Oppo F9 (F9 Pro) Review

Oppo F9 (F9 Pro)

Oppo F9 (F9 Pro)

Oppo

August, 2018
6.3" LTPS IPS LCD display, MT6771 Helio P60 chipset, Dual: 16 MP + 2 MP primary camera, 25 MP front camera, 3500 mAh battery, 64 GB storage, 6 GB RAM, Corning Gorilla Glass 6.
EUR:€290 | USD:$331 | PKR:44,999 | INR:23,775

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Oppo F9 (F9 Pro) Review

Oppo F9 (F9 Pro) Review


Introduction

Oppo has been in limelight lately for introducing bold and innovative smartphones, Oppo Find X in particular. It has just been a few months since they introduced Oppo F7, their midrange flagship device for 2018. However, 2018 has been an unforgiving year for smartphone manufacturers, as more and more smartphones keep on popping every other month and for that reason, Oppo has unveiled a new smartphone already. Oppo F9 is an iterative release to previous F-series device, but don't be fooled by that as it doesn't look like it at all. It's got a brand-new display, something you might have not seen anywhere else, an even better selfie camera, and Oppo's new super-fast charging tech. It's an eye grabber, with its unique design and looks as Oppo has focused on style and fashion element of this phone as well this time. Only question remains, is it worth it? Can Oppo F9 conquer midrange smartphone market, considering the competition there is? Well, let's find out.

Design

Oppo's phones weren't famous for being most distinguished phones before Oppo F7, as these phones would easily get lost in crowd. I personally thought that Oppo F7 was easily the best-looking smartphone that company had ever introduced but Oppo F9 easily takes that spot. It looks absolutely gorgeous in either Twilight Blue or Sunrise Red with subtle gradients and elegant facets that catch your eye when seen from different angles. It's not made of premium materials however, as body is made of plastic instead of metal or glass, but it still feels solid in hands.

At front, phone boasts a brand-new display with an interesting little notch. Oppo is calling it a water-drop display as notch resembles a water droplet and quite frankly, this is the most beautiful implementation of notch that I've seen on any smartphone to date. Display is pretty large, with notch housing front facing camera and an earpiece in middle. Side bezels almost don't exist, while bottom chin is as thin as it comes.

Back of phone is just as interesting to look at as well. There's a horizontal dual camera setup on top left of device, with an LED flash right next to it. Fingerprint scanner is at top middle of device, very suitable for index finger reach, and has a unique oval shape with a metal rim around it. Oppo branding can be found below fingerprint scanner and rest of back is kept clean. Now, it doesn't just stop there. Yes, back is clean but it comes with an interesting, color shifting twist. Phone's Sunrise Red finish has a gradient of rich, deep crimson and violet, with a swirly diamond pattern. Twilight Blue option has a similar pattern but color runs from dark navy to light blue. Finally, Starry Purple has a magenta-indigo gradient with light speckles scattered randomly across it.

On left side of phone is where you'll find a power button and volume keys, with a sim tray slot right above them. Right side of phone is conveniently left clean, together with top of device. Bottom of device houses a speaker, Micro-USB port, mic and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. While I was happy to find a headphone jack, inclusion of Micro-USB port was a downer. Another downer is that phone comes with no water/dust resistance, but that's not a huge thing to complain when it's a midrange device we're talking about.

Everything else about Oppo F9's design is fairly standard. Oppo fans like to have a fashionable phone, one that can make a statement and this one right here is definitely designed to fulfil that job.

Display

Oppo F9 is an attention grabber and its main attention-grabbing feature is its notched display. Notch is probably the most disliked smartphone trend of 2018, but Oppo has figured out a way to make it look good. It's called a waterdrop notch and it's much smaller and more attractive than typical notches you find on smartphone these days. Phone has a 6.3 inch Full HD+ LTPS IPS LCD display with a resolution of 1080x2340p, aspect ratio of 19.5:9 and a pixel density of 409 ppi. This also means that phone has a screen to body ratio of a whopping 90.8%.

This screen is about as close to edge-to-edge as you can get, with very thin bezels all around. LCD display isn't the most impressive you'll find on a smartphone, but I found it to be perfectly sufficient. It's large, comfortable to use, and pleasant to look at. Colors are vibrant, text is sharp, and it's bright enough to see in direct sunlight. When running some apps, playing games, or watching videos, content extends towards the notch by default. But you can disable it for each app inside the Settings menu under the Notch Area Display Control. This is simply a game changer, and certainly a trend setter as this implementation of notch in a display is exactly what users have been demanding.

Oppo F9 is also first smartphone to ship with Gorilla Glass 6 display, Corning's most durable glass. It's apparently capable of surviving an average of 15 drops from one meter, and that is highly impressive. All of this makes you feel that you have quite a premium device and a wonderfully designed display. Only the engineering efforts to develop this water drop display are enough for me to praise Oppo for display department of Oppo F9.

Hardware

Biggest change to Oppo F7 was introduction to Mediatek's Helio P60 processor that really provided a ton of raw power under hood of that device. Oppo F9 retains same Mediatek Helio P60 processor, which comes with Mali-G72 MP3 GPU and paired with either 4 GB or 6GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard-storage. You also get an MicroSD storage expansion in-case you want to expand memory.

During my performance test of this device, most of the time Oppo F9 performed fluidly. Launching applications, navigating through interface, browsing web, and other typical smartphone activities went quite smoothly. Only issue I had was with gaming as on Oppo F9, that's a very choppy experience and it feels as if Mediatek processor isn't able to keep up. Phone even struggles with Clash Royale, which is a simple tower defense game and not very graphically intensive. Oppo's software has a gaming mode to improve gameplay and provide better gaming performance but I didn't notice a difference with it on or off. Quite surprisingly, On PUBG Mobile, things looked a lot better on HD Settings and high frame rates where phone maxes out. You'll get an average of 26 frames per second while playing War game mode. Dips happened when there are a lot of textures to load but I didn't encounter them during fire-fight so it was all good.

If you judge Oppo F9 only by its benchmarks scores, it will come out looking quite weak. Setting aside obviously more powerful Xiaomi Pocophone F1, this phone still doesn't compare favorably against similarly priced phones such as Huawei Honor Play and Huawei Nova 3i. It's also outperformed by lower priced Xiaomi Mi A2 and is of course on par with even more affordable Oppo Realme 1. I got a score of 137,739 on AnTuTu, and Geekbench's single and multi-core tests managed 1,348 and 5,305 respectively. Graphics test scores were disappointingly weak, with this phone scoring only 1,078 in 3DMark's Slingshot Extreme scene, pushing out only 34fps in basic GFXBench T-Rex test.

Talking about sound, phone features a 3.5mm headphone jack which was uplifting, however, you're only getting a single speaker here. For security, you have both facial unlock and fingerprint scanner. It was a downer for me as even cleaning fingerprint scanner and having it retake my biometrics, it felt rather slow and margin of error was a lot larger than what I'm accustomed to. Another downside to Oppo F9 is that you'll still getting a micro USB, instead of USB Type-C.

Overall, it's safe to say that Oppo F9 comes with a fairly standard hardware, and nothing special. If you're already using Oppo F7, there's not much you'll find here that'll impress you into buying this phone.

Battery

In terms of battery life, Oppo F9 performs admirably well. It comes with a 3,500 mAh battery which is plenty of juice for device to comfortably last all day. Unfortunately, Oppo's software doesn't make it easy to gauge screen-on time statistics as on other Android phones. Oppo F9 managed to run for 13 hours, 12 minutes in my HD video loop test. That's thanks to low-power LTPS screen, Helio P60 SoC's efficiency, and optimizations built into ColorOS. With ordinary use including some gaming, video streaming and plenty of time spent online, I easily sailed through a full day and didn't have to worry about battery level till next morning.

Oppo F9 is also very quick to recharge with Oppo's VOOC fast charging. This is one of the fastest charging methods available which you may be more familiar with as Dash Charge on OnePlus devices. VOOC flash charging is supposed to charge phone four times as fast as existing 5V/1A charging systems. If that sounds like a recipe for a Samsung Note 7-style inferno, Oppo claims you have nothing to worry about, with VOOC offering five layers of protection and a low operating temperature. VOOC charger is enormous and will be a pain to carry around, but it works brilliantly. A 10-minute charge from zero took phone up to 19 percent, and I was able to get to nearly 75 percent in just 40 minutes, which is really impressive.

Overall, I think this is the best aspect about this phone, together with its display. A major selling point for this new arrival by Oppo.

Camera

This is a part where Oppo F9 feels like an upgrade over Oppo F7. Instead of just a single rear shooter, it now also has a secondary sensor for bokeh effects. Dual camera setup at back consists of 16 MP main shooter with an f/1.8 aperture and 2 MP depth sensor with an f/2.4 aperture. It comes with your usual camera features like HDR, Time-Lapse, Slow motion, Panorama, and Manual mode. Portrait mode has 3D lighting effects found on Oppo Find X as well as AR stickers, Super Vivid mode, and AI Beauty Technology 2.1.

Image quality is good but not at same level to, let's say, Oppo Find X. It has AI scene recognition as well and was able to easily recognize scenes like food, landscape, and pets. Photos produced by rear and front cameras are sharp with accurate colors and nice contrast. It can handle dim conditions like indoors but not so much in low light as details are smudgy and noise starts to become more evident. At night, there was quite a bit of focus lag together with shots coming out with murky details and a lot of blurring when dealing with even slightly moving objects. Most of sample photos looked fine on phone's screen but weren't suitable for use at full size.

Oppo's camera app is somewhat like the one on iOS, just with a lot more going on. Main mode ribbon at the bottom includes Timelapse, Slo-mo, Portrait, Sticker, Panorama, and Expert modes along with standard Photo and Video. Portrait mode was pretty fussy about prompting me to move closer to or farther away from subjects. There are also "lighting effects" which are little more than mild filters. The Slow-mo and Timelapse video modes didn't have any options at all for us to tweak, not even resolution. You get Google Lens integration in standard Photo mode, along with beautification, filters, and a choice of aspect ratios.

There's a 25 MP selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture. Front camera is usually one of Oppo's biggest highlights, but in this case, I wasn't terribly impressed. Faces looked sharp, but background details were completely lost. Depth effect made backgrounds look a little cartoony, which might not be a bad thing, and edge detection was fairly good. Selfies taken at night were grainy and I wouldn't want to show them off on my social media, to be honest. You can simulate a depth effect with the front camera, but it isn't very natural. Beautification mode is set to 'AI' by default, and I found it to be way too aggressive, making me look almost animated. Selfies taken indoors weren't very impressive while in daylight, I found camera app to be responsive, locking focus quickly. Shots looked crisp, with good colors and adequate detail. In portrait mode, phone often took a few moments to settle difference between foreground and background objects, but I was able to see effect on screen and decide when to capture shots. With video, you have a choice between 720p and 1080p for with rear cameras, and there are no settings to play with. I saw a lot of focus shifting, and lack of stabilization was evident throughout shots that I took.

Phone's camera doesn't come with any kind of stabilization and overall, I would say that I am somewhat disappointed with Oppo F9 camera capabilities.

Software

Frankly, my least favorite part about Oppo F9 is its software experience. Oppo F9 runs Android 8.1 Oreo with ColorOS, Oppo's overbearing skin. ColorOS not only changes much of aesthetics of stock Android but tries to emulate iOS as much as possible. Appearance of icons, wallpapers, and features feel very similar to ones on Apple devices. Some features are pretty unintuitive compared to how stock Android handles them. Notifications can simply be swiped away to dismiss them on stock Android, but not on ColorOS. Instead, you have to swipe notification to right and tap on trash can icon to dismiss it. This method feels clunky and makes it difficult to clear away notifications quickly.

Inside Settings, you will see more of ColorOS with features like Assistive Ball, Smart Sidebar where you can quickly access apps and tools, Gesture controls, Smart Driving, Smart Assistant, Clone Apps, Game Space, and App Split Screen. It also has security features like Find My Device, Payment Protection, App Lock, Kids Space, and Private Safe, to name a few. There's a fair bit of bloatware as well, including UC Browser and Amazon Shopping. I was prompted to install more during initial setup process, through an Oppo AppStore, and also through a 'Hot Apps' panel on home screen that looks deceptively like an ordinary system folder. Oroaming is an app that claims to let users buy cheap roaming plans in multiple countries without needing a local SIM, but how this works is never really explained. Theme Store has quite a few free themes and wallpapers. Icon packs provide colorful visuals and wallpapers are actually quite nice to look at.

Settings app has a number of options to discover. You can swap around on-screen navigation buttons or disable them and use gestures instead. There are assorted gestures and shortcuts. A Smart Driving mode can block notifications and calls, an interesting privacy feature is that you can choose to spoof your call history, contacts, messages and events if apps try to access them. Face recognition is supported but you have to wake your phone and then swipe upwards to trigger front camera, which is an annoying extra step.

At the end of day, it's still a very annoying OS which Oppo needs to revisit and improve to attract larger audiences towards their phones, including Oppo F9.

Conclusion

Oppo F9 is available in selected regions like Vietnam, Philippines, Pakistan and India. In Vietnam, it is priced at around $330. It comes in three different colors: Sunrise Red, Twilight Blue and Starry Purple.

Oppo F9 feels more like refinements of Oppo F7 than a successor, but that is not to say that they are negligible. New waterdrop screen, prettier design, increased RAM, updated OS, dual rear cameras, and a larger battery with VOOC Flash Charge, are very welcome improvements. My biggest concern is whether buyers will be willing to prioritize this design over performance. Oppo F9 delivers great battery life and a reasonable overall usage experience, but it isn't the best you can get for your money by a long shot. I would have at least liked a metal body, weather proofing, and basic video stabilization at this price. Better cameras would also have made me more forgiving. Most people can live quite happily with 4GB of RAM rather than 6GB, and if you're most concerned about gaming performance for example, you should be looking elsewhere anyway. Also, while base variant of Xiaomi Pocophone F1 is a clear outlier in this price segment, I can't ignore how much value it offers as compared to Oppo F9.

I personally believe that biggest hurdle for Oppo and Oppo F9 is competition in mid-range segment. It was already tough before, with all usual players, but a few brands have really been turning heads as of late. It'll be interesting to see how well this phone does in market, and how other brands like Honor and Xiaomi responds to Oppo F9.