Smartphones are literally everywhere and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some are subtle, understated and, dare we say it, sober in terms of looks. And then there is the Oppo F9 Pro, where all the notions of being low-key are kicked out of the window with unrivalled vigour. The Oppo F9 Pro yells out its individuality amidst the sea of smartphones with its extremely glossy back covered in a diamond pattern that shimmers and changes colour depending on the angle of light.
Going unnoticed, then, is not one of the F9’s strong suites, so all the professional ninjas and undercover operatives better beware.
That being said, we give the F9 Pro the Stuff treatment to find out what’s beneath all that glitters.
DESIGN AND BUILD
Apart from the incredibly jazzy back the Oppo F9 Pro also has a couple of design elements that are unique. The first and one of the most noticeable is the redesigned notch that has now shrunk in size and resembles a drop of water on the verge of, well, dropping. That tiny notch houses the front camera and other sensors while the earpiece is integrated right above it in the narrow top bezel.
The back of the device no matter how attractive (subjective) raises concern when it comes to longevity. In the brief testing period, the glossy finish was covered in fingerprints and a few minor scratches. Of course, all of that can be avoided by adding a simple cover to it, but let’s face it, if you are buying the F9 you probably want a device that stands out.
On the ergonomics front, the power button and fingerprint sensor are placed optimally. However people with slightly larger hands will be most comfortable with this setup. On the left hand side are the volume buttons that can be accessed with a slight grip adjustment.
The dual camera on the back has a slight camera bump but the chamfered edges around the module itself should protect it from scratches if laid flat on a table.
We should mention, however, that the F9 is not the thinnest of devices and you do feel a slight bulk that is absent on other devices in this price bracket, like the Vivo V11 Pro and Nokia 7 Plus.
The boffins at Oppo have pulled off a pleasing design for the most part and the standout features are probably the waterdrop notch and the 90.8% screen to body ratio. The eye-catching back may not be for everybody but you have to admit, it is pretty unique.
Performance and OS
This is the part of the review where things start to get a bit dicey for the Oppo F9 Pro. The speed and software experience on the F9 does not match up to the the devices it is competing with in this segment. The processor feels as lethargic as you after a heavy lunch, while the software feels a bit unrefined. Both the Vivo V11 Pro and Nokia 7 Plus feel better put together in this department, while the Poco F1 puts them all out of business at a much more affordable starting price.
The operating system on the Oppo closely resembles Apple’s iOS, which is is fine, if a bit unfinished in feel. Navigating through the system is reasonably quick in isolation but when compared side by side with its competitors, it just has that slight delay. An average user may not notice this but as “serious” tech journalists, it is our job to let you know.
Security is covered by the usual face unlocking and fingerprint sensor on the back, which we are glad to report, is blazing quick. The face unlocking is fast and accurate with minimal hiccups, but the fingerprint sensor is absolutely reliable and as quick as they get.
The software may be a bit so-so, but the 6GB RAM and the MediaTek Helio P60 processor manages heavy games pretty decently. Playing PUBG on the Oppo was no problem at all, although it runs best on settings just below max.
For the price we do think that the performance could be better and the operating system more polished. Hopefully, Oppo can fix that with future updates, but as it stands today, the performance and OS is not one of the strong suites on the F9 Pro.
Things don’t get much better for the F9 Pro when it comes to the camera. Let’s start with the one pointing at you. The default setting in selfie mode keeps the AI on and that results in selfies that might as well be lobbying against plastic surgery. Well maybe we are exaggerating slightly but it’s definitely not a good look for guys with a stubble. Keeping the AI off is the way to go and it considerably improves the detail and overall look of the pictures, even if they are a bit overexposed to lighten your skin tone.
Turning things around and things really do turn around for the F9 Pro. With the rear cameras, there are no real exposure issues to speak of, but even with the AI off, there seem to be some software tinkering going on that messes with the colour accuracy. For example, taking a picture of a tree would result in the leaves looking greener and lusher, which can be an improvement in some cases, but strictly speaking, it’s not exactly colour accurate. Apart from this slight niggle, the 16+2MP rear camera performs at par with the competition.
Both cameras come with the usual set of features you expect from modern smartphone snappers like HDR, portrait mode, time-lapse, stickers and slo-mo. The F9 Pro also features a Super Vivid mode that can result in some really artistic shots in the right conditions and is quite fun to experiment with.
The Oppo F9 Pro has some things that are going for it but some that don’t. The pulverising looks may not be for everyone but for those who want to stand out, it's absolutely ideal. Also that water droplet notch is a nice and unique way to reduce and beautify that pesky notch. The software and performance on the other hand could do with some work. Hopefully future updates can improve the experience and bring it up to the potential of that impressive hardware.
The camera although at par with others in this price bracket, could do with AI that’s not so aggressive.
One also needs to look at all the options while buying a new smartphone and looking at the price point that the F9 Pro is placed in, it is not difficult to find something that might be a better fit. The Vivo V11 Pro is one option for a slightly higher price, and that is probably a more well rounded package with more polished software, and when viewed side by side, a better camera as well. Or if you need the best hardware currently available and don't want to shell out the flagship dough, the Poco F1 just blows away the competition with a whopping Snapdragon 845 processor at just ₹20,999.
In company such as this then, the Oppo F9 Pro does not make for a very sensible buy.