User Interface & Operating System
The Oppo N3 has Android 4.4 KitKat, heavily skinned, and labeled as Color OS v 2.0 – the customizations run deep into the original KitKat OS, with all the Google services intact, with some new additions including themes, new lock screen, home screen and settings menu to name a few. The default Android look and feel is converted into a theme as well, and can be restored by those who are fixated with the default Android experience.
The default lock screen uses swiping to unlock, with available shortcuts for phone and messaging apps – double tap to wake up is enabled, but disabled on capacitive buttons for waking up the phone – the torch can be used directly via long press on the home button from the lock screen. The fingerprint sensor on the back can be used for lock / unlock security purposes, with the ability to setup a backup password in case there is some issue with the scanning. This key works as wake up key in addition in case the fingerprint security is enabled. Apps can be encrypted using this feature too, and once enabled, these apps only open when the fingerprint scan is accepted.
There is no app drawer in the Color OS and the home screen keeps all the apps – the widgets are available too, as are folders. Oppo Color OS has a list of themes already coming in with the Oppo N3, and a lot of them are pretty cool, even more are available for download from the Oppo Theme Store. The notification area provides the familiar setup of the top row of toggles, brightness slider, and list of notifications, along with the settings shortcut – in addition, if you drag the toggles, you see two more rows of toggles, and this includes a Kill All Apps button. The toggle settings can be accessed the standard way. The notification area can be accessed by a drag down gesture from any vacant area on the home screen, and not just the top, which is quite helpful for single-handed use.
Task switcher is almost identical to the standard iOS version, with accessing apps, closing apps and closing all apps together being possible, with apps visible in a horizontally scrollable layout, killing individual apps possible via up or down swipes. The Gesture Panel can be opened by swiping up from the bottom while on home screen, and different gestures can be associated with different apps, and users can open apps by going to the gesture panel and drawing the relevant gesture.
Another noteworthy addition is the Gesture & Motion menu, which has control over all the motion and gesture tricks for a better experience. Different gestures and motions can be set for different activities – for example, flipping the N3 will mute the ringer, raising the N3 to your ear will answer the call, etc. Air Gestures are present as well. Oppo has provided the single hand use for N3, as the display size is slightly on the larger side – the singe hand use will be a regular feature for many users.
The overall experience on the Color OS is that of an advanced KitKat smartphone, with additional features to make life easier, and not complicate things – these additions do not hamper or impact the basics of Android in any way, to keep the experience as smooth as possible.
The phonebook, and dialer are standard Android issue, with the basic features all in place to cater to different requirements. The contact sync is always helpful, and the caller blocking feature is a big plus, which can block calls and messages both. The blocking can be done via the contacts app only, which is strange.
Oppo N3 comes with Google Chrome as the default browser, refined by Google to have a minimalist UI. All the standard options are available. Chrome provides control over settings to manage the browsing experience in a better manner. Tab and pages sync are both present as a generic feature. We still are missing the Reader mode though. Another browser present on the Oppo N3 is the proprietary Oppo browser, and though it can perform pretty decently, and is as fast as Chrome since its engine is similar to Chrome, it does lack the Google sync feature.
The Oppo N3 comes with some proprietary apps pre-installed, with the highlight being the Security Center, allowing control over a wide range of features, from Quiet Time settings, call and message privacy, to network and battery use, app encryption, app permissions, among others. The control over activation / deactivation of the Guest Mode is present in this app as an added feature. The Kingsoft Office app is present out of the box, and allows users to view and edit documents, presentations and spreadsheets (PDF files can be viewed only) and connectivity to the cloud allowing for seamless file sync. The Torch app is standard. A Calculator app and Voice Recorder apps are here, as is the Clock, and the Calendar app – a new addition to the mix is the compass app, quite a lot of help for some users, especially those who love nature trips and hikes. The notes app is labeled Keep, and allows, in addition to note taking and adding images and hand drawn notes, to set passwords on notes.
A decent performing file manager is present on board, which has both the categorized and folder view, and all standard operations, including batch functions including encryption and password protection. DLNA and FTP support further empowers the app for access and transfers.
Google Now is available with its standard set of features. The GPS and GLONASS accesses the precise location very quickly and Google Maps and Navigation use this fairly regularly - navigation also comes with audio support.
The loudspeaker testing from Oppo was pretty good, and we don’t think any audio will be missed in almost any scenario. The tweaking of the Wave Maxx Audio settings improved this to a stellar level, with no reduction in sound quality.
The Messenger app is the default app for messaging, with the ability to create MMS with a full MMS editor on board, and has the ability to attach locations which takes the map snap and attaches it, with communication stored as threads. Hangouts is present as a backup though, for those who are more comfortable with that.
The standard Email app from Oppo is available in parallel with the Gmail app, and both are almost the same feature wise, though Gmail does not have a unified email, nor does it allow for other email accounts to be setup. For messaging, emails and any other keyboard related activities, the Oppo N3 also has Swype available to support quick typing. The keys height can be managed in portrait and landscape modes, and can be used to cater to better key captures –an outstanding help for many users, and a unique but helpful tweak.
Oppo has provided a custom app as the gallery for N3, and one with less than standard features, which surprised us, since till now, the tweaks and modifications were there only to increase the feature set. The default view is the folder view, and the filters cannot be done by any option, be it location, people, or tags etc. Images can be viewed individually, or alternately all images can be seen as a slideshow. Sharing and deleting options are standard, visible when one or more images (or folders) are selected. Image editing provides basics like shadows or highlights, effects, straightening, color styles, red eye correction, sharpening, face glow etc. Most of these features have sliders to fine tune.
The video player is very easy and simple, and can play almost all standard formats, with up to 1080p easily – the interface is standard, with the standard timeline, the play/pause controls, an option to lock the display, basic subtitle support which automatically selects the subtitle file and unfortunately, fails to display some characters of foreign language correctly. The player window can be popped up, which is an interesting addition.
The music player has a standard layout, generic features and easy interface. The WaveMaxx Audio support is present in addition to the Dirac HD. The enhancements made by the Maxx Audio apply to all audio, be it video, music, games, call, and either in headphones or loudspeaker. Users can use presets or customize as per their preferences. The playlist and generic options are standard, and a playback mode is present. The player can play FLAC files, so we don’t feel there will be any issues with any different formats.
The audio levels for the Oppo N3 when connected with the external amplifier put out great and very loud audio and great scores overall. With headphones plugged in, though, the frequency got shaky, crosstalk increased, while the volume levels dropped considerably though still above average levels, but overall, the performance is still pretty good.
Oppo has come out with the N3 being powered by the Snapdragon 801 2.3GHz quad-core CPU, combined with the Adreno 330 and 2GB of RAM – the famous combination that is being used in other top range smartphones. Still, this is quickly becoming a baseline, so this combination is not a star performer, just a combination that must be seriously respected.
The CPU testing shows that the Oppo N3 gives an average performance, not even near the top performers, though the single core performance did do pretty good. We feel Oppo does need to improve on the processor specific optimization part. The graphics testing showed that the performance is average among peers of Adreno 330 too, and we were surprised by this. The browsing tests showed the Oppo N3 is on average ground, though the HTML5 performance is on the lower side of average.
The Oppo N3 does not manage to provide any speed thrills, though the performance is not disappointing either. The middling performance is mainly due to the reduced optimization by Oppo, though these performance tests measure the highest performances, and are no real threats on the performance of the Oppo N3. The overall performance of the Oppo N3 is splendid, and the Colors 2.0 seems to run smoothly without any issues.
The motorized snapper on the Oppo N3 is 16 MP, assisted with the OmniVision OV sensor, can rotate up to 206 degrees, and with this feature, can act as both the back and front snapper.
The UI has two sidebars, one on each side – the left one keeping with it the settings and flash, while the right one storing the record / snap buttons and shortcut to gallery – this right side bar can be expended to see shortcuts to different shooting modes, which include HDR, Panorama, Ultra HD, RAW, Macro, Expert, Beauty, Normal and Slow Shutter. The Expert provides control over factors like shutter speed, exposure, white balance, ISO and manual focus. RAW and HDR modes were found in the Add apps area, and not pre-installed.
With the O-Click Bluetooth remote, shutter can be used, as well as control over the camera rotation. The reach of the remote is pretty good so that no third party is now required to take images – the rotating camera is especially useful for wide shots and Panoramas.
The images captured are as impressive as the snapper and its quality sounds, and more – the level of detail is great, no softness was found anywhere, perfect color representation was present, and there was no oversaturation. The sharpness level was very good, with no focus issue – the white balance was perfect on the whole, but it did misfire once or twice. Macro shots were very impressive. Still, the noise level could have been reduced a bit more for our liking, to have made the shots be flawless.
The UltraHD shots, dubbed Super Zoom, captures multiple 16MP shots and combines them seamlessly to provide a great detailed shots – this is what Oppo stated. For us, the shots were not perfect at all. The shots took quite some time to be captured and processed – then, the level of details was not as perfect as we would have expected, though the pixel peeping is reduced from the normal images.
The 64MP shots were better than these – the images are slightly on the softer side, and there is slightly more noise, but this is visible on zooming only, and on the whole, the shots were quite impressive.
The HDR mode was not too impressive from Oppo, since the shadows are not depicted perfectly and highlights have minimal improvement. The Panorama shot utilizes the motorized camera to its fullest, and produces great shots – the original issue that was present with most panoramas, relating to the exposure set at the initial start point is present here, though the shots are still much better than a lot of the competition. All remaining issues that the N3 camera currently faces can simply be removed via software updates, which we feel should be on top of the priority list for Oppo.
The recording capabilities of the camera are pretty good, though the 4K recording seems to be missing – hopefully Oppo will add this as part of the next software update as they have stated. At present, the N3 comes with the standard 1080p recording at 30fps, and the 720p recording at 120fps slow motion speed, and can output them by upscaling them to 1080p at 28fps. The videos though do not stand out as great performers, with some objects blurred, sharpness on some artefacts is very high which means this sharpening process has to be looked into by Oppo. The Slow motion captures have even poorer detail, but the slowness is depicted very well. The video recording on the whole has to be worked upon by Oppo in detail to compete with the formidable competition that it will be facing in this price slab.
The Oppo N3 has quite a bunch of connectivity options, with quad-band GSM, 3G and 4G LTE at the top of the list. Dual SIM support is available, the primary being the nanoSIM and the secondary being the microSIM – the secondary option can be used for the microSD card too, so either you can go for a secondary SIM or a card slot.
Additional connectivity options include Wi-Fi, DLNA, hotspot and Wi-Fi Direct, with the option to share display over Wi-Fi is available. The Bluetooth 4.0 is present, and has the assistance of EDR and A2DP. The GPS is present with GLONASS, while the microUSB port can be used, including USB-on-the-go and NFC.
FM and IR port though, are absent and missed.
A very sufficient 3,000mAh battery assists the Oppo N3, and while we were satisfied with the size, the performance surprised us and not in a pleasing way. The endurance comes in at 64 hours, which is still a pretty good score as far as we are concerned, though the battery capacity had made us expect more than this performance level.
The performance of the Oppo N3 is average in terms of 3G talk time, posting more than 14 hours, though the web browsing and video come at 8 and 9 hours respectively, which was surprising for us, as we had felt that a battery of this size could definitely deliver more than this kind of performance.
As is visible from the above review, the Oppo N3 does have a good list of positives, though, below are some of the very few shortcomings that the Oppo N3 possesses:
- Battery performance is relatively on the lower side
- Form factor is on the heavier and larger side
- 4K video is not available
- FM radio and IR blaster are absent
- Availability in stores outside of Asia is very limited
- QHD resolution is not present
- 60fps videos are not present at normal speed
Should I Have to Buy the Oppo N3?
The current flagship from Oppo is not just another good smartphone – with internal competition from the Oppo Find 7, in terms of performance, the combination of looks, build, performance and designing excellence propel the N3 to flagship status.
The offering from Oppo is not a one-off either – the original smartphone in this range, the N1, was also similar in terms of design plus, the build quality, the premium feel and the flagship level smartphone with a price tag that matches, all state that Oppo indeed is here for the major league status.
With one of the best smartphones in the world, both in terms of design, and product hands-on, the N3 is a true treat. The soft matte plastic, combined with the high-end aluminum, both perfectly balanced, bring out the best in design, even though, at 5.5 inches and a larger form factor, it is not the easiest smartphone to handle.
The software ties in nicely with the hardware to get the best possible user experience, and the motorized lens can be controlled both manually, by the touchscreen using an app and finally, via the O-Click Bluetooth remote – these especially can come in handy for panoramas to get the best possible result out of those shots. The video capture though, is not top drawer, though it could be, once the upgrade mentioned by Oppo, which adds on 4K is received – still, the 1080p videos are pretty good, though they cannot be spoken of as outstanding.
The chipset powering the Oppo N3 is no joke either – the Snapdragon 801 is still highly respected, and can give a lot of smartphones a run for their money, even though the Snapdragon 805 has entered the market. The 1080p display at just above 400ppi is pretty good for a display this size even though we see QHD displays on the up. Still, the pricing factor may put it at a slight disadvantage against the competition from China.
The Oppo is a very consistent performer, though not the top one in any area – however, most of us do prefer a consistently better smartphone against one which excels in one area but is quite mediocre in others. And the Oppo N3 is being purchased in more and more areas around the globe making Oppo a global hit, though not at a pace that Oppo would have liked, and that can be credited to their distribution issues mainly, since there are people seeking out the Oppo N3. Oppo has now been pretty consistent over the course of its tenure, and is moving away from the low-end China offspring image and more to be known as the innovative and classy smartphone maker. Though Oppo still has to work on this, we can easily say that their efforts are surely producing some great results.