Oppo has had a good run with its photography-centric ‘F series’ ever since the Oppo F1 (Review) launched in February last year. Since then, we’ve also had the F1s (Review) and the F1 Plus (Review) smartphones to fill different gaps in the mid-range segment. Oppo is still promoting this series heavily today, both online and offline, and we’re pretty sure it has been a major contributor to the company’s strong position in the Indian market.
In 2017, Oppo is hoping to expand its reach with the new F3 series, of which the F3 Plus is the first model. Selfie-obsessed buyers continue to be the target here and for that reason, Oppo has outfitted this phone with dual front cameras. Unlike Vivo’s V5 Plus (Review), the second camera isn’t used for depth of field. Instead, the Oppo F3 Plus has a wide-angle lens for group selfies, which actually seems like a much more practical idea that's likely to have a wider appeal (pun intended).
Oppo usually caters to people shopping in the sub-Rs. 20,000 price segment, so the sticker price of Rs. 30,990 for the F3 Plus might be a little difficult to digest. Has Oppo done enough to justify this kind of a price premium? Let’s take a look.
Oppo has rarely disappointed us when it comes to build quality and design, and the F3 Plus continues that tradition. The metal unibody feels very sturdy and its rounded edges make it easy to hold. Despite the soft-touch finish, we didn’t find the phone too slippery during our usage. The 6-inch display really dominates the front of the phone, thanks to thin borders on the sides. Striking looks aside, there’s still no getting around the fact that this is a big phone, and quite heavy too. Just like the Samsung Galaxy C9 Pro (Review), single-handed use is nearly impossible without the risk of dropping it. You can shrink the display area down in single-handed mode if you simply cannot use two hands.
The fingerprint sensor is quick for unlocking the device, and just like before, you can use it for other purposes like locking apps and files. There are backlit capacitive buttons on either side of it for navigation. The dual front cameras and sensors are at the top. The buttons on the sides are a bit of a reach, even for someone with large hands. The headphones socket, speaker and Micro-USB port are placed at the bottom. There's a SIM tray above the power button, and is the hybrid type, so you’ll have to choose between a second SIM and a microSD card (up to 256GB is supported).
The 6-inch display on the Oppo F3 Plus looks sharp thanks to the full-HD resolution but colours are too heavily saturated which can make images look a bit unnatural. There’s no option in the Settings app to adjust this either. Touch response is good though, and the phone has Gorilla Glass 5 protecting the display.
The back of the phone is rather plain with just a slight bump for the camera breaking the flat surface. Oppo has tried something new with the design of its antenna bands here to give the F3 Plus some visual differentiation from the competition.
Overall, we have no qualms about the design and finish of this phone. It isn't the easiest to live with due to its size, but if that’s your cup of tea, then you should be happy. It’s a little strange not to see a USB Type-C port, especially given that this is an upper mid-range 2017 smartphone. In the box (which is rather large), you get a headset, ear tips, a silicone case, instructions, a SIM ejector, a USB cable and a sizeable power adapter that supports Oppo’s VOOC Flash Charge Mini standard. The phone also ships with a pre-applied screen protector.
The Oppo F3 Plus is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon
652 653 SoC, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage, which is a pretty solid set of specifications. Benchmark numbers might not be as good as what's possibile with a top-end Snapdragon 821 SoC, which can be found in the OnePlus 3T at a similar price, but you’d be hard pressed to actually tell the difference in daily usage.
The F3 Plus does put up a decent show in benchmarks, scoring 92,497 in AnTuTu and 35fps in GFXbench. Other specifications include dual-band Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, USB-OTG, and the usual suite of sensors, including a gyroscope. Some notable omissions include FM radio and NFC. Many might not care about the latter but local radio is still important, and might be a deal breaker for some.
The software situation is a little disappointing as the F3 Plus still runs ColorOS 3.0 based on Android Marshmallow 6.0.1. On the bright side, Google Assistant is present, and it worked well on the phone. Nothing else has really changed since we last took ColorOS for a spin when we reviewed the Oppo A57. The interface and icons still have an iOS-like feel but they’re not blatant copies like we’ve seen on devices by some other Chinese manufacturers. Additional settings for most system apps like the Gallery and Camera can be found only in the main Settings app (just like in iOS) instead of having them within the respective apps, so there are some unnecessary steps when choosing common settings.
The notifications shade still drops all the way down, which is not needed if you simply want to get to the quick settings toggles. Also, notifications are shown on a different tab in the shade, forcing you to swipe away from the toggle switches every time you need to get to it. The F3 Plus features a ‘Lockscreen magazine’ which cycles through random wallpapers based on the categories you pick. This can be switched off if not needed. You also get motion and screen-off gestures and a backup service called O-Cloud for your contacts and SMSes.
Pre-installed apps include the Google suite, Facebook, Instagram, and WPS Office. Oppo also has its own app store for those who couldn’t be bothered signing in to the Play Store.
ColorOS seems well optimised, as general performance is very good for a phone with these specifications. Apps load quickly and multitasking is handled well. On average, we always had roughly 2GB of RAM fee which is a good amount of headroom for running demanding apps and games. 4G worked well for us, and there’s support for VoLTE too. We also didn’t face any issues with call quality during our review. The upper portion and edges of the phone get hot when charging and downloading apps or files, but with regular usage, the phone seldom heated up too much.
One of the advantages of lugging around a massive smartphone is the ability to really enjoy watching videos on such a large screen. The F3 Plus is great for catching up on your favourite shows while travelling. We weren’t too happy with the oversaturated colours, but if you aren't too picky, you probably won’t mind. The single speaker is quite powerful, and sound is loud and fairly distinct. Audio enhancements from Dirac can be enabled if you have a headset plugged in. The bundled headset has a snug fit but sounds a bit tinny.
The secondary front camera actually serves a practical purpose. Rather than depth-of-field tricks, like on the Vivo’s V5 Plus, the 8-megapixel sensor and its lens offer a much wider field of view. This helps you cram more people into a frame for group selfies. Pictures taken under good lighting are fairly detailed but there is a fish-eye effect, so you'll see barrel distortion in the background. The secondary front camera has a f/2.4 aperture, which isn’t wide enough for noise-free shots.
On the other hand, the main 16-megapixel front camera offers better low-light performance thanks to its f/2.0 aperture. You can switch between the two cameras easily using an icon next to the shutter button. We found the screen flash to be pretty useful at night, and we like how it automatically adjusts its intensity depending on ambient light.
With all of this going on in the front, Oppo hasn’t ignored the rear camera. It also has a 16-megapixel sensor, but there's dual PDAF and an f/1.7 aperture. The latter specification is similar to what the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Moto G5 Plus offer, and while having such a wide aperture does help by reducing noise and allowing brighter low-light shots, the quality is still far from what the big brands can deliver.
Macro shots in low light, shadows and highlights have very good dynamic range, but textures aren’t very sharp and finer details still look a bit blurry. This is only really noticeable if you look at photos at their full size. Without zooming in, pictures look good.
Daylight shots have very good detail and saturated colours that really pop. Close-up shots are also well defined, although the edges of subjects in focus exhibit some artifacting due to oversharpening. Video recording maxes out at 4K, and while the quality is good, we could have used some stabilisation. We also noticed slight focus hunting issues at times, though this isn’t too bad.
The camera app has few features but all the important ones that you’d want are present, including an Expert Mode for manual control, filters, panorama, and timelapse videos. Focusing speed is good, and we didn’t notice this slowing down much in low light.
The Oppo F3 Plus packs a non-removable 4000mAh battery which lasted us well beyond a single day of regular usage. In our controlled HD video loop test, we managed to go an impressive 17 hours and 12 minutes before the phone gave up. Oppo’s VOOC Flash Charge Mini standard is supported - "Mini" indicates the use of a smaller adapter. You will need the specific cable that comes with this phone, as the standard doesn't work with most common Micro-USB cables.
Oppo has priced the F3 Plus at Rs. 30,990, which is considerable premium over the brand's usual offerings. The F3 Plus faces tough competition from the OnePlus 3T and Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017). In fact, you can even find the LG G5 selling for as little as Rs. 32,000 online.
The F3 Plus does offer a lot for what you would pay. You get a well-built and good looking device, a sharp display, excellent battery life, a capable SoC, and very good cameras. In fact, the second camera on the front is actually useful for a change and doesn't feel like a gimmick.
A couple of things are amiss, like the lack of NFC and FM radio, and the heavily saturated colours of the display. However, our biggest gripe is the fact that the phone doesn’t ship with Android Nougat, which is even more of a downer now that Android O has been announced already. We reached out to Oppo to understand the status of an Android N update but didn’t receive any conclusive response, which makes us wonder if it’s coming at all. We hope that this model isn't left two generations behind.
If the F3 Plus was a lot more affordable, we could have given it the benefit of the doubt. However at this price level, we believe that buyers should be able to expect proper support on the software front for at least a couple of years.
All in all, the Oppo F3 Plus's high price might put people off, but if the company can start providing timely software updates then this would not be a bad choice.