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Oppo Find X3 Pro review: Chinese smartphone champ can’t beat Samsung

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Oppo Find X3 Pro review: Chinese smartphone champ can’t beat Samsung” was written by Samuel Gibbs Consumer technology editor, for theguardian.com on Friday 12th March 2021 07.00 UTC

Chinese smartphone brand Oppo is looking to cement itself as Samsung’s big challenger – filling the vacuum left by Huawei – but as nice as the Find X3 Pro is to look at, it is just not good value.

Far from a household name in the UK, Oppo is part of BKK Electronics, which is one of the largest smartphone manufacturers in the world and operates brands OnePlus, Vivo and RealMe among others.

The £1,099 device leads Oppo’s top Find X3 Android phone line for 2021 but it fails to justify its price, even with a very speedy recharging time of 31 minutes and a long battery life.

On looks, the Find X3 Pro doesn’t reinvent the wheel in design – a metal and glass sandwich with a full-screen front – but the back glass is moulded to encase the camera lump on the back, which is unusual.

oppo find x3 pro review
The back is one solid piece of glass the bends around the camera lump rather than it being encased in a separate piece of material. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

But it does feel nice. The large 6.7in QHD+ OLED screen is bright, crisp and has a 120Hz refresh rate to make scrolling super smooth matching competitors. The curved sides and glass back make it one of the smoothest-feeling smartphones available, and its 74mm width and sub-200g weight make it easy to hold for a large phone.

Specifications

  • Main screen: 6.7in QHD+ OLED (525ppi) 120Hz
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 12GB of RAM
  • Storage: 256GB
  • Operating system: ColorOS 11.2 based on Android 11
  • Camera: Quad rear camera: 50MP wide, 50MP ultra-wide, 13MP telephoto, 3MP macro; 32MP front-facing camera
  • Connectivity: 5G, dual nano sim, USB-C, wifi 6, NFC, Bluetooth 5.2 and location
  • Water resistance: IP68
  • Dimensions: 163.6 x 74.0 x 8.3mm
  • Weight: 193g

Top performance and super-fast charging

oppo find x3 pro review
Oppo’s SuperVOOC 2.0 technology will charge the phone from 1% to 100% in just 31 minutes, hitting 60% in 14 minutes with the included USB-A power adaptor. It also has 30W wireless charging and reverse wireless charging. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Find X3 Pro has the latest top processor available for Android devices, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. It performs very well indeed – the interface is snappy, apps are responsive and games fly.

It also has very good battery life. With the screen set to its maximum QHD+ resolution and 120Hz frame rate, the phone lasts about 49 hours with the screen used for about 5.5 hours in various apps, meaning 7am on day one until 7am on day three. That includes two hours on 5G, the rest on wifi, an hour of Disney+ and about 20 photos shot.

Sustainability

Oppo rates the battery for at least 800 full charge cycles using its 65W SuperVOOC 2.0 system while maintaining at least 80% of its original capacity.

Oppo has partnered with the repair firm iSmash for its product servicing in the UK. Oppo declined to say whether the battery was replaceable. The company does not operate a trade-in or recycling scheme in the UK. It declined to comment on the use of recycled materials or the publishing of environmental impact assessments.

ColorOS 11.2

Oppo Find X3 Pro review
ColorOS is a fast and well-optimised version of Android, but its default colour scheme and icon design make it look a little dated compared to some competitors. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

ColorOS 11.2 is Oppo’s heavily customised Android version, here based on Android 11. While it works more or less the same as Android versions from Google, OnePlus or Samsung, it looks a bit basic in its default colour scheme and design. If square icons and pastel green colour scheme aren’t for you, the interface is highly customisable either with dedicated themes or just manual tweaks. The speed of animations can be changed as well as lots of gestures and navigation options.

There’s a “pull-out tray” for making using two apps on the screen a bit easier, plus ways to quickly launch apps using the in-screen fingerprint reader as a virtual joystick. Some oddities include the fact most notification icons do not appear in the status bar by default, and must be turned on per app and per notification type (such as for messages but not alerts). You have to tap on notifications to expand them, rather than pulling down on them. The gesture to quickly launch the camera while the phone is locked is a double-press of one of the volume buttons, which is common in China, but not in Europe or the US where it is usually a double-press of the power button.

The phone also attempts to get you to sign up for an account with a firm called HeyTap, but doesn’t explain why, who HeyTap is or the function it provides (it’s a cloud services firm) or why you should trust it with your data.

Oppo will only commit to supporting the Find X3 Pro with at least two years of software and security updates, including two new Android version updates, from release, which is simply not good enough. No one should be using devices that are no longer updated to keep their data safe. When most good competitors offer at least three years of updates, with Samsung offering four years and Apple at least five years for similar or lower-cost devices, two years is poor. It is a shame as ColorOS is a fast and well-optimised version of Android with little in the way of unwanted or duplicate apps.

Camera

Oppo Find X3 Pro review
The camera app is fairly simple to use for point and shoot, but also has more advanced shooting options including a solid ‘Pro’ mode, 10-bit colour and portrait mode. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

On the back of the phone are four cameras, including a 50MP main, 50MP ultra-wide, 13MP 2x telephoto and a 3MP “microlens”, which is a zoomed-in macro lens a bit like a microscope.

The main and ultrawide 50MP cameras both have exactly the same image sensor, which is unusual, but means that you get very similar images shot by both cameras just with a different field of view. In good light, images are crisp, well balanced for colour and with good dynamic range. Low light performance is also solid, while video capture is pretty good too with interesting “film modes”, including at up to 8K at 30 frames a second, HDR and Log capture if you really want to try and shoot a bit more than a home movie. All these are things you should expect from a good main camera, but are far less common on an ultra-wide angle camera.

The telephoto camera offers 2x optical or 5x hybrid. When used in good light it can shoot good photos at 2x with plenty of detail. The hybrid 5x zoom is decent, but is clearly digitally expanded when compared with competitors with real 5x optical zoom cameras. The Oppo often switches to a digital zoom on the main camera rather than use the 2x optical camera too, causing the viewfinder to jump as it switches cameras.

oppo find x3 pro review
The macro camera has a little LED ring light around the lens that helps illuminate the subject at the super-close distances. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The macro camera is surprisingly fun allowing you take pictures of detail such as the individual fibres of a fabric that you can’t see with the naked eye. You have to place the phone practically resting on top of your subject, but with a bit of patience you can produce some interesting almost microscopic images. Not something I’d use much, but fun nonetheless.

The 32-megapixel selfie camera can produce some good, highly detailed shots, and handles dim indoor lighting admirably.

Overall, the camera on the Find X3 Pro is very good, but the lack of a really good zoom camera hurts it. Similarly priced competitors offer significantly better zooms of up to 10x optical.

Observations

oppo find x3 pro review
The in-screen optical fingerprint sensor is one of the fastest available, matching that from OnePlus and the Galaxy S21 series for speed and accuracy. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
  • The phone’s haptic vibrations are generally nice and sharp, but some alerts can be a bit short and easy to miss, even with it turned up to maximum.
  • Call quality and 5G performance on EE was excellent.
  • The screen and back are covered in the older Gorilla Glass 5, not the latest significantly more shatter-resistant Gorilla Glass Victus

Price

The Oppo Find X3 Pro will cost £1,099 in black or blue, available from 14 April.

For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has an RRP of £1,149, the Galaxy S21+ costs £819, the OnePlus 8 Pro costs £799 and the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max costs £1,099.

Verdict

The Oppo Find X3 Pro is a really nice-feeling, high-performing smartphone that costs too much for what it offers and has guaranteed software support for only two years.

The screen is great, the build is top-notch, it has the most powerful processor you can get in an Android phone, long battery life and incredibly fast charging. The camera is good too, but lack of a really good zoom camera hurts it when the phone costs £1,099.

Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra, with an RRP of just £50 more, has fantastic main and ultra-wide cameras plus a market-leading 5x and 10x optical zoom camera system and will be supported for four years. Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro Max costs £1,099 and will see in excess of five years of support. Two years of software support is simply not good enough, losing it a star on sustainability grounds.

Pros: great screen, top performance, long battery life, very fast charging, smooth build, sub-200g weight, good camera, water resistance, fast in-screen fingerprint scanner.

Cons: lack of extended optical zoom for the camera, only two years of software support guaranteed, expensive.

Oppo Find X3 Pro review
The stereo speakers, which include the top handset speaker shown here, are pretty good for impromptu movie watching. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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