Camera, Performance Benchmarks, Battery Life & Conclusion
Perhaps what readily distinguishes the Oppo N1 from other Android smartphones is its 206-degree swiveling 13MP camera. Instead of using some low resolution front facing sensor, now one can just swivel the camera unit, and take a full resolution selfie! The swivel snaps the camera in place, and auto orientates itself such that the image will not be upside down.
Of course, with the camera swivel, one can also take photos with the line of sight parallel to that of the phone’s length. While such a feature may look rather redundant to the average user, combined with its wide aperture, it actually eases certain forms of macro photography, such as below:
In terms of camera quality, the Oppo N1 does not disappoint, producing crisp and sharp images in bright daylight. Even in low-light areas, the images produced are still fairly good, thanks to the camera’s f/2 wide aperture.
For dark or night shots, the photos produced fare well against its competition of the same class. Even in a moving medium, in this example a subway train, it manages to capture details at an exposure time of 1/20s - definitely a far cry from standard DSLRs, but close to most high-range point and shoot compacts.
One letdown of the camera is that it takes too long to get a focus lock, sometimes even focusing inaccurately. For some shots, one has to retake two or three times in order to get the right focus.
There is also a major issue with the HDR function of the camera. When exposed to overly bright areas, the colours in the resulting HDR composition appears to be rendered incorrectly. This is probably a software issue that can be fixed in a future update.
Despite being Oppo's flagship device, the N1 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor - a notch down from the Snapdragon 800 processor found commonly in many other brands’ flagship devices. Another rather unpleasant surprise is that the Oppo N1 comes only in 3G flavour. This is disappointing, especially where one will expect a recent high-end phone to be equipped with LTE support. In this review, we will be benchmarking the Oppo N1 against various other phablets including Samsung's Galaxy Note 3, Sony's Xperia Z Ultra, ASUS' Fonepad Note 6, and LG's G Flex.
To see if either OS holds a performance advantage, we'll also be benchmarking the N1 on Oppo's own ColorOS, as well as the Cyanogenmod variant.
Originally developed as a PC benchmarking tool, 3DMark is now expanded to support multiple platforms including Android OS. The Ice Storm benchmark is designed for smartphones, mobile devices and ARM architecture computers.
For an in-depth understanding of 3DMark for Android, do head over to our article, "3DMark - Android Device GPU Performance Review." In a nutshell, 3DMark consists of two test sections:
- 3DMark Ice Storm is an OpenGL ES 2.0 benchmark test that uses fixed off-screen rendering at 720p then scales the output to fit the native display resolution of your device. Ice Storm includes two graphics tests designed to stress the GPU performance of your device and a physics test to stress its CPU performance.
- 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme raises the off-screen rendering resolution to 1080p and uses higher quality textures and post-processing effects to create a more demanding load for the latest smartphones and tablets.
- 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited is used to make chip-to-chip comparisons of different chipsets, CPUs and GPUs without vertical sync, display resolution scaling and other operating system factors affecting the result.
As Ice Storm Extreme has already been maxed out by some of the devices listed, only Ice Storm Unlimited was conducted.
As you can see, the Oppo N1's 3DMark performance is considered rather mid-range. Its performance in Cyanogenmod is better than that of Oppo N1's default ColorOS. Perhaps it has to do with the better optimization that Cyanogenmod has done for Oppo N1.
Quadrant evaluates a device's CPU, memory, I/O and 3D graphics performance. Once again, it can be seen that the N1's performance can be considered only mid-range, falling far behind the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800-equipped devices. Even when compared to another well known SnapDragon 600 equipped device like the Samsung Galaxy S4, Oppo's performance is far behind.
With a 3610 mAh capacity battery, how does the N1 fare against other current phablets? A battery life test was conducted, using the following set-up:
- Wi-Fi on, Cellular network off
- Brightness and speaker volume at maximum
- 720p video looped continuously
The N1's battery life is rather astonishing. Despite its 5.9-inch screen, it yielded a 667 minutes (or 11 hours) of battery life on the ColorOS variant, with its Cyanogenmod variant coming close. While it can't match the Note 3, it's better than the LG G Flex, keeping in mind that N1's screen resolution is Full-HD, while the G Flex is 1280x720 pixels. It's also far better than the Sony Xperia Z Ultra and a host of other phablets we've tested previously.
When it comes to the portability of the device, we've prepared a portability index where each device is assessed on its ability to balance battery mileage against its size and mass. Judging by the outlook in the below graph, the Oppo N1 seems to fare reasonably despite its heft. Once more, you can compare how it fares with older phablets and it does stay ahead of them.
The Oppo N1 will certainly appeal to smartphone photography buffs, particularly bloggers and "Instagrammers" who take many selfies. Its 206-degree 13MP swivel camera allows selfies to be taken in full resolution, and opens the phone to many new applications and photography angles. In addition, the O-Click accessory is a good companion to the phone, and can complement the N1’s good photography features.
However, the major concern is its price, coupled with the lack of LTE connectivity support. At a recommended retail price of S$769, Oppo will find it difficult to convince smartphone upgraders of the N1's proposition, an upper mid-range performance phone with neither LTE, nor SD card storage expansion and limited storage space. At the same price point, one can easily buy a Sony Xperia Z Ultra, or an LG G2, all with LTE and expandable storage on board. Yes, those are street prices (as can be seen here and here) and not the official retail prices, but having said that, Oppo plans to hold a close grip on their phone prices in retail channels. What this means, is that the Oppo will go head-to-head with the favorable street prices of the competing phone models, which doesn't put it it in a strong position.
While the Oppo N1 allows users a choice between its own OS, or Cyanogenmod, without breaking warranty, whether such a choice will actually be enough to persuade tinkerers to adopt Oppo is doubtful. Many tinkerers first got to know Cyanogenmod, precisely by risking voiding warranty of their phones and flashing Cyanogenmod on it. This seems to suggest that warranty is a non-issue to such users, since the same tinkerers dared to make such a bold step. As such, while the interchangeable OS may be an interesting feature, it's probably not enough to overlook N1's steep price and middling performance. Ultimately, performance and features will still be the top priority for any power user.