If you’re the kind of person who takes over half their photos with their front facing camera, it makes sense to get a Smartphone with a really good one. The OPPO F1 Selfie Expert is trying to be just that, it’s not looking to be a high end powerhouse, it’s just trying to make sure you look amazing. If you’re looking for a high end powerhouse keep on reading because for $250 they are spot on.
Design – Classic OPPO minus all the Metal
The F1 Selfie Expert has classic OPPO design language, its square white face and chamfered gold edges feel familiar. The 2.5D display glass and the “Micro-arc” frame is a nice extension to the existing angle of the screen curvature. The bezel size on the top and bottom are a little large for my liking but the physical buttons make me more forgiving of the added height.
On the rear we have a metal back plate with a soft touch finish which we’ll spend more time on later. You’ll also find OPPO’s signature square camera on the upper left hand corner and there are two plastic segments on the top and bottom. At the bottom you’ll find cutouts for the speaker. On the side you’ll find a volume rocker on the left, while on the right the power button and hybrid dual-SIM/microSD card tray reside. The top of a lone 3.5mm audio jack and the bottom a micro USB port which we’re very sad to report does not come with VOOC quick charge.
If this is the first time you’re perusing an OPPO there are a few things to know about the F1 Selfie Expert, it feels as well built as it’s all metal predecessors, but this is the first time I’ve reviewed an OPPO with a polycorbonate bumper (aka edge surrounding the phone). In hand the OPPO F1 feels solid, no give or flex to be found, but the metal back has a soft touch finish which they are calling ‘an exquisite metal alloy’ and the texture comes from ‘zircon sand surface coating applied in a low-pressure, low-speed spraying process’. When you take the SIM card try out and look at the inside the edges feel and look like plastic. When I tap it, it sounds like plastic but it does get cold in the way that only metal can. It’s got the looks of an OPPO but it’s lacking that indestructible in hand feel that I’m used to.
Display – Below Average 720p
I don’t have many positive things to say about the display. $250 should get you a FullHD panel and if you’re only getting 5 inches you want each inch to count. The IPS, LCD panel is underwhelming it doesn’t feel bright enough most of the time, though outdoor visibility isn’t an issue. It’s accurate enough in terms of color but the blacks seem too black which throws everything off. Viewing angles are average which means sharing content won’t be as easy and with such a small display you’ll need as wide a visibility as possible so everyone can see.
For $250 they should have included a 1080p panel or at least a better quality 720p display.
Camera – It takes a decent Selfie
Mid range Smartphones are getting more and more competitive in terms of camera quality. The main camera is 13MP and has a f2.2 aperture and phase detection autofocus. On the front and the name same of the handset is a 8MP shooter with a f2.0 which helps a bit in low light situations. One lesson that we’ve learned time and time again is that photo quality often comes down to the software processing. In good light you get a great photo but enter low light and it’s harder to find good things to say. Things become less sharp and noise is visible in the shadows, but this is pretty standard for mid range devices. The camera and display is one of the differentiating features between mid and high end handsets. Though to be fair we can point to a few high end handsets with similar photo quality (we’re looking at HTC One M9…).
In good lighting it’s got good quality for the price point, but we need to point out for video that it doesn’t support 4K shooting and default is set at 720p and it’s pretty average (or even a little below expectations) when it comes to recording video.
Although 4K is absent the F1 does come with some nice camera features. For some of the cooler ones you have to head into Camera mode and download things like Double Exposure, Super Macro, Slow Motion, RAW shooting and Expert Mode which has manual focus and white balance controls.
UltraHD mode is interesting as it takes Ultra HD mode is pretty cool, as it uses four consecutively taken photos to create a single 51-megapixel image. The downside to this is that I can’t actually see much of a difference on the 720p display. The only way I can really tell that it’s UltraHD is that it gives the ability to zoom in on the photo to a greater degree of detail while maintaining the same level of detail.
Overall we’re impressed with the front facing camera and the beauty mode is what it is, I’ll use it on medium or weak by default, I’m very happy with the way it smooths out my skin and evens out the tone. Men are never as pleased with the results, but if you don’t tell them it’s happening I’ve never had anyone complain (unless it’s on strong and even I often have issues with the results).
Where they did fail on the front facing shooter is the narrow viewing angle, it was tough fitting everyone in the selfie and the photo looks crap. It’s blurry and noisy, so if you’re a few pints in taking selfies at the bar you can expect to see something like this appear if you’re not careful.
Overall I have to say that I was very unimpressed with the low light and night time performance of the OPPO F1 Selfie Expert, both using the front facing camera and the rear. If we check out the Selfies as well as the regular shots from a restaurant here in a Taipei you’ll see the color accuracy isn’t bad, but it does seem a little yellow though my skin tone does look good.
Even though low light photos are a struggle, when you take photos outside with good lighting, the OPPO F1 Selfie Expert takes great shots. The detail is there, the contrast, saturation are a good for a mid range camera this is actually what you should be expecting.
Software – No App Drawer!
Color OS is fast and smooth and will take some getting use to if you’re the kind of person that likes having an app drawer. The OPPO F1 is running version 2.1.0i on top of Android 5.1 so we are disappointed that it’s not running Marshmallow, but ColorOS is it’s own iteration of Android so much of the UI design that you’d find in Android 6.0 would have been covered up.
ColorOS does come packed with a lot of cool features, it’s the same build that’s running on the OPPO R7s which has been optimized with a more responsive user interface compared to previous builds. OPPO has also removed a handful of features in order to optimize the RAM and get rid of resource hungry functions. Some of the features that have been dropped are a bunch of icons and widgets on the lock screen, weather function in the launcher and dial tones. By removing them ColorOS 2.1 is lighter, faster, more stable and less power hungry.
ColorOS gives you a ton of gesture support, which once you’ve gotten used to it, it feels notably absent. Double tap to wake and sleep, custom gestures to launch apps ie an O to launch the Camara app or V for the flashlight. The UI itself is also quite slick with lots of animations, transitions and styling options. The theme store let’s you download different versions, though we have to admit that most of them feel little cartoony.
The Smart Lock Screen is also new with this update, you can be enabled it in Settings > Safety & Privacy.
The one issue that I do have with ColorOS is the lack of strong search features for apps, no app drawer means you have to organize your apps into folders and finding a single app can sometimes be difficult. The way that I’ve gotten around it is by having one folder with all of my apps in it, however, if you download a new app, don’t forget to add it to the folder!
Like many custom Android experiences ColorOS is big on customized permissions and notification management. When starting new apps you can generally allow or deny certain granular permissions per app. This level of permissions is way higher than what you’d get just using vanilla Android 5.1.1.
If you’re in Europe you’ll be happy to hear that LTE support is not an issue, however in the US full LTE bands are not supported.
A 5 inch 720p display running a 2500mAh battery isn’t the worst combination and in fact we consistently made it through the day. However, the lack of quick charge is a bit of an issue, at many points during the review I found myself shocked at how slowly the device charged. I even started checking voltage of chargers to figure out why it was so slow. A full charge took nearly 4 hours, so if you’re looking for a quick top up before you go out you’re going to need to bring a battery pack along for the ride. Heading out for a night out of meeting friends at a few different locations on a Friday night of course I’d want a full battery on any device. However, in general if I had 50% on most handsets I’d choose to use 50% would get me though the evening, but with the OPPO F1 I decided to grab a battery pack.
On a side note, if you’re wondering what my daily drivers have been over the past 5 months, the OPPO R7s falls into that category, along side the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+, Huawei Mate 8, Mate S and P8.
Color OS does a good job of making mid range processors feel very snappy. The F1 Selfie Expert has seen an upgrade from other OPPO devices as it’s running the Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 CPU which was just announced in December of 2015. It also helps that it comes with 3GB RAM which adds a bit of multitasking kick considering the display is only 720p and the CPU has been built with running 1080p displays with less RAM. The Snapdragon 616 is has eight-cores running at 1.7GHz CPU with the same style of Cortex-A53 cores which we saw in high end Smartphones from last year. In Geekbench 3 it scores 3048 points, around double the score of the Moto G.
When it comes to playing games load times are longer than I’d like. Usually I’d be blaming the mid range Adreno 405 GPU but that the OPPO F1 only has a 720p display actually lends a helping hand. The lower screen resolution aids in the onscreen graphics performance.
A tiny grill on the back of a Smartphone never fills me with confidence, but the OPPO F1 actually does a decent job for how slim the device is. It doesn’t distort when turned up to maximum volume and when making a cup of coffee in the morning you can’t hear it over the kettle but it’s pleasant enough if you’re not in a noisy environment. The speaker placement if more of the issue since you can easily muffle it just by holding it.
Keep scrolling to find the Verdict of the OPPO F1 Selfie Expert…