Review: Fast-charging Oppo F9 falters in other areas
By Chong Jinn Xiung November 6, 2018
- Large screen, fast-charging battery and selfie camera are top attractions
- Mediorcre performance, uncompetitive price and average rear camera performance
FOLLOWING Oppo’s release of its interesting yet experimental Find X, the phone maker has returned with a phone that is more conventional with its F9 smartphone.
The F9 is one of those mid-range smartphones that looks to punch above its weight class. Offering more bang for your buck is the name of the game but the F9 has quite a tough fight as there is plenty of competition in this price range.
So the question remains as to whether the F9 can rise above the rest or stay as a mediocre offering?
Oppo seems to understand that a lot of people aren’t too fond of notches, something that has become all too common in 2018. Fortunately, they have taken steps to ensure that the notch on the F9’s 6.3-inch FullHD+ display isn’t too distracting.
By reducing the size of the notch down to a tear-shape cut out of the screen, it stretches the screen to cover an impressive 90.8% of the front. This leaves you with more room to enjoy content on the screen and less distraction from the notch.
As I flipped the F9 over, I was greeted by the most striking visual feature of the phone, its gradient back. Though it appears to be a glass back, in reality, it is actually made of plastic. Still, it does a convincing job.
The only noticeable features on the back are the F9’s fingerprint reader, which sits nicely in the centre within easy reach and the dual cameras on the top left-hand corner.
The diamond pattern underneath, gives the F9 an elegant look and feel that I didn’t expect from a device of this price range. Without looking at the price tag, I would have easily mistaken it for a premium phone.
Around the F9 everything else looks standard. The power button is on the right side while the volume buttons are on the opposite on the left, just below the SIM card tray. It is interesting to note that Oppo went all out to include a three card tray: two for SIM cards and another for microSD cards.
In my opinion, this is useful for those who travel and don’t want to make that difficult decision between sacrificing a SIM card slot for the microSD card and vice versa.
On the base, the F9 still keeps the good old 3.5mm headphone jack and has a single downward firing speaker. The audio quality leaves much to be desired but it is serviceable.
I was quite disappointed to find the F9 sporting a rather dated micro USB port. Quite honestly, it is about time Oppo updated the F9 with a modern USB-C port that offers quicker transfer speeds.
But to Oppo’s credit, despite only keeping a micro USB port, the F9’s brand of VOOC fast charging does make up for its shortcomings by allowing it to quickly charge up to 50% within just half an hour. The F9 comes packaged with the necessary three-pin charger and proprietary charging cable that you need to take advantage of this feature.
Under the hood, the F9 is powered by a MediaTek Helio P60 processor, supported by 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. The 64GB size is sizeable by today’s standards and should be comfortable for most people, but if needed, you can always expand it up to 256GB with a microSD card.
The specs on paper don’t look too shabby. The one aspect that drew my attention and was a cause for concern was the MediaTek processor, which has gotten a bad rap in the past for not being as great as Qualcomm’s offering.
Nevertheless, I put the F9 through the usual benchmarks to see how it fared and the results were not terrible but neither were they impressive. Based on the Antutu and Geekbench scores, the F9 is not going to blow any flagship out of the water in terms of performance.
To Oppo’s credit, the F9 does have a generous amount of RAM which helps it in multitasking between apps. Nowhere did I experience any slow down during my daily use.
But probably the weakest aspect of the F9 is its graphics. If you are a gamer, you are going to have to settle with toning the graphics down to the middle as it struggles with the high settings especially on games like Asphalt 9: Legends, Into the Dead 2 or Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) Mobile.
I honestly have never been a fan of Oppo’s Color OS as it tries too hard to be an iOS clone. Then there are the minor quirks like the need to swipe and hit delete to clear a single notification.
On the bright side, I liked the ‘Smart bar’ that activates whenever you watch a video in landscape mode as it has handy shortcuts to functions like screen capturing or recording. This is on top of the shortcuts to the camera, messages, Facebook or YouTube.
Sure I could always use another launcher since I don’t like Oppo’s implementation but I just wish Oppo will improve Color OS in future iterations.
The 3,500mAh battery offers decent battery stamina to last through a full workday and the fast charging feature is great. The downside is that you need to specifically carry the VOOC charger and cable to do this, not just any cable you have on hand.
The F9 offers a dual camera array that primarily relies on the 16-Megapixel camera to do the heavy lifting while the second 2-Megapixel camera only helps in capturing depth information.
Oddly, the camera has a ‘2x zoom’ option that misleadingly made me believe I had optical zoom when in actuality it was just a digital zoom. This I did not appreciate.
In use, the camera’s interface was very simple and easy to navigate. The results were as expected with a majority of daily shots appearing clear and punchy. The Phase Detection Autofocus made capturing photos quick and snappy.
The camera even has an artificial intelligence (AI) mode that automatically recognises scenes and applies the appropriate settings. Most of the results were a tad too contrasting and saturated for my taste but to each their own.
Even though the camera has af/1.8 aperture I was not impressed with the F9’s low-light capture capabilities. The lack of optical image stabilisation multiplies the challenge in low-light photography. The resulting photos are a little dim and noise processing smoothens out the details too much.
Oppo has made a name for itself as a selfie-focused camera company. The F9’s 25-Megapixel front camera certainly has, on paper at least, the stuff a selfie lover will desire. You get all the usual portrait lighting modes to liven up an otherwise generic shot.
That being said, I am definitely not the target audience for this phone. But judging from the few experiments I attempted with the F9’s selfie camera, there is enough meat here to satisfy those who value it.
On a whole, I can’t say that the Oppo F9 overly impressed me in any aspect. Sure, the shiny diamond shaped back looks impressive and would be appreciated by the style conscious user.
The waterdrop notch is a nice touch as it maximises the 6.3-inch screen’s space effectively for a ful picture. More phones should adopt this type of notch in my opinion as it is less obstrusive.
The biggest plus point in the F9 is the VOOC fast charging but the caveat is that it needs that specific charger and cable to work.
But, I wouldn’t say that the camera was anything to write home about but the selfie-conscious should find this a good choice, to say the least.
In closing, the Oppo F9 has a US$337 (RM1,399) price tag which is too expensive in my opinion.
In this highly competitive mid-range segment, a MediaTek powered smartphone with a middling camera just won’t cut it. Perhaps the only bright spot is the selfie camera and fast charging aspect, making it ideal for selfie conscious power users.