OPPO Reno Z Review – The Good Review

The OPPO Reno Z easily found its way onto the Android Headlines Top Ten for best value handsets around and a full review of the device was more than enough to cement its place for the time being. Not only is this handset one of the nicest looking on the market, for now. The OPPO Reno Z handily navigates just about any task that’s thrown at it, despite several drawbacks outlined in our “bad” review.

To begin with, OPPO has optimized its Reno Z to withstand well over a full day’s use on a single charge. Charging up doesn’t take too long either, thanks to OPPO’s rapid charging technology. It’s packed in a flagship-level SoC too, that won’t disappoint when real work needs to get done. Backing that up, even with the version that has bare minimum specs, OPPO includes plenty of RAM and storage.

Topping that, the OPPO Reno Z has a brilliant display that takes up most of the device’s face. That’s setting aside the equally brilliant selfie-shooter. Turning the device over reveals a sleek, modern design in unique color configurations with two very capable primary cameras.

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OPPO has really gone above and beyond to put its best foot forward at an affordable sub-$500 price point. The OPPO Reno Z is a worthy contender that’s well deserving of a closer look.

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Design and hardware are definite highlights with the OPPO Reno Z

02 OPPO Reno Z Review hardware AH 2019

02 OPPO Reno Z Review hardware AH 2019

OPPO certainly didn’t slack off while designing the Reno Z’s aesthetics. To begin with, the company kept a familiar shape with 2.5D glass curved smoothly but sharply at the edges. The design is rounded off at the corners, giving the phone an overall softer, less intense look. The keys embedded in the round metal edge are recessed so that only minimal protrusion is visible.

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Those physical keys are metal and the power button has a bright high-gloss green line that’s easily visible even in low-lighting. The low rate of protrusion of the keys is matched by a frame that feels seamless. Ports and the SIM draw sit flush and are smooth so they don’t catch on anything and they’re super comfortable to the touch.

The cameras, meanwhile, are placed under the back panel’s glass. That panel has a shallow curve that’s reminiscent of HTC’s more successful designs and it fits snugly in-hand. The curve also helps this device feel much smaller than it is when it comes to using the screen with just one hand, in addition to making it extremely comfortable to hold.

The notch used in the display is minimal, with secondary sensors tucked away behind the screen for a cleaner, less cluttered appearance.

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For colors, there are two gradients to choose from and OPPO sent the Aura Purple version. The other available color is Aura Black. That meant the back panel swooped smoothly from bright indigo to purple. The color shifts depending on angle and lighting, with an accent stripe running up the back. Even resting within the smoke gray protective case, OPPO includes in the package, the design is a solid ten-out-of-ten.

Now, all of the ports and buttons here are snappy and snug. That means they should last quite some time. In fact, the recession of the hardware keys may be intended to aid with how snappy the buttons feel since it allows them to be nearly flush but still clicky.

There’s no wiggle to any of the ports, which are similarly recessed along the bottom edge.

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Performance that lives up to a flagship-killer reputation

03 OPPO Reno Z Review performance AH 2019

03 OPPO Reno Z Review performance AH 2019

With the exception of anomalies in OPPO’s Game Space software, which is not at all well-suited to every Android game, the performance experienced with the Reno Z is not going to be a problem for just about any user. Transitions between multiple applications, split-screen use, and other multitasking tasks are quick and fluid. Interactions with the screen are smooth and response from the system can only be described as buttery.

There was barely any perceptible latency, in fact, even during the initial setup process. That, in and of itself, is impressive.

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It’s even more impressive since my variant of the device ships with only 4GB of RAM to offset its 128GB of storage. The processor, while among MedaiTek’s best offerings, isn’t necessarily anything special either. That’s a MediaTek MTK P90, to be exact.

In the OPPO Reno Z, that chipset performs brilliantly. It likely performs even better in the 8GB RAM variant since it is, in fact, MediaTek’s equivalent of an older flagship chip.

Whether I was playing a top-end game or using a high-intensity art modeling app, it just didn’t slow down. Summarily, there will undoubtedly be applications that cause problems but I wasn’t able to find them and the apps I used showed no issues during my review of the OPPO Reno Z. OPPO has ensured its device is well-qualified to fill the role of a “flagship killer.”

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This display keeps things crisp without wasting battery

04 OPPO Reno Z Review display AH 2019

04 OPPO Reno Z Review display AH 2019

The 6.4-inch AMOLED screen on OPPO’s Reno Z delivers a resolution of 2340 x 1080 pixels. That’s embedded with a minimal waterdrop notch for a screen-to-body ratio of 92-percent. As impressive as that is, the 402 pixel-per-inch rating isn’t the best part of this screen. Neither is the in-display fingerprint scanner and OPPO doesn’t point to any special technology underlying the screen to make its refresh rate higher than usual.

Brightness is one of the key aspects that makes this device’s screen so good.

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Contrary to how brightness in mid-range phones typically works, using the OPPO Reno Z indoors during my review didn’t actually require that setting to be placed any higher than the lowest setting. The screen was still crystal clear and above par for readability even then. Turning the brightness up to around 75-percent is all that was needed under even the brightest sunlight.

Whether or not there’s any technological magic going on under the hood to make things better than a screen with this resolution better isn’t immediately clear. But the refresh rate here was also above what I’d expected. So regardless of whether a movie or game was being played, this phone is always very comfortable to use.

For those who need to make adjustments for even more comfort, OPPO includes tools for display and font size, as well as blue-light levels in the settings. OPPO goes quite a bit further than that with another toggle for those who use their devices over extended periods. At the flick of a switch, low-brightness flickering can be smoothed out. That results in a slight increase in “screen noise” which I barely noticed unless I actively looked for it.

OPPO really did go out of its way to make this screen a joy to use. Touch sensitivity and responsiveness are high and I never found myself needing to tap or swipe twice to do what I wanted to.

OPPO’s battery optimizations keep things going well-over a day

05 OPPO Reno Z Review charging AH 2019

05 OPPO Reno Z Review charging AH 2019

Battery life with the OPPO Reno Z was one of the utmost highlights of this particular review. This is a device that will last just about any user at least a day and a half, without needing to activate battery-savings.

Now, testing a battery — even with a benchmark, which I did not do — is not something that can be universally accomplished. Throughout my use of the OPPO Reno Z, my use primarily centered around playing media, whether that was music, YouTube videos, movies, or music videos. I played around 2-hours of games varying from light-intensity to heavy.

The screen brightness, while unnecessary, was set to right around 60-percent to 70-percent over the test period.

Not including any time the phone was mostly on standby, including day-to-day messaging, email, some web browsing, and other similar activities, the OPPO Reno Z managed over 10-hours of screen-on time. That’s 10-hours and 36-minutes, to be exact. Including all of the time the phone was on, the battery lasted 30-hours 47-minutes.

On the opposite side of things, not only did the device manage to charge up from zero to full in under an hour and twenty minutes. The exact time is difficult to ascertain since there’s no indicator LED to watch for, making checking a manual process. But it did reach 75 percent charge in just under 50 minutes and was full within the above-mentioned timeframe. That’s thanks to OPPO’s VOOC Flash Charge 3.0.

That’s impressive on both sides of the equation, especially since only a 4,035mAh battery is in use here. It’s closer to the performance I might expect from a 5,000mAh battery or higher.

For photography, OPPO Reno Z doesn’t disappoint

06 OPPO Reno Z Review camera AH 2019

06 OPPO Reno Z Review camera AH 2019

As noted in the “bad” review of this device, the camera OPPO includes with its Reno Z isn’t the best around. At least, that’s true when it comes to “SLO-MO” videos and night mode. Everywhere else, OPPO’s two-camera arrangement performs like a champ.

To begin with, the software comes complete with automatic and adjustable HDR mode, filters, and another AI-driven feature called “Dazzle Color” in the app. The latter of those is intended for those who like a bit more saturation in their shots. Captures with the OPPO Reno Z’s cameras are typically very natural-looking.

Beyond those, the standard panoramic, pro, time-lapse, video, and portrait modes are part of the package. AI-enhanced beautification tools and Google Lens are built right in too.

Now, this is an AI camera experience through and through. So users don’t actually need to adjust anything to start taking photos. It’s a very point-and-shoot experience. The AI camera adjusts for different scenes and shooting modes, including macro mode and other modes that might be expected.

It does so in spectacular fashion, as shown in our sample gallery via Flickr.

Nearly every shot I took, setting aside those few caveats, came out crystal clear. Details here were as high as almost any other camera I’ve tested. Color accuracy is spot on as is shadowing. The result is bright blues for the sky, even when the shot is backlit and in shade, and textures that pop with staggering detail. That trend continues through until light gets too low, where night mode takes over.

Even using the flash here is a great experience, owing to OPPO’s dedication to detail and an almost perfectly tuned timing system for that. Artistic tools round out the software, helping keep every shot looking unique and personal.

The camera hardware, a 48-megapixel coupled with a 5-megapixel sensor, is protected by another design element. That’s the O-Dot anti-abrasion structure, a small ball-like protrusion at the back. The O-Dot keeps the camera lenses from resting on any surface when put down.

Does all of that make this a worthy purchase?

07 OPPO Reno Z Review to buy AH 2019

07 OPPO Reno Z Review to buy AH 2019

None of that means that using this device was a perfect experience. But none of the caveats seemed to have much to do with hardware at all. Instead, any and almost all issues are related to software. Some of those will be less impactful than others, as shown in our negative review for the OPPO Reno Z. Every smartphone has its faults and here, those are generally less meaningful due to their subjectivity.

When it comes to how good the Reno Z actually is — for under $500 and as low as slightly over $300 from some sources — this is a brilliant handset for the money. OPPO built this handset to be both aesthetically pleasing and comfortable. It accomplished both.

The curved design of this handset means that it fits in-hand easily while still allowing a large display. The design further enables easier reaching of on-screen elements than other smartphones I’ve used. Its two-tone multifaceted coloration, conversely, deliver a unique style. That’s immediately noticeable under nearly any lighting from almost any angle.

OPPO has also equipped the Reno Z with a camera that’s a cut above in most regards. That’s not perfect either. When it comes to taking photos, especially simple pointing and snapping, it’s going to be a hard camera to beat. In fact, there are only a select handful of devices that likely will, within the price bracket.

This phone stands out where battery life is a priority too, with over 10-hours of screen-on time in my test. Battery saving features will extend that further for those who need more. Turning on automatic brightness and other settings I didn’t use will help more.

There’s a high likeliness this is just going to be a great smartphone for just about anybody.

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