Oppo A94 5G review: Deeply average
- Battery Score
- Camera Score
- Design Score
- Performance Score
- Battery Score
- AMOLED display
- 5G capable
- Fair battery life
- Same camera as cheaper Oppo phones
- Other mid-range phones are better in most respects
|Launch price (RRP)||$599|
Oppo has offered up a staggering quantity of 5G capable mid-range handsets over the last couple of years. Essentially speaking, if you can think of a 2-digit number, there's probably an Oppo model that it fits, and it's probably a mid-range 5G handset.
Into that mix, Oppo is pushing yet another variant, with the Oppo A94 5G.
The Oppo A94 5G doesn't really have any major outstanding problems. For most users it will be just fine as an everyday handset whether you're after camera, performance or battery life from your 5G phone.
The issue is that the mid-range 5G phone space is insanely competitive right now, and even compared to other Oppo phones, the Oppo A94 5G does very little to stand out. That leaves it as a deeply average phone. Average doesn't have to mean bad… but it also doesn't immediately make it terribly compelling either.
Design: Fluid Black is another word for shiny plastic
In Australia, the Oppo A94 5G ships in just the 1 colour, which Oppo calls "Fluid Black". It's yet another take on a slightly shimmering, entirely plastic-backed phone body that varies from a dark black to a light silver across the body of the phone, and depending on your ambient light conditions.
It's fine, and the 173g carrying weight and 7.8mm thickness make it a nice phone to hold in your hand. I'd strongly advise dropping the supplied protective case on it, however. That's partly for practical protection purposes, but mostly because like most shiny plastic phones, it absolutely loves to pick up fingerprints.
At the front, the Oppo A94 5G does slightly differentiate itself amongst Oppo phones through the use of an AMOLED panel, where many of its devices instead opt for LCDs. It's a 6.43-inch panel with a 2400x1800 pixel resolution and the typical advantages of AMOLED in terms of colour clarity.
It's a definite plus side for the Oppo A94 5G, but it's also a tradeoff. In the mid-range right now there's rather a split between AMOLEDs as with the A94 5G and many of Samsung's phones, and LCDs with higher refresh rates at 90Hz or better.
That's a choice; if you're going to game a lot you might see more benefit from higher refresh rates and smoother scrolling, but there's no denying the general stills appeal of a good AMOLED display either.
The Oppo A94 5G uses a hole punch style camera located at the top left as well as an in-display fingerprint reader. It's got the classic issue that many cheaper in-display readers have, with more than a few false negatives while trying to unlock the phone during my review period.
Camera: Shoots well but feels very familiar
The Oppo A94 5G features a quad lens array with a 48MP primary wide sensor, 8MP ultrawide 119 degree sensor and 2MP macro sensor for shooting, as well as a 2MP mono sensor for improving contrast on photos. You never actually capture anything with that 2MP mono sensor, so if you want arty black and white photos, you'll have to filter for that.
That sensor array felt familiar to me, and there was a reason for that. If you check the specifications for the cheaper Oppo A74 5G or the even cheaper Oppo A54 5G, they both feature the same specifications for their rear cameras. Indeed, they've all got the same rear camera bump, because it's the same rear camera.
My prior testing of those 2 phones showed that within their price ranges, they delivered solid but very ordinary camera performance. The Oppo A94 5G is slightly more expensive… but it doesn't really shoot any better than they do.
That's a big issue, because while on paper a quad camera array should give you a lot of flexibility, when you're actually out shooting with it your results never really jump out of the screen at you.
So for example, I took the Oppo A94 5G to a local park one day and spotted a magpie lurking behind the play equipment. Here she is lurking on the ultra-wide lens:
That's perfectly fine, but then it's a shot in plenty of light. Any phone should be able to do that.
Switching to the wide lens, and all is still acceptable, because it's ultimately pixel binning that 48MP sensor down into a 12MP photo:
However, there's no true onboard zoom, so everything is digital, and it shows. Here's Madame Magpie at 5x zoom, the largest of its suggested zoom ranges within the default Oppo camera app:
You can punch the Oppo A94 5G all the way up to 10x digital zoom. But you shouldn't.
Oppo has over the years delivered some of the best camera experiences in the mid-range, but in the current market where so many mid-range phones are really pushing the envelope in terms of what they can deliver for stills and video, the Oppo A94 5G is still merely… average.
Oppo A94 5G sample photos:
Performance: Good but not the best
In the mid-range 5G capable market, there's a huge battle being waged between phones that use one of MediaTek's generally cheaper Dimensity processors, and those that use Qualcomm's lower-tier Snapdragons.
The Oppo A94 5G sits on the Mediatek side of the fence, opting for a Dimensity 800U. That's an interesting step in itself, as Oppo has previously opted for Snapdragons for many of its more affordable handsets. It matches up that platform with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage.
So how does that compare on performance grounds? Here's how the Oppo A94 5G stacks up against a crowd of phones at similar price points at the time of writing. After all, if you're buying a phone, it makes sense to compare what you can get for similar money.
First up, Geekbench 5's CPU test:
And then 3DMark's GPU tests:
In CPU terms, the Oppo A94 5G is fine, although it is outclassed by the Oppo Find X3 Lite, which can now be had for similar prices to the Oppo A94 5G. Its 3D graphics performance is less stellar, especially when you consider just how much cheaper the Motorola Edge 20 Fusion is.
The practical reality here is once again that the Oppo A94 5G is average, and average is not bad. In day to day app operation you'll be able to load what you want, play what you want and enjoy what you want on the phone with little in the way of lag or stutter.
It's just that this is true of every mid-range smartphone right now. For the higher asking price of the Oppo A94 5G, even relative to other Oppo A series phones, it should deliver more, not just enough.
The Oppo A94 5G is an Android 11 phone running Oppo's own ColorOS overlay. I'm notably not that much of a fan, but if you do like a more Apple-esque take, by way of shiny candy-like buttons, it could suit your tastes.
As the suffix suggests, the Oppo A94 5G is also 5G capable. That remains a nice-to-have rather than a must-have feature, and the travel limitations of the COVID pandemic have limited what testing I've been able to manage during the review period.
Most of it fell in the – say it with me – average range of 200-300Mbps I seem to see from most 5G devices on the Telstra network in my area. That may well be a limitation of the signal strength I can get locally however.
Battery: Smaller than typical battery leads to average battery life
In the mid-range we've seen no end of phones with either 4,500 or 5,000mAh batteries on board. Battery life is of course more than just a count of the underlying cells, but that's fast become something of an expected norm.
The Oppo A94 5G does it a little differently, with a 4,310mAh battery. That probably helps keep the weight down, but it also gives it slightly less scope for decent battery life.
As always that's a super variable matter, because any phone can cark it if you push it hard enough all at once.
To give some kind of comparative view, I ran the Oppo A94 5G through Finder's standard battery life test. That involves streaming a 1080p YouTube video at maximum brightness for an hour from a full battery.
The ideal here is to retain at least 90% of the phone's battery life, because handsets that fall below that level often struggle to last a full day's battery life.
Here's how the Oppo A94 5G compares against a range of similarly priced handsets:
Nothing comes close to the Nokia 8.3 5G for battery life in this test, and the Oppo A94 5G wasn't likely to. It acquitted itself acceptably here, but not again in a way that really stands out.
That's true for its day to day battery life too. You're not likely to be massively troubled for single day battery life when using the Oppo A94 5G in most situations, but multi-day would be a real stretch unless you were only using it very lightly indeed. That's going to be especially true if you're using 5G heavily, because it remains a great way to kill off a phone battery.
When you're seeking to stave off that battery death, you've only got wired recharging to hand. Wireless charging is still quite rare in this price bracket, but you do get Oppo's speedy 30W VOOC charging to top it up when it gets low.
Should you buy the Oppo A94 5G?
- Buy it if you can get it at a reasonable discount.
- Don't buy it if you want the best value mid-range 5G handset right now.
The Oppo A94 5G is an entirely serviceable handset in all the most important ways. The camera is decent, but not great. Its performance is decent, but not great. The design is.. well, you get the picture.
The biggest problem that the Oppo A94 5G has is that it doesn't excel against any other mid-range phone right now in any of those areas, but it carries a slightly higher asking price than phones that do, including some of its stablemates. If you can get one at a discount there's possibly some value here, but not at full price.
Pricing and availability
How we tested
The Oppo A94 5G was tested over a 2-week period, evaluating its build quality and design, camera performance, application performance and typical battery life through both synthetic benchmarks and real world usage. The author has more than 20 years experience in testing, evaluating and reviewing mobile phones.
Power, storage and battery
Images: Alex Kidman
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