The India-first OPPO Reno 2 is a follow-up on a phone lineup that's earned the OEM a reputation, among other things, for tech and design-savvy smartphones at a reasonable cost and the review unit sent to us by OPPO only shows improvement in all regards.
Now, this phone isn't available everywhere, or at least not from carriers. It also doesn't run stock Android so there are some caveats there too. But none of that is worth diving into here.
With the OPPO Reno 2, the company takes tropes about balancing design with function and effectively turns those collectively on their ears in almost every way. Not only does the device ooze beauty, but it also does so without missing a beat in even the most spec-hungry mobile games or apps. All the while, a display that takes things to the extreme in terms of clarity and brightness drives the experience forward.
Plenty of improvements have been made over previous devices too, starting with Game Space. That means there are more options than ever when it comes to optimizing that experience in particular. Audio hasn't taken any leaps forward but the cameras are noteworthy too. All across those aspects of the Reno 2, OPPO's improvements speak volumes for the effort at work here.
That also makes the OPPO Reno 2 an all-around performer. But its Rs. 36,990 — $521.54 — price tag, in the intended sales region, is what really sets this apart and makes it worth a closer look.
OPPO took a solid design and made it even better in Reno 2
Aesthetically speaking, the OPPO Reno 2 doesn't stand out too much from other "Reno" gadgets. There's an accent stripe down the back, an O-Dot anti-abrasion nub that keeps the under-glass lenses from scratching when it's put down, and an eerily similar streamlined curve at all edges. But the OPPO Reno 2 review unit I received was likely the most beautiful color this phone comes in too.
Dubbed Luminous Black, the color flashes with a deep-to-bright blue tine at any angle under any lighting. The intensity of that and the degree to which it's visible are both impacted by how bright that lighting is and the angle of it. When it's hit just right, it glows in a way that's nearly impossible to show properly in photographs. The spreads from the inner accent line but also from every edge.
The sole caveat, at least to the black coloration, is that it collects fingerprints with gusto. But those are easy enough to wipe away. Aside from the color that I tested in my review, OPPO Reno 2 also can be bought in two other aptly named variants — Ocean Blue and Sunset Pink.
As shown in the images here, that's not at all a bad thing. It's a solid design with a great in-hand feel and it feels well-built. In addition to being a nearly-seamless design, each of the ports fits snugly and with no wiggle at all. That includes a USB-C charging port and an ever-popular 3.5mm headphone jack.
The front-facing camera slides out smoothly with a neat sound-effect too and doesn't jostle at all but returns to a closed position without harm with a slight push. Both the volume buttons and the power button have quite a bit more "click" to them than I've seen in previous smartphones.
Every aspect here feels like it's built to last, down to the smallest detail.
Performance is on-point
Now, this smartphone comes with a top-of-the-midrange-line Qualcomm-built Snapdragon 730G processor on board. But the OPPO Reno 2 I was sent for review doesn't limit things to 4GB of RAM or a paltry level of storage either. OPPO backs up its powerhouse with up to 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. And it's safe to say I never came close to utilizing all of that to its full potential either.
The use of the processor here is expressly for the camera's AI algorithms and, more importantly, it's Night mode algorithm. But that's not all it's for. The most intensive games available on the market ran without stutter throughout my test of this phone's capabilities. The same is true of the hardware-reliant apps I used.
Even while multitasking, running a game like the newest Call of Duty, Into the Dead 2, or any of the online MMOs I checked out didn't cause any issues here. That remained the case when running multiple apps of that type in the background, loading up recent apps with around 20 or 30 titles and apps.
The initial set-up process, notorious for slowing things down due to app and data downloads, didn't cause the slightest bit of latency either. That's saying quite a lot for any smartphone.
One area that could be improved on that front is app switching. Moving from app to app isn't slow by any means but it does take a somewhat longer time than with a flagship device. OPPO will undoubtedly address that in future updates but it's not a bother in the meantime. Most users simply won't notice it, especially in this phone's price bracket.
OPPO fixed Game Space with OPPO Reno 2 for those who want a bit more oomph
OPPO's gaming optimization software, appropriately housed in an app called Game Space, has been a key point of contention for several of its biggest releases. Not only did the optimization software really not seem to do much. It wasn't widely supported by games and some games that would break entirely when added manually.
The latter problem was arguably a bigger problem since noticeable performance improvements are going to be minimal. In some cases, the app would seem to alter the code of the games, requiring them to be completely uninstalled and reinstalled before they'd work again. That doesn't happen anymore, or at least it didn't through my review of the OPPO Reno 2 — tested with games that previously did that.
That means it can now be used to offer a slightly more "buttery" experience in gaming than was previously available. The biggest improvements can be seen by switching over to "Competitive Mode," bolstering performance, screen framerate, display responsiveness, and signal. That's going to eat more battery but will be useful when the added power and a more solid might come in handy.
There's also a default "Balanced Mode" that keeps things level with standard performance. Conversely, "Low Power Consumption Mode" does exactly what it says at the expense of image quality.
Aside from those modes, the app can help users clean up their home screen too. Users can choose, in the app's settings, to storing game icons in Game Space instead of on the home screens.
The app contains other useful information and settings too. On the home page, OPPO provides users with a readout of the remaining battery life based on the selected mode and signal strength. In the settings menu, users can choose to block out notifications during play entirely. The app puts all of that at users' fingertips on the fly via OPPO's Game Space pull-bar. That slips in with a swipe from the side so users don't have to leave the game.
Summarily, Game Space basically enables users to individualize the performance and experience with every title.
Great camera phone performance without the expense
The camera setup here is, put mildly, a lot to take in and almost impossible to take in all at once. In fact, that can be discovered further in my negative review of the OPPO Reno 2 because it's disconcerting with a steep learning curve. It's easy enough and well-designed enough to just point and click but that feels like a waste because there is so much the cameras can do.
OPPO includes a total of four sensors on the rear panel. Those accent a 12-megapixel shooter at the front, on a mechanical 'shark-fin' shaped apparatus.
The sensors include a 48-megapixel primary snapper, 8-megapixel wide-angle lens & 13-megapixel telephoto lens, and a 2-megapixel 'mono' lens. Both OIS and EIS are present for super stable shots, especially when recording video at up to 8K and in slow-motion.
Everything's driven by AI, including scene selection and the included AR sticker software.
With that said, what's really important about this camera speaks for itself in our sample gallery via Flicker. This i going to be a great camera for taking photos in almost any conditions of almost any subject.
In terms of color accuracy, clarity, and detail, the OPPO Reno 2 is more than capable with any of its lenses. It doesn't perform too badly at long range with clear shots from the standard 5x hybrid zoom and 20x digital zoom only adding a moderate amount of noise.
Portrait mode provides crisp edges with variable bokeh and plenty of options for stylizing photos.
Even in extreme low-light, performance doesn't suffer too badly. Shutter speed was always faster than I expected based on my previous review experiences. The software itself is snappy.
For example, in at least two of my Night mode test photos, I wasn't even able to see anything on the screen. The results from that experiment were images that looked deeply shadowed instead of pitch black. In brighter shots, the deep blue sky in the background and stars were the only big giveaway showing that the pictures had been taken at night.
OPPO Reno 2 works in the U.S. if you can find one
One of the only complaints that I'll lodge here derives from how limited availability of this device is. As noted above, OPPO intended this phone primarily for the India region. That should mean it doesn't work for me since I'm on a U.S. AT&T MVNO. But I used the OPPO Reno 2 as a replacement device throughout my review regardless because it does work.
Bluetooth 5.0 and NFC are present and work as well as can be expected without having the latest bleeding-edge technology such as Wi-Fi 6 or 5G. The latter of those are still very new so that's hardly a drawback. In fact, Bluetooth here seemed less susceptible to signal interference than on previous OPPO devices I've used. That's despite the fact that those used version 5.0 too.
The big issue is that this phone isn't widely available to buy outside of its sales region, even online.
Even though I was only able to use this device on a 3G network, for the most part, that connection was strong enough to make phone calls clear and apps downloaded fast. If that's any indication of how 4G performs, this phone is going to do extremely well on all fronts.
Everything about my review of the connections on OPPO Reno 2 showed significant improvement over previous models. Although not verified, the improvement could be due to anything from antennas being rearranged or boosted to the use of a higher-quality component.
Now, OPPO does include an ORoaming app that will net users data in world regions for an extra cost. That should prove useful for those who travel a lot either for business or leisure. The dual-SIM slot should serve for those purposes well.
Sound is nothing to write home about but better than most
On the audio front, balanced levels are going to be a central selling point of the OPPO Reno 2.
That's hardly surprising since it's always been a key part of the package. In effect, what users are getting is a range of tones from the bottom-firing speaker and top speaker that shine through clearly. There's no real punch or power to be found due to those speakers' size. But that's nothing at all unusual for a smartphone.
Interestingly, OPPO angled the top speaker grill — embedded in the top bezel — slightly upward. That's probably been done to save room for the screen but it also gives the device a unique look on close inspection. OPPO incorporated the dual-purpose secondary earpiece speaker itself in the motorized front camera mechanism.
Both speakers put out audio with near-crystal clarity. So even without the oomph that many continue hoping for from a phone, they sound great. The speakers didn't exhibit any tinniness in my OPPO Reno 2 review unit at all. OPPO optimized the speakers well enough to prevent crackle or distortion at even at the highest volumes. So these speakers are likely some of the best OPPO has put out to date.
Better still, OPPO ensured the speakers are exceptionally loud. I could hear all of my ringtones, notifications, and alarms clearly across a two-bedroom apartment.
On the other side of the equation, audio over the 3.5mm headphone jack — with or without OPPO's included headphones — is great. Music and movies alike play through better than expected for the price. The audio has a lot more punch. So lows rumble as they should while mids and highs accentuate cleanly through. Dolby Atmos support is included on wired output.
Wireless audio rang out to a similar effect. I didn't notice any jitter to the connection and no disconnects or cutting out happened either. The same held true for calls and speakerphone. It's a great audio experience for a smartphone at any price.
Topped with an all-day battery and then some
The battery life experienced during my review of the OPPO Reno 2 was great but not mind-blowing. Or at least that's the case when it's under heavy use but that doesn't necessarily equate to something bad.
Of course, my test of this smartphone's battery was hardly scientific. I left the screen turned up to around 75-percent and battery savings weren't turned on out-of-the-box. As noted over in the less positive review of this device, that level of brightness is wholly unnecessary. Nearer the lowest brightness setting is more than enough indoors in most cases. Keeping automatic brightness on will improve battery life.
Despite that, I managed over 10-hours of screen-on time from the OPPO Reno 2. That's out of a total device-on time a few moments under 26.5-hours. Charging took well under 1.5-hours. A total of 65-percent was attainable in under 40 minutes. The battery life to charging time ratio is quite high.
For the former, the majority of that was spent on YouTube and streaming in 4K via other services such as Google Play Movie. Setting aside that nearly five-and-a-half hours, I also played some more intensive mobile games for my battery test for around three hours. I spent around one-and-a-half hours streaming music — with the screen mostly on.
Battery management, conversely, has plenty of software optimizations that are well worth touching on.
To begin with, the OPPO Reno 2 performance in standby battery was exceptional. The percentage dropped a single point over a four hour period. Battery saving features should help on the more active side of things. OPPO includes a ton of settings for that and warnings about high battery drain with optimization options offered.
All-day use is all but guaranteed.
But should you buy OPPO Reno 2?
The biggest benefit to a device like the OPPO Reno 2 is that it's an all-around strong performer. Whether users need a smartphone with great battery life or that's good for gaming, this phone stands the test of use even in more extreme circumstances. It does something similar when it comes to snapping photos, making it a good companion of choice for users who love to take selfies, capture life's big moments, or just memorialize day-to-day activity.
The OPPO Reno 2 additionally handles audio with a finesse that's not often seen below the $800 price range. It's fair to say that no company builds smartphones with truly great audio. Even those that put sound at the forefront tend to fall well short of the experience that can be had from a good pair of headphones or Bluetooth speakers. But this OPPO device doesn't struggle on that front either. It simply makes the best of the limitations of physics.
At the end of the day, the OPPO Reno 2 isn't a perfect smartphone by any stretch of the imagination. But it does bring a combination of attributes that calls to light the question of why anybody would spend $1000 or more on a smartphone. That's more than most available devices can accomplish without serious trade-offs that aren't present in the OPPO Reno 2.