Oppo N3 review

Swivelling camera tricks and more

Oppo N3 review

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The Oppo N3 is a top-tier smartphone in many ways, with some truly unique features and an operating system that might be quite different to stock Android, but doesn't ruin the phone.

While some of the key specifications compare with flagships that were arriving this time in 2014, there's nothing onboard that hampers the performance. A speedy quad-core processor, decent screen quality, good storage and SIM options make the N3 a definite contender, if a bit of an oddball.

If you like standing out from the crowd, are sold on the quirky camera, and don't mind the rather large form factor, then the N3 should definitely be considered alongside other 5.5-inch phones like the LG G3.

We liked

The camera is undoubtedly unique, and a feature you'll be showing off to anyone who cares to notice. Fortunately, it's not all show without substance, there is some good hardware underneath and the camera app is packed with plenty of features.

The body feels solid and well made compared to many other Chinese smartphones hitting the European market. Even with the spinning camera module, there aren't any squeaks from the chassis when put under pressure.

The positioning of the notification LED is well thought out, and the rhythmic pulse is far less annoying than some overly-bright blinking LEDs found on other handsets.

The O-Click Bluetooth fob was a welcome addition I hadn't expected, and has some legitimately useful features for the forgetful among us, while doubling as a remote camera trigger that opens up the capabilities of the phone's camera even further.

We disliked

The headphone and micro-USB ports are in totally daft positions. Whether this was a limitation imposed by the design of the internal hardware, or a short-sighted decision by Oppo is difficult to determine, but whatever the excuse, it's plain nuts.

The swivelling camera might be fun and afford some great quality snaps, but it throws up a couple of pitfalls. Firstly, it limits the options of protective phone cases considerably, meaning you would have to take good care of this large handset. It can also mean that the auto-brightness sensor is often in the wrong place, which considering that the auto brightness is already a bit poorly executed, is a bit of a let-down.

This may well be subjective, but the N3 is a rather large phone. It's in the same territory as the Google Nexus 6, and other top-end 'phablets', but doesn't quite keep up when it comes to screen resolution.

Color OS has some nice features, but it's certainly not my Android skin of choice. Oppo has almost gone too far to replace apps that aren't broken in stock Android phones. Overall, I'd rather have Android as Google intended.

Final verdict

For $649 (around £400, AU$800) the Oppo N3 is a considerable amount of phone for your money, and has some well executed features. The most obviously of which is the swivelling camera that'll wow your friends and change the way you use a smartphone camera.

Of course, you may be afraid to go for a brand that is relatively unknown in the western world, but in its native China, Oppo is fast becoming a household name, and are renowned for building quality electronics with novel features: the N3 is no exception.

Yes, there are a few quirks and bugs in the Color OS interface. I'm not generally a fan of third-party Android skins, and that hasn't changed with the N3, but I can certainly say that at all times it felt speedy and responsive.

Want a phone with a party trick, big screen and novel features? The Oppo N3 should at least be in your 'maybe' pile.

First reviewed: December 2014