- Sharp, colourful screen
- Solid performance
- Oppo's ColorOS has a few nice touches
- Cheaper than many phones of this quality
- Battery life could be better,
- No unique or outstanding feature
- Camera is good, but many others are better
In a market as saturated as the smartphone market, and in a time when this market is ruled by Apple and Samsung, Oppo sure has its work cut out for it. An Android-powered smartphone from a company best known from home entertainment products is going to have to be either really good or really cheap, or better yet: both.
The design of the Oppo R7 leaves a very good first impression. It is built to look and feel exactly like a premium smartphone should. In fact, if Apple could be bothered with yet another lawsuit, Oppo could have a fight on its hands. Our review unit is white on the front and rose gold on the back and along the trim on its sides. It’s a pleasing mix of brushed aluminium and glass, a lot like the iPhone 6.
In many respects it is a beautiful phone to look at, but not a great phone to hold. The trim along the edges sticks out by a millimetre or so, and is sharp edges. It’s never going to cut you, but it would be much nicer to have rounded edges or a different material on a device you are going to be holding for an hour or so everyday.
Op doesn’t skimp on the all-important touchscreen display, choosing a 5-inch AMOLED panel (like Samsung phones) with a Full HD resolution. It may not look so bright or vibrant in the photos we’ve taken, but in person the screen is great, with bright rich colours and enough pixels for a crisp looking image. This is a much better screen than you might expect at this price.
One design quirk that fans of Android will notice, is that there is no multitasking button on the phone, but instead there is a dedicated Menu key to the left side of the Home button. Depending on how you use your phone, this might be either a positive or a negative — we’ve find it rather useful. Multitasking is still available too, but long-pressing on the Menu button for a second or two.
While the R7 runs on Google’s Android (Lollipop version 5.1.1 to be exact) the look and feel of the software is completely unique. Op has created its own skin for the Android OS which it calls ColorOS 2.1. This custom software masks Android entirely and offers a number of usability enhancements over the core Google offering.
The enhancements are numerous but are often only minor tweaks rather than major new features. For example, here are several we’ve found useful since we started reviewing the R7:
- Quick-Access Flashlight: located on the Quick Access bar in the notifications panel, this is a one-touch switch to turn the camera flash into a constant source of light.
- Eye protector: also in Quick Access, this mode strips out Blue Light making it better for eyes, and improving sleep.
- Screen-Off Gestures: found in Settings, these are commands you can give the phone when the screen is off. Double-tap to wake up is a default option, but others, like drawing a letter on the screen to launch a specific app, are user customisable.
- End All: found in Quick Access and all on the Multitasking screen, this toggle closes all open apps and clears the RAM.
The built-in web browser is also quite good. It’s design is like the Safari browser on iPhone, with a task panel across the bottom, as opposed to the layout in a majority of the browsers designed for Android. It is a pretty feature-packed browser, with easy access to private browsing (called Traceless Browsing here) and a mode that strips out all images from websites, cutting down on data costs and speeding up loading times.
ColorOS also includes a robust Theme setting to adjust the look and feel of the home screens and icons, but as without other Theme options from companies like LG and Huawei, we don’t find this sort of functionality particularly useful. Downloadable themes are mostly quite childish, and the best option is usually the only set by default.
Oppo packs a 16-megapixel camera into the R7, and for the most part this camera does its job well. The camera interface is simple and easy to navigate, and the shutter is impressively fast; so you can jump in and start firing away almost immediately.
The results, as you can see below, are mostly fine. It handles harsh contrasts of light well, and retains a lot of the detail as you zoom in. We did notice some colour banding, like you can see in the sky in our second test image, and this is pretty consistent across our shots.
As you'll find in many smartphone cameras, Oppo includes a range of images filters and adjustments which you can apply on the go and preview before you take the shot.
All in all though, the camera will suffice for a majority of users in a majority of situations.
Performance is pretty impressive in the R7, thanks to a Qualcomm Octo-core chipset design and 3GB RAM. We mentioned above that the software comes with an End All button to close apps and free RAM, but we really didn’t find that we needed it often. Even after a day of switching apps and playing games, the R7 continues to plod along.
With the battery life, there’s two ways of looking at it. On the one hand, the R7 has better battery life than several of Oppo’s early handsets — namely the R5. But compared with other phones, the battery life here is middling. Often we got through the bulk of a work day on a full charge, but we always charged it in the evening. On days with heavy use, we’d need to find the charger by mid-afternoon.
Op does include fast-charging technology to counteract this, and you do get a big chunk of battery life from just a 30-minute charge, but we’d still prefer it if we didn’t have to keep a charger on hand and be prepared to top up the charge.
When you consider the price (somewhere between $400 - $500, depending on where you shop) the Oppo R7 makes a whole lot of sense. It looks like a phone that will cost you twice as much, and it has all the bits and pieces you might expect. There is no one standout feature or unique selling point (besides the price), but there is nothing missing either.
You'll need to look elsewhere for a phone with fingerprint security and a heart-rate monitor built in. But, if you're after a phone that nails the basics, the R7 is a great option.