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Oppo R5 review: A beautiful slim smartphone let down by poor performance

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Oppo's R5 is a seriously gorgeous phone. Clad in metal, it's super-thin -- just 4.85mm (0.19 inches) deep, and it weighs a scant 155 grams (5.5 ounces). It's certainly impressive, but this comes at the loss of the 3.5mm audio jack, so you'll have to use Bluetooth headphones if you want to listen to music.

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7.7

Oppo R5

The Good

The Oppo R5 has a ridiculously sleek profile with a metal frame that feels solid and well-built.

The Bad

Despite having an octa-core processor, the phone is oftentimes sluggish. The 13-megapixel camera takes a while to start, too. The thin frame means there's no headphone jack or microSD card slot.

The Bottom Line

Oppo has created a beautiful phone that shows plenty of promise, but it needs to iron out the kinks in its performance if it's to stand out against the cheaper competition.

For Android fans envious of the iPhone 6 's slim frame, well, look no further. The R5's ultra-slim body beats the iPhone handily, and will draw envious stares from other Android owners as well.

But slimness isn't all that great without the performance to back it up, and this is where the phone falters. It's oftentimes sluggish, and the camera takes forever to start up. The phone's thin frame also doesn't help with the heat and it can get uncomfortably hot at times.

See a phone that's less than 5mm thick, the Oppo R5 (pictures)

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Pricing and availablity

Oppo hasn't yet revealed exact dates for the phone's availability, but the Chinese company intends to sell it globally, either through its online store or working in partnership with local distributors. What I do know is that there will be three versions due to the different LTE bands -- one for the US, one for China and one for the rest of the world.

Price wise, the R5 will be sold at $449, which converts to roughly £310. It will also come unlocked, so you'll be able to use the phone on 3G mostly everywhere.

Design

The R5 is encased in metal -- with a hand-polished steel frame and, on the back, brushed aluminum. This gives the phone a premium feel that you'd expect from a more expensive device.

The two-tone color scheme (either white and silver or white and gold) at the back does draw comparisons to Apple's iPhone designs, but the shape of the phone is much more angular. Despite being thinner, it doesn't feel as slippery as the iPhone.

One downside to the thin frame of the phone is that the rear 13-megapixel sticks out, much like Apple's iPhone. However, unlike the small bump of the iPhone 6, the R5's rear camera pops out a fair way, enough that it makes the phone uneven when placed on a flat surface.

Aloysius Low/CNET

The R5 sports a 5.2-inch AMOLED display, with a full HD resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels. The screen is bright and sharp, while colors were vibrant. I do have issues with the auto-brightness settings of the phone -- it can sometimes be too dim.

Like most Chinese-made smartphones, the R5 sports physical home, menu and back keys. I'm not a fan of physical keys since I feel software keys are better to interact with -- you can (depending on the OS) switch the back button to either the left or right position.

The volume and power keys are on the right side, with the micro-USB port at the bottom. As mentioned earlier, there's no 3.5mm audio jack.

Aloysius Low/CNET

Hardware

Oppo's R5 is powered by an octa-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, and in theory, should have enough juice to power the phone. But my experience with the device was less than satisfactory: at times the phone would pause between switching apps, for example. I reckon a software update could fix this, and I will update the review if it does.

The phone packs 2GB of RAM, 16GB of onboard storage and a 2,000mAh battery. There's no microSD card slot to expand that storage, which limits the number of apps you can install and the number of tunes and movies you can keep onboard.

Aloysius Low/CNET

Software and features

The phone is powered by Android 4.4 KitKat -- not the latest 5.0 Lollipop -- with Oppo's custom ColorOS UI on top. The software is very much improved from the company's first version, though it looks similar. For one, it's much flatter.

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Screenshot by Aloysius Low/CNET

Oppo has also shifted the gesture panel around. Instead of swiping from the top left corner to activate the panel, you just need to swipe up from the bottom. It takes up only a fraction of the screen now, so you can still see what you were doing in the background. You can quickly activate the flashlight by drawing a "V" with your finger, or turn on the camera with an "O." You can also create new gestures, such as a "W" for WhatsApp.

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Screenshot by Aloysius Low/CNET

The settings menu is better organised now. Like the Samsung Galaxy S5, it's now sorted into tabs, which makes it easier for quicker access. Text messages also pop up if you're using the phone, letting you do a quick reply without exiting your current app.

Lastly, like most Chinese UIs, ColorOS does away with the app drawer style of Android, but if you're switching from an iPhone, you'll likely be familiar with having all your apps on your home screens.

Camera

Oppo has generally done well with its phones' cameras and the 13-megapixel shooter of the R5 is no different. The only issue I had was the slow start-up of the camera, which is likely due to the phone's generally sluggish performance. Other than that, focus is pretty quick and there are plenty of modes such as an ultra high-resolution mode and colorful night shots that you can play around with.

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The Oppo R5 has plenty of camera modes. Screenshot by Aloysius Low/CNET

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The slow-motion capture mode doesn't seem to work. If you set the shutter even at 0.5 seconds, all you get is a whited-out image. This auto mode fails to capture the water flow. (Click image to enlarge.) Aloysius Low/CNET

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The Ultra HD mode does a poor job of capturing the details in the far background. Aloysius Low/CNET

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It seems to work better if your objects are closer, though I don't feel there's any real benefit. Aloysius Low/CNET

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The camera does fine in our indoor test shot, though there's still quite a bit of noise. (Click to enlarge.) Aloysius Low/CNET

Performance

On our standard benchmark tests the phone scored 16,849 on Quadrant, while performing 507.658 MFLOPs. This puts it above budget handsets that run on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor (such as the HTC Desire 510 ), but below high-end devices. That's pretty much to be expected and confirms my suspicion that the performance issues I've been having with the phone so far are likely software-based.

Battery life

The 2,000mAh doesn't seem to last long enough for day-to-day use -- I'm usually down to 20 percent before the end of the day, and this is on what I usually regard as moderate use. On our CNET Labs video test, which loops a video at half brightness, the phone lasted 7 hours 24 minutes.

In our tests, we usually leave the volume at half but routed to a pair of headphones. However, since this phone doesn't have an audio jack, I left it to blare out through its speakers instead. While this will affect the battery test somewhat, the results do reflect my anecdotal tests: the phone's battery life is short.

Call quality and speakers

Despite its thinness, the R5 has pretty loud speakers. It's loud enough to be heard in your pocket. I usually kept the phone's volume at around half, as notification alerts could get annoying.

Call quality was generally good -- voices came over clear and crisp, though at times it could be too loud. Ear piercingly loud, in fact. You can turn this down though, so I don't suggest leaving it on full.

Conclusion

If there's one thing the Oppo R5 has going for it, it's its well-crafted design. While performance is lacking, I think it's fixable with optimised software updates that could come in the future.

At $449/AU$599, it's expensive compared with what you usually expect from a Chinese-made phone, but Oppo is obviously positioning this as a premium phone. Honestly, I think Oppo may have a shot here with this phone but it may be priced too high compared with the other Chinese devices.

Take for example the Xiaomi Mi 4 , priced at 1,999RMB (which converts to $320, £190 or AU$345) for the 16GB model. It offers better specs with a design that's just as good. And if you want value, there's always the $299 OnePlus One .

Aloysius Low/CNET

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7.7

Oppo R5

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 7Performance 7