5G isn’t an inexpensive proposition right now, but it’s coming down gradually, and the Oppo Reno 4 5G is a phone that makes that case.
It’s not unusual to expect to pay a little more for the advanced features in a phone. The best cameras go to the flagship mobiles, and the best screens, the best charging technologies, the best wireless connections, and so on and so on.
Much like in cars and computers, the best tech commands a premium. But eventually, that premium starts to change, and as more features become the new and exciting thing, the once premium features start to trickle to more devices.
We’ve seen it in many a phone over the past few years, and suspect you have, too. Multiple rear cameras for one phone used to be the domain of the high-end, but it’s in phones that sit in the budget part of the market, while also occupying the high-end in better and more premium ways.
The same is gradually becoming true of 5G, which is the new and exciting high-speed wireless tech that still hasn’t quite found its raison d’être, it’s reason to exist, but is still making a dent on people who want fast mobile connectivity above all. All three of Australia’s major mobile providers offer it, and it’s gradually coming to the smaller ones, too. And the technology which used to sit only in the premium thousand dollar market is now trickling to more price points.
At $799, the Oppo Reno 4 5G may well be an affordable 5G phone on the market, and beyond that 5G, it offers quite a bit, too, competing properly with Google’s similarly priced Pixel 4a with 5G. Is this the new mid-range phone to beat?
Made like a phone is today with a full touchscreen and a slick back, the plastic and glass Oppo Reno 4 5G is built to impress and stand out, offering a 6.4 inch screen that takes up most of the front, save for a little border at the bottom where the chin is, and two cameras built into the front.
It’s a shiny phone, for sure, and one that’s eye catching, thanks in part to its totally reflective back that also picks up on fingerprints and holds them. Thankfully, like other Oppo phones, there’s a case in the box to assist with this, and to prevent major issues on falls, because it’s nice to see some generosity in the box these days as companies gradually do away with earphones and charging bricks.
Both of those things still come with the Oppo Reno 4 5G, so you needn’t worry there, but that’s not all the phone comes with.
Also known as the CPH2091, the Reno4 5G relies on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G, the same eight-core chip used in both the Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a with 5G, with Oppo opting for 8GB RAM and 128GB storage for the phone. There is no expandable storage here, though, so you’re locked at 128GB.
Android 10 arrives on the phone out of the box, but we found the Reno 4 5G could be updated to Android 11, and as for the connections, it’s right there in the name. But beyond the obvious indicator of a 5G connection, there’s support for Dual SIM, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 5.1, GPS, Near-Field Communication (NFC), and a USB Type C port that works for data and the headset jack on the device.
And there are cameras, too. Quite a few, actually, because multiple cameras are, as we mentioned earlier, quite normal these days.
You’ll find three on the back, made up of a 48 megapixel standard wide camera supporting F1.7, an 8 megapixel ultra-wide set to F2.2, and a 2 megapixel monochromatic camera set to F2.4 to help deal with contrast control in imagery. The front also sees two cameras, with a 32 megapixel main selfie camera set to F2.4, plus a 2 megapixel depth camera to help blur the backgrounds in self-portraiture.
And that comes under a 6.4 inch screen supporting a Full HD+ resolution of 2400×1080 and a pixel density of 409 pixels per inch. It’s an AMOLED screen, and one with a fingerprint sensor built into the design to go with the selfie camera being used for facial security, too.
Switch on the Oppo Reno 4 5G, and you’ll find an Android experience that is a little like iOS and a little like Android, kind of blending the difference to a middle-ground. It won’t suit all Android users, but it’s pretty easy on the eyes and friendly enough to use, plus the usability features in the Reno 4 5G help the phone to feel well rounded.
Take what you get for security, with a fingerprint sensor built into the screen that works much of the time, and a facial login that uses the camera filling in the gaps for all of the other times. Truth be told, you’ll rely on the facial login more often, but it’s nice having both, and means that the phone can be easily unlocked when you want to pay for something at the shop using Google Pay.
Start using the Reno 4 and you’ll find Oppo’s choice of system spec doesn’t result in a bad experience at all, with a reasonable speed, even if you might find the odd lag spot here and there using the keyboard or jumping between apps.
It’s hard to say whether that’s the system spec or the way Oppo has tweaked Android with ColorOS, but our money is on the latter. The Snapdragon 765G and 8GB RAM should be a stellar combination, and so it’s hard to see that combination causing a hiccup or two in the ways we’re seeing.
One area that totally delivers is the mobile performance, which just offers the 5G in spades. Provided you’re within reach and range of a 5G network, the connection flies, delivering speeds as high as 690Mbps in our tests, and given it’s 5G, we know more is possible.
Sufficed to say, the Reno 4 5G has more than enough connection speed for anyone on the go when a 5G network is nearby.
There’s also a surprising amount of camera capability here, and while it’s not the very best camera in the world, the camera system on the Reno 4 is also more versatile than you might expect.
Let’s just break that down for a moment, though: there are three cameras on the back, ranging from standard wide to ultra-wide, and then a small monochromatic camera to deal with contrast and such.
It’s not a thoroughly complex system, but it’s one that delivers quite well, achieving lovely images in daylight, some surprisingly solid close-ups and macro images, though the low-light images clearly aren’t the best.
You’ll find if you want to capture at night that it’s best to jump into the night mode which stacks images together over a period rather than takes the one shot like a standard mode. Sufficed to say, low-light is the weakest part of the camera package, though outside of this, the Reno 4 camera can feel a little better than your standard mid-range camera setup.
Of particular note is the macro mode, which appears to use that standard 48 megapixel camera to let you get a bit closer, plus some decent focusing to get closer to the details, while the camera over-sharpens.
Now over-sharpening anything isn’t typically a good thing, and means you’ll find some pixel-heavy edges, but it’s an interesting inclusion here on the Reno 4 5G, because you can get closer with the macro camera here than on some of the phones from big named rivals.
Much like how we found the Oppo Find X2 performed well in our best camera roundup at the end of 2020, so too does the Oppo Reno 4, delivering the ability to let you get closer, something phones typically miss out on.
Our one major quibble for the Reno4 camera is that it can feel a touch slow, taking a half second or so to fire the shot, which might mean you miss it before you snag it.
All up, though, it’s a surprisingly strong result in an area we don’t typically expect a whole lot from in the mid-range, and cements the deal quite a bit.
The battery is also quite strong, too, an area Oppo is known for in its mid-range that really delivers.
Even though our world might put us within reach of a charger at all times, the Oppo Reno 4 5G can deliver up to two days of usable life, meaning you don’t need to be within reach of a charger at that time at all.
And in a nice twist, the battery life isn’t dependent on you pulling back on 5G, because the phone handles its own rather nicely all the same. With 5G on and being used at some pretty high speeds at times, evident from our mobile speed testing, the Reno 4’s battery life goes on unaffected by the use of the 5G modem, something the first back of 5G phones back in 2019 were seemingly affected by.
Or to put it more simply, the Reno 4 5G battery is a winner. Granted, you don’t get wireless charging, but you do get one of those amazeballs fast battery charging blocks, even if you don’t really need it. The Reno 4 5G delivers more battery life than most 5G phones it competes with. Certainly the ones we’ve tested.
And it does it all with a pretty remarkably price, achieving a mid-range 5G phone for what actually constitutes a mid-range price.
Ever since the idea of the mid-range started changing back in 2017, and back when phones started well and truly pushing past the thousand dollar mark, the idea of pricing in the mid-range began to shift. Whereas we typically thought of a thousand bucks as the high-end and therefore $500 as the mid-range, when we burst through the $1000 mark for phones, the mid-range started to rise with it, pushing to $600 and $800 with ease.
But in the Reno 4 5G, Oppo has pulled that back to $799, and it’s a price tag that works. Similar to how the Google Pixel 4a delivers heaps of value, the Reno 4 5G feels like it does, too. Sure, you don’t get wireless charging or water resistance, but you get 5G, a surprisingly capable camera system, and an excellent battery, too. It’s a great effort all around.
What needs work?
So what does the Oppo Reno 4 5G need to be better? We can think of a few things, but overall, the Reno 4 5G is fairly balanced.
Take the storage, which is locked to 128GB with no way of expanding that. A lack of expandable storage is something even the flagship is having to contend with in Android lately, something we saw on the Samsung Galaxy S21 this year, but it’s missed there and a little missed here. Expandable storage is a great addition for users and one of the things that typically separates Android phones from the iPhones they’re often compared between, and here that just doesn’t happen.
We’d love for Oppo to tweak the camera speed a little more. While it’s a surprisingly versatile camera with some strong macros — something that surprised us greatly — the camera is often slow to fire.
Whether you’re using the touchscreen shutter or the volume key to trigger the camera, something you can use to avoid touching the screen, the Reno 4 camera tends to respond a half second or so after you press, causing a little bit of blur of the subject or for you to miss the moment.
It’s not an isolated problem, either. The lack of immediacy in camera shots is something we’ve seen on other Android phones, such as those from Samsung, while Google has tweaked it to be a little faster overall. We’d love to see Oppo tweak it here, as it would help make the Reno 4 5G that much better, and totally formidable against any other mid-range 5G competitor, of which there aren’t many. Google Pixel 4a with 5G, we’re looking at you.
Finally, we’d love to see some things other manufacturers are dabble in that are often associated with the high-end, but are missing in action here. It’s great that there’s NFC for Google Pay, but we’d love water resistance and/or wireless charging. One of them. Both of them. We’re not picky, but neither is particularly new, and would go to helping the Reno 4 5G stand out even more.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
It’s hard to knock what Oppo has delivered in this phone. As far as mid-range efforts go, the Oppo Reno 4 5G is bang-on brilliant. It is affordable and excellent. It is a true competitor in the 5G space, because it brings value in spades and delivers a 5G phone most will appreciate.
There are things Oppo could do to tweak the package, such as wireless charging or water resistance, but overall, the Reno 4 5G delivers.
If you’re keen to try out the world of 5G, but can’t deal with spending in excess of a thousand dollars on a flagship, the Oppo Reno 4 5G makes a compelling case for your dollar. It’s one of the best mid-range 5G phones out there, beaten just barely by the Pixel 4a with 5G, our pick for best value phone last year. Solid effort, Oppo, and worth checking out.
Update: The original review addressed the wrong price tag. We have corrected.