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Oppo R7s review: Sleek and stylish, but not worth the price

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Oppo's beautiful gold-colored aluminum R7s (it also comes in silver) looks more like a premium phone than its humble midrange innards would suggest, and it unfortunately costs more than other phones with similar specs.

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Oppo R7s

The Good

The Oppo R7s looks as sleek as an iPhone 6S and has a pretty decent camera to boot.

The Bad

The phone is expensive given its specs, and performance is only on par with much cheaper midrange phones.

The Bottom Line

The Oppo R7s has a sleek premium metal body but is too expensive compared to similar phones.

To be sure, I like the R7s' iPhone-like looks, but with disappointing performance its $399 price cannot be justified. (The price converts to about £280.): For just about $100 more, you can snag a Google Nexus 6P, whose 32GB model sells for $499 ($449 for a limited time) in the US and £449 in the UK.

Although you can buy Oppo's phones through its online OppoStyle website, this R7s doesn't appear to support US LTE bands, which makes the phone an even harder sell for US locals -- you'd be paying quite a bit for a 3G-compatible phone with none of the superfast 4G speeds that you should be getting.

That said, if you live in the other parts of the world, such as Asia, Australia or the UK, and prize style over top-of-the-line power, the R7s' fashion-forward looks could lure you.

Oppo shows off premium design with midrange R7S (pictures)

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What's this R7s about? Doesn't Oppo already have the R7 and R7 Plus?

If you're confused, it's because Oppo is making a range of phones based on the original R7 phone. The R7, as you can see from our review here, is a 5-inch phone that sports a similar premium styling to the R7s. The larger R7 Plus, however, has a 6-inch display.

From a size perspective, the 5.5-inch R7s sits right between its two brethren. It costs the same as the original R7 and $100 less than the R7 Plus. So choosing between the three really boils down to which screen size you prefer and whether the features borrowed from the R7 Plus, such as the fingerprint scanner, are important to you.

The iPhone 6S Plus also has a 5.5-inch screen. How does the R7s compare from a size perspective?

Interestingly, because the Oppo R7s doesn't need the extra space at the bottom for the iPhone's home button and TouchID sensor, it's a bit smaller in size and a little thinner, though not by much. Oppo has also moved on from having physical touch sensors on the bottom bezel -- the R7s uses software-based buttons for Back, Home and Menu, freeing up more space to further slim down the phone.

Where is this phone available?

Oppo is selling the R7s globally either through local retail channels or its own e-commerce site, OppoStyle. Oppo is also offering the phone through Amazon in some locations. Do check the manufacturer's website for more details.

Which 4G networks will the R7s work with?

The good news is like most international compatible phones out of China, the R7s will work on 4G networks in the UK, such as Three and EE, while also compatible with the Optus, Telstra and Vodafone networks in Australia. The bad news is, you'll be stuck with only 3G in the US.

Is the camera any good?

Well, yes, the camera's pretty decent. While it's not as good as the Samsung Galaxy S6 or the iPhone 6S, the rear 13-megapixel camera will take good pictures in places with enough lighting. My only issue is with low-light performance; it's tricky even on the best cameras and the Oppo R7s doesn't handle that too well, with pictures lacking the finer details.

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One of the Oppo R7's dual-SIM slots can be used for reading a microSD card.

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Which mobile software does it use?

The Oppo handsets don't run the most recent Android software, 6.0 Marshmallow. Instead, the R7s works on Android Lollipop 5.1. However, like many Android phones, it uses its own custom version of Android, called Color OS here.

What's different about Color OS?

Like iOS, Color OS (operating system) puts all your apps on the Home screens, without the app drawer, a signature Android trait. It does have some stuff that's unique to its OS, like the ability to draw gestures on the phone to launch apps or features.

Well, Color OS sounds interesting, but is there anything you don't like?

For one, Oppo doesn't utilize the larger screen real estate of the phone, and you'll find that the gap between icons quite large, resulting in wasted space. You could squeeze more apps in a row if Color OS were a bit better designed, but it's really a minor issue. The OS is generally pretty good and easy to use.

Does it have Google Play Services?

Yes. Phones selling in China alone do not include Google services, but since the R7s is destined for the global market, it comes packed with all of Google's services, such as the Play Store and Gmail.

The phone's pretty slim, so I'm guessing it doesn't have much space for the battery, yes?

Actually, it does! The Oppo R7s squeezes a 3,070mAh battery into its slim frame and should last you a full day. In our video tests, the phone easily lasted 12 hours 11 minutes.

I need more than 16GB of onboard storage; what are my options?

Count your lucky stars, as the R7s supports microSD card storage of up to 128GB. However, you'll need to use one of the two SIM slots for this, as there's no separate microSD card slot on the phone.

Gold is such a tacky color. What other choices do I have?

If you found the golden hue of the R7s not exactly to your taste, the phone also comes in silver, which is somewhat like the iPhone's space gray color.

How does the performance compare to other phones?

Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, the speed at which the R7s loads apps, navigates and plays games is pretty much similar to the Oppo R7 and the Xiaomi Mi 4i. Testing on both the Geekbench 3 and 3DMark Ice Storm benchmarks show similar performance to the other two phones, though none of these are as fast as the top-tier phones from, say, Google, Samsung or Apple. Phones like the Redmi Note 2 offer slightly better benchmark test results because it uses a different chip.

Should I get something else then, such as the Xiaomi Mi 4i or a different Oppo phone?

If you're on a budget, the Xiaomi Mi 4i may be a better choice. The Redmi Note 2 will definitely be cheaper and slightly faster, thanks to its Mediatek Helio X10 chip, though the phone won't look as eye-catching as the R7s. If you're hankering for something bigger, the R7 Plus may be another viable option with its 6-inch display, though you'll pay $100 more to get it.

Is the R7s worth its asking price?

Not really, no. For about the same price or a little more gets you a much better phone (like the Google Nexus 6P), and there are plenty of other similarly-priced budget options to choose from. This does slightly edge out the original R7, thanks to a newer Android operating system, and you do get the R7s' beautiful metal build. That said, you'll wind up paying a premium for that aluminum design without getting any actual performance benefit, which doesn't seem worth it to me. With the R7s, Oppo sticks to its strategy of making premium midrange devices, though the verdict is still out on whether this strategy will pay off in the long run.

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The Oppo R7s is a good-looking phone, but performance-wise, it's only as good as midrange devices.

Aloysius Low/CNET
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Oppo R7s

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 7Camera 7Battery 7