SINGAPORE (Jan 31): There are those who believe that phones, smart or otherwise, should be just phones, at the heart of it. They believe phones should eschew the gimmicks – perhaps so, for those of us old enough to remember the ill-conceived and poorly reviewed Nokia N-Gage, which was the Finnish company’s attempt to capture the mobile gaming segment. On the other end of the spectrum, however, are those who love all the bells and whistles a smartphone can offer. The latest trend now is for phones to be more camera-focused than anything else, boasting multitudes of megapixels and even including hardware gimmicks.

The Oppo Reno 2 is no different. Its front-facing ‘selfie’ camera pops up from the top at an angle, like a little shark’s fin. It makes taking a selfie a little more difficult, as the angle means one would have to tilt or move one’s head just so, or risk appearing as if looking off into a distance. It also pops open with a soft ‘schnick’, which, while satisfying, felt a bit plasticky. However, the selfie-camera is my only major gripe about the phone. This mid-range offering from Chinese phone maker Oppo is snappy, looks great, and boasts some serious hardware for its price range, which starts from $899.

Hey, good-looking

Available in Luminous Black and Sunset Pink, the Reno 2 is undeniably good-looking. The back of the phone, made of Corning Gorilla glass, is smooth and a tad slippery, which means a case is an absolute necessity. At the front is the same Corning Gorilla glass, which means it could probably withstand quite a few hard knocks – but as I was not about to put that to the test, a tempered glass screen protector is in order. The 6.5 Full AMOLED screen is really gorgeous, however – sharp and clear with colours that pop.

A crucial difference is that it has an aspect ratio of 20:9 with a 1,080 x 2,400 resolution, as opposed to the 19:9 ratio in previous Reno models. It’s slightly taller, and, because the selfie camera is a pop-up, the existence of the little lens on the screen is eliminated, giving you more screen real estate to enjoy your movies. At 9.55mm thick, it is a good 1mm (or more) thicker than the flagships of many other phone makers, such as the Apple iPhone 11 (8.3mm) and the Google Pixel 4 (8.2mm). A mere millimetre may not seem like much but it makes a difference when trying to use it one-handed, which, for the Reno 2, is not exactly possible.

Snappy shooter

As expected, photo-taking is the highlight here. Both the front and rear cameras have Oppo’s ‘Bokeh Effect’, which takes professional-looking photos with the desired ‘blurred background’. The Reno 2 also boasts of being the first smartphone to feature a pop-up camera with bokeh capabilities on both sides for video. As far as hardware is concerned, the main camera is a massive 48MP, which also includes 13MP f/2.4 telephoto and 2MP Mono Portrait, depth-sensing cameras, and an 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide angle shooter – the lens on that also doubles as a macro lens.

Photos taken on the Oppo Reno 2 are, indeed, on par with some of the high-end flagship models out there. In tests, photos taken in daylight were crystal-clear and sharp, and the camera user interface was easy enough to navigate. What’s impressive, however, are pictures taken in low light. There is a surprising amount of detail and minimal noise in pictures taken at night-time. It still lags behind the Google Pixel’s Night Mode, but it comes pretty close. Meanwhile, the 4,000mAh battery capacity in the Reno 2 is sufficient to take you through a full day’s use, even with some serious social media scrolling, emailing and messaging. However, even playing a simple game like Plague, Inc did drain the battery surprisingly fast.

It will definitely need to be juiced up by the end of the day, but for moderate-to-light usage it should last about 24 hours. Overall, this is yet another solid offering from Oppo. It does struggle a bit to stand out from the plethora of offerings out there around the same price range. Still, if you’re looking for a good-looking phone that hits all the sweet spots – great camera, snazzy UI, good looks and decent battery power, the Reno 2 does not break any boundaries, but it does what it is designed for very, very well.