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Stunning to look at, but with too many compromises- Tech Reviews, Firstpost

Stunning to look at, but with too many compromises- Tech Reviews, Firstpost 1

Oppo’s F-series phones are targeted at mid-range segment buyers and always focus on design. The Oppo F17 Pro comes in a sleek form factor and it’s been a while since we saw an Oppo F-series device, while they’ve been focusing on their Reno line-up quite aggressively since last year.

Priced at Rs 22,990, the Oppo F17 Pro is certainly going to face stiff competition as that’s a segment where the Redmi K20 Pro and more recently, the OnePlus Nord, are also operating in. Will the F17 Pro’s design complement its other specs and will you be investing in a complete package? Let’s find out in this detailed review of the Oppo F17 Pro.

 Oppo F17 Pro Review: Stunning to look at, but with too many compromises

Oppo F17 Pro. Image: Tech2/ Nimish Sawant

A slim, stunning-looking device

The first thing that struck me when I held the Oppo F17 Pro in my hands was the slim form factor and the gorgeous-looking frosted glass back with a two-tone shine. It’s just 7.48 mm thick and weighs 164 grams. It has been a while since I’ve held a phone that thin in my hands. Oppo has managed this while having a quad-camera setup on the rear that doesn’t jut out much. While the phone looks unique from the back with the way the cameras have been arranged, it will be quite tricky to clean the dust that collects in-between the gaps. The square platform on which the camera lenses rest is the only glossy portion on the rear side.

Image: Tech2/ Nimish Sawant

While the phone looks unique from the back with the way the cameras have been arranged, it will be quite tricky to clean the dust that collects in-between the gaps. Image: Tech2/ Nimish Sawant

The rear has a 220-degree curved edge which meets a glossy metallic edge in a smooth transition. The edge has an almost purple hue in the way the light refracts. You have the power/standby button on the right-hand side and the volume up and down buttons on the left hand side. The dual SIM + microSD card tray is present just above the volume rocker. Thanks to there being no indicator as to which side to insert the tray from, I spent half a minute trying to figure that out. Be very careful and don’t push the tray inside as it may bend. The top-edge is clean, with just the microphone, while the bottom edge has the USB Type C port surrounded by the mono speaker on the right and a 3.5 mm headphone jack on the left (yay for headphone jack, despite such a thin profile).

The Oppo F17 Pro comes with a 6.43-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED display which is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3+. It has a decent screen-to-body ratio and a dual selfie camera in the top left-hand corner. There is a noticeable chin at the base. Thanks to the 20:9 aspect ratio, the phone is easier to grip. There is no water or dust resistance on the Oppo F17 Pro, so you need to be careful with it around liquids. Overall, the F17 Pro will make heads turn thanks to the four camera modules placed the way they are.

Specifications

Display: 6.43-inch Super AMOLED display with 1080 x 2400 pixels

Chipset: Mediatek Helio P95 SoC with 2x 2.2 GHz Cortex-A75 and 6x 2 GHz Cortex-A55

Graphics: PowerVR GM9446

RAM + Storage in GB: 8 + 128 GB

Expandable storage: Yes

Primary Camera: 48 MP camera with f/1.8 aperture, 0.8-micron pixel size

Secondary Camera: 8 MP Ultrawide camera with f/2.2 aperture, 1.12-micron pixel size + 2x 2 MP depth cameras with f/2.4 aperture

Selfie Camera: 16 MP main camera with f/2.4 aperture + 2 MP depth camera with f/2.4 aperture

Battery: 4,015 mAh

Software: Android 10 (5 August 2020 patch) with ColorOS 7.2 skin

Colours: Magic Blue (under test), Matte Black, Metallic White

No high refresh rate, but that doesn’t take away from the display

The Oppo F17 Pro sports a 6.43-inch display with an FHD+ resolution of 1080 x 2400 pixels. You get a pixel density of 408 PPI. This is a Super AMOLED display with a regular 60 Hz refresh rate. In an age where every other mid-range smartphone is touting high refresh rate displays, this specification may hurt the prospects of the F17 Pro.

Image: Tech2/Nimish Sawant

The Oppo F17 Pro comes with a 6.43-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED display which is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3+. Image: Tech2/Nimish Sawant

That aside, the display looks good. Thanks to the Super AMOLED panel, you get a great contrast ratio, the display is amply bright and viewing angles are excellent. I did not notice any colour tingeing that one generally associates with AMOLED displays. The dual punch-hole front-facing selfie cameras aren’t that much of a bother and you will start ignoring them after a couple of days of usage. There is no HDR10+ or Dolby Vision, so supported Netflix titles don’t look as impressive. This could also be perceived as a major miss from the brand, as you can have HDR support in phones under Rs 18,000.

Overall, the display is pleasant and despite the omissions mentioned above, I am satisfied. Colours are punchy and blacks are deep. Watching YouTube videos, and playing games on this display is fun. Thanks to the Corning Gorilla Glass 3+ protection, the display is protected from scratches and also isn’t a smudge magnet. When housed in the silicone case, it can get a bit tricky to clean the dust collected on the front of the phone.

Cameras are strictly average

The impressive-looking camera array houses a 48 MP primary camera and an 8 MP ultrawide angle camera paired with two identical 2 MP mono sensors, which is a strange configuration. On the front, you have a 16 MP + 2 MP camera setup. Oppo calls all these cameras AI cameras and the brand has really overdone the use of ‘AI’ in its product branding page.

Image: Tech2/Nimish Sawant

The impressive-looking camera array houses a 48 MP primary camera. Image: Tech2/Nimish Sawant

Click here to see the camera samples:
Oppo F17 Pro

Daylight photographs had good colour reproduction but far off details were overly smoothed. The HDR mode is a hit-and-miss, and I noticed that on many occasions, it wouldn’t prevent highlight clipping or loss of details in the shadow region. There isn’t any dedicated zoom camera on the F17 Pro, but you still get 2x and 5x zoom options, which are basically crops of the 48 MP image. While 2x zoom still gives decent output, at 5x you start seeing loss in details even in well-lit conditions. Notice the difference in the details on this cat shot on the primary 48 MP camera at 1x and on 5x zoom. If you pixel-peep images shot on the main sensor, you will notice unnecessary smoothening of details, which isn’t desirable. Colours such as greens and reds do tend to pop out a bit more than others. As the light levels drop, the softening of the images becomes quite apparent. In low light, noise is immediately noticeable and images look like paintings. Textures on fine objects just become smooth. Night mode does recover some details in terms of making the scene more well exposed, but the sensor isn’t able to drastically improve the textural details on objects. For a smartphone priced over Rs 20,000 and which touts its cameras as a selling point, low light photography is quite average.

Image: Tech2/Nimish Sawant

Image: Tech2/Nimish Sawant

Selfies turn out well thanks to the dual front cameras. But do yourself a favour and scale down the beautification mode to none, else you get unnecessarily bright and smooth skin textures. The portrait mode offers a lot of fun features such as ‘AI Portrait colour’ mode which only keeps the human subject in colour while making the background blurry. And no, this didn’t work with objects. For low light portraits there is the ‘AI Super Night Portrait’ and ‘AI Night Flare Portrait’ – good marketing terms, but execution is flawed and just like regular low light photography, these photos are noisy as well. ‘AI Night Flare portrait’ did manage to turn background lights into fairy lights, but there were absolutely no details on the face. I would much rather stick with the regular portrait mode than go with ‘Night Flare’ mode.

Portrait mode vs AI Night Flare

Portrait mode vs AI Night Flare

Videos shot on the Oppo F17 Pro are good only when shot at 1080p resolution during daylight, as you get quite a lot of detail. Absence of electronic image stabilisation when shooting at 4K makes the footage usable only if you are shooting from a tripod. Walking and shooting at 4K results in jarring footage. Here’s a sample of how bad your 4K footage is if you shoot while walking. 4K video footage is jittery due to lack of stabilisation: OppoF17Pro (22)The EIS is available for 1080P and does produce stable footage, although you do notice the focus hunting as you walk and shoot. Shooting in the evening when the sun is just about to set and after, results in soft and at times, blotchy footage. I liked the portrait mode on the selfie camera, as it was able to blur out the background pretty nicely. Video cameras aren’t the strongest factor of the Oppo F17 Pro, and it becomes quite apparent with the videos seen here. Focus hunting is quite apparent on the F17 Pro:   OppoF17Pro (20)

On the whole, considering how much Oppo is touting the cameras, my overall experience was quite underwhelming. Image processing on the Helio P95 is certainly lacking. I really hope Oppo fixes the over-aggressive algorithms for it’s ‘Night Flare’ and other low light photography features. Here’s how Oppo F17 Pro’s immediate competition, the OnePlus Nord’s camera performance is. Also take a look at the Redmi K20 Pro’s camera samples from a year ago. Oppo F17 Pro’s camera really needs some software tweaks to come close to the low light performance offered by the competition.

Performance and Software

The Oppo F17 Pro houses a Mediatek Helio P95 chipset and is paired with 8 GB of RAM. In terms of benchmark scores, the Helio P95 is comparable to the Snapdragon 730G. In real world usage, the phone is quite responsive. I did notice some micro-stutters while switching between apps, especially in the middle of gaming sessions. But otherwise, there wasn’t any unnecessary slowdown experienced. Yes, the scrolling isn’t as fluid as one would get on a 90 Hz or higher display, but if you’ve never used higher refresh rate display smartphones, you really won’t notice much.

3D Mark

3D Mark

When it comes to gaming, the Oppo F17 Pro could play Call of Duty: Mobile at the ‘High’ settings. I wasn’t expecting such smooth gameplay given the low GFXBench benchmark score, but the phone played CoD without a hitch. Of course, the details aren’t the same as seen on high-end mobile phones, but what matters is that you can comfortably play the game. The phone does get warm, but not enough to behave strangely. Shooting outdoors in the few sunny days we had in Mumbai, I could feel the heat on the phone after a particularly long photo session.

Geekbench Multiple core

Geekbench Multi core

Call quality on the Oppo F17 Pro was good and the earpiece speaker is loud. The mono downward firing speaker is strictly average and the sound is tinny, but Oppo has bundled a set of earphones that look very derivative of Apple units. Whilst gaming, you will end up blocking the speaker if held in a specific way. Gaming with the earphones on is uncomfortable.

Geekbench Single core

Geekbench Single core

The in-display fingerprint scanner on the Oppo F17 Pro is not the fastest around, and I had to tap twice or more on occasion, to register the fingerprint. Face Unlock is quick, but isn’t the most secure way to unlock.

On Oppo phones, you get Android 10 with the Color OS 7.2 skin atop it. This is the same software that’s present on Oppo’s higher-end Reno4 series as well. When first setting it up, you will come across a lot of bloatware on the device. There are 12 system apps which you can’t uninstall and 10 tools, some of which are useful such as the recorder, compass, calculator and FM Radio. It also comes bundled with apps such as Amazon, Facebook, WPS Office, among others which are good to have. But still, it would be great if consumers were asked at the installation stage which apps they would be interested in. I did like the ‘Oppo Relax’ app though; it has the provision to download some ambient sounds which could come in handy while working. Sure, you could get entire playlists of those online, but this was the only Oppo system app that I actually used.

In ColoOS 7.2 you have tonnes of settings options to choose from to customise not only how the interface looks, but also navigation gestures, a Smart Sidebar (something clearly lifted from Samsung’s skin), screen off gestures which activate certain apps from sleep mode, an app cloner for two instances of the same app, Game Centre to adjust settings in a way that your game performance is optimised and more. You also get ColorOS’ ‘Hey Tap’ Cloud service to back up your device. On the whole, the ColorOS skin is much improved and it no longer looks like a replica of iOS. Oppo has incorporated ‘Air Gestures’ for interacting with your device; you can wave a hand over the phone to pick up a call, swipe through the gallery and so on. Honestly, these are gimmicky and I tried them to some success, with average responsiveness. I never used them in my day-to-day usage.

Battery life is good and fast charging impresses

Oppo was one of the first smartphone brands to focus on its fast-charging prowess with every phone. The Oppo F17 Pro also comes bundled with a 30W VOOC Flash Charge 4.0 adapter. The unit is a thick brick, but it impresses with charging speeds. It charges the phone from 0-100 percent in an hour’s time. But I was particularly impressed with how soon the phone goes from 0-50 percent — around 25 mins. It’s only as the charge approaches 100 percent that the speed slows down.

Oppo F17 Pro battery life

Oppo F17 Pro battery life

Battery life on the Oppo F17 Pro lasts a good day and half on regular usage. Gaming certainly takes a toll on the battery. Around 30 mins of gaming extracted 12 percent of battery life. So if you are planning to game for a couple of hours a day, be ready to find around 10 percent charge by the time you hit the bed. PC Mark for Android indicated around 8 hrs 59 mins of use. You do get ‘Power Saving Mode’ and ‘Super Power Saving Mode’ in the ‘Battery’ section of the Settings menu, which also gives an indication of how long the phone will last if those modes are activated. A nice touch.

The Oppo F17 Pro also comes with ‘AI Charging mode’ (another ‘AI’ marketing term), which is desirable if you are planning to keep the phone to charge overnight (I wouldn’t really recommend leaving the F17 Pro for overnight charging). Based on your sleep and wake patterns (based on state of change in the accelerometer, most likely), the F17 Pro will redistribute the last 20 percent charging over 90 mins in a way that the phone is fully charged when you wake up. Oppo claims this protects battery life due to repeated charging between 80-100 percent at night. Here’s a tip — from the time you wake up to the time you get ready, there is, at the very least, a 30 minute gap. This is enough to charge the phone over 50 percent. So while overnight charging with AI sounds great in theory, there is no sensible reason to really go through with it every time you want to charge the phone.

Verdict and Price in India

The Oppo F17 Pro completely delivers on the design front. The phone is gorgeous to look at and so slim and light. You will definitely find yourself flaunting it. The fast charging is impressive, the display is good and cameras offer good daylight performance. But it’s the price which could prove to be the F17 Pro’s Achilles heel.

At Rs 22,990, the Oppo F17 Pro is really tough to recommend, when for just Rs 2,000 more, you could get the OnePlus Nord (Review) (6 GB RAM variant launching this month) which offers a 90 Hz AMOLED display, one of the best Android skins out there, and good cameras. The Oppo F17 Pro may come with all the AI bells and whistles, but barring daylight photographs, the camera performance is quite average.

A price point closer to Rs 20,000 would have made the Oppo F17 Pro relatively easy to recommend. Let’s face it, this isn’t as cut-throat a price range as the Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 price range where even a Rs 500 price gap is a big deal. Unless someone really wants a sleek phone, I’d recommend the OnePlus Nord over

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