Hands-on Review: OPPO Reno2 Z smartphone

OPPO are somewhat of a stealth bird in the NZ market – flying under the radar of most people yet still finding a solid foothold in our consumer environment. With a growing userbase and a wide range of devices to suit anyone’s needs and style preferences, there’s always something wonderfully new to be found. The Reno2 Z is one such handset, and while it does not wuite live up to the hype, it certainly isn’t a lemon by any means. One could think of it as aiming to buy a Tesla, and ending up with a Hyundai Ioniq – still does the job and mostly what you were after, but missing a few of the bells and whistles you thought you would get.

When it comes to taking that perfect selfie, the 16MP motorised front camera, that slides up out of the top of the chassis when you switch the camera to selfie mode, is cute, and somewhat novel, and leaves the entire screen free for showing you things. However, on a recent trip down to the big public gardens it showed it’s secret weapon against gravity and hard landings. As I was attempting to take a selfie with a stilt-walker leaning down behind me, I was jostled by another visitor and lost my grip on the phone. It hit the walkway and the camera ‘tower’ – for lack of a better descriptor – had automatically retracted during the fall, saving the camera. This removed a lot of my early misgivings about a periscope camera mechanism, and let me focus on other aspects. I thought the use of RGB LEDs in the side columns was cute and gives the user the option to pick and choose a colour, and could have some interesting uses in low-light photography – don’t need to use filters if you can change the ambient light of your shot.

The screen is a good size – 2340 x 1080 pixels – so while you won’t see crystal clear 4k video on it, you will still get a really sharp, crisp image when you are shooting photos, browsing your movie library or facetiming with your friends. With a price tag of $700, this unit acquits itself on the display side of things admirably. The phone supports HDR video, so you can get better video on most of the major streaming services too. Perfect for the back seat of the car on long roadtrips. Because of the headphone jack on the phone, there’s no pairing issues for bluetooth headphones. Call me old-school if you will, but I find it handy to be physically connected to my phone if I plan to close my eyes and listen to music or watch a movie. Almost left my phone behind on a few buses because of using wireless headphones. By the time the signal cut out, I was nearly out of the terminal and my phone would have been gone.

The shell case itself, being metal, didn’t suffer much more than a tiny stone-ding in the corner, and the Gorilla Glass 5 screen didn’t even flinch. Had it landed screen-down though, all bets would have been off, and a bit of research shows that after-market parts for this unit are far from cheap, so investing in a sacrificial screenguard is a very smart move indeed. The box also includes a fake leather-feel rear case, which gives you an added layer of protection, but covers up the absolutely stunning irridescent back shell. Honestly, I’d love to see a clip-on case with the same finish as the bare phone – it really is something beautiful to look at and hold. Speaking of holding, this handset is a little thicker than some of its peers, but that allows plenty of room for the read cameras to sit flush inside the case itself, giving you a smoother feel in your hand, and stopping the cameras from sticking out and taking the brunt of any impact. It also allows ample room for the large capacity battery – 4000+mAh batteries take up room, and need extra heat dissipation, so while this phone is never going to be ‘seek and svelt’ it is not exactly a chunky monkey either.

Do you prefer to use a fingerprint to unlock your phone? No worries, this beastie has that too, but not on the back where a misplaced finger can leave a smudge on your camera… oh no, this baby has the fingerprint scanner built in under the glass on the main screen! Clever tech allows for a clean scan of your fingerprint, and it was extremely fast to unlock when I gave that a whirl. I personally don’t like fingerprint scanners, mainly because of negative interactions with such devives in the past, but with the placement on the front in this unit, I can see myself giving it another go – face recognition doesn’t work too well when you are swapping out glasses and shaving the facial hair irregularly like me, and pin numbers or patterns can be “smudge hacked” to allow thieves to unlock your phone.

With plans to visit Rotorua and do a lot of in-water activities, I was hoping to find that this unit has some degree of water resistance… and found myself struggling to locate any information about that aspect. There doesn’t appear to be any official information about water resistance, so I opted to err on the side of caution and leave this phone behind, instead taking an older phone that won’t be a significant loss should it get drowned. In some small way, that annoys me. Even if the rating is “Keep me bone-dry or else!” there should be some mention of it somewhere at least. A lack of information is, for me, quite the turn off compared with presenting information that states the feature is not applicable.

On another note about the product description, the whole ‘quad-camera’ hype is a bit of a stretch. You do get 4 optical sensors – a 48MP main camera, an 8MP ultra-wide camera and two 2MP portrait cameras… one is just a depth sensor, the other is greyscale – but using two low-res optical sensors and calling them cameras is an odd, and ultimately ineffective, way to pitch it. With regards to the back face, this is, to all intents and purposes, a two-camera system with some extra optical sensors. It lacks optical zoom, so any ‘zoomed shots’ are simply crops from the 48MP camera’s field of view, and that’s a shame. You can call it a 3-camera system if you count the peek-a-boo selfie cam.

None the less, it is a truth that I use my phone more as a camera than anything else, so the image performance is of high interest to me. I have to admit, while I was pleased overall, there were a few sour notes. One thing that baffled me was the options for photo resolution. 4:3, 1:1, Full Screen, and 4:3 (48 MP)… it baffles me why the odd limitations to ratios rather than pixels. If I want to shoot a photo or video for a quick SocMed post, I certainly don’t want to spend 10 minutes while it buffers because of the file size. That’s a bit of a bad design choice for me. If I disregard that and look at the performance though, it seems like a small price to pay. The night shot actually impressed me a lot. I have always tried to get better shots in low-light… sunset in a cave on a beach, crabs fighting in small rock pools, some idiot trying to break into my car at 4am… the usual. Always I have needed very long exposures with the camera on a tripod, so I was left a bit stunned at the results of my first basic test: Sitting in my office chair, turn the lights off, and see what it can do. I was expecting blurred photos from the slight wobbles inevitable in any hand-held long-exposure photos. Instead, I was presented with a very clear, bright image that clearly showed everything in the room, though with a slight odd blue hue to it all. That may have been reflected spill from something out of line of sight that glows faintly… there’s plenty in this office.

Not sure I am a fan of the Google Lens option available in the little corner-menu of photo and video modes. It streams your images to Google for analysis, and gives you a running commentary of what you are looking at. I see far too much potential for abuse of a system like that, so it’s not one I will use or advocate. I was also sorry to see a lack of options such as startrail and silky water – two modes I make a lot of use of in landscape photography. It would be nice to have downloadable camera modes, since it is all about the software processing than the hardware for modes like that. Of the rest of the test photos, the full-daylight shots were of the expected quality. Nothing too special, but certainly nothing to sneer at. The shaded daylight photos gave mixed results, with some of the high-contrast photos not turning out too well despite HDR. What was a lot of fun to play with was the ultra-wide setting – activating the wide-angle lens and opening up the space in view. Adding on a set of clip-on lenses that I used extensively on my old phone gave me even more options for photography.

In terms of interface, ColorOS is still not the nicest option available, nor the most intuitive at times. It does the job, but some of the UI design decisions leave me scratching my head. However, UI appreciation is as unique to each person as their on thumbprint, so I am not going to go into my issues with it. Regardless of the interface, the system is quite zippy despite being driven by a mid-range cpu. This software optimisation makes the phone more responsive than you would expect – a pleasant surprise. Having 8GB of RAM helps out too. Where I found that most apparent was with on-device video editing. It was impressive what can be created on a device of this size now, but I still have big fingers and don’t like small screens. My efforts to put together a full production were less than ideal, but that’s on me. Video, it seems, is not my thing. None the less, I can say that it will shoot up to 4k footage quite happily, and does a decent job even in low light. Image stabilisation could be better, but it did a fair job if the shake wasn’t too large or too often. If you use a powered gimbal handpiece, you will be pleased with the results.

Power usage is quite good, with some very effective power management AI running in the background, constantly optimising. I didn’t have to charge it as much as I thought, and certainly less than my old phone, so with the added perk of OPPO’s SuperVOOC high-current charging system, it was a breeze to keep the beast running at peak perfprmance at all times. I often found that at the end of the day I still had almost half battery left, so would pop it on to a 30min charge while I grabbed dinner, and it was topped up to the high-90’s.

Overall, I found this to be a decent mid-range phone, well priced for what you get, though letting itself down a little in some key places. I imagine the top unit in the series, the Reno2, covers a lot of these points, such as zoom and better image stabilisation. I would like to see more from the interface, but the device actually performs reasonably well in the areas that are important to me. Users who have a stronger focus on social media posting will find this a great phone, but gamers may be a little disappointed. Photographers will have a surprising amount of fun exploring the various combinations of settings. It was good to see it being dual-SIM and a microSD slot too – perfect for a home-&-work phone.

Rating:

Reposted in partnership with: KIWIreviews.nz
Disclosure Statement: This unit was supplied by OPPO NZ expressly for the purposes of review. No fee was offered or accepted for this impartial review.

You can read the original press release [-here-]


Basic Parameters:
Color: Luminous Black, Sky White
Operating System: ColorOS 6.1, based on Android 9
Processor: MTK MT6779 (P90)
GPU: IMG 9XM-HP8 970MHz
Battery: 3900/4000mAh (Min/Typ)
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB
VOOC Flash Charge: 3.0

Display:
Size: 16.5cm (6.5”)
Touchscreen: Multi-touch, Capacitive Screen
Resolution: 2340 by 1080 pixels at 394 ppi
Colors: 16 million colors
Screen Ratio: 91.1%
Contrast: 60000:1 (Min)
Type: AMOLED on-cell

Camera:
Rear Sensor: 48MP & 8MP & 2MP & 2MP
Front Sensor: 16MP

Connectivity:
SIM Card Type: Dual Nano-SIM + MicroSD Card
GPS: Built-in GPS; supports A-GPS, Beidou, Glonass
Bluetooth: 5.0
WLAN Function: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, WLAN 2.4G, WLAN 5.1G, WLAN 5.8G, WLAN Display
OTG: Supported
NFC: Supported