Imagine you’re not rich, but you like the finer things. You want to go to the fancy restaurants, wear Tommy Hilfiger or Ralph Lauren, and get the iPhone 732. But you’ve got $500 in your savings and the same in your cheque account, and you know it’s not happening right now. Then, someone shows you a similarly delicious fancy meal, no strings attached, for half the price.
That’s what the AX5 is like. A Logan Brown experience at Macca’s prices.
The budget smartphone business has its place, in a time when any device under a grand sounds ‘cheap’. Well look, cheap can mean poor quality or it can mean low price, and this is the good one. That’s key here; the AX5’s RRP is $399 NZD.
6.2 inches worth of screen is still too many inches for my personal taste, but I can’t say it’s not pretty. I’m also still not sold on bezel-free displays, or the notch, but I again have to concede that the AX5 makes it work. I found out late that you can hide the notch, but ya know, it’s actually starting to grow on me.
Seriously, the thing is goddam beautiful, with blue triangles fitting together into a great and classy design. Honestly, people say that the iPhone is pretty (and yes, I’m going to be using the iPhone as a comparison for most of this review), and it is, but OPPO have outdone themselves in aesthetic terms this time, all while keeping below budget.
The AX5 is also very respectable in raw power; 64GB of memory and 3GB of RAM isn’t wild, but it’s still plenty for most of us, and of course you can expand it with a micro SD if the mood takes you. I also discovered a dual SIM option while slotting in my SD card, extremely handy for those of us who travel between countries often enough to require another number. Whether you’re an expat, business person, or international circus folk, OPPO is your friend if you need more than one number.
The AX5 also ships with a gel case to protect the snazzy back of the device, which is thoughtful, but I do wish it (and indeed every phone) came with a screen protector instead, as my unit got scratched after about 2 days out of the box. It in no way affected my use of the phone, and is totally invisible during use, but I still felt that little pang of remorse every time I saw it in sleep mode.
Speaking of sleep, no need to panic if you wake up in the morning without plugging in, as the battery life on the AX5 is, without hyperbole, the best I’ve experienced on a smartphone. No qualifiers; it’s not the best of the month, or the year, but literally the best. As I’ve mentioned before, my phone and I are busy bees, and I ask a lot from my device. A 4230 mAh battery means that the AX5 gave, and did not take away. I was able to go two days of reasonable use before needing to cable up, a wonderful change from being married to my powerbank. It was so… freeing.
I’m still in love with the camera: 13MP on the back and 8 on the front is plenty for me, and took stunning photos. The beauty filter still makes me laugh on the highest settings, but tone it down and it’s just you but, ya know, prettier. The back camera could be a little better until you remember that, again, this phone is $400, so I’m not crying over not having 20MP of glorious resolution on my cat pics.
There are some odd choices coming in on OPPO devices, sure. Why is there no Home screen outside of the main pages? Why is the beauty filter automatic? Why is there no generic email app (I prefer Gmail, sure, but I can’t get my work server to OK it)? These and more questions will arise as you use the AX5. But, once more for people in the back; the AX5 is less than $400, and for that I am more than happy to use Gmail, be pretty, and swipe a little more.
You’re not gonna get all the bells and whistles with this thing; no fingerprint reader and NFC is MIA, which are possibly deal breakers for some of you. But while the reader isn’t there, the facial recognition is top-notch, and I only felt it missing in low-light situations. NFC might be a big deal for some of you, but honestly, the only NFC I use is my bus pass, and I won’t be losing any sleep over it.
I also got to try out the Clone Phone feature, which moves photos, music, files, contacts, apps, and even some logins to your new device. This took about 20 minutes to go from the R15 Pro to the AX5, and with minimal issues; a few apps didn’t transfer right, and only about half kept me logged in. Still, I’m extremely impressed, and this is a great convenience for those of us who might change devices regularly.
What is the OPPO AX5? It’s a decent smartphone with a great camera, sleek design, friendly and intuitively customisable interface, and an incredible battery, all for less than $400. If you have more money to play around with, by all means there are phones with more features. But if you want to experience a great phone on a budget, there is no need to look any further than the AX5.
It’s not just a great budget phone; it’s just a great phone.