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Oppo A74 5G review

Is this the perfect ‘first 5G phone’?

Oppo A74 5G
(Image: © TechRadar)

Our Verdict

The Oppo A74 5G is a solid buy for affordable 5G, but low-light photos disappoint and the camera in general is not a star of this category.

For

  • Has a solid Full HD screen
  • 5G without the jump in cost
  • Has a lot of storage

Against

  • Battery life could be better
  • Poor quality low-light photos
  • Basic chipset

Two-minute review

The Oppo A74 5G is a fairly affordable 5G phone. It is extremely similar to the Oppo A54 5G but has 50% more RAM and double the storage.

This kind of cheaper 5G phone is relatively new, but you now have a whole stack of options if you want 5G and have $300 or £250 to spend.

The Oppo A74 5G is better value than the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G, and a little slicker than the Moto G50. But die-hard bargain hunters may want to consider the Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite instead, as it has a better chipset and a bigger screen.

Don’t rule out the  Oppo A54 5G if you can get by with 64GB of storage either. It’s only around $30/£30 cheaper but that may matter when you’re working to a budget, and the jump from 4GB of RAM to 6GB seems to make a rather subtle difference in most use cases.

We know the alternatives, but how is the Oppo A74 5G to use? A joy, mostly. The camera is responsive, the Snapdragon 480 chipset is better than you might guess considering it is part of Qualcomm’s ‘budget’ line. And while the Moto G50’s battery lasts longer, the Oppo A74 5G does just fine if you plan on charging every day.

It’s a great ‘first 5G phone’, and to get something significantly more interesting at this level you have to ditch 5G and make do with 4G.

There’s nothing ground-breaking going on in its camera array though, and some 4G phones around the price have better screens or much faster chipsets.

We’re still experiencing a 5G growing pain or two, then, but if you care more about 5G than blistering gaming performance, advanced camera chops or getting a bold OLED screen, the Oppo A74 5G is a fine choice.

Oppo A74 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Oppo A74 5G price and availability

  • Out now in the UK and Australia
  • Costs £249.99 / AU$399.99
  • Can import to the US for around $290-300, but there's no CDMA support

The Oppo A74 5G is not really a phone intended for the US market. It lacks CDMA support, ruling it out from working properly with some US networks. However, you can import it for around $290-300.

It costs £249.99 in the UK and AU$399.99 in Australia, similar to what you’d pay for a base spec Samsung Galaxy A32 5G. Higher ‘A’ number, better phone? They’re completely different series from different companies, but the Oppo does get you a little more tech for your money, including more storage at 128GB, making this a decent deal from most perspectives.

Oppo A74 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Design

  • Plastic back and sides
  • Mono speaker
  • 162.9 x 74.7 x 8.4mm

Affordable phones like the Oppo A74 5G may explore recently discovered ground, that of 5G mobiles most of us can afford, but there’s not much of a pioneering spirit in their designs.

Androids in this category tend to either have mid-size or large screens. They have all-plastic designs and tend to sacrifice a tech frill or two in order to fit 5G into the budget.

You get to choose things like whether you prefer a side or rear fingerprint scanner, a teardrop notch or a punch-hole, and how gaudy you want the back to be. The Oppo A74 5G achieves a good balance across these elements.

It’s a mid-size phone, one with a 6.5-inch screen rather than the 6.67-inch display seen in the various 4G and 5G Xiaomi phones you might buy at the price. The punch-hole looks a bit smarter than a teardrop, and the side-mounted thumb scanner is marginally preferable to a rear one, in our opinion.

Oppo A74 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Our Oppo A74 5G has a relatively grown-up looking grey to black gradient cast along its back. While the light reactive finish is matte, the rear surface is still glossy, so you’ll see your reflection in it.

The camera lens housing is the one part we’re not too sure about. It’s made in the image of a top-end phone, an oversized chunk of glass, without having hardware that would require all the space used here. On first opening the box we thought the Oppo A74 5G's camera looked a bit like a toy box approximation of a high-end phone’s, like a kid wearing a slightly-too-large suit. That said, we’d forgotten all about that after about 24 hours.

The Oppo A74 5G is a perfectly pleasant phone to look at, hold, and use in most respects, though it lacks water resistance. It also only has one speaker, a mono driver on its bottom.

We’ve used this for many, many hours of podcast and live radio streams at this point. It doesn’t get too harsh at max volume and performs just fine in most situations. However, some 4G phones at this level have greater volume and bass, and stereo speaker arrays.

Display

  • 6.5-inch 1080 x 2400 IPS LCD screen
  • Solid peak brightness
  • 90Hz mode improves scrolling smoothness

The Oppo A74 5G has a 6.5-inch 1080 x 2400 LCD screen with a maximum refresh rate of 90Hz. You can switch it down to 60Hz for a slight battery life boost, but the phone actually automatically drops it down to 60Hz with incompatible apps, or when the screen shows something static for a couple of seconds.

A 90Hz refresh rate improves the fluidity of scrolling, and makes a half-decent phone feel faster, even if it is not in reality.

A Full HD resolution shouldn’t really be particularly notable when you spend $250/£250 or more, but these days it kind of is. The Samsung Galaxy A32 5G has a 720p screen and so does the cheaper Moto G50.

Oppo A74 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)

720p displays can and do look decent, but 1080p ones like the Oppo A74 5G's make text look crisper. Color is solid, and while the LCD panel’s blacks naturally lose their depth in a dark room, they look good in most other conditions.

Maximum brightness also compares well with some of the OLED phones you might buy at a similar price. The app screen looks noticeably brighter than the OnePlus Nord CE 5G's outdoors, and slightly brighter even than the original OnePlus Nord.

Camera

  • Weak low-light images
  • Had a good stab at software based 2x zoom
  • Some images appear washed out

The Oppo A74 5G has four cameras on the back and a selfie camera up front, just like the Oppo A54 5G. We’ve compared the two side-by-side and can confirm, yep, they produce near-identical images.

You get a 48MP standard camera, an 8MP ultra-wide and Oppo’s standard gruesome twosome, a 2MP macro camera and a 2MP depth sensor. The Oppo A74 5G feels more like a two-camera phone than a four camera one, because these last two are not up to much. However, this is standard procedure for phones at this level, particularly 5G ones.

There are a few highs and lows here. Let’s split up the appraisal that way and start with the good stuff.

First up, the Oppo A74 5G’s primary camera can take very pleasant photos during the day. They hold up well even down at pixel level, and are packed with detail, which doesn't have the fizzy or dithered look we saw when we compared the photos to the Moto G50’s.

It also does surprisingly well with zoomed images, despite a lack of actual zoom hardware. The camera app has easy access presets for 2x and 5x shots.

While the latter is arguably a step too far for the humble 48MP sensor, which itself is really made for 12MP images, 2x shots can fake their way to victory and look miles better than a crop of a shot you took at the 1x view. We saw similarly impressive, although better still, zoomed results from the Realme 8 Pro.

Neither of these phones actually has a zoom camera. It’s all software trickery, but clever software methods can now get close to matching the sort of results you might see from a real budget zoom camera, which are no longer at all common.

Oppo A74 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The Oppo A74 5G’s ultra-wide is useful too, considering it has a rather unimpressive-sounding 8MP sensor. Oddly enough, its exposure is often closer to what we’re after than the main 48MP camera. It’s always good to have another option when shooting, and we took 1x and 0.6x (the ultra-wide view) shots of the same scene countless times during testing.

This camera setup feels fairly responsive, is fun to use, and the respectable 2x zoom images mean you can ‘pretend’ it’s a higher-end setup and not be caught out. It’s an all-round enjoyable and largely headache free camera to use.

We said ‘largely’ headache free, because there are some little issues.

The first negative impression we had on going through the few hundred Oppo A54 5G photos we took for this review was about exposure. When there’s not a sky to give the phone a lead as to how bright the image should be, it often makes the image too bright, leading to a washed-out look.

This can be fixed as long as there are no major overexposed areas. And there usually are not. But this may lead you to reject images that could actually look much better with a simple brightness/exposure dip.

You can do this as you shoot, using the Oppo A74 5G’s manual exposure control (available during auto shooting), but few people are likely to do this.

Earlier we praised the ultra-wide as a useful tool, but its dynamic range is limited, and it tends to mush up detail and texture in shadow areas. This is typical of a budget ultra-wide snapper, although the 4G Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC’s ultra-wide camera is notably superior.

Oppo A74 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The Oppo A74 5G also fails for low-light photography. Use the auto mode and dark images look simply dark and dismal, lacking any sort of detail in the darker areas of the scene. There is a dedicated night mode, but this is pretty poor by 2021 standards. It brightens up pictures and improves color, but detail is very limited, dynamic range bad, and these night shots are often softer than the ones you take using auto shooting.

Realme’s 8 Pro and Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 10 Pro perform a lot better at night.

Solid enough during the day, not much use at night: the Oppo A74 5G is your typical affordable phone camera, but these days you can get better, particularly from 4G phones in this price band.

Video is basic too. The Oppo A74 5G’s maximum capture resolution is just 1080p. There’s no 4K mode, although 1080p is at least stabilized using the usual software-based technique. You can switch between 1x, 2x and 5x views too while shooting. However, we don’t see the same sort of clever detail boosting we saw in the A74 5G’s stills. It looks more like a straight crop of the 1080p feed.

The selfie camera is somewhat simple too, despite the detailed-sounding 16MP sensor. It has a fixed focus lens, which limits how close you can get before your face will look a little blurry. Hold the phone far back enough, though, and detail is solid in good lighting. You can also shoot portrait mode selfies, where the background is blurred out to bring faces into sharper relief.

Camera samples

Image 1 of 10

Oppo A74 5G camera sample

The Oppo A74 5G’s background blur mode can make a hash of more complicated objects, like this tree’s leaves. (Image credit: TechRadar)
Image 2 of 10

Oppo A74 5G camera sample

Day-lit shots are solid. They may not look quite as good as a Pixel 4a’s up close, but the results are respectable. (Image credit: TechRadar)
Image 3 of 10

Oppo A74 5G camera sample

The phone may not have a 2x optical zoom but it does have a 2x mode, one that uses a different processing profile to avoid a digitally zoomed appearance and to bring out more fine detail. (Image credit: TechRadar)
Image 4 of 10

Oppo A74 5G camera sample

The app also lets you take 5x zoom images via an easy shortcut, but we think it’s a step too far for the 48MP sensor. (Image credit: TechRadar)
Image 5 of 10

Oppo A74 5G camera sample

Oppo’s primary camera makes use of solid HDR processing to create a more even-looking exposure without blowing out the highlights too much, although this picture is perhaps slightly too bright. (Image credit: TechRadar)
Image 6 of 10

Oppo A74 5G camera sample

This picture exposes the slightly limited lens quality, with light smearing and chromatic aberration visible towards the corners of the frame. (Image credit: TechRadar)
Image 7 of 10

Oppo A74 5G camera sample

The Oppo A74 5G tends to make some images too bright, which means they lose much of their impact, and can bring out too much purple tone in browns. (Image credit: TechRadar)
Image 8 of 10

Oppo A74 5G camera sample

Here’s the same scene with the exposure brought down in the camera app, giving it a slightly more lifelike appearance. (Image credit: TechRadar)
Image 9 of 10

Oppo A74 5G camera sample

The ultra-wide camera’s images exhibit limited dynamic range. We tried lifting up the shadows in a photo editing app, but much of the foreground plants appeared very mushy, perhaps one reason the camera processing doesn’t pull them up more. (Image credit: TechRadar)
Image 10 of 10

Oppo A74 5G camera sample

Again, a demonstration of the limited dynamic range of the ultra-wide, leaving the foreground and tree line looking dim. (Image credit: TechRadar)

Performance and software

  • Entry-level but capable Snapdragon chipset
  • There are better options for gaming at this price
  • Good general performance

The Oppo A74 5G runs Android 11 and Oppo’s ColorOS 11 interface. This is one of the least good-looking custom interfaces, but this is partly informed by the way we tend to use Oppo phones.

It seems made to be used without the app drawer, a screen that lays out icons for all your installed apps in scroll format. The app drawer is an optional extra we always enable, and it is perhaps the stiffest-looking part of the system.

However, at this point we are quibbling about a minor issue. The Oppo A74 5G’s ColorOS looks and feels fine in most respects, just lacking a little of the clean, professional-looking presentation of a Google Pixel 4a or an Android One phone like the Nokia 5.4. And that phone is worse than this Oppo in several other areas.

The Oppo A74 5G has 6GB of RAM and a Snapdragon 480 chipset, one of Qualcomm’s least powerful 5G chipsets. It is significantly less powerful than the Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite’s Snapdragon 750G CPU, and even further removed from the powerhouse Xiaomi Poco X3 Pro’s Snapdragon 860. However, it gets by just fine most of the time and is frankly better than we expected from a 4-series chipset.

Oppo A74 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Fortnite will only run at ‘medium’ settings, and suffers from stutters if you max out the dynamic resolution slider, but is still perfectly playable. Android 11 runs well, aside from marginally longer load times than the classic ‘budget’ 5G phones with a Snapdragon 765G processor. But there’s not much in it, and the main performance-adjacent complaint we have is down to a bug.

A few times the Google virtual keyboard has refused to appear, which is more likely a software issue with how it interacts with the app running, or ColorOS, than a deficiency of the Snapdragon 480 chipset. We also saw this bug appear in the OnePlus Nord CE 5G a couple of times.

The Oppo A74 5G scores 1,629 in Geekbench 5. This is near identical to the performance of the Moto G50, which is unsurprising since it has the same processor. It's also not light years behind the Xiaomi Mi 10 T Lite’s 1,900-odd.

Oppo A74 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Battery life

  • Good but not class-leading battery life
  • 18W charging is called ‘fast’ but feels kind of slow
  • 5,000mAh capacity

The Oppo A54 5G has a 5,000mAh battery, just like almost every other phone in this class. It can sail through a day’s use, and may even last a day and a half to two days if you don’t use your phone too much.

However, we do find that the Moto G50 lasts significantly longer, perhaps because it has a lower resolution 720p screen. And, oddly enough, the Oppo A54 5G seemed to last a little longer too. This could be because the increased amount of RAM is used to let the phone keep more apps and background processes running happily in the step-up A74.

The weather was sunnier when we tested the Oppo A74 5G, though, so it could simply have been that the phone spent more time with its screen brightness maxed out.

The Oppo is something of a middleweight in terms of charging speed. It has an 18W charger, slightly better than the 15W of the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G and Motorola Moto G50, and miles better than the 10W charger included with the Oppo A54 5G.  But it is significantly slower than the 33W of the Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite.

It takes a couple of hours to fully recharge, so the Oppo A74 5G is a phone you’ll probably want to recharge overnight. There's also no wireless charging.

Should I buy the Oppo A74 5G?

Oppo A74 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Buy it if...

You’re after affordable 5G
Cheap 5G is trending, and the Oppo A74 5G is riding that wave. It’s a 5G phone, and if Oppo sold the same device with 4G last year, it wouldn’t have been laughed off the phone shop shelves.

You don’t want a gigantic screen
A lot of the enthusiast-fave phones around this price are made by Xiaomi, and they have larger screens than the Oppo A74 5G. More display space may be great for Netflix and gaming, but this phone is easier to handle thanks to its smaller panel.

You need lots of storage
With 128GB of storage built in, the Oppo A54 5G has more than a lot of phones at this sort of price. So if you want to locally store a lot of media or download lots of apps and games, you won't feel constrained.

Don't buy it if...

You don’t need 128GB of storage
The Oppo A54 5G is very similar to this phone but has less RAM, half the storage and a slower charger. Its cameras, processor, screen, and design are identical — or near enough that you can’t tell them apart. It’s only a little cheaper, but we are talking about cheap 5G phones after all so every dollar or pound counts.

You barely care about 5G
We love that phones like the Oppo A74 5G make 5G more accessible. But 5G is not a ‘free’ feature yet and other 4G phones at the price are more interesting. You get a killer chipset in the Xiaomi Poco X3 Pro, a better camera in the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro. The Oppo A74 5G treads a slightly dull middle road.

You want good night-time photos
The Oppo A74 5G’s camera holds up pretty well during the day, but is weaker than many at night. Its auto mode low-light images are poor, and while the night mode increases brightness and brings a bit more color out, it can actually reduce the detail level from dismal to… worse than dismal.

First reviewed: June 2021

Andrew Williams

Andrew is a freelance journalist and has been writing and editing for some of the UK's top tech and lifestyle publications including TrustedReviews, Stuff, T3, TechRadar, Lifehacker and others.