(Pocket-lint) - Oppo has made no secret that it wants to enter the UK and EU markets with something of a splash. Rather than try and get a foothold in the mid-range market for which it's historically known, the company launched the innovative (and expensive) Find X, back in June 2018. Not only was was it one of the first phones to launch with no notch on the display - and the first non-iPhone to launch with depth-sensing facial recognition - it also came with a powered sliding mechanism to reveal the front camera, unlike anything else.
In November 2018, in Milan, Oppo then launched a rebranded version of the R17 Pro that had already launched in China: the RX17 Pro, which we review here. It's got an in-display fingerprint sensor, a triple camera system and other headline-worthy features like Super VOOC - a charging technology that puts other fast-charging tech to shame (check out our comparison video on the subject).
Now the year has turned and in 2019 Oppo will be officially launching in the UK. Here's whether the RX17 Pro is worthy of your attention, or will it just step on the OnePlus 6T's toes?
- Glass front/back
- 158 x 75 x 7.9mm; 183g
It's long been the case that Oppo's flagship phones bare a striking resemblance to OnePlus devices. The two companies are owned by the same Chinese tech giant, thus both often share the same components and tech, meaning form-factor is similar. While there are some distinguishable differences, the RX17 Pro does look and feel very similar to the OnePlus 6T.
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With that said, it's still fairly easy to tell them apart. The glass back of the Oppo is shaped very similarly to the OnePlus - being mostly flat and featuring curves towards the edges - but the colour finish is wildly different. Our review unit is an emerald green finish that's dark, rich and glossy, but there is a more eye-catching option that gradients from bright teal through to purple.
In traditional Oppo style, the bottom and top edges curve inwards rather than round outwards like most other smartphones. The top edge features nothing except a single noise-cancelling mic and some antenna bands, while the bottom edge plays home to the Type-C port, loudspeaker and the SIM card tray. Apart from that, you get the regular volume buttons on the left and power button on the right. No extra special function keys here (phew).
As for the front, that's dominated by a 6.4-inch display that's virtually edge-to-edge in form. It has the same teardrop-style notch we've seen on the OnePlus 6T, ensuring that very little of the screen's top edge is disturbed, with the earpiece being pushed right up to the top edge. There's very little bezel up the sides, with a slight chin on the bottom.
Given the size of its screen the RX17 Pro is actually quite compact. It's noticeably smaller than the Galaxy Note 9, or iPhone XS Max. It's hardly a one-handed phone, in that it will make you stretch a little to reach the extremities, but it's about as comfortable as you can get from a phone with a 6.4-inch display.
From a look and feel perspective, it's every bit as high-end as any other flagship smartphone. The edges have a classy, shiny finish, while the chassis feels sturdy and well-made, with the borderless screen ensuring that there's no unsightly chunky frame anywhere to be seen. With that said, we're not massively keen on the camera protrusion on the back. With it being a triple camera system, it looks unnaturally long and protrudes quite far out.
It's also missing out on any official water- or dust-resistance, which is a shame. You should also be prepared to wipe off fingerprints from the rear glass fairly frequently too - like most glossy phones, the RX17 Pro attracts palm and finger grease like moth to a flame.
- 6.4-inch 1080 x 2340 AMOLED panel
- Corning Gorilla Glass 6 surface
As displays go, that 6.4-inch AMOLED panel is a beaut. Although, that's no surprise: it's the same size, resolution and tech that we've seen already on the OnePlus 6T. As such it's bright, super colourful, vibrant and contrasty.
It's not QHD resolution, so it's not super-fine, but with a pixel density over 400ppi, it's definitely sharp enough. The only time you might notice any real difference between this and a more pixel-packed display is when holding really close to your eyes and looking at fine text.
We used the RX17 Pro to watch movies on Netflix, catch-up on our YouTube subs feed, play a variety of games - and each time it delivered vibrant colours, good details and fast responses.
However, one issue that's by no means exclusive to Oppo is app compatibility. Despite longer aspect ratio screens having been available for some time now, some apps still don't scale well to this longer form. Enabling apps to fill the screen - even brand new games like Lemmings - sometimes means that elements are cut off at the sides; even actionable icons and buttons can sometimes end up with portions cut off by the frame.
Color OS still needs refinement, or just killing dead
- ColorOS 5.2, based on Android 8.1 Oreo
We've mentioned OnePlus a couple of times already in this review, but for good reason. Because if there's one reason to go with OnePlus over Oppen then it's down to the software. We find Oppo's Color OS less than desirable than OnePlus' Oxygen OS. Sure, its features have slowly improved over time, but there's still some frustration and unnecessary obstruction - a lot of which is down to inconvenient notification management.
For instance, the app icon shows a notification dot to let you know you have an alert (or multiple) waiting for you in that app. However, pressing-and-holding that icon only brings up shortcuts and doesn't let you see the notifications. More frustratingly, there are never any notification icons in the status bar, so you don't always know you have any waiting. That means you have to drop down the notification shade just to check what notifications you have. Then to dismiss a notification you can't just swipe it away - you have to swipe to the left and tap a little fiddly trash icon.
As it has done for a while now, the Color OS user interface resembles Apple's iOS more closely than it does Android. There's no app drawer and, unlike, say, Huawei's EMUI software, there's no option to have one either. Not unless you download a third-party launcher from the Google Play Store.
The other general user interface annoyance is the lack of option to use a gesture-based navigation system. Moreover because the gesture navigation on the company's own Find X is really intuitive. Having spent most of 2018 (or the latter half at least) with gesture based systems, or system that allow you to choose a gesture based option, it feels like Oppo is a step behind here.
It's not all bad on the software front though. You do get a smattering of extras, like the Phone Manager app, which is useful. Using it, you can see what state your phone's system is in. Whether you want to perform a virus check, or make sure your data's secure and clean out any useless, unused files, you can do it all from here.
Slick and smooth
- Snapdragon 710 processor, 6GB RAM
- 128GB storage
Spec sheet nerds might look at the processor details and scoff, but, if that's you, you really shouldn't. Despite 'only' being a 7-series Snapdragon processor, it's a highly efficient one, built using a 10nm process. In all of our testing, this Snapdragon chipset has performed really well, almost indistinguishable from the higher-end Snapdragon 845 processors we've been using.
Undoubtedly, running it through benchmarks would produce noticeably different results, but in everyday use - whether it be gaming, browsing, reading or just checking email - it's not massively worse than its flagship cousin. Animations are smooth and transitions are stutter-free for the most part.
A big part of this during gaming is a feature called Game Space. Similar to other Android phones, when games are added to it, unrelated background tasks are killed off, as are notifications, while graphics processing is boosted. So despite not having the ultimate best chipset, it's still brilliant in operation.
Similarly, the face unlocking feature is really fast. Like the iPhone's system, you can set it to unlock using your face, then require a swipe to get to the home screen. It's only camera based though, so it's nowhere near as advanced or secure as the iPhone's depth-sensing FaceID, or even the system Oppo uses on the Find X (both of which are twice the price, mind, so no surprise there).
For more secure unlocking, there's the fingerprint sensor built under the display which is accurate for the most part - but not quite as quick and every so often will fail to read the fingerprint. The in-screen sensor we've liked using the most is in the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.
The fastest charging you'll see on a smartphone
- 50W Super VOOC flash charging
- 40 per cent charge in 10mins
- 2x 1850mAh battery (3,700mAh)
While the whole tech world was seemingly laser-focused on building big screens without frames and notches, one other area received significant attention in 2018: wired charging. It's been a little while since we saw any major progress in charging speeds, with OnePlus' formerly-known-as Dash Charge leading the way, along with VOOC from Oppo. Both were identical, and delivered roughly a day's worth of power in just 30 mins. But if you thought that was great, Super VOOC will blow your mind.
Oppo's Super VOOC flash charging uses 50W power to charge the phone ridiculously quickly; promising up to 40 per cent in just 10 minutes. To enable this, the RX17 Pro's battery is made up of two 1,850mAh cells that charge and discharge simultaneously. That means there's a total of 3,700mAh, which is more than enough to keep you going through a day. Not that it matters so much with charging this fast.
In previous years, we've lauded how fast-charging can change your lifestyle, meaning you don't have to leave your phone on charge overnight on your bedside anymore. With Super VOOC, it's even more apparent. What's amazing about this fast-charging tech is that you could even be running late for work in the morning, with a low battery warning - plug it in while you quickly shower, get dressed and get through your rushed morning routine, and you'll likely have enough battery to get you to the end of your work day.
To test it, we drained the battery until it gave us the dreaded 'below 20 per cent' warning, then plugged it in when the battery indicator showed 19 per cent. We left it for 15 minutes to charge. We checked after just five minutes and it was already up to 43 per cent. In the full 15 minutes, it went from 19 per cent capacity to 74 per cent. That's a over half the batteries' total capacities added in just a quarter of an hour!
In regular daily use we struggled to drain the full battery within a day anyway. Most days we would get to the end of the day with around 40-45 per cent left over, with what we'd consider moderate use. On busier days with lots of travelling and working on the go (read: more time spent trying to save those Lemmings), we still had battery left over.
Triple camera, for no good reason?
- 12MP dual f/1.5 and f/2.4 aperture primary
- 20MP f/2.6 secondary
- 3D ToF (Time of Flight) camera
- 25MP front camera
When Samsung launched the Galaxy S9, it was the first to introduce a dual aperture system that automatically widened in low-light situations. Oppo has done similar with the primary camera on the RX17 Pro. The main 12-megapixel camera switches between f/1.5 and f/2.4 depending on how much light is available, pulling in more of it when it's darker.
It has a secondary 20-megapixel sensor too, but - like the OnePlus 6T - it's only really used for extra depth information, and is virtually useless on its own.
Going from virtually useless, to literally useless: there's third camera. As of yet, Oppo hasn't enabled this, and so - while its advanced 3D processing/depth of field capabilities sound interesting - there's no way of knowing how effective it will be. But that'll be an interesting new feature to arrive later down the line.
Even without the third camera active, the dual camera setup is decent enough - but won't offer you the same quality results you might get from a flagship Pixel or Huawei. The Oppo's mode shots come out looking a little over-sharpened and contrasty in places, with a halo-highlighting effect around dark objects with light backgrounds. Similarly, out of focus areas are a little noisy.
In bright daylight the results are fine, and the Artificial Intelligence that adjusts settings slightly to match the scene mean balanced exposures with good colour and detail. It's certainly solid enough for casual daily use, but those who love photography may want to look elsewhere.
As for the front camera, that's a 25-megapixel sensor that produces decent enough selfies, although they're often a little soft. Of course, you can also adjust the beautifying settings to make your face smaller, eyes bigger, skin smoother and lighter. It has HDR (high dynamic range) too, and does a surprisingly good job of balancing out bright backlighting while keeping your face in sharp focus.
In a market where the OnePlus 6T exists, it's fairly difficult to recommend the RX17 Pro, but on the whole it's a good all-round phone. Plus, it'll charge up faster than anything you've ever used before.
Until the 3D camera system is activated, Super VOOC is pretty much the only big selling point of the RX17 Pro versus the competition. If charging speeds are the bane of your life, the RX17 Pro is the ultimate remedy. That, essentially, is what you're paying a little extra money to have above and beyond the OnePlus 6T.
This article was first published as a preview on 6 November 2018 and has since been updated into a full review.
For all intents and purposes, the OnePlus 6T is the same as the RX17 Pro, except with a cleaner software experience and more power under the hood. You don't get the same charging speeds, but its own rapid charging is speedy enough, and - if you get the pricier McLaren edition - you'll be approaching the speeds offered by Super VOOC anyway.
Honor View 20
The first hole-punch camera phone to arrive in the UK, this Honor also offers a large screen, lots of power and a fairly sensible price point to boot.