Australian Review: OPPO F1 - Cheap phone, premium parts

Australian Review: OPPO F1 - Cheap phone, premium parts

In OPPO’s time in Australia, it’s released some great phones at very reasonable price points. Its latest handset, the AUD$299 OPPO F1, is no exception. In some ways, it’s the most impressive device in their current lineup.

The F1 is the first in a new line of budget smartphones from OPPO. The manufacturer says the F-series aims to offer “affordable smartphones featuring high-end camera technology and a premium build”. OPPO has hit the mark on one part of this promise, but has fallen short of the other.

While other budget smartphones often feel budget, the 5-inch F1 features the same metal and glass used on its more expensive siblings. It mightn’t be the exact same alloy, but the F1 feels very similar to the twice-as-expensive R7s, minus the sharp edges. Backed up by a Snapdragon 616 octa-core processor and 3GB of RAM, the OPPO F1 lives up to its namesake. At this point, you might be wondering, “what’s the catch?”.

Breaking from current trends, the F1’s screen is completely flat rather than having a radiused edge. Viewing angles are reasonably good from top to bottom, however turning the phone side to side fades the image. Face on, colours still look accurate, and a backlight means the phone is still usable in direct sunlight. Despite the lower than average 720p resolution, it’s still quite a nice screen.

As usual with OPPO, the box includes a charging kit, clear rubbery case and a pair of earphones. The F1 features expandable storage via microSD, and the slot also functions as a second SIM card slot.

At AUD$299, the F1’s most contentious feature is ColorOS - OPPO’s modified version of Android. I prefer an Android experience as close to stock as possible, so the OPPO’s heavily customised take is a little bit off putting. Almost every menu and icon has been changed, which makes the entire operating system a little bit alien. I found I had to spend a bit too much time re-familiarising myself with Android. Thankfully, OPPO is working on an alternative operating system - Project Spectrum - which is a lot closer to stock Android in look and feel. You’ll be able to install it on the F1, but a release date has yet to be set.

Despite the heavy overlay, the F1 ran smoothly, even in more processor intensive applications like Hearthstone. Battery life on is good, but not standout. Moderate usage should comfortably get you a day out of the F1. Sadly, the handset doesn’t feature OPPO’s fast charging technology. That being said, recharging didn’t take an overly long time either.

The F1’s camera is okay, at least when taking into account the device’s price. It doesn’t exactly live up to OPPO’s promise of “high-end camera technology”. Photos look fine in terms of colour accuracy, but are missing sharpness and detail. If you just want to Instagram a happy snap, the camera is fine, but as soon as you zoom in you’ll have issues like unreadable text and blurry edges. In the photo of my guitar below, the high E-string is indistinguishable from the pickup. This is helped by a slow shutter speed, which can easily turn moving objects into a blurry mess.

If you’re shooting at day, the F1 is able to handle most lighting situations well, even shooting toward the sun. It is however prone to a bit of lens flare. That being said, image quality doesn’t compare to the similarly priced third generation Moto G or the Lumia 640. On the other hand, night photography is best avoided entirely. The camera had a lot of trouble with exposure; anything bright is typically blown out entirely, while other objects tend to end up either blurred or out of focus.

Oddly, the F1’s front-facing camera seems more reliable than its rear. You can easily take a pretty decent (if not stand out) selfie.

100% crop

100% crop

100% crop

Despite the lacklustre camera, OPPO’s F1 is still represents excellent value. Punchy performance and a premium build give you a phone that feels like it’s worth much more than its AUD$300 asking price. At the same time, camera quality and the heavily modified take on Android are almost going to be an issue for some. If that’s you, it’s probably worth spending AUD$50 more to get the Moto G. You’ll lose out on a slick metal design, but you get an almost pure version of Android and a reasonably better camera. But if you value low cost and great construction over a good camera, then the OPPO F1 represents a hell of a deal.

Cybershack Score - rating backgroundrating 4

Solid build, premium feelLacklustre camera
Excellent valueColorOS is a bit clunky
Smooth performancePoor viewing angles

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