The mid-range smartphone market is not just a very competitive market segment these days but also a very wide segment. Sure, the entry level is competitive but that stops at, what? Maybe $300? So where does that leave the mid-range segment? Somewhere from $300 up to maybe $1100? Anything above that is premium and ultra-premium in my opinion.
Encompassing a range of $800 can at the same time encompass a wide range of smartphone capabilities. In the end it depends on what you can afford and what features you must have in your smartphone. It is for this reason that OPPO has several entries into the mid-range market with two of them just $50 apart — the A54 and the A74. Today we’ll be looking at them with the cheaper of the two — the OPPO A54 5G — coming in at RRP $399 and the A74 5G at $449. So what does just under $450 gets you from OPPO?
Although the two have different model numbers they are virtually the same device housing the same cameras, the same 6.5-inch 1080P display, same battery size, and same connectivity. The difference lies in the charging speeds and the memory with the A54 housing 4GB RAM and 64GB of onboard storage (expandable via microSD if required) while the A74 has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage — more on the charging speed differential later.
Design — they’re beautiful
For a long time OPPO has made some of the best-looking phones on the market and that has not changed this year. The A54 we received is a stunning “Fantastic Purple” which is that colour-type where the colour changes from purple to blue based on the angle that you are viewing it at. The A54 is also available in a Fluid Black colour.
The A74 we received is their Fluid Black colour but rather than just plain black is a graduation from a near black at the bottom of the phone to a bright silver at the top. The A74 is also available in a Space Silver colour.
It follows the design of so many phones with curved sides to fit comfortably in the hand with the fingerprint sensor located on the right hand side of the phone — doubling as the power button. The volume buttons are located directly opposite this on the left hand side of the phone — be careful you don’t press the volume down button at the same time as the power button otherwise you’ll end up with far too many screenshots of nothing in particular.
The rear of the phones house a fairly substantial camera module with four cameras included. Another thing you cannot miss on the rear is the OPPO branding but also their imprinting of the model number, where it was made, a big CE and the rubbish bin-type sign. I struggle to find another manufacturer that includes this stamp on their phones and I’m not sure why OPPO do but they do it with all of their phones. Just the OPPO branding would mean a much cleaner and enjoyable design.
The front of the device has a near-full face display with minimal bezels and single cut out in the top left corner for the 16MP selfie camera.
Camera — better than you would expect
Both phones feature a quad camera module houses a 48MP wide main camera, an 8MP ultrawide camera and two 2MP cameras (macro and depth). With all of thes options you would expect decent images and you would not be disappointed — they are decent but remember these are sub-$450 phones, you are not going to get that ultra-premium Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra quality images.
The normal daylight photos were quite good as you would expect. The colours were actually quite close to the real-life colours which is unusual these days with so many manufacturers over-saturating their photos in post-processing. As you can see above though you do lose some detail at distance — you’d see much sharper detail at distance in a premium phone.
As with many of the cheaper phones, low light images are a tad grainy but given where these cameras were just a few years ago they are light years ahead and certainly acceptable.
With 16MP for the selfie camera you will not be disappointed in the quality of the selfie images it can capture. Be warned though, the default setting for selfie mode is with smooth filter at 30% and even taking that down to 0% will smooth the image. Change it to zero if you want your photo to look remotely like yourself.
Software and performance — no longer intrusive or sluggish
By now everyone has seen us talk about the various software skins that manufacturers implement on top of Android. ColorOS on top of Android 11 from OPPO is still the same. It has improved over the years and like nearly all Android skins we see in Australia these days is fairly unobtrusive and perfectly serviceable for most if not all people.
OPPO have included customisations including those to change the colours of the settings icons, the quick settings toggles (and their shape) and the font and display size. There is lift to wake, double tap to turn screen on, multiple customisable gestures to launch, an assistive ball for quick shortcuts and the smart sidebar.
The user experience is a decent one that’s for sure. There was no slowdowns when using the two smartphones. The only difference in performance between the two smartphones was the A74 kept apps in memory longer due to its 6GB of RAM compared to 4GB in the A54. The displays were pretty damn smooth, operating at 90Hz — in 2021 there is no excuse for a phone above the mid-range operating at just 60Hz but we rarely see it in the lower to mid-range devices. For these two sub-$450 phones to have 90Hz just added to the user experience and value for money.
One issue I did have with ColorOS, and this happens on all OPPO phones I currently have in my possession (4 of them), you are unable to add home controls or Google Pay cards to the power menu. The option to add the home controls is there but it does not work, does not allow you to select the home you want to add — hopefully we can feed that back to OPPO and they can fix it just for us.
The fingerprint sensor warrants a quick mention — it is different for OPPO to locate it on the side of the phone (on the power button) but these are not the first phones with it there. It took a while to remember it was here but after a while of remembering it was there it functioned perfectly every single time. Last time I used a side-mounted fingerprint sensor it kept unlocking the phone when I picked up the device — not when I wanted it unlocked — but these OPPOs have a setting where you can change the light press to a hard press before it is activated and unlocked.
Battery life — lasts a full day with heavy use
Both the A54 and the A74 have really good battery life. Using the devices all day to tether to another phone and a PC, along with streaming an NBA game for a couple of hours there was still quite a bit of battery life left in them at the end of the day. Let’s face it, there are not many devices that will last more than a day or so with heavy use. With light use you could get two days of use out of these — I’m just not a light user. For me a phone with really good battery life will have around 20% left on it at the end of the working day when I get home — these followed that.
You do not want to run out of battery with these during the day either as they do not come with OPPO’s SuperdooperVOOC charging but instead just 10W charging in the A54 and 18W charging in the A74. 18W is still as fast as Google’s Pixel charging and faster than most iPhone charging but not as good as it could be. Adding the SuperVOOC 2.0 charging to this though would have added to the price of the device considerably — no doubt which is why these decisions were made.
As an idea I discharged both of them down to 5% and it took the A54 two hours to get to 87% and the A74 90 minutes. Not ideal at all so charge them overnight or top up during the day before it runs out.
5G — in a device this cheap?
Yes. Both the A54 5G and the A74 5G support 5G — the name kind of gives it away doesn’t it. They are not locked to any network so you can use them on whatever network you choose (that has 5G). Without 5G they will work on every single Australian network around. Now if only 5G covered all of us and every provider.
So would I recommend these phones?
I would, sort of. One of them. Sure they are effectively the same device with a few small differences but are those differences worth more than the $50 difference in price — in my opinion yes. The extra RAM and onboard storage coupled with the much faster charging speed make the $50 extra spend a no brainer for me, and should for most people.
The phones are amazingly priced given the quality of their build, the image quality captured by the camera (better than you’d expect at that price anyway) and the software enhancements make the user experience much better.
The OPPO A54 5G has a RRP of $399 and the A74 5G a RRP of $449 but a quick Google of them will show you prices of $50 less for both phones at most places. At sub-$400 for the A74 5G it is a definite recommendation. The OPPO A54 5G can be purchased from , Optus (Fluid Black), JB Hi-Fi, Woolworths Mobile, Officeworks, Bing Lee ,Harvey Norman (Fluid Black) and The Good Guys while the A74 5G can be purchased from JB Hi-Fi, Bing Lee and Officeworks.