Oppo R819 hands-on (video)

Oppo smartphones may have a good reach in China, but it's a name that most people in the Western Hemisphere haven't heard of. As many other OEMs from the area, the manufacturer is hoping to reverse that trend, and its strategy is to first appeal to the most hardcore of enthusiasts with its latest device, the R819; is it any wonder, by the way, why Oppo would choose today of all days to launch it? This isn't the product's first rodeo, actually, because it's already available as the TD-SCDMA-friendly R819T on China Mobile, but now it's ready to reach other markets throughout the world. While it doesn't appear poised to replace the flagship Find 5 (still available at online retailers for roughly $500), the R819 should make for a solid handset in the mid-range tier.

The reason we mentioned that Oppo plans to win the hearts of Android enthusiasts is because the company's mantra is to let you, the user, do whatever you want to the phone. While the R819 will come with an already existing version of Color ROM out of the box, Oppo promises to have vanilla Android 4.2 available on its site, where all you need to do is download the ROM on your computer, sideload it onto the phone, install in the recovery and reboot the device. A new version of Color ROM should be ready for update in November, and reps tell us that the phone will be upgradeable to Android 4.3 sometime soon.

So what did we think of the R819? Check out our gallery and video below, followed by a few more thoughts.

Oppo is still a relatively new player in the industry and has only recently started climbing in market share in China, where its overall sales put the company in the country's top 10. Its available smartphones are few in number, but each one that we've handled so far has left us with a positive impression in terms of the sleekness in design. The R819 continues that trend, as it's plenty thin at 7.3mm (0.29 inch) and one of the lightest phones on the market at 3.88 ounces (110g). When you factor in the soft curves on each side, what you have is a killer combination that makes this 4.7-inch device feel incredibly comfortable. Its frame consists of a white polycarbonate shell and metallic rim around the edge; its lightweight nature makes it feel a little cheap at first, but we're confident that this chassis can handle its fair share of wear and tear.

The unit we played with was technically a pre-production model, as the phone will be available next month, and it came with vanilla Android already loaded, but it was very close to its final version. It comes in a dual micro-SIM setup only, and boasts a 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A7 MediaTek MT6589, which uses a 28nm process. The SoC features a PowerVR SGX544 GPU and you'll get 1GB RAM to help things along. Rounding out the specs, the R819 offers a 4.7-inch 720p IPS display, a 2,000mAh non-removable battery, Dirac HD sound tech enhancement (which is also found in the Find 5), Bluetooth 3.0, WiFi b/g/n, aGPS and 16GB internal storage with no microSD support. Unfortunately, the R819 doesn't offer LTE in any frequency, so you'll need to make do with tri-band HSPA+ (850 / 900 / 2100) and quadband GSM / EDGE.

Finally, you'll have an 8MP rear camera and 2MP front-facing shooter at your disposal. Oppo boasts a dedicated ISP that should result in vivid color reproduction, along with anti-halo software that softens and removes the rings around lights in your late-night shots. It'll also feature a five-layer lens coating, also like we've seen on the Find 5, and a claimed 0.6-second shutter speed. (We've added a gallery of sample images above, so feel free to take a preliminary look.) All told, this is feeling like a pretty decent choice for a midrange phone so far, though it appears the biggest sacrifice Android enthusiasts will need to make is in its lack of LTE. Keep an eye out for the R819 on online retailers in September for $349 (269 EUR).