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Oppo F3: An affordable Oppo F3 Plus in a smaller package
Chinese smartphone maker Oppo recently announced the Oppo F3, its latest smartphone in India. The F3 is the successor to the F1 and is geared at bringing all the great features that made the F3 Plus a good deal for the consumer at a lower price point. This should help Oppo gain a much wider reach in the market with a lower price tag.
The company announced the smartphone on 4 May and it is set to go on sale on 13 May. I tested the F3 over a period of 8 days to see if Oppo has managed to keep the good bits of the F3 Plus, while reducing the price tag on this slightly lower-powered sibling.
We noted in our first impressions of the Oppo F3 that the device has the potential to be another winner for the company after the success of the Oppo F1 Plus. But will it hold up to the competition in the same price range? Let’s find out!!
Build and Design: 7.5/10
Oppo F3 is a good-looking device with a metal back and 2.5D glass front with a plastic frame running along the sides of the device. The back plate featuring the typical Oppo logo is made of metal, but there are plastic caps at the top and bottom. Despite the metal and plastic mix, the F3 is well-built and feels sturdy without any squeaking parts. It feels really good to hold in hand and does not feel slippery in hand despite the metal back.
The 5.5-inch screen size of F3 makes it ideal for one-handed usage, unlike its predecessor F3 Plus. However, you may find it a problem if you are trying to reach something on the opposite diagonally extreme with your thumb.
The F3 comes with the volume buttons on the top left side corner and the power button on the top right side of the smartphone along with the SIM tray. The top left side of the smartphone houses the dual Nano-SIM slot along with a third slot dedicated for expandable storage using a microSD card. It is good news for people who want to use two SIM cards and a memory card, all at once.
You will find the speaker grill, mic and the microUSB v2.0 port along with the 3.5 mm headphone jack on the bottom of the smartphone.
The design of F3 is nothing new and it seems identical to other smartphones in the company’s range. The front of the device features the proximity sensor, a dual-camera setup and a receiver on the top end, while the home button with that impressive fingerprint reader dominates the bottom half, flanked by two touch sensitive buttons on each side. The company has got most of the things right in the build and design department by decreasing the screen size and not moving to an all plastic body which is common with its competitors.
Oppo F3 features a 5.5-inch Full HD display and is powered by an Octa-Core MediaTek MT6750T processor clocked at 1.5 GHz. The smartphone comes with 4 GB RAM with 64 GB of an internal storage. The F3 offers the ability to expand the storage using a microSD card of up to 256 GB. The device is about 153 grams in weight with 153.3 x 75.2 x 7.3 mm dimensions.
The smartphone sports a 13 MP camera sensor with an f/2.2 aperture at the back along with PDAF and an LED flash. The important bits, however, sit on the front.
Oppo has added dual sensors on the front using a 16 MP camera sensor with an aperture f/2.0 and an 8 MP camera sensor with an f/2.4 aperture.
Connectivity options include dual-SIM support, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.1, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/ b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot, GPS with A-GPS and a microUSB v2.0 port with USB OTG support. Other notable features include an accelerometer, proximity sensor, a compass and a fingerprint scanner. The phone ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow (with a custom skin) and a 3,200 mAh battery.
The 5.5-inch IPS LCD display panel on the F3 is really good and offers good viewing angles. The brightness does drop when viewed from extreme angles that is not the normal usage viewing scenario. The display reproduces good colours along with sufficient brightness and vividness but I would have preferred a higher contrast ratio.
However, the screen it is too reflective so it becomes impossible to read anything when held in direct sunlight. You will need to move away from direct sunlight or find some shade to read any content on it. I should add that the screen is a fingerprint magnet and you will see yourself constantly cleaning up the grimy mess. So it is better that you invest in a good screen guard to prevent any damage to the screen while cleaning it up.
One adjustment that the display settings do provide is an option of the ‘Eye protection display’ which is Oppo’s take on ‘Night mode’ or a blue light filter. This can be adjusted with three presets (low, medium and high) which filters out the blue colour from the screen.
Oppo F3 runs a skinned version of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with ColorOS 3.0. It is a bit surprising that a device released in 2017 does not feature Android 7.0 Nougat but the skinning is as comprehensive as Xiaomi MIUI or Samsung TouchWiz so it also adds features and brings some extra settings.
The ColorOS 3.0 looks very similar to the interface that runs on iOS devices ranging from rounded corners, App folders, the lack of an app drawer, the animation that comes on while removing the app. The similarities run deep to a level where the company has tried to integrate the setting section of the built-in apps in the ‘Settings’ section just like on iOS.
The skinned interface does not bother me much in the end because everything runs smoothly without any lag or stutter. The experience felt cohesive without any breaks or jittering especially when it came to native apps that come with the device. Third-party apps, however, did see some lag during app launches and multi-tasking. More on this the Performance section.
Oppo has added a number of preloaded apps including ‘Music’, ‘Videos’, ‘Photos’, ‘Theme Store’, ‘Security’, ‘Files’, ‘OPPO AppStore’, ‘Sound Recorder’, ‘Compass’, ‘WPS Office’, and ‘Backup and Restore’.
Oppo Music app and Theme store
Their apps are sufficient for anyone to get started out of the box and they are good enough to be replacements of their Google-made counterparts available on the Play Store.
One example about that would be the ‘Files’ app. I was not successful in transferring photo samples from the phone to the office system. Normally I would use a pen drive but I did not have a pen drive with sufficient free space at the time. Usually, I would head to Google Play Store to install ‘Solid Explorer’ for FTP server to share files on local networks as most apps by companies don’t have the built-in FTP server facility. But to my surprise, the ‘Files’ app by Oppo came with built in Server creation settings.
The software ran without any crashes. One thing that did irritate me was the notification center. I would want direct access my notifications instead of the toggles and the swipe from right to the left of the screen for notifications, which is counterproductive.
The company as added the ability to clone apps, configure gesture and motion to perform certain actions. Frankly speaking, skinned Android versions are not my preference. I would any day pickup Vanilla Android with no tweaks or additions, but I have to admit that I did not mind using Color OS 3.0 because of its consistency, smoothness, and design.
The Oppo F3 is underpowered on paper when one looks at the benchmarks. The device also scored about 53214 in the AnTuTu Benchmark which makes it sit quite low in the rankings especially when compared to devices launched in 2011 (iPhone 4s) for example.
However, the benchmark results are contradictory to what I concluded after using the device for a week. The device performs well in most usage scenarios which involve native apps by Oppo along with lightweight apps like WhatsApp, Uber, and others.
It is a bit surprising though that the device is powered by an Octa-Core MediaTek MT6750T with 4GB RAM for the price-point that we are paying. The reason for pointing out a MediaTek processor is that the ‘underpowered’ part creeps in while multitasking or launching apps. The slight slowdown is not noticeable while using native apps but it becomes evident while using heavy third-party apps and games. You will notice the half a second or in some cases one-second wait timings while switching between multiple apps in the multitasking mode.
The company has tried to address the speed problem by adding animations to shave off some precious milliseconds from the experience but it is bound get slower over time as you install more and more apps on your device.
One interesting thing to note is that the device did not heat up during my extensive testing period. It only warmed up after prolonged gaming sessions. The device started to heat up after 15 minutes of gaming but this is the usual case with most smartphones in this range. There was no lag while playing games like DeadTrigger2 and Asphalt 8.
The calling experience and voice quality is great on the device with no issues in the clarity of the sound or the reception. I would like to mention the brilliant fingerprint sensor as it is fast and accurate without any misfires. The speaker grill is available on the bottom end of the smartphone which does not hinder the sound while playing music. Even though the sound of the speakers is good it can be drowned in a considerable large hall with background noise. The smartphone scored 2617 in the PCMark Work 2.0 performance test and 5607 in the Ice Storm Extreme test.
Oppo should have added a more powerful processor in its budget offering. They should probably look at the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 for the successor of the next F-series smartphone, the F4 or F4 Plus or may be even a F3S.
I have to admit that the Oppo’s front camera setup is impressive as this is the first time I have tried the front camera on a smartphone and not ended up deleting the images. They are good enough for me to even consider uploading them on social media unlike selfies from other smartphones where I have come to accept the fact that nothing can be done about the bad quality of the selfies on smartphones these days.
The highlight of the smartphone is the dual camera setup along with a wide angle mode where you don’t need a selfie stick and just with a flick of a button, the camera switches to the wide mode.
The wide mode (or Group Selfie mode) is really impressive in terms of the sheer area and wideness of the frame. One thing to note here is that the wide angle mode does come with its trade-offs where you will end up sacrificing colour reproduction and dynamic range.
The normal camera performs great and it comes with a ‘Bokeh effect’ mode in the ‘Beauty’ mode which emulates the ‘Bokeh’ effect that can be found in photos with DSLRs. The camera UI is simple and offers options like ‘Timelapse’, ‘Video’, ‘Photo’, ‘Beauty’, ‘Panorama’ in addition to ‘Normal’, ‘Ultra HD’, ‘Gorgeous color filters’, ‘GIF’, Double Exposure’, and ‘Expert Mode in the ‘Photo’ menu.
The rear camera of Oppo F3 is decent and the photos are good with an impressive amount of colour reproduction and detail in images. I should give props to Oppo software team for doing a good job with the HDR implementation as the images were balanced and did not over do with the HDR-effect. There was a minimal amount of halo around objects. I was impressed with the quality of images, contrast and colours of the photos in ideal conditions with sufficient daylight and the software did a good job in controlling the noise in almost all situations.
But the good part about the rear camera ends there.The images were a mess in low light with a grain-fest that painted the entire photos. Software does not seem to be optimized to adjust ISO and shutter speed as most photos had motion blur along with excessive noise in low light conditions. The camera sometimes failed to focus accurately in low light or less than ideal lighting conditions. I verified that the rear camera sensor is not bad as I was able to click better, clear photos in low light in the ‘Expert Mode’. But then again, not everyone has a tripod along with a mobile phone holder for better photos in manual mode.
Battery Life: 8/10
The Oppo F3 is equipped with a 3,200mAh non-removable lithium-ion battery which does a good job in powering the device. Despite the capacity, the battery life provided by Oppo F3 is impressive. The device ended up giving me a battery life of about 7-8 hours during a normal work day.
The normal day included 2.5-3 hours of music, 15-20 photos, constant internet usage over 4G and about 1 hour of gaming with a lot of WhatsApp and Telegram messages. The smartphone scored about 11 hours and 20 minutes on the battery intensive PCMark Work battery life 1.0 test which is pretty good.
One thing to note is that the smartphone software warns you of the mobile apps that are using a considerably high amount of battery usage. The software feature ‘Energy Saver’ allows you to give the operating system rights to ‘automatically optimize’ when the system detects an abnormal amount of power drain from any app installed on the device.This helps conserve the battery life in case you don’t know which specific app is responsible for hogging your battery life.
The F3 also has inbuilt ‘Low Power Mode’ which disables GPS, Wi-Fi, mobile network, Bluetooth and personal hotspots while shortening the lock screen time and screen brightness. The software also has redesigned ‘Power Consumption Details’ that let you see what apps are using the battery in a more comprehensive way.
Last but not the least, the F3 comes with a microUSB 2.0 port and does note feature the latest Type-C reversible USB port. Add to this the lack of fast-charging. But thankfully Oppo opted to include a power adaptor that provides 5.0V charging capacity at 2A. This really helps with the situation. Instead of the painful experience of charging with a 1A power adaptor the 2A charger gets the smartphone from 0 to 100 percent in about 1 hour and 44 minutes.
Verdict and Pricing in India
The Oppo F3 price places it in the mid-range for smartphones. This smartphone may not be for everyone given the MediaTek processor and average back camera. But the device performs and shines on the features that it focusing on. You get a well-crafted metal body with some plastic bits, a quick fingerprint reader, decent software and class-leading selfie camera in a slim package.
This device may not compete in terms of specifications on paper but this is not meant for the specification war.
I can’t recommend any other device for selfies in the same range but if you want to look at better specs and don’t mind an average selfie camera and a larger display, then you can go in for Asus Zenfone 3. Zenfone 3 comes with Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB internal storage with expandable storage slot offering a much better package than F3. The device went on sale for Rs 27,999 but now it is selling for Rs 21,999.
If you are not a ZenUI fan then you can look at Xiaomi Mi Max Prime which is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 and 4 GB RAM. Lenovo is also offering a compelling device with the slightly pricey Moto Z Play as it offers a Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor with an Adreno 506 GPU with Android Nougat for Rs 24,999. Then there’s the Vivo V5s that is priced at Rs 18,990, but comes with a plastic body. In short, despite it slightly underpowered processor, it is hard to find something better with a metal body, slim design and a great selfie camera in this range.