For the entire first half of the year, my number one smartphone recommendation was Oppo’s Reno5 smartphone.
It was just, well, perfect. It had a design you couldn’t pick bones with, industry-leading fast charging technology that meant it didn’t matter when you plugged it in for a charge (just as you retire to bed or moments before you leave the house for work or errands), acceptable performance and cameras that made me not miss a flagship-class device from the competition. Most importantly, at just about Kshs 40,000, the price was right.
That was all well and good until the competition caught up and offered more tempting options. Xiaomi, for instance, might not have made as many inroads in the country as the competition but they keep pushing the boundaries with their Redmi sub-brand. Samsung, keen to replicate its successes in the old days in the local market, upped the ante with the release of its very exciting 2021 Galaxy A series smartphones. And the Transsion brands have also been doing their thing – matching any desirable devices in the local market spec by spec and undercutting them with the price.
Then there is the elephant in the room: 5G.
Granted that 5G is still a long way from becoming mainstream in Kenya (just about a fifth of all users are on 4G and up, for instance), it remains a core provision for any device worth its salt entering the market at this time and over the next few months before it becomes the norm.
As such, 5G is the biggest addition to the Oppo Reno family in its sixth generation. It even gets a place in the device’s name: Oppo Reno6 5G.
For Oppo, the advanced network connectivity option on the Reno6 is even more special: the device is the company’s first to pack 5G radios in Kenya.
As you can see, from the outset, there is a lot hinging on the Reno6’s success in the market at this point in time. Is it all that, though?
Yes and no. I will explain.
To me, the Oppo Reno6 5G ticks all the boxes.
In fact, the only box not ticked right now has something to do with the name. 5G network connectivity will be enabled in the future through a software update. With Safaricom, the first and only mobile network service provider to offer 5G connectivity in the country, aiming to have done much of the groundwork necessary for the growth of 5G by year’s end, my fingers are crossed that the update will arrive just in time for me to experience it on the device.
One of the most conspicuous things about the Oppo Reno6 5G is the design. Sure, it does look a lot like its predecessor at the back but it is on the sides that the differences come to life. It has this smooth boxy feel on the edges that is capped by rounded corners and the occasional cutout for the 5G antennas giving it an almost distinct iPhone-like look. Compared to its predecessor, the Reno6 5G has also added some weight and you can feel it, even though it is marginally (by a millimetre) thinner.
There is not much to write home about the display because… it just works! It’s very bright outdoors and you should be able to use it just fine, it is vibrant and the AMOLED panel does a good job reproducing colours regardless of whatever you’re doing. Where one is put off by the vibrancy and vividness of AMOLED displays, they can play around with the settings to set the display to a “Gentle” colour mode, triggering the sRGB mode for natural colours.
Obviously, the display is automatically set to use the high refresh rate (90Hz). One can always step down to the standard refresh rate (60Hz) to conserve battery.
As far as the cameras go, we are getting the Reno6 5G with a lens less – there is no depth sensor – but that’s neither here no there. The back cameras are excellent. I may not be a very demanding camera user so there’s that to consider but I found it satisfying pretty much every need I had. Need to take a photo? It does rise up to the occasion, day or night (the night shots are stunning). Need to record a video? It does that – and is very stable.
I didn’t like the fact that taking 64-megapixel photos requires an extra tap on the viewfinder but that’s nothing that you can’t live with.
Something else that I appreciated on the Reno6’s camera is that text is no longer automatically recognized and text-heavy snaps earmarked as documents automatically. One has to go to the “More” option and choose “Text Scanner” in order to be able to use the feature. It was on by default in the Reno5 as part of its AI smarts and while very functional (I liked it), often got in the way of things making one wish there was a way to disable it. It remains one of the best ways to scan documents without needing a traditional scanner.
Here are sample photos taken with the Oppo Reno6 in various places and conditions:
The Dual Video feature that we saw on the Reno5 also makes its way to the Reno6.
For a device with 5G radios, performance is almost always a given as this is a top consideration for the device maker. In the case of the Oppo Reno6, the Dimensity 900 chipset from MediaTek does a good job delivering above board performance with the same pairing of memory as the Reno6’s predecessor.
ColorOS remains unchanged – we are still at version 11 and, hopefully, version 12 should be around the corner – and everything you either love or hate about it is there. Personally, I have no bones to pick with ColorOS ever since my interaction with the Reno3 early last year.
Oppo’s custom Android overlay has come of age and is one of the best in the business. Its approach to sandboxing of sensitive apps and operations like bank and finance apps and services gives one some peace of mind as they go about their business. Oppo’s leaning towards the incorporation of Google services where possible, instead of providing two apps to do the same thing, is also commendable.
The same options that we have enjoyed on other Oppo devices like the beautiful edge lighting, Always-On Display and more are also available.
The Oppo Reno6 5G’s battery lasts all day on moderate usage. If you push it, like I often did during the review period, it will give up a little sooner. But that shouldn’t be a problem because… Fast charging!
My favourite feature of the Oppo Reno6 5G is the fast charging. The device comes with a wall adaptor that supports Oppo’s proprietary SuperVOOC fast charging. It is as insane as it is impressive. It has the same wattage as the charging brick we got on the Reno5 (65W) but it works its magic much faster – just over half an hour compared to a little under an hour on the Reno5. I don’t know what Oppo’s secret sauce is but I like the results. Now, just how crazy is that 120W fast charging, then?
At its price, Kshs 60,000, Oppo is asking for much more than many of us expected. We have been treated to a near-constant pricing of Oppo’s Reno series since the Reno3 debuted with the difference in pricing over three generations being about Kshs 2,000 officially. So, what justifies a ten times increase this time around?
That is a hard question to answer. And it is a hard figure to justify.
For some reason, I personally believe I wouldn’t have any bones to pick with the Oppo Reno6 5G if it included some “feel good” features like wireless charging and ingress protection (IP) rating. If you remember well, that is exactly the same thing we said about Tecno’s surprise pricing of the Phantom X.
Then, there are the glaring omissions. There is no storage expansion. Sure, the 128 gigabytes of storage available on the device should be more than fine but it doesn’t hurt to know that one can always go for the fallback plan, does it? Oh, and getting the aux cable once you’re in a cab or a friend’s car (tell them to upgrade to an Android Auto head unit) in order to bop to your preferred tunes as you ride along? It is a thing of the past now that the 3.5mm headphone jack has finally left the stable. Instead, you get USB-C headsets in the box (watch our unboxing of the device here).
Therefore, it makes it hard to outrightly recommend the Oppo Reno6 to just about every person eyeing a decent mid-range device as they are not short of options available in the market – yes, including ones with 5G network connectivity.
However, for a certain class of Kenyans that Oppo is targeting with that pricing, the Reno6 5G is a candidate that cannot be ignored.