Oppo took the selfie-smartphone craze up a notch last year when the company introduced its F1 Plus smartphone. It packed in average specifications that one would find in a budget smartphone, at a not-so budget price tag. Its saving grace was its construction, build quality, design and that front facing camera, which set new standards for the sub Rs 30,000 smartphone segment.
While Oppo retained the good stuff from the F1 Plus in its successor, the F3 Plus, it also managed to bring in some improvements, including a bigger battery, a powerful processor and let's not forget the highlight, which is a dual-camera on the front. The new Oppo F3 Plus has also grown larger and heavier thanks to the bigger display and a larger battery, and the price has grown with it. It now costs Rs 30,990.
But the competition too has learnt for the success of the F1 Plus, and capable rivals have been on sale for a couple of months now. So how does it compare with what you get on the Samsung C9 Pro, the Xiaomi Mi Max Prime, the Asus Zenfone 3 Ultra, the OnePlus 3T and the Vivo V5 Plus? Let's find out.
Build and Construction: 8/10
I loved the design of the Oppo F1 Plus, it was not too large and not too small but just right with a 5.5-inch display. With the F3 Plus, Oppo takes things up a notch and seems to be of the opinion that its customers need a bigger display. So this time around, we get a massive 6-inch display, which makes the smartphone a lot bigger to hold and heavier as well.
At 185 g the phone did not feel any lighter or heavier than its competition. But Oppo did manage to make the design quite slim, which makes it more hand-friendly in comparison to the mammoth Xiaomi Mi Max. You still cannot use the phablet with one hand, but it does not feel as big as I expected it to be.
It does not peep out my jeans pocket as much as I expected it to either, meaning that its size does not get in the way of your everyday life which is commendable for a smartphone with a 6-inch display.
The design is not exactly unique or new, with rounded corners and the typical Oppo design language that we have seen since the F1 Plus. In fact from the front it could get hard to tell when viewed from a distance.
The Oppo F3 Plus is quite slim for a smartphone of this size and category. In fact, it is the slimmest phablet I have used so far.
However, it is the back where things get exciting. F1 Plus owners may find that it looks identical to their smartphones, but there is a nice touch here. It features a “six string antenna” that includes 3 at the top and three toward the bottom.
And it almost appears to be a design statement like on the Samsung C9 Pro. So it’s not the first to do this. The antenna bands are supposed to enhance network connectivity and not look ugly in the process and so far, I'm impressed. I initially thought that these fine lines were grooves. Little did I know these were some cool-looking antenna bands.
I like how Oppo has stuck with its philosophy of retaining its quick fingerprint scanner on the front. Unlike the Asus Zenfone 3 Ultra and the Xiaomi Mi Max, this one's easy to reach and you can unlock the phone in milliseconds.
The Oppo F3 Plus builds on the Oppo F1 plus and offers a noticeable improvement in all areas. The display is still stuck at FHD (1920 x 1080 pixels) but the screen size has grown to a massive 6-inches of real estate. Inside, buyers will get a Qualcomm MSM8976 Pro (Snapdragon 653) clocked at 1.95GHz and paired with an Adreno 510 GPU and 4GB RAM. Internal storage is 64GB but can be expanded using a microSD card slot which Oppo calls a Triple card slot but is basically no different from a hybrid SIM slot that allows for only two cards (SIM+SIM or SIM+micro SDCard) at a time.
Coming to the cameras a lot has changed in terms of the layout. You get a Sony IMX398 16MP camera with Dual PDAF mechanism with an f/1.7 aperture. On the front, Oppo has gone in for a 16MP camera and an 8MP 120 degrees wide angle unit. The technology however is quite different from what is available on the Vivo V5 plus, but similar to the system on the LG G5.
Communications options include, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth V4.1, dual nano SIM with 4G bands and support for VoLTE. The features a micro USB port at the bottom with OTG support.
All of the above is powered by a 4,000mAh battery that supports Oppo’s VOOC fast charging technology. A fingerprint reader sits on front and claims to unlock the device in 0.2 milliseconds.
The display on offer is similar to the great one I used last time on the F1 Plus. It is a JDI In Cell LCD 16 million colour touchscreen display that offers a 1920 x 1080 pixel array with a pixel density of 367 PPI. Last time around with the smaller screen size, we got 401PPI which was amazingly sharp. This time however things are not too bad either even with slightly lower pixel density.
The display features a 2.5D Gorilla Glass 5 screen on the front and comes with an oleophobic coating. But it is really prone to smudges, even though those grease marks can be wiped off easily.
In day to day usage the display fared really well. It was sharp, and even the finest font available could be read clearly and without any noticeable pixelation. The display is also bright enough to tackle a sunny afternoon (in direct sunlight) and dim enough to read books in a dark room. The colours displayed were slightly oversaturated to my eye. Viewing angles were spot on, however. This made the smartphone a brilliant media player and the accompanying battery proved really useful while watching movies or clicking photos. There’s no colour shifting like the last time around either, which was due to the AMOLED unit. So it’s really hard to complain about anything out here.
Oppo has included Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with ColourOS 3.0.01 . There’s nothing new in here that’s not there on the F1 Plus, so indeed there is little to be excited about. At the same time, Oppo has maintained the smoothness of the OS and it doesn't feel heavy or seem to bog down the hardware in any way. Apps opened and closed instantly, multitasking was a breeze. And more importantly, I liked how everything felt consistent across the OS, with its well-designed sub menus that kind of mimicked Apple’s iOS. So it is basically an app drawer-less version of Android with an iOS like skinning. But Oppo has done a good job by optimising it well to the display and the processor.
Customisation is supported as well, with Lockscreen magazine and themes gallery. And yes, I could even change the font. The software also has a security app which allows for boosting performance by clearing up app cache and also a virus scanner supported by Avast, which is pretty handy.
It seems like the complete and perfect software package until you factor in that this is March 2017 and the Android smartphone’s software version is still stuck at 6.0 Marshmallow. Adding Nougat here would have been a great way for Oppo to stand out from the crowd, so let’s hope that Oppo at least delivers on the update front. What I did not like was that there was literally no battery statistics available. After some deep digging I managed to find a toggle to at least show how much battery life was left in percentage instead of the standard battery bar logo. I missed this feature on the F1 Plus and it seems like Oppo hasn’t looked into the matter yet.
ColorOS seemed well optimised with the hardware back in the F1 Plus. This time around, things have only got better. UI and software performance was flawless and the same can be said about gaming thanks to the Snapdragon 653 chipset inside.
Games like Real Racing 3, Dead Trigger 2 and Asphalt Xtreme worked well on the highest settings and without dropping or skipping any frames. This smartphone indeed makes for a great gaming smartphone as well and that 4000mAh battery ensures that you can keep playing for quite a while before the juice runs out.
But as with every performance oriented smartphone, the device gets a bit warm. After half an hour or RR3 which is pretty graphic intensive, the phone became warm but not too hot or hot enough for me to close the app. The 4,000mAh battery left me gaming longer without the need to worry about making it through the day.
Call quality was pretty good. Audio was pretty loud through the earpiece and I often found myself turning down the volume by a few notches to keep my ears intact. Output through the headphones while listening to music was a great experience thanks to Dirac and the built-in equaliser was an added bonus too. Audio output through the speakers was both loud and clear. Oppo has done a fantastic job at keeping audio clear even when you max out the volume. The speaker is top notch.
The primary camera on the Oppo F3 Plus is a 16MP Sony IMX398 sensor. It’s a good one and with an f/1.7 aperture delivers good pictures in daylight with noise being under control.
The sharpness levels were spot on, but the details in the images don’t hold up when zooming into an image beyond 40 percent. The textures look a bit flat even in broad daylight, but the colours remain well saturated. My best guess is that the F3 Plus’s noise removal works overtime and kills the details. The camera has a tendency to overexpose, and it does so very frequently. Even HDR images can’t save the day at times.
There’s no OIS, and this becomes a major problem after the sun sets. Images shot have almost no detail, look flat and showcase lots of luminance noise. In short this is not a good smartphone for low light shooting in Auto mode.
Switching to the front-facing camera, I expected better. But frankly speaking, that was not exactly what I got. Maybe I expected a bit too much after the impressive F1 Plus, but the results of the selfies were not that exciting.
The front facing dual camera setup uses a 16MP unit through a standard lens while an 8MP unit is used with a 120 degree wide-angle lens. There is a toggle in the camera interface to switch between the two just like on the LG G6, only in this case it’s on the front of the device instead of the back.
The cameras produced good images in daylight with the usual over exposure problem. The metering system seemed to not work right as I often found myself in the dark when there was a light source behind me. This was not the case with the F1 Plus.
Move to low light and the cameras keep the noise in control but kill the details along with it. The results are not that impressive and the images can get blurry with little movement as the focussing system struggles to lock on quickly, which is not the case with the primary camera.
The lack of OIS was clearly felt and would have improved the situation by a large margin.
Indeed, the Vivo V5 Plus does a better job at selfies and captures a lot more detail along with better image processing.
Video recording was pretty good and delivered great 4K clips and Full HD video.
The battery inside the Oppo F3 Plus has grown along with the bigger display. And Oppo indeed seems to have squeezed the 4,000mah battery in tight considering how slim the device is for a phablet. Using our standard PCMark Work battery life test, we got a about 8 and half hours of continuous screen usage until the test halted at the usual 20 percent mark.
While it appears to drain fast when fully charged. That drop in battery life stops dropping quickly after the 90 percent. Post that, it goes on and on like the Duracell bunny. I managed to get over 2 hours of calling with just 5 percent of battery life. Which is pretty impressive as to how much you can squeeze out of this device. Turn the Low power Mode on and you can easily get at least 3-4 hours or even more.
And that is not the best part. Oppo’s VOOC fast charging means that you can get 2 hours of talk time with just a 5 minute charge. The phone speeds up while charging from 0-70 and then slows down a bit as it nears the 100 percent mark in a little over an hour which is good for a 4,000mAh battery.
Verdict and Price in India
With my experience of the Oppo F1 Plus in mind, I really wanted to like the Oppo F3 Plus, despite its larger than usual size. The design was spot on, the hardware is powerful and the battery life is great. But its imaging chops are a let down when you have used the F1 Plus and see how much more it delivered last year, something that is clear from its success in sales for Oppo as well.
Last year’s all-rounder has turned out to be a brute with less finesse. Oppo does get plenty right and at a Rs 30,990 asking price, it sounds like a good deal. But with the OnePlus 3T around in the same price range, it does not come close to the 3T’s raw performance numbers and also in the camera department.
Looking for selfies? The Vivo V5 Plus is a better deal and even better than the OnePlus when it comes to selfies, even with its Snapdragon 625 inside. If you have a lower budget, you could consider the Xiaomi Mi Max Prime, which also has a large display but is priced almost Rs 10,000 lower. Oppo F3 Plus does offer better construction quality and slightly better camera performance than the Mi Max Prime though, hence the price premium.