Mobile Phones Guide
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Overview, Design & Features
While Xiaomi is making waves with its super affordable smartphones, Oppo is establishing its presence as one of the top Android makers in the industry with its innovative software and technologies.
We've seen the N1 - the world's first smartphone with a rotating 13-megapixel camera - earlier this year and Oppo is back with not one, but two flagship smartphones to take on the big boys like the HTC One (M8), LG G3, Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2. The two high-end phones that Oppo launched are the Find 7 and 7A, which were announced in March to much fanfare.
Oppo launched the 7A in Singapore two months ago while the Find 7 made it to retail shelves recently. In fact, Oppo held a flash sales for the Find 7 on June 24 which saw more than 1,100 units sold in 7 hours. Why the hype over the Find 7?
The mobile industry is steadily shifting towards the use of 2K or Quad HD mobile displays on flagship devices and the Find 7 is the second phone to come with one. Its counterpart, the 7A is equipped with a 1080p panel which is still impressive by today's standards. There are also other differences in hardware between the two phones such as the RAM, storage capacity, processor and battery capacity. With two similar looking phones, which one will suit you best? Well, let's find out in this shootout. Here's a quick overview of their specs:
Design and Features
We are not playing a prank on you by showing you two similar-looking phones in the photo above. Both the Find 7 and Find 7A look exactly the same whether you are viewing it from the front or the back. The only way you can differentiate between the two models besides turning on the display (even that method is debatable as we'll detail later) is to look at the minuscule inset near the bottom on the right side. The Find 7 has a gold inset while the 7A sports a silver inset.
In case you are wondering of the purpose of the colored insets, you need to use a pin or needle to push through the inset to release the rear cover of the device. This action however only dislodges part of the back cover; like a flap in a page of a book, the user can then 'peel' off the cover. Once the cover is removed, this will give you access to the removable battery, microSD memory card and micro-SIM card slots. Users who change SIM cards often, especially those who travel overseas for business trips, will find the whole process tedious and unnecessary. We honestly think Oppo could have avoided this inconvenience in the first place by designing a slit somewhere along the side of the back cover for easier removal.
With the back uncovered, you'll note that the 2800mAh battery is removable in nature, a plus point over the Oppo N1, its previous generation flagship. One caveat: in order to change swap/remove the microSD card, the battery must firstly be removed. This implies a mandatory shutdown of the phone is required. A minor inconvenience, either due to lack of thought, or a deliberate design decision to prevent users from suddenly dismounting their SD card while the phone is still in use.
Now that we've done exploring the interior of the phone, let's get back to the other external design aspects of the Find 7 series.
The rear covers on both models are made of textured plastic which should help you get a better grip of the device. Our review unit came in white, and we reckon that more people would prefer it over the black model. However, we have to throw in a word of caution on the white model; the rear cover may be fond of collecting dust and dirt over a period of usage and if you want to maintain its pristine look, getting a case for the phone is recommended.
Moving on to the front panel, you will see three capacitive buttons - Menu, Home, and Back - at the bottom of the display. When touched, the buttons light up before fading off. You can preset the buttons to stay lit for 6 seconds, always on or always off via Settings > Display > Key Lights. Unlike the Xiaomi Redmi Note, you do not have much options to decide how long the backlight remains on. We also find the blue backlight to be a little faint, a deliberate choice that Oppo claims to "fit the zeitgeist of design for the Find 7". Whatever design philosophy Oppo has for the Find 7 series, we think the dim lighting makes it hard for the user to access the buttons under strong lighting conditions.
Below the touch buttons is a strip of notification LED that Oppo dubs Skyline Breathing Light. Describing it as "a pulsating light in the darkness like a beam from the universe", we actually find it to be a nice visual effect. It also works better as a notification LED compared to the smaller, circular ones found on other smartphones which can be easily overlooked at times. In the Menu settings, the Skyline Breathing Light is known as "Easy Light". You can customize it to light up whenever there are notifications, when the battery is low and when you are charging the phone.
Oppo has an unconventional practice of placing the power button on the left side away from the volume rocker. Most Android smartphones generally have their power button and volume controls housed on the same side to facilitate easy access. The only non-Oppo phone in recent memory to break away from this standard is the HTC Desire 816, which has the power and volume buttons all situated on the top left side of the device. As mentioned in our review of the R1, this isn't a deal breaker and just requires some time for the user to adapt to it.
With a 5.5-inch display, the Find 7 series is stepping into the phablet territory. Compared to other phones of its class, the Find 7 series is not the tallest, widest or heaviest. Therefore, the handling aspect of the phone shouldn't be a concern although left-handed users may have to stretch their finger across to reach for the Back button. Below, we've compared the dimensions of several 5.5-inch phones:
5.5-Inch Phones Compared
|HTC Desire 816||Huawei Honor 3X||LG G3||LG Optimus G Pro||Lenovo K900||Oppo Find 7/7A||Samsung Galaxy Note II||Xiaomi Redmi Note|
|165||161||149||172||162||173 / 170||180||199|
The Find 7 is slightly heavier than the 7A due to the bigger battery capacity (3,000mAh vs. 2,800mAh). Nonetheless, the 3g difference in weight is negligible in our daily usage experience.
Two Choices of Display
Both the Find 7 and Find 7A are equipped with 5.5-inch IPS display panels with the former having QHD (2,560 x 1,440 pixels) resolution and the latter sporting a Full-HD resolution (1,920 x 1,080 pixels). Should the differences in screen resolution matter to a consumer deciding between the two phones? Our answer is no.
We conducted a blind test on several colleagues where we asked them to identify which phone has a better display by letting them compare the app icons on the home screen panels. In all of the trials, the display on the Find 7A was voted the best among the two models. This outcome has two implications. First, the consumer on the street is unlikely to tell the difference between a QHD and FHD display. Second, the Find 7A appears to have a better display. Why?
Upon further scrutiny, we realized the fonts on the Find 7A are slightly thicker compared to that of the Find 7. We loaded a white background on both phones and also realized that the Find 7 has a slightly yellowish tint compared to the Find 7A. This issue has been reported by users in China and acknowledged by Oppo, who claimed that the issue has already been resolved in a software update. At press time, the Find 7 is running on the latest software version X9076_12_14-625 with ColorOS V1.2.2i.
Another issue we had with the display of the Find 7 is its sunlight legibility. At full brightness, the screen is barely readable outdoors on a cloudy day. We can't imagine how readable the screen would be on a sunny day with clear skies. It was the same outcome on the Find 7A phone too. Putting these issues aside, both displays are splendid with great viewing angles and good color contrast under regular sheltered viewing condition.
Internal Storage Capacity
The Find 7 comes with 32GB internal storage capacity which is half of what the Find 7A has. As you should know by now, the actual usage space is lesser than what is stated. Upon doing a factory reset, installing all the updates for the preloaded apps and downloading the latest firmware updates for both phones, we discovered that the mobile OS occupied different storage space on the two models.
If you recall, our review of the Oppo R1 stated that each ColorOS version is customized specifically to either enhance the user experience or rectify issues for different devices. Oppo has no plans to standardize all versions across all products.
The available storage space for installation of apps is the same across both devices at 2.95GB. Considering that some of the gaming apps such as Asphalt 8: Airborne are as big as 1.41GB, the storage space predetermined by Oppo may not be sufficient for power users or gamers.
Fortunately, both phones come with microSD memory card slots that support memory cards up to 128GB. There's a catch to it though; some apps are not designed to be moved over to a memory card as loading them from the phone storage is faster than an external flash drive.
Oppo phones have an option to use "System Default" installation option which ensures only core aspects of an app get installed in the app installation storage space and the rest gets disbursed within the remaining phone storage space. Even so, storage space for app installation might be a concern if you've too many large apps given this archaic storage partitioning format.
Fast Charging - 4.5V VOOC Charger
One novel feature of the Oppo Find 7 series is the proprietary VOOC Rapid Charge technology which Oppo claims to be the world's fastest and safest. The result of a three-year research and development, VOOC Rapid Charging technology uses high current to charge a battery quickly and switches to low current when the charging process is done.
So how high is the current being supplied to the battery? Well, the VOOC charger has a current output of 4.5A which is more than twice the current output of most standard chargers in the market today. Most mobile chargers are limited to 1A or 2A. This enables the battery to be charged from 0% to 75% in 30 minutes.
In reality, we did see the battery hit 82% in just 37 minutes! A full charge took slightly over an hour! The battery also does not get warm during the charging process as the device has five layers of thermal protective coating to prevent overheating. To put things into perspective, the standard 2.1A charger takes about 3 hours.
Many users will grow to appreciate the VOOC Rapid Charge technology as we do; after we reviewed the Find 7 series and used other phones, we found the normal charging process to be painfully slow. This insane fast charging technology should be adopted by all phone makers since short battery life is the most common complaint among smartphone users today. While developing smarter and longer lasting batteries is better in the long run, fast charging can be an effective, short term solution.
Should you be travelling, in which case using such a high powered charger may not be advisable, the phone package also comes with a travel charger, with a conventional output current of 2.1A.
The Find 7 series run on ColorOS V1.2.2i which is based on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. We were told by Oppo Singapore that there are plans to bring the Android 4.4 update to the Find 7 devices. We've discussed the main features of ColorOS in our review of the R1 and N1, hence we will only be sharing a few notable aspects from using the interface on the Find 7 series.
Screen gestures are a big part of ColorOS and they make the interface intuitive to use if you manage to get the hang of things. However, executing screen gestures single handedly on a 5.5-inch phone is a tricky affair as you risk dropping the phone. You are likely to use two hands to draw shapes or letters on the Gesture Panel. We've covered the use of gestures in detail on the Oppo R1 review, but we noticed that the Oppo Find 7 series is able to detect gestures even when the screen is off.
The Oppo Find 7 series also come with a Wake-on-voice detection, whereby the user can immediately activate Google Now - Google’s voice command system - just by speaking the hotword "Hey Snapdragon". It is similar to Android Kitkat’s Google Now "OK Google" feature, but with the additional capability of waking up even when the phone is on standby. However, do take note that the aforementioned can only work only when there is no security lock on the phone, which unfortunately defeats the presence of such a feature.
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