Oppo touted the Oppo A72 as their most popular smartphone in 2020, which is why the Oppo A74's release for 2021 is all the more exciting. We received the new mid-range smartphone before the official announcement, and are more than happy to dive into a hands-on.
- ✓AMOLED display
- ✓5,000 mAh battery
- ✓Snapdragon 662 SoC
- ✓33-watts Quick Charging
- ✕Cheap-looking back plastic cover
- ✕Triple camera setup has no ultra-wide angle
- ✕Disappointing photo quality
- ✕60 Hertz display
- ✕Only IPX4 certification
A quick first impression: Surprisingly mediocre
Once again, I have to begin with words of praise on how awesome the smartphone mid-range has become. Smartphones like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro or the Realme 8 Pro offer AMOLED displays with a refresh rate of 120 Hertz or 108-megapixel cameras without requiring you to break the bank. I found Oppo's A-series of devices to be exciting in the sense that the manufacturer has done really well for itself with the Find X3 range which was released this year.
Hence, I was rather disappointed to discover that the Oppo A74 is a recycled product without anything outstanding. Looking at the specifications alone, the €249 asking price does offer much at all. Features like superior Quick Charging in the Realme 8 Pro, the Galaxy A32 5G's long-term software support, and 5G connectivity in the Redmi Note 9T are extremely attractive propositions for devices that cost less than €300 to begin with.
Note: Regarding Oppo smartphones, it is important to mention that the devices are not available in the United States, but are sold in Europe.
However, those who are interested in ColorOS or other Oppo accessories like the Enco X True Wireless headphones might like the A74. Furthermore, the smartphone is nice to hold without being overly bulky in a 6.4-inch form factor equipped with an AMOLED display and a viewer-friendly 20:9 format.
Display & feel: AMOLED meets plastic
The Oppo A74 offers a 6.4-inch AMOLED display with FHD+ resolution and a 60 Hz refresh rate. The smartphone measures 160.3 x 73.8 x 7.95 millimeters and tips the scales at 175 grams. The back is made of plastic and carries a IPX4 rating. This means the Oppo A74 is not water-resistant, so make sure you keep it nice and dry at all times.
What I liked:
- Bright AMOLED display.
- Nice and compact form factor.
- Under-display fingerprint sensor.
What I didn't like:
- Plastic feel.
- IPX4 certification.
- Vibration motor.
- Plastic back is a fingerprint magnet.
The 20:9 aspect ratio display is rather mediocre when it comes to brightness for an AMOLED display. However, the FHD+ resolution is perfectly adequate for your everyday needs. In comparison with other manufacturers, the 60 Hz refresh rate really bothered me. While the 5G-capable model comes with a higher refresh rate albeit having to sacrifice the AMOLED display for an LCD screen instead.
However, due to the narrow display format and a screen size of 6.4-inches, the A74 looks quite compact. Of course, this is not a small smartphone that can be easily used with a single hand, but it still does support one-handed operation.
I have no love at all for the vibration motor, of which I would prefer to turn it off when using the operating system as the haptic feedback is not refined. Overall, the smartphone carries a cheap look with its plastic back.
Performance: Snapdragon 662 does not perform miracles
The Oppo A74 is equipped with a Snapdragon 662 SoC that carries eight cores which are clocked at up to 2.0 GHz. The manufacturer relies on 6 GB of LPDDR4X RAM for memory and 128 GB of internal storage (UFS 2.1). WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 5.0 support are also on board.
What I like:
- Adequate memory configuration.
- 3.5 mm jack connector.
What I didn't like:
- Unsatisfactory performance.
- Lack of 5G support.
I refrained from running any benchmarks in this hands-on, as they do require a fair bit of time with multiple runs. Also, I haven't really used the smartphone as my daily driver, so here are just some quick impressions on the smoothness of the operating system, with a few short PUBG Mobile sessions thrown in for good measure.
Navigating through the OS isn't as easy as it ought to be even after the initial setup. Apps do not launch right away, and the lag or stuttering transitions occur once too many times to make it a smooth user experience. Of course, this is a huge turn-off for a tech journalist, but it might not bother others who have stores of patience.
Mobile games are playable on the Oppo A74, but you will have to contend with rather long loading times. I installed PUGB Mobile for the hands-on, and I was able to keep up with the other players while running with low graphics settings. While Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5.0 are available in the Oppo A74, both standards are somewhat dated today.
Camera: Triple camera without a ultra-wide angle lens
At the back of the Oppo A74 lies a triple camera setup with a 64-megapixel main camera. Just below that is a 2-megapixel macro camera and a 2-megapixel depth camera. There is no optical image stabilization in any of them, unlike the Galaxy A52. The front camera carries a fixed focus lens with 16-megapixels resolution.
What I like:
- Oppo's choice of colors are commendable.
What I didn't like:
- Triple camera setup without any ultra wide-angle or telephoto lens.
- No image stabilization.
- Front camera has no autofocus.
While I could actually live with the Oppo A74 in every way in my initial impression, things start to go south when it comes to the camera. A triple camera setup with a 48-megapixel main camera that lacks image stabilization and misses out on a second focal length camera makes it outdated in 2021. The 16MP front-facing camera that has a fixed-focus lens isn't that great, either. Here are some results for you to judge.
The main camera delivers quite good colors and I like the mood of the image. But not all details were captured, especially when you are looking upwards as the trees meet the sky.
Oppo's software delivers really nice HDR shots though! However, even without cropping, there are noticeable chromatic aberrations, i.e. small color errors around the sun, which can be seen. This also happens with other leaves from time to time.
The selfie camera doesn't really deliver good results. The picture was taken with portrait mode enabled, but it doesn't show any blur in the background.
Last but not least, a sample shot taken using the macro camera. There is nothing positive to take away from here.
Night shot photos or images captured in low-light conditions will be looked into later in the week. Do you think the Oppo A74 can make up for its bad first impression?
Battery life and fast charging
The Oppo A74 has a 5,000 mAh battery which can be recharged quickly via the included 33-watt power adapter. Thanks to the 60 Hz refresh rate, the battery ought to last long - but I will have to use the smartphone longer in everyday use to find out its limits.
What I like:
- 5,000 mAh battery capacity sounds promising.
- 33-watt Quick Charging.
What I didn't like:
- No wireless charging support.
I can't say too much about the battery life after just a few hours of use. Generally, having a 5,000 mAh capacity is considered good, although it is nothing special in this price range. The 33-watt Quick Charging support with the included power adapter is a definite highlight.
First impressions: Surprisingly mediocre
My preliminary verdict on the Oppo A74 is: Surprisingly mediocre. After the really good models in the Find X3 series and the excellent Color OS 11 experience, I would have expected a mid-range that is on par with Xiaomi, Realme, or even Samsung's offerings. Unfortunately, Oppo might have just priced themselves out of contention.
The most attractive thing about the Oppo A74 is certainly the €249 price tag that delivers 128 GB of internal memory and 6 GB of RAM. Maybe this smartphone with a 5,000 mAh battery and 60 Hertz AMOLED display will be the new benchmark for a smartphone in this price range in 2021. As I spend more time with this smartphone over the next few days, expect a full review to be published.
So if you're interested in the Oppo A74, you should return for the review. Also, feel free to leave me any questions that you might have in the comments so that I can address them specifically during testing.