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OPPO X 2021 first impressions: Technology of the future?

I had the opportunity to check out the OPPO X 2021 smartphone with the rollable screen. Let’s see how it turned out.

The OPPO X 2021 is a smartphone, which, on the one hand, is difficult to attribute to any category, because it is unique. We never tried a device with the screen that extends or hides in the case. On the other hand, a foldable screen, which allows you to change the size and proportions, is a concept that already has commercial implementations, such as the Huawei Mate Xs and the latest Samsung Galaxy Z Fold, which unfolds and becomes the size of a small tablet. There’s also the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip and the Motorola RAZR, the modern incarnation of clamshells.

Therefore, discussing the functionality is pointless. We will get a similar ability to work on two screens of different sizes. It’s a classic smartphone, as well as a larger tablet. The advantages are obvious: more screen space, more convenient document editing, as well as easier multitasking.

What is the OPPO X 2021?

Let’s start with the device specifications. However, it’s still not the final version, and the copy that OPPO provided me for a while is only a prototype. Will OPPO X 2021 be available for sale? I doubt it, but it was never meant to be. It was all about showing the new possibilities, and how smartphones might look in the future. Yes, there are already devices with foldable screens on the market. Personally, I have always liked such devices. I tested the first and last versions of the Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip and enjoyed using the Huawei Mate Xs for a whole month, but somehow the Motorola RAZR passed me by.

Read also: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G review: Addictive foldable smartphone

I wanted to learn what makes this new concept so special. What’s unusual about it? When I first picked up the OPPO X 2021, I caught myself thinking that this is a really cool device, very futuristic. If we look for an analogy with what I have already tested, then the OPPO is a bit similar to the Huawei Mate Xs. There is also one large display that can be fully or partially active. In this mode the OPPO X 2021 is very similar to a regular smartphone. The difference between the Mate X and the OPPO X 2021 is that the inactive part of the screen is very well protected inside the case.

When I unfolded the MateXs, the entire screen was activated, and the workspace increased by about half. We get the same thing in the OPPO X 2021, but on a smaller scale, here the screen increases from 6.7 to 7.4 inches with a change in the aspect ratio. The most interesting thing is that this time the screen extends from the inside of the case.

Interestingly, it does it on its own, thanks to two motors. You just need to lightly touch the bottom edge of the power button and with a quiet buzz, the screen begins to shift to the right. It’s incredible. The screen wraps around the rotating element and hides behind the back panel. If you press or lightly swipe the upper edge of the power button, the OPPO X 2021 takes the form of a regular 6.8-inch smartphone.

The dimensions of the individual structural elements are selected in such a way as to minimize the likelihood of damage to the screen. The dimensions of the main smartphone is 6.8 inches.

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The screen and the whole OPPO X 2021 transform without any help

What are we most afraid of with rollable and foldable smartphones? Of course, damage to the screen during numerous folding/unfolding cycles, as well as their susceptibility to wear. OPPO’s idea was to minimize this risk. In the case of OPPO X 2021, I would say that this risk is practically eliminated. However, something always sticks to something, and the process itself is not as smooth as I hoped.

This is where the rolling takes place, because in this case not only the screen will unfold, but also the entire body of the smartphone.

As I wrote above, it’s all done with gestures – just slide your finger up (unfolding) or down (folding) on the power button of the smartphone. After that, your hands must obey the force that pushes the screen out from inside the case.

Similarly, when rolling, the motors in the case determine its pace, although the hands holding the smartphone can’t always keep up with it. The edges of the screen are properly protected, and there is no way to damage them.

It is also worth noting that the smartphone can be either closed or open. There are no intermediate positions, like with the other formats.

Read also: OPPO A53 smartphone review: Good battery and tons of compromises

Don’t worry about the screen

Of course, the display itself can be damaged, just like any screen of a modern smartphone. But the most interesting thing is that the OLED display on the back panel is covered with a steel laminate, the main component of which is rolled steel. It enhances the rigidity of the display itself and allows it to roll. A special WarpTrack mechanism is triggered here, so that such flexibility does not lead to wear of the material.

At the moment, it is expected that the prototype will withstand about 100,000 cycles. According to OPPO’s assurances, this should guarantee 5.5 years of standard or 2-3 years of intensive use.

Read also: Huawei Band 6 review: It goes with everything

Let’s take a look inside

I was interested in how the sliding mechanism works.. Since this is a prototype that clearly demonstrates the practicality of such a transformation, the other functions were less relevant here. Nevertheless, even a short demontration convinced me that for a prototype that OPPO does not even plan to commercialize, it is a completely finished product that has the right to life.

My first illustration shows the location of two motors releasing the screen and hiding it inside the case. It is thanks to them that the miracle of rolling and unrolling the screen happens.

When folded, the entire surface of the screen is supported, and when unfolded, the rigidity is additionally provided by the reinforcing elements of the display.

And the display smoothly rolls, making a barely audible noise. It sounds incredible: the device literally grows before your eyes.

Read also: TWS OPPO Enco X Review: Almost Perfect + ANC 

Are there ports and connectors? How many cameras does the OPPO X 2021 have?

Changing the size of the smartphone means changing the placement of speakers and battery. Here they seem to move along with the display. It’s impossible to get used to it. Sometimes it seems that the connector for the USB Type-C port moves to the left and right by itself. By the way, through this port you can charge your smartphone or transfer files to your laptop. In other words, it is no different from a regular smartphone.

The camera is quite ordinary, but there is no selfie lens on the front panel. Apparently, the company has not yet figured out how and where to place it. Perhaps it will be an in-screen camera, like in the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. On the back, OPPO offers, in addition to the usual 48-megapixel camera with an f/1.7 lens, two 3D cameras with TOF for the implementation of virtual and augmented reality. The quality of the photos themselves is acceptable.

Of course, the OPPO X 2021 is not a camera phone, and has a fundamentally different positioning.

There’s no SIM card slot, which means that there’s only eSIM. Perhaps the slot will be added to the commercial device.

As for the technical characteristics of the OPPO X 2021, it is equipped with an eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor (after all, it was introduced in November 2020, and at that time this processor was the most relevant), it also got 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. A sufficient set even for a flagship device, although this, let me remind you, is just a concept. If it becomes a commercial smartphone, the technical characteristics of the device can be changed.


A special version of Color OS is needed

The video from the OPPO X 2021 event shows that the Color OS interface has already been finalized and adapted to the changing screen size. I only regret that we do not have a smooth change in the position of the camera body, but perhaps this problem could be solved before the smartphone goes into production.

And one more fact – it is not yet possible to use Google services on the OPPO X 2021. The explanation for this is simple: OPPO did not want to waste time getting certificates, because the most important thing here was to demonstrate the new tech.

In any case, even without Google services, the OPPO X 2021 is still a device that can run a browser, Netflix and even PUBG Mobile.

Of course, here the shell is quite unstable and raw. But even despite this, the smartphone is more or less ready for mass production. It’s incredible, but OPPO managed to create a truly stunning smartphone unlike any else.

Read also: OPPO ColorOS 11 review: When you want more color

The OPPO X 2021 is a foldable smartphone unlike anything else

Unrolling the OPPO X 2021 resembles taking the smartphone out of the case. Only this time, thanks to the design, the screen does not need to be adjusted after unfolding, because when unfolded, it still represents a rigid surface.

The other foldable smartphones are more of a 2-in-1 devices. The OPPO X 2021 seems to go even further and is like a 2-in-2 device.

In the case of foldable smartphones from other manufacturers, and I had the opportunity to use almost all of them, after I unfolded them, I felt that this was not their natural, default state. Meanwhile, in the case of OPPO X 2021, when unrolled, the device looks almost as if it has always been like this. This effect is enhanced by the fact that the screen does not seem unusual in any way. There is no visible crease here, and when pressed, the screen behaves like in a regular phone.

There are, of course, small issues. If you look closely, the sliding edges of the case are not on the same level with the rest of the phone case.

OPPO X 2021: Does this technology have a future?

Who even needs a rollable smartphone? In my opinion, a lot of people, because it’s just too versatile. And let me tell you, you can really wow people with it. My colleagues were really impressed.

The OPPO X 2021 shows that the future of smartphones can be really interesting. Moreover, the technology of rollable screens itself is interesting, and I suspect that such devices will appear more and more often on the market. The expanding screen gives you more space for reading books, improves gaming and movie watching experience. At the same time, it is easy to put it in your pocket.

The price would probably knock me off my feet, but this happens all the time when a radically new device appears. However, this doesn’t change the fact that the OPPO X 2021 is an interesting device that I would like to someday own.

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Yuri Svitlyk

Son of the Carpathian Mountains, unrecognized genius of mathematics, Microsoft "lawyer", practical altruist, levopravosek

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