OPPO Find X Review - A Prophecy of Smartphone Design

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By Nick Sutrich October 30, 2018, 2:40pm
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The future of design, available now

2018 has proven to be a year where many manufacturers throw in the towel and accept assumed design norms, but it’s also the first year in some time where those same companies have started releasing truly interesting, almost experimental designs. OPPO’s Find X absolutely falls into these categories, showcasing the most interesting design we’ve seen from OPPO in some time, and a design that seems to transcend the current crop of notches and fingerprint readers for something almost prophetic in terms of design. The OPPO Find X has an incredible number of unique features that set it apart from every other phone on the market, and it all centers around design. Do OPPO’s unique design traits and features have what it takes to set the Find X apart in 2018? Let’s take a look.

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Specs and What’s in the Box

The OPPO Find X ships in two colors: Bordeaux Red, and our review unit color, Glacier Blue. Both colors sport a black color base with highlights of the named color. On the front is a truly bezelless 6.4-inch display with curved edges, Gorilla Glass 5 and a 93.9% screen-to-body ratio, the highest ratio on the market as of this writing. This OLED panel sports a 2340 x 1080 resolution panel with 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 401PPI, and a 60,000:1 contrast ratio. All cameras and sensors are hidden within a sliding mechanism that pops-up above the screen, and contains a flood illuminator, infrared camera, range sensor, receiver, dot projector, and front-facing camera.

The Sony IMX576 25-megapixel front-facing camera sits behind an f/2.0 lens, while two cameras are on the backside of this sliding mechanism with a single LED flash. The main rear-facing camera is a Sony IMX 519 16-megapixel 1/2.6" sensor with 1.22μm sized pixels, while the secondary camera is a Sony IMX 376k 20-megapixel 1/2.78" sensor with 1.0μm pixels, both residing behind an f/2.0 lens. OPPO ships the Find X with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC powering it, as well as 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM. Two configurations exist: the standard OPPO Find X ships with 256GB of storage and a 3,730mAh battery, which charges from 0% to 100% in about 90 minutes. The special OPPO Find X Automobili Lamborghini Edition ships with 512GB of storage and a special 3,400mAh battery. See the chart below for a list of MSRP's for the Oppo Find X in the countries that OPPO officially sells the phone in.

This new style battery is actually two 1,700mAh batteries with support for Super VOOC charging, able to fully charge from 0% to 100% in 36 minutes. The only port on the phone is a USB Type-C port with OTG functionality, and a single speaker sits on the bottom alongside. The phone supports dual Nano-SIM cards via a uniquely designed SIM tray. Android 8.1 Oreo ships with OPPO’s ColorOS 5.1 skin running atop. Dual-band WiFi is supported up to 802.11ac speeds, alongside Bluetooth 5.0 for audio and other peripherals. The Find X measures in at 156.7mm high, 74.2mm wide and 9.4mm thick, weighing in at 186 grams.

OPPO is shipping the Find X with a good deal of value inside the box, including a pair of USB Type-C earbuds, VOOC charging power adapter and USB Type-C to USB Type-A charging cable, 3.5mm to USB Type-C adapter and a cleaning cloth. OPPO has also pre-installed a film-type screen protector onto the curved glass of the Find X, and ships it with a protective case, although our review unit did not come with this protective case, so we cannot review its quality or degree of coverage. A SIM tray eject tool and set of warranty pamphlets and manuals is also included.

Display and Navigation

While a 6.4-inch display would ordinarily sound massive and unwieldy, OPPO’s design makes it feel significantly smaller by any measure. As a truly bezel-less phone, the OPPO Find X sports uniform bezels all around, with a chin that’s only a few millimeters larger than the three other bezels. This is the smallest chin on any Android phone, and the smallest all-around bezels of any phone on the market, hands down. Curving the left and right edges of the glass furthers the feeling of the screen being smaller than it physically is. The result is a phone that’s physically smaller than an iPhone 8, a phone that sports only a 5.5-inch screen, and is significantly smaller than the similarly priced Samsung Galaxy Note 9, all while having larger screens than either of these devices.

The OLED panel on the Find X is fairly average quality, with its weakest point residing in the “red shift” you’ll find at almost any angle. Google’s Pixel 2 XL suffered from a “blue shift” when it launched last year, making colors look overly cool at an angle, and in a similar way the Find X’s screen has a very obvious shift toward warmer colors at any angle. This is extremely distracting when using apps with predominantly white backgrounds, but it almost unnoticeable on apps with more color on the screen. While the white balance of the panel also hinges a bit on the warm side, it can at least be adjusted in display settings, where we found a more accurate balance to be one notch towards cool in the settings. While this won’t fix the shifting to warmer colors at an angle, it at least makes the white balance more correct.

Outside of these issues, the display is gorgeous and looks phenomenal on the phone’s body. It’s easily viewable in sunlight, and meets all the other expectations we have from a quality OLED display in 2018. OPPO covers the gamut of gestures on the Find X, giving users full view of that incredible screen without the annoyance of software navigation buttons or slide-out panels taking up room along the edges or bottom. The software navigation bar is enabled by default, but a quick jaunt over to settings reveals loads of options regarding full-screen navigation. OPPO isn’t playing around when it comes to offering users lots of options regarding navigation gestures, giving the ability to choose between four different configurations of navigation gestures, on top of having the option to enable the software navigation bar as well.

If gestures aren’t your thing, or if the screen is just a tad too large, the “Assistive Ball” navigation type will replace both via a floating ball that can be moved anywhere and responds to touches and swipes for navigation. What’s more is that the curved edge can be used for two different types of gestures as well. Activating split screen to run two apps at once can be done by swiping up and the left curve while swiping down on the right, and double swiping down on the right curve will switch between the two most recently used apps, much like double tapping the overview button will. It’s a stellar collection of gestures that has something for everyone, and is bound to make most folks very happy.

Hardware and Build

The OPPO Find X is easily the most interesting phone of 2018, sporting a design that no one else has even come close to achieving. OPPO nailed every square inch of this phone, and it both looks and feels like nothing you’ve ever seen or used. That doesn’t mean there aren’t similarities to other phones, as design convergence certainly has placed some limitations on how crazy an OEM can get with design, but, as a whole, OPPO has designed an incredibly unique and stunning phone in a year where most phones look almost identical to each other. The first thing you’ll likely notice is the lack of any cut-outs or holes anywhere on the body. In fact, this is the epitome of unibody design, as there’s no spot for the cameras on front or back, and no place for a fingerprint reader either. Just a curved slab of glass on both sides.

Only the volume buttons on the left and power button on the right protrude at all from the otherside silky smooth design, and the USB Type-C port and speaker grille at the bottom are the only cut-outs made at all anywhere on the design. There’s no fingerprint reader on this device at all either, rather OPPO has decided to go the iPhone X way of removing the fingerprint reader in favor of utilizing an advanced set of sensors to accurately and securely detect your face. These sensors, along with the front and rear-facing cameras, are all located inside the phone, and are revealed by a slide-up mechanism which extends the entire top portion of the phone about half an inch. This sliding mechanism extends in just 0.6 seconds, and will appear any time the cameras or facial recognition permission is called for from an app.

The sleek curves, lines and reflections used throughout the design are nothing short of incredible, and represent the absolute best in design of any smartphone, even if it takes some general cues from Samsung’s latest designs in some ways. There’s something to be said about the elegance of curves on a phone, and while 9.4mm sounds thick for a flagship in 2018, that number is all down to how OPPO has designed the curvature on the phone, as the phone doesn’t feel anywhere near the level of thickness this seems to suggest. It’s also lighter than most phones at this size, which often meet or surpass the 200g mark, while the OPPO Find X is a much lighter 186 grams. On the downside, the curvature of the frame and slippery nature of glass mean this phone is a bit on the difficult side to hold, especially in lower humidity or cooler climates. OPPO does ship the phone with a case, although since our review unit didn’t ship with that case, we cannot make any assessment on whether or not the case improves this situation.

Having no bezels also means the likelihood of having to grab the phone in an awkward way or accidentally pressing something unintended on the screen is higher, although OPPO provides options for touch blocking in case this becomes a problem. More than likely this operates by calculating the surface area for touches, and anything deemed to be larger than a finger will be automatically rejected, like grabbing the phone with the palm of your hand, for instance. The flat glass back has also received a good number of scratches and scuffs in the 2 months that we’ve been using the device, a crying shame considering its beauty, but not unexpected given the fact that it’s made entirely out of glass. The vibration motor is unfortunately nowhere near the caliber that is becoming expected of a premium flagship phone, with harsh vibrations that just don’t feel good. Leaving vibration on while typing will almost certainly result in uncomfortable fingers after a short time, and overall it leaves a lot to be desired.

Then of course is the question of reliability concerning that pop-up segment that holds the cameras and all the other sensors. Located within this pop-up mechanism are all three cameras on the phone, as well as the entire suite of biometric authentication for facial recognition. If this motor were to fail, the results would be incredibly detrimental, to say the least, as much of the main daily functionality of the phone would be very difficult to use. OPPO rates the motors at an incredibly long life of 300,000 retractions, and given the average Android user looks at their phone an average of 66 times per day, that means the OPPO Find X’s pop-up motor is rated to last around 4,400 days, or approximately 12 years. So long as nothing causes an early death, that’s well beyond the lifetime anyone will own a modern smartphone.

Durability after a drop could certainly be a concern too, but without rigorous drop tests there’s no for-sure way to estimate the types of drops this can withstand before having mechanical issues. The tray has a slight wobble to it if forcibly pushed and pulled, but nothing outside of expected mechanical leeway. The tray can be pulled up forcibly if tried, as the top left and right sides completely pull out of the frame as they slide up, giving easy point to grab and pull. The motor will not resist if pulled up quickly, but a slow pull will be met with resistance as the motor attempts to pull the tray back into the body. These sides also introduce a very real pinch-point, and I had my fingers lightly pinched a few times when switching back from landscape to portrait mode after taking a picture. There’s not enough force to the motor to make these pinches hurt, but it’s definitely something that’ll make me jerk my hand away.

The motorized tray is definitely a dust magnet though and I often had to clean it out multiple times a day. This doesn’t appear to affect performance in any way, and unlike other pop-up phones like the vivo NEX S, I never heard the gears grinding or straining in any way. By default the motor is very quiet, and really only noticeable in a quiet room, but OPPO has three different sound effects to choose from if you’d prefer it to make a cool noise. As far as preference goes, I like vivo’s sound effects better for their pop-up camera, but both suffer from the same inability to customize the sounds, leaving you with only four options and no way to choose your own.

Security and Connectivity

OPPO’s decision to remove the fingerprint scanner in place of an advanced face scanner brings up the same questions we had when Apple did it. Is this really a more convenient or safe way to biometrically authenticate with payment services or just when unlocking the phone? What about times when you’re wearing sunglasses, or any other time when something is blocking your face and the scanner can’t really see you? Of course these same limitations occur with fingerprint scanning too, especially in cold climates where people have to wear gloves, or if you regularly have to wear gloves for work or other reasons, so it’s not just facial recognition tech that has these problems. What would have been nice is the ability to use both facial and fingerprint recognition, which could have been achieved in a number of ways, which could possibly happen in future Find X sequels via an in-glass fingerprint scanner if we’re fortunate.

Facial recognition on Android doesn’t yet hold the same level of compatibility as fingerprint scanning does either, and many times you’ll find that you either need to enter a PIN for payment (via Google Pay), or be forced to use passwords to log in to apps and services instead of biometrically authenticating, as you can with a fingerprint scanner. This really is a shame given how well OPPO designed the facial authentication on the Find X, although they have thankfully worked alongside Alipay to integrate facial recognition for biometric authentication on mobile payments through that service. Given the markets OPPO is selling in, this was a smart move, as Alipay is more widely used throughout China and a number of other countries throughout Asia. We’d love to see integration with other payment services, but this will likely require more deep integration with Android in order for it to happen.

The OS, in general, is super security focused, as is the case with many popular Android skins from China, including super granular app permissions, ways to hide apps behind an extra PIN or biometric authentication, ways to clone apps and use multiple accounts with services that don’t normally support it, and so on and so forth. Advanced permissions options include listings of every single permission possible on the phone, and which apps are requesting each one as well. This gives direct insight into how many apps are requesting camera permission, for example, giving an easy way to allow or deny usage for a specific permission type that users find particularly sensitive. Some additional ways of protecting privacy and information including universal whitelists and blacklists for numbers to block calling and messaging, the ability to detect fake cell base stations, automatic identification of unknown numbers via public callerID, and even a specific kids space to lock the phone down when in use by children.

OPPO is using international radios on the Find X, ensuring that the phone will work quite nicely in most places around the globe. A dual Nano-SIM tray also helps ensure maximum compatibility with networks around the world, as this functionality is vital in many countries around the world. The SIM tray is an interesting design, one that threw me off when first popping my SIM card into the phone, as the SIM cards actually stack face-to-face on each side of the tray, whereas most SIM trays put the cards side-by-side. I had no issues with connectivity on T-Mobile US’s LTE network, where the Find X performed admirably and had excellent signal strength all around. T-Mobile hasn’t enabled WiFi calling or VoLTE for the Find X on their network, but your favorite regional carrier may support these technologies with the phone, so be sure to check ahead of time regarding compatibility.

Performance, Sound and Battery Life

Performance is exactly what you should expect from a flagship device in late 2018, with only a few exceptions. Games play perfectly on the phone, with solid framerates and tons of detail thanks to the high-resolution OLED panel on the device. Game Space mode helps lock the phone down a bit to enhance performance and keep you from getting bothered while gaming, as well as adding in convenient features like toggling auto-brightness and restricting network access to background apps. Apps of any kind performed ideally, with quick loading, fast response times and no noticeable slowdown or lag, even with apps that require extra performance. The only exception was in Chrome when a page had a lot of multimedia, like pictures or video, which would cause an obvious delay in scrolling latency, but nothing more than a few added milliseconds onto the touch latency total.

What wasn’t so great were the background task limitations artificially put on the phone. OPPO’s ColorOS is a bit heavy on app management in regards to power savings, and by default, will automatically manage apps’ abilities to run in the background. This can be disabled and manually toggled to either always allow or never allow apps to run in the background, but these settings don’t always seem to work. In our time with the Find X, we found that apps like Slack and Allo would frequently be disallowed from running in the background, even though they were specifically selected to be allowed to do so. Whether or not this is a bug in OPPO’s coding or the phone still intentionally restricting use is not certain, but it manifests itself in missed messages that only appear once the app is manually opened again. It’s frustrating and makes little sense in a world with large batteries and a phone that sports 8GB of RAM.

A full day’s battery life was easily achievable with the Find X, no matter what I found myself using it for in a day. There’s no traditional battery stats here, so calculating screen on time and other normal methods of looking at battery life empirically were a bit difficult. At the least, I never had a day where I had to top up the battery, but there were days when I ended in the single digits if I were using the phone heavily. Typically it lasted 18 hours off the charger and still had around 20% battery left, which is enough left to pad for those heavy use days. Given the fact that this is a 1080p+ panel and a Snapdragon 845 with a 3,730mAh battery, it’s a bit surprising to see the battery end the day with this low of a percentage, but the OPPO Find X has something to deal with that most phones don’t: that mechanically raising camera module.

It’s very likely this mechanical camera module negatively affects battery life, but since the battery inside the Find X is so large, it’s not very noticeable for someone who regularly plugs their phone in overnight. OPPO’s VOOC charging is as good as ever, and even better in the case of the OPPO Find X Automobili Lamborghini Edition too. The standard Find X, which we are reviewing here, charges from 0% to 100% in just under 90 minutes, with a 50% charge in 30 minutes flat. That last 50% takes a bit longer to charge up compared to the first 50%, but any 30-minute top-up will likely last the rest of the day without issue. The Lamborghini edition ups the ante by introducing Super VOOC charging, which charges the phone from 0% to 100% in 35 minutes flat. This is done by breaking the battery into two 1,700mAh packs, each of which can take the 50W charging at the same time. It’s some seriously brilliant design that’s only available, unfortunately, on the 50% more expensive Lamborghini edition, but could very well be the future of charging on upcoming OPPO phones at large.

Software

While OPPO’s ColorOS was pretty unapologetically iOS themed for a fair bit of time, they’ve stepped away from some of that styling with the latest releases. There’s still plenty of iOS inspiration here, no doubt, but the main OS behavior is all Android, and if the iOS style home launcher and other components bug you, it’s easy enough to switch out the defaults with any alternative on the Play Store. The notification shade is an interesting amalgam of iOS and Android, with a set of 8 quick toggle icons at the top, which are expandable to 12 with another swipe down. Notifications work exactly as they should in Android for the most part, with an extra swipe down on them expanding notifications and revealing more information. Swiping them away works similarly to iOS, as a swipe to the side will reveal a “delete” and a “settings” icon for each notification, forcing users to confirm removing the notification. This is nice for those times when notifications are accidentally swiped away (as there's no undo action), but it might irritate folks looking for more speed in their daily tasks.

OPPO features a theme store with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of free and paid themes alike. Each theme can contain as many or little elements as the creator intends, and these theme elements can be applied individually as well, or as a full group to complement the whole theme. OPPO also implements a smart driving feature that will automatically turn on Do Not Disturb when it detects you’re in a car. OPPO features a cloud backup service that stores your contacts, photos and browser bookmarks, as well as SMS and system settings for easy recovery later.

Camera Hardware and Software

The front-facing camera uses a single Sony IMX576 25-megapixel sensor and an f/2.0 lens. The infrared camera and range sensors on the front can also be used to help calculate portrait mode and other AR effects. Two cameras are located on the reverse side of this sliding mechanism, and sport a single LED flash between both sensors. The main rear-facing camera is a Sony IMX 519 16-megapixel 1/2.6" sensor with 1.22μm sized pixels, while the secondary camera is a Sony IMX 376k 20-megapixel 1/2.78" sensor with 1.0μm pixels. Both sensors reside behind an f/2.0 lens.

OPPO’s camera interface is certainly very similar to what is offered on most phones in the industry, including the typical white shutter button, a swiping carousel of modes across the bottom of the screen, and a number of quick settings buttons strewn across the top of the screen, which change depending on which mode you’re utilizing. While this interface is clean looking, the icons generally are a bit ambiguous as they don’t feature any words or tooltips to go along with them, just a simple icon with a white outline design. There aren’t a lot of icons in each mode though, usually 2-4, but some modes feature 6 or 7 around the screen. Additional wording, especially after clicking the icon, would really help a lot with identification and would help make things easier for users.

Mode switching is painfully slow, as is typically the case with this sort of user interface design, but is made worse because you cannot scroll the carousel itself at the bottom. Instead, you’ll have to flip through each mode, wait for it to load, and then continue to your desired mode. This could add several seconds onto the lead time of wanting to take a picture or video, especially if wanting to use Time-Lapse or Expert modes, which are on the extreme ends of the carousel. You can click the word of the mode individually to quickly switch to them, but all modes aren’t visible at a time, so it’s not possible to switch to every mode with a single click. Thankfully there’s no silly swipe up/down gesture in addition to the swipe left/right gesture, meaning you’ll need to click the swap camera button to move between front and rear cameras, but this also means a less swiping accident-prone experience.

OPPO offers a number of beauty settings, ranging from 0 to 6, or an intelligent “AI” mode, which attempts to identify which level it thinks makes the user look best in any given situation. There’s also a number of filters built into both photo and videos modes via the 3-overlapping-circles icon, and even direct integration with Google Lens via the Lens icon on the bottom left. Again, text or tooltips would help identify these icons better, but it’s likely users will remember their functions after pressing them a few times. Opening the camera always defaults to photo mode, and there are 8 modes in total: Expert, Panorama, Sticker (AR), Portrait, Photo, Video, Slo-Mo, and Time-Lapse.

Camera Results

 

OPPO’s smartphones typically provide a solid camera experience, although they haven’t offered the absolute best results, historically. The OPPO Find X fits right in with that mantra, and will likely please many people with its results during the day, but lower light photos tend to leave a bit to be desired. Daytime shots typically feature accurate colors and good dynamic range, but there are a number of times where shots are slightly overexposed, especially during overcast situations. One of the best features of the camera is its color accuracy, and you’ll find that the camera does an excellent job of capturing realistic colors, even during HDR photography, instead of oversaturating the images like many phones tend to. The main 16-megapixel sensor pulls out lots of detail in any well-lit shot, and you’ll find that crop detail is generally excellent if you need to zoom into a shot after taking one.

OPPO offers a 20-megapixel secondary sensor that is activated when zooming in past 2x with the viewfinder, further enhancing the detail in ways a single sensor simply cannot. Zooming in proves it to be far more effective at such a task than many other phones, even ones with secondary cameras, but still falls behind Huawei’s excellent P20 Pro in sheer detail by quite a range. The Find X struggles pretty significantly in low light when compared to the competition, where it both cannot get enough light into its sensor to adequately illuminate a dark scene, and ends up looking too soft in other better-lit low light conditions. This sensor’s 1.22um pixels should be able to provide enough light to provide brighter scenes, but the f/2.0 lens is likely part of what’s causing this issue more than the sensor itself. Most 16-megapixel sensors on smartphones feature smaller 1.0um pixels, and therefore should have worse low-light performance, but a lens that doesn’t help the sensor in this way will unfortunately create a bottleneck in performance of the sensor at the end of the day. Even scenes that were “bright enough” ended up looking blurry and shaky because the phone relies on long shutter timing too often.

The best camera on the phone is found on the front, where a large 25-megapixel sensor takes some incredibly detailed selfies, to say the least. It’s also got some rather nice dynamic range, although it’s not the best in the industry, but often is the sharpest next to the Google Pixel 3. This even translates to low light where the camera does an excellent job of providing a clean and clear image, despite low light conditions. A front-facing soft-flash is done by illuminating the screen and provides natural lighting conditions and coloring for the environment. It’s an excellent way to illuminate people in the scene in really dark conditions without making the picture look weird or suffering from poor lighting artifacts.

As far as video is concerned, the OPPO Find X is pretty barebones in its experience. It’ll record 4K video, but doesn’t feature high framerates or HDR recording. It also will record in slow motion at 240FPS, but isn’t anything above and beyond the ordinary in that regard. Quality could use a bit of work, especially in the areas of dynamic range and stabilization, where the video often looks a bit overexposed, and any kind of movement provides shaky video. At the end of the day it’s really just not a great phone for recording video, and you should certainly look elsewhere if this is an important feature for you. See the gallery below for all the sample images and comparisons with other popular flagship phones to decide for yourself whether or not this camera is good enough for you.

The Good

Futuristic design

Light and small for the screen size

FaceID is fast, accurate and secure

Facial recognition available for supported apps and services

Excellent front-facing camera

Gorgeous curved OLED panel

A number of quality of life and customization features

Dual-SIM

Plenty of built-in storage

Excellent battery life

Fastest charging in the industry

The Bad

No fingerprint scanner

No 3.5mm jack

More fragile thanks to motorized camera

Memory management is overly aggressive

Low light camera performance is poor

Video recording is sub-par

Camera software is slow

Conclusion

The OPPO Find X is art in design, and is certainly the phone to get if you're looking to impress those around you on a regular basis, or just want something that's beautiful to behold every day. The motorized camera is a unique design, one that has plenty of positives and negatives, but ultimately makes the phone more fragile than others on the market, especially since the rest of the phone is made entirely out of glass. Despite being made out of glass there's no wireless charging support, but OPPO's Super VOOC charging is the fastest in the industry, and already excellent battery life means you likely won't have need for it, even if it'll charge as much as you need in only 30 minutes. That price tag is going to be eye-watering for many people though, and will ultimately mean that this phone is for folks who enjoy technology as art rather than something more practical. The future of design is here, and it's available now, even if that comes at a price.

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October 30, 2018, 2:40pm
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