Like it or not, taller screens are apparently the biggest smartphone design trend of 2017. Not every company can pull off curved glass, and metal bodies are expensive, but apparently it doesn't take that much effort to stretch out a display panel. We started off this year with Samsung and LG bestowing their flagship Galaxy S8 (Review) and LG G6 (Review) models with the first two examples of taller screens, but more recently we've seen low-end smartphones such as the Micromax Canvas Infinity (Review) and several mid-range ones trying to capitalise on the attention.
Oppo has done exactly the same thing with its latest launch, the F5. The design even overshadows Oppo's usual emphasis on its front cameras with the F-series, even though there's also a whole new "AI-powered" selfie enhancement feature to brag about.
Maybe that shouldn't be surprising, because this is an improvement that you can see immediately, and a lot of people will first be attracted to this phone for this reason. No matter whether you're more interested in the new Oppo F5 for what's on the surface or what's lying within, we're going to be examining it in great detail.
Oppo F5 design
Most companies that have adopted taller 18:9 screens have stopped somewhere short of achieving a true borderless look, and the Oppo F5 is no exception. There's barely any material to the sides, but since our review unit has a white front face, they're still very visible. The forehead and chin areas above and below the screen are still fairly pronounced, and the front camera is especially prominent next to the earpiece.
We never like it when companies ship phones with plastic screen protectors already affixed - while this means that people who want them don't have to worry about finding one the right size and applying it correctly, we find that it greatly detracts from any device's look. The "borderless" effect is really diminished by the extra line of plastic you see running around the edges of the screen, and that is exactly the case with the Oppo F5.
The rear shell is made of a warm gold with a matte metallic texture. Depending on the light, it can look very pink. There's a shiny chrome ring running around the phone's sides where the metal meets the white front panel, and there are also chrome antenna lines at the top and bottom of the rear, in the iPhone 7-style that has already been copied by others. While the look is generally quite nice, we think that this phone will look a lot better in black.
You'll find the power button and dual-SIM tray on the right, while the volume buttons are on the left. The top is blank except for a mic pinhole, but the bottom is quite busy with a 3.5mm audio socket, Micro-USB port, mic, and speaker grille. The fingerprint sensor on the back is surprisingly well within reach, and its slightly oblong shape means that it's hard to miss. The single camera is unfortunately raised quite a bit, and its metal edges are a bit rough.
The Oppo F5 is reasonably thin at 7.5mm, and weight is very manageable at 152g. The texture of the rear shell makes this phone easy to grip. You won't be able to reach all corners of the screen with a single thumb, due to its size and proportions, but you can stretch without feeling as though the phone might fall from your hand any second. As far as phones with extra-large screens go, this one is fairly easy to use and handle.
Oppo F5 specifications and software
The screen measures 6 inches diagonally, but of course this phone is a lot more compact overall than the phablets that were popular a few years ago. Its resolution is 1080x2160 pixels, which is what you get when you stretch full-HD in only one dimension to turn 16:9 into 18:9.
The processor is a MediaTek MT6763T, which was launched very recently and features eight ARM Cortex A53 cores, four of which run at 2.3GHz while the other four run at 1.65GHz. It also features an integrated Mali-G71 MP2 GPU and improved image processor. The Oppo F5 can only use one SIM on a 4G network at any time. Also, the phone reboots each time you swap SIMs, which is annoying.
Oppo has launched the F5 with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, but has also announced that another version with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage will become available in December. Incidentally, the 6GB/64GB version will be available in black and also red, but not the gold finish that we have for review.
Other specifications include a 3200mAh battery, 16-megapixel rear camera, 20-megapixel front camera, and standalone microSD card slot. For connectivity, there's dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.2, and GPS. We're disappointed to see a Micro-USB port instead of the more modern Type-C standard. Another surprise is that fast charging is not supported, even though the charger that ships with the phone is as oversized as Oppo's VOOC chargers.
Oppo's custom skin is called ColorOS, and here we have version 3.2 running on top of Android 7.1. It's one of the most expansive custom UIs, and is also highly polished. A lot of elements are inspired by iOS, including the relocation of quick toggles to a panel that pops up when you swipe upwards from the bottom of the screen. All app icons live on your homescreens, and there are custom versions of the Photos, Music, Videos, Browser, Clock, and other similar apps. Bloatware is restricted to Facebook, WPS Office and Amazon's Shopping and Prime Video apps (even though this phone is a Flipkart exclusive). However, when you tap on Oppo's own AppStore, you're encouraged to download 12 assorted social media apps and games which were apparently "chosen" for us - based on no identifiable parameters.
The Settings app is very different from stock Android and you might have to hunt around a bit for what you need. Thankfully, there's a hidden search bar at the top if you scroll up a bit. You'll find controls for a lot of ColorOS features including Clone Apps, which lets you duplicate a few apps in order to use two accounts; Game Acceleration, which claims to improve performance and reduce distractions; Gestures and Motion, which lets you set up multiple shortcuts; and Split Screen which as its name suggests lets you run supported apps side by side on the large screen. There are also per-app controls to force apps into a 16:9 letterbox on screen, in case they can't scale well automatically. A toggle for the one-handed mode is buried within the list of optional icons that can be shown in the Quick Settings panel, and we think it should have been much easier to find and enable, considering the size of this screen.
Oppo has tried to implement a face recognition security feature, and we're sure that there will be a lot of interest in this now that Apple has made such a splash with the iPhone X. However, it took multiple failed attempts to register a face before we could set it up. We tried several different times under different kinds of light and in different locations, but the process would fail at arbitrary points, telling us that our face was too blurry, too close or too far, and that we shouldn't try to set this feature up while in motion even though we were perfectly still. Facial recognition also failed sometimes in low light, but then worked moments later even if we had our eyes closed. When it did work, it took a second or two longer than the fingerprint reader, and only worked if we hit the power button on the side first. In day-to-day situations, the fingerprint reader was much faster and more natural.
Oppo F5 performance
It takes a little while to get used to a larger screen, and we had only minor issues with apps not scaling well. For example, YouTube videos in landscape mode were letterboxed both horizontally and vertically, making them look like they were playing inside a black box. Dead Trigger 2 scaled well in-game, but the menus were cropped at the sides. We expect that app developers will get better about supporting this aspect ratio since more and more phones are adopting it.
Other than that, the display itself is very good. It's crisp and bright, with punchy colours and excellent viewing angles. Everything from text to movies looks great, and we did find ourselves feeling immersed especially with video, and we think the experience will be even better with the black version of this phone. The main downside is that the preattached screen protector picks up scuffs and smudges all the time, and isn't very easy to clean.
The built-in speaker is impressive, delivering clear and rich audio in games and videos. The bundled headset is decent enough - the sound is exceptionally open and clear, but bass is completely lacking, and it also feels rather uncomfortable after even a few minutes.
Benchmark performance was generally stronger for the Oppo F5 than for its prime competitors, the Honor 9i (Review) and Vivo V7 Plus (Review) in terms of CPU performance, though graphics scores favoured the latter two. We recorded 64,303 in AnTuTu, 48,854 in Quadrant, 6,008 in 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme, and 22fps in GFXBench.
The rear camera is pretty good, and we were happy with the shots we were able to take both in the daytime and at night. Details seemed to come out well and colours popped in all our sample shots, although the autofocus did slip up on occasion. Textures were generally very good, and most samples looked more than satisfactory when seen at full size on a PC monitor. In low light and even indoors under artificial lighting, a surprising amount of detail was preserved. Even though there was visible noise and grain in our darkest shots, and objects in dark places had fuzzy edges, many of them were still quite usable. Videos also come out quite sharp and smooth under different lighting conditions.
Of course the main attraction here is the front camera, and that's what we're coming to right now. Faces in selfies generally come out very good, but objects in the background aren't reproduced as well. You can capture some excellent selfies for social media this way, which we suppose is the whole point. The lack of an actual flash is surprising for a selfie-focused phone, but the screen flash does help to some extent. As for the AI-enhanced beautification mode, it's hard to say how much of a difference it makes. When setting it to its highest and lowest levels manually, there's a clear difference in skin tones but it's also possible to go overboard and look extremely artificial. Oppo says that the F5 is smart enough to know whether the subject is a man, woman or child and apply the correct kinds of transformations, and we hope that the AI can be improved over time as more people use it.
Other than this, you get a few filters and watermarks to play with in the camera app, and there's even an artificial depth effect which is more of a gimmick. The app itself looks like Apple's iPhone camera app and you have the same mode selection strip and even a 2x zoom button in the same place, despite the fact that there's no secondary camera to switch to. Video recording goes up to 1080p with both the front and rear cameras, and there are also time-lapse and panorama modes.
We were able to get a day and a half of usage out of the Oppo F5 on a single charge. Battery life is pretty good, even if you take a lot of photos, play games for a bit and watch some streaming video. Our HD video loop test ran for 11 hours, 24 minutes which is good considering the large screen. The main disappointment here was the lack of quick charging which we are now quite accustomed to. It took us an hour to get from 10 percent to 65 percent, which is adequate but not ideal.
Oppo has delivered a winner with the F5. It succeeds on multiple levels - it's very attractive, it has a large immersive screen without the usual bulk of a phablet, the cameras are both competent in multiple conditions, battery life is strong, and performance is good enough for most tasks. Generally, there's a level of polish that we are happy to see. The only downsides are the gimmicky facial recognition feature and the relative lack of storage compared to other phones at this price point. We would have liked 64GB, and Oppo's announcement that the 4GB/64GB version will cost Rs. 5,000 more is quite odd in this current competitive scenario.