Oppo wants to establish itself as a premium device manufacturer that places high quality above an affordable possible range. However, this has not stopped the company from positioning itself with products that are available for reasonable prices. This is one particular case, for example: the Enco W31 true wireless headphones that have been strategically positioned in the mid-price range of Oppo's earphones. On paper, this sounds as though it is "balanced and fairly priced", with plenty of can-do attitude. How does the Oppo Enco W31 perform in real life? You can find out in this review.
- Design that provides a comfortable experience
- Impressive bass performance
- Dust and water protection according to IP54 certification
- Rather flat and soft sound despite extra bass
- Touch operation with few functions
- Very poor battery life
Oppo Enco W31 release date and price
The OPPO Enco W31 has been available in white and black shades since the end of May 2020. This pair of true wireless headphones retailed for €79 ($95) when released at launch. There are several retailers who are already offering them for less than €70 ($85).
Oppo Enco W31 design and build quality
In contrast to the Enco Free which we also reviewed, this more affordable model comes in a classic in-ear design, accompanied by a silicone attachment that is located in front of the actual loudspeaker unit. This means you will need one more turn in order to position the plugs correctly, but on the other hand, it also does a better job at preventing outside noise from ruining your listening experience.
The elongated loudspeaker housing comes with comparatively compact bars that are made from glossy-yet-matte TPU plastic, arriving in an elegant design. The front panel has a touch of metal, delivering a respectable design accent. The circular charging case arrives in a charming form-factor of a pillbox, making it stand out pleasantly against the other carrying cases that hail from various competitors.
The earphones, which tip the scales at a mere four grams, are hardly noticeable when worn, and therefore sit comfortably in the ear even after a particularly long playback session. This lightweight form factor is surprising because Oppo has even included sealing material in the earphones themselves to keep out coarse dust and splashes of water. This degree of resistance meets the IP54 certification standard. With the charging case included, the headphone set weighs just 50 grams. There should be a place for it in every trouser pocket.
Operating the Oppo Enco W31
The Oppo Enco W31 achieves connection quickly via the Bluetooth 5.0 standard to any mid-range Android smartphone and also the iPhone. If you want it to work even faster, there is always the Quick Pairing mode that plays nice with compatible Oppo smartphones which run on ColorOS 7. Rocking to an Oppo handset, you will not need to launch the Bluetooth menu - all that you need to do is to open the charger case while it is next to your smartphone. A pairing screen will then appear. After that, a connection is established every single time you open the charger case. This function is reserved for Oppo's flagship devices such as the Find X2 Pro. Cheaper models such as the A-series and the Reno 2Z are excluded.
The Oppo Enco W31 can be operated directly via the touch surface that is found on the upper end of the earphones. Unfortunately, manipulation of it is limited to just a few functions. If you tap on the right earphone twice, you will skip to the next song. On the left side, you will be able to between the two preset sound profiles by double-tapping. When the phone rings, you can accept the incoming call with a double-tap on either side; and doing the same will let you hang up the call. Tappin three times on the right or left will activate the voice assistant.
Wait a minute, isn't there something that is amiss? Yes, there is. You can only access the previous track in the music app of your choice, and not via the earphones. Strangely enough, Oppo forgot a simple command that starts and pauses the music. Instead, the Enco W31 can only pause music playback if you were to remove it from your ear. Doing so will stop whatever music is playing automatically. This is made possible courtesy of infrared sensors that will be able to detect whether you're wearing the earphones or not. However, the music will not resume playback when the earphones are placed back in their rightful positions. You can only resume playback on the Enco W31 via your smartphone or connected smartwatch.
This is how the Oppo Enco W31 sounds
Oppo places plenty of emphasis on the fact that the Enco W31 does not send the signal from one earpiece to the other, but to both simultaneously. The manufacturer calls this binaural Bluetooth transmission. This is to prevent dropouts and reduce the degree of latency. However, with true wireless headphones that are positioned in the €80 ($95) price range and higher, you can expect an all-time stable and delay-free connection in the first place. Anything else would be a disappointment.
More important for users would be the audio quality in which the models offer. In the Enco W31, Oppo aims to show off graphene-coated diaphragms that extend the range of high frequencies and improve the depth of low frequencies. In addition, the manufacturer has also made it possible to switch between two sound profiles by double-tapping. The balance mode was designed to deliver balanced sound at all frequencies, ranging from pop to classical music, while the bass mode was designed to make rock and electronic music sound more fun. So much theory and implementation in real life!
In fact, the Oppo Enco W31 sounds extremely weak and lacks detail. Even at medium volume, they happen to sound overstrained and reproduce trebles that are unpleasantly sharp. The bass mode gives the low frequencies a bit more punch, but this does not help the mid- and high frequencies at all. Overall, the sound impression remains moderate at best.
After all, the in-ear design keeps outside noise at a reasonable level, so you don't need to push the Enco W31 to pump out audio at an even higher volume. An additional active noise reduction functionality could have enhanced the effect, but ANC is simply not something that one can expect at this price.
Oppo Enco W31 battery
The battery capacity does not make up for the weaknesses in its audio playback. With a playing time of 3.5 hours at half volume, the endurance of the integrated 25 mAh battery is very limited at best. If it runs out, it can be charged within 10 minutes to deliver enough power for up to another 80 minutes of music playback. The 350-mAh-battery of the charging case contains a reserve of ten hours of playback time. Should it run out of juice, it will take two and a half hours until it is fully charged via the included USB-C cable. A LED in the charger case indicates just how much juice is still left in the earphones by following the traffic light color code for easy reference. When you remove the earphones, the LED display will then showcase the remaining power of the charger case.
This true wireless earphones from Oppo certainly deserve a few compliments. The charming design is appealing, the wearing comfort is perfect, at least for my ears during this review, and IP weather protection and fast charging are not matters to consider at this price point. I will have to consider this to be an average performer.
More importantly, the true wireless earphones ought to convince with its audio quality, ease-of-use, and battery life. When these core competencies are taken into consideration, the Enco W31 has nothing interesting to offer. Even the affordable price point is but a small consolation. Despite impressive bass amplification, the sound remains weak. With touch-based controls, Oppo seemed to have forgotten the basics with the resume and pause functions. The automatic stopping of playback via the sensor is simply not an acceptable solution for this issue. Moreover, battery life remains below what other manufacturers offer at this price. At €80 ($95), the Soundcore Spirit Dot 2 from Anker offer better sound quality, more extensive operation, and lengthier battery life.