This is what we call an imbalanced mid-range smartphone
The Oppo A94 is one of the better mid-range smartphones in Oppo's A-lineup. Selling for $515 when it was released, I took the Oppo A94 for a spin and would like to share my full review for you to decide whether this device stands out in this ultra-competitive price segment.
- Very nice design
- Excellent battery life
- Stability of the Dimensity 800U SoC
- 30-watts fast charge (wired)
- microSD port
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- 60 Hz refresh rate
- Poor night photo performance
- Overall camera module too average
- Limited performance for gaming
- No IP rating
Oppo A94 in a nutshell
The Oppo A94 5G was launched on April 22, 2021 in a single 8 GB RAM/128 GB storage configuration with an asking price of $515. The smartphone was supposed to be the flagship device from Oppo's A lineup, where it normally carries entry-level and mid-range models.
While Oppo has hit some home runs with its high-end Find X range, I've always found Oppo to struggle when it comes to the mid-range. I find its affordable smartphones to be generally too expensive for what they offer, which is an observation that is shared by my colleagues at NextPit when they reviewed the Oppo A54 and A74 earlier.
As for the Oppo A94 5G, I find the smartphone to be too imbalanced and overpriced, which otherwise ruins some of its more interesting capabilities.
Design and screen: Plastic back with a nice AMOLED screen
The Oppo A94 5G sports a very classic mid-range smartphone look with a run-of-the-mill mid-range smartphone display which ultimately, fits in very nicely for your bang average mid-range smartphone.
What I liked:
- Fantastic Purple color is very nice.
- Matte coating at the back is pleasant to the touch.
- Quality AMOLED panel.
- Under-display fingerprint reader.
What I disliked:
- 60 Hz refresh rate.
- No IP certification.
The Oppo A94 5G comes in two colors: Fluid Black and Fantastic Purple. I got the second one for my review unit and I found it to be very beautiful with its opalescent reflective effects. The back is made out of plastic but I forgive Oppo for this "affront" (I know, you prefer glass to plastic, and there is no need to remind me). This is especially stark since the matte coating is pleasant to the touch and provides a good grip. The smartphone is also very light as it tips the scales at a mere 173 grams.
When seen from the front, the Oppo A94 has very rounded edges and retains a chin that is too noticeable of which I don't really fancy. The smartphone also offers a microSD memory card slot, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a single speaker that is functional at best. On the other hand, there is no IP certification or Gorilla Glass to protect the screen, but rather it comes with a Dragontrail™ Pro glass which is Corning's competitor.
What about the display? Let's talk about it in greater depth. It is a 6.3-inch AMOLED panel in Full HD+ resolution at 2400x1080 pixels or 409 dpi. This is expected from an AMOLED panel although the 430 nits brightness (800 at its maximum) is a bit low compared to the average performer in the market. But it's a shame that the refresh rate remains stuck at 60 Hz when many of its competitors have long moved on to 90 or even 120 Hz.
As for its colorimetry, I found it a bit too cold with colors tending to pull towards blue tones. The Pixel 4a, for example, also offers a 60 Hz screen but has the merit of being perfectly calibrated. Last but not least, the screen houses a fingerprint reader, which is not so common in this price range and is, therefore, a very good point for Oppo.
Oppo A94 5G software
The Oppo A94 5G runs on ColorOS 11.1 that is based on Android 11 and is expected to receive just one major Android update as well as 3 years of security updates.
I'm really not going to elaborate on this section since the Oppo A94 5G doesn't offer any exclusive features. It is powered by ColorOS 11 that everyone knows about, of which you can check out our full review on NextPit. The interface is meant to be functional, especially for multitasking purposes, and is also extremely customizable. I will stop here and say no more in this article.
I'll just add that the review unit from Oppo oddly prompted me to "finish configuring your Reno5 Z" when I first turned it on. Well, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the Oppo A94 is a rebranded Reno5 Z since the Reno5 range was only released in China.
This is a common practice among Chinese manufacturers and it's not a big deal. At the time of writing this review, the Oppo A94 5G has received the October 2021 security patch and it should benefit from the shift to Android 12 and thus ColorOS 12 soon.
Performance: Not very powerful but very stable
The Oppo A94 5G packs the MediaTek Dimensity 800U SoC with its Mali-G57 GPU, and is backed by 8GB of RAM which is pretty good for a mid-range smartphone.
What I liked:
- Stable performance.
- No overheating.
What I dislike:
- Not powerful enough for hardcore gaming.
The Dimensity 800U is a mid-range SoC that powers the Redmi Note 9T. This mobile processor is known for its speed, thanks to its 7nm manufacturing process, sporting 8 cores (4 Cortex A76 high performance at 2.4 GHz and 4 Cortex-A55 low power at 2 GHz). However, the Oppo A94 5G is not a very powerful smartphone.
The performance is nothing like my OnePlus Nord 2 and its Dimensity 1200 or a Poco F3 and its Snapdragon 870, for instance. And these smartphones are also currently sold for less than $500 a pop. In reality, you can play CoD Mobile with the graphics options set to the minimum level and do not expect a higher framerate than 30 fps.
- Also read: Do gaming modes actually boost performance?
On the other hand, the Oppo A94 5G was particularly good at temperature control and performance stability. There was almost no slowdown even during intense and prolonged gaming sessions and the smartphone does not overheat. On the various 3DMark benchmarks that I put it through (intensive gaming for 1 and 20 minutes, intensive multicore for 20 minutes), the Oppo A94 managed to remained stable for more than 90% of the time. As a comparison, none of the recent flagships are capable of this.
Hence, it's clearly not a powerful device and I wouldn't consider it for gaming at all, but its performance has the merit of being stable. For everyday tasks, it's already very good.
Cameras: The disappointing quadruple camera module
The Oppo A94 5G packs a quad-camera configuration at the back with a 48 MP main sensor coupled with an 8 MP ultra wide-angle as well as a duo of macro and depth lenses of 2 MP each.
What I liked:
- Fairly natural colorimetry with the wide angle lens.
- Correct dynamic range.
- Limited loss of quality with the digital zoom.
What I disliked:
- Lack of detail and sharpness even in bright daylight.
- Plenty of distortion and color inconsistency with the ultra wide-angle lens.
- Poor night shot performance.
During the day, the 48 MP main lens performs decently like all of its competitors. I find the colorimetry to be natural enough as long as you don't activate the scene recognition. However, I regret a lack of detail and especially sharpness, which is a pity because it really spoils the quality of the shots which are otherwise well exposed and fairly faithfully captured.
In ultra wide-angle, it's easy to notice color inconsistencies compared to wide-angle photos as well as a slight distortion effect at the edges of the image. But it's mostly the lack of detail that bothers me, even more than in wide-angle. It's not bad but it's far from good.
For portrait photos, the Oppo A94 relies in part on its 2 MP depth sensor to handle 3D data of the scene. I found the cropping to be very clean in certain places, such as Karl Marx's hair to the left of my great-great uncle Friedrich Engels (just kidding, but I am jealous of that beard). But there were times when the AI totally screwed up, like with the ends of the bow on the right statue below.
The Oppo A94 5G doesn't come with a dedicated telephoto lens, which is pretty normal for a mid-range smartphone. The pure digital zoom can achieve a maximum magnification of 10x. The loss of quality is obviously noticed as soon as you go beyond the 2x zoom level, that goes without saying.
The night shots are the ones that disappointed me the most. Strong light sources were contained well enough to prevent them from burning out the image but there is really too much digital noise and this pixel mush takes away too much detail from the shots, rendering them barely usable in my opinion.
- Also read: How to take capture amazing night shots
During my first test session, several of my photos taken with the night mode were in fact, completely unusable as though the software processing had stopped functioning along the way. When it comes to night shots, I find the Oppo A94 to be mediocre.
Battery: Small but powerful
The Oppo A94 5G packs a 4,310 mAh battery that accepts wired fast charging up to 30 watts.
What I liked:
- Excellent battery life.
- 30-watt fast charge in less than 1 hour.
- VOOC charger included in the box.
What I disliked:
With a battery rating of 4,310 mAh, it is actually quite low in theory. But that does not prevent the Oppo A94 5G to offer excellent battery life. In everyday use, we slightly exceeded 17 hours with my average screen time between 4 and 6 hours per day. With a "normal" usage pattern, we can easily last for 2 full days before having to recharge the smartphone.
When it comes to charging, the Oppo A94 is the first Oppo smartphone in the A series to feature VOOC 4.0 technology that delivers fast charging at 30 watts. I was able to charge the smartphone in just under an hour on average (about 50 minutes). Again, I prefer the Warp Charge 65T of my OnePlus Nord 2 but Oppo's performance is quite respectable when you know that Samsung, Apple, or even Google remain stuck at around 30 watts even for their flagships.
The Oppo A94 does not support wireless charging or reverse wireless charging, and it would be unfair to list these shortcomings as flaws for a device in this price range.
The Oppo A94 5G is a mid-range smartphone, make no mistake about it. I really like its matte and colorful design that goes well with its rounded form factor that remains light in your hand. Battery life is simply excellent and the performance, while not relevant for gaming, is particularly stable and does not result in any unwanted overheating.
On the other hand, I'm not a fan of the 60Hz AMOLED screen and the camera module really disappointed me during my review duration. The update policy is not the best in the market either. In short, for $515, I do not see how the Oppo A94 5G can stand out from the competition.
In my opinion, the OnePlus Nord 2 at €399 is still a much better choice at under $500 when it comes to performance, screen quality, and fast charging capability. If you are into mobile photography, then I find the Google Pixel 4a to be a far more preferable alternative, although the model is getting "old".
The mid-range is a ruthless market and for this particular model, Oppo offers a smartphone that is too imbalanced in my opinion.