With the budget to buy a premium 5G smartphone, you only have two choices – OPPO Find X3 Pro and Samsung’s Galaxy S21 series – the latter is a good, better, best scenario with S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra 5G.
It’s a long story, but I have been using the Samsung Galaxy S series as my daily drive since the 2015 S5. I guess I subconsciously compare all smartphones to this standard and Samsung’s ease of use.
Before that, I was a deliriously happy Windows Phone/Nokia user. I had a brief and unhappy flirtation with the Apple 6-series as well. The result – I am an Android person.
Long story short, OPPO challenged me to swap daily drives ‘for a month’ from Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G to the OPPO Find X3 Pro 5G. Its logic was to challenge the subconscious comparison (no intentional bias intended) to see any substantive differences between the two premium flagships.
I have both on the testbed. Objectively (is there any other way?), we run through the specs and characteristics to see which offers more. The answer? Well, it is not all about specs, so sorry, you may need to jump to GadgetGuy’s take at the end.
OPPO Find X3 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Methodology: We compare OPPO with Samsung and objectively declare a category winner. In some respects, it may seem to be unfair to compare the $1499 OPPO Find X3 Pro 256GB (website here) to the S21 Ultra 256GB $1949 (website here). We have repeated all significant tests to ensure fairness.
OPPO is the left column in any table. In many instances, we have used only an OPPO or Samsung image to illustrate a point.
Apologies – a blank cell indicates we don’t quite have all the comparative data and if we have made any errors, we don’t think it would materially change the review.
My most significant fear was not using the excellent Samsung Switch software to update from one generation Samsung to the next using Wi-Fi or cable.
But it turns out that there are several options to swap from Samsung to OPPO.
Highly recommended is to use cloud apps like Gmail or Microsoft Outlook for Mail, Contacts and Calendar. As a Windows user, Outlook was a no-brainer. Frankly, I found Samsung productivity app alternatives adequate but not all that compelling. So that covers critical data.
Next, copy all your photos to a PC or flash drive. These can chew up terabytes of data, and it is faster to switch phones without them.
Next is to backup everything to Google Drive – that means all your apps, data, records, and settings. It is easy to restore from there too. BTW no switching software copies passwords or logins, so no matter what you do, you will need to re-enter these unless you subscribe to a password manager like Last Pass – I do! Easy.
OPPO has its Clone Phone app (iOS or Andriod) that displays a QR code to install on the old phone. Once done, OPPO acts as a Wi-Fi hotspot for the old phone –fast. It transfers everything completely, including contacts, messages, call history, photos, videos, audios, files, system application data, installed apps and data.
But there was one minor issue – not OPPO’s fault. Samsung Galaxy apps (and there are plenty) don’t seem to work as well on other phones, so you need to delete these. For example, S-Health was giving weird results.
If I want to switch back, I have Samsung Switch that should handle it with ease.
I like big phones. The Samsung is heavier and thicker, more so with the bumper cover to stop the large camera hump from being scratched. OPPO is ‘svelte’, lighter and has a nice glass back – it’s a shame to put abumper cover on that too.
OPPO has a definite design edge.
Samsung, like Apple, has a trade-in system that perhaps keeps second-hand values higher than they would typically be. Well, OPPO has struck back, offering an even more generous trade-in program and will trade in Apple, Samsung and Google phones. A Note 20 has a whopping $620 value, Apple XS $595 and Google 5 $470. It is about to announce 2021 trade-in prices.
Winner – it is a draw, but OPPOs trade-in program is increasing second-hand resale value with its 2020 Find X2 Pro still selling for around $900 on GumTree (watch out for the phone scam here).
Interestingly OPPO has a Samsung S6E3HC3 LPTO OLED display that we will likely see in the iPhone 13 and perhaps the Samsung S22 Ultra.
OPPO’s 10-bit, 1.07 billion colour screen (which carries over to its Full-Path Colour Management System photographic processing) is vastly superior to the Samsung 8-bit. In day-to-day use on auto-brightness, auto-refresh and at the same resolution, the OPPO has purer whites and accurate colours.
Samsung’s 16.7m screen is very good and supports an S Pen if that is your need.
Winner: OPPO screen quality by a long way
The OPPO SD888 is a better all-rounder. Its two-lane HS-Gear4 storage gives twice the sequential write speeds, so it is excellent for direct video recording to an external SSD drive. OPPO Game space is impressive.
Winner: OPPO and SD888
The OPPO has stronger Wi-Fi signal strength but otherwise – draw.
All tests are with a Boost 4G service on the Telstra network.
Both phones support low-band 5G and sub-6Ghz. The OPPO has a far higher signal strength and finds neighbouring towers, so it is the clear winner.
Both are one-day phones, but OPPOs SuperVOOC 2.0 and AirVOOC way outperform Samsung. A full charge in 35 minutes versus 75 minutes and AIR VOOC charge in 60 minutes versus 4 hours. OPPO is the winner.
Winner – OPPO has better BT CODEC support and far better left/right sound stage.
OPPO has a bright vocal signature which is fine for vocals and a clear voice. It has Dolby Atmos decoding, but the pre-sets are new to me. It has environmental – indoor, on-the-go, commute and flight. And it has scenario-specific – smart, movie, gaming, and music. They don’t appear to make a significant difference unless using headphones.
Samsung – you would expect the best, and at 70% volume, it presents a rich, full sound. But we measure at 100% where three things become apparent. First, the recessed mid/upper treble means that it affects ‘location’ – where the sound comes from in the relatively narrow sound stage. Next, mid-bass is there, but it suddenly dips at 100hz, almost obliterating high-bass – you need this more than mid-bass to add some gravitas. Finally, the frequency response is relatively flat from 200Hz to 10khz then builds to upper-mid and lower treble.
It is essentially a mid-signature which is excellent for clear voice but not so great for most music. You can read more about sound signatures here.
Winer: OPPO by an ear.
* We have to quote OPPO
The back panel of the OPPO Find X3 Pro is a single piece of glass (GG5). It has more than 2000 control points to complete the shape, precisely controlling the ultimate balance between the glass’s rigidity and the curved surface’s softness. The ‘Ring Mountain’ image mirror set uses a hot forging glass process rarely seen in industrial mass production. It presents a 3D curved front and back transition and creating a rounded feel. It is a technological breakthrough in industrial design.
The first thing you notice about the OPPO is that it is far lighter and thinner despite a similar screen size to the Samsung. I love big phones, but I really appreciate that svelte size in my pocket.
The second thing is the inclusion of the charger, bumper cover and buds.
Winner – OPPO as it feels better in the hand
The real issue here comes down to how user-friendly is OPPOs ColorOS to Samsung One UI. To me, UI is like a pair of comfortable slippers. It paves over the raw cracks of Android and works seamlessly.
But ColorOS has come a very long way, and it seems to be equal. The fundamental difference here is OPPO’s AI versus Samsung’s AI, and there is not much between them.
After four weeks, there is nothing between them. Everything I need to do is there, in almost the same place. There is only one minor criticism of ColourOS – when I hit ‘clear all’, it clears all but the current app – Samsung wipes the lot. Nitpicking!
With Samsung and OPPO offering similar upgrade paths, the winner is a draw.
The cameras are where there is the most significant difference. Yet, in practice, both are equally strong. Samsung has 100X Super Zoom (that is hopeless – review here for all photos) versus OPPO 60X digital Zoom (ditto review here for all photos ).
OPPO goes with dual 50MP (wide and super-wide – both bin to 12.5MP), a 13MP Telephoto and a 3MP 60X Microscope. Selfie is 32MP (bins to 8.1MP)
Samsung goes with a 108MP wide (bins to 12MP), 12MP super-wide, 10MP telephoto and periscope 10MP. In addition is has a LiDAR depth sensor. Selfie is 45MP that bins to 6.5MP or 10MP wide.
DXOMark gives the OPPO 131 points that is far ahead of Samsung at 121 points. The Benchmark is the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, and it scores 130 points. According to DXOMark scores, OPPO is the highest performing Google Android camera in Australia at present.
But here is the conundrum – both produce equally excellent shots. Here are some comparison photos, and if I had to pick a winner for everyday consumer photography, the OPPO is ahead. One difference – Samsung recognises QR codes, but OPPO uses Google Lens – it is one more step, but the results are more consistent.
OPPO Find X3 Pro (L) and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (R)
We are now at the end of the specification comparisons, and frankly, I did not know the outcome until this stage.
Humans all suffer from cogitative dissonance. We tell ourselves that what we bought is the best for us. It is like the old Holden versus Ford argument. Guilty – I felt that way about Samsung (and perhaps still do). For OPPO to so convincingly be ahead in most categories astounded me. I mean, I know it is good, but could it be my daily drive? Well, now I am like a dog with two bones!
Let me say that either is excellent. I knew OPPO Find X3 Pro would eat the S21 and S21+ lunches but the Ultra? No way! Yet the plucky OPPO Find X3 Pro meets or exceeds the heavyweight S21 Ultra.
Because there is so little between them, prestige flagship buyers should consider both. I suspect that when you get the lighter, svelte OPPO Find X3 Pro in your hands, you will fall in love and live happily ever after. And that, to a died in the wool Samsung man, is surprising.