This time last year, the term “China Phone” was a deemed a rather derogatory one. The Chinese mobile phone company was a misunderstood underdog, more known for manufacturing the phone rather than producing handsets of their own. With the exception of a Meizu M9 or something from Huawei, China Phones were just not as desirable as a Samsung or a Sony in this day and age.
Many things have changed since then with the appearance of devices like the Xiaomi Redmi and of course this one, the Oppo N1. In an industry dominated by the specs race, unnecessary “innovation” for the sake of features and devices which look a lot like its predecessors, the China Phones may just be the shot in the arm that we need and Oppo is the heavy handed doctor to administer it.
|Display||5.9-inch 1920 x 1080 377PPI IPS|
|OS||Color OS based on Android 4.2|
|Processor||Quad-Core Snapdragon 600 1.7GHz|
|Main camera||13MP Sensor with dedicated ISP
Dual-mode LED Flash
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
|Dimension||170.7 x 82.6 x 9 mm|
|In The Box||OPPO N1
O-Click Bluetooth Remote Control
In-ear type earphones
Micro USB cable
SIM ejector tool
Oppo were good enough to give us 2 devices for review purposes, one for Pang to take to MWC in Barcelona and one for us to test locally in KL. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the package for myself. The box was a matte plastic not unlike the finish of the phone itself and the contents were expertly sectioned in a very good looking packaging. It’s a nice departure from the brick shaped box that most devices come in these days. While we could talk at length about how good packaging is discarding previous notions that a China Phone is cheap and flimsy, let’s talk about the device.
Not dissimilar to Pangs opinion in our first impression video, I rather enjoy the finish and build quality of the N1. I’m always a little partial to a matte finish on a device and if it’s unibody, even better. The N1 ticks both these boxes. I love the finish that reminds me of the HTC One X but the shiny detailing just adds that much more polish to the device. The Only criticism is that i wish they made the O-Touch boundary a little more visible. Unless you have a direct light shining on it, it’s very hard to see.
Perhaps the feature that Oppo is hoping will sell phones to the selfie-mad masses is the ability to rotate the rear-facing 13MP camera all the way to the front and then some, making for much high quality shots for your instagram. It’s not just for selfies however. The rotating camera also allows you to explore interesting angles that are just plain inconvenient with a normal camera phone.
Oppo is definitely not the first to do a rotating camera. Samsung did it quite a while back, with flip phones like the V200 featuring a rotating camera about the spine of the phone. Oppo were at the right place and right time with the N1 and despite everything, the rotating camera does actually work pretty darn well! The other useful feature is the Dual-LED flash which really does help when taking pictures in low light because the inherent low light capabilities of the 13MP shooter isn’t anything to shout about.
Since the phone is rather large, they have also done something really cool, making the rear O-Touch section a shutter when taking a selfie. All you need to do it touch it for 0.5s, let go and it will snap a photo for you! Useful if you don’t want to reach all the way with your thumb to the centre of the screen for the button!
One of the gripes I have with the camera is that when in Selfie mode, if you answer the phone, you will probably be confused to why you can’t hear anything. The speaker is behind the camera. Sounds silly, but i’ve done it. A few times.
All in all, the camera is not that special, it doesn’t have the quality of a Z1, lowlight of a Lumia Pureview system but at least it’s better than the ultrapixel.
Testing a different angle
I know it’s not much, but it’s to demonstrate the long shutter speed function
Definitely is a phone for selfies
Not all 1080p full HD displays are made equal. After using the Triluminous display for the Z1 for the longest time and appreciating the Samsung SUPER AMOLED goodness, the N1 is just quite a far bit behind in this aspect. Often times, images are oversaturated, a little too vivid and high contrast to my liking. Then again people thought the Z1 screen was washed out, I just think its more true to life than we expect. I didn’t like the fact that even with such a high resolution display, it did nothing for the wasted space on the homescreen, fixing the icon size.
I won’t talk about the Cyanogenmod version of the Oppo N1 as it’s not the version that is available in Malaysia but all I will say is that its a very refreshing stance that Oppo have taken, instead of building a higher wall with their own proprietary OS, they have built bridges, essentially with you, the consumer.
The N1 that we have in Malaysia comes with its very own Color OS, a proprietary system built off Android 4.2 with over 410 design improvements and 37 unique patents including the gesture control toolbar and O-Touch system. So far as an operating system goes, the Color OS UI is pretty ok, with a decent amount of customization allowed for the phone. The highlight for me is the built in theme browser which skins your phone lockscreen and overall theme.
Unfortunately, it’s with day to day usage that the Oppo N1 shows the chinks in its rather matte armour. The choice of having a Snapdragon 600 processor really does affect the device sometimes, particularly with opening and closing programs and even returning from the menu and such. Even in the HTC One, the Snapdragon 600 is not as apparent as here. Transitions can lack fluidity but I hate to say this, but you get used to it.
The up side of the Snapdragon 600 processor is when it’s paired with the massive 3,610mAh battery. For a device this big, I can get more than a days worth of usage on highest brightness and still have change leftover when i eventually plug it in before bed. This is most definitely a key point these days when it comes to smartphones. Dare I say, the Oppo N1 has one of the most impressive battery power figures in all the smartphones I’ve tested up till now.
The Oppo N1 isn’t a groundbreaking device by any means; This doesn’t mean it’s not an important one to the industry. Just like the media launch event, the Oppo N1 is quirky, unpolished and yet strangely endearing. With a little more refinement, the next devices in the Oppo stable if done correctly could fly the flag of the China Phone in a world dominated by Korea & Japan. I like the Oppo N1 and while Its still a very good deal at RM1,798 I would say the strength is going to be when Oppo finally finds its rhythm and then, the smartphone industry as we know it may see some changes.
TL;DR: Sexy design, software and features some gimmicky, some unpolished and some interesting. Awesome battery life. Good for the price, but a sign of bigger things to come.