Oppo Reno 5G review: Big Deal

If you're set on buying a 5G handset in 2019, make it this one

Oppo Reno 5G
  • Oppo Reno 5G
  • Oppo Reno 5G
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • No notch
  • Improved software
  • Versatile camera kit

Cons

  • 5G experience is inconsistent
  • Hefty design
  • No headphone jack

Bottom Line

The Oppo Reno breaks far more new ground than most flagships do and while it’s not cheap, by the standards of 5G phones, it strikes out as close to a bargain as these things come.

Would you buy this?

The Pitch

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about the Oppo Reno isn’t the 5G connectivity, the pop-up camera or 10-times zoom, it’s how weighty it feels.

I’m not talking about how heavy (215g) or hefty the OLED display (6.6-inches) of the Reno feels, though both terms apply. I’m talking about how significant and singular this latest installment comes across within Oppo’s larger journey from value-driven upstart to major player in the local market.

Less than five years ago, Oppo launched into the Australian market exclusively through the late Dick Smith. These days, the Chinese brand can be found in pretty much every major Australian retailer that stocks phones and they’re one of the first brands to move onto the nation’s nascent 5G networks.

And, even looking beyond the next-gen connectivity,  there’s a lot here that feels significant. The Reno is Oppo’s first product to offer the 10x zoom triple-lens camera tech they touted at this year’s MWC. It’s also the first Oppo smartphone to offer a unique shark fin pop-up camera and it marks the end of the long-running R-series. Across the board, it’s less novel and more noteworthy.

The Oppo Reno breaks far more new ground than most flagships do and while it’s not cheap, by the standards of 5G phones, it strikes out as close to a bargain as these things come.

Spec

Display size: 6.6-inches

Display type:  AMOLED

Processor: Snapdragon 855

Operating System: Android 9.0 Pie with

Fingerprint Sensor: Yes, in-display

RAM:  8GB

Storage: 256GB

MicroSD slot: Yes

Durability: N/A

Ports: USB Type-C

SIM: Single / Dual

Battery: 4065mAh

Connectivity: 4G, 5G, Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac), NFC and Bluetooth 5

Rear Camera: 48-megapixel (f/1.7) + 13-megapixel (f/3.0) + 8-megapixel (f/2.2)

Front-Facing Camera: 16-megapixel (f/2.0)

Colors: Ocean Green

Dimensions: 162 x 77.2 x 9.3 mm

Weight: 215g

Price:  $1499

Design - Look, Feel and Features

Like I said, the biggest thing that stands out when it comes to the look and feel of the Opo Reno 5G is the size. This is a pretty big phone - even by the standards of 2019, where larger handsets have been largely normalised.

If you’re the kind of person with strong preferences towards more compact form-factors, it might make for a tough fit. Hell, even as someone who usually has a good time using so-called phablets like Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9, the Reno sometimes felt a little to large to comfortable hold and use.

And that’s unfortunate because there’s a lot I really liked here. The Reno is a big phone but that bulk contains plenty of finer flourishes that serve to make it not only Oppo’s best flagship smartphone yet but also their most personable one. The Reno feels like one of the few Oppo devices that has a genuine flavor of its own.

The back of the device is made of curved glass but it features a frosted look and texture to it that reminded me of Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro. The Reno is kitted out with a sick-looking edge-to-edge display and isn’t saddled down by any kind of notch. You’ve got a dual speaker system, an in-display fingerprint sensor, triple-lens rear camera kit and a pop-up ‘sharkfin’ selfie camera that peeks out from the top of the device when needed. There’s also a small nub on the back of the device, which raises it upwards from flat surface and reduces your chances of scratching the camera array during everyday use.

On paper, a lot of what makes the Reno special can sound routine. In practice, it feels like Oppo have struck a deft balance in crafting a smartphone that hits all the boxes you’d expect from a flagship device like this one without compromising on the sense of character that it needs to stand out.

Still, if you’re looking for shortcomings, there are a few to be counted. Like many flagship phones, there’s no headphone jack here. The Reno also lacks the 3D Face Unlock found in the Find X, Qi wireless charging or any sort of water-resistance.

About that 5G

Under the hood, the Oppo Reno 5G also comes equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X50 modem, which means you’ll be able to connect to Australia’s emerging 5G networks.

However, at the moment, that means signing up with Telstra. At the time of writing, Optus doesn’t offer any 5G mobile plans and that 5G network essentially consists of a dozen or blocks scattered across each of Australia’s major cities.

It’ll surely get better over time but, right now, it’s far from ideal.  

Tested within the confines of Telstra’s own 5G-ready HQ in Sydney, the Oppo Reno was able to chase download speeds of close to 2Gbps. However, taken out into other 5G zones around Sydney, we were only able to get about a third of that.

Whether that comes down to issues with Telstra’s network or Oppo’s own hardware is hard to say but either way, the 5G aspect of the Reno feels like it’s in beta more than it is a selling point of its own. At least, right now.

Camera - How does the Oppo Reno 5G compare to the competition?

It’s rare to find a smartphone where the front-facing camera is as much of a talking point as the rear-facing one. Yet, the Oppo Reno 5G is the exception to that rule.

Inheriting the hidden camera tech from the Find X, the selfie cam on the Reno 5G peeks up from the upper edge of the screen when needed. It’s quiet but not silent. It’s quick enough that I never felt like I was waiting on it but I wouldn’t say it’s that fast either.

And like the Find X, it didn’t take long for the Reno’s pop-up camera to pick up dust and other micro-detritus. Still, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t take a huge amount of selfies, the trade-off of not having to work around a display notch is probably going to be worth it here.

As for the rear camera on the Reno 5G, it’s a triple-lens configuration that’s entirely seamless with the back-side of the device. There’s no camera bump to speak of. Feel free to take notes, Nokia.

Like Huawei’s P30 Pro, this camera array on the back of the Reno uses a periscope to achieve greater degree than would otherwise be possible. In action, the results aren’t quite as picturesque as Huawei’s hardware but they’re far from bad. Colors have a crisp granularity to them and low-light shots taken on the Reno look much better than most other smartphone cameras. As someone who has spent hundreds of hours pushing the P30 and Pixel cameras to their limits, the fidelity isn’t quite where I wanted it to be - but, then again, raw picture quality on offer isn’t the draw when it comes to cameras with this kind of telescopic zoom.

Being able to zoom in 10x with no measurable loss to image quality means that you’re free to shoot different kinds of shots and use the Reno 5G’s camera in the kinds of creative ways you can a full-frame shooter. And if that freedom sounds alluring, then the Reno 5G’s camera is going to be just that.

Here are some examples of it in action.

1x zoom
1x zoom
2x zoom
2x zoom
6x zoom
6x zoom
10x zoom
10x zoom

It’s not quite as sharp or capable as the P30 Pro but the Reno is slightly cheaper and it does come with a greater degree of future-proofing, courtesy of the 5G connectivity and the absence of any active trade blacklisting by the US government.

Whether that’s enough of a trade-off is up to you but the fact remains that the Reno 5G does offer flagship-tier optics that are impressive as hell. It’s falls short of being the best smartphone camera you can buy right now but it’s definitely one of the best out there.

Performance - Software, Battery Life & Benchmarks

If you’ve read my review for the Oppo R15, R17 Pro or Find X, this next part will probably sound a little familiar. The Oppo Reno 5G runs on the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system, Android 9.0. However, rather than offer the purer blend of Android found in other smartphones, Oppo have put their own spin-on it.

As a baseline, it makes for a middle-ground between Google’s Pixel Experience and Apple’s iOS. It’s polished and it’s clean but it doesn’t always play nice with the extra customizability that Android allows for. If that’s what’s drawn you to Android as a platform over iOS, it might not be your jam. Still, at a glance, it sits closer to Samsung’s One UI than what you’ll get out Google’s own devices.

That being said, the new version of ColorOS does have a few new tricks. There’s a slighter more-rounded look to fonts being used, a new app drawer home screen option and a new Game Boost mode that promises to increase in-game performance - though, jumping into Call of Duty: Mobile, I couldn’t really say I noticed that much of a difference. The gameplay experience here was a little smoother than what I’d get out of the Pixel 3a but not massively so. It feels like you’d have to value your mobile gaming experience pretty highly to get much out of this feature.

In terms of benchmarks, the Oppo Reno 5G delivered the goods and what you’d expect from any smartphone running Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 processor.

In our testing, it emerged as a leader on most fronts. When it came to PCMark’s Work 2.0 test, it beat out the best that Samsung and HUawei had to offer. The only area where it didn’t excel was Compute, where it lagged behind more recent fare like Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 3 and the Nokia 9 PureView. 

As for battery life, the Oppo Reno 5G proved pretty consistent. I’d rate it in the upper echelons when it comes to everyday use. I’d oft be able to cruise through two solid days of regular usage before I needed to top it up. We’re talking around 15 or 16 hours of screen-time. You’ll definitely get a full day out of it. You might even get two. Obviously, if you play a lot of games or stream a fair amount of video content, that number is going to vary.

Day-to-day, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the Oppo Reno offers the best battery life I’ve ever seen in a flagship phone but it certainly feels like the best I’ve seen in an Oppo phone.

The Oppo Reno also supports VOOC charging but not wireless charging via Qi.

The Bottom Line

At $1499, the Oppo Reno 5G is the most-affordable 5G phone currently available to Australian customers. And while the real-world usability of that 5G connectivity is hard to lean on, the Reno itself still holds its own as a compelling package.

It’s a big phone and even if that form-factor sometimes gets in the way of it working as well as it ought to, it never feels big for the sake of it. It genuinely feels like Oppo pushed themselves to cram as much cool tech as they could into the Reno 5G.

Rather than give you single good reason to justify spending so much on a phone, Oppo have given you a half-dozen great ones and, odds are, you’ll probably be able to find something here to latch onto here.

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Read more on these topics: Oppo, Oppo Reno, Oppo Reno 5G
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