There are seemingly a handful of smartphone races all being run concurrently right now. There's the race to produce phones with as much screen and little bezel as possible. There's also the race to create 5G smartphones, and then there's the race towards ridiculous optical zoom in the camera. That's not to mention the foldable phone race.
With the Reno 5G, Oppo is aiming to win three of those four races, and if first impressions are anything to go by, it's a very compelling experience indeed.
All screen, no bezel
Oppo wowed us last year with the all-screen Find X that had a unique and inventive pop-up mechanism to reveal both the front and rear camera. With the Reno 5G, it's much along the same thought patterns, but with some noticeable differences.
The first thing we noticed when picking up the phone was just how much of the front was dominated by display. And that means the front facing camera was hiding somewhere out of site.
While the Find X has a pop-up mechanism pushing up the entire top edge of the phone - and the F11 Pro has a smaller, single camera pop-up - the Reno 5G goes in a different direction entirely. It has what Oppo calls a "shark fin" pop-up, where the camera emerges in a sort-of scissor like action, pivoting up from the right, and vanishing again when you're done with it. It's very cool, and moves smoothly and quickly.
When tucked away, it vanishes into the top edge of the phone, with only a slight trace of a line showing where its edges meat the shiny metal framing. As always with any mechanical parts, it does raise the question as to whether or not this will wear down over time, and will obviously mean the device is less water tight than a lot of other high end phones.
Turn it around and you'll see the new camera system, made up of three/four cameras. We'll go more into specs later on that, but, the interesting thing is that none of them protrude from the back at all. It's contrary to most flagship smartphones out there, especially those housing the ultra wide, and telescopic lenses.
There are a couple more curiosities here. Firstly, we noticed the LED flash for the rear camera is built into the pop-up. Secondly, there's a tiny round bump beneath the cameras, designed solely to protect the lenses from getting scratched when you place it down on a surface. By raising the phone a short distance from the surface, it means the cameras shouldn't rub against it.
Apart from that, it's a fairly standard flagship affair featuring multi-layered coloured glass with metal edges designed to match the glass colouring on the rear. The model we got our hands on was an emerald green, but other colours will be available at launch.
Overall it looks and feels sleek, well-made every bit the flagship that Oppo is aiming for it to be.
5G for the masses (eventually)
Part of the reason Oppo had its Reno 5G available to look at in Zurich was because its first confirmed European carrier is Swisscom. A carrier that's only waiting on government approval before it can switch on its public 5G network. In Swisscom Tower, we were able to get a brief look at just how fast these download speeds could potentially be, and were left impressed.
- EE officially launches its 5G service, live from 30 May from £32 a month
- EE 5G will cost you up to £12 per month extra, but you get more than just speeds
While most of the other 5G demos we've seen involved connecting via Wi-Fi to 5G router, negatively impacting the speeds, with Swisscom we saw a life 5G test and the download speeds were pretty phenomenal.
Doing the test ourselves a couple of times, we saw speeds fluctuating between 1.3 and 1.5 Gbps, which is someway faster than even most fibre internet connections. In sterile testing environments, Swisscom claimed a maximum download speed of 1.86Gbps.
Of course, this test was done with virtually zero traffic, connected to a nearby 5G unit, so we expect real life results to be different. Still, if those speeds are even close to what we'll get in real life when it's available, it'll be awesome.
But there's the crux. In the UK, 5G isn't going to be available for a lot of people right away. Big carriers will begin rolling it out this year, but there's no telling how long it will take to upgrade the infrastructure and get it close to the level of coverage currently offered by 4G LTE networks.
So the question is: do you get the 4G model of the Reno or the 5G one? Is it better to potentially save some money and use the maximum available right now, or future proof yourself and hope your area gets 5G sooner rather than later?
Big, bezel-less beauty
- 6.6-inch AMOLED
- 1080 x 2340
With the camera down, and the screen on, there's definitely a Find X vibe to the Reno 5G. That big AMOLED panel on the front is bright and dominates the surface. It's 6.6-inches, and features rounded corners and curved edges.
We didn't get enough time with it to give more detailed analysis, but it certainly seems vibrant and punchy enough to compete with the top level phones. Even if it's not the highest resolution available.
ColorOS gets an app drawer
- ColorOS 6
- Based on Android Pie
"And there was much rejoicing!"
Perhaps one of our most consistent complaints about Oppo phones is its insistence on continuing only to offer one style of home screen layout. In simple terms: like iOS, you couldn't have your apps nicely hidden away in an app drawer that opens to fill the screen. Instead, all of your apps were dotted across all of the home screens instead.
On the Reno 5G unit we got to play with though, there was an app drawer, that you slide up from the bottom, pretty much like every other Android phone out there.
We didn't get a lot of time to see what else was new, but a redesigned drop-down quick settings shade was there, and looked similar to the latest version of software that dropped on the Find X, featuring an attractive, simple grid of control widgets for accessing features like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and screen brightness.
It muse be said, the software we saw is pre-release and could still see some changes.
Power for days
- 4,065mAh battery
- Snapdragon 855 processor
- 6/8GB RAM
Along with that speedy 5G chip, Oppo has equipped the Reno 5G with the most powerful Snapdragon processor to date: the 855. That should mean lightning fast reaction times, speedy smooth gaming and no lag.
As well as that, there's the beefy 4,065 mAh battery, and either 6GB or 8GB RAM, plus up to 256GB of storage.
Again, with only a very short time with the device, we can't give any comment on how any of this performs in real every day life. We'll need more time with it once it's launched to determine whether all this power is put to good use.
One thing we do know works well, however, is the 50W VOOC charging technology. We've seen it in action on both the RX17 Pro and the UK spec Find X, and as charging speeds go, it's phenomenal.
Lots of cameras, lots of fun?
- Triple camera system
- 48MP primary
- "Periscope" up to 10x hybrid zoom
Oppo actually showed off its telescopic zoom camera at an event in Barcelona during Mobile World Congress. What it didn't tell us was that the phone we were using to try it was the Reno. It was in a camouflaging case, designed to disguise its appearance. Now, we've finally got a glimpse of it in an official handset.
This zoom, using a prism lens and a handful of other elements are arranged horizontally inside the phone, and enable Oppo to offer what it calls 10x lossless or "hybrid" zoom. Similar to the P30 Pro from Huawei, this enables you to get really close into a subject that's far away without losing too much detail. Or at least, that's the idea.
From the messaging, we're pretty certain it's only optical zoom up to 5x, with the 10x hybrid being achieved using AI.
We'll need to test it thoroughly once it's launched to see if it comes close to matching those claims.