When people think of top range phones, the likes of Samsung, HTC, LG and more recently (albeit with selected handsets) Huawei come to mind for most users. Oppo are working very hard to catch up to the front runners in the Android race; they’re extremely well recognised in China and they’re doing a great job at punching above their weight and are surely at the pointy end of the pack chasing down the top names. So when the chance to review the R9 plus came up following my hugely enjoyable experience with the R7s, I jumped at it.
The task of differentiating yourself above the others in the device pack following the major players is more difficult that it would appear on the surface. The device needs to offer a clean, good look while maintaining solid and reliable performance with a particular focus on battery life for a large percentage of users in the space. If that’s not enough, the price needs to be realistically about half that of the flagships sitting in the $600 to $700 range which still isn’t a cheap device, so have Oppo made the cost worth it?
Oppo R9 Plus Hardware
When you’re sporting a 6-inch screen, it is rather difficult to be slender and lightweight. The R9 plus does absolutely nothing to dispel that stereotype, but if you’re buying a 6-inch screen you’re not in it for those traits. Where the bigger devices come into their own is the screen real estate you have, the functionality that that extra space offers and probably extra battery life that larger devices are able to (hopefully) offer by packing a larger battery into the chassis. Thats where the R9 Plus really delivers.
The phone measures 163.1mm x 80.8mm x (an impressive) 7.4mm; it’s only slightly larger than my Note 5 but gives an extra .3” of screen size for it all with only an extra 14 grams of weight. Physically the differences are quite subtle, so the feel of the device is very familiar and comfortable to anyone who’s owned a Samsung Note device in the past. What really stands out to me is that the R9 Plus actually feels really solid and stylish in hand, without getting cumbersome and clumsy.
When you take the sub $700 outright price tag, there’s a bit of a sparkle that gleams from the Oppo that other devices in this size and spec range just don’t have.
Oppo aren’t trying to be something they’re not here, they’re hitting the marks they need to in order to be recognised as a quality device that offers solid, but not bleeding edge performance and reliability at a price that’s affordable (outright) to the average user.
|Key Specifications:||Oppo R9 Plus|
|Release date||July 2016|
|Resolution||1,920 x 1,080|
|Core config||1.8 GHz x 4 + 1.2 GHz x 4|
|MicroSD||Yes, up to 128|
|WIFI standards||802.11 a/b/g/n|
|Android OS||Android 5.1|
|Vendor skin||ColorOS 3.0|
|Dimensions||163.1 x 80.8 x 7.4 mm|
We’ve been lucky enough to have had hands on with the R9 plus for a couple of weeks now and once the initial sparkle of the device wears off, it leaves a solid and positive impression on users. Solid is a a very deliberate choice of wording because that’s what almost everyone who’s had a look at it say “it feels nice and solid“. Not “it’s heavy” or other comments of the like. The solid feel also comes from the construction which leaves no discernible flex when handling it despite the size of the phone.
They physical dimensions aren’t far different to that of the massively popular Galaxy Note 5 and despite being slimmer actually feels like it is slightly more solid in construction. I don’t like bend tests to the extreme that some sites take them to, building special machines to tell us how much pressure it takes to break a phone. Less scientific, but more realistic – I personally “twist” devices along their longest sides to check if there is any noticeable movement and with the R9 Plus there is nothing to report here.
When looking at the build of the R9 Plus it’s pretty clear that Oppo have done a great job of making it a solid, lightweight and good looking device.
Oppo R9 Plus Camera
Both front and rear cameras are 16MP and sport F/2.0 aperture which makes it capable of good photos in poor light and to reiterate yes, that’s right 16MP SELFIES!!
When we reviewed the R7s we were impressed with the performance of the camera, not only the results in outdoor/good lighting but also in poor lighting conditions and the R9 Plus gives great performance in all lighting conditions too. Not only does the camera perform well but from the time of opening the app it’s ready to take photos in less than a second which is fantastic when you have one of “those” moments as a parent, fleeting and precious – to capture it is magic so to have software on a phone that can be ready to capture moments so quickly is refreshing and the results are very good.
As you would expect on a modern mobile device the R9 Plus camera has all the mod-cons of mobile cameras that allow you to take good photos and be a little artistic with them as well as automatically track time away with Google Photos or other pieces of software. So you’ve got geo-tagging for location awareness, touch focus to allow a specific focus point, face detection for tagging your friends, panorama for those amazing wide angles and HDR to ensure you’re getting the best from your camera.
Already said but I’ll say it again, the camera results are really good in almost any light conditions. It’s not too the level of the Samsung flagships or the recent market leading efforts from the LG G4 and G5 phones but certainly a leader in their price bracket!
When testing the camera it was really opportunistic that there are some greatly varied weather conditions for a few days that have a great feeling for the true capability of the cameras.
Oppo R9 Plus Software
So being honest here, Colour OS is far from my favourite option available. To be brutally honest I find it clumsy in areas and a little counter intuitive, that is based on fairly broad experience with various phones and brands. But the addition of a launcher I like (personal preferences are either Nova Launcher or Action Launcher) makes daily use a much more familiar and happier experience.
Taking personal preference in the behaviour of the device out of the equation, there is 2 glaring issues with the device for my mind. The first is that a device that was so recently released comes out of the box with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop which is a real shame and for a number of users possibly a deal breaker. Oppo have confirmed for us that Color OS based on Android 6 is currently in development, so it’s extremely likely (but not guaranteed at this stage) that the R9 Plus will see an Android 6.0 update in the not too distant future.
The second is the amount of space that is consumed when you first turn the phone on, with the OS and a bit of bloat on there you’ve already lost about 12.2GB of the available 64GB of space. I can already hear a few of you saying “so what, there’s still over 50GB free on there”, I agree but thats also a LOT of space chewed up that you won’t ever see. The ability to add in a MicroSD does give a bit of a reprieve but the system software does seem to be using more than it needs to.
Like all the other manufacturers, Oppo have their own take on a web browser, Email client, File explorer and Music Player. Unless you’re brand new to Android it’s quite unlikely you’ll adopt these as a daily driver app vs Chrome, Gmail, Play Music or any of the custom file manager options that you can find on the Play Store. They’ve generally very basic and aimed and the users who just want a really simple option to complete basic tasks.
Oppo R9 Plus Performance and Battery
The general performance of the R9 Plus is more than acceptable to any user, the only time I found any performance issue in my time with the phone was when I was loading something big like a game. It wasn’t hugely noticeable and had I not needed to run it alongside my daily driver I probably wouldn’t have noticed it, but running a couple of side-by-side tests there is an edge to the higher end device in performance there. But the 4GB of memory on the R9 Plus meant that I never felt a need to close down running apps or even once felt as though I needed to reboot to clear some memory.
For me a “normal” day would entail anything up to 8 or 10 calls, SMS by the truckload (handled via Pushbullet usually), email, various productivity apps running, Music, Twitter, the occasional bit of Facebook and often various other tasks involving screen on time. So putting it mildly, I’m not someone who should be reported for abusing the battery of my phone but I’m certainly a heavy user.
This is where the R9 Plus comes into its own, in fact I honestly believe when it comes to battery life that the big players could actually learn something from the battery life that Oppo offer their users. With the same apps that I run daily on my Note 5 and often need to look for a bit of a top up by about 4pm, even on the heaviest of days I was heading for bed with over 30% battery left and on “average” days I could consistently manage 2 days. But here’s the kicker and a bit of cream on the pie that has created my excitement, VOOC charging is fast… really fast.
From barely enough battery to keep the screen on at 2pm (on day 2 of a cycle) to keeping the phone going till nearly 11pm only took 30 minutes on charge. It really is quite astounding that the charge speed is as fast as it is, many of the major manufacturers have adopted this technology now and for users who rely heavily on their phone this is only a good thing.
When you really look closely at the battlefield of battery life, Oppo are doing a great job of showing the far bigger players how to do it right.
Oppo R9 Plus Connectivity
Bare with me here, there’s not really any way that you can make the connectivity details of a mobile device exiting but it is very important information. So you’ve got close to a full suite of connectivity starting with the MicroUSB and Nano SIM options which are pretty common these days. While USB C would be very nice, it’s not a mainstream option as yet and as such the mid range manufacturers haven’t adopted it. The biggest missing option when it comes to connectivity is more notable since Android Pay dropped in Australia, NFC. Not all banks support it yet, but the popularity is sure to grow as
For the all important bits that the majority of users look at you’ll need a Nano SIM to connect to the mobile world. The connectivity options we’ve got include Bluetooth 4.1 (NB. No mention in the specs of A2DP) , A-GPS and there’s 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi so you can connect to pretty much anything that supports WiFi and of course the capability of turning your phone into a WiFi hotspot if you’ve got the data available to burn.
Nearly all of the important mobile bands for Australia covered including 850/900/1800/1900MHz but for those of you on a carrier who are either currently operating on, or considering the 700Mhz band (Telstra and Optus) it may turn a phone like this into a short – medium term solution only to make full use of your network.
Oppo R9 Plus Conclusion
So what we’re looking at is a really nice device overall, it’s got a really nice 6 inch screen, solid rear facing camera, one of the best selfie cameras going and plenty of connectivity options but there’s a couple of potential deal breakers for some users – the first being the absence of NFC in the connectivity options and the other being the missing gigs of space thanks to the seemingly bloated OS. NFC will be an all or nothing option for many users, you’re either going to use it or not, but the space issue can be overcome by adding a MicroSD Card to your device.
If you’re able to get past the space and particularly the NFC issue there’s a couple of real highlights to love about the R9 Plus starting with the truly outstanding battery life and solid performance that is going to be more than sufficient for the vast majority of users.
Would I buy one?
I’d think carefully about it and there’s a few reasons behind this. The device itself is really good and for many users it won’t disappoint, I can’t help but feel that Oppo have missed the mark when it comes to outright pricing though as it will set you back $699 outright from either Oppo online or JB Hifi. This is the sort of price range devices wanting to be a flagship drop at and the R9 Plus feels more like the sort of device that will be an absolute roaring success were it either $150 cheaper outright or available on the sub $50 per month contracts from carriers.
It ticks all the boxes for a lot of users and if you’re in that boat, it could in fact be the best current option for a lot of them so its is absolutely worth a close look.
Does the R9 Plus make your list of phones to look at, or is it missing something you really need?