OPPO Reno Z - as satisfying and cheap as hot chips - mmmm.
4.9Overall Score
Name: OPPO Reno Z
Price (RRP): $OPPO
Manufacturer: 499

The OPPO Reno Z is part of the new Reno series – joining its 4G lossless 10X zoom and its well-priced 5G model. Reno is pronounced Ree-No like OPPO is Ohh-Po…

The Oppo Reno Z, however, is a $499 phone. I wondered if it was not a little cheeky of OPPO to call it a Reno when its Reno 4G and 5G siblings cost $1,199 and $1,499 and use the current flagship powerhouse Qualcomm SD855. This uses a MediaTek Helio P90 processor. And it is missing the uber-sexy, shark fin pop-up selfie camera. Instead, it has a centre teardrop. Reno’s brother by a different mother perhaps.

Don’t get me wrong – OPPO can call it whatever it likes just as Google has done with the Pixel 3a/XL and Huawei with its P30 Lite (that bears little resemblance to its P30/Pro siblings). As John Laws used to say, “When you are on a good thing, stick to it”.

Interesting, however, is that the OPPO Reno Z has caused so much excitement. Several readers now report having bought one, and I set out to discover why.

Spoiler alert: This is a terrific phone with a 6.4-inch gorgeous AMOLED screen, 6/128GB, Wi-Fi AC and a pretty amazing camera. And it is $499, repeat $499 dual sim unlocked.

How rate smartphones

We develop paradigms – what it needs to do – and slot them into market segments.

Our original four categories have grown to seven, and we review against different paradigms for each category.

  1. Foldable $2500+
  2. Premium Flagship $1600-2499 (usually a flagship with more memory/storage, additional camera lens and now 5G)
  3. Flagship $1000-1599 (account for about 10% of sales)
  4. Premium mid-market $800-999 (10% and often last year’s flagship at run-out price)
  5. Mid-market $500-799 (about 25% of the market)
  6. Mass-market $200-499 (about 25% of the market)
  7. Value pre-paid <A$199 (about 30% of the market – good for pre-paid and children)

The OPPO Reno Z is $499 and competes squarely with the Motorola One Vision (review here), the new Nokia 7.2 (when available), Samsung Galaxy A50 and the Huawei P30 Lite. Each phone has strengths and weaknesses.

Buy here – or you will regret it

We issue the standard warning that you must buy the genuine model CPH1979AU dual sim with Australian firmware as it works on all Australian Telco carrier LTE bands and can make a 000-emergency call (not 911) without a SIM. These also have Google Pay that works with Australian PayWave readers.

How to tell: Printed under the box it has the words ‘OPPO Mobile Australia’ and the warning that this product is only for sale and use in Australia. It will also have a C-tick.

OPPO Reno Z Model CPH1979AU 8/128GB dual sim

Australian Website here

In the box

  • OPPO Reno Z Handset
  • VOOC 3 fast charger 5V/4A
  • VOOC ‘green’ USB-A to USB-C cable
  • 3.5 mm OPPO earbuds and mic
  • Pre-fitted screen protector
  • Silicon bumper case – Smokey black

The first impression

I like the OPPO style, so I am always happy to see a new model. The review unit, however, came in basic dull, boring piano black albeit that OPPO calls it Jet Black (and it is a fingerprint magnet). The only other Australian colour is Aurora Purple. Both are gradient colours – change as you view them from differnt angles.

OPPO Reno Z

By the way, if you see it in Star Purple, Extreme Night Black, Coral Orange, or Bead White – warning – these are not Australian models.

The 6.4-inch centre teardrop screen is big, bright and almost bezel-less. The rear has a subtle OPPO branding and the wording ‘Designed by OPPO’ which is a shot over Huawei’s bow that has ‘Designed by Leica’.

It has a dual rear 48/5MP camera, dual-LED flash and the now famous ‘nub’ that raises the body ever so slightly to protect the camera.

OPPO also puts effort into the box – its worthy of finding under the Christmas tree.

But above all remember that this is a $499 phone and there must be cost compromises somewhere. Our job is to find them and let you know if they matter.

Screen

Size: 6.4-inches
Resolution: 2340 x 1080
PPI: 402
Ratio: 19.5:9
Type: AMOLED (Samsung sourced)
AOD – clock, missed calls, SMS and selected notifications
S-T-B-R: 92%
Colour depth in bit/colours: 16m
Brightness: measured from 440 to 455 nits
Contrast:  infinite due to OLED producing true blacks
HDR:  HDR10
Colour gamut: 97% NTSC (95% sRGB) Delta E 4.82 (no adjustment)
Notch: Centre small half teardrop
Under glass 3D fingerprint
Screen protection: type: Gorilla Glass 5
Daylight readability: Superb

It is a bright AMOLED screen, easily readable in sunlight. You can alter the colour temperature from cool 6500K to warm 7500K – default is half-way.

OPPO Reno Z

As usual, the auto-brightness setting is too aggressive towards battery life, and I turn it off. Then set the slider to about 80% before it displays the high-power consumption warning.

There are no colour adjustment options, but under Developer Options, you can enable sRGB, and it achieves ABOUT 95% sRGB.

Summary: The best screen so far on a $499 phone – its AMOLED!

Performance

Processor MediaTek MT6779 Helio P90 12nm
2×2.2 GHz Cortex-A75 & 6×2.0 GHz Cortex-A55
GPU PowerVR GM9446
OpenGL ES 1.1, 2.0, 3.0, 3.1, 3.2
Vulkan 1.0, 1.1
OpenCL 1.1, 1.2
Android NN HAL (Android neural networks)
RAM RAM: 8GB LPDDR4-1866Mhz
Storage: 128GB eMMC 108GB free
OTG Support: Yes
Micro-SD card expansion: No

Here is the first of the compromises. The MT Helio P90 12nm is quite a good chip for mid-to-high-end handhelds, lets alone debuting in this mass-market device. But it is no Qualcomm. Its closest and more powerful rival is the Qualcomm SD730 or SD710 that OPPO uses in the R17 Pro.

It uses six smaller A55 at 2.0GHz (for most things) and two A75 cores at 2.2Ghz (for grunt). These idle at 774/850Mhz and this means excellent power efficiency. GeekBench gives it a single/multi/compute score of 2017/6979/5635.

We loaded the phone with multiple apps and browsers – it was silky smooth.

What you lose is Qualcomm’s tech like the superb Hexagon Digital Signal Processor, AI, Aqstic sound/aptX and its X series modems. Is it a deal-breaker? Apparently not and it saves valuable pennies.

The GPU’s forte is low power use, photo rendering and video compression – it can encode/decode MP4 and decode HEVC H.265. It also supports Google’s AR extensions.

Game use: OPPO has a Game Boost 2.0 mode with Frame Boost and Touch Boost. It should play most FHD+ mobile games. However, MediaTek has just released its games focused, Helio G90, and it uses the Mali G76 MP4.

The 8/128GB ram/storage is unheard of in a mass-market phone. Another compromise is no MicroSD slot for memory expansion. Still, for this price who cares.

Heat load: Under 100% load for 15 minutes it went between 122,466-134,283 GIPS. It averages 95% performance, so there is no throttling under load. The rear cover temperature was just on 32° – perfect.

Comms

Wi-FI Wi-Fi AC, dual-band, MIMO
Wi-Di, Hotspot
BT Bluetooth 5.0
SBC codec
NFC Yes
USB USB-C 2.0
GPS A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BDS

Wi-Fi strength on 5Ghz is -47dBm compared to our reference Galaxy Note9 at -48dBm (lower is better). Both phones achieve 866Mbps at 2m from our D-link AC 5300 router. At 5m the Note9 is 195Mbps versus 173Mbps for the Reno Z. It has an excellent Wi-Fi antenna setup.

GPS has fast satellite acquisition and more than enough speed for turn-by-turn navigation and recalculations.

4G/5G/LTE

LTE Cat 12 600/100Mbps
Bands 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/18/19/20/26/28/ 29/40/41
Sim Dual sim unlocked – no microSD slot
(note Vodafone, Optus and Telstra are single SIM)
Dual active SIM can support both 4G and VoLTE at the same time
Other VoLTE and VoWiFi depends on carrier

Both the Reno Z and Note9, were -97dBm. But where the Reno Z shines is finding the next nearest tower at -99dBm – the Note9 cannot –  that reflects later tech.

LTE Bands cover all Australia carriers and many international ones.

You can read about Dual Sim setup options on OPPO here. It really offers excellent flexibility.

Sound

Sound 3.5mm audio jack
Earpiece (mono for phone) plus
becomes stereo with the down-firing speaker
Mics: 2
3.5mm buds
FM Radio (needs wired headphones)
AMP Dual Class D TFA98912UK 3.6W RMS at 8 Ohm
THD <1%
Dolby Atmos decoding
Default res: 16-bit/48kHz
Max res 24-bit/192kHz

This is a loud phone. Ringer is 86dB and voice/music is 76/79dB – outstanding.

I usually criticise the so-called a stereo earpiece and down-firing speaker combo, but it had reasonable separation and similar volume and sound characteristics. Good tuning!

OPPO Reno Z

As is OPPO’s style our reference Sony WH-100XM3 headphones sounded superb although we suspect its nothing to do with the SBC codec and more to do with the Dolby Atmos psychoacoustic trickery.

Dolby Atmos means it can accept up to 5.1.2 or 7.1.4 Atmos content and downmix it to the 2.0 speakers or headphones/buds. Atmos settings are Smart, Movie, Gaming and Music.

We tested the 3.5mm buds, and the sound was adequate – no bass, strong mids and weak upper mids and treble.

Sound signature

Deep Bass: 20-40Hz – nil
Middle Bass: 40-100Hz – nil
High Bass: 100 to 200Hz – building
Low-mids: 200-400Hz – still building
Mids: 400-1000Hz – building and flat
High-mids: 1-2kHz – flat
Low-treble: 2-4kHz – flat to peaking
Treble: 4-6kHz – declining
High Treble: 6-10kHz – declining
Dog whistle: 10-20 – dropped off the cliff at 16kHz

This is predominately a bright vocal sound signature that is good for voice but tends to lack the ‘oomph’ for bass.

OPPO has a headphone monitor setting that allows you to hear the smartphone mic via the headphones. Karaoke anyone?

Other

Other Fingerprint sensor under glass
Face recognition 2D

This has one of the best under glass scanners I have used. It is fast but not quite as fast as the Reno 5G which is blazing – blame the lower-powered Helio 90 SoC.

Face recognition is also excellent and quick. I tended to use this for convenience over the fingerprint system.

Battery

Battery 4000mAh battery
Charger   VOOC 3 charger 5V/4A (20W)
Quick Charge: full in an hour

The battery is large for this class of device. OPPO VOOC is two batteries wired in serial and the Charger is two chargers putting out 5V/2A each. It is an eminently sensible and safer way to give it the capacity and charge speed without overstressing a single 4000mAh battery and USB-PD charger.

The ‘green’ cable USB-A to USB-C is for VOOC to deliver two concurrent charges. If you lose that you can still charge at half rate using the VOOC charger or a 5V/2A charger. It is not USB-C USB-PD compatible but using that charger will not damage it.

Tests: 1080p Video loop, 50% brightness, Airplane mode, 12 hours
Under 100% load and everything turned on it was empty in just over five hours (GeekBench score 5228)

Given typical use we expect this to run for 24+ hours between charges.

Operating system

OS Android: 9
Security Patch: July 2019 (excellent)
UI: ColorOS 6
Google Assistant

My son is an OPPO fan using its phones since 2014. He has seen ColourOS grow up. “ColorOS, when I fist started using it, was very Apple-like and that was OK as I had come from Apple. But OS5 and now OS6 are more Android-like, and that is a good thing. OS6 (based on Android 9) has so many more smarts, and I can see why it needs its camera app (for AI and added features). I really like it – it adds much value to pure Android, and you sill have all the Google services and apps.”

It is now a minimal learning curve, but for the most part, Android users will love the added functionality of ColorOS6 – more here. BTW – you can set the home key layout to Android 9, Apple or Android 8 styles.

Build etc

Colours Jet Black and Aurora Purple
Build Gorilla Glass 6 back over alloy frame.
Slippery – use the bumper case
Dimensions 157.3 x 74.9 x 9.1 mm x 186g
IP Rating Not rated (rain resistant)

The last thing you expect is Gorilla Glass (any version) over an alloy frame. OPPOs build quality is excellent.

IP ratings are always nice but not expected for $499.

What’s missing

Missing microSD slot

I must take a point off for no Micro-SD, but with 128GB I have to add it back on in a $499 phone.

Camera

Rear Camera 1
Primary
48MP (pixel bins to 12MP)
Sensor brand/model: Sony IMX586
Pixel Size: .8um (pixel bins to 1.6um)
F-stop: f/1.7
Stabilisation: Gyro EIS for 1K video
Focus type: PDAF
HDR: Auto
Zoom: 10X digital
Flash type: dual,
Saved images: Bayer RAW or JPEG
Video:[email protected] with stereo recording
Google Lens:
Rear Camera 2 5MP Depth sensor
F/2.4
Camera features AI Low-light Shot, Ultra Night Mode 2.0, Backlit Selfie
AI scene recognition, Photo, Portrait, Video, Night, Pano, Expert, Time-lapse, and Slo-mo
Selfie 1 32MP
F/2.0
.8um
HDR
Face unlock
No screen fill flash

Why the detail?

While 48MP sounds impressive and it is the same primary sensor as the Reno 5G, and 4G 10x zoom. The reality is that it defaults to a pixel binning 12MP camera in all but the brightest light. There is nothing wrong with that – most high MP cameras do that including Google’s Pixel series.

In terms of luminosity, HDR and colour reproduction of the OPPO Reno Z camera is much better than its competitors for the price. But I think it needs a firmware update to its post-processing algorithms to make images a little sharper (compared to the Qualcomm powered Reno 4 and 5G)

There are small differences between the Sony 48MP IMX586 sensor and the Samsung 48MP SK5GM1 used in the Motorola One Vision.

Sony has gyro-EIS and can shoot at 48MP or 12MP. Samsung has OIS and only shoots at 12MP.

From what I read, the Sony Sensor has the edge

it gives sharper resolution and only pixel bins when necessary, e.g. low light. The Quad-Bayer arrangement allows three modes, e.g. two-exposures HDR, Quad-binning (12MP), and normal (49MP).

The Samsung has Tetracel Plus (really Quad-Bayer), but its 12MP output means digital zoom is not as crisp as it extrapolates to 48MP.

Whatever both the OPPO Reno Z and the Motorola One Vision

AI software

Suffice to say OPPO is a leader in AI for photography and has almost every conceivable feature. Now they have added night mode.

Tests – all auto

Daylight, outdoors

Perfect colour, contrast and detail. 10-out-of-10. 1/1250 sec. ISO114
A 10X Digital Zoom shot and lets face it – digital zoom is not optical zoom.

Indoors Office Light (400 lumens)

Good detail in the fur, great color accuracy 1/50sec, ISO 160
Same shot with bokeh. The rear camera’s second depth sensor makes it easy.

Low light (room with less than 100 lumens)

Standard shot in a near dark room. Particularly impressive detail on the dual monitors.
Night mode really pops and brings up colours to almost daylight levels.

Selfie

32MP detail is excellent, but contrast is not quite there. Still its a sharp and colourful shot.

Bokeh

See toy dog shot above. The rear bokeh works flawlessly. It is OK for the singlelens front camera as long as you are now wearing things that break your silhouette.

Video

It has [email protected] and colour and details are excellent if you hold it still. At [email protected] gyro-EIS kicks in and colour and quality are terrific even if you are walking around

GadgetGuy’s take – OPPO you have done it again. The Oppo Reno Z is a class-leading act even if its as cheap as chips.

Huge colourful, bright AMOLED display, fast SoC, 8/128GB, and a 48 (12MP) and 32MP selfie camera. There is not one thing to dislike about this.

I love this phone. In a week or so of use, it could be my daily drive. At $499 it makes me think about forking out over $1000 on a flagship ever again.

Naysayers will point to the MediaTek Helio P90 and its lack of a pedigree (specifically games, but I think it is OK. Then they will point to no microSD slot – 128GB for $499, get real. They may also say ColorOS 6 over Android 9 is not perfect, but it is pretty good, and those who use it – love it.

The only real competitor is the $499 Motorola One Vision, and yes, Pure Android One (and its guaranteed patches and OS updates) and an IP53 rating may sway me, but it’s a tough call between them.

One reader who bought and OPPO Reno Z sent me this

Despite the Reno Z not having removable SD card I’ll live with the Reno Z’s 128GB. I can use Wi-Fi or USB-C to transfer excess ‘stuff’ to my PC.

One key determinant was the Reno Z’s stereo speakers – after the Sony Xperia I didn’t want to do without. The speakers are louder which is a boon with my old man’s hearing problems.

I’m still getting the hang of the ColorOS 6. The fingerprint recognition works well, and very fast (a second or less). The screen has a noticeably better resolution and much easier to read than the Xperia’s. The phone overall is close to the same size as the Xperia’s.

One nice touch is that the screen comes with a scratch-resistant protector and a silicone case is thrown in, so you don’t need to source and pay extra for these. The phone looks very nice (until you mask it with the cover, of course).

I don’t play games, so the processor is not an issue for me. It easily copes with road navigation, etc.  As far as I can ascertain at this early stage, having a MediaTek rather than Snapdragon won’t be an issue.

YouTube

OPPO Reno Z - as satisfying and cheap as hot chips - mmmm.
Name: OPPO Reno Z Price (RRP): $OPPO Manufacturer: 499
Superb build quality and style48MP camera is class leadingHuge 6.4" AMOLED display
IP rating
Features
Value for money
Performance
Ease of Use
Design
4.9Overall Score
Reader Rating 81 Votes