Thursday, July 25, 2024

Oppo Reno 12 Pro Review: Paying a Premium for GenAI Features

The Oppo Reno 12 series brings with it a rather peculiar feature not typically seen on a mid-range smartphone: generative AI (GenAI). This feature alone gives the Oppo Reno 12 Pro featured in this review an edge over its competition while also offering a sleek, improved design over its predecessor.

However, priced at RM2,599, the Reno 12 Pro continues to offer mediocre value for money, especially when it comes to the level of performance that the phone provides in relation to its cost. Nonetheless, I do enjoy the GenAI features of the phone, and its camera system remains pretty darn good, albeit with some caveats.

What It Is

Display 6.7-inch AMOLED (2412 x 1080), 120Hz
Chipset MediaTek Dimensity 7300-Energy 2.5GHz octa-core
GPU Arm Mali-G615
RAM 12GB
Storage 512GB, expandable
Camera (rear) 50MP f/1.8, OIS
50MP f/2.0 (telephoto), 2x optical zoom
8MP f/2.2 (ultra-wide)
Camera (front) 50MP f/2.0
Battery 5,000mAh with 80W charging
Dimensions 161.5 x 74.8 x 7.45 mm
Weight 181g
OS ColorOS 14.1 based on Android 14
Connectivity LTE
NFC
Bluetooth 5.4
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4/5GHz)
USB Type-C
Price RM2,599

Oppo’s decision to equip the Reno 12 Pro with the Dimensity 7300-Energy is…peculiar, to say the least. While it’s great that it’s built on a 4nm process for improved power efficiency, there are many phones that feature much faster chipsets at this price point. Anyway, I’ll elaborate more on this further down the review.

Other specifications of the Reno 12 Pro do see some upgrades over the Reno 11 Pro though. Not only does it feature a larger 5,000mAh battery now, the 50MP telephoto shooter and 50MP selfie camera also feature a higher megapixel count.

The Good Stuff

I’ve always been quite happy with the camera performance of the Reno series, and I’m glad that this continues with the Reno 12 Pro. While the 8MP ultra-wide and 50MP telephoto cameras still struggle in low light conditions, the 50MP primary shooter can take great-looking shots in all kinds of lighting situations. Judge for yourself with these sample shots:

And then we have the GenAI capabilities of the Reno 12 Pro. Leveraging both on-device and cloud processing, some of the AI-powered features (dubbed Oppo AI) are actually quite fun to experiment with, such as AI Eraser and AI Studio.

As its name suggests, AI Eraser gives users the freedom to erase elements from an image and replace the missing details with generative AI. For the most part, the feature does work quite well, and I’m surprised that the erasure process happens quite quickly too.

Before (left) and after using AI Eraser

But the more interesting AI feature – well, to me anyway – is certainly AI Studio. All I have to do is upload an image of myself (or other people) for the phone to generate up to four different images of a selected style, and the results are actually quite charming.

Granted, it can take quite some time for the AI Studio app to generate these images as they are queued accordingly, though I can just leave the app in the background for the processing to be completed. Do note that credits are required to generate these AI images – 10 credits per attempt – and I got 5,000 credits once I logged into the app with my Oppo account.

Curiously, the exact mechanism to acquire more credits have not been detailed yet, though I was told that there will be activities (such as daily login bonus) in the future that will reward credits. Oh, users won’t be able to buy credits with cash either, which is…a good thing, I suppose.

Beyond its GenAI capabilities, there are several other aspects of the Reno 12 Pro that are quite good. Take the 6.7-inch 2412 x 1080 AMOLED display, which is bright and vibrant with deep, true blacks. I also love the fact that it is no longer a dual curved display, improving the ergonomics of the phone.

Battery life of the Reno 12 Pro is quite good too. Thanks to its larger 5,000mAh battery over its predecessor, there’s tangible improvement in battery life. On average, I can get about six hours of screen on time with some charge to spare at the end of a busy workday. Evidently, the power efficiency of the 4nm Dimensity 7300-Energy shines through.

However, the Dimensity 7300 does struggle in terms of raw performance, which is a good segue to the next section.

The Bad Stuff

Frankly, the performance level of the Reno 12 Pro is not reflective of its price tag. For a device that costs RM2,599, the Dimensity 7300 is simply not a good fit for what is supposed to be a premium mid-range smartphone. Whether I’m gaming, juggling between different apps, or trying to launch the camera with a double click of the volume rocker, it feels like I’m using a phone that should not have been priced beyond the RM2,000 price point – in terms of raw performance, that is.

In other words, my main gripe with the asking price of the Reno 12 Pro is really just the chipset. If it had used, say, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 chipset, it would be more fitting of the phone’s RM2,599 asking price.

I’d also like to touch on the software experience of ColorOS 14.1 on the Reno 12 Pro, which is still not great. There are way too many bloatware out of the box, it doesn’t feel quite as snappy at it should be, and the fact I get marketing push notifications from Oppo’s own App Market app does not exactly make for a pleasant user experience.

Is It Worth It?

It comes down to how much you value the GenAI features of the Oppo Reno 12 Pro. Granted, it’s a unique feature for a mid-range phone, but you’re essentially paying a premium for it, given that the other hardware of the phone (read: the chipset) don’t exactly match its RM2,599 asking price.

For what it’s worth, I do enjoy using the Reno 12 Pro as my daily driver. The GenAI features are entertaining to use, the camera system is quite capable, and the battery life is respectable too. I just wish it had a faster chip and a more user-friendly software experience.