Oppo A93 review: Still the one

How do you top a good thing? By making another equally good thing, it appears.

At least that is the vibe I’ve gotten in my half a month of using Oppo’s latest A-series smartphone in Kenya, the Oppo A93.

READ:  Oppo A93 specifications

Coming just 5 months since its predecessor was launched in Kenya and at exactly the same price (take away Kshs 1,000), the Oppo A93 is everything like its predecessor and then some more.

The “more” part of my statement above comes from the design decisions made by the Chinese brand with regards to their hero mid-market smartphone that offers the best balance of price and features. It doesn’t stray into the upper mid-range territory of the Reno4 and it doesn’t scurry down to the congested lower mid-range market. Sweet spot.

What that entails is a different design approach than we saw about half a year ago as we interacted with its predecessor. It is thinner, it is lighter and it is much faster.

It keeps the same optics, the same memory and storage configuration but, thanks to the slimming up of everything, a slightly smaller display and a reduced battery capacity.

Does that come with reductions in performance of any kind and experiences that feel compromised as a result?

The answer, at any given time, is a big NO!

If anything, everything is better and feels better.

While I enjoyed the heft of the Oppo A92 which made handling easier, I have not missed that at all on the A93. It is light, yes, but the good kind of light. You still feel it when you slip it in your pocket. The back has a matte finish that, surprisingly, doesn’t stand in the way of the beautiful glint that emanates when light strikes the device at certain angles and, which, is instrumental in improving the handling experience on top of one not having to worry about the smudges they leave behind.

The reduced size profile also means that it is more compact meaning that you don’t have to worry about reaching the edges of the screen if you have average-sized hands like yours truly or banking on whatever customizations have been made to the software to make one-handed use less of a pain.

The display is just as we experienced it on the A92: it is bright, vibrant and beautiful, It brings colours to life and doesn’t make legibility and other interactions when out and about in the sun much difficult. It’s also very crisp-looking.

The only downside, if we may call it so, is that Oppo still saw it fit to stay away from the high-refresh-rate race, something that ex-sub-brand realme is doing very well with its recent releases in the local market. At this point, that shouldn’t bother you if you are in the market for a smartphone but since devices like the A93 are meant to stick around for a while, the omission may have you thinking twice since, at some point, it will feel dated. Given that we advocate for getting devices for what they are now and what they will do for you today and not what they will be in the future, that is still a discussion that can be had some time later.

Here is something that you can watch an at-a-glance demonstration of in our first impressions video below: the in-display fingerprint sensor. It’s fantastic! It’s one of those subtle design changes that are actually major, in my opinion, and very much welcome.

With a new chipset and a move away from Qualcomm to MediaTek, are you missing anything on the Oppo A93? The answer, again, is a big fat NO! If anything, everything feels just as fast as it did on the A92, maybe even a bit faster, I don’t know. What I know is that at no point did I wish for something else. In fact, the Helio P95 chipset pairs up very well with the rest of the components that such thoughts won’t be in the vicinity when using the device.

This excellence is carried over into the one area that matters the most for most people, especially those not looking to splash more than they should on a device: photography and videography, The camera experience.

I am not known for being quite the shutterbug but I can say without uncertainty that you are unlikely to get a better camera experience for Kshs 30,000 (add the extra Kshs 1,000 I’ve left out in my rounding) anywhere else. The Oppo A93’s 6 cameras – 2 on the front, 4 at the back – deliver. Above and beyond.

While it’s almost a given that daytime/well-lit snaps will come out with barely any flaws, nothing is usually explicitly guaranteed at night. That has been true of almost all similarly-priced (or close) smartphones we have reviewed this year. They blow us away with their insane night modes but, there’s always a but of some sort. Not so on the Oppo A93. The night shots are almost very crisp (there is room for improvement) with less noise than any that we have seen on a phone we have used this year when on automatic shooting mode, what we assume many will be using their devices. Switch to the dedicated night mode and the deal is sealed.

Firing up HDR mode, switching to the full 48-megapixels, using the AI mode and whatnot only serve to make what is already good even much better, at least in my experience with the device. It’s unfortunate that the 48MP option requires an extra step to get to but that is something that you can learn to live with.

The Pro mode, as well, needs another 2 steps to get to. Inconveniencing but something that I am sure anyone who knows their way around adjusting the ISO, white balance and the like can easily look over. Would’ve been nice if the user interface allowed for a flick up from the bottom of the viewfinder to enable it but, oh well…

We still have selfies being taken with face smoothening beauty effects at level 30% but, either Oppo’s algorithms are getting good or something else, I couldn’t tell any difference between snaps I took with it on and with it off (i.e. “Natural” mode selected) so that isn’t much of a bother to me as it always has been.

Even though there is no dual speaker setup going on, the bottom-firing speaker is incredibly loud and the sound is generally good, nothing one can pick a bone with.

Battery life is actually good. I have managed to squeeze up to a day and a half on a single charge. On days when I have been intensively using the device, it’s needed some topping up just after crossing the 20 hour mark. In short, you can leave the house (if you have to, stay safe everybody) and get back in the evening having not needed to charge it.

That is not something out of this world as we’ve generally been treated to good battery life by devices at the Oppo A93’s price point that we have reviewed this year but it is worth pointing out in case one of your major concerns are the effects of the reduced battery capacity (from 5,000mAh on the A92 to 4,000mAh on the A93).

Also, it appears that Oppo found a way of fixing the high battery drain that I bemoaned on the Oppo A92. I made sure to install all the apps I had on the A92 on the A93 to determine if it was a case of some rogue apps but the results say that may have since been fixed (unlikely since I didn’t have similar issues on other devices) but the results I’ve had point to ColorOS 7.2, the version that powers the Oppo A93 just being better. A minor incremental update that fixed all the underlying issues of 7.1 and stabilized lots of things.

The overall software experience, which we have so far managed to steer clear of, only bringing it up when talking about the cameras and the battery, is standard Oppo. Nothing new. Nothing outstanding. Nothing disappointing. If you love Oppo’s newfound near-minimalist take on things Android, as we have seen on the other Oppo smartphones we have looked at so far this year, you’ll love it. If anything, it sheds any additions of Oppo’s own stuff in favour of Google’s, which, to be honest, tend to be better, or nothing at all. Most importantly, you don’t have to worry about an influx of ads making it, at just Kshs 2,500 more, a better alternative to another rival device bedevilled by such.

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