Oppo’s 2016 line-up (the R9 and R9+) proved the brand could make a solid contribution to the mid-tier smartphone arena. Now, launching their first handset this side of the new year, the Chinese company are offering more of a refinement than a revolution. That said, there’s still plenty to like with the R9S.
Like the R9, the R9S comes with 4GBs of RAM, a 5.5-inch AMOLED display that boasts 1080p resolution and, like pricier offerings, also supports HDR video content. Coated in Gorilla Glass 5 and incorporating the same ‘Eye Protection’ mode as its predecessor, it’s a bright and colourful display that works well in most conditions and doesn’t weigh too heavily on the battery life side of things.
The improvements here are inarguably iterative. Compared to the R9, it’s packing a marginally-meatier octa-core processor that promises faster performance. There’s a slightly-sharper camera that brings Oppo’s flagship in line with the devices of its rivals, at least in a technical sense.
The R9S boasts two 16-megapixel shooters, with the rear camera rounded out by a Sony-built IMX398 (sensor developed exclusively for Oppo). A wider f/1.7 aperture delivers tangible enrichment when it comes to low-light photography. The R9s is even packing the capability to shoot video content in 4K, if that’s your thing.
When it comes to Oppo’s signature feature – battery performance – the R9S delivers yet more minor improvements. The handset’s 3010mAh battery that can charge roughly two hours worth of talk time in five minutes and a full charge often kept the party going well into a second day of regular use. It’s great stuff – even if it’s more or less what you might expect from Oppo at this point.
Finally, there are some minor software improvements that come with the new version Oppo’s ColorOS, based on Android 6.0. It’s not Nougat but it’s certainly still compelling for users who want to marry the usability of iOS with the customizability of Android.
It’s a little lengthier in form-factor than its predecessor but makes up for it with gains when it comes to thickness and, consequently, weight. In line with Oppo’s previous efforts, it’s a slim blend of metal and glass that takes more than a few cues from the Apple school of smartphone design – even if the faintly-coloured metal backside of the device stands as a clear separator.
In some ways, the only real dividing lines between what Oppo are offering here and major smartphone players comes down to (a lack of) waterproofing and (a smaller) price-tag.
The only real design quirk here apart from the minor resizing of the handset’s dimensions is its unique “six-string” antenna lines. These white lines wrapping around the reverse of the R9S enable the phone to readily handle up to six frequency ranges and hop between them at will.
Even after a short period of use, it became clear that the exterior values of the Oppo R9S reflect both a desire to sell it both customers who see their smartphone as much as a fashion accessory as they do a useful device driven by technical merit. You’re mileage may vary. However, we came away pretty happy with it.
The ‘affordable flagship’ niche has grown more and more crowded over the last twelve months. While the context of that increased competition makes it hard to praise the Chinese company for what is essentially a very minor upgrade on last year’s R9, the price and features of the R9S help it hold up as a fantastic value-driven package.