The phone display notch popularized by Apple's iPhone X has divided the house in terms of those who love the design and those who hate it. That is why Chinese phone makers, led by Vivo, introduced a motorized pop-up front camera, a groundbreaking smartphone design that's part of a collective effort to remove the need for a screen notch.
A few months after the launch of the Vivo NEX last year, OPPO hopped on the pop-up selfie camera bandwagon with the F11 Pro's debut (although the standard model has a waterdrop notch). During my first week of using the device, I found this mid-ranger to be an all-around smartphone for almost all of what I need from a smartphone.
Also, it's easy to recommend to my friends for its beautiful design, immersive screen, and great camera capabilities. However, are these enough to say you'll get a lot of bang for your buck?
The model I'm reviewing comes with 128GB of internal storage, although this variant arrived only a few months after the phone's initial launch in a 6GB/64GB configuration. Nonetheless, its storage is expandable up to 256GB with a microSD card slot. Here are the phone's key specs:
|CPU||Mediatek Helio P70 (12nm)|
|Display||6.53-inch IPS LCD (1080 x 2340 pixels)|
|RAM and Storage||6GB/128GB expandable to 256GB with a microSD card|
Rear: 48 MP (f/1.8) + 5MP (f/2.4)
Front: 16 MP (f/2.0)
4,000mAh with 20W (VOOC 3.0) fast charging
|Body||Dimensions: 161.3 x 76.1 x 8.8mm
Across the board, the F11 Pro packs some significant upgrades from its predecessor, the F9 Pro, except for the screen resolution, GPU, and video capabilities, which all have carried over from the older handset into the newer one. It's worth mentioning as well that aside from the Thunder Black model being reviewed here, the phone also comes in Aurora Green and Waterfall Gray options.
The F11 Pro has, perhaps, one of the most fascinating designs among this year's smartphones. Although it was Huawei that pioneered the gradient color design with the P20 series, OPPO almost claimed the title with the mesmerizing look of the F11 Pro Black Thunder model.
On first look, the phone seems to be made of glass, but its back is actually a polycarbonate material with a glossy finish and a metallic frame. The triple-gradient color is a mix of deep blue, black, and purple, giving it a premium feel. Plus, the phone is comfortable to hold in the hands courtesy of its rounded corners and tapered sides with a matte finish, which helps to prevent the device from slipping.
The alignment of the dual camera module, flash, fingerprint scanner, and the OPPO logo with the "Designed by OPPO" phrase next to it all give its back some kind of symmetry. However, the slightly large camera bump can't help but cause the phone to wobble when placed on a flat surface.
The volume rocker and power button are conveniently placed in the middle of the left and right sides, respectively, so that it's easy to reach them with your thumb and fingers when holding the phone with one hand. The green accent on the power button is worth noting as well even if only for its added aesthetics. Other than that, it's got no other function. Above the power button is the hybrid dual SIM card tray which can also accommodate a micro SD card for expanded storage.
At the top of the phone sits the pop-up selfie camera, and the noise-canceling microphone next to it. However, the device utilizes a micro-USB port at the bottom instead of USB Type-C, a seemingly backward step for a phone with many modern elements all over it. Thankfully, that did not prevent the phone from including support for fast charging. Also, you get a 3.5mm headphone jack and a single bottom-firing, mono loudspeaker flanking the charging port.
Display and media capability
The display is a head-turner as well. It's got a 90.9% screen-to-body ratio, according to OPPO, thanks in large part to the nearly bezel-less screen achieved through the pop-up front camera instead of a notch. The chin takes up more space than the top bezel, though.
Nevertheless, the display gives you a good viewing experience when watching YouTube videos or Netflix in landscape mode. The display is also great for gaming, with highly detailed graphics. In general, it's an immersive screen for all your media consumption, meaning you don't get interrupted by a notch or a camera cutout.
Don't expect true blacks from the phone's display, however, since it's only IPS LCD. But that's not really a deal-breaker. On the other hand, there are other several things to appreciate about the screen including the accurate colors and decent contrast. In terms of screen brightness, the F11 Pro's display is not the brightest out there, but its legibility isn't compromised even under direct sunlight.
The audio from the loudspeaker may not be on a par with other phones equipped with Dolby Atmos support, so listening to music or video through the loudspeaker can be a bit underwhelming compared to its higher-end rivals. But for its mid-range price, you can cut it some slack. That's not to say the listening experience isn't great, it does the job just the same.
Performance and battery
The F11 Pro is powered by a Helio P70 SoC, a standard chipset for a mid-range device. The processor is paired with 6GB of RAM. It incorporates the Arm Cortex-A73/A53 octa-core CPU complex coupled with an Arm Mali-G72 GPU.
OPPO may not be aggressive in terms of marketing the phone as something that packs some power, and the phone's benchmark scores are not that impressive, either. For context, here are the Geekbench results for its CPU performance, with a multi-core score of 5,600 and a single-core score of 1,555:
In comparison with older flagship phones such as the Google Pixel 2 and Samsung Galaxy S7, the F11 Pro gets a modest Geekbench score in the single-core test.
Its GFXBench results are the following:
Finally, the AnTuTu results provide insights into the phone's overall CPU and GPU performance:
However, that doesn't mean it has lousy performance. It's still a reliable device when it comes to gaming, for example. I didn't experience any screen freezing or stutter when playing Asphalt 9 or PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds Mobile (though graphics capabilities for this game are limited to HD). For general use, it offers a smooth experience, launching any app is a breeze with no noticeable lag. However, I've encountered occasional hiccups when dozens of apps for social media, photography, video editing, and web browsing were simultaneously running in the background, which to be fair, can affect any device.
That said, multitasking between a few apps is fluid with the F11 Pro. OPPO also deserves a pat on the back for the super-fast rear fingerprint scanner included in the device. In addition, the facial recognition system is equally quick to recognize my face even before the front camera finishes popping out from its place. In the dark, it uses screen brightness compensation to scan your face since the face unlock system doesn't rely on infrared, and it does the job well.
It should be pointed out, however, that this system can be easily fooled with a photo of the phone's owner or with the face of someone having the same appearance. OPPO doesn't lack for a warning about this weakness in the facial recognition feature's setting menu. Luckily, when I tried unlocking the device with my photo, it refused to acknowledge the object as a valid security pass.
Battery life is another noteworthy aspect of the phone. Its 4,000mAh battery can keep your phone running for an entire day on a single charge. Well, that's the case for regular tasks like browsing, social media, gaming, messaging, and email. If you are someone who keeps binge-watching Netflix videos on end, the phone can last up to six hours. It's impossible to show, however, the phone's screen-on time because this option is not found on the phone's settings menu.
With VOOC 3.0 Flash Charge, the battery can be juiced up to 100% from 0% in one hour and 15 minutes. In addition, you can charge it up to 40% in 20 minutes. That's courtesy of OPPO's 20W fast charging technology.
The F11 Pro's camera is a thing to behold. Its 48MP main shooter uses the Sony IMX586 sensor, so the quality is on a par with those of the higher-end phones. The main sensor is complemented by a 5MP depth sensor that helps to produce a bokeh effect. The auxiliary sensor gives a natural-looking background blur in portrait mode, though the same can't be said of the front camera as the outlines can get a bit uneven.
By default, the camera sensor is set to 12MP instead of 48MP as part of the pixel binning technique that's also used by other smartphones these days. I actually tried out both modes, but honestly, I didn't see any difference in their image quality. Among the notable camera features are HDR and the Dazzle Color mode for more vibrant photos.
Its dedicated Night mode also does a splendid job. When this mode is turned on, the capture is sharp and crisp for the rear camera with little to no image noise, depending on the amount of light coming into the sensor. Details are also accurate as opposed to the sometimes blurry photos taken in automatic mode at night or in low-light settings. You also get brighter images with a good balance between highlights and shadows. Unfortunately, the front camera does not support the Night mode.
That said, there's still a lot to appreciate about the 16MP pop-up selfie camera. It's not really the fastest motorized elevating camera out there as it can take one second to fully open, but what it lacks in that aspect it compensates with crisp and sharp images. Some selfie samples are shown in the gallery below along with other photos I took using the F11 Pro.
For videos, the F11 Pro lacks support for 4K due to chipset limitations. It doesn't even support a 60fps frame rate. It can only shoot at up to 1080p@30fps, but that doesn't mean its video quality is disappointing. During the day time, the video quality is just fine, though it's not something to write home about. The footage is sharp and has a good dynamic range. Details are also clear, with stabilization being maintained electronically (EIS) as the camera doesn't have optical image stabilization.
At night, the video quality can get smudged out, however. Some details are lost and the sharpness is sacrificed. Image noise also starts to become noticeable in poorly lit areas, as shown in the video below.
The F11 Pro runs Android 9.0 Pie with ColorOS 6.0 on top. However, it doesn't come preloaded with some of the features you may be expecting from an Android Pie device such as dark mode and digital well-being.
That said, ColorOS 6.0 is by no means a terrible experience. One of the things that I like about its software is the Game Space mode, which can be useful outside of gaming. For example, in addition to Asphalt 9 and PUBG, I also added Netflix to the list of apps supported by this mode. This feature allows the device to free up some of its RAM and prevent floating notifications to give you an undisturbed experience while playing your favorite game. It's also applicable to apps like YouTube or Netflix so you won't get distracted while watching videos.
In addition, there are some other nifty features: gesture navigation for a true full-screen experience, assistive ball for quick operations such as multitasking or going to the home screen, and smart sidebar for faster access to user-specified apps like messaging, Facebook, camera, and more. You can also press the power button for three seconds to launch Google Assistant.
I also like the user interface of the F11 Pro. Its icons are large enough for my fingers and the app drawer is an added convenience for people like me who like to open a single place where apps are located instead of swiping through the multiple screens. One thing, though, that I find frustrating about its software is the frequently unresponsive screen when you tap it twice to wake up. I hope OPPO fixes this problem soon.
For its price and value, the F11 Pro is an easy option if you're looking to buy a phone that packs some punch without breaking the bank. From the premium-looking design to its camera, the device is hard to be categorized under the mid-range segment, except of course if you start looking at its internals. More specifically, you might want to avoid this phone if you're someone who hates handsets with a huge screen since it's really bulky to hold. Those who constantly open dozens of apps at the same time and want an absolutely seamless experience may also wish to set their eyes on something else. Its lack of NFC support is also a bummer for many, except in markets where contactless payment systems are not mainstream yet.
That's not to say its processor is any slouch compared to the competition. But if Xiaomi managed to incorporate a flagship chipset into the Pocophone F1, OPPO sure could pull off the same trick with its mid-rangers.
One the other hand, the phone's best features include its immersive display, battery life, camera, and design. So if you're a media junkie and you also favor looks more than the performance, then the F11 Pro is the phone for you. It's also one of those phones that I highly recommend to selfie addicts and photography enthusiasts. Additionally, gamers may find the F11 Pro a nice option for its long battery life.