We review the Oppo N3
Selfie phones are a big thing, so big in fact that some companies have centered entire marketing campaigns around them. While the Oppo N3 is capable of taking awesome selfies, don’t be fooled – it’s a phone that’s so much more than that. Today we’ll be taking an in-depth look at what makes the phone better than the competition.
Oppo N3 specs
- 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 MSM8974AA quad-core processor
- Adreno 330 GPU
- 2GB of RAM
- 5.5-inch full HD display, 1920 x 1080 resolution
- 32GB of storage, expandable via microSD up to 128GB
- 16-megapixel Schneider Kreuznach certified rotating camera with auto panorama, 1.34µm pixel size
- 3G, LTE
- WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS
- Android 4.4 KitKat with Color OS
- 3000mAh battery
A design that’s taller and bigger to accommodate the rotating camera
We’re no stranger to Oppo’s design sensibilities when they made the N1 (this is a company that pioneered the swiveling camera design with the N1 which has now been copied by other companies) and the N3 is merely a streamlined version of that first try. The N3 is smaller than its predecessor, as it posseses only a 5.5-inch display over the 6 -inch one in the previous device. Don’t be fooled though – the N3 is way bigger than other 5.5-inch phones by a few millimeters, thanks to the rotating camera and the bits that power it on the top of the phone.
Unlike other flagships, the Oppo N3 is primarily made out of polycarbonate plastic, though there is an aluminum band surrounding the phone that adds a visual flair. The plastic used on the Oppo N3 is solid, hefty and overall good quality, and you’ll be wondering for a minute or two if the body is made out of metal or not. The front of the device is dominated by the large 5.5-inch full HD screen, with the capacitive keys located right below it in the bottom. There’s a small chin at the bottom of the device which houses the Skyline notification light. This unique notification light is projected onto the bottom of the chin which produces a subtle reminder that you have a message or notification that you haven’t seen yet. It’s ten times better than seeing a bright green light flash in the darkness (or out in the open) though it’s a bit harder to see when you’re using the phone outdoors.
Turning the phone over, you’ll see the fingerprint scanner embedded on the back of the device where a camera module would normally go. The fingerprint scanner works much like the one similarly equipped smartphones like the Meizu MX4 Pro and the Huawei Ascend Mate7 and reads fingerprints no matter what the orientation is. The camera has been moved to the top of the phone since it swivels to the front to act like a front facing camera when you need it.
Because of the housing of the camera, Oppo had to be creative with their port placements. The USB port is on the bottom left side of the phone, while the 3.5mm jack is on the top right side of the device. The power button is on the left, and right beside it is the SIM card slot which houses two SIMs. The right of the phone holds the volume rocker. One of the SIM slots also works as a microSD card slot, which is great for people who feel the need to expand the already roomy 32GB of storage in the device.
The main draw of the N3 is the motorized, swiveling camera that’s located on the top of the device. The swiveling assembly houses the 16-megapixel Schneider Kreuznach certified camera module, as well as the proximity sensor and the earpiece placed on the opposite side. To use the motorized function, you just need to turn on the camera app and click on the rotate camera icon to flip the camera to the front. You can also flick your finger from the bottom to the top (and vice-versa) to flip the camera from one side to the other. Slowly swiping your finger up from the fingerprint scanner (and vice-versa) will rotate the camera as well, if you’re looking to capture an image from a different angle.
The display is a 5.5-inch full HD IPS one, and while it’s perfectly capable of delivering the goods when it comes to color reproduction, contrast and viewing angles, it pales in comparison to the ultra-sharp display offerings of its competitors like the Galaxy Note 4 and the LG G3.
Custom UI thanks to Color OS
Just like its rivals based in China, Oppo includes their Color OS in the N3. The UI of Color OS follows the same mantra as other similar efforts from other Chinese companies – it basically takes out the app drawer and places all your apps in your home screen. You can also change the theme of the UI as well to whatever you want, as Color OS has a rather big following in China where users have made all sorts of themes for download.
Color OS also revamps how notifications look, and for the most part it looks clean, nice and tidy. while we’re not particularly fond of how it takes away our app drawer, it’s still a nice departure from stock Android and the other UI offerings of other companies.
Hardware that’s nothing to sneeze at
The hardware of the N3 isn’t what you’d call cutting edge, though it’s still pretty good. The N3 runs a 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with 2GB of RAM. It’s not as exciting as the Snapdragon 805 processors of newer flagship devices, though to be honest the hardware is good enough for most needs. To be perfectly frank the processor on the N3 is adequate enough for most people, and is capable of running most apps and games without any issues. Real Racing 3 ran well with the N3, even with high settings. The only people that are going to be bothered with the processor are the people who like phones that can achieve high benchmark scores anyway – for the majority of the buying public, the performance of the N3 is more than enough.
One of the best cameras in a phone today
While Oppo’s swiveling camera is obviously aimed at selfie lovers, it’s actually one of the best cameras we’ve ever seen on a mobile device. The N3 uses a Omnivision OV16825 sensor, which actually has a bigger sensor size compared to its contemporaries like the Galaxy S5. The sensor size is greater as well, with the N3 boasting a sensor size that’s around 1.34 microns, substantially bigger than Samsung’s offering that only tops out at 1.12.
As a result, photos taken with the N3 are pretty breathtaking, even at low light. The motorized panorama function of the camera allows you take perfect panoramas at all times, even in portait orientation. Photos taken with the camera are very sharp, and has higher contrast compared to cameras of other device makers. Probably the biggest issue we could see with the camera was purple fringing – some of our photos had a purplish tone to them, but it’s not that big of an issue.
One of the nicer features in the N3’s camera was the manual mode – you can basically alter almost every aspect of the shot except the exposure time. The O-click remote that Oppo throws in for free can be used for hands-free shutter control, as well as a remote play button for media and an keyfob that reminds you if either it or the phone goes out of range.
Battery life that’s surprising mediocre
We were expecting the N3 to deliver battery performance that’s on par with Sony’s Xperia Z3 – after all, the big, thick body of the N3 houses a 3000mAh battery that’s more than adequate for that task. We were suprised to learn then, that the N3 struggled to get pass a day of use with moderate use, though there were times that the battery managed to last more than a day, with enough left over to get you through the morning of the next day.
We found out that the sub-par battery performance was because of the swivelling camera design. See, when you flip the camera over to the front, the N3’s display automatically turned on, along with the camera app expecting to take a selfie. The problem is that because of the lack of resistance of the camera, it’s pretty easy to twist the camera enough to turn on the display when you’re placing it inside your pants pocket. It’s an annoying thing for sure, though the fast VOOC charging capability of the phone slightly makes up for it.
Verdict: A great flagship to have if you’re looking for a superior imaging experience
Despite the battery issues, the Oppo N3 is a really good camera, especially if you like taking photos a lot. It has a rather steep price, unfortunately, listed at Php 29,999, especially considering that other devices that have the same hardware (like the Xperia Z3) is several thousand pesos cheaper. Then again, the Xperia Z3 doesn’t have the same innovative rotating camera that’s present on the N3, which is probably why you’ll buy this phone in the first place. All-in-all, the Oppo N3 is a good flagship to own if you value image quality above all else, though expect to pay top dollar for that experience.