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Device Review: Oppo N1

oppon1It’s been a little over a year since Oppo made its entry into the smartphone market with devices like the Oppo Find 5. Previous devices have been very well received and reviewed. Can we say the same of their newest offering, the Oppo N1? Check out the video review or keep reading to find out.

Hardware

The Oppo N1, hardware wise, has a lot in common with the current generation of high-end smartphones on the market. On paper, the N1 looks nearly identical to the HTC One Max (with the notable exception of 4G LTE connectivity). If you’re not familiar with it, here’s what it’s got under the hood.

  • 5.9” 1920×1080 IPS display
  • Quad-Core 1.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 16/32 GB Internal Storage
  • 3610 mAh battery
  • 13 MP sensor camera with dedicated ISP, f/2.0 aperture, and dual LED flash
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • O-Click Bluetooth Remote Control

As far as the design of the device, it feels very solid in the hand, albeit enormous. Oppo has become known for building high quality devices, and the N1 is no exception. It’s a bit unfortunate that the battery is not user replaceable, but at 3610 mAh, it’s hard to complain. If anything, the biggest complaint from me about the device is just the sheer size of it.

Rotating Camera

Another item to mention about the hardware is the rotating camera, since it’s quite a unique addition to the hardware. The lens/sensor component feels solid, just like the rest of the phone, and the rotating hinge doesn’t seem like it will have any issues keeping up with a good deal of rotations. Oppo themselves mentioned over on Google+ that they had tested the camera’s durability, and it should last well over 100,000 rotations.

HDR Low Light

HDR Low Light

IMG_20131208_152500

Fill FLash

Fill Flash

IMG20131201102853 IMG20131115193029 IMG_20131206_164745

O-Click Remote

With regard to the hardware of the O-Click Bluetooth remote, it feels like a very solid device as well—not terribly heavy, and the perfect size to fit on a keychain and go into a pocket. As far as the usefulness of it… Well, let’s just say that I ended up leaving it at home most of the time. It was very cool to be able to use it as a remote trigger for the camera, but without some sort of kickstand on the hardware to actually hold the phone upright, the opportunities to use the remote are few and far between. Additionally, I was almost immediately introduced to the idea that an alarm triggers on the remote when it is more than 15 meters away from the phone, the first day that I brought it to work and forgot the remote at my desk (apologies to my coworkers!). Quite a useful feature if you’re prone to losing your phone, but it’s definitely not for everyone or every situation. From what I understand, the O-Click also has the ability to be used as a notification LED, which is quite handy considering the N1 doesn’t actually have a notification LED on the device itself, but given the previous issues I’ve mentioned with it, I ended up just leaving it on my desk at home 99% of the time.

O-Touch Panel

An extremely interesting feature of the N1 is the addition of a small (12cm^2) touch-sensitive panel on the rear of the device. In theory, this can be used to help you scroll through web pages, swipe through your camera gallery, and even as a camera shutter—again, in theory. In reality, I found myself accidentally touching it when I didn’t intend to and jumping to a different section of a website than what I was looking for, or moving onto a different photo than the one I wanted to look at, or accidentally taking photos. It’s probably a feature that some people will just get used to, but after a few days of trying to get used to it, I ended up giving up and turning it off. Luckily, that’s not difficult to do.

Connectivity

One thing you might have noticed in the hardware list, or to be precise, you might have noticed is missing from the hardware list, is 4G / LTE connectivity. While this isn’t truly an issue for a lot of people, here in the US, most of our wireless providers do offer LTE. And going from an extremely fast LTE connection on a device like the Nexus 5 or the HTC One to 3G only on the N1 was difficult. 3G speeds on AT&T (the carrier I tested the device with) really aren’t that shabby, but to drop from 20+ Mbps down to 5-7 Mbps download speeds is definitely noticeable, especially if you’re a person who regularly streams video content over the air. In all honesty, considering the price of this device ($599), 3G vs 4G/LTE might be a make-or-break for a lot of people.

Software

One of the truly unique features of the N1 is that, while it comes running Color OS, a customized version of Android created by Oppo (and, at this point, is based on Android 4.2), a version of the N1 is going to be up for sale running CyanogenMod as well. Since Oppo entered the smartphone market, they’ve been very open and friendly to the developer community, so it comes as little surprise that a partnership / collaboration has sprung up between Oppo and Cyanogen, Inc. For everyday use, Color OS really isn’t that bad. Just like any other Android “skin,” it has its ups and downs, and a lot of it really comes down to preference. I tested the N1 for a couple of weeks running Color, and then for a couple of weeks running OmniROM. And as far as I’m concerned, I definitely prefer the OmniROM experience (or, realistically, just about any experience that’s closer to AOSP).

Camera

The camera of the N1 is supposed to be the true, defining feature—a 13 MP camera that you can use for front or rear-facing photos and videos. The f/2.0 aperture is supposed to ensure that photos taken in lower lighting conditions come out clearer and less grainy. While the camera does take some acceptable pictures/video in good lighting conditions, it’s not amazingly impressive. Being able to rotate around the 13MP camera for a quick selfie is definitely appealing. But the true value, in my opinion, comes with higher quality front facing video and video calling / Hangouts.

Conclusion

There’s a lot more that could be said about the device, but it’s really going to come down to you and your preferences. In my case, it’s just not a great fit for me. It’s entirely too large for my hands, and definitely not usable one-handed, which I prefer. It doesn’t support 4G / LTE, and I tend to stream a lot of audio/video. And the special features, like the O-Click, O-Touch, and rotating camera were mostly lost on me. Those things might be right up your alley, but if I have $599 to spend on a smartphone, unfortunately, I don’t believe I’d be spending it here.

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