Review: Oppo A94 5G phone is very impressive despite low cost and minor flaws

The lag-free, colourful screen impresses, but how do the five cameras on the phone stand-up to daily usage?
The lag-free, colourful screen impresses, but how do the five cameras stand-up to daily usage? Photo credit: Newshub

Oppo recently launched three new additions to its A series of phones in New Zealand, offering 5G connectivity at a low price-point.

The top of the range A94 has an RRP of $599, making it the same cost as the Samsung Galaxy A52.

But how does it perform? Do the high specifications offered for a lower price stand up to scrutiny?

I've been using the A94 for the past weeks and here are my thoughts.

The good

The first thought that struck me when unboxing the A94 is how smart it looks.

It's thin, elongated style and the beautiful two-tone Cosmo Blue finish made a decent first impression, even for someone who prefers their phones brick-like and black.

The decent first impression continued when I turned it on and set it up for the first time. The 6.4-inch Super AMOLED screen offers a resolution of 2400 x 1080 and, with a couple of quick tweaks, I had a beautiful snowy blue theme with sharp, colourful icons.

The peak brightness of the phone is 800nits, which isn't huge - but I didn't need more to get the most out of it. Playing games, using apps and watching high-quality videos was a lag-free, colour-saturated experience that I struggled to find fault with - and that covers the majority of my usage.

The lack of lag is largely thanks to the eight core MediaTek Dimensity 800U chipset that powers the phone, combined with 8GB RAM. Bringing the phone out of rest mode and unlocking was generally quick and the load time for apps was as expected.

The A94 offers a staggering five cameras: the standard selfie one on the front coming in at 16MP resolution, with four more on the rear.

The main camera is 48MP, with a maximum image size of 6000px by 8000px and an aperture of 1.7. It's not completely fair to compare the output with that of my iPhone 11 Pro Max, given the price differences between the models - but you can see there is a noticeable difference between the colour saturation of the two.

Auckland City from Maungawhau taken with an iPhone 11 Pro Max (l) and Oppo 94 (r)
Auckland City from Maungawhau taken with an iPhone 11 Pro Max (l) and Oppo 94 (r) Photo credit: Mike Kilpatrick

To be completely fair to Oppo, I didn't spend any time trying to maximise the image quality - I just focused and clicked on both phones. And while the colour difference may be noticeable, I'd argue the Oppo handles the details better, particularly with the sunlight causing some washout with the iPhone photo.

There are noticeable differences - but do they really matter? Sure, if you're printing out large, high-quality images for display - but are you going to notice when you're just sharing pics on social media or with the family?

I'm not convinced the differences in photo quality make the cost difference worth it - and given the vast majority of images on my phone are for me and me only, differences in image fidelity are not something I'm very concerned about.

An 8MP ultra wide-angle camera, a 2MP macro camera (cue disgusting closeups of my nails and skin and some of my jeans - no, I'm not sharing!) and a 2MP mono camera completes the package.

Taking a selfie with the Oppo A94
Photo credit: Newshub

And there are even more positives - the 4310mAh battery, while unremovable, lasted a long time and never reduced to the point where I needed to try the fast-charging system that offers nearly three hours of calling within five minutes.

Add in the ability to use dual 5G SIM cards and dual-view video recording that allows you to take front and rear facing videos at the same time and you've got an impressive overall offering.

The bad

The majority of the not-so-positive things about the Oppo A94 are largely personal preference.

There's a useful, but not huge, 128GB of storage with the phone, but the good news is  you can upgrade it without losing dual SIM capabilities. For someone who has a lot of high-quality music, podcasts and video downloaded to my phone, I'd need to make some hard choices if I didn't want the extra expense of an external SD card.

But with Cloud storage and high-speed connectivity becoming cheaper, I suspect this won't be true in the long term.

The Oppo A94 5G smartphone showing it's sleek style and look.
Photo credit: Newshub

The power and volume buttons being near the vertical middle of the phone felt slightly weird and, perhaps because of how I've got used to holding my iPhone, I kept accidentally hitting the power button by mistake when holding the A94.

I also found the haptic feedback to be pretty weak and not adjustable, although given I generally turn this feature off it's far from a deal-breaker.

The one annoyance I did have with the phone (beyond the tinkering you would do with any Android phone to get it set up exactly how you want it) was the facial unlocking.

During the day it was quick and easy with no issues, but in low-lit rooms and in bed I found it to be next to useless.

I've become so lazy and spoiled that the tiny delay caused by having to type in my PIN to unlock raised my hackles.

The Oppo A94 5G smartphone showing it's sleek style and look.
Photo credit: Newshub

The verdict

As someone who's been using nothing but iPhones for years I was prepared to be underwhelmed by my switch to Android and Oppo's ColorOS 11.

To Oppo's great credit, not only did I thoroughly enjoy using the A94, I'd have nearly no problem using it as my primary mobile phone.

For the price, the specs are very decent and I took some lovely (if not fully coloured) photos from the top of Maungawhau with it.

Does it compare in performance to the top end of the premium smartphone market? No, but then it's not expected to - Oppo launched the Find X3 Pro to do that. 

But if you're operating with a tighter budget you can do far worse than getting your hands on the A94 and enjoying its sleek style and 5G connectivity.

Newshub was supplied an Oppo A94 for this review.