Oppo Find X3 Neo full review

The Oppo Find X3 Neo is the not-quite-flagship alternative to the Oppo Find X3 Pro and its ‘everything-but-the-kitchen-sink’ approach.

Much like last year’s Oppo Find X2 Neo, it rolls solid second-tier components into a svelte, style-conscious body. But this year’s Neo model has also been tasked with stepping up to fill the void left by the non-existent Oppo Find X3, with Oppo whittling its early 2021 phone range down to just three handsets.

It aims to do so primarily through a much-improved camera system and a fresh design. At £699, however, there are some tricky questions to answer about its value proposition.

Design & Build

The best thing about last year’s Oppo Find X2 Neo was undoubtedly its design. While it came third out of four Find X2 handsets in terms of performance and features, it was arguably the best looking phone of the lot.

For a brief spell, the Find X2 Neo was the world’s thinnest 5G phone. While the Find X3 Neo doesn’t make any attempts to regain that dubious crown, it’s still a skinny little thing at just 7.99mm. It’s also relatively light for its size at 184g.

I flat out prefer its design to that of its closest rival, the OnePlus 9, which is going to be used as a bit of a yardstick throughout this review for reasons that will become apparent. Though it sits lighter in the hand, the Find X3 Neo somehow feels more premium - or at least more special. Part of that comes down to its choice of materials, which is a metal frame and a curiously textured plastic back.

Oppo Find X3 Neo phone

The latter is described by Oppo as "a shimmering, diamond-like look that is exquisite to touch and dazzling on the eyes". I’m not sure about that, but there’s definitely something appealing to the Galactic Silver model that I’m testing (it also comes in Starlight Black). Rest assured that grain effect in the close-up handset photos isn’t image noise.

This model’s chameleonic finish sees the colour shifting as you tilt the phone, partially taking on the hue of its immediate surroundings. From a practical perspective, it’s also both more grippy and a whole lot more fingerprint resistant than glossy-backed phones like the OnePlus 9.

There’s nothing unusual about the phone’s sticky-outy camera module, which carries shades of the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 and Ultra. There’s also no high profile camera branding in sight here, but it still looks suitably ‘Pro’.

The phone’s dead-flat top and bottom edges are an interesting touch, especially as the top is covered by a pale blue glass (or glass-like) material. Another premium touch is the way the display glass melts away into the frame, with a slight curve and a complete absence of the plastic frame that surrounds the OnePlus 9.

Oppo Find X3 Neo side

All in all, Oppo has done well to make the slightly pared-back material choice of the Find X3 Neo seem like a bold artistic choice rather than a compromise.

However, like the OnePlus, there is no IP waterproof rating here which isn't very forgivable at the price in 2021.

Display

The Oppo Find X3 Neo’s display is a 6.5in AMOLED with a 2400 x 1080 (Full HD+) resolution and a peak brightness of 1100 nits.

At first glance, it seems to have been culled from the same parts bin as the OnePlus 9 and the OnePlus 8T. Oppo and OnePlus are owned by the same company, after all, and often share components.

But then you realise that the refresh rate for the Find X3 Neo is only 90Hz rather than 120Hz, which means it’s got more in common with the year-old OnePlus 8. Or to put it another way, the Oppo Find X3 Neo’s display is exactly same as that of its predecessor, the Oppo Find X2 Neo.

The lack of advancement is a tad disappointing considering how much you’re paying for the phone. 90Hz is still nice and fluid, and is 50% higher than the similarly priced iPhone 12 mini, but you can do better for less money - the Redmi Note 10 Pro is 120Hz AMOLED at under $300.

Oppo Find X3 Neo screen

Still, it’s not a bad component to reuse by any means. This display is every bit as bright, sharp, and vibrant as you could want it to be, while viewing angles are good. You get 100% coverage of the DCI-P3 gamut, and it’s also HDR10+ certified, so supported video content will pop with the full range of accurate colours.

Gamers will encounter a speedy 180Hz touch sampling rate, which ensures the display’s responsiveness. Add in those curved (but not too curved) edges, and it becomes quite easy to get past those disappointments over a lack of progress.

The display also contains the fingerprint scanner which in this case is an optical sensor, which is reliably snappy.

Specs & Performance

Weighing up the Oppo Find X3 Neo’s performance is a curious thing. Unlike the phone’s display, its internal specs have received a significant boost over its predecessor, yet I’m still left slightly disappointed.

The Snapdragon 865 CPU that powers it is a clear step up in class from the previous Snapdragon 765. But it’s also last year’s technology, with the Snapdragon 888 having taken its place in the Oppo Find X3 Pro.

True, you’re paying a lot less for the Find X3 Neo. But you’ll pay even less for the OnePlus 9, which also runs on the Snapdragon 888. And you’ll pay the same for the iPhone 12 mini, which comes with an A14 Bionic CPU that eats everything else for breakfast.

Oppo Find X3 Neo performance

Add in the use of slower LPDDR4x RAM (albeit a generous 12GB of the stuff), and the musty whiff of a parts bin is once again in the air.

As before, though, these are largely academic complaints from someone who’s privileged to have hands-on time with lots of phones. Phones have reached a level where we have to nitpick to some extent.

In day to day usage, away from the context of competing devices, the Oppo Find X3 Neo performs admirably.

Our usual suite of benchmark tests shows what I was expecting - a level of performance that roughly equates to last year’s flagship phones like the OnePlus 8 Pro and the Oppo Find X2 Pro. In practical terms, it was pretty tough to make last year’s flagship spec sweat, and that hasn’t changed 12 months down the line.

Boot up PUBG Mobile, and the settings will default to HD/High, which is around the middle. I was able to push it a notch up to HDR graphics and two notches up to Extreme frame rate with no major hit to performance.

All of this is backed by a healthy 256GB of storage as standard. There’s no microSD slot, but do you really need one with that much storage at your fingertips? Most people probably won’t.

Cameras

Oppo’s biggest step forward with the Find X3 Neo is in the camera department, where a 50Mp 1/1.56" Sony IMX766 sensor (co-developed by Oppo) leads the charge.

This is the exact same main image sensor that can be found in the Oppo Find X3 Pro, which is surprising. It also drives the ultrawide cameras of the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro, incidentally (remember what I said about those shared components?).

In this guise, it includes DOL-HDR for ‘quasi-simultaneous’ exposure, which basically tightens up HDR images and reduces ghosting and motion blur. You don’t get the Pro’s ‘dual primary’ offering of the same sensor for the ultrawide, though.

There’s a far more modest 16Mp fixed focus sensor here that does quite well in matching the colours of the main sensor but falls off in terms of distortion and noise at the edges. There’s no Freeform surface lens here to help with that like the OnePlus 9 phones.

Oppo Find X3 Neo cameras

You do get the benefit of a dedicated 13Mp telephoto lens, which can take 5x hybrid zoom shots. You’re best off sticking to 2x with this one though, as zooming in further leads to rather grainy, indistinct shots.

But at least there’s some potential for usable zoomed snaps here, unlike with the OnePlus 9. Rather than the Find X3 Pro’s funky microlens, you get a bog-standard 2Mp macro camera.

In terms of general shot quality, the Oppo Find X3 Neo captures bright, vibrant, if occasionally slightly cool and over-exposed shots. I was particularly impressed at how well it handled shooting into the sun, with none of the lens glare that plagues the iPhone 12 family.

In terms of comparisons with the OnePlus 9 camera, it’s swings and roundabouts. When I compared a bunch of identical OnePlus 9 and Oppo Find X3 Neo shots taken back to back, a pretty consistent divide manifested itself.

In day time conditions, with plenty of light, I preferred the OnePlus 9’s results. There wasn’t a great deal in it, but they were generally more vibrant, less overexposed, less over-sharpened, and they contained fewer weird artefacts (in background tree branches, for example).

Oppo Find X3 Neo flagship

Perhaps the OnePlus 9’s superior image processing (courtesy of that Snapdragon 888) is coming into play here, alongside its new Hassleblad colour tuning. OnePlus has also had an extra year of refining and updating its camera, don’t forget.

When the light dropped and the respective night modes came into play, however, the Oppo Find X3 Neo took over quite convincingly. The OnePlus 9 tends to over-brighten and wash night shots out, while the Oppo captures deeper, richer and more natural colours, not to mention way more detail.

The Find X3 Neo’s OIS doubtless helps keep things locked in and steady here, while the IMX766 sensor also seems to represent a big step up in low light capture.

Of course, if photography really is your priority, then the iPhone 12 mini still takes the best images in the £600-£700 price category. Its shots are packed with more detail, better colour balance, and superior handling of shadows - whether day or night.

Oppo Find X3 Neo camera test

Oppo has packed in the video features too, with AI Highlight Video using AI algorithms to correct the light in your footage, Ultra Steady Video 3.0 keeping things stable, and Dual-view Video allowing you to shoot front (via the 32Mp selfie cam) and rear footage simultaneously.

All in all, this is a notable step forward from the Oppo Find X2 Neo, with an all-round camera package that takes a step closer to true flagship territory.

Battery & Charging

Another way in which the Oppo Find X3 Neo improves upon its predecessor is battery life. With a 4500mAh cell, the new phone positively dwarfs its older 4025mAh brother, and matches the Oppo Find X3 Pro.

In day to day use, I was routinely able to get through a whole day without worrying about a recharge. On lighter days with 2.5 hours of screen on time, I was getting to bed with more than 60% left in the tank. Heavier days with double that usage should still see you through too.

I should add the caveat that current house-bound conditions meant that most of my time was spent on a stable Wi-Fi connection. Introduce 5G to the equation, and battery performance will invariably suffer.

Oppo Find X3 Neo battery life

Even if you do find yourself needing a charge before the day is done, though, you’ll be well served. While the X2 Neo supported 30W wired charging, the Oppo Find X3 Neo goes up to an impressive 65W. And the SuperVOOC 2.0 Flash Charge power brick needed for that is bundled into the box.

Oppo claims that its charger can get you from empty to 100% in as little as 35 minutes. I can confirm that’s pretty much right on the money, having observed the phone going from empty to 95% in 30 minutes, and from 1-100% in the same time. A 10-minute spritz from empty got me to 37%, which is highly respectable.

Of course, the OnePlus 9 also supports 65W charging out of the box. What’s more, it also supports Qi wireless charging, which the Find X3 Neo does not.

Software

The Find X3 Neo comes with Android 11 and ColorOS 11.1, which is Oppo’s very own custom UI.

Aesthetically, it’s not particularly to my taste, with its simplistic icons and busy menus. But it’s developed to become one of the least egregious of the usual custom Android UI offenders.

It’s fast and fluid for the most part and doesn’t bundle too much shovelware onto its bright home screens. It’s also highly customisable, with plenty of theming and layout options at your disposal.

ColorOS on the Find X3 Neo isn’t without its quirks, however. I noticed a weird and consistent case of slowdown when scrolling left into Google Discover feed from the main home screen, which strengthens the sense of a gap between Google’s stock Android offering and ColorOS’s fussy skin.

Oppo Find X3 Neo Colour OS notifications

Also, I was somewhat mystified to learn that Disney+ wasn’t available to download from the Google Play Store. Apparently, it isn’t compatible with the phone. What gives, Oppo?

Add in some overly aggressive auto-brightness dimming in low lighting, and you have an OS that’s solid and highly customisable, but nowhere near as slick or stylish as stock Android on the Pixel 5 or Oxygen OS on the OnePlus 9.

Price & Availability

The Find X3 Neo goes on sale now from the Oppo store, EE, Three, Vodafone, Virgin, Amazon, and Very. The phone is available worldwide, but you shouldn’t hold your breath for a release in North America.

In the UK it will set you back £699, which is a bit of a problem. That’s £100 more than the Oppo Find X2 Neo launched last year, for one thing.

Potentially more damaging is the fact that the Oppo Find X3 Neo is £70 more expensive than the OnePlus 9. As I’ve discussed, the Find X3 Neo’s stablemate outperforms it in several crucial ways.

This price point also places the Oppo Find X3 Neo directly up against the iPhone 12 mini. While Apple’s compact powerhouse reportedly hasn’t sold as well as expected, it remains a highly classy and capable operator with an outstanding design, camera, and performance.

Check out our charts for the best phones and best Android phones to see what else is available.

Oppo Find X3 Neo web

Verdict

The Oppo Find X3 Neo is a striking-looking entry-level flagship phone with a strong camera and a reassuring air of confidence. But it feels like it’s got its value proposition all wrong.

This is a phone that appears to have been caught in amber sometime in early 2020, and has emerged a year later passing off its specs as brand new. That might sound like the premise of a jaunty ’90s comedy, but it’s not so funny when there’s £700 of your money on the line.

And that’s the problem. With a 90Hz display taken from its predecessor and a Snapdragon 865 processor culled from last year’s flagships, £700 is like too much money - especially with the OnePlus 9 offering a fresher package for less.

I applaud Oppo for the advances it’s made with the Find X3 Neo’s camera, and it really does look and feel good. But it’s going to require a price cut or two before it becomes a viable option for most potential buyers.

Specs

Oppo Find X3 Neo: Specs

  • Android 11 w/ ColorOS 11.1
  • 6.5in, FHD+, AMOLED, 90Hz, curved display
  • In-display fingerprint sensor
  • Gorilla Glass 5 (front)
  • Aluminium alloy frame
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
  • 12GB LPDDR4 RAM
  • 256GB non-expandable UFS 3.1 storage
  • 50Mp, f/1.8, 1/1.56" main camera with OIS
  • 16Mp, f/2.4 ultrawide camera
  • 13Mp, f/2.2 2x telephoto camera
  • 2Mp, f/2.4 macro camera
  • Up to 4K @ 60fps rear video
  • 32Mp, f/2.4 front-facing camera
  • Up to 1080p @ 30fps front video
  • Stereo speakers
  • Dual-SIM
  • 5G
  • WiFi 6
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • 4500mAh battery
  • 65W fast charging
  • 159.9 x 72.5mm x 7.99mm
  • 184g
  • Launch colours: Galactic Sliver, Starlight Black