Review | Oppo F9 smartphone

By Ajay Joseph

After Oppo’s hugely successful F7 comes its successor the F9, which is a leap in the right direction. With a big 6.3-inch screen, flagship grade 6 GB memory, and a hefty 3500 mAh battery, coupled with its custom VOOC fast-charge, the F9 has a lot to offer. Let’s dive into a more detailed look of my experience with it is as a daily driver, for a month in Europe.

Design and Ergonomics

The F9 looks like a descendant of the F7, following largely the same design aesthetic, with slightly more rounded corners, and an otherwise straightforward flat bar design. The color of the unit I was using was Sunrise Red. The rear had a mild diamond gradient look, while the screen upper-edge had a tear-drop, Oppo’s minimized take on the notch design. Overall it’s pleasant, and not radical. Rather something that would work for many.

Just below the rear dual camera setup is the fingerprint scanner which is perfectly aligned for right index finger contact. The phone is comfortable to hold and use. The power button is on the right, with the volume up and down buttons moving to the left, just below the SIM tray. The tray can house 2 SIM cards and 1 micro SD card independently, for dual SIM functionality, and expanded memory. Charging is by means of a regular micro-USB, which is at the bottom; sadly, no USB Type C for a modern phone.

The display is a large 6.3-inch full HD IPS screen. There seems to be some obsession with the screen to body ratio nowadays, and the F9 does very well at 90.8%; but honestly, this is not a big deal to me. Slightly thicker bezels are rarely a deal breaker. The display is clear and sharp, with vivid colors. There was one instance when the outdoor visibility was terrible though. I tried to increase the brightness and tweak the settings but to no avail. Though I’m not sure if it was a bug limited to that day, or if it had something to do with the sort of sunlight rays that afternoon.

Specs and Performance

Powered by a 2.06 GHz octa-core MediaTek Helio P60 processor, coupled with a massive 6 GB of memory, the phone is slow-down free and great for daily use, with multiple apps open and task switching. While exploring the city of Wroclaw in Poland, I had Google Maps, Bing Translator, messaging apps, and a few browser tabs always open, not to mention the occasional call and text, and operation remained smooth throughout.
Battery life was one of the high-points of the phone, with the unit easily lasting all day with a good deal of use, and screen on-time owing to mapping needs. That said, I didn’t do any gaming or video streaming. I was mostly using the Orange 4G network for data, and would even install apps on the go; at the end of the day, I would sometimes still have 35% battery left.

The F9 features Oppo’s VOOC fast charging technology, which was pretty impressive. During its initial days, it would charge to full from empty in around 1 hour and 30 mins. After a month of use, it would still reach 100% in 1 hour and 50 mins. In the case of a to-up, starting at say 10%, in a mere 45 minutes it would reach 80%.
Antenna strength or network connectivity was excellent, and among the best I’ve used. Signal strength in small towns was better than other devices. While on the T-Mobile network in Wismar, Germany, my own Huawei P20 Pro, and my friends Samsung A5 2017 had lesser connection strength and struggled to get better than H+, while the F9 was locked on at 4G LTE.

Software

Like most phones being released now, the Oppo F9 runs Android 8.1 Oreo, with Oppo’s Color OS. Being someone who prefers stock Android, I have limited appreciation for manufacturer skins, but Color OS is about okay. It doesn’t carry too much bloatware and has some useful features.

For example, long pressing the App Switch button would bring up Split Screen; which is useful, especially during cut and paste situations for Web-form filling, searching for addresses on maps, etc. There’s a tray that you can pull from the top right or left side (Smart Sidebar), which has the screenshot shortcut, screen recording, as well as frequently used apps that can be customized. While not an amazing innovation, it’s okay and can be useful.

Interestingly notifications cannot just be swiped away. You need to click the Delete icon on the right side of the individual notification to remove it. While good for notifications, you don’t want to accidentally swipe away, or want to keep as a reminder for later, it is also annoying for others you want to quickly get rid of.

In addition to the Wi-Fi on and off, there’s also a dropdown list on the bottom right of the icon that lists available networks and allows you to select and join them, which was really useful, and one of my favorite inclusions.

The SMS app separates unknown senders and clubs them together, which keeps the message app clutter better organized. Many downloadable SMS apps now have this feature, but it’s nice that Oppo has built this in as default.

I tried some local regional apps with the Philippine release of the Oppo F9 unit, and it worked smoothly. Two of the key apps being the Berlin Transit System app, and a similar transit app for Poland called Jackdojade.

The dual-SIM functionality and operation were perfect, allowing for me to configure which SIM to use for data, while also giving me the prompt to choose numbers when sending messages. With 1 German T-Mobile SIM and 1 Polish Orange SIM, I was able to use the phone hassle-free as I moved between the places. Great user experience in that regard.

Camera

In terms of camera capability, Oppo sticks to their usual formula. The pictures are decent, and look nice on the phone. The focus is fast and you can snap pictures instantly. But picture detail is nothing special, and view them on a larger screen, and they are just about okay. Night photos are strictly average. The results cannot be compared to that of what you’d get on a flagship device. The camera optics are more for the masses and are great for casual picture takers.

The lens hardware at the rear is a 16 MP and a 2 MP for depth sensing combo, while at the front it has a 25 MP selfie cam, with the usual Beauty mode for smoothing and facial cleanup. My friends took some pictures outside a pub in Poland and the results were decent; though there was lighting it wasn’t great, so kudos to the selfie camera setup.

Video again is pretty decent and has good stabilization. I tested it shooting a person in front of me who was walking, while also walking myself, and the result was good and shake-free. Resolution is limited to 720p and 1080p, and while there is some slow-motion implementation, it is not as impressive as that on high-end devices.

Bokeh Effect

Value

The unit looks and feels good, and has everything that most users would want. Performance is good, and the pictures are decent. In terms of value proposition, unless you’re a discerning photographer, or need the fastest GPU for gaming, the Oppo F9 is better bang for your buck than the flagship devices on the market.

The midrange space though is fiercely competitive, with various sub-categories. Depending on what your needs are, the F9 may or may not be the best pick. If you’ve recently bought the Oppo F7, perhaps earlier this year, it’s a bit disappointing that now with this release, the F7 sells for P14,990. If you’re on a tight budget, that may be a better choice. If you have a little more to spend, the Nokia 7 Plus is a more sophisticated device. And if you’re a photo freak, with its photo software trickery Huawei’s Nova 3i might have more to offer.

Moving Subject

Night Photo

Selfie Shot

Conclusion

With the F9, Oppo sticks to its winning formula, a big screen, a flagship-like design, a cheaper processor, and functional everyday camera optics. In large part, this would work for most people. The performance was snappy, and the network connection was stellar; easily the benchmark in recent devices I’ve used. If the above combination seems like a good fit for you, then the F9 will be a winner.

Model: F9 CPH1823
Price: P17,990
Verdict: Checking off all the needs for today’s everyday user

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