Affordable phones are getting better and better, so there's never been a better time not to pony up for a pricey iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S. The latest budget phone to impress me is the Oppo R11, a solid 5.5-inch device with a great camera and impressive battery life. The Oppo R11 is worth your money -- though it lags slightly behind the even-more-worth-your-money OnePlus 5.
You may not have heard of Oppo, but it's currently the world's fourth biggest phone manufacturer, thanks mainly to its popularity in China. And it's been making affordable Android phones for years.
The company makes a big deal over the new R11's selfie camera, which clocks in at 20 megapixels. Those extra pixels didn't seem to make that much of a difference in selfie quality, though my colleague Claire Reilly loved the beautifying software. Instead, the real stars of the show are the dual 20- and 16-megapixel cameras at the back.
The phone sells in China for 2,999 yuan and the official price in Australia is AU$649. If you're in the US or UK, you can import it for around $440 or £340. That's around $300 (or £300) or so less than you'll pay for the similarly sized iPhone 7 Plus or Samsung Galaxy S8. Despite the smaller price tag, the camera stands up to the shooters on those high-end phones.
The main appeal of dual-lens cameras such as the ones found on Huawei's P10, the iPhone 7 Plus and the OnePlus 5 is their ability to take bokeh-style portraits. These pictures have blurred backgrounds, which bring the subject into focus and mimic the depth of field you'd find in a DSLR camera. Some cameras can have trouble with this, blurring the wrong parts of photos and roughly working around fine details such as hair, but the R11 reliably shot great portraits. It's not just good for new Facebook display photos: Pictures of outdoor landscapes pop on the Full HD screen, and the cameras do well in most low-light settings.
That's not where the similarities end though. Like most phones from China, the R11 looks a lot like an iPhone. You're going to have to be OK with the "fake iPhone" jokes from friends. But the phone, with its small bezels and thin design, feels a lot more like a (flat) Galaxy S8. It's a bit light for my liking, as is the S8, but it gains points for its premium feel -- even if it then loses them for lack of originality.
That lack of originality trickles into the software, too. The R11 runs ColorOS3.1, a modified version of Android 7.1.1 Nougat. Most of those modifications work toward making Android more like iOS, with default apps looking Apple-esque. Most galling was the camera software, which has the exact same interface as iOS. This is typical of Chinese phones, including the excellent Xiaomi Mi 6, and is something you'll either have to accept, or cover with a third-party launcher app.
The phone is a strong choice for those who are uber-concerned about their battery life. It lasted an average of 14 hours 45 minutes in our battery test. That doesn't reach the lofty heights of the OnePlus 5 (17 hours) or the Galaxy S8 (16 hours), but it does beat out the iPhone 7 Plus' 12 hours. I never came close to draining my battery in a single day.
Where the R11 gets aced, though, is processing power. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor, and it performs admirably: In our benchmarking tests, the R11 was a touch ahead of Google's Pixel phones, which is impressive. But it trails behind the Snapdragon 835 chips found in Samsung's Galaxy S8 and, more importantly, the affordable OnePlus 5. Still, the phone is smooth. You'll have no troubles doing your day-to-day browsing, including multitasking and watching video. The R11 runs GPU-intensive 3D games well, yet the phone does lag when taking photos.
|Oppo R11||Samsung Galaxy S8||Google Pixel XL||Apple iPhone 7 Plus||OnePlus 5|
|Display size, resolution||5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels||5.8-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels||5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels||5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels||5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.1x2.9x0.27 in||5.9x2.9x0.31 in||6.1x3x0.34 in||6.2x3.1x0.29 in||6.1x2.9x0.29 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||154x74x7.8 mm||149x68x8 mm||155x76x8.6 mm||158x78x7.3 mm||154x74x7.3 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||5.3 oz; 150g||5.5 oz; 155g||5.92 oz; 168g||6.63 oz; 188g||5.4 oz; 153g|
|Mobile software||Android 7.1.1 Nougat||Android 7.0 Nougat||Android 7.1 Nougat||Apple iOS 10||Android 7.1.1 Nougat|
|Camera (megapixels)||16MP standard; 20MP telephoto||12MP||12.3MP||12MP standard; 12MP telephoto||16MP standard; 20MP telephoto|
|Front-facing camera (megapixels)||20MP||8MP||8MP||7MP||16MP|
|Video capture resolution||2,160p||4K||4K||4K||4K|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 660||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (2.35GHz + 1.9GHz) or Samsung Exynos 8895 (2.35GHz + 1.7GHz)||2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821||Apple A10 chip (64-bit)||2.45GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 835|
|Storage||64GB||64GB||32GB, 128GB||32GB, 128GB, 256GB||64GB, 128GB|
|Expandable storage||Up to 256GB||Up to 2TB||None||None||None|
|Battery (all nonremovable)||3,000 mAh||3,000 mAh||3,450 mAh||21 hours talk time on 3G, 16 days standby, 13 hours internet use LTE||3,300 mAh|
|Fingerprint sensor||Home button||Back cover||Back cover||Home button||Home button|
|Special features||Portrait mode; VOOC flash charge||Water-resistant; wireless charging; Gigabit LTE-ready||Unlimited cloud storage; Daydream VR-ready||Water-resistant; portrait mode||Portrait mode; notifications toggle; dual-SIM; Dash Charging|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$440 (64GB)||AT&T: $750; Verizon: $720; T-Mobile: $750; Sprint: $750; US Cellular: $675||$769 (32GB); $869 (128GB)||$769 (32GB); $869 (128GB); $969 (256GB)||$479 (64GB); $539 (128GB)|
|Price (GBP)||£340 (64GB)||£689||£719 (32GB); £819 (128GB)||£719 (32GB); £819 (128GB); £919 (256GB)||£449(GB); £499 (128GB)|
|Price (AUD)||AU$649 (64GB)||AU$1,199||AU$1,269 (32GB); AU$1,419 (128GB)||AU$1,269 (32GB); AU$1,419 (128GB); AU$1,569 (256GB)||AU$750 (64GB); AU$830 (128GB) converted|