Oppo N1 review: Real camera innovation in a swivel

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.2
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 9.0
  • Performance: 8.0

Average User Rating

3 stars 1 user review
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Its matte finish gives the Oppo N1 a more premium feel than its plastic chassis would suggest. The phone also has a great camera and strong battery life, and the swiveling camera is an innovative touch.

The Bad The N1 lacks a microSD card slot, is heavy, and has no LTE. Some will find its dimensions awkwardly large.

The Bottom Line With its swiveling camera mount and high tech specs, the Oppo N1 is easily today's most innovative smartphone that most people haven't heard of.

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This review originally published November 20, 2013, on CNET's sister site CNET Asia. For full-resolution images, see the original review.

Announced in October, the Oppo N1 isn't your typical smartphone. For one, it's huge -- the 5.9-inch full-HD display takes up most of the space, and it comes with something you seldom see in a smartphone: a rotating 13-megapixel camera that you can flip over to take a selfie.

Design

Packing the aforementioned large display, the Oppo N1's shape reminds me of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, though the handset lacks its slightly curved display, thanks to its curved edges. And while the N1 looks like it has an edge-to-edge display like the LG G2, it's actually not the case, as you can see in our picture below.

Screenwise, I have no complaints about the 5.9-inch full-HD IPS screen of the N1. Colors were vivid and there were no color shift issues even when using the phone at awkward angles (which you normally won't). The only concern I have is that the large size of the handset doesn't really fit into your pocket all that well at times. (I had to take it out of the front pocket of my jeans when sitting down or it feels really uncomfortable.)

When the screen is turned on, the illusion of an edge-to-edge screen is shattered. Aloysius Low/CNET

The main highlight of the N1, however, has to be its rotating camera. You're able to flip it around to take selfies with the 13-megapixel camera. The dual LED flash is located next to the lens, which means it's flipped around as well, and you can also use it to light up your face (if you can stand the glare) for that self-portrait. If you're worried about breaking the camera by turning it too much, Oppo says it's been tested for 100,000 rotations, and it didn't feel fragile when I tried it.

Why put two cameras in a phone when you need just one? Aloysius Low/CNET
The N1's camera mount swivels. Aloysius Low/CNET

Other innovations built into this Android device include a rear touch panel called the O Touch that lets you scroll up, down, left, and right with your finger. This kind of makes sense, but you'll have to adjust your grip to get your finger in the right position. While it works with most apps, the scrolling didn't seem to work with Chrome when I tried it.

You can barely make out the touch panel's boundaries, but it's placed in just the right spot for your finger. Aloysius Low/CNET

Apart from these two innovations, the N1 is a pretty standard Android handset. The power and volume rockers are located on the right, while the Micro-SIM slot is found on the left. The phone uses physical touch-sensitive menu buttons, and these are located at the bottom. The back button, like with other Samsung handsets, is found on the right side, and it can be quite a stretch to reach it with one hand, if you tend to hold the phone in your left hand like I do.

Unlike what you may have come to expect from a lesser-known brand, the Oppo N1 feels more like a premium model. The smartphone maker says the N1 sports an aluminum alloy frame and has a soft-touch finish. This gives the N1 a feel not unlike that of some Nokia Lumia handsets.

The Oppo N1 is 9mm thick. Aloysius Low/CNET

Features

The Oppo N1 uses a custom operating system called Color OS that's based on Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean). Interestingly, the UI looks very similar to Xiaomi's MIUI, especially the buttons and fonts. Color OS generally handles very much like your standard Android smartphone, and there are some software tweaks such as an image enhancer that adds makeup to your selfies, as well as a theme app (like MIUI) that lets you reskin the OS to your liking.

There's also a gesture feature that's activated by swiping down from the top-left corner much in the way that you would bring down the drop-down notification menu. You can then quickly use your thumb to draw a pattern that can be set to do a whole array of things, like launching the camera, a flashlight, or an app. I found that simple gestures are the easiest to do; make it too complicated and you'll have issues trying to repeat it.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Weight 7.51 oz
  • Diagonal Size 5.9 in