OPPO R9s Plus Australian Review – Great Value Mid Range Smartphone

The OPPO R9s Plus is a Jekyll and Hyde phone, depending on what they’re looking for in a smartphone some people will see it as great and others as horrible, there will be few in between.

oppo r9s plus black and gold

It’s strengths are several hardware aspects which are flagship level (Camera, RAM, storage, battery, Gorilla Glass 5 screen) and pricing several hundred dollars less than current flagships from Samsung, LG, Huawei etc.

It’s biggest weakness for more technical potential buyers is the unoriginal iPhone inspired design language across the hardware and heavily skinned Android software. This may not be as much of a problem for converts who are switching over from Apple iPhone and those buyers who never modify any of the system settings.

Inside the box I found the R9s Plus phone, a basic pair of ear phones, instructions and a handy clear bumper case.

The R9s Plus already has a plastic screen protector applied, you’ll need to buy a better one within a few weeks as it gets scratched easily. If you occasionally drop your phone or keep it in a pocket with keys an after market glass screen protector and drop proof case would be a wise investment.

OPPO R9s Plus Hardware

Across-the-board OPPO has chosen either mid-range or flagship level components, nothing is below average.

The R9s Plus has a large IPS LCD 6” 1920×1080 screen, yet maintains a moderate footprint thanks to its 75% screen-to-body ratio.

The Gorilla Glass 5 protected screen has very narrow bezels because of the 6 strings antenna design on the back. Weighing in at 185 grams with 7.35 mm thickness, the R9s Plus isn’t a small phone but feels well-balanced.

If you’re a big person with big hands (i’m 6ft 3″), you will be able to use the phone one-handed. For everyone else two hand usage is a must.

OPPO R9s Plus Example Photo

What’s inside

Underneath the hood you will find that the R9s Plus is powered by Qualcomm’s highest 6xx series 1.95GHz octa-core Snapdragon 653 processor. Phones running recent 8xx series Qualcomm processors have the advantage of higher speed and better graphics capability.

Looking elsewhere inside the R9s Plus has several hardware features that are Flagship level.

For starters’ 6-inch IPS LCD display is protected by the latest Corning Gorilla Glass 5, which is also used by the Galaxy S8/S8+ and Huawei P10. OPPO claims that “when dropped from about shoulder height onto a rough surface, the screen has an 80% chance of coming out of the fall totally intact”.

Planning on using memory hungry applications? The R9s plus has 6GB of RAM which can easily deal with that.

Love to take lots of photos and cache Google play music on your phone? The R9s Plus has 64GB of internal storage and can access up to 256GB extra if you insert a microSD card.

Smart phone users won’t have any battery life problems with the R9s Plus thanks to the 4,000mAh battery capacity. Heavy users will find this phone lasts from waking up to going to sleep without needing to be recharged. Light users could easily get two days without recharging.

The R9s Plus has a combined hardware home button and fingerprint reader which is amongst the best I’ve used, speedily unlocking regardless of whether my fingerprint was positioned straight, at an angle or upside down. I registered several fingers and both thumbs so if one is wet or oily then it’s easy to unlock with another.

When you do need to recharge OPPO’s VOOC fast charging tops up the battery really quickly, as long as you use one of their chargers.

OPPO R9s Plus Camera

Unusually OPPO asked Sony to develop a custom image sensor for them. This IMX398 1/2.8” sized sensor enables the R9s Plus’ 16MP rear camera’s Optical Image Stabilisation technology, with a 40% larger anti-shake area.

OPPO claims that this lets the “R9s Plus handle more jitter, in addition to more exposure time, promising users extremely clear and captivating night scenes”. The resulting  photos are 4,608 x 3,456 pixels and you can also capture 4K video.

This is on top of its super large f/1.7 aperture lens and ultra-fast Dual Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF) technology. Both the R9s and R9s Plus cameras use this Dual PDAF technology, a next-generation upgrade from standard PDAF.

The first generation of PDAF had only “a half” pixel for focusing, but the Dual PDAF increases by 100% the area of the sensor’s pixel array equipped with the special photodiodes necessary for phase-detection autofocus, allowing lightning-fast focusing even in low light.

If you’re not a photographer what this means is the R9s Plus back main camera doesn’t need as much light to take a good photo and was able to focus on my intended target really quickly and reliably even at night.

The front facing 16MP camera is paired with a decent f/2.0 aperture for selfies in low light conditions. Instead of including a dedicated hardware flash at the front OPPO cleverly flashes the screen at maximum brightness when taking photos if it senses ambient light is too low. Unfortunately the selfie camera while high magapixel doesn’t have auto focus.

Photo samples for OPPO R9s Plus

I was quite impressed with the R9s Plus camera’s hardware and software capability. Bear in mind that my “real camera” is a Canon 6D full frame SLR with professional L lenses.

As you can see I like to take photos of street art, food and different types of creative photos as I go about my day.

Click on any of the individual street art photos to see the original full size JPEG straight from camera.
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oppo-r9s-plus-street-art (1)

oppo-r9s-plus-street-art (2)

Close-up food photos were sharp and the colours were quite accurate.
oppo-r9s-plus-food (1)

oppo-r9s-plus-food (2)

I don’t take many selfies. As you would expect from a company that markets its phones for “selfies experts”, the R9s Plus did an excellent job.

oppo-r9s-plus-selfie

The slight background blurriness of the double exposure train photo is because I took it handheld with several seconds between shots. If I’d used a tripod it would have been pin sharp.

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Panorama mode is very good providing you move the phone at a steady pace across your field of view.

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OPPO R9s Plus Example Photo (13)

OPPO R9s Plus Software

OPPO’s Color OS 3.0 is much more than a skin. The heavily modified iOs-like changes to Android 6.0 Marshmallow include no app drawer and the user interface is so heavily inspired by Apple that it’s amazing OPPO hasn’t been sued to change this design.

While deeply frustrating because of it’s Apple clone UI, it must be noted that Color OS 3.0 based on Android 6.0 is extremely stable. I didn’t experience any unexpected lagginess or crashes during the last month of testing.

All the apps you install will pile up to the right of your home screen and to place widgets you need to pinch in empty part of the screen.

Totally changed System Settings menu’s will frustrate technically savvy users who prefer the stock Android interface.

Some of this can be toned down by using an alternate launcher like Nova Launcher which restores the app drawer and enables the home screens to be customised as you wish.

Nanny state settings forced me to use the iOS-like OPPO Color OS SMS app which is basic compared to the Chomp SMS paid version which I prefer. The default OPPO browser is clearly a rebadged Opera browser, this can be changed to Chrome default permanently.

By default the Phone call settings has “block incoming calls with unknown numbers” enabled by default. This really should be an opt-in setting. When people call from me from a corporate phone system it’s quite common for there to be no caller ID number.

The OPPO Security Centre application is quite aggressive about killing background apps. It’s automatic virus scanner and memory cleaning tasks can be disabled.

OPPO says that:

“We will update the OS of R9s and R9s Plus to a newer version in Q3 and Q4 respectively, following stringent testing to ensure the devices are fully optimised for the latest OS. Security is our top priority. We will continue to provide regular security patch integration to related products including R9s and R9s Plus”.

Hopefully this update is to Android Nougat 7.1.x rather than 7.0.

OPPO R9s Plus Performance and Battery

During day to day activities I rarely noticed any lag in using the R9s Plus thanks to the snappy and battery efficient 1.95GHz Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 653 Processor and 6GB RAM. Qualcomm engineered the 653 to support 4K Ultra HD capture and playback, the OPPO R9s Plus handles both with ease.

About all it can’t do is play the latest graphically intensive games at top speed, these are better off run on a phone with a faster Qualcomm 8xx series processor with a better GPU.

I’m not a huge fan of Benchmarks because manufacturers can auto detect popular benchmarking apps and run faster than usual to get an inflated score. That being said the AnTuTu benchmarks for the OPPO R9s Plus are: 3D 20656, UX 34879, CPU 26276 and RAM 6658 = Total 88469.

Battery life

The OPPO R9s Plus is the first phone that I’ve used in years whose battery can last all day which is really liberating. I can do everything I want to without having to manually turn on power saving features or lower screen brightness in order to make sure the battery lasts until the end of the day.

I am a very heavy smartphone user reading lots of articles in Feedly RSS reader, catching up on social media, using GPS to track Sydney public transport options to get where I want to go, doing all my emails and taking lots of photos.

VOOC charging doesn’t result in the phone heating up unlike my old Sony Xperia Z5 which heated up a lot in use, while charging or even just using the camera.

Device Name Connectivity

When you look at the back of the R9s Plus you will notice three parallel lines at the top and the bottom. These aren’t just for show but are actually the antennae which enable the narrow side bezels.
OPPO says that these lines were:

“Inspired by musical notation … The thick white bands that traverse the backs of most phones have been replaced with two sets of three ultra-fine lines, each measuring only 0.3 mm … The R9s Plus is equipped to operate on six frequency ranges, dynamically choosing the best one for both 4G and Wi-Fi signals, no matter what hand position users favor.”

Handily if you purchase the R9s Plus outright from a retailer it has Dual SIM capability (1st 4G/2nd 3G) capability. If you buy the phone through a carrier it will be Single SIM.

When using data while calling you’ll notice the phone drop back to 3G data because OPPO have not enabled VoLTE functionality.

The R9s Plus has a X9 LTE modem which can download at speeds of up to 300 Mbps (CAT 13) and upload at up to 150 Mbps (CAT 7), with 2×20 MHz carrier aggregation in both uplink and downlink for uses like sending/receiving high resolution photos and videos. In real life use it easily shared large files to Dropbox and played streaming HD video from YouTube, Netflix and SBS OnDemand.

Speedy WiFi transfers were not a problem as the R9s Plus Connected to my 5Ghz Wi-Fi AC home network at the maximum speed of 433 megabits per second supported by the Qualcomm 653 CPU. It had no problem maxing out my 100/40 Fibre to the Basement internet connection using the Meteor Speedtest app.

Now I’ve gone through that the R9s Plus has we should point out what isn’t present.

No NFC capability is very disappointing for a upper mid range phone, especially since the Snapdragon 653 Processor supports this feature.

Charging is MicroUSB not the more modern USB-C. On the plus side OPPO’s VOOC fast charging lives up to their claim that a 30min charge will get the mobile phone to 75% of battery capacity. Note that VOOC fast charging only works with OPPO’s VOOC charger.

IR blasters are rare these days and this phone doesn’t have one. Similarly FM radio is also not available for those of you who prefer data free radio listening.

OPPO R9s Plus Conclusion

So when it comes to the crunch should you buy this phone or not?

If you don’t have over $1000 to spend outright and can’t afford to spend a lot of money on a monthly plan, you value a really good quality camera, battery life and plenty of storage space more than you value mobile banking or stock Android UI. Then this is the phone for you as it offers exceptionally good hardware for the price.

On the other hand if Android Pay using NFC is a must have capability and you really dislike Apple IOS software and hardware designs. Then to paraphrase the theme song for Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events”“Look away, look away. This phone will wreck your evening, your whole life and your day … There’s nothing but horror and inconvenience on the way”.

The R9s Plus is available $698 in store at JB Hi-Fi, Officeworks. Woolworths Mobile has it available on plans from $50-$75/month. It’s also available online at Mobileciti which is charging $696 with a free 32GB microSD card included.

Note: This article is a late stage draft of an article written by me as part of a joint OPPO R9s Plus and R9s review for Ausdroid.

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