Keep your Oppo-tions open
- Inoffensive design
- Strong battery life
- Weak camera
- 720p screen
- Both the Moto G8 Plus and Redmi Note 8T are better
Oppo may not be a big name in the UK, but globally the Chinese firm has done a pretty good job of grabbing market share in recent months. By the end of 2019, the company was in fourth place behind Samsung, Huawei and Apple, but ahead of Xiaomi.
Speaking of which, Xiaomi is a pretty useful comparison for the Oppo A5, because in terms of specifications it’s pretty much identical to the excellent Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T and it costs the same, too. But which is a better budget buy?
Oppo A5 review: What you need to know
Like the Redmi Note 8T, the Oppo A5 (sometimes called the Oppo A5 2020, despite there being no previous versions) has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor, backed by 3GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. Apparently, versions exist with 4GB of RAM and more on-board storage, but our review sample is the 3GB version so rest assured that our experiences and the benchmarks will likely match yours.
Surprisingly, for a handset of this price, it packs four cameras on the back – but weirdly that includes two “rear sensors that provide artistic portrait effects.” That feels a bit silly, but I suppose if that’s how Oppo wants to spend its R&D budget, then so be it.
Oppo A5 review: Price and competition
For those specifications, you’re looking at an outlay of £179, which is exactly the same as the Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T. It also has similar internals to the Motorola Moto G8 Plus, albeit with 1GB more RAM. That cost £240 when we reviewed it, but can now be scooped up for around £200.
Moving the specs, but not the price, you can buy a 2019 Huawei P Smart for a little less, and the still brilliantly powerful Pocophone F1 is now an absolute steal at under £250 if you can find it, but most retailers seem to have stopped listing it now. Maybe check Ebay if you really fancy one.
Oppo A5 review: Design
The first thing you notice about the Oppo A5 is that it’s pretty chunky. That’s not just down to its 6.5in frame – at 195g, it feels a whole lot weightier than you’d expect – especially when it has a plastic back. For context, that makes it a bit heavier than the iPhone 11 Pro and only a gram less than the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus.
I can’t really explain that, and it’s not really a problem once you’re used to it. In terms of looks, it’s as handsome as any other smartphone. Yes, the bezels may be a touch thicker (especially along the bottom), but it’s far from offensive, and the notchlette at the top looks quite stylish as far as these things go.
Flip it over, and its equally good looking. A glossy plastic curves around the back with the cameras arranged in a traffic-light formation along the middle. Well, all but one of them – one of the depth sensors lives next to it with the flash for some reason. Underneath this is a small, oval fingerprint reader. It looks neat, though the smaller size will take a little getting used to.
Still, in terms of consumer-friendly extras, it’s pretty good. It’s dual-SIM, for a start, and it can hold two while packing in a microSD card too (the SIM tray has three slots in total). It also retains the 3.5mm headphone jack, though it is along the bottom, rather than the top which, again, can take a little getting used to.
Speaking of getting used to things, the button placement is a little annoying: the power button is directly opposite the volume down one, rather than slightly offset as with most Android handsets. That, combined with the ‘take screenshot shortcut’ of ‘power’ plus ‘volume down’ means I have a whole load of accidental shots taken while trying to turn the bloody thing off.
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Oppo A5 review: Screen
The 6.5in screen is an IPS LCD effort with a resolution of 1,600 x 720. That makes for around 270ppi (pixels per inch), which is certainly on the low side for a phone with a screen this big.
Does it matter? Well, things are clearly not as sharp as other handsets in this price range. Both the Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T and Moto G8 Plus have 6.3in frames and 1080p screens, making for around 400ppi.
Still, if you can get past this, it’s actually a decent screen on its own terms with excellent viewing angles, good contrast (1,375:1) and a solid brightness of 512cm/2. The display covers 89.7% of the sRGB gamut, with a volume of 102%, putting it firmly in the “very good” category.
Unfortunately for Oppo, both the Moto G8 Plus and (especially) the Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T have it beat for the same price.
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Oppo A5 review: Performance
Powering the Oppo A5 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 and 3 or 4GB of RAM depending on the version. For the avoidance of doubt, ours was a 3GB version, so all the benchmarks that follow are for the lowest-spec version possible.
But before we get to that, it’s worth noting that the specs once again leave it level pegging with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T and the Moto G8 Plus. The former has 3GB RAM while the latter has 4GB, but, as the following benchmarks make clear, that doesn’t make much difference in the real world.
Yep, there’s basically nothing between any of them. And that’s also true in GFXBench’s gaming test – although it is slightly disguised by the lower resolution screen of the Oppo A5. The top bar shows graphical output on the screen, while the one below levels things out by displaying at a set resolution.
That could, of course, mean that games run a little better on the Oppo out of necessity – the screen is lower spec, so the graphics have to compensate. Nonetheless, it’s a very weak theoretical selling point for a bunch of phones which are, to all intents and purposes, level pegging in terms of raw power.
In day-to-day use, all of them are fine, by the way. But my preference is definitely for Motorola’s soft-touch implementation of Android. Oppo’s ColorOS Android skin is one of the more aggressive I’ve seen, and while it’s hugely customisable in terms of how you navigate, it still takes a little bit of getting used to. Still, there’s not much in terms of bundled apps, barring a few of Oppo’s own apps: AquaMail, Game Space and Music. You’re also given Facebook and Opera, which you may or may not want.
There’s an advantage to the Oppo A5, though, and it’s a big one: the 5,000mAh battery. The Oppo A5 does have a monster 5,000mAh battery in place. Our standard battery test was a right pain for reasons too tedious to go into here, but when we finally got it in, the phone was pushing for 20 hours, finally conking out at 19 hours and 47 minutes. For the avoidance of doubt, that’s very, very good and handily beats the same rivals highlighted above:
Oppo A5 review: Camera
The Oppo A5 has no fewer than four cameras on the back. The main one is a 12-megapixel f/1.8 affair, and that’s supported by an 8-megapixel f/2.25 ultrawide 119-degree camera and two 2-megapixel lenses to “provide artistic portrait effects.” Why it needs two of those when phones manage with one is anybody’s guess.
In any case, photographic performance is very much a mixed bag – and not in the way you’d normally expect. With most phones – budget handsets especially – outdoor pictures in good light are pretty decent, while indoor ones are filled with visual noise and/or blurry. Here, the Oppo A5 performs poorly outdoors but surprisingly well inside (for the price at least).
Here, it is compared to the Moto G8 Plus outdoors. As you can see, when zoomed in so much of the detail is lost by Oppo’s camera, with both the tree and brickwork becoming a blurry mess. On the Moto, you can make out individual branches and bricks, but on the Oppo the colour is also weirdly smoggy – it really wasn’t that much of a ‘pea-souper’ in London that day, I assure you.
Yet in trickier low-light conditions, the performance is reversed. There’s not a great deal in it, but the Oppo A5 is undoubtedly less blurry,and slightly better at picking up intricate details along the way. Given the close margin here and the ‘light and day’ difference in the previous test, you’d still give it to Motorola, but this certainly shows that the Oppo A5 isn’t a total write-off for the price.
The front-facing camera is an 8-megapixel lens, and Oppo is keen to discuss its AI beautification. It’s not subtle, and even with beautification effects completely turned off (far left), it’s still pretty aggressive. The middle shot is the default, and the far right is the nightmare scenario with everything turned to max. Horrifying, isn’t it?
Oppo A5 review: Verdict
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the Oppo A5, but it’s hard to see why you’d buy one over the Moto G8 Plus or the Xiaomi Note 8T. Both have better screens, better cameras and indistinguishable performance overall for around the same price.
If you see the Oppo A5 on the cheap, it may still be worth a gamble. Otherwise, it’s just another also-ran in a section of the market that’s fast becoming a two-horse town.