In the past, OPPO’s R series have always been designed to be pieces of beautifully crafted artwork that looks good but also feel good in the hand. But with their latest device, the R15, it seems like OPPO is changing their priorities for the R series.
Huge thanks to OPPO Singapore for loaning me this review unit.
Summary – Unexciting Hardware, Superb Software
OPPO R15’s design isn’t refined as it could be and its hardware lacks the wow factor. But ColorOS has gotten so good, you will really enjoy using the R15.
- Screen protector and clear case included
- Appealing glass back design
- AMOLED, with always-on display (Screen Clock)
- UI and most games run without any stutter
- Rear cameras takes great photos, even at night
- Superb selfie camera with pleasing colors
- Great sounding audio from headphone jack
- VOOC charging is very quick, even with device on
- UI looks modern, easy to navigate
- ColorOS 5.0 is feature packed but unobtrusive
- Unlock with really quick with fingerprint or face
- Feel in hand not as good as predecessor
- Still using Micro USB
- Rear camera has focusing issues for near objects
- Poor video stabilization
- Battery lasts through a full day on moderate usage
- Loud but harsh sounding bottom firing speaker
Pricing & Variants –
S$749 will get you an OPPO R15 with 128GB storage and 6GB RAM. Available in 3 attractive colors.
There are two phones in OPPO’s new R15 series, the regular R15 which we will be taking a look at today, as well as the R15 Pro which I will try to review soon. As you can infer from the names, R15 Pro is the better but costlier version.
R15 comes in a single 128/6GB configuration and that will cost you S$749 here in Singapore. A clear case is included and a screen protector has been pre-applied. It is available in three beautiful colors: Nebula Purple, Rouge Red and Frost White.
Design – Great Looks, Not so Great Feel
New glass back design looks beautiful, but does not feel as comfortable and thin as previous OPPO R series devices.
All R series devices we have seen in the past, with the exception of the original R1/R1s, had metal bodies. But probably influenced by Apple’s transition to glass back, OPPO opted for a glass back with metal frame on the new OPPO R15 and R15 Plus.
The review unit I got was the Nebula Purple one, which looks like black or dark purple when there is not a lot of light around. But when you shine light at it, it changes to a lighter shade of purple and the gradient created from this is absolutely gorgeous.
The fingerprint scanner sits on the rear, above the OPPO logo. Look closer and you will realize that there is a strange outline around the fingerprint scanner, as well as the cameras. A “screen protector” has been applied on the rear too!
But if you are a user of OPPO’s R11/R11s, you will be disappointed at how the R15 feels in the hand. Unlike on its predecessors, it seems like OPPO made no attempt to make it feel thin and sleek, so when you pick it up, it will not feel as impressive.
While I understand the shift to a glass design contributed to the bulk, it is possible to make it feel thinner through “illusions”, like on the Vivo X21. The R15 and X21 are similar in thickness at ≈7.4mm, but the X21 feels a lot thinner and sleeker.
On the top, we have a single microphone. Below, we have a headphone jack, as well as 2 speaker grills, with a Micro USB port in between. But only the left speaker grill contains the speaker, with the right one housing another microphone.
It is rather disappointing that OPPO is still using Micro USB. On previous R series devices, I understand why they avoided switching, as USB Type-C would make the phones thicker. But the R15 isn’t trying to be thin, so why doesn’t it have Type-C?
Moving to the front, we can see that the R15 is yet another phone that uses the notch design, with tiny bezels and small bottom chin. If you do not like the notch, wait for the OPPO Find X; that is almost completely bezeless, without a notch.
Display – Always-On Screen Clock!
6.28″ FHD+ AMOLED display looks too vibrant but overall not bad. Capable of always-on display that shows the time whenever display is off.
The R15’s 6.28″ FHD+ AMOLED display has a 19:9 ratio, with a notch at the top. The display produces very deep blacks and can get quite bright, but is very over-saturated at the same time. It may not have the most accurate colors, but it is a nice display.
Unlike IPS LCD, AMOLED displays can light up only required parts of the display, enabling “always-on displays”, seen on phones like Galaxy S7. OPPO’s implementation of this is called Screen Clock, which shows the time when your screen is off.
It is disabled by default, but you can enable it in the settings. Whenever you receive a message or WeChat notification, you will also see an icon below the clock. No need to turn on the display to check the time anymore. Super convenient!
To navigate through the UI, you can either use on-screen navigation bar or swipe-up gestures. On the OPPO R15, you have 4 gesture layouts to choose from and with this, I was able to find one that I could easily get used to. Nice!
Performance – A MTK Processor that Doesn’t Suck?
Despite being a MediaTek processor, the Helio P60 in the R15 performs really well in actual usage.
Powering the OPPO R15 is MediaTek’s Helio P60 processor, with 6GB of RAM. I have always found MediaTek processors to be inferior to their Snapdragon counterparts, but this might be the first MediaTek processor that I do not mind using.
There were 3 things about MTK processors that made me avoid them: poor gaming performance, overheating and poor battery life. Thankfully, I have experienced none of them during my 2 weeks with the OPPO R15. Lets start with the first 2.
Just like the Helio P25 processor in the Neffos N1 I reviewed recently, the Helio P60 in the OPPO R15 performs exceptionally well in benchmarks, even outperforming its Qualcomm Snapdragon equivalent (Snapdragon 660) in some cases.
But unlike the Helio P25, the Helio P60’s benchmark scores do reflect its performance during gaming, which is to say, very good. Playing 王者荣耀 and PUBG Mobile on the R15, the games ran smoothly without a hitch and the device stayed cool.
Rear Cameras – Excellent, With a Small Problem
Takes great photos day and night and is capable of bokeh shots, but has issues focusing on small, near objects. Video stabilization is a little disappointing.
OPPO equipped the R15 with a dual rear camera setup, with the primary camera is 16MP sensor with sensor size of 1.22μm and f/1.7 aperture. Meanwhile, the secondary camera is 5MP, with f/2.2 aperture, used for depth sensing in portrait mode.
Under well-lit conditions, the R15’s rear cameras captures photos with great level of details and good dynamic range. Photos look over-saturated when viewed directly from the R15, but on a display with more accurate colors, they look a lot better.
At night, we do see a bit of noise, but colors are retained really well and photos still has plenty of details. As mentioned earlier, the OPPO R15 has a portrait mode, which lets you take bokeh photos with various color/effect filters.
In portrait mode, you are automatically zoomed in to get closer to your subject. Edge detection is not perfect, but pretty good for a smartphone. The real issue starts when you try to take a close up bokeh photo of small objects.
The above comparison illustrates what I mean. Despite numerous attempts to focus on the plant and blur the background, the R15 always ended up with the background in focus. Even the soya ice-cream shot above took me numerous tries.
The focusing problem does not stop there. At night, I found the R15 to constantly hunt for focus when recording videos and slow-mos. That said, videos do look really good when they are in focus, with very little noise and great color reproduction.
In the day, the R15’s 1080p video doesn’t have the focusing issue, with great amount of details and colors turn out really good too, but the poor stabilization means that videos turn out blur and shaky when you are moving around.
Front Camera – Fabulous Selfies!
Colors look great, not washed-out like on other devices I have used. Can also take bokeh shots.
I have used many smartphones with very high resolution or very wide angle, but they all face one common issue: poor dynamic range. Due to this, backgrounds are often overexposed or very pale looking, which makes the selfies unappealing.
This is not the case for the OPPO R15 though, as you can see from the selfies I took below. Colors look very appealing, comparable to what you will get from the rear camera. Even at night, the selfie camera of the R15 handles colors really well.
The 20MP front facing camera of R15 is also capable of bokeh effect, but it is known as Depth Effect here, not Portrait mode. It isn’t perfect; just look at how it blurs out my hair.
Like Vivo’s X21, the OPPO R15 has AR stickers in its camera app, the quality of stickers are on par, but the quantity way less than what Vivo has to offer. It is still really fun though.
Audio – Great Headphone Audio, Harsh Speaker
Bottom firing speaker is loud but treble sounds harsh, great for video consumption but not for music.
At max volume, the single bottom-firing speaker on the OPPO R15 is noticeably louder than the Redmi 5’s, but trebles sound a little harsh, with distortion. Great for watching YouTube videos and movies, not so much for listening to music.
Listening to the R15 on my 1MORE 1M301, trebles seem to be less vibrant and rich as compared to using my Redmi 5, but bass seems to be slightly deeper and more impactful. Both sound really good in their respective ways, so there is no clear winner.
Endurance & Charging – VOOC!
Lasts a full day on moderate usage. VOOC is still one of the best fast charging solution available today.
In the performance portion of this review, I mentioned that poor battery life was one of the reasons I disliked MediaTek’s processors. Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be an issue on the R15.
On moderate usage, the OPPO R15 got through a full day with 24% battery left by 10PM, with Screen Clock enabled. This is nothing to write home about, but it places the R15 on par with other phones with 3450mAh battery and similar specs.
- Total time 15h 45min
- Screen-on time ≈4.5h
- 1h 18min browser
- 30min Instagram
- 21min Facebook
- 15min PUBG Mobile
- 14min Camera
Next, I tested OPPO R15’s endurance under heavy usage, playing graphic intensive games like 王者荣耀. With a total game time of more than 3.5h, the phone had hit 10% by 10PM. If you game a lot, you will have to charge the R15 during the day.
- Total time 15h 5min
- Screen-on time ≈5.5h
- 王者荣耀 2h 16min
- PUBG Mobile 1h 10min
- Facebook 44min
- Sword Man – Monster Hunter 16min
- YouTube 11min
One of OPPO’s most popular feature is VOOC charging, which promises 2 hours of talk time with 5 minutes of charging. But with so many fast charging technologies emerging in recent years, is VOOC still the best? Let’s find out.
I drained the R15 down to 5% battery remaining. With the device powered on but screen turned off, I charged it with the VOOC wall adapter and cable that came in the box. After 5 minutes, the phone was at 13% and at the 40min mark, it had 75% battery.
As seen from my regular usage test, 75% battery should last you through the day. But why stop there? After an hour, the R15 hit 91% battery. It is clear that charging has slowed down at this point in time. The R15 was fully charged at after 1.5 hours.
All of these with the phone is in standby mode. Not bad!
Software – ColorOS has Grown Up!
ColorOS has a new bold and modern style. It is feature packed but unobtrusive and still as easy to use as ever. The best Android skin I have used till date.
Having experienced multiple generations of ColorOS, I have seen it mature in terms of design and user interface. Each version of ColorOS improved on how a user interact with their OPPO device, but none is as drastic as the shift to ColorOS 5.0.
OPPO R15 runs ColorOS 5.0 on top of Android 8.1.0 out of the box. ColorOS 5.0 brings a new style to the design of the UI, making it rounder, bolder and more intuitive. It also brings a couple of new features, as well as improves on some old ones.
For example, in previous versions of ColorOS, split screen had very limited app support. On ColorOS 5.0, split screen now supports most apps including third party ones, with the exception of some OPPO-made ones like gallery and themes.
Accessing split screen is also really easy now. Simply swipe up with three fingers on the screen or go to recent tasks, swipe up on an app and select split-screen. Look at how modern and sleek the new UI is. OPPO is really stepping up on its software design.
There is also a new smart assistant, where you can create shortcuts to your favorite apps and contacts, check the weather, as well as see the number of steps you took today. The step tracker is not part of any app and can only be accessed from here.
With ColorOS 5.0, the R15 gets access to features that are not yet available on other OPPO devices. The Screen Clock always-on display mentioned earlier is just one of them. You also get “Full Screen Multitasking”, which is a lot cooler than it sounds.
When your phone is in landscape and you are watching a video or playing games, you will see these icons appear above and below the notch. The bottom icons allow you to quickly hide banner notifications, take a screenshot or record the screen.
Meanwhile, the icons above will alert you when you receive a message in apps like WhatsApp and WeChat. Tapping on the icons will open a pop-up window, allowing you to view/reply to messages while watching videos or playing games.
Speaking of gaming, this is not a new feature but the R15 has something called Game Acceleration, which allows for a smoother gaming experience. However, it seems like some popular games are not supported at the moment. Hmm…
Despite being a brand from China, OPPO cares a lot about your privacy and security. On top of secure keyboard (which activates when typing passwords) and app lock, you also get really cool sounding features like “Pseudo Base Station Blocking”.
Don’t ask me, I have no idea what that does… There is a new feature that will provide apps will empty call logs, contacts and messages, so you can prevent apps from collecting your personal information. Security freaks will love this feature.
While we are on the topic of security, lets talk about ways to unlock the OPPO R15. The rear fingerprint scanner is super fast like previous generations, but you can also unlock the OPPO R15 with your face! It is pretty accurate and quick.
ColorOS 5.0 may have a ton of features, but many of them only appear when you need them and are easy to use. The execution of most features are very good, though there are some things that needs to be fixed, like the tiny mobile data icon.
Still can’t find it? I couldn’t too, when I first started using the R15. It is the tiny symbol beside the words 4G on the reception bar. Why would anyone do that? Why is there a need to make it so small? @OPPO Please revert it back to the regular icon.
ColorOS 5.0 is like the smartest kid in class, but doesn’t boast about it. It is very talented and does its work really well, but you never know how good it is until you need its help.
Conclusion – Handing Spotlight Back to the Find Series
OPPO was saving its best features for the Find X, so the R15 doesn’t stand out from the crowd in terms of hardware. But ColorOS is now good enough to justify getting the R15.
OPPO didn’t put all their latest and greatest innovations into the R15, in preparation of the return of their flagship Find series. So hardware wise, there isn’t anything very outstanding about the OPPO R15 compared to the competition.
But OPPO doesn’t need flashy hardware to sell their devices. They already have a lead in 2 other areas: software and reputation.
ColorOS has matured a lot in the past few years and V5.0 is just so refined and well thought out that it delivers one of the best, if not the best, user experience that I have ever seen.
Over the years, OPPO has built up a strong reputation globally. They are no longer the unknown China brand we know them to be back in the early days. Perhaps this why OPPO is re-entering the flagship market now – they are ready to take on Samsung.
To the most important question: Should you get one? If you are looking for a device that doesn’t require a steep learning curve, works well and costs under S$800, sure. But if you can afford it, why not get the slightly costlier R15 Pro or wait for the Find X?