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Oppo Reno 10x Zoom review: a OnePlus 7 Pro with a better camera

...and a worse screen

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As has often been the case in the past, Oppo’s latest flagship phone has a lot in common with another from OnePlus, since the companies share ownership and supply chain resources. In this case, the Oppo Reno 10x Zoom follows the release of the impressive OnePlus 7 Pro. But for the first time, Oppo’s phone might actually be better.

Although the usual move has been for OnePlus to build a higher-spec phone around a mid-range Oppo chassis or screen design and strip down the software, that’s not what’s happened here. The Reno 10x Zoom is every bit as high-end and performant as the OnePlus 7 Pro, but with advantages and disadvantages of its own. 

For my money, I think I’d take the Oppo. At least if I lived outside the US.

The Reno is roughly the same size and shape as the OnePlus 7 Pro, with a similar curved back and a front panel dominated by a huge 6.6-inch screen. The screen doesn’t slope on the sides, which is probably what accounts for the slightly smaller measurement. At 9.3mm thick, the Reno is half a millimeter thicker than the OnePlus Pro 7 and weighs slightly more at 210g. This doesn’t bother me, but I have gigantic hands. Even my iPhone XS Max felt small after a few days using the Reno. Let me be very clear that like the OnePlus 7 Pro, this is a Big Phone for Big Phone People.

It’s also quite an attractive one, with a sleek frosted glass finish that’s broken by a strip for the Oppo logo and another for the cameras. There’s no camera bump at all, which is welcome given the thickness of the device; a small nubbin below the cameras prevents them from coming into contact with any flat surface you might place the phone on. There’s no headphone jack, either, but thankfully Oppo is using USB-C on the Reno — not a given for this company — and includes a pair of reasonably good in-ear buds. The only nit I have to pick about the Reno’s build quality is that the volume buttons feel a little loose, which is surprising from a company that tends to put an emphasis on tactile clickiness.

As you’d expect from a Chinese flagship phone in 2019, the Reno is a near-as-dammit bezel-less device without a notch. The border around the screen is slightly thicker on the bottom edge than the other three, but it’s still only about the same thickness as an iPhone XR bezel. There’s an optical fingerprint sensor integrated into the display, which I’ve found to be very fast and reliable, and the earpiece is subtly integrated into the top edge of the phone.

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The Reno’s bezel-less design is completed by a 16-megapixel pop-up selfie camera that’s by far the weirdest one I’ve seen yet. Instead of raising the entire top of the phone itself, as on Oppo’s own Find X from last year, or the more common approach of integrating a small square-ish module into the phone’s top edge, the Reno’s selfie camera is housed inside a lopsided section that rises from the right-hand corner of the display like a shark fin. It’s startlingly asymmetrical, but the larger moving part means there’s also room for a separate LED flash alongside the camera. 

While Oppo has already demonstrated that it’s working on under-display cameras, at least the company is keeping things interesting until that technology arrives. And the headline feature of the Reno is another trick that Oppo has been showing off in prototype form for a while: the supposedly “10x” periscope zoom camera.

Let’s get into that camera, because before I tell you that it’s awesome and fun to use, I also have to tell you that it really isn’t a 10x zoom lens. Here’s how it works: in the camera app, you can press a zoom button to go to 2x digital zoom, then 6x optical zoom, then 10x “hybrid zoom”, the latter of which is ostensibly an AI-enhanced advance on the 6x setting. That’s fair enough, but there isn’t really a 6x optical zoom lens either — if you start zooming in from 1x with a slide gesture you can clearly see the image switch to the zoom lens at 5x.

The Reno at default, 6x, and 10x zoom settings
The Reno at default, 6x, and 10x zoom settings

You can go all the way to 60x with software-enhanced zooming if you really want, so Oppo’s fixation on the 10x setting for the literal name of the phone feels misleading — not to mention that this phone really has three prime lenses with software to fill in the gaps, rather than an actual zoom lens. But even a 5x telephoto lens is a pretty transformative thing to add to a phone, as we saw with the Huawei P30 Pro. Oppo’s version is at least as good, and has the advantage of not being imminently torpedoed from sale.

In good light, the Reno turns in sharp, well-exposed 13-megapixel zoom shots that simply wouldn’t have been possible on previous smartphones. The feature isn’t really usable in low light, however. The 5x zoom lens is optically stabilized, which helps with shaky hands during the day, but can’t make up for the slow aperture of f/3 — your results will be pretty blurry at night. Huawei’s 5x zoom camera is even slower at f/3.4, however, with a lower resolution of 8 megapixels.

The Reno also has an 8-megapixel f/2.2 ultrawide camera and uses Sony’s popular 48-megapixel IMX586 sensor with an f/1.7 lens for the primary camera, shooting pixel-binned 12-megapixel shots by default. Overall, I’m very happy with the cameras’ performance and Oppo’s image processing. I spent most of my time testing the phone during a sunny week in Taipei for Computex, and it never let me down. Its low-light performance is great, its dedicated night mode is effective in even lower light, and its daylight colors are well-balanced. Although it doesn’t perform the mind-bending HDR gymnastics of a Pixel, you’ll almost always get punchy and dynamic results that retain a ton of detail. By the end of the week, I was using my Sony RX100 Mark IV a lot less than I’d planned on.

Clockwise from top left: regular low-light shooting, night mode, zoom, and ultrawide
Clockwise from top left: regular low-light shooting, night mode, zoom, and ultrawide

The Reno uses a Snapdragon 855 processor, and subjectively feels like the fastest Android phone I’ve ever used. A big part of that is down to Oppo’s new ColorOS 6 software, which sees the company move away from its heavier Android skin to produce something more in line with OnePlus’ OxygenOS. Animations are snappy, customizations are relatively mild, and there’s even a slide-up app drawer out of the box. Oppo also deserves credit for putting a legitimately good haptic feedback system in the Reno, which remains rare among Android manufacturers and even rarer among Chinese OEMs. 

ColorOS still does take a lot of inspiration from iOS, to be clear — its iPhone X-style multitasking system is very slick, while its bubbly notifications are less so. But overall, I don’t think anyone beyond hardcore Android purists would have major issues with this software.

The big compromise is the screen

I haven’t had any issues with battery life, either, which is just as well considering the sheer size of this phone. I definitely put the 4,065mAh battery through its paces while covering Computex, which involves a whole lot of web browsing, productivity software, and photography on the go, and I never once needed to get my USB-C battery pack out of my bag. I wouldn’t say the Reno is doing anything groundbreaking with battery life, but it’s a phone you can trust to get you through the day. It also supports Oppo’s VOOC 3.0 fast charging, which is the same system that OnePlus uses and works very well if you remember to bring the right power brick and cable.

So, what’s the catch? Well, like OnePlus, Oppo still isn’t supporting wireless charging. That’ll be a big deal to anyone who’s dotted their house in charging mats, and less of a big deal to anyone who still plugs in their phone all the time. (I fall into the former camp.)

The other big compromise is in the screen. Oppo isn’t using the OnePlus 7 Pro’s amazing 90Hz 1440p OLED display here, which in other words means it doesn’t match that phone’s most compelling selling point. The Reno’s panel is also 1080p, which isn’t something I would usually ding a phone for — Samsung sets its 1440p phones to render at 1080p by default for a reason. But the Reno’s huge display is just past the size where such a compromise is occasionally noticeable. It’s a great screen in terms of contrast and color rendition, but it isn’t class-leading overall.

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The Oppo Reno 10x Zoom costs £699 in the UK for a model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, which positions it directly against the equivalent OnePlus 7 Pro. These phones are clearly both peas from the same pod. I think they are equally good on their own merits. For most people, which one you prefer will come down to whether you would rather have an incredible screen or a game-changing camera. 

Me? I’d go with the camera. This phone is the result of something that Oppo has been promising for years, and the final product seriously delivers. The Reno 10x Zoom has very few flaws, hits all the right notes you’d expect from a flagship phone, and lands a few unique features of its own. 

I’ve tested a lot of Oppo devices in recent years, and I was truly surprised by how much I enjoyed using this phone. Last year’s Find X was where many people around the world started paying attention, but the Reno is easily the best phone Oppo has ever released, marking the point where it becomes a legitimate high-end brand that’s worthy of serious consideration.

Photography by Sam Byford / The Verge

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