Oppo Reno3: The complete midrange package

It’s been a while since I last had a proper hands-on with an Oppo smartphone – years even. So, going to the start of my dalliance with one of the brand’s newest smartphones, the Oppo Reno3, I did not have much in the way of what to expect.

I just had a few biases from my past experience with Oppo products:

  1. Oh God, that ColorOS thing awaits
  2. As usual, the cameras will be fantastic

If you’re not looking to read the entire review, here is the low down: My negatives were either neutralized or turned into outright positives and my positives got an extra +.

Oppo has come a long way and, much of that journey is littered with devices that are very appealing to the eye.

Borrowing from such a rich heritage, one can expect the Reno3’s design to appeal across the board. While I can’t speak for everyone, it did appeal to me even though I had the rather muted Midnight Black colour option which might not be all screamy as many of the devices I have reviewed recently seem to be but which appeals to my types – the “move in silence” types.

So, if looks alone are enough to make or destroy the opinion you form of a device then the Reno3 should be able to slip through and make it to the other end of your good graces.

The only problem I have with the design is actually as a result of being spoilt by Oppo. Anyone who follows phones with the kind of obsession that some of us do – or even those who don’t – will easily pick out the first generation Oppo Reno with its unique pop-out camera from any heap of phones. While the same may not be the case with the second-generation Reno, its blue shimmering light is quite the kind of vivid thing to stay in your mind just like the Find 7’s skyline notification light strip. Or the N1’s iconic rotating camera. With the third generation, Oppo went with a “fit in” design which is easily acceptable as it is not radical but also easily forgettable. A victim of its mothership’s past success.

I may not be your regular shutterbug filling statuses/stories with dotted circles every day or monopolizing your Instagram feed and managing to play the mysterious algorithms at their own game but I do appreciate the results I get from good shooters and the Oppo Reno3 has plenty of those. Five, to be exact. Four at the back and one at the front to necessitate the “throwback” (that’s where we are at in 2020) teardrop cutout just below the very well-hidden earpiece. I just wish they had figured out a way to sneak in an LED flash on the front, too.

Good lighting, bad lighting, the Oppo Reno3 stepped up. For at least the second time in like 3 months (the other time being when I sampled the Google-less Huawei Y7p that costs under half the Reno3), I felt that I had used a device with multiple cameras touting big numbers that actually rose to the occasion and walked the talk. You know, it’s not just about “I have many cameras”. They actually need to work so that I don’t spend time after capturing valuable moments deciding which one is worth staying and which one belongs to the bin even when the photo subject made all the necessary efforts to get that Christmas pose.

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In short, if there is one word to describe the Reno3 cameras’ performance then it would be: impressive. Of course, this is highly subjective and there will be those that will feel it “is just…” but for my needs, it managed to win me over.

With 8 gigabytes of memory to cover the AI midrange chipset powerhouse that is MediaTek’s Helio P90, excellent performance was almost a given. I found no evidence to the contrary. Not only do the Reno3’s hardware resources manage to deliver a delightful experience when interacting with various apps and games, they ensure a smooth experience across the board. No stutters.

That means that I had little in the way of gripes going into my ColorOS experience. Currently in version 7, which brings Oppo’s Android 10 vision to life, ColorOS’ has matured and the evidence is there for all to see.

Being cautious based on my past experience with the overlay, I was very happy to notice that Oppo lets users choose the icon styling when setting up the Reno3 for use for the first time. I promptly went with whatever I could find that was closest to the more familiar look and feel of vanilla Android, in all its flat glory (trading ColorOS’ rounded corners for such) and I wasn’t disappointed. What was supposed to be a coping mechanism for what I anticipated to be an unsavoury experience ended up being a brilliant segway to interacting with and discovering all the ways that Oppo’s tinkering with Android has resulted in a lot of added value. No, this site has not been hacked and you read all that – praise for a custom Android skin – from me.

Then there’s the little things baked into the overall user experience. Like a Quick Settings-based quick toggle for switching to system-wide dark mode. It’s the little things, so they say.

As if I hadn’t had enough of the Reno3’s awesomeness, the juicing up bit, after a day and a half of tinkering with ColorOS, I got to experience, firsthand, the truth that is Oppo’s proprietary VOOC fast charge. Of course, I’ve never expected anything less from VOOC – and its variation that sister brand OnePlus licenses and brands differently – since my early days of covering it during its infancy but, damn, there’s always another moment to admire its efficiency.

The joy of never having to plug my device for charging before retiring to bed so that it is ready when I am up has been with me for a while now thanks to every device maker with a device playing in the Reno3’s league or slightly higher pulling up their socks but they barely match Oppo’s moves.

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Things I liked the most

  • It’s light, making handling a breeze.
  • The in-display fingerprint scanner actually gets the job done despite the feature’s mixed bag performance across the various devices I have used that come with it.

  • That fast-charging and the inclusion of accessories that make it possible (that 30W charging brick) should be the “new normal”.
  • Built-in automatic call recording (I know, please allow those of us that are catching up with Android civilization in the custom overlay world to bask in amazement).
  • The display is good.
  • ColorOS 7 really stepped up.
  • I am not much of a fan of Google Assistant wannabes but I actually like the Smart Assistant and the freehand I had with regards to customizing it to my heart’s desire. There was a time ColorOS limited us when it came to changing wallpapers. Times, they are a-changin’.

Things I didn’t like

  • The sound. It could be better.
  • The constant nagging to clear my WhatsApp from the storage clean up tool. I know I have accumulated a lot of what may be regarded as “junk” by the system (and many people, too) but hey, it’s my junk (not that one), no need to remind me every two minutes. There’s a reason I like my phones with 128GB storage, ya know?

The lowdown

The Oppo Reno3 is a fantastic smartphone. However, since I am writing this review when the Oppo A92 has just started selling in the country complete with that “so 2020” box housing all the back camera sensors, its biggest risk is not competitors that match it spec-for-spec but fall short of providing software experiences users are accustomed to without the need for a few tricks (you know who I am talking about) but too-hard-to-resist options from its mothership.

If you have Kshs 40,000 to spend on a smartphone then you won’t be making a mistake parting with them in exchange for an Oppo Reno3. If you are having second thoughts about parting with such an amount then that is where the Oppo A92 comes in and sweeps you off your feet, making life a little harder for its elderly sibling whose feature set it tries to match but for a different segment of the market.

Have something that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze [at] androidkenya.com