With the budget to buy a premium 5G smartphone, you only have two choices – OPPO Find X3 Pro and Samsung’s Galaxy S21 series – the latter is a good, better, best scenario with S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra 5G.
It’s a long story, but I have been using the Samsung Galaxy S series as my daily drive since the 2015 S5. I guess I subconsciously compare all smartphones to this standard and Samsung’s ease of use.
Before that, I was a deliriously happy Windows Phone/Nokia user. I had a brief and unhappy flirtation with the Apple 6-series as well. The result – I am an Android person.
Long story short, OPPO challenged me to swap daily drives ‘for a month’ from Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G to the OPPO Find X3 Pro 5G. Its logic was to challenge the subconscious comparison (no intentional bias intended) to see any substantive differences between the two premium flagships.
I have both on the testbed. Objectively (is there any other way?), we run through the specs and characteristics to see which offers more. The answer? Well, it is not all about specs, so sorry, you may need to jump to GadgetGuy’s take at the end.
OPPO Find X3 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Methodology: We compare OPPO with Samsung and objectively declare a category winner. In some respects, it may seem to be unfair to compare the $1499 OPPO Find X3 Pro 256GB (website here) to the S21 Ultra 256GB $1949 (website here). We have repeated all significant tests to ensure fairness.
OPPO is the left column in any table. In many instances, we have used only an OPPO or Samsung image to illustrate a point.
Apologies – a blank cell indicates we don’t quite have all the comparative data and if we have made any errors, we don’t think it would materially change the review.
Switching from Samsung to OPPO
My most significant fear was not using the excellent Samsung Switch software to update from one generation Samsung to the next using Wi-Fi or cable.
But it turns out that there are several options to swap from Samsung to OPPO.
Highly recommended is to use cloud apps like Gmail or Microsoft Outlook for Mail, Contacts and Calendar. As a Windows user, Outlook was a no-brainer. Frankly, I found Samsung productivity app alternatives adequate but not all that compelling. So that covers critical data.
Next, copy all your photos to a PC or flash drive. These can chew up terabytes of data, and it is faster to switch phones without them.
Next is to backup everything to Google Drive – that means all your apps, data, records, and settings. It is easy to restore from there too. BTW no switching software copies passwords or logins, so no matter what you do, you will need to re-enter these unless you subscribe to a password manager like Last Pass – I do! Easy.
OPPO has its Clone Phone app (iOS or Andriod) that displays a QR code to install on the old phone. Once done, OPPO acts as a Wi-Fi hotspot for the old phone – fast. It transfers everything completely, including contacts, messages, call history, photos, videos, audios, files, system application data, installed apps and data.
But there was one minor issue – not OPPO’s fault. Samsung Galaxy apps (and there are plenty) don’t seem to work as well on other phones, so you need to delete these. For example, S-Health was giving weird results.
If I want to switch back, I have Samsung Switch that should handle it with ease.
I like big phones. The Samsung is heavier and thicker, more so with the bumper cover to stop the large camera hump from being scratched. OPPO is ‘svelte’, lighter and has a nice glass back – it’s a shame to put a bumper cover on that too.
OPPO has a definite design edge.
Resale value – second hand
Samsung, like Apple, has a trade-in system that perhaps keeps second-hand values higher than they would typically be. Well, OPPO has struck back, offering an even more generous trade-in program and will trade in Apple, Samsung and Google phones. A Note 20 has a whopping $620 value, Apple XS $595 and Google 5 $470. It is about to announce 2021 trade-in prices.
Winner – it is a draw, but OPPOs trade-in program is increasing second-hand resale value with its 2020 Find X2 Pro still selling for around $900 on GumTree (watch out for the phone scam here).
Interestingly OPPO has a Samsung S6E3HC3 LPTO OLED display that we will likely see in the iPhone 13 and perhaps the Samsung S22 Ultra.
OPPO Find X3 Pro
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Top left O-hole LTPO OLED (low-temperature polycrystalline oxide) exclusively for high-end phones Mostly flat with a 2.5D edge
Centre O-hole Dynamic AMOLED 2X
Adaptive from 1-120Hz and 240Hz touch rate. Or select a fixed 60 or 120Hz rate.
Adaptive from 48/60/96/120Hz only at 1440p. Same
3216 x 1440
3200 x 1440
525ppi, 92.7% screen to body ratio
1 billion colours 10-bit
1300nits peak (tested to 1380)
1500nits peak (tested to 1400)
800nits (Test 860)
500 nits (Test 490)
400nits (tested to 410)
100% – OLED can completely turn off a pixel
Infinite (difference between pure black and pure white)
0.8 (excellent – below 4 is good)
Automatically recognises sRGB and DCI-P3 images, displaying them with accuracy. Similar to Apple True Tone.
Adjustable from cool to warm
Automatic natural tone display
Can upscale SDR to HDR video content
DisplayMate A+ and .4 JNCD pro-grade colour accuracy
OLED has the widest viewing angle without colour loss
Slightly more customisations
Load themes from the Theme store
Ambient light sensor and time of day adapt the intensity and reduce the amount of blue light TuV certified
Display different colours for notifications screen off
Yes, Android screen to 1080p monitor
Same plus Samsung DeX – a type of Android desktop
Full range of Android colour, font and size OPPOs Colour Vision Enhancement allows users with Colour Vision Deficiency (CVD) to see colour-corrective hues and deeper contrast levels for colour differentiation. It is perfect for colour blindness and eye protection.
Samsung accessibility features are similar
Widevine L1, HDCP 2.3 HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG Video out via USB-C is disabled when playing copyright content. Netflix FHD in HDR and faux upscales SDR as well.
Widevine L1 HDCP 2.2 HDR10, HLG Samsung claims HDR10+, but DRM Info does not find this
Netflix FHD in HDR
Perfect for gaming with a 2.4ms rise and fall combined and 7.5ms Grey-to-Grey. It also has zero latency game control that adjusts a 60Hz game from 51-72Hz to suit.
OPPO’s 10-bit, 1.07 billion colour screen (which carries over to its Full-Path Colour Management System photographic processing) is vastly superior to the Samsung 8-bit. In day-to-day use on auto-brightness, auto-refresh and at the same resolution, the OPPO has purer whites and accurate colours.
Samsung’s 16.7m screen is very good and supports an S Pen if that is your need.
No, but with USB-C 3.1 Gen 1, it can write 4K video direct to an external device. This is the first device we have tested that automatically works with all USB-C storage devices without having to find OTG settings and reboot after device insertion or removal.
No, Samsung has USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 and can read/write 4K files to external media. Samsung requests a reboot after a USB device is interested/removed – we ignored that warning.
Geek Bench 5
Single: 929 Multi: 3397 There is no faster Qualcomm Snapdragon
Throttle 15-minute test
Max: 240,292GIPS, Average: 223,471 10% loss over 15 minutes CPU temp reached 50°C External temperature on the back: 39°C It has a vapour chamber and graphite cooling system that copes with extended load with minimal throttling
Max: 227,660 GIPS, Average: 198,974 16% loss over 15 minutes CPU temp reached 50° External temp 47°
The OPPO SD888 is a better all-rounder. Its two-lane HS-Gear4 storage gives twice the sequential write speeds, so it is excellent for direct video recording to an external SSD drive. OPPO Game space is impressive.
Winner: OPPO and SD888
Wi-Fi 6 and 6E AX 2×2 MIMO, VHT160 Tests: Signal Strength 5Ghz – distance from Netgear RAX200 AX11000 router 2m: -15dBm/2400Mbps 5m: -30dBm/2400Mbps 10m: -44dBm/1800Mbps 20m: -56dBm/1200Mbps
SBC/AAC/LDAC (Sony) and proprietary Samsung scalable codec No Qualcomm aptX codecs
Dual Noise cancelling. A third mic on the camera bump for audio zoom video use
Dual top noise-cancelling and for audio zoom – focuses on the direction of interest during recording. Third mic at the bottom USB-C Port
No port – OPPO supplies its standard USB-C buds
No, and no buds supplied
Tests dB Anything over 80dB is excellent
Media – 85 Ring – 82 Alarm – 82 Notification – 65 Earpiece – 55 Handsfree – 75 Music – 89
Media – 78 Ring – 80 Alarm – 80 Notification – 65 Earpiece – 55 Handsfree – 72 Music – 86
Excellent clear voice and adequate sound.
Loud and clear, but the mic (top or bottom) drops off quickly over 1m. Its NC is superb. We noticed that was at the expense of natural voice – callers heard more robot voice.
Much wider than the device with good Left/Right separation. Dolby Atmos adds a slightly wider stage, but there is no 3D spatial sound.
Narrow sound stage with good Left/Right separation. Dolby Atmos content does not have spatial sound via the speakers.
Winner – OPPO has better BT CODEC support and far better left/right sound stage.
OPPO has a bright vocal signature which is fine for vocals and a clear voice. It has Dolby Atmos decoding, but the pre-sets are new to me. It has environmental – indoor, on-the-go, commute and flight. And it has scenario-specific – smart, movie, gaming, and music. They don’t appear to make a significant difference unless using headphones.
Samsung – you would expect the best, and at 70% volume, it presents a rich, full sound. But we measure at 100% where three things become apparent. First, the recessed mid/upper treble means that it affects ‘location’ – where the sound comes from in the relatively narrow sound stage. Next, mid-bass is there, but it suddenly dips at 100hz, almost obliterating high-bass – you need this more than mid-bass to add some gravitas. Finally, the frequency response is relatively flat from 200Hz to 10khz then builds to upper-mid and lower treble.
It is essentially a mid-signature which is excellent for clear voice but not so great for most music. You can read more about sound signatures here.
Winer: OPPO by an ear.
163.6×74.0×8.3mm x 193g
165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm x 227g It is 11.15mm thick at the camera bump
Front: Gorilla Glass Victus Frame: Alloy Back: Gorilla Glass Victus
2-years ACL Global traveller’s warranty Primary support from Sydney with support facilities in most states OPPO claims one of the lowest fault rates in Australia.
Primary support from Sydney with support facilities in most other states Samsung has a good track record for reliability
In the box
Bumper cover 65W charger OPPO Super VOOC USB-A to USB-C cable USB-C earphone and mic
USB-C to USB-C cable
* We have to quote OPPO
The back panel of the OPPO Find X3 Pro is a single piece of glass (GG5). It has more than 2000 control points to complete the shape, precisely controlling the ultimate balance between the glass’s rigidity and the curved surface’s softness. The ‘Ring Mountain’ image mirror set uses a hot forging glass process rarely seen in industrial mass production. It presents a 3D curved front and back transition and creating a rounded feel. It is a technological breakthrough in industrial design.
The first thing you notice about the OPPO is that it is far lighter and thinner despite a similar screen size to the Samsung. I love big phones, but I really appreciate that svelte size in my pocket.
The second thing is the inclusion of the charger, bumper cover and buds.
Winner – OPPO as it feels better in the hand
Google Android 11 Security patch date: 5/06/21
One UI 3.1
All standard apps, Google Lens and Assistant
Mostly OPPO alternatives to Google and utilities
Mostly Samsung and Microsoft productivity and utilities. The Samsung apps include the Galaxy Store (unique Galaxy Apps), Mail, Contact, Calendar, Dialler, SmartThings, Samsung Health, Pay, AR, Switch, DeX, and Pay. Why it persists with Bixby is beyond me.
Two years of OS updates includes two major updates and monthly security updates.
Two years of OS updates. Security patches should come monthly for three years
Optical Fingerprint FaceID A private system function behind a security barrier mirrors the public system so that hackers cannot get your data. A Private Safe guards private data. System cloner allows two profiles – one for work and one for private
Ultrasonic Fingerprint FaceID Samsung Knox provides an excellent level of security (not Anti-virus)
The real issue here comes down to how user-friendly is OPPOs ColorOS to Samsung One UI. To me, UI is like a pair of comfortable slippers. It paves over the raw cracks of Android and works seamlessly.
But ColorOS has come a very long way, and it seems to be equal. The fundamental difference here is OPPO’s AI versus Samsung’s AI, and there is not much between them.
After four weeks, there is nothing between them. Everything I need to do is there, in almost the same place. There is only one minor criticism of ColourOS – when I hit ‘clear all’, it clears all but the current app – Samsung wipes the lot. Nitpicking!
With Samsung and OPPO offering similar upgrade paths, the winner is a draw.
65W Fast charge included
No charger max 25W
Yes, 1.07 billion colours
No, 8-bit 16.7m
The cameras are where there is the most significant difference. Yet, in practice, both are equally strong. Samsung has 100X Super Zoom (that is hopeless – review here for all photos) versus OPPO 60X digital Zoom (ditto review here for all photos ).
OPPO goes with dual 50MP (wide and super-wide – both bin to 12.5MP), a 13MP Telephoto and a 3MP 60X Microscope. Selfie is 32MP (bins to 8.1MP)
Samsung goes with a 108MP wide (bins to 12MP), 12MP super-wide, 10MP telephoto and periscope 10MP. In addition is has a LiDAR depth sensor. Selfie is 45MP that bins to 6.5MP or 10MP wide.
DXOMark gives the OPPO 131 points that is far ahead of Samsung at 121 points. The Benchmark is the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, and it scores 130 points. According to DXOMark scores, OPPO is the highest performing Google Android camera in Australia at present.
But here is the conundrum – both produce equally excellent shots. Here are some comparison photos, and if I had to pick a winner for everyday consumer photography, the OPPO is ahead. One difference – Samsung recognises QR codes, but OPPO uses Google Lens – it is one more step, but the results are more consistent.
OPPO Find X3 Pro (L) and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (R)
We are now at the end of the specification comparisons, and frankly, I did not know the outcome until this stage.
Humans all suffer from cogitative dissonance. We tell ourselves that what we bought is the best for us. It is like the old Holden versus Ford argument. Guilty – I felt that way about Samsung (and perhaps still do). For OPPO to so convincingly be ahead in most categories astounded me. I mean, I know it is good, but could it be my daily drive? Well, now I am like a dog with two bones!
Let me say that either is excellent. I knew OPPO Find X3 Pro would eat the S21 and S21+ lunches but the Ultra? No way! Yet the plucky OPPO Find X3 Pro meets or exceeds the heavyweight S21 Ultra.
S21 Ultra has 100x periscope zoom (useless above about 30X) that I do use, whereas the Find X3 60X Zoom (ditto) and a 60X microscope is a little limited
S21 Ultra has that 108MP camera that collects so much detail (in that mode). Dual 50MP sensors are not shabby either on the Find X3 Pro.
Samsung will do 8K@24fps video – do you need that?
Find X3 Pro photo results are visually more pleasing – not necessarily better. It shows excellent computational AI photography with warmer saturated colours. Samsung is more à la naturel.
Find X3 Pro’s 10-bit, 1billion colour screen is impressive and quite ahead of the Samsung
Find X3 Pro has more BT codecs, including the Qualcomm aptX suite.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon SD888 is a tad faster than the Samsung Exynos 2100 – but how much power do you need?
Find X3 Pro has 65W charging – bloody fast. The S21 Ultra has nothing. Well, you even have to buy the 25W charger, and it takes three times longer
S21 Ultra can support a stylus and cable or wireless DeX desktop on a monitor
Warranty – OPPO is well ahead
Support – a draw.
Because there is so little between them, prestige flagship buyers should consider both. I suspect that when you get the lighter, svelte OPPO Find X3 Pro in your hands, you will fall in love and live happily ever after. And that, to a died in the wool Samsung man, is surprising.