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OPPO R11s review: Midrange selfie powerhouse

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Last month, I flew to China for the OPPO R11s launch and got to spend time with the near-borderless smartphone. In the last few weeks, I’ve been trying out the international R11s, and this is my verdict.

The R11s is a follow-up to the R11 released last June. In this review, I’ll talk about my experience with the device and answer tough questions like: Is this R11 update worth it? How does the phone perform? Are the cameras better? What’s the point of a “Starry Sky” screen?

I also tackle the R11’s AI beauty mode because I like taking selfies and the world needs more beauty mode reviews.

Painting the town red

Our OPPO R11s unit came in deep red. I like this color option as it perfectly matches this season’s festive theme. In fact, the red all-metal body matches a lot of things: Ruby Woo lipstick, Dorothy’s ruby slippers, my hair, my heart ❤️… the list goes on.

The R11s also comes in black or champagne for those of who like less daring options. However, unique to the red version is what OPPO calls the “Starry Sky” screen — that black to red gradient on the phone’s front which makes for a seamless transition from the bezel to the body.

This “Starry Sky” screen sans actual stars ⭐️ is one of my favorite near-borderless design features. The subtle gradient is a nice identifying detail in the present sea of bezel-less devices that, more or less, all look similar up front.

OPPO R11s and the beauty of the “Starry Sky” screen (top) vis a vis the normal near-borderless screen of the OPPO F5 (bottom)

Speaking of bezel-less devices, their onslaught has made bezelled phones look dated — the R11 included. The R11s fixes that.

OPPO R11s (left) and its slimmer bezels vis a vis the OPPO R11 (right)

 

This new screen has an 18:9 aspect ratio — which basically means the view is taller or wider, depending on which orientation you use the phone in. Other than that, the screen should be the same as the R11’s with the same color, brightness, and durability. All these things I can attest to, except for the durability, because I’m not dropping these phones on purpose just to check.

What’s on the inside

Of course, with great screens come great responsibility — and certain sacrifices in the form of the loss of capacitive buttons and the fingerprint scanner up front. Said scanner has been demoted and moved to the back.

Admittedly, I initially hated the idea of having the scanner on the phone’s rear. I had to flip my phone over or lift it up from the table (yeah, all that work, shocking!) to unlock, as opposed to just tapping with a finger like I used to do when the scanner was up front. But, I eventually got used to it and it helped that the fingerprint scanner on this thing was pretty quick and accurate.

The R11s also has facial unlock technology which works well when lighting is good, but is a bit unreliable in less than ideal lighting scenarios. The phone doesn’t recognize me half of the time when I’m wearing glasses which is a bit weird since the phone would unlock even when my eyes were closed. (Beware y’all with snoopy partners!)

Unlock times were good at less than a second, though I’ve seen other devices do better.

With a midrange Snapdragon 660 processor, this phone is pretty capable. For the benefit of those who don’t deal well with specs, all this means is that you can pretty much do gaming…

Me playing Pocket Mortys on the R11s (Help me, I’m stuck on this level!)

… or more importantly, use Snapchat AR on this device without any trouble.

My Bitmoji is better than your Bitmoji

The R11s runs on OPPO’s ColorOS 3.2 which is basically the Android version of Apple’s iOS — I say that because the interface looks very much like an iPhone’s.

Battery capacity is at 3200mAh which lasts me a whole day and frees me from the burden of lugging around a power bank. The bad news? It still uses a micro-USB port! Back to more good news: It has VOOC charging, OPPO’s version of fast charging, and it only takes around an hour and twenty minutes from zero to a full charge. All this power in my hands! ✨

Picture perfect

With dual cameras on the rear, the R11s’ main selling point is that both shooters (16  and 20 megapixels) have wide apertures of f/1.7 which will allow more light to get in and make for even better low-light performance.

Of course, I tested that premise. I busted out the R11 whose dual shooters also feature 16- and 20-megapixel cameras, but with apertures of f/1.7 and f/2.6 (f/2.6 means smaller aperture which equates to less light). There was definite improvement. See for yourself:

The rear cameras are also equipped with a beauty mode built into the portrait mode. Perfect for shots like this…

… or this…

… and even group shots like this where everyone looks all cute and fresh, you don’t even realize someone is doing the cheers with jam. *cough* Chay *cough*

The front-facing shooter is a 20-megapixel camera. This camera’s beauty mode has integrated artificial intelligence. What does that mean? Simply that it uses machine learning to enhance your features and remove blemishes without looking too artificial — a qualm I’ve always had with OPPO’s beauty mode. With AI beauty mode, the phone gives you great selfies without blurring out actual facial features. Think along the lines of getting that fresh #NoMakeUp look (you girls know what I’m talking about! ?) every time, all the time, without actual makeup. See below:

Here are a few more photos (and a sneak peek of my life) from the R11s.

Is the OPPO R11s your GadgetMatch?

Although there’s still space for improvement when it comes to facial unlock technology, OS interface, and the micro-USB port, I still enjoyed this phone. Admittedly, there are faster, snappier, and more responsive phones I’ve tried out, but all my needs — funny games, Snapchat, VSCO and Adobe Lightroom photo editing — were met by the R11s. If you prioritize smartphone photography, selfies, and your Instagram feed, this may be the phone for you. I had way too much fun shooting selfies on this.

With these slight but impactful improvements, the R11s is definitely a better phone over the R11. Especially because it retails for the same price as the R11 when it was released: CNY 2,999 (around US$ 450) for black and champagne versions. The special red handset retails at CNY 3,199 (around US$ 480).

It seems these selfie experts are well on their way to becoming more than just that. In the meantime, I enjoy their efforts, my near flawless selfies, and all the pretty portraits I can shoot.

SEE ALSO: OPPO R11s hands-on and photo comparisons

SEE ALSO: OPPO R11 hands-on and photo comparisons

Laptops

Google lead designer reveals prototypes of Pixel 2, Home Mini, Pixelbook

A touch of human

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It’s not too often that we get a behind-the-scenes look at the drawing boards of premium hardware products, but when we do, it’s magical.

Ivy Ross, who’s the lead designer of Google’s latest devices, revealed the ideas and executions she and her team put into making their gadgets.

Published on The She Word (a series featuring the women of Google on the company’s blog), Ross discussed a variety of topics ranging from her early beginnings as a young designer to the aesthetics of Pixel and Home devices.

When asked what the most important design principle of Google’s hardware is, she had this to say:

Human. By that I mean friendly, emotionally appealing, and easy to fit into your life and your home.

She goes on to explain that three-dimensional and tactile aesthetics are important after spending so much time in front of flat screens. That’s why her design team puts so much emphasis on fabric materials.

Through images, the blog post also showed off the progress from multiple prototypes to finished product for Google’s most important items:

The visual progression of the Pixel 2 XL’s design is arguably the most interesting. You can see how the flagship phone went from a squarish panda to a more rounded one.

Ross became the head of design for Google’s hardware team in mid-2016, and has since made her mark as the company’s most human designer to date.

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CES 2018

LG’s InstaView ThinQ is one smart fridge

This is the future

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The future of smart appliances is upon us.

LG has not only dared to venture into connected kitchen technology, they’ve taken it a step further with their newest smart appliances. We got to see all this at CES.

The InstaView ThinQ is the fridge of the future. It’s equipped with the smart voice assistant Alexa which means you will be able to talk to it — the better to figure out what you want to eat! Not only that, it will suggest recipes depending on what food items you have stored. The best part is that it can be connected to your phone and all your other smart appliances for a seamless everyday home experience.

SEE ALSO: LG builds a smart kitchen that ‘talks’ to you and your home

SEE ALSO: Lessons from household appliances

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Accessories

Cauldryn Fyre V2 is a smart mug you’ll want to own

This smart mug will make mornings easy

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Imagine a world where your coffee will brew itself upon your command. Well, folks, that world is real.

Of all the cool things we saw at CES 2018, it was this device that totally made our Vegas mornings.

The Cauldryn Fyre V2 is not your ordinary mug. This 16 ounce, stainless steel beauty keeps your beverage hot in a vacuum insulated bottle. The mug itself allows you to maintain a certain temperature all day so your coffee stays hot and your juice cold.

It also has Google Assistant! Now all you need to do is tell your mug to brew coffee and it will.

It’s fully modular — attachable accessories allow you to do so many things. You can choose to attach a blender and grind your own coffee beans; there’s a percolator accessory, a Bluetooth speaker base, and even a lantern with a bug zapper for outdoor adventures with your Cauldryn.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but true innovation happens when you can talk your water bottle into making you coffee.

MORE ON CES 2018: GadgetMatch LIVE coverage

SEE ALSO: 6 must-have products for your smart home

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