Last year, OPPO quietly released a very good phone that wasn’t too expensive: the R17 Pro. It’s so good in fact, it’s challenging for top spot on my favourite phone list.
The R17 Pro has everything I want from a modern phone: a giant edge-to-edge screen; three-lens rear camera; a fingerprint sensor under the screen; face unlock; and super-fast charging (though no wireless charging).
Let’s start with its 6.4” screen. It’s a typical high-resolution screen and OPPO has followed the trend of putting a “notch” to leave space for the front-facing camera. Unlike Apple and Huawei phones though, the notch is tiny. OPPO calls it a “waterdrop screen” (due to the shape of the notch) and claims 91% of the front surface of the phone is screen, compared to 87% for the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and 83% for the iPhone XS.
A reason the R17 Pro has that much screen coverage is its “hidden” fingerprint sensor. Like the Huawei Mate Pro 20, the sensor is located in the lower section of the screen underneath the glass. For me, this sensor worked as fast as a normal fingerprint sensor, but I didn’t really use it as I relied on face unlock.
OPPO’s face unlock system uses a 3D grid of infrared dots. I found face unlock worked in several difficult circumstances. I tried it with sunglasses and with spectacles on, in the dark, with hair partially obscuring my face, and with a toothbrush in my mouth, and every time it unlocked instantly.
For the rear cameras, OPPO focused on improving night-time photography. I tried it a few times and took some nice shots. That said, it’s not as good as the Huawei P20 Pro, which has the best camera I used last year.
I was also impressed with its front-facing camera. It has a 25MP sensor, which gave greater detail in my selfies. Though once again, Oppo’s “beauty mode” made me look like a spectre. Luckily, it’s simple to turn off.
Its fast-charging system, called SuperVOOC (yes, it’s a terrible name), gets to 40% charge from 1% in 10 minutes. I was able to go from 80% to 100% in roughly the same time.
Despite, or perhaps because of, this the R17 Pro lacks wireless charging. While it’s still a rare feature in most phones, it’s available in Huawei, Apple, and Samsung’s new flagship phones. Being able to place your phone on a surface to charge is much more convenient than fiddling around with plugs.
With the R17 Pro, OPPO has put out a strong competitor. It’s got all the specs I’d want and more, while costing less than $1000. Pair this with OPPO’s good showing in our tech reliability survey and I’d put this as my first “safe buy” of the year.
This phone was loaned to the writer by OPPO.
Display: 6.4 inch, AMOLED, 2340 x 1080 pixels
Front: 25MP F2.0
Rear: 12MP F1.5 / F2.4 + 20MP F2.6
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