OPPO started in 2018 with a relatively small range in the Benelux, including the RX17 Neo. In 2020, the product range has increased considerably and today we look at the OPPO A91. I’ll take you through all the pros and cons of this midrange phone.
OPPO’s A91 can be seen as a spiritual successor to the RX17 Neo from 2018. OPPO released the RX17 Neo as one of its first smartphones for the market. OPPO is now equally active in the Benelux and even has an official base in Belgium. Although the OPPO gives the A91 a different price tag, there are sufficient details that give food for thought. For example, the suggested retail price of the A91 is 299 euros, a difference of 50 euros with the OPPO RX17 Neo.
Beautiful budget topper?
Internally, however, the devices can not be compared. For example, the OPPO A91 contains a MediaTek Helio P70 chipset, compared to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 chipset from the RX17 Neo. You can also see what happened in less than two years: for less money you get more storage memory. OPPO sells one variant, with 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage memory, compared to 4 GB RAM and 128 GB storage memory in 2018. Other specifications include a 6.4-inch AMOLED screen and Android 9.0 Pie out of the box.
OPPO A91 – the pros
1. Sturdy housing
Although the OPPO A91 is largely made of plastic, the device feels surprisingly solid. Of course, you will notice that it is a midrange phone and plastic that feels less premium than an aluminum frame and plastic back. The back uses relatively thin plastic, so you can easily press it – something I experienced earlier on the Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite. It is less bad compared to the S10 Lite, but it is still worse than on the Moto G8 Plus. Motorola also uses a thicker plastic back, which makes it feel like glass.
Does it diminish the user experience of the A91? Certainly not. What rather diminishes the experience is the on / off button of the phone, which protrudes very slightly and shows a relatively large amount of play. This does not apply to the volume buttons of OPPO’s mid-range device, which provides sufficient feedback to be stamped as qualitative buttons.
Finally, the phone screen, which is factory-fitted with a plastic screen protector. So you don’t have to look for a screen protector. Incidentally, you will not just damage the screen of the A91 without a screen protector, thanks to the Gorilla Glass 5 protection present.
2. Accurate fingerprint scanner
In-screen fingerprint scanners have been the next big thing in phones for a few years now, in addition to the development of foldable phones, of course. No in-screen fingerprint scanner will perform the same. Fortunately, OPPO proves that a good in-screen fingerprint scanner will reach beyond the high-end segment. After a few weeks with the fingerprint scanner, the A91 managed to unlock as good as ever. A decent performance, which even many high-end phones do not achieve.
Can I still sift mosquitoes? If so, I would like to let you know that it is not a super-fast scanner. It’s no slow brew coffee, but you sometimes have to wait up to two seconds for the phone to make a decision. Compared to other, usually high-end phones, that is quite slow. However, I can’t complain about a phone like the OPPO A91, which can also be unlocked with the well-known PIN or pattern.
3. Thin screen edges
When I took the OPPO A91 out of its packaging, I immediately thought of the OnePlus 7T. The device includes a 6.41-inch screen with a waterdrop notch as small as the notch on the 7T. Quite a compliment for a midrange phone that goes on sale for less than 300 euros. Edges on the top and bottom of the A91 are slightly thicker, but are still nothing compared to phones from the past. In addition, it is not really noticeable once you start using the phone.
You have no use for thin screen edges if you should not have to buy the phone because of the screen. OPPO advertises with a peak brightness of around 430 nits. I don’t dare say whether the phone can achieve that in practice without test equipment. What I can say is that OPPO’s A91 is easy to read even with a lot of sunlight. With the summer ahead, it is a nice idea that you can also enjoy the outside with the phone.
A nice detail of the A91 – which you mainly want to use in the evening – is ‘Night Shield’. Within the phone’s display settings, you’ll find the default night mode with a warm or cooler screen tone. At the bottom, however, you will find three-screen effects that make the use of the A91 even more bearable. For example, you can choose a mode in which only gray tones are visible and finally a mode in which you keep gray tones and the background is also converted to dark gray.
Finally, you can adjust the color profile of the OPPO A91 to your own taste. I’m quite happy with the phone’s standard color adjustment, although a slight (blue) hue is visible on white areas. Via the screen settings you can adjust the color profile of the A91 with a slider. At first, little seems to happen when moving the slider, but as soon as you open another application from the settings, it is indeed visible. As far as I am concerned, OPPO could improve on that a bit, by showing more clearly – for example with images – what the differences are after adjusting the slider.
4. Smooth phone
Do you expect a super-fast phone for 300 euros? That is simply not possible anymore in 2020. If you add 100 euros, there are of course faster options, such as the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro, but for about 300 euros, the A91 meets my needs. Apps open quickly and websites load without bullshit. Sometimes you notice that the MediaTek Helio P70 chipset is not at the top of the rankings, because websites and apps sometimes falter, but then you also think of the price point of the phone. What strikes me very positively is that there is 8 GB of RAM. Yes: 8 GB RAM in a phone of less than 300 euros.
This makes the OPPO A91 the perfect midrange phone for users who like to have many apps open. If you also want to install many apps, then the circle is closed: 128 GB storage memory is provided in the OPPO A91. Fortunately, more and more manufacturers are sticking to the new step in the amount of storage memory that is included; the Nokia 7.2 is also equipped with 128 GB storage memory. A step-down, with the Moto G8 Plus, a consumer has to make do with 64 GB of storage memory. Still a great achievement considering the G8 Plus is similar to the high-end devices from just a few years ago.
OPPO A91 – the negatives
1. Android 9.0 Pie out of the box
Back in 2019, I was wondering when I saw the announcement of the OPPO A91. I did not expect to encounter another phone with Android 9.0 Pie in 2020, but OPPO has shown that it is possible. Too bad, because OPPO is therefore behind the scenes. The A91 will soon receive an update to Android 10, while Android 11 is now in full development. The Chinese company has already announced that the update to Android 10 in combination with ColorOS 7.0 will take place in August.
When purchasing the OPPO A91, you will have to make do with Android 9.0 Pie and ColorOS 6.0 for the time being. During my test period, I did not find it a nice operating system to work with. I see that OPPO is taking over many details from Apple, such as the notification panel, while that does not suit the European market. Add to this the fact that the settings menu is very cluttered and that all the icons of OPPO applications look childish and for me you have an operating system that goes wrong.
It is often minor irritations in the operating system that keep it from working fine. For example, if you look at the way in which you wipe away notifications. Almost all Android phones are equipped with a notification panel that you can swipe on both sides. Finally, I notice that you have to agree to a privacy agreement with almost all OPPO apps. Why would OPPO need it, however? Why does it collect data through my gallery application? I did not use them for my tests.
2. Fickle macro mode
Want to take a macro photo with the A91? It won’t be very easy for you and it doesn’t always get much better when the macro mode is turned on. I have tried to use the macro mode of the OPPO A91 several times. Try, because you cannot turn on the mode yourself. OPPO’s camera app will enable mode based on its own views. What is also striking about the macro mode is that you can not really get very close.
As soon as the phone was within two inches of the object, the camera struggled with focus. If you get the mode to your liking, you can shoot very nice pictures that contain enough detail. What is also striking is that the colors displayed in macro mode are slightly warmer than the colors in standard mode. Viewed objectively, it is better that each camera is adjusted equally, but in practice it is usually more difficult to say than done. I was therefore not annoyed during the test period.
3. Indoor noise formation
What irritated me a bit more was the poor performance of the OPPO A91 indoors. It is certainly not the first or last time a midrange phone takes worse photos once less light is available to the camera sensor. However, my testing shows that the OPPO A91 even takes photos with a lot of noise in, in my view, good lighting conditions indoors. OPPO’s software is busy cleaning up noise, which in turn results in softer photos.
Furthermore, the dynamic range of the cameras on the A91 is below par. A picture of my illuminated monitor ensures that you cannot see any details in the background. The same problems can be seen when you look at the photos taken outside. OPPO is not at the forefront in terms of camera technology, but that is also not possible at this price point. If you want to take photos for your own social media channels, you will end up with the A91. In all other cases, I would still look at another phone.
4. Mono speaker
You do not have to buy the phone for the sound; for that, I’d rather refer you to the G8 Plus – one of the few mid-range segment phones with stereo speakers. On the A91, you have to make do with one speaker on the bottom of the phone, which you can also easily block with your hands. If you do not block the speaker, the sound of the single speaker is quite shrill. A plus is that you can increase the volume considerably, but I would not immediately see that as a big advantage, since the sound does not get better when you increase the volume.
Motorola offers with the G8 Plus stereo speakers that exceeded my expectations. Perhaps it is not fair to compare the device with the G8 Plus, but it shows that it is not something you have to save on in this segment. What made me very happy is the connection to your headphones. There are fewer and fewer phones that have this port, although in the midrange segment (fortunately) you will find more phones with the port.
After four-plus and four negatives, we have arrived at the conclusion. Can I recommend the device? I say yes, unless you can’t live with ColorOS from OPPO or value cameras on the phone. An outdated Android version cannot be justified, but at the same time it does not have to be a breaking point for the purchase of the A91. The device knows a lot of details to tap, for example, the screen is of above-average quality, the phone looks sleek and the A91 performs above my expectations (note, it is not a speed monster).
Then there is still room to investigate the competitors. Earlier I mentioned the G8 Plus, which in many cases performs even better and generally feels a little faster. Samsung is also outpacing OPPO with its Galaxy A51. The device offers better camera setups and the One UI software delivers a better experience – that is of course subjective. Xiaomi again has the Mi 9T (non-Pro) for around 300 euros, with better performance and better cameras. You have to use the software again, because MIUI is not for everyone.
Earlier I indicated that I can recommend the OPPO A91 and it will remain that way, but only if OPPO has precisely filled your wish list. There are simply hijackers on the coast who perform better, are more beautiful, or have cameras that take wonderfully beautiful photos at the price point. Ultimately, the midrange segment is a place to give and take. There is no perfect phone, but the phone that suits you best.
Buy OPPO A91
You will find the OPPO A91 in two colors: Lightning Black and Blazing Blue. The device is now for sale for 299 euros at T-Mobile, Tele2, Belsimpel and MediaMarkt. The phone has not been in stock at Coolblue since the phone was introduced.