"The Oppo N1 Mini is mini by name, but not if you take the innovations it packs into account"
2014 can be regarded as the year of Chinese invasion on Indian shores. No, we're talking about war, but referring to the number of Chinese smartphone manufacturers that have entered the Indian market this year as well as others which have started promoting their products heavily. Oppo, just an eight month old name in India, is one such brand... and has already made a name for itself because of the highly-innovative features in its devices. Talk about swivel cameras, high-density displays, rapid charging technology, high-res 50-megapixel photos, etcetera and each of these innovations have been pioneered by the brand in the Indian market. But if you think that all these features would be exclusive to its high-end devices, then the company has outed a device to prove you wrong. The N1 Mini is a mid-range smartphone, but offers quite a few innovative features borrowed from Oppo's top-tier devices.
We've been using the smartphone since the last two weeks and have already brought you the unboxing, first impressions and a quick review in the form of pictures. And now it's time to dive in to see whether the Oppo N1 Mini is worth your money or not.
In the popular sci-fi movie 'Honey, I shrunk the Kids', the kids were shrunk by an electromagnetic shrink ray. It seems that Oppo has used the same on the Oppo N1 to produce its mini variant. The Oppo N1 Mini is exactly the same as the Oppo N1 right down to the T, except of course the size. However, you can also say that the ray was applied for a very short duration, since the N1 Mini isn't as compact as you'd expect from its moniker. It's small only when compared to the large phablet-sized display (5.9-inches) on its brother, but with a 5-inch display it's even comparable to many flagships such as the likes of HTC One (M8) (review) and Samsung Galaxy S5 (review | FAQs).
We must say that even shrinking down to the current levels helps in device handling a lot, since you can comfortably use the smartphone for long durations with both hands or even try a few things with a single hand. Compared to other phones bearing a screen size of 5-inches, the N1 Mini is quite large mainly because of a large swivelling portion at the top housing the earpiece and proximity sensor at front, and the lone camera and flash at the rear. Below the display, you’ll find the standard three-button layout for navigation.
The phone looks classy in white and the touch of golden accents along the edges and top add to its looks. The volume rocker is present on the right spine along with a micro-SIM card slot, whereas the power key is located on the left edge. The bottom of the device is choc-a-block with a headphone jack, a micro-USB port, a microphone and a speaker grille.
The matte rear of the N1 Mini is also very minimal with Oppo branding and a secondary microphone. Being a unibody construction, the back panel isn’t removable.
The same swivelling portion sports a camera sensor at the back sitting alongside an LED flash, as we mentioned. This means that you can simply rotate this portion to face the camera towards the front – or for that matter, any angle. While this is great for shutterbugs, we think that it affects the handling quite a bit. If you remove the phone from your pocket, there are chances the swivel may twist around slightly. There are many more instances like this... such as when you are playing games in the landscape mode.
The phone is slightly curved at the rear, which does help in handling. Oppo must be applauded for not increasing the bulk of the device even with the swivel portion as it tips the scales at 150g. The thickness of 9.2mm is also not too bad. Overall, the Oppo N1 Mini manages to look quite good and distinct, though one must be careful of not damaging the swivel on top.
As mentioned, the N1 Mini sports a 5-inch display. Even though it only features HD resolution, we found it sharp and vibrant enough for reading text, browsing web pages and watching movies. However, it’s reflective at times, especially under direct sunlight. The viewing angles are also good making it easier for you and your friends to view a video or browse through pictures together.
The sensitivity of the display can be increased by turning on the glove mode, making it easier to control the phone even when you’re wearing gloves.
It seems that all the Chinese smartphone vendors have a common dislike for stock Android’s interface since almost all of them customise it. Oppo also falls in this category and named its customisation effort as ColorOS. The N1 Mini runs on Color OS v1.4, which is based on more than a year old Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. The brand promises to bring an update soon, but that might be too late since by then Android’s next version codenamed as L might already be out.
Oppo’s rethinking of Android isn’t as radical as Gionee’s Amigo UI or Xiaomi’s MIUI (MIUI 6 overview) since you do get homescreens and an app drawer. While the overall look and icons might be different, you’ll feel right at home even if you’re using the smartphone for the first time, which is unlike many other custom skins. Along with the homescreens, Oppo has something called as spaces. Users can create a photo space or a music space, which is essentially a dedicated homescreen allowing you to get camera viewfinder on the screen itself and play music respectively.
You can change the whole look-and-feel of the phone by simply choosing a new theme from a number of options available in the Themes app.
The notification panel is also slightly different with the quick toggles placed above the notifications. By default the toggles are in a single row only, but you can expand them to view all. To clear all notifications, you can hit the clean button at the bottom of the screen.
The multitasking mode also gets some intelligent options like a one-touch RAM cleaner and ability to lock the app(s) so that they remain even if the cleaner closes the others.
If you’re a fan of using swiping gestures to type, then you’ll like the fact that the Oppo N1 Mini comes with the Swype keyboard out of the box for this purpose. Along with the ability to swipe-to-type, the keyboard offers you the ability to download dictionaries for different languages (including Hinglish), create your own custom dictionary, change its theme and more.
The support for gestures is also available on the smartphone. Just like the the Find 7 (review | FAQs), the N1 Mini supports gestures when the display is on standby, as well as through a dedicated gesture panel. If you pull the notification bar from the right, then you get the notification panel, but if you pull it from the left, then you’re greeted by the gesture panel – though you can reverse it through settings. The gestures available when the display is turned off include functions like double-tap-to-wake, and even the ability to open an app like the camera directly. The gesture panel, on the other hand gives you the ability to quickly open an app by drawing a gesture.
Overall, ColorOS might not be all that impressive, but at least , isn't laggy and is intuitive enough for first-time users.
It’s the camera department where the Oppo N1 Mini justifies why it deserves to be called the mini version of the N1, since it hardly shares any other specs with the latter. The N1 Mini comes with a 206-degree rotatable camera, sharing the exact same 13-megapixel sensor with its bigger sibling.
For photography enthusiasts, this is a great idea since all they need to do is to rotate it at the desired angle, not to mention the ability to capture selfies in high resolution. An LED flash is also available along with the camera for providing illumination.
In terms of the image quality, the results aren't any different from the N1, which means it can stand up against other offerings in the smartphone market. The camera reproduces the scenes with accurate details and colours. Be it a landscape shot or a close up image, the camera doesn't disappoint. The N1 Mini takes a few tricks from Oppo’s current flagship, the Find 7 (camera review) as well. While the Find 7 boasts the ability to capture 50-megapixel images, the N1 Mini can click 24-megapixel photos in the Ultra HD mode. The concept is the same, i.e the camera takes four images in quick succession and combines two of them together to create a single, high-resolution shot.
Other modes on the custom camera interface are fairly common such as panorama, HDR, etc. The app also allows you to customise settings like exposure, ISO level, among others.
You can have a closer look at the camera performance of the Oppo N1 Mini with the images posted below. Click on the thumbnails to view them in full resolution.
|Here’s a detailed look at the camera performance of the Oppo N1 Mini|
The camera is also capable of recording videos in full HD resolution at 30fps.
For handling the hardware side of things, the N1 Mini is equipped with a Snapdragon 400 SoC having four Cortex-A7 cores clocked at 1.6GHz. The SoC also offers Adreno 305 GPU which takes care of graphics. The setup is decidedly mid-range and the performance displayed by the smartphone is evident from that. It works well for the most part with no signs of lag while navigating the home screens, watching a video in 1080p resolution or even playing casual games like Subway Surfers. However, when it comes to graphics-heavy games like Riptide GP2, we ran into lags at times. The device also heats up after playing for 15 to 20 minutes continuously.
The inclusion of 2GB of RAM is a big plus as you can open multiple apps and switch between them almost instantaneously. At first boot, there's around 1.3GB of RAM free.
As far as storage is concerned, the device comes with 16GB of internal memory. However, the custom skin occupies a lot of space, leaving around 11.5GB to the end user. This means that you'll need to fill the space judiciously since the N1 Mini lacks an expansion slot. Although you can connect flash drives thanks to the support for USB OTG.
For connectivity, the handset provides the usual options such as 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and NFC.
The N1 Mini is supplied with a 2,140mAh Li-ion battery. While the battery capacity isn't too low, the real-life usage isn't too great, as the phone hardly lasts a day even with basic usage. Use the device for playing games, accessing websites via cellular data or navigation via GPS and the battery drops even faster. In our test that involves playing a 720p video on the smartphone on loop, it lasted 7.5 hours, which is just about average.
You can set the Battery Saver feature to activate automatically whenever the battery drops below a predefined percentage. It shuts down auto brightness settings, haptic touch feedback, GPS, data, etc. along with providing advanced options such as disabling animations. There’s an option which enables a Simple Desktop allowing you to only access basic functionality like calls, contacts, messages and clock to conserve the battery.
There's nothing really wrong with the Oppo N1 Mini per se – it comes with a good display, a capable and innovative camera and a decent configuration. But there is another much more important criteria for choosing a smartphone – it's pricing. The price of a smartphone, or any product, for that matter, is so crucial that it can make or break it. Sadly, the Oppo N1 Mini fails on this aspect.
At the asking price of Rs 26,990, it's very difficult for us to recommend this phone. To put things in perspective, the processor that powers it is available in the Redmi 1s (review | FAQs), which costs just Rs 5,999. Similarly, the N1 Mini has a 720p display panel, while the devices like the Karbonn Titanium X (review) offer a full HD panel for as low as Rs 10,000. If you fancy a swivel camera, then have a look at the octa-core-toting Gionee Elife E7 Mini, available for around Rs 18,000 on online stores. However, if you’re considering a device in this price band, then we’d suggest you to take a look at the Nexus 5 (review in pictures) and the Gionee Elife E7 (review).
Overall, the Oppo N1 Mini is a good option as a device, but not worth buying at its current price point.
Photos by Pratik Vyas
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