Oppo F9: Is there more to this selfie expert than flash charge and flashy looks?

UNTIL a few months ago, I never thought that I would be talking about Oppo and praising it for possibly setting new trends in design and innovation.

Sure, it was my favorite “selfie expert” and it had a history of phones that combined pretty good specs and competitive pricing, but as far as design goes, Oppo was never really known for taking risks.

All that changed with the Find X, arguably one of the most innovative and best-looking smartphones of 2018. And if the Find X established Oppo in the premium flagship segment, its latest release, the Oppo F9, proves that it can also deliver a stand-out device in the midrange category.

The Oppo F9 boasts of a gradient dual-tone design, fast-charging support and a waterdrop notch to create an almost bezel-less display. But can the F9’s flashy new look and flash charge feature satisfy our hungry Technivores?

DESIGN AND BUILD QUALITY

A FEW months ago, I remember saying that the F7 was hands down the best-looking midrange smartphone the company had ever brought to the country, I take that back—the F9 easily takes that crown.

The Oppo F9 features a different look compared to the F7 and its quickly obvious just by looking at the screen. While the F9 doesn’t have that fun little pop-up camera of the Find X, it does push the boundaries of design with its “waterdrop” notch. This waterdrop design, gives the F9 a 90.8 percent screen with 19.5:9 aspect ratio. There are still some tiny bezels on the sides and a small chin, but you have to commend Oppo for their take on this polarizing feature. It’s the tiniest “notch” I’ve ever seen in a smartphone, and something I feel that other smartphone makers would try to imitate.

The notch houses the 25MP camera, while situated above it is the slit for the earpiece. Also up top is where you can find the secondary microphone while located below are the loudspeaker, microUSB port, main microphone and 3.5mm audio jack. On its back you’ll find another big difference as the F9 now sports a 16MP and 2MP dual rear camera setup with a chrome frame LED flash and a snappy fingerprint scanner.

If you liked the size of the F7, you’ll find the F9 equally nice to hold. The F9 retains that solid and premium build with a glossy curved frame that is smooth but easy to grip. The backside of the F9 is a lot prettier because of this shiny finish with a gradient color treatment. It’s not as “loud” as compared to Huawei’s Nova series, but enough to make you stop to admire and examine the elegant petal-shaped patterns from different angles. You can’t go wrong with the Sunrise Red or the Twilight Blue, or you could wait for the Starry Purple version which has the twinkling star effect. Our review unit came in Twilight Blue, which has a Black top that turns Royal Blue toward the lower back panel, and it’s the more masculine choice among the three options.

Since it’s a glass-backed phone, it can be a fingerprint magnet and a bit slippery. So I’d recommend using the transparent protective case that comes in the box, since it would be a criminal waste to hide that stunning gradient pattern.

Turn the screen on and the F9 treats you to a bright 6.3-inch display with Full HD+ resolution (2340 x 1080) or equal to 409ppi. In our experience, the display of the Oppo F9 Pro is quite commendable. The colors are sharp and vibrant with good viewing angles, and compared to the F7, the sunlight legibility has also improved significantly.

You can further tweak the display settings and make adjustments to the color temperature of the screen and as well as font size. If the waterdrop notch still bothers you, there’s also an option to switch off “Notch Area Display.”

The speaker is quite loud and crisp (just don’t max it out) and you’ll have no problems listening to it when playing games or watching videos, although like other midrange devices using earphones is still the better option.

CAMERA AND PHOTO QUALITY

UNLIKE the F7, the F9 now features a dual camera setup: there’s the main 16MP rear shooter, plus a secondary 2MP sensor for bokeh effects. The selfie camera is still one of the highest at 25MP.

Camera modes include Time Lapse, Slo-Mo, Video, Portrait, Panorama and Manual. Portrait features 3D lighting effects (natural, film, mono tone light, film light and bi-color) like the one on the Find X. There’s also 50 plus stickers/backgrounds you can choose from, Super Vivid mode and AI Beauty Technology 2.1.

Compared to the F7, I’d say the secondary camera of the F9 does help in making image quality a lot better. There’s AI scene recognition, and it was able to recognize different scenes and made adjustments accordingly. Photos are sharp and the colors are pretty accurate with nice contrast. It can handle indoor conditions, but like most midrange devices it struggles in lowlight conditions and details become smudgy and noise becomes more evident.

As for the front camera, I still think OPPO remains the selfie expert. The F9 beats the competition when it comes to selfie quality. There’s a good amount of detail, the exposure is accurate and the colors are great. I have to commend its AI Beauty mode, as it makes you look good but not “impossibly flawless” good. You know what I mean.

Video, well, is just average. The audio is clear and the EIS makes shots a bit more stable. The F9 can shoot at a maximum resolution of 1080p at 30fps. You can also activate AI Beauty but only at 720p and you can only shoot slow motion video at 720p/120fps.

Another thing worth mentioning is that I do like how you can now add the photographer’s name to the watermark option. My only complaint about the camera is that there’s no separate “wide-aperture mode,” or at least an option to control the depth of field. I also wish they’d finally move the camera settings to the camera app so you don’t have to go to the main settings menu.

BATTERY AND PERFORMANCE

IF you’ve seen their ads, Oppo has been hyping the F9’s fast-charging feature, and rightfully so, because its something you don’t usually get in midrange devices. Oppo’s VOOC Flash Charge Technology provides a charging speed of up to four times faster than regular charging. This means that a quick five-minute charge is enough to enable two hours of talk time.  It also boasts an intelligent five-layer protection system from the adaptor to the port and interior of the phone. VOOC replaced the voltage reducing circuit with an MCU, effectively preventing the mobile phone from overheating while charging, and making VOOC an ingenious fast-charging technology. You can also use your phone for gaming or watching videos while keeping the speed of fast charging, which high-voltage fast charge can’t do.

It has a 3,500mAh battery that can last you an entire day of use, and because of VOOC you don’t have to worry since you can completely charge your phone in less than two hours.

The F9 is powered by a MediaTek Helio P60 octa-core CPU and Mali-G72 GPU—the same setup you’d find on the F7. The F9, however, gets a higher 6GB RAM, which helps it perform a lot better and run apps smoother.

The F9 runs Android 8.1 Oreo and their latest ColorOS 5.2 UI. Tinkering with the settings, I found a few things you have to try out, such as Assistive Ball (like the Assistive Touch in iPhones) Smart Sidebar that lets you quickly access apps and tools, Gesture Controls (similar to the iPhone X), Smart Driving, Smart Assistant, Clone Apps, Game Space and App Split Screen.

There are very few preinstalled apps, which is nice, and only includes the usual Google apps, Facebook, Opera, ORoaming and Lazada leaving you around 49+ GB out of 64 GB usable storage which you can further expand via a microSD card.

FINAL WORD

IS the F9 more of a refinement than an upgrade of the F7?

In some ways, yes. But the new waterdrop screen design, gradient dual tone color finish, increased RAM, dual rear cameras, and the larger battery with VOOC Flash Charge are more than enough reasons to get the F9, especially if you planning to upgrade from your F3 or even F5 phones.

Like the Find X, the F9 proves that Oppo is more than just the Selfie Expert and that the brand is capable of taking risks to create unique-looking phones. If you want a phone that stands out, has a great display, an excellent front camera for selfies, the F9 is a really good option.

THE SAFEST HEADPHONES FOR OUTDOOR FITNESS

FOR those who love to run, or go to the gym to workout, nothing can be more motivating than listening to your favorite playlist. However, finding a pair of headphones that is both durable and safe for runners can be a bit challenging.

Recently, I discovered a brand called Aftershokz (www.facebook.com/beyondthebox.ph), which they claim is the safest headphones for outdoor fitness. Aftershokz are wireless, open-ear sport headphones that are perfect for runners, cyclists, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts delivering the ultimate level of comfort and situational awareness, without compromising on premium sound.

The headphones use bone conduction technology to transmit audio waves to the inner ears through the skull, bypassing the eardrums completely. Place them on your cheekbones, just in front of your ears. This leaves your ear canals open, allowing you to remain alert and aware of ambient sounds while you enjoy your music. Bluetooth connectivity gives you the ability to be free of wires and make and receive phone calls.  The Aftershokz headphones comes in two options, the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium and Trekz Air. The Trekz Titanium won the CES Innovations Award and Red Dot Award for its outstanding design and engineering. It features a premium titanium frame, an element chosen not only for its strength and durability, but also for its infinite flexibility.

The Aftershokz Trekz Air, meanwhile, is the next generation in bone conduction technology and the brand’s lightest headphones, which deliver comfort and sound quality at the same time. Inspired by the demands of elite and aspiring athletes, the Trekz Air is 20 percent lighter than Trekz Titanium, weighing just 1.06oz.

Both headphones feature the OpenFit design that provides infinite flexibility, a secure fit, and the ultimate level of comfort that can withstand the most rigorous of activities; and PremiumPitch+ Sound that optimizes the sound and includes additional features like LeakSlayer technology, which ensures music is directed exactly where it should be.

Aftershokz headphones are also IP55 rated to repel sweat, moisture and dust. A single charge will last six hours of music play and talk time. You can charge fully in 1.5 hours, but a quick 15-minute charge provides enough boost to get you through a long workout or marathon call. It even has a voice prompt feature called Audrey Says that will seamlessly guide you through power, pair, play and talk options and settings.

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