In case you missed our recent Oppo F3 Plus review, the phablet left us with mostly positive feelings. Looking at the bigger picture, a good deal of Oppo's marketing has always had a camera-centric angle and the "Selfie Expert" is more than just a catchy phrase. That story goes all the way back to the rotating cameras in the Oppo N-series.
That being said, we counted on the 5.5-inch Oppo F3 to make an equally good impression and really drive the company's efforts home. Now, home is the keyword here. It's clear that the regular F3 is not as good as the Plus version - but it's more affordable and the dual selfie cam setup is intact. Oppo hopes that should be enough to make the phone a success in the intended markets of Southeast Asia.
Currently priced at around $300 and strategically positioned to undercut competitors like the Vivo V5 Plus, the Oppo F3 had to give up the Snapdragon chipset, VOOC fast charge and the 16MP main camera with 4K video of the Plus version. These are some serious downgrades but at the end of the day, they do save you some $150.
Oppo has taken the F lineup quite far really. The original Oppo F1 came as a compact budget option, followed by the much more ambitious F1 Plus that scored big time at the domestic box office, despite costing $450. That's about the current price of the F3 Plus by the way, clearly an upper-tier entry, whereas the regular F3 is a midrange device. And one that sacrifices a lot to deliver the company's new dual selfie setup in a cheaper package. The price gap between the pair is sizeable at around $150.
The company's R series manages to fill that gap nicely and arguably offers even more bang for your buck, be it without the fancy camera tricks. There is the R9s, which costs about as much as the F3 Plus, while potentially offering a more universally appealing feature set. For one, there is an AMOLED panel adorning the otherwise similar body. You get the same 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, alongside an excellent 16MP main camera. And to top it all off, there's a highly power-efficient 14nm Snapdragon 625 capable of 4K video recording.
A different take on the dual selfie camera, the vivo V5 Plus brings selective focus (and autofocus in general), with no wide-angle selfies though. It comes with a similar 5.5-inch, FullHD, IPS panel, but employs a Snapdragon 625 chipset. In our books, that pretty much justifies the $50 premium over the Oppo F3.
If selfies is what matters, but you don't necessarily want two front cameras, you can also consider the Sony Xperia XA Ultra. Its 16MP, f/2.0, 1/2.6", OIS front camera, complete with autofocus and an LED flash can really do it for you. The newer XA1 Ultra offers an even better overall hardware package, but that is also reflected in the price tag - a good $120 more, or so over the F3.
Oppo and Vivo are far from the only players in Southeast Asia. Looking beyond the selfie-centric choices, there are plenty of value options by Meizu to explore. The MX6 is powered by a MediaTek Helio X20 chipset and currently sells for about as much as the Oppo F3. And you can save a few bucks by opting for the M5 Note.
Since we already went down this road, Xiaomi is a logical next stop. If you can cope with potential support and logistic hurdles, few can match the value of the Redmi Pro or, better yet, the widely popular Redmi Note 4.
As for options that are easier to come by in the western hemisphere, the Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) comes with a 5.5-inch screen of 720p resolution. That's not as sharp, but it has the advantage of Super AMOLED on its side. Just be sure to look for the battery efficient Exynos 7870 model.
Lenovo has the similarly specked P2 on offer. It's well within the $300 mark and brings good value with a Snapdragon 625 chipset and a 5.5-inch, FullHD AMOLED screen. The Huawei Honor 6X, the Nokia 6 and the Lenovo K6 Note are some of the other options worth checking.
All things considered, the Oppo F3 is less likely to inspire than its Plus sibling. But this doesn't mean it's incapable of making a similar if not bigger splash. A good $150 cheaper, it may find it easier to connect to its target audience, in intended markets. No fast charging, a feeble chipset, no 4K video - the Oppo F3 simply does not deliver above its pay grade. You will find options that do if you look hard enough. And if you go for the Oppo F3 you'll get exactly what it says on the box. A selfie expert, not a Jack of all trades.