Oppo Find X3 Pro in-depth hands-on: At last, a consistent camera experience
The Oppo Find X2 Pro flew under the radar a little following its release, perhaps suffering from unfortunate timing with its announcement coming just before the coronavirus pandemic took hold across the world in 2020, but also due to its relatively high price and Oppo’s newness as a brand outside of China. None of this took away from its ability though, so it is with welcoming arms I’ve embraced its sequel, the Oppo Find X3 Pro.
I’ve been testing the Find X3 Pro for a few days now, but have not spent enough time with it to fully review and score it yet. Instead, this will be an in-depth preliminary review, ready to be updated over the next week or so, once I have a better idea of how the battery, software, and camera perform on a daily basis.
That said, I’ve seen enough to know the Find X3 Pro is set to redefine how we expect the camera on a smartphone to perform.
Oppo has gone all-out to make the Find X3 Pro look like no other flagship phone by using an unusual unibody design. This means the rear of the phone has been forged from a single piece of glass, with the camera module rising up and encasing the lenses in the top corner. It’s all one flowing panel, rather than separate pieces. Oppo said it took 2000 attempts in its lab to get the process and final look exactly right.
The benefits come in the device’s 8.2mm slim body and very clean shape. There really are no sharp edges on the Find X3 Pro, with the corners and sides smoothly blending through to the next panel. The curve where the aluminum chassis meets the screen is pronounced though, so it’s not quite as comfortable to hold as the Galaxy S21+ or the Huawei P40 Pro, but the low 193-gram weight stops it from being fatiguing.
While the unibody shape is very eye-catching, Oppo hasn’t been especially brave with the camera lens layout, as it’s basically a mirror image of the iPhone 12 Pro, nor with the color. My review model is in Matte Blue, and pretty though it is, it looks very similar to the Pacific Blue of the iPhone 12 Pro. What Oppo gives in terms of forward-thinking design, it takes away with these derivative elements.
However, leave these small aspects aside, and there are a lot of good things about the phone’s design. It is far lighter than most other high-end smartphones out recently for a start, so it fits in my pocket without weighing me down, I can hold it comfortably at all times without it feeling off-balance, and the matte finish keeps it looking clean too. The Oppo Find X3 Pro is a svelte, classy, and modern-looking smartphone.
Here’s where Oppo goes all Dr. Evil and starts talking about a billion colors a lot. The 6.7-inch AMOLED screen has a 10-bit color depth, or a little over one billion colors, and 100% DCI-P3 color gamut. Oppo then had it professionally calibrated, ensuring it makes the most of its ability and so we don’t have to mess around with tuning it ourselves. It should mean we can’t see color banding or dithering, like we may on lesser screens. The 10-bit color joins a 3216 x 1440 QHD+ resolution, a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, 1,300 nits brightness, and HDR10+ support.
Oppo says the Find X3 Pro delivers the best color reproduction on any smartphone. But can you really tell on a screen this size? Before addressing this, it’s worth saying how beautiful the Find X3 Pro’s screen is generally. It’s extremely close in performance to the Samsung Galaxy S21+, just not quite so bright when compared directly. Certainly for watching videos on YouTube and Netflix, it looks superb. But what about the 10-bit color?
Frustratingly, Oppo doesn’t tell you how to get the best from the screen. I set it to Cinematic mode and watched several videos said to be shot with a 10-bit capable camera, comparing it alongside the Galaxy S21+. There are differences, I think, with slightly less banding visible on the Find X3 Pro, but this could easily be my eyes playing tricks, simply because you really, really have to look closely to see anything “different.”
A 10-bit DCI-P3 screen on a smartphone is technically very impressive, but I wait to be convinced of any actual benefit to anyone watching general content. I’ve asked Oppo for clarification of how the Find X3 Pro’s screen works, and the best ways to exploit its ability, and will update when I hear back and have experimented further.
There’s more talk of one billion colors when we get to the camera, which is the way owners of the phone will be able to directly exploit the Find X3 Pro’s 10-bit color screen, because you can take 10-bit color photos and video on it. This is done by flicking a switch in the settings menu, so you can take photos in either 10-bit or normal mode. Take them in 10-bit, and the images are saved as High Efficiency Image Format (HEIF) files, which may cause some compatibility problems for viewing and editing.
The 10-bit color “feature” feels hugely geeky, and relevant to only a small amount of hardcore photographers at the moment, and it’s also a distraction from what actually makes the Find X3 Pro’s camera desirable — its use of two primary cameras. The 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 sensor is used for both the main wide-angle and the ultra-wide camera, meaning color and balance is consistent across both cameras, a common complaint against other wide/ultra-wide camera setups. These two cameras are joined by a 13-megapixel telephoto camera with a 5x hybrid zoom and a 20x digital zoom, plus an unusual 3MP Micro lens to take “microscope” photos at 60x zoom.
I’m only a hundred or so photos into using the Find X3 Pro, but as of right now, it’s the real deal. Not only does it take beautifully balanced photos with stunning dynamic range and color management, but it does so across both main and ultra-wide cameras.
The wide-angle example seen here with the bench underneath the tree would have looked very different taken on another phone. Instead, it’s almost indistinguishable in terms of balance, shadow, and color from the standard photo. Wonderful. It’s also very hard to fool the camera into behaving badly, as you can see in the photo shooting into the sun.
What about the Micro lens 60x microscope camera? It gets insanely close, just like a microscope, to take macro photos like you’ve never seen before. The example below is of moss. It’s a pure gimmick, but it really does do something no other phone camera can do, and although the results aren’t the greatest quality, it’s possible to have some real fun with it. It’s definitely not a reason to buy the phone, but it’s a welcome change from a useless 2MP macro camera just to fill space.
About the 10-bit color mode? I don’t have a 10-bit color monitor, as I suspect many others don’t either, so even though my Mac Mini M1 can open HEIF files, they look exactly the same on my screen as non-10-bit shots. The Find X3 Pro’s camera is otherwise really shaping up to truly deliver what we’ve wanted for a while: Consistency across the main and wide-angle cameras, and that’s a significant step forward in mobile photography.
Performance, battery, and software
The Oppo Find X3 Pro uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage space, plus it comes with 5G connectivity, Wi-Fi 6, and a 4,500mAh battery. There are two primary areas where I still need to spend more time with the Find X3 Pro, the software and the battery. Oppo’s ColorOS user interface, version 11.2 built over Android 11 here, is onboard. It’s better than ever before, but still frustrates and is less polished than rival systems from Samsung, OnePlus, and Google.
For example, by default it spreads apps over multiple home screens, iOS-style, then leaves you to clean up when you switch to Drawer layout. Icons are too squared for my taste, the speed varies depending on what you’re doing (scrolling the notifications is faster than the app drawer, for example), and the camera app often refuses to work, forcing you to close and open it again.
These may be due to me using a pre-release version of the software, so hopefully, all will improve with an update close to launch time. Battery is the other area that still needs assessment, with performance so far being decent, and around 30% of the battery taken by an hour and 45 minutes of general screen time without gaming. A day should be achievable, but not much else.
Oppo has added its massively fast SuperVOOC charging though, with the 65W system delivering a full charge in just 35 minutes. We tested this in the past and found it works exactly as described. The Find X3 Pro also has 30W wireless charging, and 10W reverse charging too.
Price and availability
The Oppo Find X3 Pro has been announced for the U.K. where it starts at 1,099 British pounds, or about $1,527. It will be released on April 14 and sold unlocked through Oppo’s own online store, and with a contract through all major carriers. Oppo does not sell its phones in the U.S., but they are available as an import.
At 1,099 pounds, the Find X3 Pro is up against the Galaxy S21+ and the iPhone 12 Pro, both of which are cheaper, and the Galaxy S21 Ultra which is slightly more expensive. It also faces competition from the forthcoming OnePlus 9 Pro, which is likely to also undercut it on price.
While it’s still too early to give a final verdict, the Oppo Find X3 Pro certainly has me impressed by its camera and compact, lightweight design at this stage. The Find X2 Pro was Oppo’s best phone to date, and the Find X3 Pro certainly seems to move things on in a meaningful way, although the price is still a little on the high side. What remains is to see if the battery and software can meet the same standard and if the 10-bit color screen and camera setting have relevance to regular people.