OPPO A83 Review: Face Unlock Capabilties and ColorOS Tricks on a Budget

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OPPO A83
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OPPO has been in the Kenyan market for some time, and in that period, it has managed to stay afloat owing to its household popularity for a demographic that adores its camera prowess. However, the Chinese mobile phone manufacturer has always been criticized for the price it slaps on its handhelds in a market that is popular with budget smartphones. We also had the same sentiments and thought good cameras and admirable, yet unoriginal design does not call for a significant jump in price.

The A83, which was released in early 2018, aims to dispel the OEM’s notion that its phones are a tad expensive. The device costs KES 23,000 and packs several good features that you just cannot find on other similarly priced phones. Thus, this piece will highlight A83’s strongest suits and where it fails to deliver. Also, it is worth noting some of the points discussed here are subjective, which means there are aspects that you as a reader may consider questionable. Nevertheless, the highlights shed more light into the specifics of the A83 in the process of deciding whether it deserves your money or not.

So, let’s dive right in.

The Pluses

Camera

This is my first and extended experience with an OPPO device. Previously, I have played with a number locally available OPPOS for a couple of minutes, and the first thing I did was open their camera app to ascertain the praise the OEM continues to receive as far as image prowess is concerned.

OPPO A83 CameraIn line with those claims, I’m glad to report the A83 holds true to the manufacturer’s efforts in setting itself apart from the competition especially the low to the mid-range niche that is traditionally plagued by a tens of phones with poor shooters.

That said, let’s get the numbers out of the way: at the back is a 13 MP, f/2.2 camera with a basic LED flash. At the front is an 8 MP selfie sensor. Some of you may think these are pedestrian camera specs that have flooded the smartphone market of late, and you are right. My expectations, admittedly, were low owing to the target market of the A83 but was pleasantly surprised by the sensor’s capabilities.

To keep this short and sweet, the A83 takes great images for its price, with good reliability, speed and okay image processing thanks to admirable HDR. Images look sharp (once you transfer them to a device with a better screen although they appear fine on the phone’s HD+ screen). What is more, the camera features a 2X zoom option that does a fine job for a task that takes dual cameras to carry out effectively.

Several shooting settings exist to toy around with, including a beauty mode that you should never touch, time-lapse, panorama and a manual shooting option dubbed ‘Expert.’ The camera also features a ton of filters and watermarking capabilities for those who want their photos labeled.

Some of these features are replicated on the selfie shooter as well, which is above average for a KES 23,000 device.

I must admit OPPO did a good job with the A83 in the camera department, and I know lots of people are going to be happy with these image-capturing sensors. You can swipe across the gallery below to witness the some of the images we captured.

Face Unlock

Apple popularized the use of fingerprint scanners in smart handhelds, and at present times, these sensors are no longer limited to high-end devices. The hardware component is a feature you will see in sub-KES 10,000 devices, and that does not make them special as they used to be two or three years ago.

OPPO, which still employs the use of fingerprint scanners in its phones decided to drop it for the A83 for a face unlock implementation. It works exceptionally well during daylight and well-lit indoor setups, although you need to position your face at an appropriate orientation during unlocking. Setting it up is easy as well, and during the first boot, you will be prompted to scan your face and input a backup pin. I have not been forced to rescan my face because of unlocking issues and I hope it remains so for a foreseeable future.

Honestly, I would have loved to see fingerprint unlocking because it is naturally speedier and reliable. This does not mean face unlocking does not work as expected; rather, low-light situations force users to use a pattern/PIN, which some think is old-school.

The Screen

This highlight has nothing to do with screen technology or resolution. Rather, we are glad OPPO has put a modern, 18:9 display on the A83. Narrow screens allow phon:es to be much thinner for better handling and one-hand operations. Be warned that the moment you get used to an 18:9 aspect ratio, it gets increasingly difficult to go back to 16:9 displays that seem wider than expected.

The only downside is that some apps remain unsupported as they do not fill the entire canvas. I was particularly disappointed when my beloved and go-to VOD app, Primevideo was cropped by a fair share of viewable real estate. Either way, this is the future as OEMs continue to kill bezels using any tools at their disposal, including the adoption of weird-looking notches.

Battery Life

I must admit I was disappointed when I read through A83’s spec sheet and saw a battery capacity capped at 3180 mAh. In my defense, this is a 5.7-inch device and I expected the screen to take a toll on batter performance.

Surprisingly, I do not recall killing this battery in a single day. I know phone usage varies among users, with my pattern spanning from a phone-clutching zombie to borderline addiction. In other words, I pushed the phone pretty hard, but it never died on me when I least exected it.

OPPO A83 BatteryOf course, the device is powered by an Octa-core 2.5 GHz Cortex-A53 and a Mali-G71 MP2 chip that does not need a lot of horsepower, and by extension, battery power to drive it. At the same time, the screen is capped at HD+ (720*1440) that does not need a lot of juice to keep the light on.

ColorOS

Well, this surprised me too owing to the fact that people in my line of work love their Android phones pure, with as little settings and apps as possible for a good, fast experience. Unfortunately, you can only experience stock-like Android on a limited number of devices, most of which never make it to Kenyan store shelves.

In this case, the A83 is packed with several software tricks, though it is challenging to pinpoint their location if you are new to ColorOS. For instance, a swipe from the status bar reveals a notification shade that is devoid of quick shortcuts. Those shortcuts are accessible via a swipe from the bottom of the screen. It is a learning curve for some, which is not a bad thing.

Similar to China-based Android skins, ColorOS lacks an app drawer, which is also not a deal breaker having used Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X for a year now. App installs populate homepages to the left. They can be grouped into folders for easy identification, and so forth.

ColorOSVisually, ColorOS is subjectively and aesthetically appealing. Toggles, while unoriginal, blend well with the software’s personality. Stock iconography is surprisingly consistent save for Google apps that obey material design cues.

Lest I forget, you can swipe a downward to get access to universal search that reads through text messages, contacts, apps and reaches for the Internet for extra resources. You can also customize the experience with themes and wallpapers, clone apps, run two apps at a go or activate a blue light filter that OPPO calls Night Shield for those late-night readings.

I have also noticed the A83 is packed with an accommodative number duplicate apps and bloatware.

The Bad Vibes

ColorOS

That was a quick transition, but don’t get me wrong: while ColorOS is mostly functional, its unoriginal design is a bummer, at least for me. They could easily put toggles on the notification shade. In addition, they could easily slap an app drawer, but that ship has sailed, save for Huawei, which introduced it two generations ago.

Furthermore, I do not like how skin handles notifications and their dismissal. You have to swipe to the left (the right swipe does not work!) to open another dialog box with extra set of actions. That’s is redundancy.

The settings app deviates from conventional arrangement. It may some users a lot of time to pinpoint a certain setting.

The Screen

Perhaps, this is my biggest disappointment with the phone. The display is only capped at HD+ and for KES 23,000, I expected at least FHD+. It is not a bad screen per se but if you are coming from anything above 1080 * 1920, you will notice the LCD is subjectively grainy.

I do not understand why OPPO chose this path in times when FHD phones can be purchased for as little as KES 15,000. Cost cutting, perhaps, but at +KES20,000, fitting a phone with anything less than FHD is absurd.

Performance

The A83 is powered by a midrange Helio P23 chip that is manufactured by MTK. It is an okay SOC for the phone, and while we do not run benchmarks here anymore, I can easily tell when the chip gets overwhelmed by basic tasks and gets warm when you push it to the limit with gameplay. A couple of apps, including Facebook and Twitter, take an extra second to load. That is not nice.

OPPO A83 SpecsThe camera app slightly stutters especially when hitting the zoom button. In some cases, the slowness may go unnoticed, but when it happens, you will feel it. That is not nice too, although I suspect this is an isolated incident.

The number of apps it keeps in it 3-gig memory is also limited as I have noticed multiple app refreshes on a round of usage. Not cool too.

On the whole, the phone showcases occasional hiccups that may as well be limited to my usage as I believe the P23 is a capable chip that OPPO has put in its other expensive phones. Maybe I pushed it a lot and had too many expectations for the P23 SOC. Nevertheless, this does not guarantee performance inconsistencies owing to the fact that an older device like my Redmi 4X with an aged S625 chip is noticeably quicker.

Other Minor Issues

  • You need to push control buttons a little harder to register a response. I’m not a fan.
  • The loudspeaker is noticeably tinnier and quiet. In the same line of thought, the OPPO has the ability to pack better earbuds because the ones that come with the A83 are mediocre. We are not fans of this too.
  • The phone could charge a bit faster.
  • The A83 still runs Android 7.1.1. For a 2018 device, Nougat is criminal.

Conclusion

Do we think the A83 deserves a KES 23,000 price tag? Honestly, no, but you are not going to find a better device with that kind of money. To begin with, the KES 20,000-30,000 range is littered with a wide choice of phones but none of them has good cameras and modern 18:9 screens like OPPO A83. This point also highlights the phone’s camera ability as its strongest selling point.

The battery, while not as large as the competition’s, performs well. On the other hand, the A83 is let down by the tall screen that is undesirable as far as resolution is concerned. Honestly, we feel let down by it and hope its successor is equipped with a high res display. The phone could also be quicker.

In sum, this is the phone you get when battery life, looks, and camera excellence (for the price) is what you are looking for. I’m sure the three points check a number of boxes for most people. If only OPPO could knock a few thousands off the price…

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