Oppo Reno 2£449
- Exceptional camera performance, especially in the dark
- Solid, steady video quality
- No battery anxiety issues from all-day ability
- Notch free display is bright and vivid
- No Android 10 out of the box
- ColorOS takes a bit of getting used to
- No 5G
Oppo only introduced the Reno range in April this year and already it has built up quite a portfolio.
Then in October, it launched the Reno 2 in the UK. You’ve probably already seen my photo galleries (here and here and here), showing off the impressive camera, but it was high time I posted my full review to cover off the other features of this sub-£450 smartphone.
The Reno 2 follows the style of handsets like the original Reno and the Reno 10x zoom, with a glass back and vertically arranged cameras.
There’s also a little bump to protect the camera lenses when placed down on a table, although the phone ships with a protective case you’d be a fool not to use from day one.
On the front is a large 6.5-inch display with no notches or cut-outs, and a narrow bezel around all four sides.
This is possible due to the use of a ‘shark-fin’ camera that pops out the top of the phone, containing a 16-megapixel camera and its very own front-facing LED flash.
Around the sides you’ll find a power button and two volume keys, with a USB-C charging port down below and a single down-firing speaker.
For security, there’s an embedded fingerprint sensor that is quick and accurate to use, as well as the option of face unlock (the camera quickly popping up and down to verify your face when you tap the power button).
Thanks to the pop-up camera, the all-screen display is a joy to behold.
The AMOLED panel has a taller than usual aspect ratio (20:9,1080×2040 pixels), which allows you to enjoy cinema widescreen films in landscape, or see more of apps in portrait mode (particularly useful if using split-screen apps).
The HDR certified display is extremely bright too, although it is worth noting that Netflix didn’tr HDR content on my device, perhaps due to a lack of certification.
However, you can view HDR content from other apps, such as YouTube.
There’s no 90Hz refresh as is becoming a thing on lots of other phones, but while there’s no denying 90Hz looks great, it’s one of those things most people can live without.
This is even more true if you’ve not used a 90Hz screen, as you won’t even know what you’re missing.
As time goes on, you can expect 90Hz to become commonplace, but is the omission a dealbreaker here? Absolutely not.
Drop the notch
Far more important to most people is the quality of the display and the Reno 2 screen is up there with the best. You have to wonder why anyone is still thinking notches or cutouts are still a thing for displays.
Obviously there’s the cost of a pop-up camera, and the question over durability, but it is by far the nicest and most graceful solution.
If you’re worried about the potential to damage the camera if you drop the phone, fear not as the phone detects any sudden movements associated with a fall and retracts the camera immediately.
The Reno 2 has a quad-camera that consists of the ubiquitous Sony 48-megapixel sensor that has adorned many a smartphone in 2019, along with a telephoto (13-megapixel), wide-angle (8-megapixel) and monochrome sensor (2-megapixel).
There’s no fancy periscope zoom here, but Oppo made it clear at the Reno 2 series launch that the Reno 10x Zoom is still going to remain on sale for foreseeable future, along with its 5G counterpart, the Reno 5G, if you want 5G access.
If you desire the extra zoom capability, these are alternative choices open to you – but for a higher cost.
What the Reno 2 gets is a 2x zoom, with a 5x hybrid zoom and the ability to go to 20x digital zoom.
There’s no real assistance or enhancement of images at 20x, so it’s not something I’d recommend using. Stick to 2x and 5x and you’ll be fine.
The phone has a number of portrait modes, with bokeh effects even in video – using the front-facing selfie camera.
Super Ultra Awesome Night mode
Oppo’s method for producing low-light images is somewhat different to that of the likes of Huawei, who were arguably the first to offer high-quality images in low-light, without the need for a tripod.
There’s no fancy RYYB sensor with an ISO so high it can see in almost total darkness, so instead the software works with multiple photos taken in quick succession and using its image processing algorithms to produce a final image.
This allows you to take night photos using the standard, wide or telephoto cameras with similar levels of result.
When it gets really dark, there’s a longer wait to process the images for the Ultra Dark Mode. Each photo can take 2-3 seconds at least to process, limiting the ability to take many photos in quick succession – but all phones in this type of mode have similar levels of delay.
You will need a steadier hand when taking multiple photos, and if you do have access to a tripod you can activate an even longer exposure.
In my case, I took every photo and video without anything more than my own bare hands and attempting to remain as still as possible.
Example photos – day and night
I found the results to be rather incredible, and a testament to Oppo’s engineers for building a great camera experience for a fraction of the cost of the handsets it is competing against.
The camera performs well in all the conditions I tested it in – as you can see from my previously posted galleries. The camera interface is easy to use, with everything laid out logically.
There is a professional mode to allow manual control, but I rarely found the need to use it as the phone detects most scenes accurately and adjusts the parameters for you.
It is great on the video side too, with 4K video recording (albeit at 30fps only) and a super-steady mode that gives a perfect GoPro style experience.
If you’re more into capturing motion and fast-paced activities than holding the camera steady, the Reno 2 won’t disappoint with the excellent image stabilisation, although it is only usable in 1080p (60fps) when activated.
You can also choose between H.264 and H.265 codecs, the latter being more efficient but still posing some issues when it comes to sharing images.
If you find your video is played back on another computer with no video (only audio), chances are you’ll need to update the player to support the new codec, or install an app on the phone itself to re-encode any video you’ve already recorded as the phone doesn’t allow you to do this on its own.
The Reno 2 isn’t using a flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 8xx chipset, but uses a chip from the 7-series family. This is just one step down, so should not be considered to be significantly inferior.
The Snapdragon 730G gets the ‘G’ addition because of a faster GPU, which is considered an equivalent to the once flagship Snapdragon 835 SoC.
The 8nm chip promises low power consumption, and despite being a supposedly mid-range chip, is capable of supporting things like 802.11ac Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi 5), fast LTE speeds with Cat 15 down (800Mbps) and Cat 13 up (150Mbps), as well as Bluetooth 5.0.
There’s no 5G support, although Oppo has hinted at releasing another 5G phone before the end of 2019, or certainly early 2020.
It’s widely expected that it will use a new Snapdragon 7-series chip with embedded 5G modem, although it is far too early to speculate what handset will be the first to get it.
The benchmarking tests I performed suggest this is a pretty powerful performing chip, and makes the phone perfectly usable for gamers, even if the phone isn’t specifically marketed for gaming (again, there are other models in the range).
Even though it isn’t pushed primarily for gaming, it does come with a range of options to boost the performance for gamers, with Game Boost 3.0 offering faster frame rates, increased touch sensitivity (with lower latency) and the ability to turn off notifications that may get in the way, or power saving options that will throttle performance.
More important for the vast majority of users is how it performs as a phone and running more common apps, or using the browser.
Here it performs as quick as any flagship, and you’d be excused for thinking it had a more powerful chip. Frankly, it doesn’t need a Snapdragon 855 chip to offer fluid operation.
With 8GB of RAM, it can keep apps loaded for longer and this further speeds up the day-to-day usability.
Oppo is in many ways in the same place Huawei was with EMUI some years back when it seemed the way to sell a phone was by making it look more like iOS than Android.
As time went on, Huawei eventually scaled back the Apple ‘inspired’ look and feel, and it has been moving towards native Android ever since.
After all, Android has its own identity and increasingly people don’t want to try and skin their phone to look like an iPhone.
Oppo seems to be going this way too, as outside of China I think it’s fair to say most Android users want a phone to look like Android.
Android 10 incoming
The Reno 2 is built on Android Pie, with Android 10 expected with ColorOS 7 rolling out to the Reno 2 from December.
I mention Huawei because EMUI was often used as a stick to beat Huawei with in the past (and that reputation has stuck in some cases, long after the issues were resolved), and there appear to be many people quick to dismiss Oppo phones on the basis of ColorOS, which I think does a disservice to both Oppo and potential customers.
Click for full-size image
The learning curve for adapting to ColorOS is minimal, and as you might hope from a customised UI, there are some parts that arguably look nicer.
Colo(u)r is obviously the reason for it getting its name, and the quick settings use bright and distinctive colours to identify when something is enabled or not.
There’s no native dark mode out of the box, which is a disappointment, but that is coming in ColorOS 7.
As Oppo gets more established in the UK, you can expect further enhancements – especially now Oppo has its own design centre in London that will help the company adapt products for outside of China.
Any phone released today has to have a decent battery to make it possible to enjoy the features without constantly worrying about a source of power.
Take the Google Pixel 4 phones, which are getting incredibly high levels of criticism for packing in tiny batteries, which is just nonsensical these days.
Fortunately the Reno 2 comes with a 4,000mAh battery and also supports 20-watt fast charging.
This is not as quick as some of the other Oppo handsets (Oppo now has the Reno Ace that supports a 60W charger for 0-100% in 30 minutes), but still faster than a lot of the competition.
Thanks to the use of the Snapdragon 730G chipset, I found myself getting a similar performance as my Huawei P30 Pro, and never ever suffering battery anxiety issues as I used to with other phones.
Keeps working and working and working
Screen-on-Time topped 7 and a half hours and still kept me going for over 16 hours.
It’s this level of battery performance that gives you the confidence that you’re not going to be let down.
A range of power management options allow for you to be even stricter with the phone, turning off background data syncing and restricting the screen brightness, but you shouldn’t feel compelled to do any of this.
You can set a threshold to activate the advanced power saving options, or turn it on as a one-off with things reverting to normal once you recharge the battery. This can be useful if you are still anxious about surviving a long day with heavy usage.
All in all, Oppo and Qualcomm deserve credit for an excellent battery performance and, alongside the camera, one of the key reasons I like using this phone so much.
It’s worth remembering the price mentioned at the start of the review, which is £449 – for a phone with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, as well as a camera experience you’d probably only expect on a flagship phone nudging towards a grand or beyond.
At just £449, you’re getting an incredible amount of phone for the money.
I couldn’t help putting the phone next to an iPhone 11 Pro Max in a shop, and wondering what made Apple’s flagship worth £1299 (with equal 256GB storage) for a smaller screen, smaller battery, a notch, and one less camera.
Sure, it’s a tongue-in-cheek comparison, and iOS and Android users rarely switch platforms, but what isn’t a joke is the £850 price difference.
Say that again: £850. Or, to be fair, ‘just’ £700 if you’re willing to drop to 64GB of storage.
This review isn’t of course about questioning Apple’s business practices, and for sure Apple will sell a lot more iPhone 11s than Oppo will sell the Reno 2 here in the UK, but I want people to know when there are great value offerings that don’t have unacceptable compromises.
The Reno 2 is one of those perfect examples. It doesn’t just fight hard to try and compete with more expensive phones, it often beats them comfortably.
Oppo has had a pretty slow start in the UK so far, but with devices like the Reno 2 it is one to keep a close eye on.
I thoroughly recommend checking out the Reno 2, and you can go and see a live model in most Carphone Warehouse and EE stores to see for yourself why I think it’s such a great choice and a phone that must have the competition worried.