OPPO already had a strong reputation in the mid to high-end segment of the smartphone market owing to the success of it’s Reno and Find X series smartphones which give consumers every reason to love these devices, from their stunning design to excellent hardware.
More recently however, OPPO’s A series smartphones are also gaining fame among consumers especially those on a tighter budget. Reason being is simple; these devices are fantastic for the price it commands. Even though they might not have the best processor or imaging system like the OPPO Find X5 Pro (Review), but they get all the basics right which is good enough to provide users a seamless smartphone experience without burning a hole in their pocket.
One such device is the new OPPO A96 smartphone which I’ve been testing for the past two weeks. Despite costing just $429, the phone had served well in day-to-day usage and even exceeded my expectations with the photos it managed to click with it’s rear cameras. However, does it really have what you’re looking for in your next smartphone? Let’s find out in our OPPO A96 review!
Those who’re a fan of past generation’s OPPO Reno series smartphones will probably find the A96’s design equally attractive. That’s because the phone’s design appears to be heavily inspired by the slender design language widely adopted by the former, sporting an impressive thin profile of just 8.4mm which is only a tad thicker than the Reno7 Pro (Review) but thinner than most other bulky flagship phones.
It’s tall and compact design makes it a joy to hold or use with one hand even for those with smaller hands. Also, the edge of the phone offers sufficient grip so it doesn’t actually gives me the impression that the phone may slide off my hand when using it single-handedly during a jerky train ride.
Like most other budget smartphones, the OPPO A96 settles with a plastic construction to keep cost low. That means the phone misses out on features like AG glass back which we saw among the Reno series devices. Despite that, the overall construction of the phone felt sturdy and robust thanks to the advanced manufacturing process.
Speaking of durability, it’s worth highlighting that the phone is also IP54 rated for dust and water resistant which basically means the device is able to withstand light splashes or drizzle. That’s certainly a nice-to-have feature which we normally don’t see among smartphones of it’s price.
The review unit that I’m holding on comes in a Starry Black colorway which flaunts an understated Matte Black finish featuring OPPO’s signature Reno Glow design which sets off a cool sparkling effect under the influence of light. This is the sort of unique element that allows the phone to standout from the sea of similar-looking smartphones.
Flipping the phone over, we’ll be greeted by a rather spacious 6.59” display with minimal bezels along it’s side edges. The flat display features a miniscule punch-hole cutout on the upper-left corner of the screen which houses a 16MP front-facing camera for selfies and video calls.
One thing to note here is that OPPO had decided to ditch the AMOLED panel on the OPPO A95 (Review) and A94 (Review) for a LTPS LCD display on the new OPPO A96. To make up for that, OPPO upped it’s refresh rate from 60Hz to 90Hz which allows user to enjoy a smoother entertainment experience when watching movies or playing games.
To sweeten up the deal, the front display also offers a sharp-looking FHD+ screen resolution along with support for 96% NTSC and 100% DCI-P3 color gamut coverage which make photos and video footages appear more realistically on the screen.
Most importantly, the display can also get reasonably bright (under auto brightness mode) to ensure the screen remains legible when using the phone in outdoor environment with strong ambient light. This is of course something important for those who often do outdoor photography with their smartphone.
Sitting at the heart of the phone is an octa-core Snapdragon 680 chipset which wield better performance in both the CPU and GPU departments as compared to the Snapdragon 662 platform used in last year’s OPPO A95. In day-to-day usage, the Snapdragon 680 chipset does it’s job well in providing a lag-free experience when browsing the web, replying to text messages/ emails or streaming my favorite Netflix drama.
More impressively, the phone is also able to provide a smooth game play most of the game titles downloaded on the device, including those that are more graphically demanding such as PUBG Mobile and Pokémon Unite. Also, I hardly encounter any heating issue over the past two weeks of usage despite the lack of dedicated cooling system on the device.
Like any other OPPO smartphones, the OPPO A96 is pre-loaded with a dedicated Game Space app that offers various controls and settings which further enhance gaming experience on the phone. These include feature like ”Block Notifications” which toggles off notifications and automatically reject calls whenever you’re gaming.
Coming to the imaging front, the OPPO A96 features a pretty versatile dual-cam setup comprising of a 50 megapixels (f/1.8 aperture) main camera as well as a 2 megapixels (f/2.4 aperture) bokeh lens for portrait shots. One notable omission here is the lack of macro camera which was previously present on the OPPO A95.
While it’s true that the camera hardware here might not looks as promising as those we saw on the Reno or Find X series smartphones, but the phone is able to reply on AI and computational photography to bridge the gap in image quality across all lighting conditions.
For instance, features such as AI scene recognition is able to automatically enhance the color profile of photos based on the scene it detected. This improves overall dynamic range and contrast resulting in better-looking photos that are comparable to those taken by more expensive smartphones. Likewise, photos also appear sharp and detailed thanks to a capable autofocusing system as well as the adoption of a high-res imaging sensor.
To help with low-light photography, the OPPO A96 is also armed with a reliable night mode feature which helps to improve exposure over the default shooting mode. This allows the camera to capture photos that look more vivid and detailed than what we would have gotten otherwise.
For zooming, the OPPO A96 doesn’t have a dedicated telephoto camera like what we typically see on a higher-end model. Instead, the phone banks on it’s main camera that’s able to support up to 5x digital zoom. This feature is great for those who love to snap close-up photos of plants or insects especially with it’s ability to capture well-focused photos with a pleasing bokeh effect like those taken by a pro-grade cameras.
Battery & Charging
To keep it’s lights on, the OPPO A96 retains the same 5,000mAh battery as last year’s OPPO A95. As such, we can expect the same enduring battery life of around 1.5 days under moderate usage and approximately two days with power saving features turned on and refresh rate lowered down.
On the charging side of things, the OPPO A96 features an impressive 33W fast-charging support which is among the quickest within it’s price range. Charging the phone with it’s bundled 33W charging adapter takes slightly more than an hour to recharge a completely flat battery to it’s brim while a short 30 minutes charge is good enough to recharge it’s battery from 0 to 50%.
The OPPO A96 is a perfect phone for those on a tighter budget. It might not have the best mobile processor nor camera system, but it certainly has all the bells and whistles to provide a seamless and delightful smartphone experience at a much more accessible price point.
For those who’re interested, the OPPO A96 4G is priced at just $429 in Singapore and is available for purchase via OPPO Concept Stores, and OPPO’s Shopee, Qoo 10 and Lazada Flagship Stores, as well as authorized resellers islandwide.