Oppo takes a truly big screen and adds a surprisingly solid processor and camera to make the impressively cheap R7 Plus.
With the R7 Plus, Oppo is going big. The super-sized phone sports Oppo's biggest screen to date, with a 6-inch AMOLED display packed into the frame. Ostensibly a larger version of the Oppo R7 , the Plus adds a few other features, such as an enormously long-life battery, to create a well-rounded mid-range device that offers a lower priced option for anyone hunting for a big-screen experience.
For a little while now, Chinese-based manufacturer Oppo has been making a big push into new markets such as the US and Australia. In fact, in Australia, Oppo has secured a deal that sees it retail exclusively in the extensive network of Dick Smith electronics stores, as well as recently signing its first telecommunications carrier deal with Optus.
All this has equated to some surprisingly low pricing on the R7 Plus, at least in Australia. It's AU$599 over here, with the US pricing at $499 and Europe at €429, all unlocked. (In Singapore it's S$699, which doesn't quite make it the same value. You can find it online in the UK for around £315.)
My colleague Aloysius Low called the 5-inch Oppo R7 "a beautiful phone" and I wouldn't hesitate to describe the R7 Plus in the same way. The metal body adds a real sense of quality to a build that belies the moderate price.
The matte metal finish on the back is quite stylish and, as always, a very nice change from high-gloss fingerprint magnets. Speaking of fingerprints, the scanner on the rear is perfectly placed to unlock the phone with a single hand (for me anyway) and, in a very smart move, simply touching the scanner even when the screen is off will unlock the phone and wake up the display.
I am unashamedly a fan of big-screen phones. These days even a 5-inch screen feels undersized to me. That said, the R7 Plus is massive by anyone's standard, adding an extra half-inch of screen to the so-called "phablets" like the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and even the new Sony Xperia Z5 Premium. It's roughly the same weight and length as the 5.5-inch Apple iPhone 6S Plus, but it's nearly 5mm wider. People with hands that veer into the 'petite' side of the equation may find it just too wide.
The screen is bright and clear, but resolution junkies might find the 1,920x1,080 pixels to be a step down from the "Quad HD" 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution, which you see on phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S6. For my money, the screen seemed just fine both in regular use and when gaming and watching videos. There may not be the wow factor of the ultra-crisp Xperia Z5 Premium with its 3,840x2,160-pixel display, but neither is there the significant price tag.
The screen was mostly fine to use outside. I say "mostly," because viewed front-on it's quite easy to read, even in bright light. But a combination of sunlight and an odd angle can be a problem. I only noticed this when trying to take a macro shot of a flower without kneeling down, so it's unlikely to be a scenario that comes up too often.
The display curves down at the edges making for a nice rounded finish on the front of the R7 Plus. The design eschews any physical or touch-sensitive buttons, with just a power button on the right side of the phone and the volume on the left, in addition to the rear fingerprint sensor.
Just in case I haven't been clear, this is a big phone. It's not something that's easy to slip into your jeans and if you think that a 5.5-inch phone like the iPhone 6S Plus is too big then this is going to feel like you're carrying a flatscreen TV. But it's well designed, the brushed metal rear means it doesn't feel slippery when held in one hand and the fingerprint scanner is even well placed for single-handed operation.
The R7 Plus has the same chipset as the 5-inch R7: a Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor along with 3GB of RAM. It's a solid bit of hardware to power a mid-range device, but it's not top of the line.
Storage-wise there's 32GB on board and you can add up to 128GB via microSD slot. However, the model I used was a dual-SIM device and inserting a microSD card will take up one of the SIM slots, so you can't add storage and a second SIM.
It also has the same 13-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front camera as its smaller brethren, but the Plus features a dual LED flash and a laser auto focus.
It's a Category 4 LTE device, which means it has a theoretical top download speed of 150Mbps. This is actually is a little disappointing with Category 6 (300Mbps) slowly becoming the norm and, in Australia at least, even some Cat 11 (600Mbps) devices hitting the streets. But in truth, it's still more than fast enough for regular use.
The massive 4,100mAh battery also has Oppo's fast-charging technology, with 5 minutes getting you enough juice for a 2-hour phone call, according to the company. In testing though, I found the battery so good I didn't particularly worry about fast charging -- but more on that later.
I've never been a fan of phone manufacturers using their own proprietary skins and overlays on Android. It's a personal preference, but I prefer a cleaner Android experience. You certainly don't get that with the R7 Plus or, indeed, any Oppo phone. Oppo has its own skin called ColorOS, which is currently at version 2.1.
The element I like least is the lack of an area for your apps to live. Instead of the typical app tray that categories your programs, anything installed stretches out across the home screens like in Apple's iOS. I really prefer to customize my various screens: one for social media, one for daily-use apps like Fitocracy or eCoffeecard, one for apps I use for work. Having everything just plonked down as you download it is a frustration. However, your mileage may vary, as we used to say in the digital stone age.
All that aside, the Oppo launcher does have some cool features, especially around gesture control. If the screen is off, you can draw a circle on it to open the camera. A three fingered swipe up from the bottom of the screen takes a screenshot. They're not essential, but they are handy additions.
You can use the fingerprint sensor to encrypt apps, so that they can only be run via a biometric verification. It's probably edging into tinfoil-hat town, but it's a smart use of the well-designed scanner.
With the R7 Plus packing the same camera and camera app as the R7 I wasn't expecting too many differences between the two and my expectations were definitely met. Go check out the Oppo R7 review from my colleague Aloysius for the minutiae of the camera software and operation, along with details on the front-facing camera and video capture. Suffice it to say it's a very good camera for the class of phone and the key features on its sibling, such as Ultra HD, HDR and macro modes, all work quite well.
The laser autofocus arguably speeds up how quickly the camera finds its focal point, but having used a few phones with this feature I've never found it to be essential. The dual LED flash stops flash photos from looking too over exposed and washed out, which is good, but overall there's very little difference between the Plus and its smaller stablemate.
The R7 Plus also has the same processor as the R7, but, somewhat bizarrely, it actually outperformed it in benchmarking. In day-to-day use the phone was very responsive and slick to use, easily switching between apps with nary a stutter. Boot-up speed was a little longer than I'd like at around 34 seconds, but that contrasts with a camera app that'll open in just over 1 second.
Compared to other phones using the Snapdragon 615 processor, it performs quite favourably.
In general use the battery life on the R7 Plus was excellent, which isn't too surprising with that massive 4,100mAh capacity. Unlike some of the other larger phones on the market, the fact that the screen is "only" Full HD I think manages to give a little extra life in day-to-day use. After a day of moderate usage, the R7 Plus would regularly still have a significant amount of battery life left.
In our lab battery tests, the phone was excellent. It averaged around 17 hours 30 minutes in our video tests, which is really very impressive. Of course, it's packing a massive battery, but those times put it even ahead of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 for power longevity.
Testing on the Telstra network around Sydney, call quality on the R7 Plus was very good. Both when making and receiving calls I could hear the other end of the line loud and clear, while my voice came through sharp and with no buzz or tinny echo.
Speed-wise the R7 Plus didn't blow us away. It's a category 4 LTE device and, as I said before, we're seeing faster devices on the market in Australia. That's not to say that speeds were bad: I saw a top download of 63.85Mbps and an average of around 40Mbps which is more than adequate. Upload speed was marginally more impressive: I hit 36.92Mbps on a peak and saw an average in the high 20s.
In all, the Oppo R7 Plus doesn't feel like a mid-range phone in any way but the price. In Australia it's a very competitive AU$599. In the US it's $499 and you'll pay £315 in the UK. At the current exchange rate that US price translates to AU$680, so you can see that Oppo is going pretty aggressive with its pricing here -- that US price doesn't include any tax.
In terms of size and pricing, the R7 Plus squares off against the 6-inch Huawei Ascend Mate 7, which launched last year at AU$699 and can now be found for around AU$650. The Mate 7 has similar processors, screen resolution and even a fingerprint scanner. The R7 Plus does have a very slight edge in terms of battery, however.
Otherwise you're looking at a significant price jump for one of the flagship 5.5-inch smartphones from Samsung, Apple, LG or Sony. And with their flagship specs, that'll easily cost you over AU$1,000, $650 or £500.
If you're looking for a big-screen experience at a bargain price, then the R7 Plus is a well built, good looking, dependable phone. Unless you're completely against custom launchers, there's a lot to like here at a price tag that's hard to fault.