Oppo A78 two-minute review
The Oppo A78 doesn’t exactly make a glowing first impression – take it out of the box, tap its back, flick through its menus and you’ll find what seems to be your generic budget phone. But use the phone for a while and you’ll find that it’s surprisingly impressive for its price.
At £219 / AU$359 (roughly $280), this sits comfortably in the ‘cheap phone’ category, a smartphone sector that’s as competitive as it is devoid of brand-new ideas. And the Oppo doesn’t win its commendations by trying something novel and whacky, but by being solid with a few areas that reach above its position…
… and two areas that fail dramatically. More on those later.
The Oppo A78 is one of Oppo’s budget A-series mobiles, which sits below the mid-range Reno and top-end Find X families of premium devices. The A-series has often suffered from a lack of love compared to the Reno and Find lines. But like a forgotten third child, A-series phones can often surprise you; that’s the case here.
While the A78 has a few traits that immediately give away its budget status, like the flat-edge design and tear-drop notch that breaks up the screen, it feels a lot more premium than many rivals. There’s no cheap, tacky plastic casing, instead, you'll find a shiny textured rear and a fingerprint scanner that’s one of the best around.
This Oppo A78 is surprisingly great at gaming too/ Despite having a low-end chipset and only 4GB RAM, in testing there were rarely stutters or issues playing top-end titles. If you’re a gamer on a budget, this mobile is well worth considering.
The stereo speakers here are genuinely impressive too, as they sound more balanced than you usually hear on a cheap smartphone. It was genuinely a treat playing games or watching shows on the Oppo, which is something it’s pretty hard to say about lots of its rivals.
But let’s put a pin in the compliments – you were promised criticisms too. Firstly, there’s the pre-installed app situation (that’s bloatware, to give it its less complimentary name). These are sadly commonplace in budget phones, but the A78 had a ludicrous number of them – including 18 different games.
The phone’s camera is pretty pathetic too, with the camera test snaps looking so much more pixelly and duller than they should; seriously, they're the closest thing cameras can create to impressionist paintings. Skip straight down to the ‘Camera samples’ section if you want to have nightmares tonight.
So it’s easy to recommend the Oppo A78 as a great budget phone if you’re not a big photographer, and if you’re happy spending some time deleting a load of random apps that come on the phone or automatically install themselves.
While “you’ll like it if you ignore some of it” may seem like a very loaded compliment, it’s generally the case for all budget and mid-range phones, and more so than for many of its rivals, the Oppo genuinely does shine for most use cases.
Oppo A78 review: price and availability
Unveiled in early 2023
Hard to find in UK, not on sale in US
Costs £219 / AU$359 (around $280)
The Oppo A78 was unveiled at the beginning of 2023, though you may find it hard to track down in the UK, as not many retailers appear to stock it.
The handset costs £219 in the UK and $359 in Australia, where it’s a lot easier to buy. That roughly converts to $280 in the US, however, Oppo doesn’t offer its mobiles in the country.
You could have guessed that price from the name, though, as Oppo’s A-series is its budget family of mobiles, with the A78 one of the first of the AX8 family, replacing the AX7 line.
Some of the phone’s biggest competitors at that price are its own Oppo A siblings as well as Moto’s G53 and G73, the Redmi Note 12 and the Nokia G42, to name a few – all of these are budget mobiles around the same price point that offer relatively comparable specs and experiences.
Value score: 4 / 5
Oppo A78 review: specs
The Oppo A78 roughly matches your typical budget smartphone in its specs:
Oppo A78 review: design
Surprisingly premium feel in hand
Reliable fingerprint scanner
3.5mm headphone jack and USB-C port
The Oppo A78 doesn’t vary much from the standard budget phone design template used for the majority of similar mobiles over the last few years: it’s a ‘chocolate-bar’ style mobile with flat and angular edges.
It’s not a small phone, measuring 163.8 x 75.1 x 8mm, so it might be a stretch to comfortably hold if you have a smaller hand, but weighing 188g it’s not that heavy.
The glossy rear back looks surprisingly premium compared to the cheap feel of the plastic used for many budget phones. TechRadar’s test unit came in black, but depending on your region, you can also get your hands on a vibrant glowing lilac model. This version also has a glossy rear, broken up by a strip to the side that houses the two slim camera bumps, as well as the words ‘innovative AI camera’.
Around the edges of the chassis, you’re getting the standard phone fare: the bottom houses a USB-C port and 3.5mm headphone jack, the left side has a volume rocker, there’s nothing on top and the right edge has the power button with an embedded fingerprint scanner. This sensor was incredibly responsive, a surprise how much of a wild west this kind of tech can be in phones.
Another important thing to raise is the IP54 rating of the phone, which means the Oppo is protected from splashes of water or dust, but won’t survive immersion in liquid or blasts of many fine particles.
Design score: 4 / 5
Oppo A78 review: display
Low max brightness
HD resolution and 90Hz don't match some competitors
Big 6.56-inch size
Touting a 6.56-inch LCD screen, the Oppo A78’s display could easily be called ‘big’, even if there are larger screens in use for top-end and even some budget phones. Still, the size is useful for gaming or streaming.
It’s an HD+ screen, with a resolution of 720 x 1612; some rival handsets at this price do boast FHD+ displays. You can also find 120Hz refresh rates on some same-priced mobiles, though the 90Hz here does trump many other rivals – and won’t matter to people who don’t notice the smoother motions that higher refresh rate displays provide.
If you’re not accustomed to other screens on modern phones, then you certainly won’t mind the Oppo A78’s display – it’s big and bold (though not quite as bright as you’d want, capping at 600 nits).
Display score: 3 / 5
Oppo A78 review: software
Older Android 12 build
ColorOS has a colorful design but few features
The phone has staggering bloatware issues
The Oppo A78 doesn’t come with the newest version of Android, something that may irk software aficionados but that doesn’t have much of a functional impact on the phone. It comes with Android 12, which has been replaced by Android 13 these days.
Laid over the top of this is Oppo’s ColorOS, a largely aesthetically inclined fork that replaces stock Android with a colorful and punchy user interface. There aren’t that many unique features here, but the swipe-down quick settings menu is more attractive than most.
The phone has a truly jaw-dropping number of pre-installed apps, though, more so than other budget phones. As well as useful first-party apps there are a number of third-party ones that you might choose to delete like Netflix, Spotify, TikTok, LinkedIn and Facebook, but the egregious issue is the sheer number of games that come on the phone by default.
These include big-name ones like Candy Crush Saga and Lords Mobile but plenty more dodgy-looking small ones too – in the above image, you can count 18 that either came on the phone by default or are automatically downloaded without a user clicking 'install' in the app store. Not a good look by any means, unless you like feeling alienated from your own mobile.
Software score: 2 / 5
Oppo A78 review: cameras
50MP main and 2MP depth-sensing camera
Photos are grainy and lack dynamic range
The 8MP selfie camera performs better
Is it a budget Android phone if it doesn’t have a 50MP camera? Oppo has opted to use the same type of camera that the vast majority of the A78’s competitors also boast. But that’s far from a bad thing, as the 50MP camera phone revolution has brought benefits to the photography of low-cost mobiles.
Somehow, though, the A78 takes worse pictures than basically any other phone using this kind of main sensor. Snaps looked grainy and fuzzy, as though the whole world was made of Lego. Plus there's poor dynamic range and a deficit of sharpness. This wasn’t even a resolution issue, with pictures defaulting to 12.5MP thanks to pixel binning – though at a glance you’d think snaps were 1.25MP.
Of course, you can’t expect premium-tier photography from a budget device, but the Oppo A78 really couldn’t be further from the likes of the Oppo Find X6, and isn’t recommendable to people who use phone cameras much. Let’s not even talk about AI optimization, oftentimes the saving grace of budget phones, because the A78’s designers seemingly didn’t either.
The phone offers the ability to capture 108MP snaps in its Extra HD mode – while the usefulness of this is deeply questionable, given the aforementioned resolution issues it worked as intended during testing, capturing high-res snaps that you could zoom far into. For some users, this may compensate for the lack of a dedicated zoom camera, letting you get closer to a picture without losing quality as standard digital zoom does.
Joining the main camera is a 2MP depth sensor for portrait photography, which presumably brings some benefits for artificial bokeh blur. But isn’t as useful for photo fans as, say, an ultrawide, telephoto or macro camera would be.
The phone has an 8MP camera at the front. Selfies weren’t especially detailed or sharp, though thanks to the AI processing (which makes a belated appearance!) they’re punchy and vibrant. Portrait mode though provided some pretty questionable bokeh, with a tendency to blur too much of the subject’s hair or face. Oppo would have done well to indulge in a better camera here, and as it stands the A78 isn’t ideal for people who want Instagram-worthy snaps.
Some standard photo modes are present on the phone, like Night or Panorama, and Night does give you a bit more detail for low-light shots, with most other modes performing exactly how you expect. There’s no macro mode, with Oppo dropping it with no macro or ultra-wide lens to use it with, but there is a Pro mode.
Video recording maxes out at 1080p on both the front and rear cameras (not simultaneously). And while there are time-lapse and slow-mo modes, they offer little control over resolution and frame rate.
Oppo A78 camera samples
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Camera score: 2 / 5
Oppo A78: performance and audio
Dimensity 700 is relatively powerful
128GB expandable storage plus 4GB RAM
Fairly balanced stereo speakers, plus 3.5mm and Bluetooth 5.3
Now from the Oppo A78’s surprising weakness to its surprising strength: the phone is a wolf in sheep’s clothing when it comes to performance.
The phone packs a MediaTek Dimensity 700 chipset, a piece of hardware that has a proven history of transforming cheap phones into worthy processing champs (well, compared to same-priced rivals, don’t expect iPhone power here).
In gaming tests, the Oppo performed much better than its same-priced contemporaries – it rarely stuttered in Call of Duty Mobile and powered through PUBG Mobile without any issues. Through an overabundance of caution the random pre-installed apps weren’t included in testing, but sticking to big-name titles, the A78 is thoroughly impressive.
The handset comes with 128GB storage, though there’s a microSD slot that lets you bump that figure up if you need more space. The RAM is at 4GB, a fairly low amount for a modern phone. Clearly, it didn’t matter much given the performance. RAM expansion, which temporarily uses the phone’s storage space as RAM, helps a lot too.
In terms of audio, the Oppo A78 has stereo speakers – but unlike many budget phones, which have a powerful down-facing but pathetic top-mounted output, these are two fairly equal speakers. This makes gaming and watching streaming services a much more enjoyable experience than on some rivals.
There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack for people who like wired headphones or aux cords, and Bluetooth 5.3 for those living the wire-free life. This latter is actually a fairly new standard, and many of the A78’s same-priced and even pricier rivals still use 5.1 – the benefit of 5.3 comes in the form of energy saving, better encryption and increased switching between low- and heavy-duty cycles.
Performance score: 3.5 / 5
Oppo A78 review: battery life
Reliable day-long battery power
Nice big 5,000mAh power pack
33W charging powers to full in over an hour
Like 50MP cameras, 5,000mAh batteries are arguably synonymous with the budget smartphone in this day and age, and the Oppo A78 isn’t shaking anything up here. It packs this same heavy-duty power packet, and it performs just as expected.
That means that the phone will sail through a day of use easily, without needing to be charged mid-way through. Intensive tasks like gaming binges or photography sessions will tax it (though heaven knows why you’d want to do much of the latter), but in testing, it always managed to last through a day.
Don’t expect a two-day battery life though, unless you’re very economical with your use – just a reliable one-day battery life.
Charging is done at 33W, which is a little slow given that 67W and higher are becoming used in low-cost mobiles. That means you’ll have to be charging for over an hour to get from an empty tank to a full one, though Oppo states that you can get to half-charge in half an hour.
Battery score: 3.5 / 5
Should you buy the Oppo A78?
Buy it if...
You're a mobile gamer on a budget
There are very few mobiles at this price point that are fun to game on, but the Oppo's big screen, decent speakers and processing power are a match made in heaven.
You like side-mounted fingerprint scanners
Different phone fans prefer their fingerprint scanners in different places, but if you like the phone's edge to house its sensor, then you'll love the A78, as it was really responsive.
You're not fussed about software
Some phone fans really care about having the newest Android build, but the A78 doesn't and likely won't see an update any time soon. This is one for those who don't even know what OS their current phone has.
Don't buy it if...
You're a photography fan
Unless you want to take photos that look like Minecraft screenshots, avoid the A78's camera.
You want a working phone out of the box
Given its huge number of bloatware apps, you'll need to spend time deleting these additions, which isn't great given how clean some rivals are.
You have small hands
With a big screen and bigger body, the Oppo A78 won't feel great for people with smaller hands, as you'll need to stretch to reach the screen or fingerprint scanner.
Oppo A78 review: Also consider
There are plenty of fantastic budget Android phones out there. If you want to see what the Oppo A78 is bumping up against, here are a selection of its close rivals:
Xiaomi Redmi Note 12
Costing the same as the Oppo, this Redmi phone has a much better display and cameras that aren't horrible, but has a weaker chipset and a bigger body.
This Nokia is a touch cheaper than the A78, and it has very similar specs in the display, battery and camera departments. The lower cost gets a weaker chip and slower charging.
How I tested the Oppo A78
Review test period = 2 week
Testing included = Everyday usage, including web browsing, social media, photography, video calling, gaming, streaming video, music playback
Tools used = Geekbench 5, Geekbench 6, Geekbench ML, GFXBench, native Android stats
The model of Oppo A78 I tested was the black one, in its sole configuration of 4GB RAM and 128GB storage, though I spent the majority of the test period using RAM boost to get 8GB effective RAM.
After receiving the Oppo A78 I turned it on to let the battery power settle (and to ready up all the apps I wanted), and it was activated for roughly a week when I was simply preparing it. This time isn't included in the aforementioned test period.
Lots of the test period was taken up with the phone simply being used as an everyday handset, for social media, music streaming and Google Maps. And I'm currently deep into Call of Duty Mobile, so that took up a lot of the use time too. Several camera test sessions were conducted, but it was pretty sad to spend time lining up the perfect snap only for it to turn out as a pixel art piece.
I was a writer and editor for TechRadar's phone team for several years so I've got plenty of experience testing mobiles like this, particularly in the budget end of the market – I've used low-cost devices from almost every major brand, and also focused lots of my efforts on Chinese mobiles like those from Oppo. I still review phones for TechRadar, especially budget devices, so have tested some of the Oppo's contemporary rivals.
First reviewed August 2023