The Rs 40,000 price point is an uneasy one in the smartphone world. It’s unambiguously pricier than the budget and even mid-range offerings, but not quite as pricey as the proper flagships.
What’s available at this price point also varies somewhat. There are phones running previous-gen flagship processors, there are phones with slightly older processors but offering some measure of imaging excellence, and then there is the Oppo Reno 7 Pro 5G, the phone I have with me to review, that sells for Rs 39,999.
It’s an attractive device.
I’ve had this phone for a couple of weeks now and I’ve spent a good amount of time with it, and the word that keeps popping up in my mind while reviewing it is “competent”. Now, whether all this competence makes for a compelling device to buy is what I’m going to try and examine in the course of this review.
This is an attractive device. Following the iPhone-led trend of flat sides, the Oppo Reno 7 Pro 5G I have comes in a beautiful “Startrails blue” colour with a shimmering blue-pink glass back. The phone feels great to hold in the hand and is quite slim and light by the standards of the day.
The shimmering blue-pink glass back changes colour.
While the flat edges are great for two-handed use, they are less than ideal for one-handed use, making the phone feel a bit bigger than it is when you’re trying to reach across the screen with your thumb.
The front features a 6.55” AMOLED display that refreshes at 90 Hz, covered in Gorilla Glass 5. The back features a slightly less reassuring Panda Glass though (I mean no disrespect to pandas here). The display feels virtually flagship grade even if the specs are a notch below. The colours are vivid, HDR videos look great, and the 90Hz refresh rate feels fast and smooth. I know it’s not quite the standard-setting 120Hz but to me, the difference feels imperceptible and it’s not a deal breaker. Outdoor visibility is not best in class but you’ll be able to use it for most tasks, even if you may not enjoy watching a movie out in the sun. The colour temperature is a touch on the cooler side, and fiddling the temperature slider in the settings didn’t seem to help much.
The camera bump looks handsome.
Up top, there is a corner punch-hole for the selfie camera. The camera bump at the back is quite handsome and houses the two useful cameras (and the pointless macro snapper). The party trick here is that the edges of the camera bump glow like a notification light, and I have to say it looks very cool indeed, if you’re into that sort of thing.
On the inside, the Oppo Reno 7 Pro 5G features a Mediatek Dimensity 1200 Max processor, which appears to have the same core configuration and clock speeds as the regular Dimensity 1200, but with some AI features thrown in. There is also a generous 12 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage.
While there are stereo speakers, there is sadly no headphone jack and this is a flagship affectation a Rs 40,000 phone can scarcely afford. The speakers themselves are reasonably loud and full, although not quite up to the standards of my personal favourite, the Poco X3 Pro.
The battery is a solid 4,500 mAh, and the device comes with a 65W charger. The fingerprint sensor is an under display optical unit and, as always, not quite as fast as the capacitive ones. My quest to get phone makers to ditch this inferior technology remains alive.
Just look at it.
The Oppo Reno 7 Pro 5G runs ColorOS 12 on Android 11 and has been updated with the February 2022 security patch as of the time of writing. ColorOS, much like its BBK stablemate Funtouch OS, is a good, smooth Android skin that lacks the visual style and cohesiveness of stock Android. There are a bunch of pre-installed apps but you can uninstall most of them.
Overall the OS works very well and throws up no surprises. The phone is smooth and fast, as long as you don’t expect absolutely flagship level performance.
Everything in the interface is slick and consistent and apps load instantly without any noticeable stutter or lags. Most of the time while using this phone, you would be forgiven for thinking you are using a flagship device, because it really does do most things very well, which is also a testament to how efficient Android has been getting over the years, and how nicely Oppo has optimised their version of it to work with this chipset.
Watching TV shows and movies is a pleasure, and the AMOLED display delivers the colours and contrast that you expect, with the stereo speakers more than adequate for watching something in a quiet room by yourself, although the lack of a headphone jack means you will need to use a bluetooth headset if you want more.
The screen is sharp and vivid.
Calls (remember calls?) and data speeds are all absolutely competent and there’s nothing to complain about. Video calls also work well within the constraints of a phone screen.
The battery life on the Oppo Reno 7 Pro 5G is excellent. For most users, this is a one and a half day phone and, if you charge it regularly overnight, there’ll be very few occasions where you run through the battery in the course of a day. You can expect over six hours of screen-on time easily. And when it comes time to top up, the 65W charger ensures that you can charge the whole device in well under an hour, or get a very substantial top up in 10-15 minutes.
This is where the device hews more to the budget side of things than the flagship side.
The main camera is clearly superior to the ultra wide.
The main camera unit has a 50 MP Sony IMX766 sensor and the hardware is actually quite excellent, throwing up very pleasing images with a good amount of detail and well judged white balance and dynamic range, in most circumstances. The low light performance was also surprisingly competent, with impressive detail, even if the colours start to get a bit too vivid for my tastes. Night mode is quick and fairly sharp, and is a solid implementation that punches above its weight.
The one major failing of this phone is when it tries to take pictures of people. The moment it sees a face, it boosts the shadows and mid tones and flattens the dynamic range to make skin look considerably lighter than normal.
When it sees a person, it brightens everything up.
As far as I could tell, there was no way to turn off this aggressive tone mapping, other than by drastically under-exposing the image. This is an okay workaround and yields great photos, but should not be necessary and makes for an annoying user experience.
You can get a really nice picture by manually under-exposing each time but that’s too much effort.
The real tragedy is that the sensor is a capable one, and the detail and other aspects are very good. If only this tendency to brighten people's photos could be turned off, it would actually be a very good camera. There is a brief half-second before the processing is applied when you can see a good image that the phone has captured. But it’s ruined as soon as the processing kicks in. I hope that they fix this in a future update, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Now some of you may prefer this kind of brightened-skin look, and if so, you might like what this camera does, but I personally do not.
The 8 MP ultra-wide camera is very much a budget unit. In good light, it produces decent images. But even there, the drop in quality compared to the main camera is evident. When the light starts to dim, the quality also drops off sharply, with low light performance definitely more in line with budget phones. The 32 MP selfie camera is again a fairly competent unit, delivering crisp, detailed images – as long as you remember to turn off the beauty filters. It is remarkable though that the selfie camera doesn’t suffer from the aggressive tone-mapping flaws of the main camera.
The main camera shines when taking pictures of objects.
Videos shot on the phone look good, with a setting similar to the iPhone's cinematic mode delivering impressive focus tracking and fairly consistent background blur.
Should I buy it?
As I’d mentioned in the beginning, the Rs 40,000 price bracket is a tricky one. Phone makers struggle to define the USP of the devices they sell in this range.
The Oppo Reno 7 Pro 5G also suffers from this. The phone is competent without offering outright excellence in any department. Apart from its failings when processing photos of people, there’s not much to complain about. But is there anything that really draws you towards it? I am not quite sure.
Add to this the fact that the competition in this price bracket includes phones that do more for the money, like the Xiaomi 11T Pro 5G and the OnePlus 9RT which both feature the more powerful Snapdragon 888 chipset, not to mention 120Hz screens. Or the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, featuring a comparable processor but decidedly superior imaging (and flagship features like wireless charging and an IP68 rating).
Consider also the fact that there are phones like the OnePlus Nord 2 which have very similar specs, but cost a whole Rs 10,000 less, and it’s hard to outright recommend this phone to anyone.
This Oppo Reno 7 Pro 5G was sent to the reviewer as a loaner unit for review purposes. The unit will be returned on completion of the review. Oppo has been given no advance information about the content of this review and exercises no copy approval.