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The trend in the phone market was the adoption of elongated aspect ratio displays.
Not to by outdone, Oppo joined the race with the R11s, and - for the most part - it's brilliantly executed. To get the main criticism out of the way early: this screen suffers from the same fingerprint-smearing issues as the Oppo R11 and the Huawei P10 series phones. The glass seems to be completely devoid of oleophobic qualities, thus grease lingers and smears around the panel's exterior - which is annoying.
After just a couple of hours' use the screen will be covered in smears, which constantly needing wiping off. It's not just an issue with the screen switched off, as these smudges tend to affect the displayed content, adding these weird rainbow-patterned streaks to an otherwise glorious view. Moving away from that not small-scale issue, the quality of the R11s display is up there with some of the best. Being x means its not quite as sharp as the mainstream flagship Android phones - it's on par with the Honor View 10, Huawei Mate 10 Pro and others - but it's got colours and vibrancy by the bucket load.
Greens, reds and blues are saturated, but not to an unpleasant level, giving you content and app screen icons that really pops on screen. More and more apps these days are filling the longer ratio screens without any issue, and Netflix Originals produced in format look brilliant. It's just a shame that such a great panel can be spoiled by too many finger swipes.
Android phones are just that: they use Google's Android operating system, which delivers a robust and familiar way to interact with the device. But not all manufacturers stick with stock, Oppo being one, with the R11s delivering the company's ColorOS software skin.
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And it's this which normally gives Oppo phones some degree of criticism, given their quirks. Thankfully, things aren't as too out of whack in the R11s, but there's still room for software improvements. Still, that's not to say there's no good to be had from the software especial. For example, the facial unlock feature functions with a raise-to-wake action, which is genuinely brilliant. On the whole though, ColorOS - now up to version 3. Not quite pulling together the best of either world.
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If you're used to Android, you'll be confused that dragging down from the top of the screen doesn't bring you any quick access settings. Instead, you bring it up from the bottom, similar to how Control Center on an iPhone works before iOS 11 came along anyway. Using this control tab in the Oppo means you can toggle Airplane mode, Wi-Fi, mobile data, Quiet Time to block all notifications , Bluetooth, portrait orientation lock, and power saver mode, flashlight, calculator, clock, camera, settings and more. You also get the usual screen brightness slider and the night shield that cuts out blue light on the display to help relax the eyes in the evening.
It's possible to add, remove and re-order any of these to suit your preference. Other Apple-inspired elements include the design of the recent apps screen, which offers up rectangle cards in a carousel that you swipe through horizontally to find a particular app, or dismiss them by swiping upwards. Even opening up the app folders presents an almost identical animation and folder view to iOS, in that you get a translucent rounded square with a blurred background and simple white text.
The shift away from typical Android interface also means there's no app drawer, and you can't change your homescreen wallpaper or layout by long-pressing the screen. Instead, you'll have to dig into the settings, into a menu which bemusingly prioritises the magazine lockscreen feature over the almost-hidden wallpaper option. We say bemusing because - with the facial unlocking switched on - the amount of times you see your lock screen wallpaper at all is literally a nano-second each time you pick up the device.
As part of the standard software experience there are the usual collection of applications, including the Phone Manager app which lets you scan your phone and remove elements that slow it down, or might be damaging - like viruses or apps that access your personal information a little too often. Despite its flaws, our time with ColorOS has been mostly hassle-free. It just takes some adapting to get used to it - so if you don't know Android well already, this shouldn't be too much of a bother.
While we've not found Oppo phones to be perfect in the past, such devices generally have at least one feature that stands out. In the R11s it's the fast and convenient facial recognition which takes that title. Once a face is registered to the device, the phone automatically activates its raise-to-wake feature.
That means there are no extra steps to getting into your phone. Just pick it up, the camera scans your face and unlocks your phone. No pressing buttons or scanning your fingerprint. It feels so fluid. Overall performance is generally quite speedy too, thanks to the Snapdragon processor that's onboard. It's not Qualcomm's most powerful chipset, but it gets through regular daily tasks like a hot knife through butter.
Even during graphically intense gaming, it doesn't show any major signs of stuttering or dropping frames like you might otherwise think. Sure, side-by-side with a more powerful device, we could notice a slight delay in loading some titles and apps, but it's not so major as to make it a massive turn-off. Only one element of the performance stuck out as being a negative: the responsiveness of the touchscreen.
Every once in a while, it wouldn't respond at all to us pressing or touching the display to launch something, or tap a particular software control.
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It wasn't often, but regular enough to notice it as something more than a one-off occurrence. With the R11s screen size increasing compared to the earlier R11, it made sense for Oppo to increase the battery capacity too it's up from 3,mAh to 3,mAh. In real-world usage, however, we couldn't notice a massive difference in battery life between the two devices.
With the combination of processor and battery, the R11s enabled us to comfortably get to the end of a full busy day without needing to plug it in. With our standard light-to-moderate use we got to half-way through a second day before hitting the sub per cent panic point - which is pretty good going. Not that there's ever a genuine panic point: with its fast-charging VOOC technology, just 30 minutes at the plug is enough to give the R11s a full day's worth of battery. The phone does get considerably warm while using AR applications, though. Photo quality in daylight is very good with adequate details, rich colors, and good sharpness.
The phone does tend to go overboard with the sharpness when using HDR at times so you might want to fiddle around to find the optimal combination for the scene. The AI didn't seem to be of much help apart from identifying the scene. We also noticed a tendency of the camera to brighten up the scene more than required.
The large pixel size helps a lot with night shots and this is where the R17 Pro really shines. Oppo uses a combination of AI and software tricks to reduce noise and enhance colors in low-light scenes. We found that night shots are captured well with minimal noise and color artifacts both indoors and outdoors making the R17 Pro one of the best low-light performers available. You will see some artifacts when fully zoomed in, but for the most part low-light pictures are highly serviceable.
We see that the HDR results are really good for a smartphone of this class. You can choose between Efficient H. The selfie cam also gets a good dose of AI support and a real-time hardware-based Sensor HDR feature that allows for good selfies even with a strong backlight. The AI does a good job of beautifying things albeit it sometimes feels as if the picture is overly smoothened out.
Selfies come out well and the portrait effects are prominent.
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However, we did notice a tendency of the camera to brighten the image more than required. The Snapdragon is an able upper mid-range chipset that can offer a near-flagship performance. In regular use, we found absolutely no lags in the interface or any hiccups while playing demanding games. AI functions also seem to be accelerated as we will be seeing shortly.
That being said, we feel there's still a lot of room for optimization in ColorOS and we hope things get more refined with ColorOS 6. This is noteworthy as the Snapdragon was Qualcomm's flagship just two generations ago. So overall, we see that the Snapdragon has good number-crunching abilities comparable to the Snapdragon from a couple of years ago. GPU tests tell a different story, though. It trails behind the Adreno by a long shot but performs admirably better than the Adreno and the Mali-G51 MP4.
We did see some performance penalties compared to other SD phones, so there's a likelihood of Oppo's software being at fault here.