Oppo A74 5G Review: Yet Another Mid-Range 5G phone

It's neither the cheapest 5G phone, nor the most feature-rich. So what is it good for?

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5G is the dominating theme this year, especially in the budget and mid-range smartphone segments in India. Never mind the fact that 5G networks themselves are nowhere to be seen, but OEMs don’t care. They want you to have 5G support in your phone nonetheless, and the Oppo A74 5G is just one of them vying for your attention. But it’s neither the cheapest 5G phone, nor the most feature-rich. But what might work in its favour is the Snapdragon 480 SoC inside, which I feel could be the game-changer for the budget segment. Here’s our review.

Build and Design

The Oppo A74 is noticeably thicker and longer than the usual offerings in this segment. But since it neither has a gigantic battery or a human eye-sized image sensor inside, it’s fairly lightweight compared to the likes of the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max, and easy to hold and use. The curved edges doesn’t make the phone dig into the palms during long usage, and the side-mounted fingerprint sensor intuitively positioned right where my finger reached it.

The Fantastic Purple variant that we received isn’t too flashy. It shimmers and changes colours depending on the angle you hold the phone against, and the camera module screams 2021. But bad news for metalheads and glass nerds, this is an all-plastic phone, even the shimmery rear panel is soft plastic, and is likely to get scratched in due course of time. You do get a TPU case out of the box which would eventually turn sepia as all things vintage, do. Thankfully, this doesn’t attract too many fingerprints and stays fresh even while using out in the summer sun. The A74 5G doesn’t try too hard at standing out, but manages to do so with this purple colourway.

Display and Audio

The Oppo A74 5G packs a 90Hz LCD panel measuring 6.5-inches. There’s a thick prominent chin, but otherwise the bezels are minimal, and the high refresh rate makes the UI elements feel smooth upon interaction. The colours don’t pop out like you’d expect from a Xiaomi phone, neither is the screen brightness too high for comfortable outdoor use. In other words, the A74 5G’s display is strictly average.

The Snapdragon 480 does handle the 90Hz mode with adequate smoothness, and the 90Hz refresh rate is retained within the popular apps like Facebook, Instagram, Amazon and the likes. Widevine L1 certification is present, so you do get to enjoy your shows in HD resolution, but lacking support for wide colour gamut, this won’t really challenge the flagship displays. For someone who needs to get the job done, the A74 5G’s display should be more than adequate.

As for the audio output, there’s a single bottom-firing speaker that is just about enough for scrolling through Reels, but you can’t watch a movie or an episode without a headset. The dialogues and softer sounds can’t come through from the speakers as loudly as you’d want in a relatively quiet room. Having said that, the A74 5G retains the 3.5mm headphone jack, so you just plug in an earpiece for your binges.

Camera

We are at that point of smartphone evolution when having a high resolution is not at all a guarantee of good photos. And while there are still phones launching with 48MP cameras, not all 48MP cameras are built the same. The one on the Oppo A74 5G, for example is strictly average. Then there are two 2MP lenses for macro and monochrome shots. At best, the A74 5G does a good job with separating the different shades of green in the frame, but at its worst, the details are completely smudged with just a pinch of zoom. Take a look at a few samples —

In the day, the A74 5G tends to warmify the images a tad too much. A little yellow in the frame, and the entire image has a warm tinge. But on the other hand, the camera seems to have a good stomach for dynamic range.

In lowlight, however, the A74 5G simply gives up. Despite a night mode in the app, the photos are noisy with absolutely no details. In a segment where phones like the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max are literally changing the game in low light, the A74 5G feels horribly old school.

The macro lens isn’t the best. With no auto-focus and a lower resolution, the macro lens takes away the vibrance from images even as it focuses on the details.

The A74 5G can only do 1080p at 30FPS video recording and there too, it lacks any sort of stabilisation, and the results are quite disappointing.

Overall, the A74 5G isn’t the best camera phone in this segment. Lacking an ultrawide and zoom lens, the 48MP camera is pretty much left on its own and while it does manage to good photos under optimal lighting, the overall package can’t hold a candle to the best in this segment.

Performance

The A74 5G seems to be the first smartphone in India with the Snapdragon 480 SoC. It’s Qualcomm’s first 4-series chip with 5G support, and while that doesn’t really do much for you, the performance actually left us quite impressed. As much as I was disappointed in the camera, the Snapdragon 480 more than made up for it. It’s easily the best entry-level chipset Qualcomm has made so far, and made me look at the 4-Series lineup in a whole new light.

The underlying architecture is actually as old as that of the Snapdragon 675, but the new 8nm manufacturing process makes this one quite efficient. There are also a few more improvements that makes the Snapdragon 480 handle the regular tasks like launching the phone app and accessing notifications. I did notice a few stutters, and there’s a slight delay in seeing the change happen on the screen after you have tapped it. But scrolling down the app drawer, settings menu and even within apps like Instagram and Facebook, is super smooth, especially at 90Hz.

While that might sound unimpressive, the chipset delivers smooth UI performance, decent app loading times and just about average gaming performance. Let me elaborate.

For one, the CPU benchmark scores come dangerously close to the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max, and it easily beats the Moto G60 and the new Redmi Note 10S on the Geekbench CPU test. Furthermore, a 30 minute run of the CPU Throttling Test throttled the Snapdragon 480 by just 87%, indicating that this might be perfect for sustained workloads.

Unfortunately, the undisclosed Adreno GPU gets decimated against the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max, Redmi Note 10S and the onslaught of Realme devices powered by the nifty Dimensity chips in this range.

So basis the synthetic benchmarks, it’s easy to recommend the Oppo A74 5G to power users who aren’t much into gaming and photography. Instead, if you find yourself hopping from one office app to another, or have to navigate for long commutes, the A74 5G is actually pretty good.

Battery Life

The A74 5G packs a 5000mAh battery with support for 18W fast charging. It’s kinda disappointing to see Oppo not include support for its super fast VOOC charging. The bundled 18W charger takes a whopping 1 hour 55 minutes to fully charge. In the age when smartphones are topping up to full capacity in under 30 minutes (some of Oppo’s own siblings are offering that), the A74 5G feels horribly slow to charge. But thankfully, the screen-on time was more or less up to the mark. With 90Hz refresh rate engaged at all times, the A74 5G lasted seven hours 30 minutes on our epic battery test.

Based on our tests, the A74 5G can easily last the day with low to moderate usage. The battery drain during a 15 minute run of COD Mobile was around 5% while 30 minutes of video streaming drained 6% charge. These are conservative numbers that adds up to over a day’s usage on a single charge. As a result, if you are in the habit of charging your phone overnight, the slow 18W charging speed won’t really matter all that much.

Software

The A74 5G runs on Oppo’s ColorOS 11 UI, which has by far seen the biggest visual improvement in all of Oppo’s UI history. Oppo brought it closer to the OxygenOS experience but kept its visual identity unique. So you do get a host of customisation options letting you tweak around just about everything, from icons to UI colours to the font. Sadly, being an LCD display, there’s no Always-on panel on this one. Neither does it have the live wallpapers more expensive Oppo phones come preloaded with.

And speaking of preloaded apps, you do get quite a few first-party apps along with a few third-party offerings which can be uninstalled. There’s also spam notifications from the app store and the theme store to pester you, but they can be disabled from the Notifications settings. Overall, the software experience is slick and smooth. ColorOS gives a large number of fiddling options to help you personalise the phone, and the hardware is capable enough to drive a stutter free high refresh rate experience.

Network

As the name suggest, the Oppo A74 is a 5G smartphone. The Snapdragon 480 comes with the Snapdragon X51 5G modem integrated that’s capable of delivering both sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G speeds. Also good news, the A74 supports the n1, n28A,n41,n77 and n78 5G bands which, if you have read our explainer on the recent OnePlus 9 series 5G support debacle, will tell you the A74 5G is capable of leveraging dynamic spectrum sharing for 5G speeds. If you’re unaware, the technology makes use of existing 4G infrastructure to deliver a 5G network, and that’s how India will be experiencing 5G for the first few years in all probability. And the A74 5G’s support of additional 5G bands is important because even flagship phones like the OnePlus 9 Pro will not be able to enjoy the benefits of DSS in India.

Then again, 5G is still far away in the distant future. At present, the A74 5G offered stable network connectivity over a Jio connection in Noida hitting speeds of 10mbps download speeds with 20ms ping. I also didn’t experience any call drops, or notice the network bars disappear altogether. So, network stability wise, the A74 is not only stable at present, it’s actually ahead of most smartphones in 5G.

Should you buy the Oppo A74 5G?

Looking at all aspects of the device, there are only a few use cases where the Oppo A74 5G feels like a viable option. At Rs 17,990 the performance leaves a lot to be desired especially when you have options like the POCO X3 Pro, the Redmi Note 10 Pro and the Realme 8 5G. It does offer decent sustained performance though, so if you are a gig worker who’d have to keep your client app open all the time, while navigating on Google Maps, the A74 5G will be an excellent choice, but anything more than that, including gaming or photography, this will disappoint. It also is better prepared for the future with support for more 5G bands, but that’s not coming to any use at present where this one feels grossly underwhelming, and hence, I’d give this one a skip.

Oppo A74 5G

17990
7.1

Design and Build

5.9/10

Performance

7.1/10

Display Quality

6.7/10

Camera Quality

6.4/10

Software

6.0/10

Battery Performance

8.7/10

Audio Performance

6.8/10

Day-to-Day Usage

8.0/10

Network Performance

9.0/10

Value-for-Money

6.7/10

What Is Good?

  • Reliable Day to Day Performance
  • Lightweight
  • Day Long Battery Life

What Is Bad?

  • Poor Gaming Performance
  • Slow Charging
  • Unreliable Camera

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