Oppo Reno Z full review

Following the launch of the impressive Oppo Reno 10x Zoom earlier this year, the Oppo Reno Z is here to disrupt the competitive mid-range market. Offering a gorgeous design, eye-catching colour options, a bright display and great cameras for under £300, the Reno Z is certainly worth considering.

Pricing and availability

The Oppo Reno Z costs a very attractive £299 in the UK, and can be bought right now from Carphone Warehouse and EE, both on contract and SIM-free. Unfortunately, Oppo doesn’t currently have any retail partners in the US nor does it operate its own US store, so those in the States are out of luck unless you want to import it from overseas.

The price tag is impressive, especially when you consider what the Oppo Reno Z offers. The price puts it up against other impressive mid-range smartphones including the Xiaomi Mi 9T and Motorola One Vision, so it certainly has its work cut out.

For more mid-range options, take a look at our selection of the best mid-range smartphones.  

It doesn’t look like a mid-ranger

The Oppo Reno Z boasts the same overall look as the high-end Oppo Reno, and although there are a handful of changes to the design to make it more budget-friendly, we don’t think it compromises the premium look and feel that the Reno Z offers.

Like its older, more powerful sibling, the Oppo Reno Z sports a gorgeous curved rear that boasts, arguably, a better colour combination than the high-end smartphone. We’ve got our hands on the Aurora Purple variant and we’re nothing short of mesmerised by the colour and finish. It sports a blue-to-purple hue with a shiny finish alongside the Oppo branding strip that sits beneath the rear-facing camera setup, unifying the Reno range.

If the Aurora Purple finish is a little too in-your-face for your tastes, you’ll be happy to know that the Reno Z is also available in Jet Black in Europe. Those in China have a variety of amazing colour options to choose from, but it’s likely that they’ll never make their way to Europe.

One of the compromises of the Oppo Reno Z is the use of plastic instead of the multi-layer glass finish featured on the standard Reno, but it doesn’t look or feel cheap. One of the main concerns, especially with plastic phones, are the scratches that appear on the rear when placed on a table – it’s certainly easier to scratch plastic than glass, after all.

While it doesn’t completely protect the rear, the Reno Z features a ceramic O-Dot below the camera to slightly raise the rear when placed on a flat surface. It also helps protect the rear-facing dual-camera setup which, unlike most smartphones on the market in 2019, is completely flush with no noticeable camera bump. It certainly provides a clean, unrivalled look amongst mid-range and high-end smartphones alike.  

The biggest change in design is the lack of a pop-up camera, which many thought (us included) was synonymous with the Reno brand. The cool angled pop-up camera offers something slightly different to the likes of the OnePlus 7 Pro, but instead, the Reno Z sports a waterdrop camera. In the defence of the Reno Z’s front-facing camera, it doesn’t really intrude on the viewing experience as other front-facing setups, but it’s certainly not a completely bezel-less display. 

It shouldn’t bother most people, but it’s worth keeping in mind if you’re looking for a truly bezel-less smartphone experience.

The curved edges and 3D curved glass make the phone feel comfortable in the hand  - a key factor when using a smartphone with a whopping 6.4in display. It’s also lightweight at 186g, making it lighter than Apple’s similarly-sized iPhone XS Max (208g), although it’s a little heavier than the featherlight Galaxy S10 Plus (175g).

Most importantly, you’ll find a 3.5mm headphone jack alongside the USB-C port at the rear of the smartphone – no need to ditch those cables just yet!

It doesn’t perform like a mid-ranger

It’s hard to miss the 6.4in FHD+ AMOLED display of the Oppo Reno Z; it’s bright, crisp and with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, it’s tall without being too wide to hold with one hand. It has great dynamic range with HDR10 support, making supported YouTube and Netflix content look just as amazing as it would on a HDR10-enabled TV. It’s also incredibly bright, measuring in at 399cd/m2 in our tests.

The display is tough, boasting Gorilla Glass 5 protection as well as factory-applied screen protectors on the front and rear of the smartphone to help keep them scratch- and blemish-free.

And, if you look closely enough, you’ll notice an in-display fingerprint reader near the bottom, which lights up whenever activated. It’s admittedly not the best-performing fingerprint sensor we’ve used, with the occasional misread, but it works well when combined with the (basic) facial recognition offered by the Reno Z. 

Beneath the display is where the mid-range design of the phone really starts to shine through. First off, it features a MediaTek Helio P90, which is comparable in terms of performance to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 710, alongside 4GB of RAM and 128GB of non-expandable storage. There is a variant with a boosted 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, but like the exotic colour options, that variant isn’t available outside of China.

Despite not sporting the most powerful internals, the Reno Z doesn’t feel sluggish or laggy during general use. It can easily handle multitasking via the built-in split-screen functionality, browsing through Facebook, sending emails and more. We did notice a bit of a stutter when quickly scrolling through media-heavy social media apps, but that’s common amongst even high-end smartphones.

The mid-range price tag isn’t indicative of the mobile gaming experience either, as even with PUBG Mobile running with High textures enabled, there was no noticeable lag or stutter when playing. We must admit that the more advanced graphic options (like Ultra textures and anti-aliasing) aren’t available, but unless you’re a hardcore gamer you’re unlikely to notice the difference.

The only notable difference is with load times, even with simpler games like Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. The extended load times can vary in time depending on the game, but we think it’s an acceptable compromise for the mid-range price.  

Take a look at our benchmarks to see how the Oppo Reno Z compares to the similarly priced Google Pixel 3a, Xiaomi Mi 9T and Moto G7 Plus alongside its premium sibling, the Oppo Reno 10x Zoom.

In terms of battery life, you’ll find a 4035mAh battery that is more than enough to get you through a day with standard use and have a bit of life left, as it has in our experience. That is a large battery to recharge, so the Reno Z also offers VOOC 3.0 fast charging support, although the souped-up battery isn’t included in the box – you’ll have to buy that separately.

Near-ideal camera setup

While it doesn’t offer the advanced features of the high-end Oppo Reno 10x Zoom, the camera setup on offer from the Reno Z is more than enough for the average consumer – although photography enthusiasts may be left wanting more.

Let us explain; the Reno Z features a dual-camera setup on the rear, comprised of a 48Mp f/1.7 lens and 5Mp f/2.4 lens that acts only as a depth sensor  – it has no other function than measuring the depth of the photo to improve focus and enhance Portrait mode photography.

The quality of the rear-facing camera is generally quite impressive for the price, offering well-focused, balanced and detailed imagery, and that continues with the performance of the Portrait mode. The Reno Z has impressive edge recognition – even when tracing hair, a problem area for most mid-range smartphone cameras – offering an impressively accurate bokeh effect on portrait images.  

Oppo Reno Z photo samples

While the main 48Mp sensor boasts an aperture of f/1.7 and a dedicated night mode, night-time photography is a bit hit-and-miss. While the performance is great in dark environments filled with ambient light – like a photo of a street in the evening – the camera struggles with true low-light environments. It’s also difficult to get a sharp image at night, with the lack of OIS or onboard AI to counteract the shakiness of your hand during the 5-second capture.  

Video-wise, the rear-facing camera setup offers [email protected] but with no kind of image stabilisation – electronic or otherwise. If you don’t mind the downgrade in resolution, you can also record video at [email protected]/60/120fps and while it doesn’t offer OIS, you’ll find EIS on offer to make recorded videos appear smoother and more professional.

On the front, you’ll find a 32Mp f/2.0 sensor embedded within the waterdrop cutout, offering high-resolution, detailed selfies perfect for social media and video calling, although, with the lack of a wide-angle offering, it might be a struggle to fit all your friends in a single selfie. You’re also able to record [email protected] video on the front-facing camera, although there’s no EIS on offer here.

A unique take on Android

The Oppo Reno Z, like the rest of the current Oppo range, ships with ColorOS6, based on Android 9 Pie – and while it isn’t bad, it’s about as far from Stock Android as you’ll get.

ColorOS6 offers a rather unique experience and, unlike most Chinese manufacturers with custom skins, it’s incredibly well polished and a joy to use once you understand all its nuances. It makes use of the gesture-based navigation system, although with ColorOS tweaks that let you switch apps as well as go back a step with the same gesture.

The notification shade is another unique element of ColorOS6, offering a rather colourful array of setting toggles alongside your notifications. These notifications can be split into two categories – standard and unimportant. Unimportant notifications can be found by tapping an icon in the notification shade, allowing you to keep your ‘main’ notification shade focused on important incoming notifications.

It admittedly takes a while to mark the different notifications that you receive, but it’s a much-beloved feature by us.

That’s a theme that’s continued throughout the operating system – it’s packed full of small tweaks that really enhance the day-to-day usage of the smartphone. We think ColorOS6 is one of the most polished and intuitive Android skins currently available, as long as you take the time to learn the nuances of the software.

Verdict

Although it doesn’t feature the cool pop-up camera featured on the high-end Reno variants, the Oppo Reno Z has a lot going for it – especially with a sub-£300 price tag. The design is elegant, sporting a gorgeous Aurora Purple finish, a completely flush rear camera setup and Oppo’s unique O-dot to keep the rear from getting scratched when placed on a flat surface.

Admittedly it’s made from plastic instead of glass like the premium variant, but it doesn’t subtract from the premium design on offer.

The internals provide decent everyday performance, and that extends to gaming too, with no noticeable lag in even demanding 3D shooters like PUBG Mobile. The large battery provides all-day life with average use, and 20W Fast Charge support provides a speedy recharge experience, although it doesn’t come with a fast charger in the box.

It doesn’t boast the high-end features of the standard Oppo Reno, but the 48Mp rear snapper performs well in most conditions, although it can struggle with night-time photography. Oh, and the 32Mp front-facing camera is more than enough for even the most avid selfie-taker.

Specs

Oppo Reno Z: Specs

  • 157.3 x 74.9 x 9.1mm
  • 186g
  • Available in Jet Black and Aurora Purple
  • ColourOS 6, based on Android 9
  • 6.4in Full HD+ AMOLED display
  • MediaTek Helio P90
  • 4GB RAM
  • 128GB storage
  • 4035mAh battery
  • VOOC 3.0 Fast Charging
  • 48Mp + 5Mp rear-facing cameras
  • 32Mp front-facing Waterdrop camera
  • [email protected] video
  • Wi-Fi 5
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • NFC
  • GPS
  • USB-C
  • 3.5mm headphone jack

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