November 7, 2018

Oppo RX17 Pro review: Hands-on


Oppo is a huge name in smartphones, you just may not have heard of them if you don’t live in China. Hailing from Shenzhen, that hub of manic tech emergence, its phones are well built, popular, and quite similar to OnePlus.

That’s no coincidence given the two brands are owned by the same company. This means their phones often share designs. So it is with the Oppo RX17 Pro and the OnePlus 6T.

Given the proximity of both launches, we can’t ignore the 6T here, despite the RX17’s strengths. We were at the Milan launch of the RX17 Pro and these are our hands-on impressions of a promising phone.

Price and availability

The Oppo RX17 Pro will cost 599€ in Europe and will be sold primarily in France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. It will be on sale from 16 November and Oppo confirmed to us that the phone is coming to the UK, but it is unconfirmed when.

This puts it at a similar price to the £529/589€ 8GB/128GB OnePlus 6T but if you want the better processor in the 6T, you can get 6GB/128GB for £499/529€.

Purple patch

Oppo is fairly new to the western phone market but it’s having great success in design. If the Find X was its “look at me!” device to announce the company to Europe, the RX17 Pro is more uniform, at least when viewed from the front.

The RX17 Pro is the European name for the Chinese R17 Pro. We aren’t sure why Oppo has added the X in there, but that’s what it has done.

The waterdrop notched vibrant 6.4in OLED display is a looker and made from strong Gorilla Glass 6 but flip the phone over and this is obviously not a black OnePlus phone. Shifting blue and purple colours (they call it radiant mist) meld together and recall recent zany colour schemes from Huawei.

Add to that the purple Find X and Oppo is clearly wanting to stand out in a market often overrun by unassuming black slabs. Then again if you don’t like the candy crush colour scheme that’s OK as there’s a glossy emerald green version too.

There’s no headphone jack (boo) but a dongle in the box (fine) and no physical fingerprint sensor – that’s under the screen just like on (yep) the OnePlus 6T and Huawei Mate 20 Pro. We’ll see if it’s up to task in our full review.

The matte finish is comfortable in the hand and while at 7.9mm this isn’t the thinnest phone out there, it feels slender and modern. We far prefer the matte to any glossy-backed phone as it shows far fewer fingerprints though it is a tad less grippy.

We like that Oppo is pushing the design boundaries explored by most manufacturers in 2018 with a high 91.5% screen to body ratio and not-black colour option. There’s no denying it’s a nice thing to hold and it won’t turn into an oil slick the moment you touch like most Samsung phones do.

Internal affairs

Specs-wise this is sitting at the top of the mid-range thanks to the Snapdragon 710 processor inside. Unless you want to be doing lots of high-end mobile gaming then it should be more than enough for most and in our time with the phone it seemed zippy.

The 710 should manage battery life better than the more demanding 845 found on the OnePlus 6T and Google Pixel 3 so we may find in our full review that this is a phone that can stretch into two days with light use.

Oppo’s SuperVOOC wired charging is incredibly fast and the company claims it can charge from 0-40% in ten minutes and supports 50-watt charging, and a full charge in 35 minutes. This is nuts!

But there’s no wireless charging despite the glass back and no official waterproof rating either.

Unlike OnePlus there’s just one model option with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, the latter expandable to 256GB with a microSD card. That’s far more storage than anyone realistically needs unless you’re shooting tons of photos and video, which you may want to do given the potential of the RX17 Pro’s dual rear cameras.

All manufacturers talk a big game with smartphone cameras but Oppo is aiming high with the RX17 Pro’s night time and low light prowess. It has a variable aperture12Mp lens not found on the OnePlus 6T but similar to the shooter on the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus. The second lens is a 20Mp to allow for portrait mode shots and zoom.

Oppo says that this combined with software processing (as always annoyingly labelled as AI, which it isn’t) makes for clear and accurate night shots. We took a few and think the display does them justice, but you have to keep very still as the night mode takes in a long exposure much like the Huawei P20 Pro does and movement ends up in blur.

Google does it different on the Pixel 3’s Night Sight by taking in light and computing where it should brighten the image

It helps that the main sensor has optical image stabilisation (OIS) but we’ll have to test the phone fully in our full review to see if this is anything near as accomplished as the best smartphone cameras are.

Oppo has also put a third 3D capable camera in there too that can precisely measure the distant between you and the subject. To be honest, it’s not clear why.

A 25Mp selfie camera is loaded with beauty mode software that you may want to turn off and points to the Chinese market this phone is coming from, where such features are par for the course.

Be-ware

And so to the issue that we had with the Find X and the same that we have with the RX17 Pro. ColorOS, Oppo’s Android skin, is so targeted at the tastes and needs of the Chinese market that it simply isn’t much fun to use if you’re not used to it.

On the RX17 Pro it’s version 5.2 based on Android Oreo 8.1 rather than 9 Pie and makes so many changes to Android that it has to be the furthest from stock you could get. Things we take for granted in Android like the option to have an app drawer aren’t there and apps display over several home screens like on Apple’s iOS.

This isn’t the end of the world and indeed is a trait of Chinese Android software and tastes but without the option it feels regressive to the European market. Worse is the fact you can’t swipe to dismiss a notification is maddening. You have to left swipe and then tap the bin icon. Aghr!

It’s often a case of change for change’s sake and to be fair Oppo is not alone in this with LG, Huawei and Samsung often guilty of the same. But over the past two years those three manufacturers have become more restrained and their changes more thoughtful, so to use something so China-minded in the RX17 Pro is jarring.

This phone is lightning quick though. The software is well optimised and there are thoughtful features like a Smart Bar that acts like Samsung’s edge panels for quick access to frequently used apps and settings.

Hands-on verdict

The RX17 Pro is in some ways a more attractive phone for the European market than the Find X was. A close-to-gimmicky sliding camera makes way for a solid device that costs less, has a great display and a refreshing design.

The dual cameras could prove excellent if Oppo’s claims are anywhere near accurate and the fast charging capabilities are industry-best.

But it’s expensive considering the lower specs and you might prefer the higher-end processor and cleaner, better software of the OnePlus 6T for only 70€ less for the same RAM and storage.

We’ll be reviewing the RX17 Pro in full very soon to reach a full verdict.



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