Oppo made a hell of an Australian debut the last September. They arrived with a solid lineup of both flagship and mid-tier devices and their emphasis on speed and battery-tech made them stand out from their competitors in real way. It was all really impressive stuff, even if a lot of this ground has somewhat-slipped away from the company after their partnership with Dick Smith went sideways.
Now the Chinese upstarts of the smartphone landscape are back. This time they’ve partnered with JB Hi-Fi to bring out the more high-end R9 and R9 Plus.
Given JB’s own prominence, it looks like a match made in heaven for the two companies. One of them is getting access to more Australian customers than ever before and the other is exclusively carrying one of the most competitive Android brands available.
I came away from Oppo’s previous F1 a very happy customer. However, after spending a week with the R9, the differences (and significant improvements) the device offers became remarkably evident. The R9 is probably Oppo’s slickest flagship effort yet.
Slim and stylish, the R9 arrives in the same humble but polished packaging as Oppo’s precious offerings. It comes bundled with all the usual accompaniments: a lightning charger kit, a set of headphones and a plastic sleeve case. None of it feels cheap and it feels like it adds significant value to the package.
As with the company’s previous offerings, the R9 boots fast. In fact, on the whole, it feels like one of the fastest Android experiences I’ve come across – and the specs here reflect that. The R9 is powered by 4GB of RAM and an eight-core processor.
The R9’s display is a 5.5-inch AMOLED display that boasts 1080p resolution. It’s sharp, both when static and in motion.
The R9 Plus’ AMOLED screen is a little bigger at 6-inches. It’s also packing a larger processor: Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 652. If you prefer the size, shape and feel of a phablet – the R9 Plus is the way to go.
In terms of size, the R9 is a little bigger than the F1 but it typing on it still feels punchy and responsive. Unfortunately, one of the few problems I had with the device manifested itself here, with the menu and back buttons feel a little too finicky and inconsistent at times. Sometimes tapping them failed to elicit a reaction from the device for no perceptible reason.
This wasn’t exactly a deal-breaker for the phone but I recall having similar issues with the Oppo F1, so it’s a markedly disappointing to see it persist here.
There’s also a row of mini-speakers that dot the bottom edge of the R9 sound decent enough, even if the acoustics can require some minor adjustments to get right.
Both the R9 and R9 Plus also support fingerprint security, with the R9 Plus claiming it can be unlocked that way in approximately a fifth of a second.
The R9 supports dual-sims and up to 256GB of external memory via MicroSD – should the device’s 64GBs of on-board storage not be enough. For data-hogs, the R9 Plus ups this to 128GB.
Aside from that, the biggest improvements the R9 Plus brings to the table come in battery size and rear-camera quality. The former gets a nice bump up to 4120mAh while the latter gets upgraded to the same 16-megapixel quality as the front lens.
Oppo seem to take a quiet and polite sense of pride in their simple and clean designs – and that simplicity often extends into the software side of things. This feels undoubtedly the case with the R9 and R9 Plus. Both inside and out, the company’s devices are constantly stealing Apple’s thunder when it comes to slim, fashionable devices that are both versatile, powerful and accessible.
While this endeavour by Oppo to elevate the R9 to the same level of utility and ease-of-use pretty as something like an iPhone is an achievement in its own right, it’s worth noting that it does come with a few caveats. The R9 and R9 Plus run on a filtered version of Android called ColorOS 3.0.
Navigating your phone is fast and intuitive but the process itself can sometimes become flustered by the glossy simplicity of it. Basic functions aren’t always where you expect them to be and you occasionally run into an otherwise simple function made unnecessarily difficult.
That said, this unconventional approach does bring a few cool features to bear.
There’s an eye-protection mode that can be toggled on. Exclusive to ColorOS devices, the feature filters short wave blue light out of the display – which research has shown can be harmful to eyes after prolonged exposure. You can further customise this between low, medium or high levels of protection.
The R9 can also categorize high-quality wallpaper and lockscreen images into ‘magazines’ based on subject matter, rotating between them over time. The photography and art on offer here is actually pretty decent, with the volcanic ‘Low Poly’ being my pick of the litter.
With the millennial generation of major interest to Oppo, the R9 has been designed specifically for their needs. The device packs a powerful 16MP front-facing camera ideal that’s backed up by a 13MP rear one.
Oppo are promising “Incredible Selfies, Effortlessly,” with ISOCELL technology being deployed to reduce the interference between pixels. What you’re left with is a pair of cameras that deliver consistent and impeccably sharp images, as seen below:
Images taken with the R9 and R9 Plus look sharp and, taking the pricing of the devices into consideration, offer up a lot of value on that front.
The front-facing camera touts a higher megapixel-count and brings several filters designed for selfies to bear. There’s also support for panoramic and double-exposure shots.
When it comes to Oppo’s usual strength – battery life – the R9 holds its own pretty well. It’s powered by a 2850mAh battery and the company’s proprietary VOOC Flash Charge tech. Oppo claim that the device can charge to 70% capacity in thirty minutes and that’s pretty consistent with my experiences using the phone. Regular use found a full charge with the handset lasted between 12 and 15 hours, depending on the usual factors.
If there’s any immediate or major drawback to this aspect of the device, it’s that it does not quite feel like a major improvement over the manufacturers previous efforts. Still, it’s a pretty impressive feat and well worth considering if you’re frustrated by your current phone’s battery dying on you. Battery life is arguably the signature feature of Oppo’s brand and you’d be a fool to ignore it.
It says something good about the device that, even as someone satisfied with Oppo’s mid-range F1, I came away as impressed as I am with the R9. Both in design and technical respects, Oppo are cultivating both excellent and elegance. Oppo aren’t just giving the smartphone giants a run for their money here – they’re making it look easy.