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April 09, 2014

OPPO N1 Review

OPPO will formally make its presence known in the Philippines tomorrow, adding to more than a dozen global, regional and local brands in the market. Along with it are 5 new handsets, including the Oppo N1 with its rotating 13-megapixel rear camera. Check out our full review after the break.

Oppo is a new player in the Philippine market but not one that is completely unknown. Once in a while, Oppo would get into the news for ground-breaking innovation.

Hence, it was no surprise when I met the regional team months ago and introduced themselves and their handsets. The OPPO N1 is among them. Take a look at this short video we took of the N1.

Design and Construction.

The Oppo N1 looks like your typical phablet with its 5.9-inch display. It’s fairly huge and while it’s still comfortable to handle with one hand, it can feel bulky at times (but that’s to be expected for its category).

The handset is thin but generally hefty with a total net weight of 213 grams. The unibody design is simple, the build and construction is very solid, and the white matte finish with a thin silver trimming has that ceramic-like feel to it.

The power button and volume controls are found on the left side, the micro-USB port, 3.5mm port and speaker grills are all found at the bottom end, while the slot-loading is on the left side.

The backside is slightly curved and has the same matte finish with the Oppo logo right in the top center side. Just below that is an area about 1×1 inch with a subtle border markings indicating the O-Touch region (more on that later).

Oppo makes really well built smartphones and the N1 is a testament to that. We’re just not sure though if how long that swivel mechanism would last after repeated use.

Display.

A full HD 1080p resolution on a 5.9-inch phablet is a great combination — large enough screen size to make good use of all those pixels.

The N1 uses an IPS display looks good on the handset — images are crisp and clear, viewing angles are very wide, outdoor visibility is good with minimal glare.

The glass display covers almost 90 percent of the front side and the corners are slightly curved (more curved on the bottom end than the top end). The soft buttons are found in the bottom end where the bezel is thicker. You can opt to have the soft buttons light up all the time or only when touched.

The contrast between the ceramic white finish of the body and the dark hue of the display makes the N1 looked very pristine which reminded us of the HTC One X from years back.

OS, Apps and UI.

Oppo uses the base code of Andorid 4.2 Jellybean and created their own custom operating system they called Color OS. All the basic features and functions of Android are there plus a whole slew of additional features that Oppo added.

The UI is very simple — two homescreens, a widget screen for native widgets, an app drawer and a drop down window for the Gesture panel.

What’s pretty interesting with the Oppo N1 is that there is an area at the back that is touch sensitive and can be used for navigation. This makes it more comfortable to navigate the UI of the phone during one-handed operations. The idea is similar to the LG G2 with its physical buttons placed in the middle of the back side.

Familiar features like Flip to mute, Easy Dial (auto dial the number on the screen by putting the handset on your ear), Easy Answer (auto answer a call by putting handset on your ear), Hands-free switch, Double tap to wake up, and more Gesture commands.

There are so many other additional features added in the settings. Oppo even went to the small detail of displaying the operator logo instead of just the name on the status of the phone is something worth noting (see the Smart logo in the screenshots).

The Gesture/Motion Panel is also something we really liked about the Color OS. Aside from the double-tap to wake the screen, you can also assign drawings or gestures to automatically run a command from sleep. The default ones include a circle gesture to open the camera from sleep, a letter “V” will turn on the flash light and the “< " or ">” motion will switch to the next or previous songs.

You can also add more custom motion commands, like a letter “Y” to open up and browser and go to YugaTech.com right away.

The camera widgets is also cool as it can launch the camera app in the widget and shoot photos or videos in a window (less conspicuous).

The on-screen menu is defaulted to Call, SMS, Camera and App Drawer which shows up on all homescreens except the widget screen where it is replaced by the Gallery, Camera, App Drawer and a button to more shortcuts.

Camera and Multimedia.

With the large full HD display, playing media files like movies and TV series is more enjoyable. The powerful Snapdragon chip allows for smooth playback of 1080p movies and graphics intensive games.


The audio quality is good but it could be better. We think it needed a little more power and even a bit of bass.

The biggest and most obvious selling point of the N1 is the rotating camera. It’s the first of it’s kind we’ve seen in many years. The 13MP lens and the dual-LED flash are all housed in a small portion of the housing that can be rotated around up to 206-degrees. This allows almost any angle you’d want when taking photos or videos.

There is a native camera widget on the home screen that allows you to launch and use the camera in a small window, making it less conspicuous to operate.

Here are sample photos we took using the 13-megapixel shooter:

Here’s a collection fo video clips taken with the 13MP rotating camera.

To make things more interesting, the Oppo N1 also comes with the O-Touch, an optional Bluetooth dongle (sold separately) that serves as a remote shutter for the camera.

After using it from a couple of weeks, we’re pretty certain it really is the ultimate “selfie” smartphone. Taking stolen or candid shots are also easier because of the swivel mechanism of the camera module.

Performance and Benchmarks.

The Oppo N1 uses an older generation Snapdragon 600 chip (APQ8064T/MSM8960) that does not have the built-in LTE modem in it. It’s still a powerful chip and was very popular in 2013 with most flagship handsets.

The handset scored strongly on majority of our test benchmarks, except for Quadrant which only got 10,321. In contrast, the old HTC One (M7) had a score of over 12k on the same test (both have the same processor).

Here’s the complete list of scores from all the 5 benchmark tests we did on the N1:

Vellamo: 1,945 (HTML5), 638 (Metal)
Quadrant: 10,321
Antutu: 26,530
Nenamark 2: 60.2fps

It may not be extremely high but it’s already there in the top 95% percentile of handsets in the market, beating even the newer octa-core chips made by MediaTek.

Connectivity, Call Quality and Battery Life.

Unfortunately, the N1 did not have LTE yet (the Qualcomm APQ8064T chip does not support it) but the 3G/HSPA+ would suffice for our local networks.

Using our standard battery bench, we were able to achieve an average of around 11 hours 20 minutes of video playback (50% brightness, 0% volume) on a single full charge. Thanks to its high-capacity, 3610mAh battery, the N1 has one of the longest battery life we’ve tested in a smartphone.

Call quality is excellent — voice calls are clear and SMS messages are never delayed. We were wishing the volume of the speaker was louder though.

Conclusion.

While OPPO may be an unfamiliar smartphone brand in the Philippines, they’ve got good brand reputation from China to the US. Ultimately though, it will be the quality, performance and innovation of their handsets that will make up the minds of consumers. The Oppo N1 is definitely a good start in that direction.

The OPPO N1 has a lot of good things to it. Good design and build quality, one-of-a-kind camera, a feature rich custom Android-based OS all packed in a nice, large full HD display. If LTE connectivity weren’t an issue, the OPPO N1 is a phablet to consider.

With so many local, regional and global brands trying to win the minds and pockets of consumers, market differentiation certainly an edge worth investing. That, and a really good price point; especially in a price-sensitive market such as the Philippines.

The OPPO N1 is launching tomorrow with a suggested retail price of Php26,990.

OPPO N1 specs:
5.9-inch full HD IPS LCD @ 1920×1080 pixels, 377ppi
Qualcomm APQ8064T/MSM8960 Snapdragon 600 1.7GHz quad-core
Krait 300
Adreno 320 Graphics
2GB RAM
16GB internal storage
3G/HSDPA
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
WiFi Direct, DLNA
Bluetooth 4.0
NFC
GPS with aGPS support
12.7MP AF rear camera Exmor RS CMOS, f/2.0, dual-LED flash
Color OS (Android 4.2.2)
Li-Ion 3610mAh battery
170.7 x 82.6 x 9mm (dimensions)
213 grams (weight)

What we liked about it:
* Great design
* Great performance
* Innovative swivel camera
* Good build quality
* Rear “O-Touch” touchpad
* Gesture and Motion commands are practical
* NFC
* Very long battery life

What we did not like:
* Slightly dated Qualcomm chip
* A bit on the heavy side
* No LTE
* Quite expensive

OPPO N1 to be priced at Php26,990
OPPO N1 Contest: Let me take a Selfie!

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    “The handset is thin but generally hefty with a total net weight of 213 grams.”

    Total net weight, really? You can say net weight, gross weight, or average weight. Not total net weight. Nitpicking aside, I’d rather buy the Xiaomi Mi 3. The N1’s camera doesn’t justify its price.

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