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In a world of smartphones that might look a little too similar to one another for comfort, OPPO’s midrange F9 is a bit of a breath of fresh air.

There’s nothing really wrong with the current bunch of smartphones – if anything, the phones of today are more capable than ever, and, as such, there’s no longer any such thing as a lemon smartphone. The market is so white-hot competitive that any phone that can’t make the grade will get deep-sixed double-time. It’s just that the high level of across-the-board competence of modern-day smartphones serves to magnify quibbles. One of which is, you have to admit, the fact that some of these phones do look a little too much like each other for comfort.

All this has made the “nonconformist” design decisions of a few brave firms stand out in minor and major ways. We’re pleased to see that OPPO has joined their ranks with the new F9. But we’re even happier that the F9 isn’t just distinctively styled; it’s also got the specs to more than hold its own even in today’s ultra-competitive market.

What are we talking about? Read this review right now to find out!

Designed to be different

Okay, we started out by talking about the OPPO F9’s looks and style, so now we’ll expound on that point.

When most people nowadays say that smartphones look so similar nowadays, in many cases they’re referring to the notch up top – you know, the eternally dark cutout that conceals a phone’s front-facing imaging gear. We know, that sort of image firepower is no less than a necessity in this age of Face ID and what not. But we and others like us do wonder if it’s absolutely necessary to put together a notch that looks very similar to that of the iPhone X, the first phone to popularize the notch.

The answer to that question is of course – no, it isn’t a necessity to ape the iPhone X’s notch. Companies like Samsung have proven this time and again – and now OPPO has too.

Check out the little notch that sits atop the F9’s 6.3-inch full-HD+ IPS display (2280 x 1080 pixel resolution, ~450ppi). Doesn’t it look like a little bead of liquid that’s coming together and will soon drip down that big and bright screen? Far smaller than Apple’s own solution, and less intrusive as well when it comes time for one to read or watch anything, play a game, and so on. The notch’s minuscule size and the F9’s edge-to-edge display give it a quite good 90.8% screen-to-body ratio. By the way, the handset’s screen is called a ‘Waterdrop’ display in a nod to the image its notch evokes.

Also, the F9 appears to be another phone geared towards selfie and wefie takers. Its little notch notwithstanding, the front snapper packs serious heat given that it’s a 25MP unit. This camera took pretty nice shots and its accompanying Beautification algorithm was quite effective at removing blemishes from selfies.

Plus the notch is quite distinctive to boot; people who are into tech and smartphones and who’ve seen the F9 at least once will doubtlessly be able to recognize it next time.

Flip the F9 over to see its accented back that features a crosshatched diamond/quilted pattern similar to the special black version of the old F7. It’s quite distinctive, albeit perhaps not to everyone’s liking. What might endear the phone to more people is its gradient color scheme, which shifts from red to violet in the Sunrise Red variant. Not your thing? You can also check out the two other color choices, Twilight Blue (which boasts a blue-to-black gradient) and the limited-edition Starry Purple, whose gentle touches of glitter evoke a starry evening.

Premium midranger

The F9 occupies a midrange slot in OPPO’s smartphone stable, and by and large it has the specs to match – but it surprises nicely by showcasing particular specs one might expect from more premium models.

The F9 is powered by a 2.0GHz MediaTek Helio P60 processor, which is the same chipset employed in its predecessor the F7. In combination with its Mali-G72 MP3 GPU, this phone offered more than decent performance during our testing period, h. An eye-opener is the fact that it comes with 6GB of RAM, a nice surprise given its midrange placement and a surefire way to boost performance.

We’ve already mentioned the 25MP front-facing camera. Out back, the F9 mounts a 16MP + 2MP dual rear setup that delivers relatively clean photos in good lighting, but begins to struggle a little bit when the light quality begins to dip. Par for the course for the vast majority of smartphone snappers in the market today. Both front and rear cameras benefit from Google Lens integration for better image recognition and data capture and processing.

Another good surprise feature inclusion is that of OPPO’s own VOOC fast charging technology. This tech ensures that phones that mount it can get up to 2 hours of talk time with just 5 minutes of charging. Full charging can take up to about an hour and a half; still significantly less than the approximate 2-hour charging time you might get via regular charging technology. (Unfortunately, the F9 is saddled with a microUSB port instead of the more advanced USB Type-C.) And if you’re wondering about battery life, the F9 lasted over 9 hours on a full charge with moderate usage, which isn’t bad at all.

Lastly, the F9 comes with both face unlock and fingerprint unlock options (the fingerprint scanner is out back).

The verdict

The OPPO F9 really has what it takes to be worthy of consideration for those of you in the market for a midrange smartphone. It’s a beautifully detailed, competent, and capable phone whose styling and special features help it stand out and won’t leave you wanting. They might also be what the phone itself needs to draw the attention of potential buyers in today’s packed and ultra-competitive smartphone market.



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