Oppo's 4.85mm thin R5 smartphone reviewed
3.4Overall Score
Price (RRP): $629 Manufacturer: Oppo

Apple may lead the smartphone wars with the iPhone, but Oppo is challenging the big A for some inventiveness, finding a way to make mobiles slimmer than ever with the 4.85mm thin R5. Is this as good as it is thin?

Features

Oppo’s thinnest device — not just Oppo’s, but the world’s — is the R5, a phone that pushes past the 6 and 7mm thickness limits we’ve been seeing on major phones of late, and settles on something positively hard to spot: 4.85mm.

Just a hair under 5mm is what Oppo is reaching for in this rather unique mobile handset that tries to show it’s not just the big boys that can do something special.

That thickness is the key feature for this phone, and Oppo has done it with a metal and glass build, throwing in some processing power to boot.

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As such, you’ll find an eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor made up of two quad-core sections, one clocked at 1.7GHz and another at 1GHZ, with this paired with 2GB RAM and 16GB storage. No microSD storage slot can be found in this handset, so your storage is set to 16GB only.

Google’s Android operating system arrives on this smartphone, with version 4.4 “KitKat” there out of the box, though this is Oppo’s take on the

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Cameras are included with the smartphone, part and parcel with nearly every smartphone out there, and you’ll find a 13 megapixel camera with LED Flash on the rear, raised at the back slightly and bumping up the thickness a little.

The front also features a camera, with a 5 megapixel shooter above the display.

The connections on offer aren’t the best they could be, with 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, as well as Bluetooth 4.0, GPS with A-GPS, and 4G LTE available for the mobile broadband side of things. Meanwhile, only one hard wired port is offered in the R5, with a microUSB port at the bottom.

If you’re curious as to why there is no 3.5mm headset jack, the omission of that port is one of the main reasons why Oppo has been able to produce such a slim handset.

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Buttons are still here, too, with a physical power button on the right edge just below the volume rocker, while the rest of the phone’s buttons are below the screen as soft buttons, providing the older Android menu (hold down for multi-tasking), home, and back.

Only one slot can be found in the handset, with the microSIM slot ejectable by a supplied pin ejector tool.

The battery is built into the Oppo R5 smartphone and is rated at 2000mAh.

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Performance

Every year, we see the best and the brightest ideas enter the smartphone world. New screens, better processors, and the technology that turns practically every mobile calling device into something that makes it an even more impressive super computer with every improvement.

And every time that happens, we find the devices change shape.

The manufacturers and designers of the world add curves and give the phones new form, hugging our legs when we walk and cradling our hands when we take them out for use, and every time a new design arrives, so too does a new thickness.

We all crave big screens at the moment, but a thick phone isn’t something anyone really wants, and right now, the holy grail is to make a phone that is easy to hold, big enough to read anywhere, and slim enough to not make an impact on your stride as you walk down the road.

Oppo may not have been in the mobile phone game for very long, but it has apparently been paying close attention to this last one, because that is the primary reason we’re seeing a new handset hit the streets, the R5.

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This handset is a little different from your regular flagship, and we’re not kidding when we say the emphasis has been on getting the size down because this is more or less advertised as the world’s thinnest phone, sitting at a depth of 4.85mm when you don’t include the camera bump (and if you do, it barely jumps up much in size, maybe half a millimetre or so).

That’s enough to set a record for being the world’s thinnest smartphone, and it’s not even a slouch in the processing department, packing in an eight-core Snapdragon 615 processor, 2GB RAM, and 16GB storage.

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In the hands, the design is very angular, reminding us of the Sony Xperia Z2, which like this phone was made from glass and metal. In fact, the design is very similar, even if the back of the Oppo is more iPhone like. One could almost say the R5 is like taking the frame of the Xperia Z2 and cutting it in half, since the Z2 measures 8.2mm thick, and the Oppo R5 is nearly half that at 4.85mm.

Not all mobile users will appreciate this super-slim angular design, which is pleasing enough thanks to the use of metal in its build, and we blame that on just how much of a block this can resemble.

Fortunately, it won’t leave too much of an impact in your pants, and that’s where Oppo can say the thickness — or lack thereof, even — is having an impact. Or even little impact, as both statements are accurate.

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Switch the phone on, however, and you’ll see the screen make an impact on you, presenting a 5.2 inch display of Full HD resolution to your eyes. Again, this is very similar to what Sony’s Xperia Z2 offers, with more or less the same resolution minus the soft keys, which in the Oppo R5 sit under the screen and aren’t digital and part of the display like they are on the Sony.

This is of course no detriment to the Oppo, which technically offers a little more in the pixel clarity count, though not enough to make a dent.

Sufficed to say, you’ll find roughly 424 pixels per inch offered here, providing more than enough clarity to take on Apple’s Retina resolution, which is either 326 ppi on the iPhone 6 or 400 ppi on the iPhone 6 Plus. The Oppo R5 beats both of those numbers, telling us your eyes shouldn’t feel any problems when staying locked on the 5.2 inch display used in this handset.

Performance is, however, a mixed bag.

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For the most part, the Oppo handles itself for phone calls, surfing the web, writing and reading emails, social networking, and general use of the phone, and we’re even delighted to see Swype pre-installed as a keyboard, meaning you can get some gesture typing if need be, which we see as faster than the on-screen key-by-key typing we’re all used to using.

Occasionally, however, the system does slow to a crawl, and you’ll find yourself holding down the older Android menu button to pull up multi-tasking so you can swipe apps out of the memory as quickly as you can, which doesn’t always help.

We found the R5 could quickly recover from its performance troubles, but it wasn’t helped by ColorOS, Oppo’s take on what an Android overlay should be like.

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This one reminds us of Huawei’s Emotion UI, both of which appear to be inspired by Apple’s iOS, available on iPhones and iPads.

Instead of operating like regular Android with widgetised home screens and an app menu, the two have been merged on ColorOS, and your app shortcuts can be found on every widgetised home screen, swiping left to right to see what is available to you, and adding widgets to the screen if necessary.

Converts from iOS might find this easier to get used to, but we find it a little clumsy, and it doesn’t clean itself up easily, meaning if you move icons and install something else, you may find holes in your layout very quickly.

Likewise, the lock screen is a little different, forcing you to download themes if you wish to change the layout. At least you’re given this option, but it’s not going to be ideal for all.

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But hey, at least the camera is decent, and with the R5, we’re seeing another of Oppo’s excellent little shooters built into this phone.

It’s not the rotating camera found on either the N3 or the N1 Mini, but the rear 13 megapixel camera does remind us of the 13 megapixel camera on the N1 Mini, offering a little bit of expandability in the software for more options, and some decent light and balanced exposures when you take the shot, though they can get a little soft and noisy when you get up close to the images.

Daylight is obviously the best time to shoot with this camera, though we’re happy to see Oppo’s extended camera features still here, with a few downloadable modes supported by this little camera.

And that little camera does add a bump to the thickness of the Oppo R5, but it’s not what helps the phone achieve that remarkably small 4.85mm thickness. Rather, it’s the total omission of a 3.5mm jack that makes that happen, meaning you can’t just plug in a pair of headphones to listen to music.

Image sample from the Oppo R5 camera.

Image sample from the Oppo R5 camera.

You can always use wireless Bluetooth headphones, which is what this phone feels geared to, but if you have a pair of wired earphones or headphones that you love, they won’t plug in natively, a special cable that converts 3.5mm into microUSB, the one port found on the phone.

There is one catch, however, to make this accessory work: you have to have Android-friendly headphones.

“What’s that?” I hear you say to yourself, “Android-friendly headphones. Is there such a thing?”

If you can believe it, there is, and most headphones aren’t, or rather the cables aren’t.

Technically, all headphones are Android-friendly, with headphones generally being platform agnostic; they’re sound devices, so provided they plug in with a 3.5mm cable, they don’t actually care. They’ll play audio when sound is sent through the cable from a 3.5mm jack to another 3.5mm port.

But cables aren’t all the same, especially when you throw Apple’s “MFi” or “made for iPhone” cables in the mix. Cables with remotes are generally made for Apple devices, except where otherwise noted, and these usually do not let you use more than one button on the remote for devices that aren’t made by Apple.

And that’s where things get interesting with the Oppo R5.

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You see, there is no 3.5mm jack on the R5, a fact we’ve already mentioned which helps to get the R5 down in thickness.

To help with this, you’re given a microUSB to 3.5mm cable, essentially providing you a port even if it hangs slightly off the side.

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Unfortunately, the moment you plug in a pair of headphones with an MFi cable — which is a good 60% of headphones out there — you’ll find the phone skips the cord and plays audio through the phone’s speaker, essentially ignoring your headphones.

We thought that was funny and tried it with a few different styles of headphones, and what we found was this: if you plugged in a pair of regular headphones that were probably made for the iPhone, the headphones wouldn’t play back audio, but if you plugged in a pair of specifically Android headphones, they did.

That means if you want a working 3.5mm jack on the Oppo R5, you need to either use Oppo’s included headphones, a pair of Android-specific headphones (of which there aren’t many), or a standard audio cable with no remote whatsoever. Most headphones don’t come with these anymore, though HiFi ones obviously do, and so you might have a hard time getting a pair of headphones to work with the Oppo R5 unless you do some research.

And even when you do find them, the Android remote will not work, except for causing every button to do the same thing: pause and play, with double clicks skipping tracks. You may as well not have the remote at all.

It’s not just the headphone remotes that are impacted by the microUSB converter, either, as we found USB thumbdrives with microUSB dongles were picked up as headphones, making backup a little problematic if you plan on using one of the many dual-mode thumbdrives out there.

We have to assume Oppo did this unintentionally, and that this is the microUSB jack playing silly buggers, but if you’re shopping for a pair of headphones to work with the R5, make sure they’re Bluetooth. At least you can be certain Bluetooth headphones will work.

On the left, if you use a pair of headphones with an iPhone-friendly MFi cable, the headphones won't work through the Oppo supplied 3.5mm cable. The right shows that the moment you plug in a pair of Android-friendly earphones, it does work. Such fun.

On the left, if you use a pair of headphones with an iPhone-friendly MFi cable, the headphones won’t work through the Oppo supplied 3.5mm cable. The right shows that the moment you plug in a pair of Android-friendly earphones, it does work. Such fun.

Battery life could also be better, especially since you’re likely going to be depending on those Bluetooth cans.

With Bluetooth switched on and using wireless headphones, you’ll find a battery life of less than a day. In fact, it’s not just less than a day, it is half a day. Starting at 8am, we found our test saw us drop to a worryingly low of 32% by 5P.30M, three hours why of 12 hours.

It didn’t last much longer, either, and we killed the rundown test at 7.42 that evening when the battery hit 4%.

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That is astonishingly low — not even 12 hours — and tells us that if you’re reliant on smart devices working on Bluetooth — like a fitness gadget and smartwatch — as well as Bluetooth headphones, this is not the phone to trust with your day.

Switching Bluetooth off and relying on the 3.5mm breakout cable with Android specific headphones fares a little better, reaching that day from home to work and back, but that’s all you’re going to get here, and the more phone calls you make, and the more often you switch on that screen, the worse the life of the Oppo R5 fares.

We guess you could call this an experimental phone, and we can only imagine that the battery had to be reduced in size because of this uber-slim design, with a 2000mAh battery found in this phone.

We’re not sure how much more battery life Oppo could have pumped into this handset, but it definitely needs more, because no matter how thin a smartphone this is, escaping with less than 12 hours of life when you’ve skipped out on the 3.5mm jack does feel like a bit of a failure.

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Storage is a bit of a concern, too, and you can’t bring much to this phone. Only 16GB can be found in here with roughly 12GB available to you, and there is no way of expanding this at all.

It’s a little surprising that Oppo went with a microSIM slot instead of a nanoSIM, and we have to wonder if we had seen the smaller SIM card slot, the company might have been able to throw in room for both a microSD and the nanoSIM.

We’ll always wonder, though, and this phone will be stuck at 16GB only. Not great news when you consider that the images out of this camera translate to roughly 3MB per image, not to mention just how little audio you can store on the phone.

Did the microSIM slot make it impossible for a microSD to be loaded in? We'll never know.

Did the microSIM slot make it impossible for a microSD to be loaded in? We’ll never know.

Conclusion

Oppo’s R5 is a very interesting smartphone, and it doesn’t come from its style, which kind of resembles a flattened iPhone 5 with a slightly extruded camera. It’s not interesting for its version of Android, either, which again takes a page from Apple and tries to Androidify it up.

What it does do exceedingly well, however, is to take a page from what Apple used to do more of: chances. Yes, the Oppo R5 takes a chance in a way you’d half expect out of Apple, a company that often leads the way in bringing in changes before others, with an attention to different ports and slots in the various devices it produces.

But Oppo has managed to challenge Apple in this way, ditching the 3.5mm jack first with a super slim design that no one else has tried, even though we expected that out of Apple a few years ago.

Curious as to just how thin the super-thin Oppo R5 is? Here it is sitting next to the 6.9mm thick iPhone 6. There's a separation of 2mm, and yet it doesn't look like it.

Curious as to just how thin the super-thin Oppo R5 is? Here it is sitting next to the 6.9mm thick iPhone 6. There’s a separation of 2mm, and yet it doesn’t look like it.

One question has to be asked of the R5, though: is it a success?

Yes and no.

On the one hand, the Oppo R5 makes some successful strides with regards to keeping things clean and simple, building a handset that could be from the future thanks to that missing 3.5mm jack, one of the things we’ve said for years will stop the phone from getting slimmer.

Yet on the other hand, the processor needs a slight increase, the battery could do with a bump, and while the Oppo R5 is a fairly good looking phone, it’s still a fairly heavy little box that is a wee bit too angular for us.

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Oppo does get the screen right and at least is using the right materials from our point of view, as the R5 appears to be lovingly crafted from durable metal and glass, but not all hands will love it, and while it is amazingly thin and jeans and pants will adore it, your hands may disagree.

But it’s a great start and something the company should work on, because version two of this concept could be even better, especially if you’re already using Bluetooth headphones. Be aware, the battery isn’t particularly smashing, though, so make sure you have a battery pack nearby or a USB charger, because you’ll need it.

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Consider the Oppo R5 worth checking out if every phone is just a little too thick for your body, and you’re looking for something that barely makes an impression, because right now, that’s exactly what this phone caters for.

Oppo's 4.85mm thin R5 smartphone reviewed
Price (RRP): $629 Manufacturer: Oppo
Super slim; Very sturdy and surprisingly well made; Bright screen; Decent camera;
Uninspiring battery life; No microSD slot, and the memory is fixed to a lowly 16GB, with only around 12GB of that available to you; Soft buttons have no backlighting, making it difficult to operate in the dark; Operating system feels like a clunky version of iOS; No 3.5mm jack except without cable hanging out; Headphone convertor cable does not work with MFi cables, alienating a good portion of the headphones out there;
Overall
Features
Value for money
Performance
Ease of Use
Design
3.4Overall Score
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