How do you follow up an act as good as the Oppo Reno3 has been?
With another even better act, maybe?
That is the feeling I get, overall, having used the last 2 generations of Oppo’s base-level Reno smartphone series. The Oppo Reno4 keeps up with the excellence that the Reno3 got us used to while providing upgrades that make it worth the while.
The Oppo Reno4 is thinner (by 0.2mm), lighter (by 0.5g) and even faster (check the performance section below) than its predecessor. Hmm, those words sound familiar, right? It also gains a bit in other areas. For instance, it is marginally longer and wider than its predecessor.
The rest of the specifics, at least design-wise, remain largely unchanged. You still have the headphone jack, microphone, USB Type-C port and speaker at the bottom, a solo microphone at the top, the earpiece at the same place and the power button on the same side and positioned at the same height.
The power button, which has a green accent that we can also find on the Oppo Watch, also doubles up as the Google Assistant button if the option to do so is turned on. The same is the case on the left side of the device where the SIM and microSD slot and the volume up and down buttons are in the exact same places as they are on the Oppo Reno3.
Where things change is on the backside of the device. There, three of the 4 camera lenses are more prominent and the LED flash is part of a bigger camera hump. Just that. That also happens to be one of the physical differences between the Reno4, as offered in the Kenyan market, and the Reno4 Pro, which is available elsewhere. The latter has 4 prominent camera lenses at the back.
There is also another change that we have left unsaid on the front: the shifting of the notch to a pill-shaped cutout, to accommodate the selfie camera, on the left side of the display from the tear drop-style middle-placed one.
Overall, this design has one effect: it largely stays out of the way of your experience with the Reno4. If anything, it just serves to enhance how deep you go interacting with the device. It’s an all-plastic build but you can’t feel any of the cheapness that has for long been associated with plastic designs. And it’s not all boring, either. Held in a certain way, the Oppo Reno4’s back does glow and show off a certain pattern.
The Oppo Reno4 packs a 6.4-inch Full HD+ AMOLED panel, pretty much the same one that we saw on its predecessor. It is bright (and it can get very bright outdoors) and very vivid (the colours pop and are more pronounced). In fact, out of the box, it is set to the “Vivid” screen colour mode, something that users have an option of keeping or switching for the more gentle “Gentle” mode which swaps the P3 mode for the sRGB mode “for simpler colour display”.
Viewing angles on the device are great, too.
The only glaring omission on the Oppo Reno4’s display is the absence of a high refresh rate, something that we are beginning to see become commonplace on devices that are even cheaper than it.
The one thing one would need to ask themselves, though, is whether if its addition would’ve completely altered their user experience. Going by our verdicts interacting with at least 3 other mid-range smartphones available locally with 90Hz displays, that is still not something that we’d say is certain. Still, it remains a nice to have feature. Oppo is offering it on the Reno4’s advanced sibling, the Reno4 Pro, which isn’t available in Kenya and is unlikely to be making its way here any time soon.
There are some shifts, regarding the hardware when compared to the Reno3. Where a telephoto lens once stood, a macro lens stays in its stead. I am pretty sure there are some that would’ve preferred the former arrangement but for basic users like yours truly, anything goes.
There is also the dilemma of the additional sensor on the front which creates that pill shape notch. What is it for? I have no idea. It probably does help with some of the heavy-lifting required of the 32-megapixel selfie camera.
The 4 cameras at the back of the Oppo Reno4, headlined by that 48-megapixel sensor, do their job just fine.
There are a few things that one can expect while using them: the oversaturation of the snaps taken, some over-exposure occasionally and inconsistent HDR. These are things that won’t be deal-breakers for many of us but they are there when using the back cameras, especially during the day.
Even though the resulting snaps tended to be soft some of the time, I am still in awe of the Oppo Reno4’s low-light performance.
At night, I prefer it to any of the phones I have lying around – and I have had my fair share of mid-range smartphones that push the boundaries of low-light photography in that segment this year. It does a good job reducing the noise that I would get elsewhere and illuminating all the right places even, though, as is the case when using Night Mode, it does so aggressively.
Oppo has managed to, once again, release a charmer. The Reno4 flies. The software on the device is very well optimized to play nicely with the device’s hardware and everything just works. You will barely have any complaints. There are specific performance modes like the assist one gets when gaming, that kicks in to boost things when that extra boost is needed. From the battery settings, one can also opt to turn on the High-Performance Mode.
Oppo is one of the very few Chinese device makers whose devices I have used this year that don’t bombard me with unnecessary advertisement every few minutes.
Not only is ColorOS 7.2 very well designed, but it also stays out of your way as much as possible. There are no bothersome prompts from some shady apps that are running in the background. None whatsoever. This is even despite the fact that Oppo does preload a number of applications it deems useful to the user.
ColorOS is also still pretty much ColorOS. Colourful as ever.
An interesting omission, which probably tells us more about the direction Oppo is taking with regards to its software plans, is the swapping of the Smart Assistant page on the left side of the home screen for the Google feed, something we had seen the company do on the Oppo A92 as well. I am at home with either option (and do particularly have a biased liking for Google’s) so this was just a pleasant surprise.
A Smart Sidebar, on the right side of the home screen, provides easy access to some handy shortcuts like the screen recorder and screenshot as well as apps like the calculator and the file manager. That it stays out of view (and you can even miss it unless you’re aware that it is there) and cannot be accidentally triggered, as is often the case elsewhere (Tecno has fixed this on the Camon 16 Premier, thankfully), is a nice touch.
Being Oppo’s way of doing things, by default, the home screen also doubles up as the space where one can access all their apps, not just some shortcuts or favourites as is usually the case elsewhere. However, for those with app drawer hangovers, the app drawer can be turned on from the settings by navigating to the Home screen mode and switching from Standard mode to Drawer mode.
I averaged a day on a single charge while using the Oppo Reno4 normally – browsing (mobile data, Wi-Fi), calls, what have you. No games. Used intensively, one can expect to get lesser runtime.
However, being low on juice should the last of anyone’s concerns when they have their included 30W charging brick and USB-C to USB-A cable as that sees the device charged up in no time – from nothing to halfway in just 20 minutes thanks to VOOC Flash Charge 4.0.
The speaker doesn’t get too loud.
Connectivity on both 3G and 4G is pretty solid and I had no issues working on either, especially on the latter. Of course, VoLTE is on right out of the box.
I just found it troublesome that the device does insist on randomizing my MAC address (safety feature, I get it) even when I explicitly choose not to for the purposes of connectivity on my configured network where the device’s original unique identifier, and not a randomly generated dynamic one, is required. There are probably very few networking nerds who’ll go to such lengths but in case you are one of the 1% that do, this is likely to be something that has you racking your head.
- I like the design. There might not be much going on or much done to make it stand out but there is nothing to fault it for, either. It also manages to feel very compact. Granted, it’s a few millimetres smaller than many devices out there, it’s still nice having a compact 6 incher, weird as that sounds.
- Good display
- The fast-charging is fantastic.
- The fingerprint (under-display) and face unlock mechanisms are very fast.
- ColorOS keeps growing on me and will probably have the same effect on anyone.
- Good performance.
- The speaker could use some work.
The Oppo Reno4 is a good addition to the Oppo family and a good successor to the Oppo Reno3.
Unfortunately, there’s not enough going for it in terms of upgrades that would make it a direct recommendation to anyone currently using its predecessor. The Reno3 remains a great device and there’s no immediate incentive to upgrade to its successor.
For everyone else looking to spend Kshs 40,000 on a smartphone, it is a fantastic option. Yes, it does not have a 90Hz display but so what? There’s not much going on for those displays right now that should dissuade you from picking such a nice piece of hardware as the Oppo Reno4 is. On the software front, it barely has peers. ColorOS is clean, speedy, intuitive… I am running out of nice words. You get the drift.