Oppo R11s review: A refined iPhone clone
Oppo's R11s tweaks around the edges of the existing R11 design with mostly pleasing results.
- Good 18:9 display
- Dual f/1.7 cameras deliver good mid-range performance
- ColorOS is an invasive, inconsistent mess
- Still no NFC onboard
- Prominent camera bump
When Oppo announced the Oppo R11 in the middle of 2017, it was (as many of Oppo's phones tend to be) more or less an Android clone of the iPhone experience, predominantly tailored for the Chinese market where Oppo has had considerable success with that precise model.
It was also one of the first mid-range phones to offer dual camera compatibility, matching up a 2x optical lens with a standard lens to allow for both photographic flexibility and a match to the iPhone's "Portrait" mode.
The Oppo R11s is all that and just a little bit more, with tweaked camera optics and a more visually impressive 18:9 display that takes up the majority of the front display. It's not exactly a "new" handset, having been released back in November 2017, but ahead of its Australian launch, I've had one for a couple of weeks to test out and assess.
The most immediate difference between the Oppo R11s and its predecessor is apparent from the moment you take it out of the box, thanks to the inclusion of an 18:9 aspect ratio 6.01 inch display.
18:9 screens are fast becoming the norm in the premium space, but in 2018 we're likely to see them across all phone ranges, with (for example) direct Oppo competitor Alcatel announcing its intention to switch to the screen ratio for all its future phones. The practical benefit here is that you do get a lot more screen real estate to play with, with only minimal bezels at the top and bottom of the handset.
The Oppo R11s flicks the fingerprint sensor around the back of the handset with only a minimal indent to guide your finger to the correct position. It's relatively high up the phone body, so if you have smaller hands you might find it a little bit of a stretch.
Oppo also touts that the Oppo R11s features face unlocking, but despite its similarity to Apple's designs, this isn't FaceID by a very long stretch. Enrolling your face is a simple matter of taking a shot of your unobstructed head, but Oppo's own notes do state that "Your phone may be unlocked by someone with a similar appearance or objects shaped like you".
Or in other words, while it may be a convenient way to unlock the handset, it's not really secure. It's also not always all that rapidly accurate, especially in low light, relegating it to being more of a gimmick than anything else.
Physically, the Oppo R11s measures in at 155.1 x 75.5 x 7.11mm with a carrying weight of 153g. The tapered sides of the Oppo R11s give it an almost sharp feel in the hand, and like its predecessor, the metal back can be a little slippery. One factor that hasn't changed from the Oppo R11 is the inclusion of a quite significant camera bump, housing the dual rear cameras. As a result, the Oppo R11s will never sit quite flat on a desk.
Oppo historically hasn't delivered a mobile handset with inbuilt NFC, and sadly the Oppo R11s doesn't break that pattern. That's no doubt due to the predominance of QR-code-driven platforms such as Whatsapp or Alipay in China, but locally, it means that the R11s can't talk to services such as Android Pay in any way at all. If contactless phone payments are important to you, Oppo isn't the brand for you.
The other significant uptick in the Oppo R11s' arsenal is an upgrade to the rear camera specifications. Where the standard Oppo R11 featured a 20MP f/2.6 sensor with 2x optical zoom as well as a standard 16MP f/1.7 lens, the Oppo R11s ups the ante with both the 20MP and 16MP lenses featuring f/1.7 apertures, which should give both better low-light sensitivity.
Oppo's claim is that low light performance is further boosted by AI optimisation that increases the virtual sensor site size, although in my own tests the R11s was only adequate in low light, rather than being exceptional.
If there's one factor that's consistent within phones made for the Chinese market, it's the inclusion of a "beauty" mode for the front facing selfie camera. For the Oppo R11s' 20MP f/2.0 camera, Oppo's claim is that it will intelligently monitor 254 individual facial features and come up with an optimal level of tweaking "to provide customized and personalized beauty services for users".
My experience with beauty modes on cameras is rarely pretty, but I was keen to see what the Oppo R11s would make of my face. For comparison, here's a straight up selfie taken on the Oppo R11s:
And here's my head in the same position taken with Beauty mode set to "Auto":
Yeah, I still look like the waxwork version of me, but maybe I was never meant to be beautiful in the first place. Your results may naturally vary, and you can instead opt for different "levels" of beauty if you don't trust the Oppo R11's automatic detection methods.
For regular photography, the Oppo R11s generally performed quite well for a phone in its price range, broadly similar to what I'd seen with its predecessor. No, it's not really going to unseat the premium phones in terms of overall image quality, with a slight predilection towards slightly duller presentation than you may find on other handsets, but it's still a fundamentally quite capable camera phone. Here are some sample shots taken directly on the Oppo R11s:
The Oppo R11s runs off the same Snapdragon 660 SoC as its predecessor, paired with the same 4GB of RAM. The Snapdragon 660 was 2017's take on a mid-range offering from Qualcomm, and when tested it tended to deliver slightly better performance than many other mid-range phones. However, in 2018 it's a processor with a few miles on it, so it wouldn't be all that surprising to see its position as king of the mid-range challenged by other devices.
But right now, the Oppo R11s performs quite well. It's no great shock that its benchmark performance in Geekbench 4's CPU test is essentially identical to its predecessor because internally, they are essentially identical:
|Handset||Geekbench 4 CPU Single Core (higher is better)||Geekbench 4 CPU Multi Core (higher is better)|
|Oppo R9s Plus||1466||4415|
|Motorola G5S Plus||843||4288|
|Apple iPhone SE||2449||4171|
|Samsung Galaxy A7||771||3998|
|Huawei GR5 2017||814||3398|
|Huawei Nova 2i||918||3331|
The difference between the R11 and R11s isn't really all that significant, and it's not surprising that it's outclassed by the OnePlus 5, given that handset's use of the Snapdragon 835 SoC.
We've recently switched over to using 3DMark's Slingshot Extreme test for mobiles, and we've got slightly less handset data to compare with for that test. The Oppo R11s performs fairly well for its price range, but predictably below the premium handset pack.
Rather predictably again, the difference between the Oppo R11s and the Oppo R11 is insignificant.
|Device||3DMark Slingshot Extreme OpenGL|
|Sony Xperia XZ Premium||3721|
|Google Pixel 2 XL||3599|
|Apple iPhone 8 Plus||2762|
|Samsung Galaxy Note 8||2649|
|Samsung Galaxy S8||2633|
|Apple iPhone X||2595|
|Huawei P10 Plus||954|
However, benchmarks only tell part of the performance story. As with Oppo's other handsets, the Oppo R11s runs on a highly modified Android OS that Oppo calls "ColorOS". In the case of the Oppo R11s, it's ColorOS 3.2. ColorOS is more or less an iOS-esque rewrite of Android, and while that may have some appeal for iPhone switchers, or just those who want that rather candy-like iOS look and feel, the translated version of ColorOS that we get is rather inconsistent and at times annoying to use.
It's not entirely surprising that a handset predominantly designed for the Chinese market has a lot of notifications around tracking of user behaviour when sold in China. That was certainly my experience testing an early model of the Oppo R11 back when it launched. The Oppo R11s isn't quite that invasive, but it does note quite often when launching an app that certain details may be recorded while using it, which is honest and upfront, but still also a little creepy.
There are smaller details with learning curves, too, like the fact that the default keyboard shift key behaviour is to act instead as caps lock, which caught me a few times when entering passwords. Oppo's own supplied browser App can't be uninstalled, but thankfully Chrome is already present and can be set as the default launcher.
The Oppo R11s gets a small battery boost over the original R11, up from 3,000mAh to 3,205mAh. If it was otherwise the same handset, that should give it something of a battery boost, but it also has to contend with the power draw of what is a larger overall display screen.
We've flipped over to using Geekbench 4's rather tougher battery test, which means we don't have a huge bank of devices with which to compare the Oppo R11s' battery life. Here's how it stacks up against a range of handsets:
|Device||GeekBench 4 battery score||Geekbench 4 battery time|
|Google Pixel 2 XL||4805||8:08|
|Sony Xperia XZ Premium||4796||8:06|
|Samsung Galaxy Note 8||3240||5:24:00|
|Apple iPhone 8 Plus||3058||5:07|
|Huawei P10 Plus||2974||5:23|
|Apple iPhone X||2836||4:44|
Here the difference between the R11 and R11s may be a little more significant, as the earlier handset shows a stamina bump over its newer rival.
However, benchmark battery testing like this is rather linear, so it's important to also test in a more real-world way. Having used the Oppo R11s for a couple of weeks now, I can easily say that it should last through a single day's usage with few problems, even if you are a heavy user, but two days is beyond its general reach.
While the Oppo R11s uses a Snapdragon SoC and so could use Qualcomm's fast-charge technology, Oppo instead has its own in-house VOOC fast charging onboard.
On the plus side, that does mean that you can quickly top it up if you're using Oppo's supplied charger and cable.
On the minus side, VOOC doesn't appear to have progressed beyond microUSB, meaning that you're using an older cable connector type. An increasing number of handsets are opting for USB C, and that means you'd be incompatible with other people's chargers if you needed a power boost in a hurry.
The Oppo R11s is almost exactly what you'd expect it to be. It's not a radical reinvention of the Oppo R11 as much as it is a refinement around the R11's rough edges. There are some aspects of the smartphone experience that Oppo isn't getting on board with, such as USB C charging or NFC, and that's regrettable in the Australian marketplace but understandable in a Chinese context.
The single most obvious alternative to the Oppo R11s is, not surprisingly, the Oppo R11 itself, which you can still pick up for quite decent prices outright or on contract. While the R11s has a nicer display and improved camera optics, the differences there aren't massive, and if you're happy within ColorOS, it's a great option.
Oppo R11s: What the other reviewers say
|GSM Arena||"Oppo did an excellent job bringing the R series up to speed with the competition."||4/5|
|Hardwarezone||"The R11s and R11s Plus are really nice updates to the original R11, and the addition of a gorgeous extra tall AMOLED display adds a lot of value to these mid-range offerings."||N/A|
Pricing and availability
If you want an Oppo R11s outright, it will set you back $659, while the larger Oppo R11s will cost $779. Only the R11s will be available on contract through Virgin Mobile, Vodafone, Optus and Woolworths Mobile. Here's what you'll pay for the Oppo R11s on contract:
- Product Name
- Oppo R11s
- Display Size
- 6.01 inches
- 2160x1080 pixels
- 401 ppi
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 660
- Operating System
- Android 7.1.1 with ColorOS 3.2
- Front camera
- 20MP f/2.0
- Rear camera
- Dual 20 MP f/1.7 + 16 MP f/1.7