What do you do when you make one of the best mid-range smartphones in the market?
Make another one? Make the other one cost a little less while keeping much of the same features that made the device a fan favourite in the first place?
This is the route that Oppo has taken, a path that, often, is never taken.
There has been a particular feeling I have gotten over the past year while reviewing Oppo smartphones: they are so good. That has been the case when looking at the Reno series as well as the A-series of budget phones the Chinese device maker has continuously availed in the local market.
Unlike past Oppo smartphones that were hell-bent on being pros in a specific area (think of the F-series devices and their photography-centred focus), the current lineup of Reno and A-series devices seek to be all-rounders. Or at least that is what I gather from my interactions with them.
Good camera? Check. Good performance? Check. Good endurance ratings? Check. What more would you ask for? Maybe pricing? That is also good.
Why would I bring up the A-series Oppo smartphones? Well, because now, after interacting with the Reno5 F, a device in the Oppo Reno5 series that has been available locally for weeks now, I am convinced that this is what we have been getting previously as A-series devices shortly after the unveiling of past Reno smartphones (the A92 with the Reno3 and the A93 with the Reno4). There may still be (there definitely is) some A-series heavy-hitters that will definitely impress me the same way that those that came before them did but, for now, if you were looking to grab any of the older A-series devices or their equivalents from the competition, hold your horses. The Oppo Reno5 F is the device to get, instead.
Where do I start?
It has the same feel in the hand as the standard Reno5 even though the looks (just the back) do differ a bit. The camera module, while still protruding out of the backside of the device, has a different look compared to what we get on the standard Reno 5.
As I found out, the differences don’t end there when it comes to the camera. Using the camera on the Reno5 F, I could tell the differences between the sensors on the device, compared to what I had experienced earlier in my month-long stay with its elderly sibling. Of course, looking at the spec sheet, that is to be expected. This is one of the distinguishing areas where, should you need more (and you do, especially looking at what you are able to capture at night), then spending Kshs 10,000 more to get the Reno5 is advisable.
While there is that, the software experience, when it comes to the cameras, remains largely the same. You get access to the same feature set. The implementation, however, thanks to the differences in the optical setup has the results looking different.
The Reno5 F camera at night
That is one way to look at the Oppo Reno5 F’s cameras, and, generally, the device itself. However, it might be a problematic one, fair as it is. Pitching the Reno5 F against smartphones directly within its price range, head-to-head is the best way to judge the device on its own. Often, devices with its feature set, camera or otherwise, would be found in a higher price bracket. That only tells us one thing: Oppo killed it here.
Aside from the camera, as already highlighted, the build quality is eerily similar to the Reno 5’s with there being minute differences in dimensions and weight. Negligible. The kind that only people who obsess over devices like yours truly would care to point out. The low down is this: it is just as thin, and light, as the Reno5. The user experience, as a result, should also be largely the same – and it is.
The display, with its standard 60Hz refresh rate, is fun to use indoors and outdoors – since it cranks up all the way to accommodate the extra lighting while out in the sun, making it one of the best experiences on a Kshs 30,000 or thereabout smartphones.
Performance-wise, the Oppo Reno5 F is no slouch either – I don’t expect any Oppo smartphone, at this point in time, to be.
There’s the bit where there is a MediaTek chipset in the device but that shouldn’t matter as you get the same kind of output from it as you would on another Oppo device with something else from another supplier. As is always the case, the careful blend of hardware (the aforementioned chipset and some generous amount of memory, 8GB) and software (ColorOS 11) makes sure the user is least concerned about issues like overheating (unless you’re using Twitter Spaces, something that is a universal nuisance at this time), scroll lag and what have you. Just focus on getting out of your phone what you normally want to get out of it: calls, texts, browsing, gaming and, if you live in the world of many young people right now, content creation. The device just handles everything just fine.
That leads me to the next thing: the battery!
Here, the Oppo Reno5 F gets a leg up thanks to the feature differences between it and the standard Reno5. Whereas the latter has a high-refresh-rate display that is, by default, on, the Reno5 F sticks with a standard (60Hz) refresh rate while keeping the same full high-definition panel found on the Reno5. What that results in, I found out, is a slight improvement in the battery life. I managed to squeeze at least 1.5 more hours of screen-on-time from the device. Now, that is usually one of those vanity metrics that reviewers like yours truly bother with time and again since it is highly subjective (varies by usage) but it gives you a rough idea of what to expect.
Oh, and there’s 30W fast-charging which means, simply, no worrying about how fast your device charges. In my case, having been spoilt by the Reno5’s exceptional 65W Super VOOC charging, there was some worry. Spoilt brat.
The extended endurance rating allows one to appreciate things like the impressive software experience on the Reno5 F – and, at this moment, every Oppo smartphone – that is devoid of many unnecessary additions while remaining highly customizable. I have nothing but high praise for what ColorOS has become – one of the nicest custom Android experiences in the world.
Does a stable performance, an acceptable camera experience and an under-display fingerprint sensor coupled with obvious good looks screen value for money to you at about Kshs 30,000? If so, the Oppo Reno5 F should be the device for you. If not, you need to pay a visit to any one of the hundreds of display areas in dealer shops across the country to experience one and evaluate your impressions. It might still be the one; because there are few devices we have seen the turn of 2021 that compete adequately with it at this price or offer themselves as better alternatives.
As we noted in an exhaustive discussion of its elder sibling, Oppo, simply, managed to lock two key mid-range market segments with one hit making it very hard for us to recommend other devices in the Kshs 30,000 – 40,000 or thereabout brackets.