A Confident, Refined Android Flagship

Cindy F. Cape

February and March are exciting times for Android phone fans. This is when Samsung will release its new flagship—usually the first major release of the year, and then shortly after, Chinese Android brands follow with alternatives. Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra is out, and it’s great, but the first challenger has arrived: Oppo Find X5 Pro.

Following up on last year’s Find X3 Pro (there was no “4” because it can be considered bad luck in Chinese culture), the Find X5 Pro is a confident, polished handset that’s showing Oppo is coming onto its own as a phone brand.

The phone brings back last year’s design M.O.—the Find X5 Pro features a ceramic unibody frame that covers the entire backside of the phone, including the camera module. This design is unique, because smartphone back plates usually have a cutout through which the camera module pokes through. By covering the module with a piece of ceramic, Oppo has removed some of the harsh edges of the module. There is still a camera bump, but it smooths into the body. It’s a look that’s slightly odd at first glance, but I’ve grown to like it. The phone is curvy overall, with its 120Hz 6.7-inch OLED screen curving at the sides, so the in-hand feel is more comfortable to me than Samsung’s bulky S22 Ultra with pointy corners.

The fact that Oppo has brought back the same design is the first sign of the brand growing comfortable in its own skin. Chinese Android brands used to give its phones a complete design overhaul year-on-year, while this could be fun in a “we don’t know what to expect” kind of way, it also suggests a lack of brand direction and design philosophy. That’s not the case anymore as Chinese brands mature. Oppo, like Xiaomi, is proud of its hardware engineers and designers, and there’s now a clear look that runs across phone lines.

Another sign that Oppo is confident in its abilities is that the Find X5 Pro’s triple lens camera system contains one less camera than last year. Chinese phone brands in the past have felt the need to push for more—more cameras, more specs, more features—likely because it felt that’s what was needed to be seen as equals with Apple and Samsung. The thought of a Chinese phone having fewer cameras than the previous generation was unfathomable a couple of years ago.

Having fewer cameras doesn’t mean Oppo didn’t add to the camera system—far from it. The Find X5 Pro has a new imaging chip that’s self-developed by Oppo. Named MariSilicon X, it allows Oppo to control the entire image processing pipelines in ways that even some Samsung phones cannot (the U.S. and China versions of the S22 Ultra uses Qualcomm’s image signal processing).

Having full control over hardware and software processing of photography is what Apple and Google have done for years. In theory, it gives the various parts of a smartphone greater synergy and connectivity.

On the Find X5 Pro, MariSilicon X mostly improves low-light video recording, as it uses real-time machine learning to recover image information that could be lost due to lack of lighting. From my testing, it really works: the Find X5 Pro’s videos in really dark settings definitely look brighter than the same videos captured by the iPhone 13 Pro or Samsung’s S22 Ultra—as can be seen at the 7:58 mark of the video embedded below. But during the day, when lighting is better, the Find X5 Pro’s videos have slightly inferior stabilization than the other two.

In still photography, the Find X5 Pro excels in two of three focal ranges—the wide (main camera) and ultra-wide shots. Oppo uses the exact same Sony camera sensor for both of these cameras, with the exact same image sensor size and megapixel count, so there’s more consistency between the two. Other phones, particularly the iPhone 13 Pro, has an ultra-wide shooter that’s noticeably inferior to the main camera in sensor size and pixel count. This means if I snap two images—a wide and ultra-wide shot—with the Find X5 Pro and then I compare the two shots, they look remarkably similar, with a consistency in colors and lighting. This is not the case with the iPhone, where the ultra-wide camera is noticeably less detailed than the main camera shot.

I have taken dozens of photos from the Find X5 Pro against Apple and Samsung’s best offerings, and I can say the Find X5 Pro’s main camera keeps up against the other two’s main cameras. Often, Oppo’s image has punchier colors and more stylistic contrast, but it could also appear over-processed. If we are purely evaluating the main camera, it’s a very close call with no clear winner.

But this also means the Find X5 Pro’s ultra-wide is clearly superior to the other two’s ultra-wide then, because Oppo’s ultra-wide is close to the main camera in quality while that’s not the case with the iPhone 13 Pro or S22 Ultra.

But the third camera, the zoom lens, is disappointing. The Find X5 Pro features only a 2x telephoto zoom lens, while Samsung packs two zoom lenses at 3x and 10x zoom range. Even the iPhone 13 Pro can do 3x zoom. In 2022, a 2x zoom is the bare minimum.

Outside of cameras, the Find X5 Pro is excellent as a typical smartphone. The screen is brilliant—although maximum brightness falls short of Samsung’s S22 Ultra screen—and there are loud stereo speakers. The 5,000 mAh battery can power the phone all day, and it can be charged at super fast 80W speeds (Samsung’s phones maxes out at 45W by comparison). The Find X5 Pro can fill up from 0 to 100 in 27 minutes. The charging brick is included in the box too, unlike Samsung and Apple’s phones.

Overall, the Find X5 Pro is a powerhouse phone that can go toe to toe with Samsung and Apple’s best. The Find X5 Pro clearly wins in only one area, however—the ultra-wide camera. The rest is close. So close that it’s hard to say flat out the Find X5 Pro is a better buy than the S22 Ultra. Samsung’s phone having a stylus, brighter screen, and much better zoom could be important factors.

And in another sign of Oppo’s confidence, it’s not pricing the Find X5 Pro lower than the competition. In fact, in Europe, the Find X5 Pro’s 1,299 euro ($1,457) is pricier than both the iPhone 13 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. But Chinese phones have always seen unusual mark-ups in Europe. In China and Asia, the Find X5 Pro will almost certainly be priced much lower, perhaps closer to the $1,000 range.

Whatever the case, Oppo sees the Find X5 Pro as equals with Samsung and Apple’s best phones. And while brand recognition isn’t quite there, the actual product is.


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