Compared to a few years ago, all smartphones are pretty damn thin. And the thickness of a smartphone’s chassis is only one of its defining characteristics. But that doesn’t stop the Oppo R5, measuring in at a razor-thin 4.85mm thick, from being a fascinating and alluring piece of technology. (And it’s interesting for more than just its looks, too.)
Campbell Simpson travelled to Singapore as a guest of Oppo.
The Oppo R5 actually played second fiddle to the larger, rotating-camera N3 at Oppo’s launch, but to be honest it’s a little more exciting — not only because of its sub-5mm design, but because of the reasonably powerful (although not planet-destroyingly so) hardware inside. The R5 is based around a brand new 64-bit Qualcomm octa-core CPU, that chipset’s integrated Adreno 405 GPU, a 5.2-inch 1080p AMOLED touchscreen, and 2GB of RAM, all running off a 2000mAh fast-charging lithium polymer battery.
The Oppo R5 is a mid-range handset, not the kind of world-beating flagship that usually turns the heads of smartphone lovers. It has a 1080p display rather than a top-of-the-line 1440p one; it has a processor targeted at efficiency rather than outright power. It has a 13-megapixel camera, the same Sony IMX214 as the Oppo Find 7 and OnePlus One. But it is, by and large, the design of the new phone that is its major talking point.
The R5’s 4.85mm-thin body is, obviously, the thinnest the world has ever seen. (That’s excluding the camera bump, which adds a couple of millimetres’ bulk on the phone’s top centre rear in a rounded square.) It’s about more than just that number, though — the chassis edges are apparently hand polished by Oppo factory workers to remove microscopic abrasions left from machining, and the phone’s bezel is very slightly curved from front to back to improve the way it sits in the user’s hand. If you’ve ever held an iPhone 4 and felt the sharpness of its flat bezel, this is the issue that Oppo wants to eliminate with this change.
The handset’s stainless steel chassis and frame apparently massively improves its strength, too, so the thin design won’t lead to any iPhone 6 Plus-esque bending complaints. The same VOOC 5-amp rapid charging as the Find 7 is used; the phone’s 2000mAh battery can be recharged from 0 to 75 per cent in half an hour. If you need to make a call, five minutes of charging from flat will apparently net you a whole two hours of talk time.
The other stand-out of the R5 is its brand new processor. It’s an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615, making it the first 64-bit processor we’ve seen in an Android smartphone. Four of those cores run at 1.7GHz, and four run at 1GHz — the processor will switch between the low- and high-powered sets of four when needed, and can activate all eight in times of extreme need. It’s also paired with 2GB of RAM, so should make for pretty good performance without requiring the extra power of a high-end Snapdragon 801 or 805. (We’re still waiting for confirmation of whether this exact model will be released in Australia, or there’ll be another variant.)
Keeping the R5 from overheating is a new “liquid metal-like” substance — a patented Cool Element tech that uses phase-change material to efficiency transfer and dissipate heat from the phone’s chipsets. It sounds like an especially high-tech version of the thermal compound that improves heat conductivity between PC and laptop CPUs and heatsinks. Given the R5’s octa-core CPU, 5.2-inch 1080p AMOLED display, and integrated 4G mobile connectivity, there will probably be a fair bit of heat output during operation, so the fancy cooling should come in handy.
One thing about the super-skinny R5 is that it doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack. There just isn’t enough space on the bezel to fit one in! To connect a speaker or pair of headphones, you’ll have to go for Bluetooth or the included microUSB to 3.5mm adapter — a little annoying, but given the prevalence of Bluetooth devices today it’s not a huge concern. This is the kind of phone you carry with nothing else in your pants pockets, anyway — headphones are so bulky.
Australia is going to be one of the first markets that the Oppo R5 will be available in at its initial launch. We’re still waiting on a concrete date and Australian price, but if you take the handset’s stated US$499 price point as a guide, we should hopefully see it under the $600 mark — pretty appealing for a fashionable and up-to-date Android smartphone. [Oppo]