What a difference six months make, eh?
Oppo put out an astounding number of phones each year; just a couple of months ago I reviewed the R15 Pro, and the AX5 review I wrote shortly afterwards remains one of our most popular pages. And rightly so; these are good phones, and I’m an excellent writer.
… OK fine, they’re excellent phones and and my Mum tells me I’m an excellent writer. Are you happy?
Anyway, fast forward and here we are in November, with a brand new Pro version of an Oppo phone, this time the R17 phablet. Most of what I want to say about the R17 Pro I’ve already said about the R15 Pro; it’s wonderful. The phones feel like devices that cost twice as much, the cameras are still excellent, and the battery life is second to none. Honestly, I know I rave about these things, but only because they truly deserve it.
But why should you upgrade your R15 (or R15 Pro, or R17, or whatever) to an R17 Pro? Well, honestly, you shouldn’t, because they’re essentially the same device. The key differences, however, mean that this one suits a different niche, and has a few quality-of-life upgrades that I really dig.
First and foremost, the fingerprint reader. On the R15 Pro, this was a dedicated spot on the back; now it’s built into the screen. I’m of mixed opinions about this, as I kept unlocking it by accident from my pocket which is concerning since it’s meant to be a fingerprint scanner. Although, this is nothing that can’t be fixed with a simple fully enclosed case, and you can always add security.
The other stuff? Well, the R17 Pro is about three grams heavier, and an inch taller. I say apparently, because come on, you wouldn’t notice that.
The R17 Pro has 6GB of RAM, the same as the R15 Pro, and both come with 128GB of storage as standard. The front facing camera is a ludicrous 25 MP on the R17 Pro, topping the already excellent 20 MP boasted by the R15 Pro. Returning is my favourite beauty mode, which makes you look anywhere from pretty alright to Uncanny Valley, but I still love it (just don’t leave it on auto). Add to all this that it charges halfway in about 15 minutes and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll already be sold.
Aside from all else, the R17 Pro is gorgeous; it comes in emerald green or blue and purple which, while not exactly my aesthetic, are undeniably pretty. The screen is crisp and rounded, and even the damn notch (which has now changed to the teardrop style notch) is growing on me. It’s huge, of course, but for a lot of people that’s a plus; I just don’t think phones should be 6.5 inches long, which again is I guess why they call them phablets.
Are you missing a couple of familiar things? Sure. There’s no wireless charging, and they’ve finally bid farewell to the 3.5mm audio jack. But I use Bluetooth headphones, which paired fine, and I’ve got a USB-C charging stand anyway; none of this bothered me. All the apps are still all over the place, but as this is now my third Oppo I’ve just accepted that as the way they go; you do you, Oppo. Not being able to customise the lock screen a lot was also a bit irksome, and some of the options are in very unintuitive places. Honestly though, I’m just picking holes; after a week of use, I barely noticed.
The R17 Pro is an incremental evolution of previous Oppo phones in almost every way. Better cameras, more RAM, better battery, and faster charging all add up to making a great phone an excellent phone. It’s a bit big, and seems to be different for the sheer sake of it in some regards, but that’s not nearly enough to make me love it less.
I’ve said before that Oppo is the best value for money you’ll get in a smartphone, and I still mean it; you simply can’t beat the bang for the buck here. While not the insanely low price of the AX5, this is selling for the easy-to-remember price of $999 NZD, and feels like it could sell for a helluva lot more.
If you can get used to Oppo’s slightly quirky way of doing things, and relative lack of brand recognition outside of China, The R17 Pro is the best phone you can get under a thousand dollars. Fact.