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OPPO F21 Pro 5G review: leaves room for improvment

These days there’s a trend among smartphone makers to launch 4G and 5G variants of the same phone. Realme did it with its Realme 9 5G and Realme 9 4G devices and OPPO is following suite with its F21 Pro and F21 Pro 5G. The latest offerings from the brand have been a hot debate lately.

Also read: Realme GT 2 Pro review: the real flagship killer?

The standard 4G variant has been priced at Rs 22,999, whereas the 5G model is priced at Rs 26,999. For the price, OPPO has cut a lot of corners in the 5G variant, which has made it subject to scrutiny. I have been using the OPPO F21 Pro 5G for a couple of weeks and here are my thoughts about the latest mid-range 5G offering from OPPO.

OPPO F21 Pro 5G complete specifications

Specifications OPPO F21 Pro 5G
Display 6.43-inch FHD+ AMOLED display
Processor Snapdragon 695
RAM 8GB
Storage 128GB
OS ColorOS 12 based on Android 11
Rear cameras 64MP + 2MP + 2MP
Front Camera 16MP
Battery 4,500mAh
Fast charging 33W fast charging
Dimensions 159.9 x 73.2 x 7.5mm
Weight 173g
Price Rs 26,999

Design and display

  • 159.9 x 73.2 x 7.5mm, 173g
  • 6.43-inch FHD+ display, AMOLED, 600nits peak brightness, 8-bit colour, Netflix/Prime Video HD certified, 93% DCI-P3

OPPO offers the F21 Pro 5G in Rainbow Spectrum and Cosmic Black colour options. The Chinese smartphone maker calls the design as OPPO Glow design, which has a matte finish with a subtle sparkle. I received the Rainbow Spectrum colour variant and the iridescent effect reflects multiple colours depending on how the light hits it.

At 7.5 mm, the F21 Pro 5G is one of the slimmest F-series offerings. Moreover, the smartphone is crafted from polycarbonate and thus weighs only 173g. That lightweight build seems to come at the cost of a premium hand feel. It comes with an iPhone-esque flat profile, one that tends to dig in your palms. I will come clean here and admit that I prefer the orange Fiberglass Leather finish along with the contrasting black camera module on the standard F21 Pro 4G to this.

Speaking of the camera module, there’s a highlighted rectangular area (which doesn’t jut out itself) housing two large sensors with a tiny third camera and LED flash on either side. Having said that, the LED rings around the large camera sensors, called ‘Dual Orbit Lights’, look incredibly soothing. These lights blink in electric blue, light blue, cyan blue, or baby blue depending on various scenarios. The blinking lights have a calming effect and add a whole new dimension to the way this phone looks.

Coming to other elements, the smartphone features a speaker grille, Type-C port, and a 3.5mm audio jack (despite being 7.5mm thin) on the bottom. The top edge is bare except for a single noise-cancelling mic. The power button is located on the right, whereas the volume keys along with the dual nano SIM tray are on the left.  The phone comes with an in-display optical fingerprint scanner, which works well enough. The smartphone comes with an IPX4 rating for protection against water splashes.

Flip the smartphone over, and you will find the 6.43-inch FHD+ display with an AMOLED panel. OPPO has made a conscious decision to offer the F21 Pro 5G without a high refresh rate screen for some reason, which is surprising considering even phones half the price now come with at least a 90Hz panel. Moreover, the peak brightness is capped at 600nits and you might face a little trouble when out and about. Having said that, the AMOLED panel is vibrant and sharp enough to make up for an enjoyable experience.

OPPO has claimed that the panel is Netflix and Prime Video HD certified on its official website. This might lead you to believe that the display supports HDR streaming but that’s not the case. The phone comes with a Widevine L1 certificate, which means it can stream high-resolution full HD content on OTT platforms but not HDR-compliant content. The same is confirmed by the Netflix app. Having said that, I watched Sakshi Tanwar’s latest Netflix series Mai with its equal parts dark/gritty and bright/vivid scenes on the F21 Pro 5G, and the display could render most details really well.

Cameras

  • Rear: 64-megapixel primary + 2-megapixel mono + 2-megapixel macro
  • Front: 16-megapixel sensor

The OPPO F21 Pro 5G comes with a triple camera setup on the back. The primary camera is housed in the large camera perforation on the top and the 2-megapixel monochrome lens is inside the second large cutout. The third 2-megapixel lens is a smaller cutout on the side. OPPO claims that the macro camera can go as close as 4cm to the object, which is a standard distance for these run-of-the-mill macro lenses that you can find on budget smartphones as well. On the front, OPPO has equipped the phone with a 16-megapixel lens, which is surprising because the 4G model comes with a 32-megapixel unit.

The camera interface is a typical ColorOS affair. You will find the flash, HDR, AI, live filter, and settings toggle on the top. At the bottom, there’s the gallery preview, large shutter button, and selfie camera toggle. The viewfinder has various modes like night, video, photo, portrait, and more. The more option is housing other modes like dual-view video, slo-mo, time-lapse, expert, extra HD, Pano, Text Scanner, Macro, and Sticker.

The 64-megapixel primary camera clicks good images in daylight with a good amount of details but tends to crush details in shadows and overexposes the sky at times. There’s an extra HD mode that can capture 108-megapixel images with a good amount of details but also a lot of grain as well. The camera supports up to 6X digital zoom, which doesn’t do that good a job.

Coming to the dedicated sensors, the monochrome lens does its job well while the macro lens is finicky. Due to lack of stabilisation, it’s often a hit or miss if you have unstable hands. The night shots are mediocre with lots of noise but turn on the dedicated night mode and the noise levels are reduced to a great extent with a slight exposure bump as you can see in the slider above.

As for selfies, the 16-megapixel camera clicks good pictures with natural skin tone and impressive details. However, I would recommend turning off the beautification mode to get natural-looking selfies. One of the pain points of OPPO F21 Pro 5G is that it can’t record 4K videos due to processor restrictions.

Performance, software, and battery

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 695
  • 8GB + 128GB
  • Android 11 with ColorOS 12
  • 4,500mAh battery, 33W Supervooc charging

The OPPO F21 Pro 5G is powered by the Snapdragon 695 chipset, which is also found in devices like POCO X4 Pro (review) and iQOO Z6 5G, with the latter being almost half the price. OPPO is offering the smartphone in a single variant with 8GB of RAM and support for up to 5GB RAM expansion. There’s 128GB storage onboard but no expandable storage support. The dual nano-SIM tray supports 5G on both slots with up to six 5G bands supported.

During my stint with the smartphone, it multitasked and performed commendably in day-to-day usage. The OPPO F21 Pro 5G is a good device for those who are limited to social media, web browsing, and streaming. As for gaming, the phone was able to run COD: Mobile and BGMI at medium to high graphics settings with ease. The phone doesn’t heat up much even with continuous gaming, which is a bonus.

Coming to the software, the OPPO F21 Pro 5G boots ColorOS 12 based on Android 11. I would have preferred Android 12 at this point in 2022, specially when the F21 Pro 4G comes with ColorOS 12.1 based on Android 12. The interface resembles stock Android OS but is loaded with OPPO’s stock as well as third-party bloatware. While you can uninstall the latter, the former cannot be disabled as well. Having said that, the OS is loaded with features like Oomoji, air gestures, floating windows, simple mode, and split-screen among others.

Powering the OPPO F21 Pro 5G is a 4,500mAh battery with support for 33W Supervooc fast charging technology. With my usage mentioned in the review above, I was able to see through an entire day on a single charge. The 33W charged provided in the box takes around an hour to fully charge the battery.

Bottomline

At Rs 26,999, I personally find it hard to recommend F21 Pro 5G to anyone considering there are better smartphones at the same price and similar phones at half the price. However, if you prefer slim and sleek devices with a design that will turn heads, the OPPO F21 Pro 5G is a good choice. You get decent performance, a good battery, and a decent display.

That being said, we cannot ignore the competition at this price point. We have OPPO’s own Reno 7 5G for Rs 28,999. For a couple of thousand bucks extra, you will get a more powerful Dimensity 900 SoC,  65W fast charging, 32MP selfie camera, 90Hz AMOLED display, and more. Then we have the Xiaomi 11i HyperCharge 5G that also starts at Rs 26,999 but offers a bigger 6.67-inch 120Hz AMOLED screen, Dimensity 920 SoC, 120W fast charging, 108MP main camera, and more.

While there are better options available, for someone seeking a stylish 5G smartphone with a very slim chassis, OPPO F21 Pro 5G is a good option.

Pricebaba rating: 6 / 10

What works

  • Stylish design
  • Good battery backup
  • Dual Orbit Lights
  • Decent performance

What doesn’t

  • Average cameras
  • Dated Android 11
  • Bloatware in ColorOS
  • No 4K recording
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Abhiman Biswas

Abhiman has over 8 years of experience in content development. He is a Senior Writer and Social Media Manager at Pricebaba. He covers technology news, feature articles, and tech reviews, apart from managing the official Facebook and Instagram handles. Despite a degree in marketing, his love for latest gadgets and technology steered him towards consumer technology coverage.