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OPPO A17 review: Beauty above brawn
Hell bent faux leather.
OPPO's A17 looks and feels far better than a budget phone should, but is let down by sluggish performance and a camera that struggles to take sharp photos. The A17 could still be a great buy if you're just looking for a handset that can handle the essentials, but you'll need something beefier if you want more from your phone.
OPPO has a reputation for bringing high-end features to more affordable phones, and it's put a rather interesting twist on that modus operandi with the A17. Rather than pip any particular technical feature from its pricier brethren, the OPPO A17 instead borrows design elements.
Like 2020's flagship OPPO Find X2 Pro, the A17 has a fake leather back. It's not quite the same execution, but it still results in a more interesting aesthetic than the $259 retail price would suggest.
But as they tend to say, looks are just skin deep; is the OPPO A17 more than just a pretty face?
What I like about the OPPO A17
Elevated design. The OPPO A17 feels a lot nicer than a lot of budget phones. You're not going to mistake it for a high-end device - it doesn't have the same kind of heft you get from a more premium aluminium or stainless steel build - but the OPPO A17 is nonetheless a step up the plain old plastic you tend to get on these kinds of handsets. The faux leather doesn't feel that different to the actual leather case I use on my daily driver, and since it's fake, it's not going to wear down.
Excellent battery. The OPPO A17 is one of those phones that just doesn't die. You'll comfortably get up to eight hours of screen time per charge. That's easily two days of light usage, or at least a day and a half of heavy usage. Either way, you'd have to do a lot to kill the OPPO A17 in just a single day.
The price. $259 is almost as cheap as phones get these days. And in some cases, we've already seen the A17 discounted to as low as $234.
Two years of security updates. Budget phones don't always come with promises around software and security updates, so it's nice that OPPO has committed to supporting the A17 with two years of security updates. It doesn't match the three years that budget Nokia phones get, but it's still better than a single year or none at all.
A headphone jack. Yep! The OPPO A17 is one of the rare phones that still has an honest-to-goodness 3.5mm headphone jack. In 2023!
What I dislike about the OPPO A17
Poor performance. It's not fair to expect wonders from a phone in this price bracket, but the OPPO A17 is exceptionally sluggish. Powered by an entry-level chipset from 2020, even simple actions like opening an email in the Gmail app have perceptible lag.
While I experienced a few hitches that entirely locked up the phone for a good 30 seconds, I wouldn't call the OPPO A17 unusable by any means. Just be aware that it's not going to handle anything much more demanding than basic apps like Facebook, Google Maps, and the other usual suspects.
The OPPO A17 definitely isn't the right call if you're interested in mobile gaming. While Vampire Survivors ran smoothly enough, firing up Marvel Snap resulted in a stuttery experience. Installing more demanding games like Diablo Immortal is entirely out of the question.
No USB-C. While the OPPO A17 has a generous battery, it's let down by its micro USB connector. On top of being all but defunct as a standard, micro USB results in long charge times; expect up to three hours to entirely top up the OPPO A17. While this doesn't matter if you normally recharge your phone overnight, it's a sharp contrast to the fast charging tech OPPO often touts across its devices.
No NFC. NFC isn't exactly common in phones in this price bracket, but it's still worth being aware that OPPO A17 doesn't support it. If you were hoping to use the OPPO A17 for tap-and-pay, you're sadly out of luck.
Struggles to take sharp photos. At $259, the OPPO A17's camera is, unsurprisingly, fairly average. While that's par for the course for a budget phone, the A17 struggles in all but the most favourable of lighting conditions. While it can snap a reasonable photo in bright sun outdoors, moving indoors is enough to add camera grain and motion blur. Unless my dog lay perfectly still, I couldn't get a good photo of her, and even photos of my perfectly still dinner weren't overly sharp.
Similarly, the selfie camera also needs a lot of natural light for a good shot. Even moderate backlighting can however make a photo all but unusable, so actually framing up your image can take some work.
Night time photography outdoors or in a dark environment is all but out of the question. Even with night mode on, it takes a lot of work to get an even decent shot.
Is the OPPO A17 worth it?
If you're looking for a phone that just does the essentials, the OPPO A17 does the trick. It won't be the snappiest experience, but it handles core apps well enough, whether they're web, email, social media, chat, maps, or banking. If that matches your needs, the OPPO A17 is a safe buy backed up by a massive battery that ensures you won't have to charge every single night.
On the other hand, anyone who wants more from their phone should elsewhere. Unfortunately, that will likely entail spending more money. To start, there's the $299 Moto G32 which gets you a faster processor, higher resolution screen, NFC, USB-C, and fast charging. If you wanted to stick with OPPO, you could go for the $399 A96, which touts the same improvements.
Alternatively, the upcoming Nokia G22 will sell for $349 when it launches in April, and like the Moto G32 and OPPO A96, benefits from NFC, USB-C, and fast charging. In addition, the Nokia G22 has a longer software support life and is built for DIY repairs. You should be replace the battery in minutes, while a screen swap shouldn't take more than 20.