During the last few years, many smartphone manufacturers lost some of their market shares, e.g. HTC, Sony, LG and Samsung, which had bad luck with the Note 7. However, the quickly developing smartphone business produced successful companies as well. What they have in common? China. Huawei for instance is now the third-largest smartphone manufacturer and companies such as Xiaomi or Oneplus have become more successful as well. However, you mostly forget about the most successful manufacturer producing China phones. In 2016, Oppo had better sales figures in China than Huawei, Xiaomi, Samsung and Apple and it is now at the top position of all smartphone manufacturers in China.
Oppo is slowly invading the European market, too, for instance as FC Barcelona’s official sponsor. Because of this development we decided to test Oppo’s flagship, Oppo R9S. You’ll find out about everything the phone has to offer in the following review.
Hardware and versions
In terms of hardware, the Oppo R9S can be placed somewhere between high-end and upper middle class. The Snapdragon 625 processor hints on a middle class phone. A 16MP camera with Sony IMX398 sensor, f/1.7 aperture and dual pixel focus, the premium design with 6.6mm thickness and the full-HD AMOLED display on the other hand make it more a real flagship.
The Oppo R9S is a new edition of equally successful Oppo R9. In comparison to the previous model, Oppo R9S now offers a faster processor (previously: Mediatek P10), a better camera (previously: 13MP) and a slightly bigger battery. The Oppo R9S Plus has been launched together with the R9S. It has a huge 6-inch display, a 4000mAh battery and a more powerful Snapdragon 652 processor. Camera and the rest of the hardware remain the same.
Design and build quality
When holding the Oppo R9S in the hand, it is perfectly clear why the phone is all the rage in China. The R9S is simply beautiful! In terms of design, Oppo – like other manufacturers as well – copied from Apple. However, Oppo shows the Californian role model that they can do better than just copy: the Oppo smartphone has significantly more compact dimensions (153x74x6.6mm) with the same display size. The phone feels good while holding it in the hand because of its rounded off edges, and the low depth and the weight of only 145g make the phone quite filigree. Except for the 5.5-inch display with Gorilla Glass 5, the smartphone’s body is completely made of metal.
On the rear, a surprise awaits you. The Oppo R9S has new antenna lines. The so-called six-string antenna lines are three wafer-thin lines at the top and bottom of the rear, which replace the former thick plastic lines. Whereas Apple “reformed” the IPhone 7 with antenna lines that run along the casing’s top, Chinese manufacturer Oppo chooses a more stylish way. The R9S’s antenna lines do not seem to be an embarrassing necessity, but they complete the smartphone’s design.
The Oppo R9S’s buttons are made of metal and are fixed well in the casing. The SIM tray is located above the power button. You can insert either two Nano SIMs or one Nano SIM and one micro-SD card. Therefore, you can use either dual-SIM or the storage expansion. As the smartphone has 64GB internal storage, the hybrid-slot is a useful extension, which has to be only used by users with high memory usage.
A notification LED can be found above the display. Below the display, there is the oval home button, which cannot be operated mechanically, as it only serves as fingerprint scanner. Speed and accuracy of the scanner are perfect and can easily keep up with those of other smartphones. Next to the home button, you find two soft touch buttons. An LED weakly illuminates the buttons. The micro-USB port at the button is kind of disappointing. Considering that it is a flagship smartphone, we would rather have had an up-to-date USB Type-C port.
All in all, Oppo did a nice job with the R9S in terms of design. The smartphone has an excellent appearance and it feels well while holding it, due to its ergonomic style. The wafer-thin antenna lines show that Oppo is capable of innovation. The hybrid-slot provides the user with possibilities, which most other top class phones do not have.
Scope of delivery
The scope of delivery contains:
- VOOC Quick-Charger
- Micro-USB cable
- Screen protector
The Oppo R9S houses a 5.5-inch full-HD display. Instead of a common LCD IPS panel, the display uses AMOLED technique. The result is something to be proud of. The smartphone’s contrast is perfect and black is actually represented pitch-black. With a pixel density of 401ppi, you cannot detect any single pixels on the display. The image is clear. Colours are represented strongly, as it is typical for AMOLED.
Unfortunately, there is no possibility to customize the display in the settings. We would have liked to have some options here, as users who like to customize the representation are left out. At least, Oppo includes a reading mode, which reduces blue light ratio in the evening, as well as some SmartWake gestures. For instance, it is possible to start the camera via drawing the letter “O” on the display; you can also wake the smartphone up via double tapping. The music player can be started as well without waking up the phone.
The display’s brightness is on average. The phone can be operated well even in bright sunlight and reflections occur on an acceptable level. Gorilla Glass 5 prevents the phones from scratches and the R9S also houses rounded off 2.5D glass.
If we had to determine Oppo R9S’s weak spot, it would be the performance of the hardware. The phone houses a middle class Octa-core processor by Qualcomm. The Snapdragon 625 has 8 Cortex cores with 2.02GHz each. Compared to other smartphones in the same price range or to cheaper devices with a Snapdragon 820/821, the Oppo R9S is quite weak. We would have liked to have a stronger processor, considering that Xiaomi uses the same CPU with the Redmi 4 Prime (at only 140$).however, you do notice the missing power using standard applications. You can navigate fluently and fast through the system and there is barely any load time. The 4GB of RAM make it possible to use several apps simultaneously. So far, so good.
When looking at the benchmark results, it becomes clear that the Oppo R9S cannot keep up with other competitors like Xiaomi, LeEco and ZUK. In the Antutu benchmark and in Geekbench 4 the phone scores less than a third. An Antutu score of 66,000 rather fits a 200$ than a 400$ china phone. The Adreno 506 GPU is not that strong either and cannot keep up with current high-end smartphones. The speed of the RAM (7GB/s) is mediocre at the most; the reading/writing speed of the internal storage (200/100MB/s) is significantly slower than the UFS 2.0 storage of the Xiaomi i5s or the Le Pro 3. Gamers and high-end users will probably not buy the Oppo R9S. For normal users and occasional gamers on the other hand, the Oppo R9S is quite fine. All current 3D games on be played fluently and even when playing Asphalt 8 on highest graphics settings, there are just small jerks. The speaker at the bottom is placed a bit inconveniently for gamers, as it is covered by the hand while playing.
Android 6 with Color-OS
The Oppo R9S houses an Android 6 system with Color-OS interface. If the phone will get an update to Android 7 is not known so far. However, the interface has been strongly modified so that it is difficult to recognize the Android core. In terms of appearance, Oppo also made use of Apple’s interface design. The icons strongly resemble those of the IPhone and the settings menu looks like Apple’s IOS as well. There is no app overview, which is typical for Chinese interfaces. Installed apps are on the home screen and can be organised in folders.
Oppo’s Color OS is a well thought-out system that is also visually appealing. Shortly after the first operation you get along well with the Oppo R9S. Those buying the phone outside of China gets a system with all Google apps preinstalled. The Google Playstore works well. In terms of possibilities in the settings, the Oppo system can’t keep up with the MIUI system by Xiaomi or the OxygenOS by Oneplus. However, basic functions like a security centre are available, and there are also some useful additional tools like for example locking apps and data files via fingerprint or the One-handed mode.
Oppo advertises the R9S as a camera phone. The rear camera offers 16MP and an f/1.7 aperture, which is supposed to take perfect pictures in good lighting conditions. Few smartphones can keep up with the Oppo R9S here, and at least in Samsung phones the f/1.7 aperture secures nice night shots. The Sony IMX398 sensor provides a sharp representation and pictures convince with many details and vivid colours. The Oppo R9S lives up to its reputation and is perfect for users who attach a certain importance to the camera.
Thanks to the big aperture, in bad lighting conditions there is more light getting to the sensor than it is the case with most other smartphones, so that the camera takes quite nice pictures. The low-light quality of the pictures is not as good as the quality of a Samsung Galaxy S7 or Oneplus 3T; nevertheless, the Oppo R9S outpaces most of its competitors. Another camera feature is the dual pixel autofocus, which is also available with the Samsung Galaxy S7. The autofocus reaches a maximum of sharpness via focusing several points at the same time. The result is great and you rarely get blurred pictures. Trigger time is minimal and the focus works so fast that it is barely perceivable.
The 16MP front camera has a big f/2.0 aperture and takes nice selfies. The sharpness is good to very good and colour representation is natural. The autofocus works also fast, but it is not that precise. The R9S sometimes focuses the wrong point and you get a useless picture.
Videos are recorded with full-HD and in 4K with 30FPS. The video quality is not as good as the photo quality. In some cases some artefacts occur. You can choose whether you want to have an electronical image stabilization or not, whereas optical image stabilization is not available. in addition, videos can only be recorded with 30FPS, 60FPS is not possible. The Oppo R9S is capable of recording good videos, but it doesn’t play a leading role.
Like almost all other Chinese smartphones, the Oppo R9S is a dual-SIM smartphone. You can use two Nano-SIMs at the same time, but at the expense of storage expansion via micro-SD card. In terms of network frequencies, we have to distinguish between two different versions of the Oppo R9S. One version was designed primarily for the Asiatic market and supports the following frequencies:
International version 1:
FDD-LTE: Band 1/3/5/7/8/20/28
TD-LTE: Band 38/39/40/41
International version 2:
The reception is strong and there were never any problems to connect to the internet. Voice quality during telephoning is excellent as well and the voice is transmitted clearly. The speaker can be used as well. The ac Wi-Fi module has great reception in 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks. The phone supports Bluetooth 4.1 (not Bluetooth 4.2), but NFC is not available. The GPS module has also a strong reception and offers flawless car as well as pedestrian navigation. The position is determined within few seconds, outside and inside buildings. An e-compass facilitates pedestrian navigation.
Although the Snapdragon 625 processor of Oppo R9S does not offer the highest performance, it works efficiently and thriftily. The Oppo R9S houses a 3000mAh battery, which is a battery size slightly under average for 5.5-inch smartphones. Battery life, however, is excellent. The phone lasted for one day (8 hours of active use) while intensely using GPS, apps, surfing the internet, gaming or watching YouTube videos. In the permanent video test, the Oppo R9S managed to play a full-HD video for 16 hours. Also, the PC-Mark battery benchmark shows all of the competitors that the Oppo R9S has great battery life. With a value of 9:20h, the phone outpaces the competition (Samsung, Xiaomi, LeEco). The smartphone provides enough power even for demanding users. Those using their phone not extensively get up to two days of runtime.
Another advantage is the Oppo R9S’s VOOC quick charge function. The scope of delivery contains a quick charge adapter, which charges the phone at warp speed with 5V and 4A. After half an hour the phone is charged from 0 to 65%. It only takes about one hour to fully charge the smartphone, which means it is perfectly enough to charge it shortly before leaving the house.