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Realme 5 Pro review: more than the sum of its cameras

As competition with Xiaomi intensifies, Realme is stepping up its game in India. After aggressively taking on the Redmi K20 with the more affordable Realme X, the brand has now set its eyes on the popular Redmi Note 7 Pro. This time, its weapon of choice is the Realme 5 Pro. The more powerful version of the Realme 5 (review), the Pro version brings a 48MP quad camera setup and 20W fast charging to a sub-Rs 15,000 price tag. To find out how it fares, read on.

Design and display

The Realme 5 Pro features a glossy polycarbonate chassis, which the brand is calling ‘Crystal Design’. It features a geometric pattern with a holographic finish that reflects the light off different angles. It’s an attractive device, and I have the Sparkling Blue variant for review. Personally, I prefer the Crystal Green colour, which has a classier, more subtle appeal. Weighing 184g, the Realme 5 Pro is pretty chunky, and doesn’t have the sleek hand-feel of the Redmi Note 7 Pro. That said, the phone has a reassuring heft to it, and is ergonomic enough to use single-handed.

The back panel features the quad camera module in a vertical setup at the top left corner, with the LED flash placed adjacently. The physical fingerprint sensor is at top centre. The sensor is quick and efficient, and Realme has also added face unlock as an additional option. Face unlock is fast on this phone and is more convenient to use, but it doesn’t work in the dark.

Since the rear panel is glossy, it’s prone to smudges. It picks up scratches easily too, which is the reason I’d recommend a case. Realme has included a transparent case in the box, but for some reason there’s a flap over the charging port, which is frustrating to remove when you need to plug in the charger. In terms of the port placement, you get a Type-C port, 3.5mm headphone jack and SIM card tray that houses two nano-SIM card slots and a dedicated microSD card slot for expansion.

The display measures 6.3-inches, and features a waterdrop notch on top. The bezels around the top and sides are negligible, with a thicker one at the chin. The screen features full HD+ resolution, but there’s no Gorilla Glass protection which is disappointing. The display offers good brightness levels, and is perfectly legible in sunlight. Viewing angles and clarity are on point too, and a night shield mode is available for more comfortable viewing in the dark. My only complaint with the display is the touchscreen responsiveness, which is on the slower side, making it feel slightly sluggish while scrolling and swiping.

Cameras

The highlight of the Realme 5 Pro is its quad-camera setup. The primary camera is the ubiquitous 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor with f/1.79 aperture and PDAF. You also get an 8MP wide 119-degree ultra-wide lens, 2MP depth sensor for portraits and a 2MP macro camera that enables you to shoot close-ups at a 4cm distance. The front camera is a 16MP unit with f/2.0 aperture.

The camera app has toggles for 1x, 2x and 5x zoom, but the zoom is purely digital. Realme’s Chrome Boost feature can be toggled on, but this oversaturates images, and I’m not a fan. I found it odd that Realme hasn’t clearly labelled the toggle for the ultra-wide camera. Even the macro camera is buried deep inside the camera app.

Coming to the image quality, the Realme 5’s primary camera can take decent shots in daylight, with good detail and punchy colours. When it’s cloudly outside, I found the camera doesn’t handle dynamic range all that well, with darker areas looking washed out. Wide-angle lenses add a whole new dimension of versatility to a phone camera, and the one on the Realme 5 Pro performs reasonably well. The fish-eye effect that plagues many wide-angle cameras is kept to a minimum, although there’s a noticeable drop in detail when compared to the main camera. The addition of a dedicated depth sensor means edge detection on portraits is spot on, with realistic blur and good edge detection. The macro lens however disappoints, most often resulting in blurred images. The 2MP resolution means you can expect pixelation too.

In low light, the cameras perform as is expected from a budget device, with a fair bit of noise and over-softening. That said, low light images are very usable, and the night mode does a good job in bringing darker areas to life and sharpening the overall image. The front camera can take natural looking selfies in bright light, and doesn’t over-whiten skin tones, which I appreciate.

Software and performance

On the software front, the Realme 5 Pro runs Android 9.0 Pie with OPPO’s ColorOS 6.0 layered on top. Realme has already confirmed that RealmeOS is in the works, but it’s unclear when this will be available, and whether older devices will get the update. I’m not a fan of ColorOS’ cluttered interface, with its gaudy icons and bloatware. Features like a system-wide dark mode are also missing.

The Realme 5 Pro is powered by the Snapdragon 712 AIE SoC, which is an octa-core processor based on the 10nm process. You get up to 8GB RAM and up to 128GB storage, with the microSD card slot allowing additional expansion up to 256GB. I had the top-end 8GB + 128GB variant for review, and suffice to say, it doesn’t disappoint on performance. The phone runs multiple apps without breaking a sweat, with no crashes or lags during my usage period. Gaming is a pleasure on this device, with games like Asphalt 9 displaying no frame drops or lags. The area around the camera gets slightly warm after 20 minutes of non-stop gaming, but doesn’t overheat.

The 4,035mAh battery lasted me an entire day and then some, so you don’t need to worry about carrying around a power bank with this device. It lasted 20 hours in our battery drain test, which is an excellent result. Like the Realme X, the 5 Pro also comes with a VOOC 3.0 charger in the box. That’s a pretty good deal at this price point – you won’t find many sub-Rs 15,000 phones bundling a fast charger. VOOC 3.0 charges the battery at 20W, which is incidentally the same as OnePlus’ Dash/Fast charging. In our tests, the battery juiced up from 0 to 100 percent in 1 hour and 20 minutes, which is impressive.

The competition

At its starting price of Rs 13,999, the Realme 5 Pro goes up against the Redmi Note 7 Pro, Vivo Z1 Pro and even the Realme X. Interestingly, while the Realme X (review) is being marketed as a more premium device because of its pop-up selfie camera and in-display fingerprint sensor, it loses out to the Realme 5 Pro on almost every aspect on the specs front.

The Vivo Z1 Pro (first impressions) offers nearly identical performance thanks to the same Snapdragon 712 chipset under the hood, while also adding a 5,000mAh battery to the mix. However, you’ll have to make do with the outdated micro-USB standard and three vs four rear cameras. The Redmi Note 7 Pro is the biggest competitor to the Realme 5 Pro in this segment, and here too, Realme decimates the competition at every step.

Verdict

The Realme 5 Pro is a firecracker in the mid-range segment, cannibalising even its own siblings. With a stylish design, good overall performance, decent cameras and excellent battery life, you can be sure you’re getting maximum bang for your buck. In sum, if you’re looking for a phone in the sub-Rs 15,000 segment, the Realme 5 Pro should be among your top picks.

Pricebaba’s Rating: 8 / 10

What works:

  • Smooth performance
  • Long lasting battery
  • Bundled fast charger
  • Decent cameras

What doesn’t:

  • ColorOS is cluttered and bloated
  • Display’s touch response is on the slower side
  • Macro lens isn’t up to the mark
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Ketaki Bhojnagarwala

Ketaki has 10 years experience writing on tech, having worked at the Hindu Business Line and 91mobiles earlier. When she's not editing copies or reviewing the latest gadgets, she spends her time binge-watching Netflix and reading fantasy fiction.