Reviews Smartphones

OPPO RX17 Pro Review: A mid-ranger that’s aiming high

While some of you might be familiar with Oppo, having perhaps imported your own from China, many will have little to no idea of who, or what, Oppo is.

At the start of the year, the Chinese phone maker announced its entry into the UK, with a launch at London’s Tower Bridge of new phones (including the RX17 Pro) and news that the company will be opening a design centre here in the UK to help create future products for a European audience.

Oppo also announced an exclusive retail deal with Carphone Warehouse, with announcements of availability on individual networks expected to come later in the year.

Of all the handsets in the range, the flagship is the £799 Find X, with a motorised slide-up camera and totally notch-free screen.

I opted however to start with the £549 RX17 Pro first (also known as the R17 Pro in other markets, due to it having a superior camera setup – a part of all phones that I personally rank as more important than a lot of other features.

Without a slide-up camera, the RX17 Pro doesn’t have an all-screen front like the Find X, but the 6.4 inch display is still pretty much all-screen, with its minimal bezel at the bottom and a small tear-drop notch at the top, housing a 25-megapixel selfie camera that can also offer face unlocking, albeit without the clever 3D tech on some other phones.

The RX17 Pro doesn’t come with a flagship chipset, rather it uses Snapdragon 710 – still a modern Qualcomm chipset based on a 10nm process, and an octo-core setup with Adreno 616 GPU.

There’s dual SIM support, a Cat 15 4G modem (for speeds of 800/150Mbps) and dual Wi-Fi support, so there aren’t really any significant compromises by going with a more mid-range setup.

Design & Build

The RX17 Pro’s AMOLED display has a resolution of 1080×2340 pixels. There’s Corning Gorilla Glass 6 too.

Most apps run full-screen by default, which does means that video playback will have a cutout on the left-hand side that some may find annoying – but you can change this on an app-by-app basis in the settings.

The rear is a glass affair, with little more than the Oppo branding and the camera lenses and a LED flash. There are three sensors; a 12-megapixel f/1.5 aperture camera, a 20-megapixel f/2.6 camera, and a 3D TOF (Time-of-flight) stereo camera for depth measurement and 3D-related imaging.

There’s no fingerprint sensor on show because Oppo has embedded it within the front display, quite near the bottom to give it perhaps more easy access than, say, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. A slight movement of the phone is enough to light up the positioning.

It’s quick to set up, and accuracy proved pretty good – although requiring a firm press. In-screen fingerprint readers are definitely cool, but they do come at a price of speed and accuracy over more traditional systems (whether that’s on the back or below the screen).

I’m yet to try Samsung’s ultrasonic in-glass sensor, but expect even this to be slower than a separate sensor.

On the left side are two volume keys, and on the right a power button. That’s about it besides the base mounted USB-C port and speaker. This means there’s no headphone port, no Infrared controller at the top (a feature quite common on Chinese handsets but virtually nobody else), and no stereo speakers.

As with many other recent phones, the rear of the phone sports various different effects when tilted in the light. Gone are the days of having boring plain colours, and the RX17 Pro is available in two finishes; radiant mist or emerald green (the latter being the phone I got to review, and pictured inside the protective case that is bundled with the phone).

Camera

The camera functionality immediately leapt out at me as being remarkably similar in functionality to Huawei and Honor phones that I’m particularly familiar with, with a range of scenes automatically detected and displayed before capture, along with AI stabilised night shots (allowing long exposures at night without the need for a tripod).

There are some omissions in functionality, like no 960fps super slow motion mode for one, but slow motion video is probably not a well used feature. You can record slow motion video at a lower frame rate, so all is not lost.

With that 25-megapixel selfie-camera, there are also a number of beauty modes and special effects, including stickers and animated emojis. Again, nothing that hasn’t been done elsewhere; but the important thing perhaps is that they are available here too.

There are no specific colour profiles, but there is a function called ‘Dazzle Colour’ that boosts the saturation in many scenes, but never by so much that it makes the photos look overly processed. If anything, you’ll sometimes wonder if it has been enabled at all.

If there was one thing that annoyed me about the camera, it was the inability to take a photograph quickly. There’s no double tap of the power button or a volume key to launch the camera. Instead you can set a motion gesture, by drawing an ‘O’ on the display. While this works, it’s a lot slower.

I still miss dedicated camera keys, which now appears to be a feature that only Sony continues to utilise.

The best way to help you see what the camera is like is to show some of the photos. You can see some examples below.

Photo Gallery

All of the photos below were taken on the RX17 Pro in automatic mode.

Panoramic mode – a very easy, quick and reliable way to get wide shots

Performance

It’s right not to expect top-end performance from the Snapdragon 710 chipset, but it would be also wrong to expect a poor one.

With an AnTuTu benchmark score of 159081, which the app states ‘defeats 46% of users’ and ranks the phone in the top 50 of many thousands of different handsets, it is clear that the phone is not an under performer.

Sure, benchmarks don’t tell the full story – but they serve as a good guide for comparison purposes.

Battery life for me is an important consideration. Perhaps more so than outright performance when we’re talking chipsets that already outperform most needs, if not all for non-gamers and those who have no desire to run processor intensive apps (such as those involving picture or video processing).

While only having a 3,700mAh battery (these days, it would seem 4,000mAh is becoming the standard – albeit with some notable exceptions like Xiaomi’s recently announced Mi 9), the reduced demand on the processor resulted in excellent battery life for me.

An average of over five hours of screen-on-time was attained, and that was without ever invoking the the power saving mode that can squeeze out a lot more time by turning off background data and reducing screen brightness.

Had I ever felt anxious over the ability to get home without having run out of power, I could easily have enabled this – but there is really no need. The lowest I got to, on the day I spent from 9am to 6pm in London taking photos and video (all being backed up over 4G to Google Photos in real-time), was 20%. That was perhaps cutting it a bit fine, but that was with the heaviest amount of usage I ever put the phone through.

The amount of power management options are not quite as comprehensive as with Huawei’s Emotion UI, but there are still a fair few options open to you, as well as a gaming mode that turns off background tasks and notifications to direct all power to the game you’re playing.

I decided to enable this and ran AnTuTu a second time, to discover no significant difference. I expect the phone was detecting the test and boosting the power to the max anyway.

Some will say that’s naughty, but it seems everyone has gone down this road to the point that features like GPU Turbo and performance modes have become ways to openly offer users the chance to ‘push the boat out’ at the expense of battery life.

As long as it’s open and transparent, I don’t see a problem and some of us have cried out for no-compromise performance modes for many years.

In the event you do lose power faster than intended, there’s 50W fast charging to get you back on your feet, which is quite incredible. Ten minutes of charge from 0% is good to reach 40%, and by the time 40 minutes has elapsed you’ll have a completely full battery.

This was proven when I returned with a phone on 20% and was back to full in half an hour. That’s quite unbelievable, and a killer feature for this phone.

Better still, the required charger is included in the box (and also requires its own USB-A to USB-C cable that’s capable of delivering the higher wattage output).

Sadly there’s no Qi/wireless charging, but you will be able to manage without.

Conclusion

As my first Oppo phone, I came at this review as someone rather unfamiliar with the subtle differences over other Android smartphones.

ColorOS Screen

Color OS was new to me, but at least there was no steep learning curve like when using Chinese handsets years ago. Especially the ones that tried so hard to make the UI look like iOS rather than Android. Some, like Vivo, still do this today.

Thankfully, Android is now in a place where there’s really no benefit in trying to copy iOS, as anyone wanting iOS will just get an iPhone. Android has its own look and feel that people want, so changing it is not a sensible move.

Despite lacking Android Pie out of the box (and therefore some of the features that Android P brings – including the excellent Digital Balance screen time management), it looks like Android should.

The notifications are well executed, and the phone doesn’t appear to suffer any slow down from the skin built on top.

There is one concern that needs to be addressed in conclusion, and that’s support for VoLTE and VoWiFi. These are no longer geeky buzzwords for phone nerds, as the lack of support for voice calling over 4G will result in some users losing access to the network in some rural and built-up areas. EE and Three users stand to lose the most.

Meanwhile Wi-Fi calling is vital for anyone inside a building where outside signals can’t get through on any network technology.

Xiaomi users can enable VoLTE through the dialler, while Huawei phones now come with universal settings. Honor is still a little hit and miss, often with support only for Three.

It’s one of the only problems buying a phone SIM-free. If the RX17 Pro was available via individual networks, each would ensure support for all their network features. This really needs to happen as soon as possible, but Oppo has suggested to me that announcements are pending. Fingers crossed.

Beyond this issue, the RX17 Pro is an excellent phone to introduce Oppo into the UK. While the Find X may offer more technical wizardry, for a far higher price, the RX17 Pro is the better investment. At £549 it’s a little more than some comparable models, but not significantly so.

Unless you’re a heavy gamer, you’ll appreciate the battery life that comes with a less power-hungry chipset. And then there’s the unbelievably fast battery charging time, plus an excellent camera that helps justify the premium (but, let’s remember it is still considerably cheaper than flagships from the likes of Apple, Samsung and Huawei).

2019 is the year we’ll see the launch of 5G and the folding phones, but perhaps a bigger reason to get excited is seeing the continued introduction of phones that punch above their weight and offer more affordable alternatives to the incumbent players.

The RX17 Pro is another great example and if there’s any issue, it’s that it makes choosing so much harder these days. That’s a decision you will have to make for yourself, but this review will hopefully show that the RX17 Pro is definitely one for your shortlist.


Good Points

– Extremely dynamic camera
– Large, bright, display
– System performance & battery life
– Amazingly fast charging time

Bad Points

– Chipset may not suit all needs
– Slow camera startup time
– No native VoLTE/VoWiFi support
– Ships with outdated Android OS

“we’re seeing the continued introduction of phones that punch above their weight and offer more affordable alternatives to the incumbent players”



Availability information

The Oppo RX17 Pro is currently an exclusive to Carphone Warehouse, with a SIM-free price of £549 or for connection to various networks on contract via the retailer.

More info: Carphone Warehouse

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