Smartphone makers the world over have found their niche, and buyers tend to radiate to the brands that suit them. Brands such as Samsung, Apple and Google have the ultra-premium space covered with offerings that cover everything from good cameras to excellent software and screens, while others such as OnePlus and LG have the value segments covered. In India, Oppo hasn’t managed to fit itself into these premium segments, and has instead chose to focus on more affordable offerings.
But now, things are changing. The premium space is a cherished one because of higher margins and more glamor, so it isn’t surprising that Oppo wants a slice of the pie typically eaten by OnePlus, Apple and Samsung. The company has now launched its R-series in India, starting with the Oppo R17 Pro and R17. Today, we’re taking a look at the Rs 45,990 Oppo R17 Pro, which comes with some unique USPs that aim to help it stand out among the crowd. But can this device challenge the market dominance of OnePlus? Lets find out in our review.
Oppo R17 Pro: The Good
Design and Display
First, let me start out by addressing one rather obvious aspect of the Oppo R17 Pro; yes, it’s built on pretty much the same lines as the OnePlus 6T. Or, given that the Oppo R17 Pro was unveiled back in August, I should say that the OnePlus 6T is built on the blueprint of the Oppo R17 Pro. It’s something we’ve been seeing for a while now, and save for a few differences here and there, an Oppo R-series device and a subsequent OnePlus device are very much alike.
The similarities in this case include the screen size and type, the shape of the notch, the build materials and some of the internal components. There are also big differences, starting with the color options. The Oppo R17 Pro is available in two colors right now – radiant mist and emerald green. Both of these are designed to make the phone stand out, and indeed the phone is beautiful. The radiant mist color (our review unit) features a dual-tone combination of violet and blue, which looks even nicer thanks to the use of glass at the back.
The phone feels solid, unlike the Oppo F-series which tends to feel a bit more ‘affordable’ because of the use of plastic in its build. The all-screen front adds to the aesthetics, helped along by the small waterdrop-style notch and narrow chin. You get an excellent 6.4-inch full-HD+ AMOLED screen that’s bright, gets the colors right and is generally a pleasure to use. There’s no 3.5mm jack or alert slider, and the SIM tray finds its way to the bottom of the phone, alongside the USB Type-C port. The back of the phone sees the triple-camera setup accompanied by an Oppo logo, retaining a simple look that allows the focus to remain on the attractive color.
The specification sheet of the Oppo R17 Pro gives me mixed feelings; there’s a lot of good in it and I can’t really complain, but it’s simply not the best that could have been done at this price. To start with, the phone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 SoC. I’ve been looking forward to putting this chipset through the paces, given that it’s the first 700-series offering from Qualcomm. It’s a performance driven chipset that sits above the mid-range 600-series but below the flagship 800-series, thereby offering better performance on slightly more affordable devices.
The problem here is the Rs 45,990 price tag, which should have seen a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset, particularly considering that it can be had on the Rs 20,999 Xiaomi Poco F1. That aside, it’s a good chipset that sits a bit higher than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660, but a fair bit below even last year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset. While there are two performance cores on the chip, the lower clock speeds and six efficiency cores make this an efficiency-driven SoC, and the Oppo R17 Pro sticks to that brief.
On the other hand, you get 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage, as well as Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac and dual-SIM connectivity and an in-display fingerprint sensor. The sensor, similar to the one on the OnePlus 6T, is an optical system built out of a camera under the screen. Like the OnePlus 6T, it works well provided you have your finger properly placed, which can be tricky. There is also face unlock, which is fast and accurate. All of these help you get the most out of the phone, and help justify its flagship positioning and pricing to an extent.
Performance and Battery
While obviously not as capable as newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 800-series chipsets, the Snapdragon 710 does get the job done capably enough. You get enough power from the two performance cores to drive most intensive tasks, including being able to play PUBG Mobile on high settings without much trouble. 8GB of RAM ensures that with most tasks, you get the drive you need and don’t need to obsessively clear background processes.
Battery life is decent as well, thanks to the 10nm fabrication and six efficiency cores in the chipset. Additionally, the full-HD+ AMOLED screen isn’t as power-hungry to drive, ensuring a day of use on a single charge even with heavy usage. Even if you do find yourself needing an urgent top up, Oppo’s excellent SuperVOOC charging makes this a relatively effortless process.
Packing in a massive 50W charger (that steps down to 10W towards closer to a full charge), Oppo has take its already superb fast charging standard to new heights on the Oppo R17 Pro. During my testing, I was able to fully top up the 3,700mAh battery on the R17 Pro in just 40 minutes. Oppo claims that you can get the first 40 percent in just 10 minutes, and I can attest to this.
This rapid charging will effectively change the way you charge your phone, and make battery worries a thing of the past as long as you keep an eye on battery levels and remember to give the phone a 10-15 minute boost when you’re leaving office for the day. It’s significantly faster than the Huawei Mate 20 Pro in getting to 100 percent, which is bundled with a 40W charger.
Another signature feature on the Oppo R17 Pro is its triple-camera setup at the back, coupled with a 25-megapixel front camera. The rear camera setup uses a 12-megapixel primary sensor, 20-megapixel secondary sensor for depth-effect shots and lossless zoom, and a third TOF 3D camera. The third sensor would come in handy in situations that require 3D mapping (such as augmented reality applications) but can’t independently be used while shooting normally with the camera app.
Even if you discount the gimmicky and relatively niche nature of the third sensor, the primary camera is capable on its own thanks to a rather underrated feature – dual-aperture. Like the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 9 devices, the Oppo R17 Pro can alternate between f/1.5 and f/2.4 depending on the lighting conditions, although unlike on the Samsung phones, you can’t manually select an aperture and have to depend on the auto mode choosing properly.
I found that while the wider aperture triggers automatically in low-light conditions, the narrower aperture isn’t always selected properly. This isn’t a problem most of the time, but can occasionally cause somewhat overexposed shots or over-saturation in bright segments of daytime pictures. In most cases though, camera performance is excellent, and I’d say that the Oppo R17 Pro is among the best camera phones you can buy under Rs 60,000. Take a look at some of the camera samples above and below.
Oppo R17 Pro: The Bad
The Oppo R17 Pro is a capable smartphone in many departments, but there is one major drawback – the software. At a time when security and performance concerns are making software quality more important, Oppo’s ColorOS user interface is, simply put, disappointing. From the fact that it comes with Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box four months after the stable release of Android 9 Pie, to the excessive bloatware and pointless system apps, the software is bothersome to say the least.
Certain functional aspects work fairly well, including features built in to make face unlock and the in-display fingerprint sensor more effective. However, the awkward placement of key settings and the excessive system apps that can’t be uninstalled make this a cluttered interface. And during my time with the phone, I received a software update that seemed to add nothing meaningful, even keeping the Android security patch at October 2018.
There are some positive aspects here, including the ‘Game Space’, which optimizes settings for uninterrupted gaming, app split-screen and the ability to ‘clone’ apps or have two separate instances of popular apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp with separate accounts configured on each. However, on the whole, ColorOS offers no meaningful enhancements, and only serves to hamper the overall smartphone experience. If software is important to you, look away from the Oppo R17 Pro now.
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The Oppo R17 Pro is an excellent smartphone in many ways, but it’s unfortunately not without its issues. A poor software experience serves as a massive blot on what is otherwise a good device, and the high price isn’t completely justified by what’s on offer. While you do get an excellent camera, the fastest charging on any reputable smartphone today, and beautiful aesthetics, the Oppo R17 Pro stops short of being a complete device for the price.
Although the OnePlus 6T isn’t quite as capable in the three departments that serve as strong points for the Oppo R17 Pro, it only falls slightly short. On the other hand, it’s significantly better when it comes to performance and software, and is even costs a bit less, making it a more solid overall recommendation. However, if those three departments appeal to you, the Oppo R17 Pro could be worth considering.