Review of OPPO N1 Mini – Impressive Swivel Camera

The OPPO N1 Mini is the smaller sibling to the OPPO N1, shrinking in size but still retaining the iconic swivel camera. With the ability to rotate the 13 megapixel camera 195 degrees, the phone is truly one for the photo fanatic, especially for those who love selfies. It’s a good alternative to the OPPO N1 which at 5.9″ might be a tad too big for some users. I initially harboured thoughts that the swivel camera might have been more of a gimmick but after using it for the review, I found it a rather nice feature to have.

Hardware

Here’s a quick look at the specs of the OPPO N1 Mini.

  • Display – 5.00-inch
  • Resolution – 720×1280 pixels
  • Processor – 1.6GHz SnapDragon 400
  • Swivel Camera – 13-megapixel with flash
  • RAM – 2GB
  • OS – Android 4.3 (ColorOS 1.4)
  • Storage – 16GB
  • Battery capacity – 2140mAh

oppo_n1_miNi

Overall, the OPPO N1 Mini is slightly better than your average smartphone with a 1.6 GHz quad core Snapdragon 400 processor, Adreno 305, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. It is similar to the Moto G, Redmi 1S and Zenfone range of phones. The Snapdragon is a decent performer, and I had no performance issues with the N1 Mini and after a couple of Antutu stress tests, the maximum temperature hovered around 42 degrees which was pretty low. Antutu score was at 21591 – similar to the Redmi 1S. Overall operational use was good and the phone was responsive during multi-tasking and switching between apps. The inbuilt 16GB of storage (around 12GB is available to the user) comes in handy for the multiple photographs you would end up taking with the phone. It retails at S$549 in Singapore.

The phone’s body is 148 mm high, 72 mm wide, and has a depth of 9 mm, which is on the thinner scale. I found the OPPO N1 Mini’s build quality to be reasonably high. The back casing is unremovable and is made of a smooth matte polycarbonate plastic finish, with the OPPO logo embossed on the back. One plus point is that it does not retain fingerprint marks. The gold trim at the side and around the swivel camera adds a touch of class. The 3.5mm headset jack, micro-USB port and the speaker grill sit at the bottom edge of the phone. The power button is on the left side, and the volume control on the right side. Lastly, the bottom bezel offers back lit capacitive buttons.

The screen is a decent 5 inch, 1280 x 720 with good color response and viewing angles. Sunlight legibility was good with the auto brightness working as required. On connectivity front, the OPPO N1 Mini also ranks high as compared to typical budget phones with 4G connectivity, NFC built-in, and Bluetooth 4.0. NFC and 4G connectivity are plus features as compared to the Redmi 1S.

Software

On the software front, the OPPO N1 Mini runs ColorOS 1.4, which is based off Android 4.3. It is a heavily skinned interface with support for customization of icons, launcher, and the lock screen. In that regard, it is similar to MIUI. On the overall user interface, Color OS is closer to stock Android, with a separate app launcher and home screen. There are some small touches such as the music player with a heavily skinned record player and controls, and a mini camera widget on the homescreen for easy access to camera functions.

oppo n1 mini - redmi

oppo n1 mini vs redmi

OPPO has also incorporated support for gestures, which you can access by pulling down the left side of the notification panel. You can customise your own gesture to launch your favourite app, send messages, turn on the torch etc. There are are also introductions such as double tap of the home button to turn off the screen and press & hold the left menu button to call up the app switcher.

Camera

We come to the main highlight of the OPPO N1 Mini – the camera. Using a Sony Exmor CMOS sensor 6-element lens, with f/2.0 aperture, the camera is able to take up to a 24-megapixel shot with ultra-HD mode, up to 32 second exposure setting, GIF-animation, HDR and panorama capabilities. The rotating feature allows you to use the camera normally but when its time to take a selfie, flip the lens around and you can use it for 13 megapixel selfies. The swivel camera construction feels solid and it stays in place at the particular angle that you set so you don’t need to worry about it rotating inadvertently while taking a photo.

It’s a bold move, but a wise one. Since typically there’s a perfectly good lens on the back of the phone, why not use it for front facing photos as well? It is not as if you would be using both forward and back lens at the same time. I recall Samsung including such a feature, to allow you to snap a shot of the person taking a photograph and embedding it to the primary photo but that’s just plain weird.

In most cases, the camera performs well. There’s a fair bit of features in the built-in software, including the ability for tap-shutter for quick shots, manual-exposure time setting, scenes and selection modes. The HDR works well and the software is able to balance both foreground and background dynamic range and contrast. You can also buy an additional remote shutter (O-Click) from OPPO so you can remotely control the camera shutter with a bluetooth wireless accessory.

There’s also a real-time beautifying tool which automatically pops up in the selfie mode, which automatically smooths out the skin and seems to enlarge the eyes slightly, and sharpen the face slightly. It works, as wrinkles and pimples magically disappear. I find it a tad too strong though, making me look rather artificial, but I could see it being popular with ladies.

oppo n1 selfie-beautify-non

Final Words

The N1 Mini continues from the N1 bold move of having a unique swivel camera and the smaller size might be more handy for photographers. While many other manufacturers are now sporting phones with improved front facing cameras, they tend to be limited to around 4-5 megapixel still and are still a distance away in terms of specs from the main camera. In addition, OPPO’s implementation also throws up other interesting possibilities due to the additional angles while using the screen as the viewfinder. While the price of $549 is on the high side, and puts it at the end of the budget phone category, in terms of front facing camera performance, none of the other budget phones come close. Overall, it’s a decent smart phone with a unique camera that would appeal to those looking for the highest quality selfies.

Sean

Sean is a tech geek and star wars fan. He loves playing with new gadgets, writing little code snippets in Python, JS, and dabbling with Android programming from time to time, while keeping a lookout for the next biggest happening in the world of tech!

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