Oppo is clearly eyeing something. What is it? More sales in Europe, that's what. The slamming of Huawei into the brick wall - AKA Google ban - has opened a door of potential for others. And Oppo – together with its sister companies Vivo and OnePlus – are poised to take advantage.

Hence the company is already announcing successors to the Oppo Reno series, in the shape of the Reno 2 and Reno 2 Z. The latter, on review here, is a direct replacement for the Reno Z that we reviewed just some months back – it really has been that quick! – bringing a new camera and other features.

Now, these two new Reno models still sit underneath the 10X Zoom flagship, in addition to the Oppo Reno 5G – which is basically the 10X Zoom with a 5G modem. Given how fast Oppo is updating its products, we presume we'll be seeing an update to the 10X Zoom early in 2020, potentially at Mobile World Congress.

That aside, if you're looking for an affordable yet fully featured phone does the Oppo Reno 2 Z have what it takes?

Design

  • Finishes: Luminous Black and Sky White
  • Dimensions: 162.4 x 75.8 x 8.7mm / Weight: 195g
  • Protruding bump on rear to lift camera lenses off the table

The Reno 2 Z is a little bigger than it's predecessor – largely because it has a slightly larger display. It is, however, thinner. It's super smooth all around and this means you'll probably drop it or fail to catch it sliding off some furniture. Thankfully Oppo provides a case in the box – presumably as it knows that cases will be hard to get hold of from third-party suppliers.

Pocket-lintOppo Reno 2 Z image 9

The main design difference between the original Reno Z and this follow-up handset is the lack of a notch (note: none of the other Reno devices had a notch), as the front-facing camera is now housed in a pop-up. However, it's not the shark fin pop-up like the main Reno phones, but a small slider like recent OnePlus phones. The speaker is a tiny strip along the top of the screen.

The band on the back of the phone is a distinctive design mark for the Reno series. But whereas before it said the understandable 'Designed by Oppo', it now says the totally non-sensical 'Designed for Reno'. What does that even mean?

The camera has two extra lenses this time around – more on that in a moment – while there's still a protruding bump to prevent the flush lenses from being scratched by a surface, which Oppo calls 'O-dot'.

Pocket-lintOppo Reno 2 Z image 5

Reno comes in Luminous Black (as pictured) and Sky White. We'd like to have seen the blue colour from the Reno 2 or the dark green colouring from the Reno 10X Zoom, but you can't have everything – and such colours are an increasing point of differentiation between devices.

Display

  • 6.5-inch AMOLED display, 1080 x 2340 resolution, 19:5:9 aspect ratio
  • Gorilla Glass 5 front and back

The Reno 2 and Reno 2 Z have the almost same 6.5-inch AMOLED display. Whereas the Reno 2 display is a 20:9 aspect, the Reno 2 Z's is the barely distinguishable 19:5:9.

The Reno Z has Gorilla Glass front and back and you do feel it's a robust handset even though – as we said above – the phone has the tendency to be more than a little slippery.

Pocket-lintOppo Reno 2 Z image 10

The screen is crisp and has punchy colours in everything but the brightest light – while it's fine using it outside, bright lights or sunshine exposed a limitation on brightness. In some situations, we did find the auto-brightness was slow to adapt to the environment, too.

Once again, there's an under-display fingerprint reader. It's the third-generation of the tech, says Oppo, and it's certainly quicker than the first tranche of under-display readers we've seen over the last couple of years or so and unlocks the phone fairly instantaneously.

Performance and battery

  • Mediatek MT6779 Helio P90, 8GB RAM
  • 4000mAh battery, VOOC 3.0 charging

The headline here is that the Reno 2 Z eschews Oppo's normal smartphone platform partner Qualcomm in favour of Mediatek's P90 platform. In day-to-day use the difference between this and other mid-range smartphone platforms such as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 7150 is pretty indistinguishable, but it does lack in terms of graphics power.

Scrolling through Instagram quickly is choppy and it's the same when rapidly scrolling through a picture-heavy webpage. There's no issue with handling photos taken using the camera, however.

Pocket-lintOppo Reno 2 Z image 11

Charging and connectivity is provided by USB-C as you'd expect – there's no wireless charging like Oppo's other handsets – but this phone does support Oppo's VOOC flash-charging tech. Rapid doesn't quite do it justice, giving you around 50 percent charge in about half an hour. If you only need enough to pop out of the house for a couple of hours, you're talking minutes to get that charge into your phone.

The battery is a capacious 4,000mAh, which we found was fairly long-lasting – it'll certainly get you into the second day of use providing you're not going to be thrashing it. We found we were looking at around 26-28 hours.

Cameras

  • Quad camera system:
    • 48MP IMX586 sensor with EIS
    • 8MP wide-angle lens
    • 2MP mono lens
    • 2MP portrait lens
  • 16MP front camera

Cameras are getting increasingly complex on smartphones these days and there's a quad setup here. Like the Reno 10X Zoom and numerous other top-notch phones this year, the Reno 2 Z has a 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 sensor, though in this instance there's no optical image stablisation. This can lead to some shaky shots – we did find you did need to make sure you hold the camera in place in low-light situations.

Then there's an 8MP wide-angle lens (119 degrees), again as you find on many phones now, and again as found on the Reno 10X Zoom.

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However, the other two lenses are a little different and are both 2MP – there are dual 2MP sensors for mono and portrait shots. The lenses will intelligently decide on the best lens to be used for any situation; indeed the artificial intelligence (AI) was able to accurately detect what it was photographing pretty much every time we shot with it.

The camera does lack the 10X hybrid zoom of the Reno 10X Zoom and 5X hybrid zoom of the Reno 2 sister phone. It can zoom to 5X, but it's all digital. And that's why this is the more affordable phone of the lot.

The pop-up 16 megapixel front camera isn't as quick as with some phones we've seen, but it is fairly instantaneous to rise from the top of the phone (at 0.7 seconds) and certainly isn't slow enough to cause you a problem taking a selfie. It even lights up a nice blue hue as it rises from the chassis – similar to how the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro's front camera does, albeit in red.

Pocket-lintOppo Reno 2 Z image 12

Oppo promises there will be no issues with fatigue of the pop-up itself; even if you opened it a couple of hundred times a day, it would still last at least four years according to Oppo's research (200,000 openings). And even the most ardent selfie-takers aren't going to be opening and closing it that much. Coincidentally, the pop-up has free-fall protection, so if the phone detects it's falling fast, it'll close up.

Night photos from the main camera are decent, but they aren't as vibrant as many others in the market – Google Night Sight on the Pixel, we're looking at you. However, taking a night mode photo is significantly quicker than, say, on latter Huawei handsets where you have to hold the phone in place for some time. Oppo says this is thanks to its use of the neural processing unit (NPU) to speed up the processing of night shots.

Software

  • ColorOS 6.1
  • Based on Android 9 Pie
  • Dolby Atmos sound enhancements

The Reno 2 Z is based around Oppo's ColorOS software, which is based on Google's Android 9 Pie. As yet, there's no date for Oppo phones to receive an upgrade to a version of the software based on the incoming Android 10.

As far as Android-based interfaces go, ColorOS is actually one of the best. It isn't a million miles away from stock Android and the design – updated for this version – is fresh.

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There's a Smart Assistant screen if you swipe left from home, but customisations aren't in your face, while Oppo's own apps are complementary rather than frustratingly battling with Google's suite of apps for supremacy.

Out of the box, the phone has the traditional Android three-button setup (on display these days, of course). However, you can set it up to bin these and move across to Android's full-touch gestures that are a staple of Android 10.

Verdict

The Reno 2 Z launches at an astonishingly good price. Yes it's a little more than in six-month-old predecessor, but as it ditches the notch it's an even better-looking handset. And, really, it's a steal.

As with the original Reno Z, the second-gen model is punching well above its weight. Although this isn't a flagship phone – it's not got flagship hardware driving it and there are some clear differences with the main Reno 2 and Reno 10X Zoom – the fact it costs hundreds less than what most manufacturers call mid-range is nothing short of stunning.

With sub-£400 phones offering this kind of feature set, it's becoming ever more difficult to recommend a flagship device for anybody but power users or those who want the very best smartphone photos that money can buy. Otherwise, a device like the Reno 2 Z will be a perfect match.

Also consider

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Moto G7 Plus

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It's always worth considering the Moto G Series when it comes to cheaper Android phones. There are a lot of Oppo-matching features here, while its near-stock version of Android is great to behold. It's not as nice as the Reno 2 Z in tems of design, but the price is still decent.

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Google Pixel 3a

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The Pixel 3a is an incredible phone for a sub-£400 price point and has most of the photography smarts from the much-more expensive Pixel 3 - notably Google's Night Sight tech. 

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Honor 20

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It's higher up the price tree from the Reno Z 2, but it has a camera that's nearly at the level of the epic Huawei P30 Pro. What's more, it's based on the same core hardware as the P30 and Mate 20 Series, too.