Oppo R15 Pro: If only it were a little cheaper

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The Oppo R15 Pro is an interesting smartphone, but not for the reasons you might think. It’s an all-around solid phablet with a huge OLED screen, great cameras on both front and back, and stellar battery life.

However, it’s also strikingly similar to the recently launched OnePlus 6, and the little things that are different do not go in Oppo’s favor.

First, the specs. Oppo R15 Pro has a 6.28-inch, AMOLED screen with a 2,280 x 1,080 pixel resolution and a notch on top. It also has a dual 20/16-megapixel camera on the back a 20-megapixel selfie camera on the front, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and a 3,400mAh battery.

The OnePlus 6 has a slightly smaller battery (3,300mAh) and can only be had in 6GB/64GB (RAM/storage) and 8GB/128GB configuration, but otherwise has identical specs. The only major spec that’s truly different is the processor: Oppo’s Snapdragon 660 versus OnePlus’ Snapdragon 845).

Sure, there are physical differences between the two. The colors are different. The fingerprint sensor on the back has a different shape. Oppo’s dual rear camera is laid out horizontally and not vertically, as it is on the OnePlus 6. But given the shared DNA between Oppo and OnePlus (the former likely owns the latter), as well as extremely similar specs, we can pretty much treat the Oppo R15 Pro as a midrange take on the OnePlus 6.

Nice but unremarkable

So why choose one over the other? I can only think of three reasons: aesthetics, software and pricing. But Oppo is slightly worse than its counterpart in all three departments.

Starting with the look and feel, Oppo R15 Pro’s notched screen is bright and beautiful, but so are most screens these days. I pitted it against the far more expensive iPhone X and Huawei P20 Pro and it lagged only when it comes to sharpness. Contrast and brightness were top-notch, while colors on the Oppo were a little cooler than on the Huawei and way cooler than on the iPhone (you can make them warmer in the settings, though). Also, at 6.28 inches, Oppo’s screen is just plain bigger which makes it preferable for watching videos and reading. That said, the phone overall is definitely in phablet territory, and if you have smaller hands or just prefer a smaller phone, you probably won’t like it.

On the back, the R15 Pro (I had the Cosmic Purple variant) is a dark purple gradient, which is nice if you look closely but it just looks black from afar. The cameras, flash, logo, and fingerprint sensor seem scattered around aimlessly, which ruins the look somewhat. The phone feels solid, nice and heavy in the hand, but it’s slippery and fingerprint-prone like most phones these days. Overall, even the nice color probably won’t make you instantly fall in love with this phone, and frankly, the OnePlus 6 looks nicer.

Software that needs polishing

Oppo’s ColorOS software is so similar to UIs of other Chinese Android brands such as Huawei and Vivo that I had no problems getting used to it. It’s a mix of Android with some iOS features thrown in (no app drawer, for example), and most of the time it worked fine.

There were bugs, though. For example, when I put my SIM card inside, it simply refused to use cellular data, no matter how much I tinkered with it. The only thing that helped was setting the preferred network type to 3G instead of 4G. Also, when I tried to transfer my apps and settings from another Android phone I had to install Oppo’s Clone Phone app on that phone, but it wasn’t in the App Store and Oppo’s own page that hosts it didn’t work. After I finally found it in some deep, dark corner on the internet, it didn’t work, so I simply gave up on the whole thing. It’s the type of experience that immediately makes you wonder whether you did the right thing when you bought this phone.

Oppo’s ColorOS has some cool features I haven’t seen elsewhere. For example, a feature called “full screen multitasking” lets you slide commonly used apps and features from the phone’s notch when using it in horizontal mode. Tap on one, and it will open in a floaty window above your currently opened app. It’s something that you’ll use rarely, but it’s cool to see Android makers try to use the notchy screens in a creative way.

Cameras, performance, battery life

Using a Snapdragon 6xx series in an otherwise flagship-level device is a trick many manufacturers are pulling these days, and for good reason — in real-life usage, you won’t notice the difference between a Snapdragon 8xx and a Snapdragon 6xx phone. This holds true for the Oppo R15 Pro, and with the generous 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, everything flew. There’s one major caveat to this: for gaming, you’ll want the best processor you can buy, and Oppo R15 Pro doesn’t have it.

Even though a 3,400mAh battery is rather small for a 6.28-inch device, battery life was excellent. Most of the time, the phone lasted a day and a half, and I never had to charge it twice in a day.

I haven’t tested the OnePlus 6 — my colleague Ray Wong had the pleasure — but given that the Oppo R15 Pro have identical camera specs, the two phones probably use the same camera sensors.

The photos I got from the Oppo R15 Pro were good, but not the best out there. The phone takes good photos in daylight conditions, but it adds a lot of post-processing which makes the photos look good from afar but results in loss of detail.

In the evening, this becomes a problem. Zoom in on the photo below and it starts to resemble a painting instead of an actual photograph.

Two hours later at the same spot, the Oppo R15 Pro produced a photo that’s usable but not much more than that. It’s sharp but horribly noisy.

For some photos, I pitted the Oppo R15 Pro against the Huawei P20 Pro, which admittedly has a pretty amazing camera. Oppo did alright, but it was still far behind Huawei in nearly every situation.

Check out the portrait mode photo below. Both phones’ cameras struggle with the plant’s pointy leaves in the back, but Huawei does a better job at making the bokeh blur seem natural, and its photo is overall sharper.

In a poorly lit room, the P20 Pro produced a warmer and considerably sharper photo, with far more details. The R15 Pro’s photo isn’t bad, either, but it’s just outclassed by Huawei’s superior camera.

Selfies are huge thanks to the 20-megapixel camera sensor on the front, but (as is typical these days) they’re overly softened and look artificial. Turn off the beautifying features for best results.

All in all, Oppo R15 Pro’s cameras are not the best out there — except, maybe, for selfies — but they’re perfectly alright in most situations.

Headphone jack: Cool. Micro-USB port: Not cool

When choosing a smartphone these days, details matter, which is why the Micro-USB charging port (instead of the now-ubiquitous USB-C port) was an unpleasant surprise. So was the lack of water and dust resistance and lack of wireless charging. Thankfully, Oppo R15 Pro has a headphone jack.

The fingerprint sensor on the back was blazing fast, as are most fingerprint sensors these days. The phone also has a face unlock feature which worked roughly 90% of the time, and only in well lit scenarios.

Pricing and conclusion

The pricing for the Oppo R15 Pro varies from market to market — it’s cheapest in China, where it goes for 3,499 yuan or $546. That’s actually pricier than the entry-level, $529 OnePlus 6, which only has 64GB of storage but also has a more powerful Snapdragon 845 processor. This makes the Oppo R15 Pro a tough sell. It’s a capable phone but not without flaws, and I reckon the only reason why someone would choose it over OnePlus 6 is personal preference for the Oppo brand and its ColorOS software.

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