Oppo N1 mini review: Solid offering with a head-turning feature

For fans of the Oppo Find 7, the Chinese manufacturer is now offering the N1 mini, a mid-range smartphone with a swivelling head.

Oppo N1 mini. Courtesy Oppo
Powered by automated translation

As a relative newcomer to the UAE’s smartphone market, the Chinese manufacturer Oppo has already made a positive impression with the Find 7, a high-spec phablet that we judged a worthy competitor to the celebrated LG G3.

For those looking for a smaller, cheaper device, Oppo also offers the N1 mini, a mid-range smartphone with a swivelling head.

“Mini” is actually a bit of a misnomer. While Oppo’s original N1, launched last year, has a 5.9-inch display, its “mini” cousin still sports a decidedly non-mini 5-inch display, larger than the iPhone 6 and just a shade smaller than the Samsung Galaxy S5.

What has been cut down to size is the screen’s quality. While the Find 7 had a gorgeous Quad HD IPS display, N1 mini users have to make do with a more standard 720p display; not bad looking at all, but other similarly priced devices, such as Huawei’s Ascend P7, look a lot better.

The N1 mini’s most head-turning feature is, well, its turning head. Unlike most smartphones, which sport a high-spec rear-facing camera and a less powerful front-facing camera for selfies and video calls, the N1 mini has just one 13MP camera that rotates to let you take images and videos from both the front and the rear. It’s not a bad idea, even if the swivel mechanism feels a little on the fiddly side.

Aside from the ability to take higher quality selfies, there’s little to separate the N1 mini from its competitors. Users still have to make do with the Jelly Bean version of Android rather than the newer KitKat, and the Gestures shortcuts, like on the Find 7, still feels a bit unnecessary.

Perhaps more importantly, there’s no MicroSD slot, meaning you’ll have to make do with 16GB of internal memory.

Priced at Dh1,639, the N1 mini represents pretty solid value for money. However, it faces stiff competition from similar priced devices such as the Ascend P7 and the Nokia Lumia 830. If you really need a phone with a swivelling camera, the N1 mini is for you. Otherwise there’s little to recommend it over its competitors.


Why has Oppo put a rotating camera on its phone?

In addition to the ability to take high-quality selfies, it makes sense for two reasons. Firstly, it means that it has to put only one camera on the phone, thereby saving a bit of money.

Secondly, in the increasingly competitive mid-tier market, Oppo has to come up with something that catches people’s eye to make the phone stand out.

Really? What other catchy features have been tried?

For example, if you want to use your phone in the pool, there is Sony’s Xperia Z3 range. And if you’ve always felt the need for a second screen, there’s the YotaPhone.

Fair enough. Back to the rotating camera. How do the selfies look?

I’m very happy with the selfies I took. I wanted to include one or two here, but the photo editor thought people might get freaked out.

Moving on then. How does the device feel in the hand?

Fine, if a bit plasticky. The main body comes in a choice of white and blue, with a gold wire trim around the sides. There’s a Sim tray on the right side and you can’t remove the back of the phone. At 9.2mm and 150g it’s not the thinnest or lightest device around, but this is hardly an issue for any device from the past three years.


Follow The National's Business section on Twitter