Oppo's approach to the European market has been quite breathtaking to watch. First it announced its entrance with the highly innovative Find X, then it launched the Reno series with a focus on premium, attractive flagship phones at different prices. And one of the most compelling in that line-up is the mid-range Oppo Z. 

With this particular phone, Oppo wanted to give as much as it could at a price point that's way below the highest priced models. That might mean the odd compromise here and there, but looking at the spec sheet and the design, we were surprised to see just how far above its price point it's punching. 

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Design

  • Dimenstions: 157 x 75 x 9.1mm / Weight: 186g
  • Colour options: Nebula Blue and Jet Black
  • Glass front and rear design

There's a lot to like about Oppo's approach to design with the Reno series. Perhaps the most visually pleasing is the lack of ugly protrusions on the rear. The cameras sit completely flush with with the rear surface, right in middle, just above the central Oppo branding, giving it a clean and minimalist look.

For those who like colour, there's the Nebula Purple option, which blends blue and purple together to create an eye-catching gradient. In addition to this colour, there's the overall shimmery frosted appearance that adds another dimension to the finish, which softens any reflections it catches from lights around it, dispersing the light to avoid harsh lines, and we really like that look. It's hard to go wrong with the classic and rather stylish Jet Black if you prefer its simplicity, though.

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Oppo hasn't just considered visuals here, there's even the inclusion of a little round nubbin sticking out ever so slightly beneath the cameras, designed to protect the lenses when you place the phone down on its back. It raises the top of the phone away from the surface you've placed it on, ensuring the lenses don't get scuffed.

Like most of its modern phones, the metal edges are rounded, with the glass on the back curving to meet them, to help the device appear more seamless. But it also helps what is a relatively large phone feel more ergonomic in the palm. It's still not quite a one-handed-use phone - it's virtually the same size as an iPhone XS Max - but it's not as huge and bulky as the Reno 10x Zoom or OnePlus 7 Pro. Also that glass means it attracts a fair few fingerprint smudges, but nowhere near as badly as the Realme 3 Pro, and they're easy to wipe off.

As for the all-important practicalities, Oppo has considered everything here. The power button on the right is within easy thumb's reach if you're right-handed, or easy to get to with your left index finger. It's a similar story with the volume buttons on the left side of the phone, and to make it clear which the power button is, there's an Oppo-trademark green line in the middle of the button. There's even a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom edge, for those who still can't quite switch to wireless.

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Hold this Reno next to a more expensive phone and it doesn't look out of place. However, there are a couple of subtle things that give the game away, indicating that this is a slightly less premium model than the Reno 10x Zoom. First, the stereo sound doesn't feel quite as full or well balanced. Secondly, the vibration feedback when you type or interact with the screen. While the more expensive phone has a lovely haptic feedback motor giving a more realistic click feel, the Z just vibrates like phones have done for a while.

Display

  • 6.4-inch 19.5:9 aspect ratio AMOLED screen
  • 1080 x 2340 resolution (402ppi)
  • High dynamic range: HDR10

We have very few real complaints about the flat display on the Oppo Reno Z. It's flat - and that's already a good start. We prefer it without the curves at the edges, which tend to slightly distort content or lead to many accidental touches.

Spec-wise, this display is up there with some of the more premium devices. It's Full HD+ resolution, which means details are sharp enough at arm's length, with even the finer details looking clear and crisp. It's only when you hold it much closer, and compare it to a QuadHD resolution, panel that you might notice it's not quite as sharp as the best displays on the market. But this is a £300 phone, so it's very good indeed.

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Despite being an AMOLED panel, colours very well balanced and don't overly saturate reds or oranges, like you'd often find on mid-range AMOLED-screen devices. Contrast is really high, so blacks look inky black, and even whites look crisp and clear. It's so good, it's almost surprising.

Now, while the screen quality is generally very good, it's not perfect. Its problem lies in the shaping of the corners. Ignoring the fact that the gradient of the curve doesn't match the corners of the phone itself - and the thickness of the bottom chin not being equal to the top or sides - these corners often cut off content. Little things like the "X" to cancel an ad pop-up within a game end up almost cut in half, and the battery icon is as good as touching the corner in the status bar. A software fix might be possible, as refining the content to fit the display would make it even more impressive.

Performance and battery

  • Mediatek Helio P90 (octa-core 12nm processor)
  • 4GB or 8GB RAM variants, 256GB storage
  • 4,035mAh battery capacity
  • VOOC 3.0 flash charging

So far, so good, right? Get to this point in the review and you might just be wondering where the catch is. This is a mid-range-priced phone, and so far there's no real sign that it's not a true high-end flagship. What's impressive is the same is true when you power up the phone and start using it.

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The touchscreen is responsive, animations are smooth, with some of the best games out there having no trouble running on this phone. Apps don't take ages to load, and there's very little in the way of stutter or frame-rate dropping. Nothing out of the ordinary at least. Even the in-display fingerprint sensor works relatively well - but this is Oppo's first-gen model, so isn't as fast or reliable as the most recent one. 

It's perhaps only when you place it side-by-side with a more powerful phone that you might notice the difference. And that's because the Z is powered by one of MediaTek's Helio P90 processors, rather than the all-powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 like its more high-end siblings.

While the MediaTek is fast enough, it doesn't quite have the instant snappy feel that you get from the SD855-equipped Reno 10x Zoom. But here's the kicker: if you've never used the 10x Zoom, or you've only ever had the budget for more affordable devices, you're never going to notice that. In fact, we didn't even really realise there was a difference until we'd switched back and forth between devices during testing.

As for battery life, that's as good as you'd hope from an Oppo phone. If you're a light user, the standby time offered is pretty awesome. You can leave it off charge all night and only lose a couple of percentage points from the battery level.

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In our testing, with what we'd consider relatively light to moderate use (an hour or so of gaming/app usage, and replying to a handful of messages), it would easily get from morning to bed time with around 40 per cent or more to spare. On lighter days, we could almost get to bed time on a second day without needing to plug it back in.

In short: battery life isn't going to be a serious concern for anyone here. The 4,035mAh battery on the Reno Z is capable of getting through your busiest days. Even when you have a busier-than-usual day on your phone - let's say you get sucked into a four hour PUBG Mobile marathon - you'll still don't need to worry, as the 20W fast charging offered by VOOC 3.0 power adapters is enough to top it up again quickly. It can get you from 0-50 per cent battery in just over half an hour.

ColorOS

  • ColorOS 6, based on Google Android Pie

There's nothing really new to say about the ColorOS software running on the Reno Z that we haven't already covered extensively in the Oppo Reno 10x Zoom and more in-depth in the ColorOS tips and tricks articles. That's to say, just like the flagship phone of the series, this runs ColorOS 6 based on Android Pie, with all the same features and apps.  

That means you get the staple Clone Phone app that helps you transfer all your messages and content from an old Android phone. You also get the Phone Manager app for virus checking, clearing redundant files, brushing up the security of the phone and other general features. 

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With the latest Android Pie-flavoured version of ColorOS, Oppo also finally includes an app drawer, so you don't need to have all your apps strewn across the home screens. With that, plus the redesigned quick settings shade that drops down from the side, this software is a lot less frustrating than it was previously. 

There are still elements that we think could do with a rejig though. The notifications that appear on the lock screen aren't the most attractive, there's something unusual about the spacing of the text and the rounded corners of the windows that doesn't sit quite right either. But that's entirely personal preference. You might not be bothered by it at all. 

Camera

  • 48MP primary camera
  • Pixel binding to 12MP auto shots
  • 5MP depth/info sensor
  • 32MP selfie cam

If there's one area in this phone that makes it abundantly clear that this isn't the flagship Reno, it's the camera. First off, it only has one usable camera. The second lens on the back is just there for extra depth information. And, it would seem that without the same processor inside the phone, you don't get the same quality from the images, even though that 48-megapixel sensor in the Reno Z is the same as in the 10x Zoom model. 

We found at times that the colour was lacking a little life, while sometimes HDR would struggle to dial down highlights in the shots. Still, in good light, for day-to-day shots, this camera is more than capable of taking Insta-worth photos, even if you do need to tweak them a little to give them a bit more life. 

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Without the extra 10x zoom lens and ultrawide camera, you just don't get the same versatility as you'd get from the flagship 10x Zoom in the Z. You have one focal length, and any zoom you perform is digital and, as such, reduces quality. 

Complaining about this too much would be overly harsh however. Again, because of the price, the compromises had to be made somewhere and given how good the rest of the phone is, it's understandable that the camera isn't going to be as strong as a true flagship would be. That said, overall the Z's camera performance isn't that bad overall.

Verdict

While there are elements that don't quite match up to the premium flagships of the world, phones as good as the Reno Z really shouldn't cost so little. It's an impressive all-round device with very few weaknesses.

Its one noticeable weakness is the camera, or rather, the image processing. It's definitely not as strong as the 10x Zoom's supposedly same core sensor, and the fact it only has one focal length means you don't get that awesome ultra-zoom feature, or an ultra-wide angle snapper. But that's no surprise given this phone is half the price.

Consider all the Reno Z's positives and you have a phone that, for the most part, looks and feels like a flagship - it virtually performs like one in terms of speed and battery. If your budget is just £300 for a phone, you'll find it very hard to find something better than this.

Alternatives to consider

Pocket-lintMotorola Moto G7 Plus review details image 1

Moto G7 Plus

If you absolutely can't go beyond £300 as your price point, another phone worth considering is the Moto G7 Plus. It has a lot of the features on offer from Oppo, except, it runs a very clean lightweight version of Android. There's no real additional bloatware or skinning. The battery isn't as big, and the design might not be quite as nice, but it's still a great device at a great price. 

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Google Pixel 3a

If what you're after is a fantastic camera in an affordable phone, you won't get any better than the Pixel 3a under £400. It might cost more than Oppo's phone, but for that you get the camera, pure unadulterated Android software that's always up to date, and with all the most recent security patches as soon as they're released. 

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Honor 20

It might cost £100 more than the Reno Z, but it does make it worth your while. By offering a similar triple camera system to the high end Huawei P30 Pro, and with it having the same flagship processor, it gives you a lot of bang for your buck. It's definitely worth checking out.