, there are the more powerful 4x A72 cores handling the demanding tasks, while the A53 cores are simply handling the low power requirements.
Oddly, the chipset inside the Oppo F1 Plus uses just these low powered cores. The downside is that it won't give you great scores while running benchmarks, but you will have a smartphone that runs cool all the time thanks to the absence of the high powered cores. Moreover, battery life also gets a big boost (more on this in our 'Battery' section).
So while many may think that Helio P10 is not a good choice, think again.
As for call quality, callers at both end could hear one another clearly and the receiver was sufficiently loud. Audio quality was pretty good and the inclusion of the Dirac sound livens up the music listening experience. Audio output from the speaker was loud and clear, but it did sound a bit tinny and empty. The placement of the speaker was a bit annoying as when held horizontally, I often ended up blocking the speaker with a single finger resulting in no sound at all. Flipping the handset over, did deliver much better results.
As for the much-talked about fingerprint scanner, it is really fast. Oppo claims that it can unlock a smartphone in 0.2 seconds and it did so without a hiccup. In fact, I had a tough time convincing iPhone 6s and flagship Android users that the fingerprint security was not switched off because it appeared to them that I was simply unlocking the smartphone without using the fingerprint reader.
Oppo has included a good camera setup that will impress selfie lovers indeed. Sporting a 13MP f/2.2 unit with PDAF, LED flash on the back and a massive 16MP fixed-focus f/2.0 unit up front there is really not much to complain about apart from the missing OIS that would have really helped in the camera's low light performance.
The camera's interface is simple and while the number of filters did seem a bit too less, the Expert Mode offered a variety of adjustable settings.
The 13MP primary camera delivered great images in daylight. While the colours looked a bit too saturated on the smartphone, they look balanced on a desktop display. The PDAF really helps in acquiring a quick AF lock, but there is an unusual level of noise especially in images shot indoors even though the scenarios were fairly well lit (food photographs in the album).
Low light images were strictly ok and showcased proper colour balance. But the noise again creeps over, resulting in a smeared textures. Using the Ultra HD mode managed to get a sufficient amount of detail even though the image takes about a second to capture. And this is exactly where OIS would have made plenty of sense. We managed to get some good low light images thanks to the 16 second shutter speed. But the results were blurry at best even with a 1 second exposure.
Coming to the 16MP front-facing selfie camera, it produced quality selfies and Oppo's Hi-light sensor makes them look good no matter what the lighting scenario. The camera works well even if the background is bright and ensures that the subject always gets the right exposure. Indeed, this is one of the better selfie shooting smartphones we have seen in months.
What was a bit disappointing is the camera's video capabilities. It can only shoot in 720p or 1080 (both cameras) but at 29 fps. Shooting at 60fps would have been welcome, but this is more of a hardware limitation of the MediaTek chipset.
The Oppo F1 Plus surprisingly manages to pack in a 2850mAh battery in its slender construction. As with every other slim smartphone that we have reviewed in the past, we expected the battery life to be below average, but turns out this was not the case.
Unplugging the Oppo F1 Plus at 7AM got me till 7PM with WhatsApp, calls, some photos, video streaming and two email accounts on sync with the Wi-Fi on. Turn of Wi-Fi and you can get about 6-7 hours of 3G usage which is fairly good. Our usual PC Mark Work battery life test also saw the F1 Plus pulling off a good ten hours until the test ended with 19 percent left to spare. While I would like congratulate Oppo on such an achievement for such a slim smartphone, there's more.
VOOC charging has been an Oppo standard since the Find 7 flagship and having improved upon over the years, it will help you charge this smartphone in about 40 minutes flat. VOOC Flash Charge is certainly impressive as it not only charges the smartphone quickly but also ensures that the unit remains cool while doing the same.
All-in-all the Oppo F1 Plus did impress us. From the build quality and design, to the things that matter like battery life and even an above average camera for the selfie lover. Add to this, one of the fastest fingerprint scanners around and you have a pretty polished, all-rounder, that comes with some minor software limitations.
What is a worrisome is its price tag. Priced at Rs 26,900, you do get everything under the sun apart from NFC (including a microSD card slot). But place it next to a similarly priced smartphone like the Xiaomi Mi 5 and it gets really hard to recommend it over the latter thanks to the top notch hardware that it packs in.
But look closer and you do get a really slim and premium looking smartphone with good battery life and a quick charger that can beat most flagships out there. Also add the fastest fingerprint reader around and a uniform (albeit copied) UI and you do have a pretty good all rounder that will get you the best selfies and not just performs, but stays cool no matter what you do with it. Few smartphones come close to this one in mid-range and here we are comparing it to a low cost Chinese flagship! This one's highly recommended even with its current price tag.
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