Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Oppo R7 Plus review: a stellar sub-$600 phablet
Separating the R7 Plus from the pack is an outstanding display and a competitive price
- Excellent 6-inch AMOLED display
- Proficient 13MP and 8MP cameras
- More than a day battery life
- Expandable storage or dual-SIM capable
- Finger scanner is poorly located
- Similar to Huawei's Mate7
- Heavy Android overlay
Price$ 599.00 (AUD)
Oppo is slowly and surely finding its place in Australia. Progress has been made systematically since the company entered the local market this time last year. Banners advertising Oppo smartphones hang from ceilings at Westfield shopping centres; dedicated zones have been sectioned off in Dick Smith stores; and then resting on Optus’ shelves is the company’s acclaimed R7 flagship.
This rapid progress is owed to a solid run of quality smartphones. Take the R7, for instance, which offers a long list of relevant features without any of the usual drawbacks. Making it all the more attractive is a low $449 price.
Why then wouldn’t a larger version of the R7 resonate with you and I?
Surely that was the thinking behind the R7 Plus, which takes the essence of its smaller sibling and supersizes it to phablet proportions. It is wide at 82mm, tall at 158mm and weighs a hearty 192 grams. But there is merit to its gargantuanism.
Wrapped in a predominantly metal enclosure is an outstanding 6-inch, full HD display. The colours are bold and blacks are wholesome because the panel being used is of the AMOLED variety. Videos and text alike are rich in detail as each inch packs 367 pixels. Compare it to the screens in Microsoft’s 640XL, Xiaomi’s Mi Note and Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus and it comes out on top.
People drawn to a phablet will value the larger screen because it makes all content — movies, videos, pictures, photos, text, the Android operating system — more immersive. And in this instance, the rich display serves the R7 Plus’ cameras justice.
Symmetrically situated up front is a high resolution 8-megapixel camera. Fans of the selfie will relish it because it captures photos suited to the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They can be viewed on the generous screen of a 13-inch notebook comfortably, exhibiting little signs of image noise and above-par detail.
Then there’s the rear camera, a 13-megapixel shooter bearing Sony’s fingerprints, with its f/2.2 aperture and ability to record videos in Ultra high definition. Oppo has partnered it with a laser autofocus system so that photos can be captured within 0.3 seconds, and like Huawei's P8, it has an added white subpixel for improved low-light photography. The results tend to be in the R7 Plus’ favour.
Happen upon a stunning landscape, distinguished by bold colours and bespoke details, and it’ll be memorialised in all its glory. Camera strengths include a wide colour gamut, subtle tonal gradation and a refined panoramic shooting mode.
The camera’s Achilles heel is its dynamic range as it struggles to keep high contrast scenes in focus. A bright subject will either be washed out, or a dark one will be robbed of fine details. This compromise is offset by the R7 Plus’ price, which at $599 is a lot cheaper than that of Samsung’s Galaxy Note5 and Apple’s iPhone 6s Plus.
Further justifying the phone’s large footprint is the inclusion of a 4100 milliamp-hour battery. The R7 Plus is a phablet — a smartphone-tablet hybrid — and its battery clearly comes from its tablet heritage; it's larger than the battery found in Google’s Nexus 7 tablet. Coupling an economical AMOLED panel with this enormous battery results in fewer charging sessions. Our week of testing returned an average battery life of 33 hours — and that was with all power saving modes disabled. In comparison, the 3000 milliamp-hour battery in Xiaomi’s Mi Note averaged 22 hours per charge.
Buying such a large smartphone is not without compromises. It pokes out of pants pockets and reaching from one side of the screen to the other is a stretch. Then there’s the finger scanner, which although is refined and precise, has been condemned to a near inaccessible location on the smartphone’s back. Men six-foot tall will wince as they try to reach it and often fall short.
The other drawback behind the R7 Plus has to do with its processor. Its Snapdragon 615 System-on-Chip houses two quad-core CPUs, one operating at 1.7GHz and another running at 1GHz, with the smartphone alternating between the two depending on the intensity of any given task.
The Adreno 405 GPU is another mid-tier component, although there is ample RAM at 3GB, a fair amount of internal storage at 32GB and the flexibility of adding more with a microSD card slot. It recognised our 64GB card with ease, although those content with the on-board storage can use it to hold a secondary SIM.
Running 3DMark’s ice storm unlimited benchmarking test returned a score of 8300, which is greater than the standard R7’s 7775, but significantly lower than the Note5’s 24,638. Don’t be fooled by the disparate numbers because the hardware in the R7 Plus remains competent and will still handle everyday tasks with poise. The smartphone did not skip a beat during our week of testing, and this is in spite of its Android software wearing Oppo’s heavy overlay.
Both of the SIM trays support 4G networks in a feature that proves opportune for thrifty smartphone users. Dual-SIM smartphones can be used to lower phone bills or can eliminate the need to carry a second smartphone for work. Performing a speed test with a Vodafone SIM in our North Sydney office returned a maximum download speed of 19.9Mbps and an upload speed of 29.8Mbps.
Last year another company from China released a smartphone in which the R7 Plus bears an uncanny resemblance. Huawei’s Mate7 is clad in metal, has a large 6-inch screen and a rear finger scanner. Serious study is needed to tell the two smartphones apart when they're side-by-side. The Oppo R7 Plus then is the least unique phablet in the market, but this is a rare instance where the carbon copy might be better than the original.
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