OPPO's handsets might keep looking more and more like iPhones, but they also keep getting better and better. A couple of small issues don't detract from the value proposition made by the R11, and dual rear-facing cameras are the icing on the cake.
What we love
- Compact for a 5.5-inch phone
- Versatile cameras
- Two-day battery life
- Great value
What could be improved
- Lowlight camera performance is hit and miss
- ColorOS is still going to be divisive
- No smudge-resistant coating
- No NFC
What is it?
The R11 is OPPO's take on the iPhone 7 Plus. Yes, the design is familiar, but that's not overly important. Most smartphones look pretty similar these days.
What is important is that OPPO has tried to mimic the iPhone 7 Plus' dual rear-facing camera configuration, and managed to do so with reasonable success. With two sensors on the back - a 16MP primary camera and a 20MP secondary camera - the R11 is able to simulate up to two times zoom by swapping between lenses.
The implementation is similar, but the price difference is staggering. The cheapest iPhone 7 Plus will set you back $1,269, while the R11 comes in at a budget conscious $648.
Given that the R11 is almost half the price of the iPhone 7, it shouldn't be surprising to hear that there are differences in camera quality. There are situations where the R11 will struggle, but despite this, it does an admirable job of bringing the versatility of a dual rear-facing camera to a more affordable price bracket.
The dual rear-facing camera is the R11's main drawcard; it doesn't go toe-to-toe with the latest and greatest from Apple, HTC, and Samsung, but it's a good camera for a good price. It's fast to open and fast to shoot, especially in well-lit environments. There's a good amount of dynamic range in the resulting photos and colours tend to be true to life.
Tapping a zoom icon in the viewfinder swaps to the second lens for 2x magnification. Quality between the two cameras is reasonably similar. As with the iPhone 7 Plus, I found the R11's zoom lens to be a useful addition; it's a feature that genuinely lets you take photos you otherwise couldn't.
As versatile as the R11's camera setup is, optical image stabilisation (OIS) is a notable omission, and can affect the quality of zoomed images. Camera shake becomes especially apparent when you're zooming on a subject, and can result in a bit of camera blur since the R11 isn't compensating for it.
While the lack of OIS is a bummer, the versatility of having a high quality zoom option on hand trumps the annoyance of occasionally having to take the same photo two or three times to get a crisp shot.
Lowlight performance is however a little bit hit and miss, with the R11 taking its sweet time as soon as the sun goes down. Shutter speed durations are dramatically longer than during the day, which can further amplify camera blur. Even with manual settings, you're not able to set your shutter speed to faster than one second, which is a frightfully long time when taking a photo. You can still get good results if you're dealing with relatively still subjects, but I took the R11 to a metal gig and struggled to get even a single completely sharp image of the band.
Much like the iPhone 7 Plus, the R11 is able to use the dual rear-camera configuration for a portrait mode. The two cameras are used to get a better sense of depth, which is then used to blur the background. As the name suggests, this works best when shooting portraits, but it can still handle other objects, provided the shape isn't too tricky.
While the R11 looks a lot like an iPhone, there's one big difference this time around: it's very curvy. While the iPhone 7 is rounded, the R11 has heavily tapered edges, giving it a pillowed look. Not only does this make the R11 feel thinner than it is, it makes it easier to grip with one hand. When combined with a weight of 150g, it’s a little hard to believe that the R11 has a 5.5-inch display.
Despite the lightweight build, the R11 doesn't feel cheap. Aluminium might not have the same premium lustre it once did, but you can't call the R11 anything but a well-made device.
Day-to-day performance is fine; the R11 isn't quite as fast as the latest top of the line devices, but you certainly wouldn't call it slow either. Once you start getting into games with 3D graphics, you might notice a drop in performance. Hearthstone, for example, was a stutters slightly, but this will vary from app to app.
You also might find yourself waiting a little extra for apps to open every now and again due to particularly aggressive battery management, but it's possible to tone this down on an app-by-app basis.
On the subject of battery, two days in between charges should be quite achievable for all but the heaviest users. I found myself floating around 60% at the end of a typical day. Heavier usage saw me finish a day with about 40%, which is still a very comfortable buffer.
Other plusses include 64GB of expandable storage out of the box, and a very fast fingerprint reader.
At $649, the R11 is $50 more expensive than OPPO's previous R-series device, but it still represents good value.
What's not so good?
A customised take on Android - ColorOS 3.1 - is still the most contentious issue with OPPO's smartphones. While ColorOS 3.1 does a better job of using flat icons (more in line with Google's Material Design guidelines for Android), it's also more iOS-like than ever. There is no app drawer -- all installed apps take space on the homescreens -- and OPPO has replicated Apple's Control Centre interface for quick settings.
Rather than swiping down from the top of the screen to access settings like screen brightness, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, you swipe up instead. If you're coming from an iPhone, this will make a lot of sense, but I found there was a bit of a learning curve as a seasoned Android user.
While the R11 has a nice display, it could do with a little more brightness. Outdoor usage in direct sunlight can be a bit of a struggle, but it's not impossible. On a related note, the screen doesn't have any oleophobic coating, which means smudges and fingerprints are quite a bit more noticeable.
Another returning omission is the lack of NFC. This won't be a huge deal for everyone, but it does mean you can't use the R11 for services like Android Pay.
As with most phones in its price-bracket, the R11 isn't water-resistant.
Who's it for?
The R11 reinforces OPPO's reputation as one of the best bang-for-buck smartphone manufacturers around. You get a premium design, a dual rear-facing camera setup, 64GB out of the box, and great battery life for $648. In terms of value, that's hard to beat.
That being said, OPPO's take on Android can be off putting - especially if you're a long time Android user - and there's room for improvement when it comes to lowlight photography. But if you're okay with your Android looking like iOS and aren't going seeing bands every second week (or you know, just don't have the urge to Instagram every gig you go to), the OPPO R11 should be on the shortlist for phones around the $600 to $700 mark.
What else can I buy?
Moto Z2 Play
Motorola's Moto Z2 Play is ostensibly the R11's direct competition when it comes to specs, size, and price. It's $50 more expensive, and it's only got one rear-facing camera, but it runs an almost pure version of Android and hooks into the Moto Mods accessories ecosystem.
The iPhone SE is the cheapest way to buy a new iPhone, and starts at roughly the same price as the OPPO R11. The catch is, the iPhone SE starts at 32GB storage, whereas the R11 starts with 64GB. If you're after a larger capacity iPhone SE, get ready to fork out a bit more.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
Samsung's $650 Galaxy A5 (2017) is priced almost identically to the R11, but has a slightly different feature set. Instead of a dual rear-facing camera and aluminium body, you'll get a mostly glass build, IP68 water-resistance, and USB Type-C fast charging.