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Review: Oppo R9S smartphone

The R9S feels a lot like the love child of an iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S7.

Oppo has long been a popular hi-fi brand and its gear has a loyal following in New Zealand. 

Now the company is launching their flagship smartphone, the R9S, here.

I was curious to see if the R9S had what it takes to stand on its own in New Zealand's rough and tumble smartphone market.

It's due to go on sale soon but no date or price has been officially announced.

LOOK AND FEEL

In the looks department, the R9S ticks a lot of boxes. It's slim at 6.6mm thick and its good looks get helped along thanks to an alloy body, chamfered edges and a crisp 5.5-inch screen. 

The R9S feels a lot like the love child of an iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S7. This isn't a bad thing, as the R9S takes the best from both camps, combining them into a single, pleasing design.

Oppo has added their own hints of sophistication. Take the antenna lines on the rear of the R9S. These differ from those of the iPhone 6 (which sports several chunky bands that mar its slick rear). Oppo has instead opted for three finer antenna lines. It's a subtle, and dare I say it, cleaner finish. 

Another iPhone/Samsung-like feature is the front home button on the R9S. It is lozenge-shaped like that on a Samsung Galaxy, but like the iPhone isn't a physical button. It is instead a solid state fingerprint sensor/home-button.

The fingerprint sensor on the R9S deserves special mention. It proved rock solid. It recognised my prints. It did this even though my fingers were soggy from washing a pile of dishes. This is something a lot of fingerprint-sensors on other phones struggle with. It's also pretty fast.

In the looks department the R9S ticks a lot of boxes.

While I was testing it, the R9S lived in my pocket along with keys, coins and other pocket detritus. Its front emerged unscathed thanks to its Corning's Gorilla Glass 5. That said, its gorgeous back is a bit of a scratch magnet, so a case is definitely recommended.

BELLS AND WHISTLES

The R9S uses a 1080p AMOLED display which delivers 401ppi, which is on par with the iPhone 7 Plus's retina HD display.

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Oppo also included their take on night mode. They've branded it "Eye Protection Display". It adjusts the screen colour temperature and reduces blue light. This translates into for less grief to your eyes at night. 

If you're big into selfies, then the odds are good that you'll like R9S. Both its front and rear cameras use 16MP sensors. The rear camera also has dual phase detect auto-focusing. As with the S7 Galaxy Edge, this makes for very quick focussing even in low light conditions. Its wider f/1.7 aperture also lets in more light than the original R9 lens. This mightn't sound like a big deal, but for low light photography, it does make a difference.

In good lighting conditions, the rear camera produced clear and well-focused snaps. These are on par with most flagship smartphones. Colours are accurate (but not over saturated), and there's lots of detail.

A lack of OIS (optical image stabilisation) limits its cameras usefulness in low light conditions. Keeping the R9S steady (or on a tripod) saw it churn out crisp images, even if a little noise is present. 

Its 16MP front camera has a f/2.0 aperture to help selfies along in most lighting conditions. Selfies looked great. They were sometimes tricky to distinguish from shots taken with the rear camera. The R9S also shoots video in 4K.

Oppo has skinned and customised Android 6.0, branding it Color OS. Many phone makers go nuts and slather on lots of pointless customisations adding every app they can find. Not so with the R9S which is a shovel-ware free experience. Color OS looks great and runs well.

It also turns out that the R9S is also one of the more battery friendly smartphones I've recently tried. Color OS will squeeze as much battery life out of the R9S as possible. 

It'll suspend app activity if things are running in the background. while this is great for battery life, it can also be an annoyance for Android Wear and other apps. Users can disable it. Once battery levels dip below a certain level, Low Power Mode fires up. This can disable both mobile and wi-fi connections. In use, this translates into an impressive two and a bit days' use. On standby, it managed four days.

Coupled with an energy efficient display, the R9S also packs a Snapdragon 625 CPU and 4GB RAM. It might not be in the same league as the latest Snapdragon 825, but the R9S runs well thanks to its optimised OS. Gaming also worked well. Need for Speed ran like a champ. 

The R9S also comes with 64GB of expandable storage. This is courtesy of its dual SIM tray which can take a microSD card instead of an extra SIM. Available storage can grow to 256GB. Unlike the iPhone, the R9S has a headphone jack. It also has an old-school micro USB port too.

The dual SIM is an added bonus. If you're heading overseas, buy a cheap prepaid SIM when you land and keep your local SIM too. Calls to either will show up but you can make cheaper calls using the local SIM to avoid over the top roaming fees.

Solid battery life aside, the Oppo R9S has some Energiser bunny DNA in its design. This is due to what Oppo call VOOC rapid charging. Getting a full charge takes a mere 45 minutes. Flinging the R9S into the charger for 20 minutes saw battery levels go from 24 per cent to 59 per cent.

VERDICT

So Has Oppo done more than sticking the letter "S" on last year's phone? In short, yes they have. Big improvements got grafted on where they add real utility. 

The R9S camera (both front and back) feel like a real step up. Battery life is also a big win for the R9S over the R9. Given its good looks and great spec, there's a lot to like. The boundaries between flagship and mid-range are blurring.

TECH SPECS

OS: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow/Color OS
Display: AMOLED 5.5-inch 1920x1080, 401ppi
CPU: Snapdragon 625 
RAM: 4GB 
Storage: 64GB on board, microSD expansion
Battery: 3010mAh
Size: 153mm x 74mm x 6.6mm

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