Oppo Find X review: Smartphones just got interesting again

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Oppo may not be a brand with which you’re all too familiar, but its success in Asian markets has seen it become one of the top smartphone sellers in the world. Now, it’s making a splash in Europe with the unlike-anything-else Find X.

The Oppo Find X is about as far removed from the traditional Oppo phones as can be, but that’s fairly typical for the Find series, as it hasn’t been  refreshed for a few years now. The Find X is all about introducing concept-like new features in an eye-catching smartphone that you can actually buy (although, like its Vivo Nex S competitor, not in the UK just yet).

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  • Curved glass front and back
  • Pop-up camera mechanism
  • No fingerprint scanner
  • 157 x 74 x 9.4mm

From a design perspective, the Find X is a big change from the usual, plain-looking metal and glass phones that are typical of Oppo. It is, quite simply, one of the best-looking phones to date.

Look at it from the back, and you’ll see why we think so: the glass back is truly stunning, with either a blue or purple edge that subtly gradients into black to the middle of the phone. And, depending on the angle you’re looking at it from or how light hits it, the coloured section increases or decreases in size.

However, this shiny finish does mean the Find X is something of a fingerprint magnet. Oh, and it will slip off virtually anything you place it upon if it’s not level. Sofa arms? Don’t do it! Still, it looks and feels like a high-end and premium device.

The curved glass on the back is matched by the curved glass that covers the screen on the front, making for a phone that feels pretty comfortable to hold. It’s slightly shorter and noticeably narrower than an iPhone 8 Plus, which makes it far easier to use and carry around in a pocket, despite the mammoth screen on the front.

Look at the front of the Find X with the screen on and you’ll notice there’s no notch at the top, with barely any bezel at all around the edges. That means it’s almost entirely screen, which posed something of a problem to Oppo’s engineers: where do you put the earpiece and the selfie camera?

The answer: into a popup mechanism. Go to use the camera and these slide up, out of the body of the phone, on both front and on the back. It’s not a small area that moves either (like it is with the Vivo NEX S), rather the whole width of the phone goes into motion.

While this pop-up mechanism is undoubtedly cool, it does mean some compromises in durability. It means the phone’s frame isn’t quite as strong as most flagship phones (not that we’ve tested it to destruction). It also means that it’s not waterproof. Even after just a couple of weeks using the Find X, we’ve already found that dust has begun to gather inside.

We’ve been impressed with the mechanism’s reliability in our time with the Find X. Each time it’s activated, it slides up without fault and does so quickly, which bodes well for everyday use, since the only secure way to unlock the phone is by using the facial recognition system. It’s quicker than the combined face and iris scanner on the Samsung Galaxy S9, which is good news, because there’s no fingerprint sensor onthis Oppo anywhere. Saying that, it’s noticeably slower than the Face Unlock on the OnePlus 6.

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  • 6.42-inch AMOLED screen
  • 1080 x 2340 resolution
  • No notch

Few screens excite as much as the near bezel-less 6.42-inch display on the Find X. But that’s mostly down to the design. There’s very little frame around the edges, and there’s no notch (you know, the black-out ‘dip’ to the top of many current flagships, from the iPhone X to the Huawei P20 Pro). Combine that huge screen with the contrast and saturation offered by the AMOLED panel and you have a vibrant and eye-catching display.

It’s not perfect though. Its 1080 x 2340 resolution means it’s not quite as sharp as some of the most pixel-packed panels on the market. With that said, the 401ppi pixel density is certainly sharp enough to make it almost impossible to see individual pixels. Besides, too many pixels can often mean battery life issues, so the ‘not overdoing it’ approach can sometimes be best.

Playing games and watching our favourite shows on Netflix has been fantastic, because the screen is so dynamic when watched head-on. Change the viewing angle and the colours start to shift slightly too much, though, with whites appearing more pink when you tilt the phone. That’s the one notable issue with this screen.

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  • Snapdragon 845 processor, 8GB RAM
  • 256GB storage, no microSD slot

Look at the specification list of the Find X and it’s easy to see why its performance is fast and fluid. The current best-in-class processor and a massive 8GB RAM make sure of that.

We’ve had no issues with the Find X either, despite it running its own software skin over Android (which typically can cause issues with other manufacturers, like the Asus Zenfone 5 or others). Whether we were launching apps or playing graphically intense games, the Oppo handles it all without so much as a whimper.

However, due to its software animations, it doesn’t feel quite as instant and snappy as phones with more lightweight software, like the OnePlus 6 or the Google Pixel 2 XL. The difference is negligible to the point you’ll barely notice, but it’s still a downside compared to the flagship elite.

Even the facial recognition for unlocking the Oppo is relatively speedy and reliable. Not once has the face scanning failed for us. Similar to the iPhone X, it’ll ignore your attempts if you’re looking away from the screen, which is comforting to know. You won’t get any accidental unlocks like you might when you tap a fingerprint sensor, or purely camera-based face unlock system on another phone. Although the lack of a fingerprint scanner is disappointing – especially as the Vivo NEX S offers one under its actual screen.

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  • 3730mAh battery
  • VOOC flash charging

If there’s one area the Find X impresses more than other flagships, it’s in its battery performance. With a capacious 3,730mAh cell powering the device, you’d suspect it can at least get to the end of the day without needing to be charged. You’d be right, but also underestimating its performance wildly.

In our testing, with what we’d class as moderate usage – browsing the web, playing a little PUBG, catching up on emails and social media, as well as snapping the odd photo and listening to music – we got to the end of a second day on a single charge more often than not. We suspect really heavy users could comfortably make it to a day and a half.

What’s even better is that the phone also makes use of Oppo’s VOOC flash charging, which is identical in everything but name to OnePlus’ Dash Charge technology. It means that plugging it in for just 30 minutes is more than enough to get it from zero to above the halfway mark.

TL;DR: There’s no such thing as battery anxiety with the Oppo Find X.

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  • ColorOS software over Android Oreo operating system

Oppo’s ColorOS is a re-skin that sits over the top of Google’s Android operation system… and it’s among the least Android-like in its approach. Historically, it’s always been more like Apple’s iPhone operating system, iOS, which will make it a little tricky to use if you’re coming from another phone on either side of the fence. That’s much the same in the Find X.

There’s no app drawer, for example, so you’re forced to have all of your apps in folders on the home screen (although some of the Pocket-lint team actually prefer this approach anyway). Launch the multitasking/recent apps view and you get a bunch of app preview cards that you swipe through horizontally.

Being Android, of course, you could install your own custom third-party launcher to try and make it feel more Android-ish, but if you do, you’ll likely come across extra issues as everything fights for space. We’ve done just that in our testing, and experienced several freezes and blank screens, and so were eventually forced to retreat back to the default ColorOS launcher.

Which is a shame, as ColorOS has a habit of over-aggressively protecting against using other default apps. For instance, try and use Google’s smart auto-fill feature to quickly login to services and the Find X simply wouldn’t allow it, forcing us to manually login to virtually all of our apps and services. The software also kept warning us about not using the preinstalled SMS app as our default, even in apps where it wasn’t relevant.

Part of the joy of Android OS is that you can decide to use different default apps and launchers if you want to, and yet ColorOS does its utmost to kill that joy.

Still, it’s not all bad, it just takes getting used to if you’re more familiar with “traditional” Android. There are flashes of enjoyment, like the way you can have the screen pulse colours around the edges when notifications come in. There’s also the Gaming Engine mode which ensures that you don’t get any notifications while your playing specific games (Asus and others offer this too), and also boosts performance while you’re in those titles.

  • Dual 20MP/16MP f/2.0 rear setup
  • Front 25MP selfie
  • 3D depth sensing
  • Animated emoji

With both the dual rear and single front cameras all built into the ejecting portion of the phone, that means less space for lenses/optics, so it’s no surprise that these aren’t the Find X’s cameras aren’t the most impressive cameras we’ve seen in a smartphone. With that said, they’re perfectly good enough for daylight photography.

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In low-light situations motion is captured with blur and image noise levels start to rise, which is also true of the front-facing camera. And like so many other front-facing selfie cameras, the default setting adds a beautification mode, over-softening skin and making it look unrealistic.

Despite that, Oppo has loaded its camera app with features we’ve seen made popular on many other devices. Using the phone in auto mode with the rear cameras, it uses artificial intelligence (AI) to determine what kind of scenery and subject is being shot and adapts the settings to match. This isn’t perfect on any device just yet, as AI evolves.

As for the 25-megapixel front-facing camera, it combines with the depth sensors to create a 3D photo of your face to build custom beautifying modes, which can make your nose thinner, skin smoother and your face less round, if you so desire… well, not in real life, but you know what we mean. And just like the iPhone X (among others such as Huawei) there’s an artificial lighting mode that adds lighting effects to portrait photos.

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Then, there’s Oppo’s version of animated emoji which – similar to Animoji – use the front camera and sensors to mimic your facial expressions using either your own custom made character or a handful of animals. The former is disappointing, in that it has a grand selection of just five hair styles, so you have three short styles, one afro or dreadlocks, and you can’t change the eye colour. It’s safe to say, the character – despite being generated by scanning your literal face – won’t look anything like you.

In other words, there are a lot of gimmicks here that are fun for a few minutes, but soon become forgotten, while the actual cameras could do with more core work to be a better all-rounders.

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Verdict

Given its near bezel-less screen, eye-catching rear glass panel and cool pop-up camera mechanism, the Oppo Find X is easily one of this year’s most interesting phones. In fact, it’s one of the most interesting phones we’ve seen in a long time.

That vibrant display and class-leading battery life make it a winning device, but its less-than-stellar cameras, restrictive software and eye-watering price leave a bitter after taste to what is an otherwise delicious flagship.

As things stand, the Oppo Find X isn’t available to buy in the UK, but is set to launch in a handful of European countries within the third quarter of 2018. There’s a possibility it could land in Blighty, but there’s no official word on that just yet.

In the end, the Oppo Find X is a promising glimpse at the future of smartphones. Bezel-less and notch-free screens are possible – as we’ve already seen from the Vivo NEX S – and we suspect we’ll be seeing more of them as technology develops over time. Hopefully with more refined software and consideration for some of the features too.

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The Huawei P20 Pro is the full flagship package. Its design is stunning, the camera results are the best we’ve ever seen in a smartphone, and the battery lasts. It does feature a notched screen though, which won’t suit all.

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For the past few years Samsung has churned out the most consistent range of flagship smartphones. The Galaxy S9+ continues that legacy. Its curved glass and stunning display make it one of the most desirable phones of 2018, and the camera’s more than handy, even in low-light conditions.

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Apple’s latest market leader was among the first to really push the bezels away from the screen. Unlike the Oppo, it has got the notch at the top to house the earpiece, camera and facial recognition system. But it’s a firm favourite among the general public and shouldn’t be discounted.

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Although you can’t buy it in the UK just yet, the NEX S is an obvious Find X comparison, as the first phone to bring a pop-up camera to the market. It’s not likely to be as pricey as the Oppo either, so when Vivo sorts out its European software setup (a criticism of the Oppo, too) it should be in an interesting position…

(pocket-lint.com, https://goo.gl/NKZvgM)

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