Monthly Archives: July 2019

Oppo Reno 10x zoom: Serious smartphone competition

Colour me stupid but it took me a little bit to actually cotton on to where the front facing camera was on Oppo’s new Reno 10 x zoom smartphone ($NZ1299), one of the latest handsets from the Chinese manufacturer.

I’m no fan of selfies but, you know, for the sake of a thorough review,  I had to test of the phone’s forward-facing camera, right? But try as I might I couldn’t see an obvious camera lens in the screen, like other phones. “Where the heck is it?” I thought to myself.

Then I had a light bulb moment: I pressed the on-screen camera rotate button – and voila, the front facing camera glided out of the top edge of the phone, just like magic. Here’s a video showing it in action.

OK, stupidity on my behalf out of the way, Oppo’s Reno 10x zoom is an impressive phone from a manufacturer that isn’t as well known as Samsung or Huawei – but it deserves to be.

The selling point of the 10x zoom is the phone’s three lens set up which features a 48MP Sony camera, a 13MP telephoto lens and a 8MP wide angle lens, which in layman’s terms means it can take pretty damn good photos and you can zoom in on things really far away.

I did find the camera rather good, especially when I used it to zoom in on objects in the distance, but confusingly, the Reno 10x zoom doesn’t actually have a 10x optical zoom as the name suggests: It has a 5x optical zoom backed up by a digital zoom. It’s a little confusing, to be honest, but the end result is a top-notch camera on Oppo’s flagship smartphone.

As an example, the two photos below were taken from exactly the same spot near my Christchurch home as I photographed the city’s hills from the roadside, which were a good 5km away. In the zoomed shot (on the right) you can clearly see a television broadcasting antenna as clear as day. You can zoom in set increments ie 1x, 2x, 6x & 60x but I actually found pictures more blurry at the 60x zoom.

Oh, and remember how I said the front facing camera pops up from the top edge? It means that the 10x zoom doesn’t have a notch like other smartphones to house the front camera so the front of the phone is all screen [I did notice, though, that the pop up camera  did get a little bit of dust on it that I’d have to wipe off].

The 10x zoom sports a 4065mAh battery, Dolby Atmos audio playback, packs 8Gb of memory and has up to 256Mb of storage space. It’s a big phone, too, with a 6.6-inch AMOLED screen and it has a good weight to it. As you’d expect, it features all the bells and whistles you’d expect in a modern smartphone, including a blazingly-fast fingerprint scanner that unlocked almost instantly using my thumb. I found battery life to be really good.

One thing I was especially keen to test out, though, was the phone’s gaming-specific functionality which  Oppo boasts about. The phone comes pre-installed with Oppo’s Game Space software which is said to boost gaming performance by doing things like predicting in-game lag and adjusting in-game frame rates accordingly.

So I put the phone to the test with some of my favourite mobile games: Deus Ex Go, Lara Croft Go, Alto’s Adventure & racing game Asphalt 9: Legends, as well as benchmarking tools 3D Mark and Antutu, which tests 3D gaming performance, memory performance, CPU performance and the user experience using a variety of real-world tests.

It scored a respectable 5673 using the OpenGL API with the Sling Shot Extreme demo [3D Mark actually told me the Reno 10 x zoom was too powerful for the Ice Storm Extreme benchmark so pointed me back to the Sling Shot Extreme demo] and managed 35,2371 in the Antutu benchmark, beating out phones like the Sony Xperia 1, the Samsung Galaxy S10 and the Huawei P30 Pro. Most impressive.

Deus Ex, Lara Croft Go & Alto’s adventure all played well, but then all three are relatively undemanding games. The true test would be with Asphalt 9: Legends, a graphically demanding racing game that boosts console-quality visuals and fast-paced action. Legends looked eye-wateringly beautiful on the Reno’s AMOLED screen and I didn’t not any stutter or lag during my sessions playing it. Clearly, the Reno 10x zoom has the hardware chops to make it a great gaming smartphone [it would be wasted on Candy Crush, though].

Look, I was really impressed with the Oppo Reno 10x zoom. It’s a high-end smartphone that deserves attention from consumers who are eyeing up top-end handsets from the more well-known manufacturers.

Judgment’s Komurocho in selfies

Judgment might have its roots based on Sega’s wonderful Yakuza series (games I’ve been playing since the days of the PlayStation 2 & with the purchase of Yakuza Kiwami 2 last night, my collection is growing even more) and lawyer Takayuki Yamagi might not be as well known as the Dragon of Dojima Kazuma Kiryu , but Ryu Ga Gotaku Studio’s legal thriller is the perfect reason to revist Komurocho.

The game follows Yamagi, a former lawyer turned private detective, as he investigates a serial murder involved a high-profile Yakuza captain.

This isn’t a review of Judgment – I haven’t played it for enough hours yet to justify a review – but I thought I’d document my journey through Kamorucho using Yamagi’s mobile phone, in a series of selfies. That’s the modern way to document life, right?

Enjoy.

Observation review: “I’m sorry, Emma, I’m afraid I can’t do that” [PC]

It wouldn’t surprise me if the team behind sci-fi thriller Observation – were fans of movies Alien, Event Horizon and 2001 A Space Odyssey.

The game opens aboard the international space station Observation which is above Earth’s orbit after suffering a catastrophic event. The ship’s medical officer Dr Emma Fisher eventually manages to reboot the ship’s AI Sam [System Administration Maintenance] but Sam receives a strange transmission telling him to “BRING HER”. Fast forward a bit and after a second event, the Observation finds itself above Saturn, Sam’s core functions compromised and the rest of Observation’s crew missing. Emma tasks Sam with finding out what has happened.

Sam reminded me a lot of HAL 2000, the ship board AI from Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C Clarke’s 2001 A Space Odyssey [a movie from 1968  that most young gamers, sadly, will know nothing about]. In that movie, HAL 9000 is the sentient AI on a spaceship heading to Jupiter [there’s also a mysterious black monolith discovered by apes, but that’s a story for another day]. HAL turns rogue, responsible for uttering the chilling line “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that”.

Controlling Sam, you’re initially tasked by Fisher to assess any damage the ship has suffered, accessing the on board cameras to survey for problems. Sam opens hatches, when requested, provides feedback on ship-wide alerts and can possess remotely controlled drones which give a rather satisfying degree of movement around the ship’s tight confines.

Hints of Event Horizon started to appear for me early in the game when it became clear that all wasn’t as it seemed and Sam started becoming self-aware. When the words “BRING HER” flashed on the screen and a strange floating artifact appeared, I got chills down my spine. For some reason, the Observation itself reminded me a lot of Alien’s Nostromo and while there are no jump scares and it’s not scary, Observation’s atmosphere is tense enough to keep you on your toes.

I started playing Observation with mouse and keyboard but soon realised it would be easier using a controller, especially when it came to some of the puzzles requiring inputting codes using the left stick. The puzzles tend to be either drawing schematic patterns of the Observation’s old-school wiring so Sam can unlock hatches between the four arms of the space station or are inputting “Simple Simon” type patterns to rectify hardware issues such as jammed external clamps or to activate ship-wide protocols.

Despite being set in a futuristic space ship, Observation actually made me go old school, again, and I found myself falling back to my old trusty red notebook, scribbling down patterns and notes and the schematics needed to unlock and lock hatches [hey, my memory isn’t what it used to be]. I took photos of things I considered important. I scribbled down words like “launch codes”, “strange artifact”, “protocol” and “space station”. I sketched weird symbols and patterns that flashed up throughout the game. Observation is one of those games that you may well find yourself jotting down schematics on a piece of paper.

Look, I loved Observation from start to finish, eager to find out what the strange alien artifact was all about and intrigued to see whether Sam would go full HAL 9000 by the game’s conclusion [I actually stayed up till 1am on a school night to finish the game].

I thought the ending was a little too cliched but a twist about the 3/4 mark was a nice touch that turned things on its head for the better. The ending also leaves the door open for a potential sequel. Maybe.

Observation is a great first effort from a new studio. I’m interested to see where developer No Code goes from here with its next game.

Late in the piece while writing this review I learned that some of the members of developer No Code were actually on the team that made The Creative Assembly’s Alien Isolation so, yeah, I guess they are fans of the movie Alien. 

Thanks to Devolver Digital’s Australian distributor for the review code.