Oppo A53s: Game on
AS we near the end of 2020, South Africans celebrate the end of the year spoilt for choice for phones. This has been a busy year for the market with the arrival of new brands and the resurgence of old ones. Chinese brand Oppo, one owned by BBK Electronics and alongside Vivo and OnePlus, is making a splash just in time for the shopping season. The third-biggest smartphone maker has set up a local office and is introducing budget and mid-tier offerings for consumers.
Oppo is leading a segment invasion with the help of three new devices: The budget-friendly A15, the big-brother A72, and today’s phone and the middle of the pack, the A53s. Priced at R4 999, the A53s has the task of proving that Oppo can pack a punch with a mid-tier smartphone while also undercutting its competitors such as the Huawei P Smart and the Samsung Galaxy A31.
The A53s sports a conventional smartphone design with its rounded edges and clean front facade, though it attempts to distinguish itself with its volume buttons shifted to the left-hand side of the device while keeping the power button on the right. The back of the phone and overall built quality is both a hit and miss. It’s very neat with the triple camera system, looking small and compact relative to the phone’s length of 163.9mm and width of 75.1mm, accentuated with a silver rim and a fingerprint located in the upper sensor, and both the available colours of electric black and fancy blue (as pictured) are cool. What’s not cool is that colour with a plastic back that’s thin enough to slightly flex when you press down on it. With a hefty weight of 186g, you want a device that feels more durable than this, and the gradient effect of that fancy blue does little to uplift the back’s cheap feel. It also has a surprisingly sharp edge at the point when the plastic back meets the display bezel, which feels disconcerting when not housed in its cover.
Back at the front, it’s another story with what is easily the device’s party piece. The A53s features a 6.5-inch, 720x1600 HD LCD display with a 90Hz refresh rate. That refresh rate is a headliner for a phone in this segment, something which previously you needed to spend a lot more money to get. It may not be something you immediately notice unless you compare it side-by-side to a normal 60Hz display or if you’ve experienced the extreme with the 120Hz rate featured on Samsung’s flagship phones. It’s subtle. Everything is a bit quicker and smoother than what you’re used to, and there is a long-term impact of never being able to go back to 60Hz again. Meanwhile, the display features good levels of brightness and contrast, setting it up for the kind of person that Oppo is aiming the phone at.
This is an entertainment device. Accompanying the screen is a dual speaker function which means audio is more evenly distributed. The selfie camera tucked away in the top left corner minimises its impact on the overall viewing experience. This is a phone that’s great for taking in a movie or series.
Using the phone, users are treated to Android 10 and Oppo’s ColourOS, an operating system that bears slight resemblance to the Funtouch OS found in their cousin Vivo’s devices. It’s not complicated, it just takes a few tries to find your way around. And big points for keeping the bloatware to a minimum. It’s nice to purchase and power up a clean slate. Under the hood, the A53s packs 4GB of RAM and 128GB memory with expandable MicroSD storage, as well as Qualcomm’s brand-new Snapdragon 460 chipset. This processor is a big deal as it fuels Oppo’s marketing narrative that the A53s is a phone for gamers and when it comes to everyday activities, it’s excellent. Logging into titles like Asphalt 9 and PUBG Mobile, the chipset does deliver but shows its limitations. Frame rates can drop now and then and there’s little improvement in loading times. Thankfully, this kind of usage won’t cut your day short due to the phone’s 5 000mAh battery pack. Normal activities and the charge extends just South of the 48-hour mark, while gamers can still get a day out of the phone. 18W Fast Charging seals the deal, too.
That display is the headline, but what’s the fine print? The budget constraints of the Oppo A53s are most evident with the camera. It is very unremarkable. It’s a triple-camera setup with a 13MP main camera, 2MP depth camera, and a 2MP macro lens. Normal everyday shots are fine just so long as you don’t even look at the zoom button. Lighting and brightness levels are adequate but there is some oversaturation happening (the blues pop more than they should). Night shots are on par for what you can expect in this segment. The limited number of camera modes cannot be compensated by a large number of colour filters you can choose from and apply. If anything, Oppo prioritised the taking of selfies thanks to a 8MP front camera whose quality is weirdly able to stand in contrast to the rear one’s. This was the price Oppo paid and you’re not left to forget that.
The Oppo A53s is best appreciated as an entertainment device and not for content creation purposes. It’s an ambitious lower-to-mid tier act for the brand and thanks to a unique and impressive display and capable innards, it does specific tasks well. But the camera leaves a lot to be desired especially in this very competitive segment, and the hardware quality of the device could be better.