In the meantime, it should come as no surprise to us that telephone companies bring completely new generations of smartphones onto the market every few months. The competition is so intense that no company wants to be left behind, and it is clear that the attractiveness of a new model outweighs the annoyance of such a rapid aging. Oppo has quietly released updates for its value-oriented A9 (review) and A5 smartphones, which are referred to as the A9 2020 and A5 2020, respectively. The names might indicate that they are slightly refreshed compared to their predecessors, but there are significant changes under the hood that warrant a closer look.
These new models should of course help to keep the company up to date with newer models from sister companies Vivo and Realme as well as Xiaomi, Samsung and others. Both the Oppo A9 2020 and the Oppo A5 2020 have a lot in common, including the processors and batteries. The main differences between the two are the front and primary rear cameras, the available memory and the available colors.
We're reviewing the new Oppo A9 2020 today to see if it lives up to its futuristic name and whether it breathes new energy into the mid-size smartphone market.
Oppo A9 2020 design
The Oppo A9 2020 feels a bit bigger than usual, and that's because of its relatively unusual 20: 9 display. We noticed that this phone stuck a little more out of our jeans pocket than we would have liked. It is no narrower than most other cellphones and is also quite thick at 9.1 mm and heavier than average at 195 g. All in all, we found that it's not that easy to hold and use.
Oppo has made some design considerations, such as For example, arrange the power and volume buttons in the middle of each side of the phone so they are within range. However, each key or icon in the top quarter of the screen requires a considerable distance. The rear is a bit slippery, but so much so that we feared the phone might fall off. The fingerprint sensor was just within our reach, but it's a bit small and narrow, so others may have placement issues.
In terms of design, there is nothing really new or different about this phone. It has a water drop notch and a protruding chin on the front, and our test device had a pre-assembled plastic screen protector. Oppo says it used Gorilla Glass 3+ on the front and back of this phone.
Our Space Purple unit had a smooth metal gradient on the back that moved from deep blue left to purple right. The only other option is called Marine Green. However, the glass is very susceptible to stains and fingerprints. The camera module stands out clearly – three of the four rear cameras are in it, the fourth is on one side directly under the flash.
On the bottom there is a USB Type-C connector as well as a 3.5 mm audio jack and a speaker (which works with the earphone as a stereo pair). The left compartment has space for two nano SIMs and a microSD card. Oppo comes with a plastic case, 10W charger, USB Type-C cable and even a wired headset in the retail box.
Oppo A9 2020 specifications and software
Like many recently launched midrange phones, the Oppo A9 2020 uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor. This octa-core model is the successor to the popular Snapdragon 600 and is said to offer both better energy efficiency and better graphics performance.
You get a 5000 mAh battery, but no support for quick charging is mentioned. On the other hand, Oppo promotes reverse charging, which allows you to use this phone as a power bank for charging other devices, provided you have the necessary cable or adapter for the Type-C connector.
There are two variants: one with 4 GB RAM – which was launched at Rs. 16,990, but officially reduced to Rs. 15,990 just a month after launch – and the other with 8 GB of RAM at Rs. 19,990. Oppo sent us the latter for review.
The display measures 6.5 inches diagonally, but only has an HD + resolution (720 x 1600), which is not particularly good in view of these Sub-Rs. 10,000 phones with Full HD resolution are no longer so rare. This will hurt Oppo's prospects, especially considering that the high-end version of this phone competes with some real powerhouses.
Oppos ColorOS Skin 6.0.1 runs on Android 9 with the October 2019 security patch. There's a lot going on, starting with a huge amount of bloatware and fake folders on the home screen that lead you to app and game stores. Many of Oppo's own apps as well as third-party apps generated annoying ad notifications even before they were run for the first time. It is possible, though tedious, to clean up most of it.
You can choose to use an app drawer or not and customize the layout of the home screen and theme. Oppo's Lock Screen Magazine feature shows useless and repetitive content on the lock screen, but at least we haven't seen any obvious ads here, and these can be disabled too.
There are extensive adjustments in the Settings app, the notification shade, and many of the standard apps, but things are generally what you would expect. Additional features include a game space optimizer, app cloner that only works with certain social apps, and Oppo Cloud, which gives you 5 GB of free space for syncing photos and messages, call history, and more.
Oppo A9 2020 performance
Despite Oppo's heavily customized Android skin, the performance was very snappy and even the animations didn't bother us. We had no problems using this phone for all everyday tasks. Apps started quickly enough and multitasking was also painless. The navigation buttons at the bottom remain visible in their own bar while apps are running, unless you switch to using gestures. There are two different gesture schemes, but we wouldn't recommend any of them as this was the only time that we felt the A9 2020 was lagging behind.
The low resolution screen is a little disappointing and the oversized aspect ratio may take some getting used to. Videos still look good enough for most purposes, and interestingly enough, Widevine L1 DRM is still built in so you can stream HD video. The Oppo A9 2020 stands out from the competition with stereo speakers. The handset isn't as strong as the speaker on the bottom, but the sound is more immersive than that of phones in this market segment.
We found that videos and casual games were very enjoyable. An advantage of the low-resolution screen is that games with the same processor and HD + resolution run better than on similar phones because there are fewer pixels to move.
Benchmarks prove this: GFXBench's T-rex and Manhattan 3.1 tests ran at 50 fps and 25 fps, respectively. 3DMark gave us 1,149 points in its Sling Shot Extreme test and 23,307 points in Ice Storm Unlmited. However, PUBG Mobile still had a low preset and the gameplay was a bit restless. Asphalt 9: Legends also stuttered a lot and fought in action scenes.
In the general benchmarks, we achieved a total of 1.69.226 points in AnTuTu and 5 305 and 1.305 points in Geekbench. In contrast to the graphic values of the Redmi Note 8 (review), these values are quite similar to the screen resolution.
With the 5,000 mAh battery, we spent a whole day playing, surfing the Internet, video streaming and general use. By the time we went to bed at night, there were 40 percent left. Our HD video loop test lasted an impressive 17 hours and 5 minutes. This is the compromise we were hoping for after seeing the low-resolution screen and bulky body of this phone. This also means that if you haven't measured how fast it is, using the reverse charge feature can come in handy in an emergency.
Oppo A9 2020 cameras
One of the biggest selling points of this phone is that it has four rear cameras, but we noticed something strange about the way they were implemented. Oppo calls them a 48-megapixel primary camera, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera and two others for "artistic portrait effects". To learn that these two sensors are 2 megapixel sensors for mono and portrait shots, you have to dig a little.
It is important to note that there is no depth sensor here. The portrait camera is not the same. In fact, the A9 2020 does not use this camera to measure depth in portrait mode – this is used in the software, and we have confirmed this by physically covering the additional cameras. This also means that you cannot change or adjust the intensity of the effect after recording.
The "artistic portrait effects" refer to the last two filters in portrait mode of the camera app, which are only labeled "06" and "07". The Oppo website offers "Retro Aesthetics" and "Art Vintage" as descriptions, which also tell us very little. The effects look essentially like monochrome or faded colors. It looks like Oppo really wanted to use the words "quad camera" to market this phone without offering a lot of functionality. Potential buyers should understand that these words are meaningless in themselves without understanding the specifications and capabilities of each camera.
We found out how these two effects can only be used by trying them out, since the app does nothing to emphasize this. The effects are not particularly convincing and we've seen similar looks from ordinary filters. These effects are not a substitute for the special macro and depth sensors or other camera types that many other inexpensive phones currently offer.
The design of the app also has other problems. When taking close-up pictures with the main camera, the “Macro lens” message flashed on the screen, although this phone does not have a macro lens and there is no way to switch to the effects cameras. The switch for the ultra-wide camera is located in the top row, far from the shutter release, and you cannot use it to record video at all.
Oppo did a really good job with the primary 48-megapixel camera in terms of photo quality. We found that the daytime pictures were bright and crisp, with natural colors and lots of details. The phone took no time to lock focus. The only problem we had was slightly blown out highlights when there was a strong contrast between a subject and the sky in the background.
Interestingly, we were able to get some pretty good close-ups with a nice natural depth of field in the camera's standard photo mode. In portrait mode, the background separation was more dramatic and we found the edge detection was pretty good. Wide-angle shots were a bit more boring and grainy, and had a much cooler tone than those taken with the main camera. If you value photo quality, avoid using this camera unless absolutely necessary.
Oppo has implemented a night mode that has proven surprisingly effective. It not only highlighted parts of our motifs that were completely in the shade, but also better balanced colors. However, it takes time to take a picture, and cropping images can cause you to lose part of the frame you want to take. In standard mode, the night shots were still decent and we were happy except for a few pictures that were taken with poor sharpness.
The front camera was fine. The embellishment is activated by default and it takes two clicks to turn it off. Our skin texture didn't look good, but there were decent details and the exposure was balanced well enough.
Videos can be recorded at 720p, 1080p or 4K resolution, but only at up to 30 fps. Switching the video resolution requires several clicks via the Settings menu. As already mentioned, you can only record videos via the primary rear view camera. There is stabilization at 1080p and that really makes a big difference. The colors were subdued, but the quality was otherwise okay. 4K video is very jerky and the quality was not so good despite the higher resolution. Stabilization causes artifacts at night, and we recommend not using this phone for video recording unless you are standing still.
Promoting the Oppo A9 2020 with four cameras is sure to draw attention, but in reality two of them are only for novelty value, and you only get one main camera and a semi-useful wide-angle camera. Fortunately, the main camera is good enough and versatile enough to call this phone good in terms of photo quality.
It also has a few other good features to offer, such as the stereo speakers, the long battery life and the ability to charge backwards, as well as a decent look and good build quality. The display isn't the best thing we've ever seen, but it will be good enough for most people. In terms of raw performance, you shouldn't expect to play today's popular high-end games, but everyday tasks should go smoothly.
Even after a price cut, this phone costs more than the Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro (test) and Realme XT (test), both of which are much more powerful and attractive. 128 GB of storage is a small plus for the variant at a price of Rs. 15,990, but it's not enough to outweigh everything else. The more expensive variant with 8 GB RAM makes even less sense in terms of value. This is the version we checked, so our ratings apply to this context. Unfortunately, the Realme X (review) clearly outperforms it, and if you only have a small budget, the Redmi K20 (review) should also be considered.