Friday, 21 November 2014

Oppo N1 mini offers decent build quality and performance, but overpriced at Rs 26,990.......

Unlike other Chinese phone makers entering India, Oppo made it quite clear that it is here to target the mid to high-end market and not to please the budget segment. The first smartphone to dive out of Oppo’s adobe was its flagship N1 with a unique swivel camera, which removes the need for separate front and back cameras.
Just like premium phone makers such as Samsung, Sony and HTC, the company quickly dished out a mini variant for the N1. The Oppo N1 mini is a smaller, watered down version of the N1, with a 5-inch display instead of a 5.9-inch one on the N1. In terms of the specs, the N1 mini features a lower-resolution display and mid-range processor, but has maintained the prime USP – the 13MP swivel camera.
The price tag of Rs 26,990 places the device in the mid-range segment. Read our detailed review to find out if the N1 mini is worth considering at this price point.
Design and Build – 7.5/10
The Oppo N1 mini closely resembles its big brother when it comes to the design and build. Though built of plastic, the smartphone looks sturdy and durable, and exudes a premium matte look. It feels solid in the hand, but you’ll need to get it dressed into a cover as the the paint on the rear tends to come off.
The bottom edge shows a 3.5mm jack, speaker grille and micro-USB port.
The display snugly fits into the front panel, without the bezel eating away much space. The right edge has the SIM tray and volume rocker while the left edge has the power button. On the bottom edge, you will find the 3.5mm jack, speaker grille and micro-USB port. The device also gets a metallic rim around the edges. You will find the 13MP swivel camera module placed on the top, but it is now accompanied by a single LED flash. Though, it would have been nice if Oppo had also included the trackpad on the rear side, as seen in the N1.
Solid and sturdy build
All in all, the Oppo N1 mini simply replicates its bigger variant and comes across as a well-built handset that is quite capable of taking everyday knocks and bumps.
Features – 6/10
One of N1’s sore points was the gigantic 5.9-inch display, but the mini sports a more ergonomic 5-inch display. Though relatively smaller, the mini is still a phablet which makes it great for reading and typing. The display is bright and vivid with good viewing angles. It’s also pretty legible under bright sunlight. The screen is quick to respond and there won’t be much to complain on this front. The screen gets a layer of Gorilla Glass for protection against scratches and rough handling.
The swivel camera module is easy to rotate
While it was disappointing to see Oppo’s 2014 flagship come with Snapdragon 600 clocked at 1.7GHz (common on 2013’s flagships such as HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4), the watered down N1 mini features a 1.6GHz Snapdragon 400 processor. It’s disappointing, as we expect better at this price point. The smartphone also includes 2GB of RAM and 16GB onboard storage, out of which 11.54GB is available to users. Unfortunately, there’s no card slot to add to the storage.
On the camera front, it is nice to see Oppo’s swivel camera without any changes even in the mini variant. The 13MP swivel camera along with single LED flash comes with a slew of camera features that can used even while taking selfies, owing to the 206 degree rotating camera.
Oppo N1 mini users can also take advantage of the O-Click, a Bluetooth accessory that lets you remotely perform some functions, just like the elder sibling. One needs to pair it with N1 mini and use the preloaded O-Click app. The unit we received did not come bundled with the O-Click, so we couldn’t test it with the device. Users need to buy the O-Click for an additional Rs 1,800.
The in-box contents include a USB cable, charger and a pair of earphones.
Software – 6/10
Our N1 mini unit ran the rather older Android 4.3-based Color OS version 1.4. However, according to Oppo it will be upgradeable to the latest Android KitKat-based Color OS 2.0, that was recently seen running on the company’s latest flagship N3 and also the ultra-slim R5. After playing with the N3 running Color OS 2.0 for some time, the new version definitely comes across as more refined with a minimalistic appearance.
It runs Color OS 1.4, upgradeable to version 2.0
The UI isn’t heavily customised and if you’ve been using stock Android then you may feel slightly at home. It does bring additions like a new app launcher, themes, gestures and some customised Oppo apps. The homepage gives easy access to shortcuts to Wi-Fi, brightness, WLAN and so on, if you slide your finger downwards from the right side of the screen. Interestingly, swiping downwards from the left side takes you to a gesture panel. Here, you can draw an ‘O’ or ‘V’ to directly get to the camera and torch apps, respectively.
The user interface is easy to navigate
Some of Oppo’s customised apps include Lock Now app that locks the phone with a single tap. You will find Oppo’s security service that includes a host of helpful apps like Guest mode, Holiday mode, Data Saving, App encryption and more. You will also find the complete set of Google apps and services. With the updated OS, the device could further spruce up the user experience.
Performance – 6.5/10
A glance at the benchmark test results will tell you that the mid-range Snapdragon 400 Soc is quite capable of accomplishing your daily tasks without any hiccups. We didn’t face any issues while switching between apps or even multitasking. However, sometimes, the device appeared to be slow as we browsed through heavy websites. The touch response is quite good and we didn’t face any lags while navigating through the device. We did not have complaints with some casual gaming either. The benchmark scores aren’t high and are what one can expect from a Snapdragon 400 SoC. We liked the fact that it comes with 2GB RAM.

We did face a few software glitches such as device rebooting, once when we tried to launch the camera app. A couple of times, the device did not let us log out of a social app.
Coming to call quality, the in-call and speaker quality is good. The bundled earphones are decent, but we would suggest you replace them with your favourite pair of good earphones for better quality. The device supports quad-band GSM, 3G and 4G. The slew of connectivity options include Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth v4.0, NFC and GPS.
Display – 7/10
Unlike most mini variants, Oppo has managed to fit in a larger 5-inch display, which is a significantly reduced display size compared with its 6-inch big bro. The display resolution is also toned down to 1280 x 720. With HD resolution and 5-inch display, it offers a pixel density that goes up to 293ppi. Now, the quality isn’t as good as the N1, but that doesn’t mean the display is bad. In fact, it does a fairly decent job even in sunlight. The viewing angles were good with less reflection and good legibility. The phone maintains Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection, so you don’t have to worry about scratches. The colours appeared natural. The images were sharp and watching movies was a pleasant experience.
The N1 mini played stutter-free videos
Camera – 7/10
The biggest selling point of the device is its swivel camera. Fortunately, the mini variant doesn’t lack it and the company hasn’t toned down the camera resolution. One will find the same 13MP sensor module that can be used as the rear snapper and also rotates 206 degrees to act as the front camera. We carried it along for a weekend getaway, and it is quite handy when it comes to taking group pictures.
It’s a Sony sensor with f/2.0 aperture. It has dropped one of the LED flash, but packs in a plethora of features to play with including HDR, geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, panorama, audio photo, beautify and more. It also offers the Ultra HD mode that lets users take six successive pictures and then the camera combines them to create one 24MP photo.
A photo taken at dusk, the details in the background appear patchy
It has a very neat camera app and switching between modes is simple too. On the left side, you will find access to modes like Auto, HDR, Landscape, and Portrait and so on. Just below that you can tinker with the flash options. Finally, under Settings, you can tweak the shutter, resolution, timer, white balance and so on. On the right side it lets you choose from options like Night Colourful mode, Ultra HD and Beautify.
A lot of camera options to play with
The daylight shots were good and quite detailed. Colour reproduction is good, but colours weren’t as punchy as we’d like. The N1 mini does not come with Optical Image stabilisation. The focus is quick and we captured a moving image which shows Oppo has done a decent job. The low light images aren’t that impressive as we got a lot of images with patchy details.
Battery – 6.5/10
The Oppo N1 mini houses a non-removable 2140mAh Li-Ion battery. To test the battery life, we first ran our loop test that includes two hours calling, two hours video, two hours audio playback and two hours YouTube streaming and it lasted for roughly seven hours. On an average usage with camera, 3G and calls, we managed to use the device for a day.
Verdict and Price in India
Though Oppo N1 mini does not come with top of the line features, it does not falter when it comes to build, design or performance. The device packs in a good combination of hardware and software. If you are a selfie lover and looking for a large display and a decent performer, then this device is for you.
However, the only hiccup right now is its steep pricing of Rs 26,990. You may also find it online for around Rs 25,000. The price doesn’t seem to be justified considering the low to mid range specs it comes with. Furthermore, Oppo is still relatively new in India, we wonder if consumers will be willing to shell out such a huge amount. Moreover, for just a couple of thousands more, one can easily buy the Nexus 5, which has already got the Android 5.0 Lollipop update.