Oppo N1 hands-on and first impressions (video and image gallery)

September 26, 2013
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The up and coming Chinese manufacturer Oppo has made a name for itself with the Find 5, a sleek piece of technology combining high-end specifications with a fresh take on Android.

With the newly launched N1, Oppo builds and extends on the foundation it laid with the Find 5. The device features great hardware, a unique swiveling camera, and a rear mounted touchpad. And, while the 5.9-inch device is impressive on its own, it has a special claim to fame: it’s the first smartphone to ship with CyanogenMod on board, the Android-based operating system developed by Cyanogen Inc.

Is the N1 worthy of your attention? These are our first impressions of the Oppo N1.

Design and build quality

There’s no way around it – the Oppo N1 is a massive smartphone that dwarfs all but a few of its competitors. We’re talking 213 grams in weight and 171 millimeters in length, close to the Mega 6.3 and even the Xperia Z Ultra. This really is a large device, and even people that love big phones may find it a bit unwieldy, though the inclusion of the rear mounted touchpad may facilitate, to an extent, one hand usage.

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There aren’t many unnecessary touches on the Oppo N1, which looks and feels like a high-end device, thanks to its heft, solid build, and mate paint job. The slightly tapered back makes the phone feel a bit slimmer in hand than it actually is at 9 millimeters.

There’s an almost invisible touchpad on the back of the N1, located where your index finger would normally rest. More about it in the software section.

Specs and hardware features

The Oppo N1 is powered by a tried and true Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor clocked at 1.7GHz with an Adreno 320 GPU and paired with 2GB of RAM. While some may find the absence of a Snapdragon 800 chip disappointing, the 600 should be more than adequate for most, if not the entire lifetime of the device.

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At 377ppi, the Full HD 5.9-inch IPS LCD display is bright and crisp.

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There’s the usual assortment of features under the hood of the N1, with highlights including a massive, almost tablet-like 3610 mAh battery and Wi-Fi 802.11 ac. Due to its unibody design, the battery is not user replaceable on the N1, and the phone lacks a microSD slot.

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Another missing feature is LTE connectivity. It’s hard to understand why Oppo decided to forgo LTE, when the standard is already widespread in North America, parts of Europe, and even in China. Still, depending on your location, carrier, and expectations, HSPA may just be good enough.

An interesting addition to the feature set of the Oppo N1 is the O-Click Bluetooth remote control, which acts pretty much like the HTC Fetch. You can attach O-Click to your keys or keep it the wallet to make sure you never misplace them again or use it as remote control for the phone’s camera.

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Camera

The marquee feature of the phone is the swiveling camera module on top, which rotates 206 degrees to adapt to whatever imaging taking needs you may have, including selfies and surreptitious video recording. When it rotates, the module feels solid, without creeks and wobbles. Oppo says it’s rated for 100,000 rotations.

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The camera has a 13MP Sony Exmor RS sensor at its heart and features a dual-mode LED flash, an f/2.0 lens, and a dedicated image signal processor. In theory, it should be a capable shooter, but we’ll have to wait for more samples to make an accurate idea of its quality.

Software

The Oppo N1 ships with Color OS, a revamped version of the overlay present on the Find 5. Oppo claims it added 410 “design improvements” to Color OS, compared to stock Android 4.2.2. Among the most interesting is the possibility to launch applications by drawing gestures on the screen. For instance, drawing a circle will open the camera and drawing a V shape will open the flashlight app, and you can assign your own gestures to specific actions. The best part about it is that the gestures work even when the screen is off.

The touch panel on the back of the N1 should, in theory, let you control the user interface with just one hand. You can swipe through galleries, scroll lists, and even take pics by tapping and holding your finger on the touch pad.

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Oppo says it wants to ship all N1 units with CyanogenMod onboard, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get to dual-boot between Color OS and the custom ROM. Instead, you’ll be able to flash CyanogenMod by booting into recovering mode the first time you turn on the phone.

Hands-on video

Wrap up

The Oppo N1 is an extremely interesting device that stands out in the Android crowd. The swiveling camera, the gesture control, CyanogenMod as an option, they are all unique propositions adding value to an already good Android flagship. But there are some potential problems as well, and the size of the Oppo N1 is probably its biggest weakness.

Once Oppo provides us with a review unit, we will be able to offer you an in-depth look at the hardware and software of the N1. Until then, let’s just say it’s on our watchlist.

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