Oppo A91 Review: Mid-range prowess but dated specs

The mid-range market has been a sweet spot for smartphones in the past few years, and Oppo are more focused on it than ever with the A91. While the Chinese company awaits the release of their much anticipated and super premium Find X2 Pro, it may be the A91 that ends up being one of their better phones of 2020.

As the latest in the A-series, there’s a lot riding on this well-priced, reasonably-specced device. Mid-range has always been where Oppo has shown the most muscle, and they’re definitely getting showy here with a few features you’d expect on higher-end phones, and some that are typical of this category.

Design

A sharp and attractive 6.4-inch AMOLED with a pixel resolution of 2,400 x 1,080 and 480ppi is certainly a smart way to go for the phone. There’s a teardrop notch for the 16MP selfie camera which, while tiny, can still be a little distracting along with the small chin and narrow side bezels. Regardless, content on this thing still shines, with the panel a considerable play in the “premium without the price tag” space.

It’s a shame then, that the glossy plastic ‘Lightening Black’ (not lightning, “lighening”] rear of the phone feels cheap. but I can’t speak on the white model. Fingerprints are plentiful, and the deep piano black can’t hide them well in most lighting. Still, you’ve got a device that is thin (7.9mm thick), light (72g), and feels great in just one hand. Materials aside, first looks are far beyond its affordable price point.

The rear panel is clean aside from the Oppo logo, dual LED flash, and quad-camera system, lenses huddled together by a very narrow and unobtrusive curved frame. More on the cameras below.

As for biometrics, an in-display fingerprint 3.0 reader sits at the bottom of the Gorilla Glass panel. It’s mostly accurate and impressively fast at an accurate 0.32 seconds, but doesn’t seem to be as nuanced as those in more expensive models. There were times when I would just contend with passcode-unlock, but the issues with this fingerprint scanner were minimal. Facial recognition has also been included and has worked with zero issues for me.

A power button sits on the right side while the volume rockers veer to the left, all in the logical places where your fingers would be should you be gripping this with one hand. A 3.5mm headphone jack has been included on the base of the phone, along with the port for a very speedy USB-C VOOC Flash Charge 3.0. That’s impressive, but the down-firing mono speaker is most certainly not, with one-sided and flat sound with next to no bass.

Performance

Mediatek’s MT6771V Helio P70 handles the performance here, working alongside 8GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage. That is decidedly midrange and a bit dated, but still performs well enough to handle mostly all tasks quickly and without issue. Gaming is smooth as long as you’re not on the highest possible setting, apps are fast and multi-tasking is handled well.

The overall user experience is also fine, with Oppo’s flexible Color OS6.1.2 running on top of Android 9. I’m not quite sure why they wouldn’t have just gone with Android 10, but 9 is still flexible and pleasant enough to use.

Camera

Portrait

Oppo has been generous with their rear cameras. But that’s not much of a surprise, with a primary 48MP (f/1.79), 8MP (f/2.25) wide angle, 2MP (f/2.4) mono and 2MP portrait sensors. The latter two sensors really don’t add too much to the system and only play supporting roles, but the first two produce some decent results.

The camera app itself is as simple as you can get, with very few modes or features to really take advantage of this setup. As expected, the primary uses pixel binning, like Google’s phones, which largely relies on AI to select the best pixels and deliver polished results. This means what you do actually end up with as a 12MP finished shot by default. In playing around with the settings, you can shoot in 48MP but the result isn’t much different save for better low-light performance and slightly less noise.

A standard shot
Normal mode; 2x zoom

Telephoto is decent, but nowhere near the level you could expect from higher-end phones. Shooting capabilities are fixed at 1x for wide angle, and then 2x and 5x optical. You can go up to 10x digital, but the results strip mostly all detail. If you want a good photo, I wouldn’t go beyond 2x.

Night mode does a nice job making night seem like day, but there is still a lot of noise as you can see in the below shots.

A standard shot.
Night mode, same photo as above.

Portrait and Macro are both there because they need to be, but neither produce satisfying results beyond what you would normally expect from a mid-range phone. While Portrait, as you can see with the duck, makes the foreground pop a bit more, don’t expect any satisfying bokeh beyond some scattered blur.

Battery Life

In addition to their VOOC fast charging, which can go from 0 to 50% in 30-40 minutes if you use the compatible charger. A 4,025mAh battery means you’re going to get a lot of mileage out of this without having the charge it, with more than enough to last an entire working day on reasonable use.

Battery is far better than a lot of mid-range competitors, and to top that off with rapid charging should easily please those who want a phone to get them through an entire day without needing to reach for a cable.

Verdict

The A91 is Oppo achieving a delicate balance between all the main talking points of a smartphone. It handles quite well, takes a decent enough photo, and looks fantastic for its market. Display is obviously the kicker here, and that AMOLED screen makes up for a few shortcomings, but when you do watch content on this you’re going to want a good pair of Bluetooth headphones.

While the photography is good, having two lenses that are more for show than for function is a big question mark. Especially considering they don’t really add much to the overall experience.

THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Highlights: Excellent display; smooth user experience; good enough performance for multi-tasking; powerful battery life and fast-charging.
Lowlights: Plastic back feels rather cheap; camera set up doesn’t meet its full potential; forgettable mono speaker; specs are dated, but sufficient.
Manufacturer: Oppo
Price: AU$499
Available: Now

Review based on a unit supplied by Oppo.

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy Editor of the AU review and a freelance travel writer. You can reach him on Instagram by following @chrisdsingh.

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