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Realme 5 review: raising the bar in the sub-Rs 10,000 segment

Xiaomi has long been a crowd favourite in India when it comes to affordable smartphones, However, with the inception of Realme, Indian buyers found themselves with another worthy alternative in this space. Realme has been going toe-to-toe with Xiaomi when it comes to phone launches. Recently, the brand launched its latest Realme 5 duo – the Realme 5 and Realme 5 Pro (first impressions) in India, which are both one of the most loaded offerings in their respective price segments. I have been using the Realme 5 for over a week now and here’s my take on it.

Design and display

The Realme 5 keeps up with the design standard of the brand from the past. The glossy polycarbonate back panel features the signature diamond-cut pattern with a slight difference. This time, Realme has gone for a diamond in the rough look and the pattern resembles broken shards of glass from some angles. The phone is being offered in two hues – Crystal Blue and Crystal Purple. I have the latter with me and it sure does turns heads.

Not only is the Realme 5 a looker, but also has a very comfortable and confidence-inducing heft to it, which has been evenly distributed. However, the smartphone has a tall frame, which makes one-handed usage difficult.

The rest of the elements are standard, with the power button and volume keys located on right and left sides respectively, within easy reach. The buttons are very tactile too, giving a satisfying feedback every time they are pressed. The left edge is also housing the dual Nano SIM tray, which comes with a dedicated microSD card slot. The back panel houses the quad-camera module on the top left corner and a capacitive fingerprint scanner in the middle, which was fast and accurate. However, I used it sparingly becuase of the face unlock option, which unlocks the phone in the blink of an eye.

The Realme 5 sports a micro-USB port for charging, which is disappointing. However, considering the sub-Rs 10,000 price tag of the phone, I am willing to let this one slide. The charging port is accompanied by a loudspeaker grill and 3.5mm audio jack on either side. I missed the LED notification light, which is useful to check at a glance if the phone is fully charged or if there’s an unread notification.

The Realme 5’s fascia is adorned by a waterdrop notch display measuring 6.5-inches. The bezels around the display are minimal, except on the chin, where it’s slightly thicker. This makes for an immersive viewing experience and thanks to the HD+ screen resolution, the visuals are pretty sharp as well. However, what I missed was the Widevine L1 certification, which means I was stuck watching Netflix and Prime Videos in SD quality. Also, the display is not the brightest outdoors, so you will definitely have to squint your eyes to view the screen in sunlight.

Cameras

The Realme 5 is the only smartphone that offers four rear cameras at a sub-Rs 10,000 price tag. The quad-camera setup includes a 12MP f/1.8 primary camera accompanied by an 8MP wide-angle lens, a 2MP ultra macro lens, and a 2MP depth sensor. For selfies and video calling, the waterdrop notch on the front houses a 13MP sensor.

The rear cameras captured stunning images with punchy colours and plenty of detail in daylight. Realme’s use of HDR and Chroma Boost pop the colour even further, bordering on the edge of oversaturation. While I personally prefer the colour pop that Chroma Boost brings, if you prefer realistic pictures I would suggest turning off the feature and sticking to just HDR. The wide-angle camera does a good job as well, however, there’s a slight fish eye effect around the corner. I was pleasantly surprised by the portrait mode as well, as the 2MP depth sensor accurately detects edges and creates an aesthetic blur.

As is the trend these days, the Realme 5 also comes with a dedicated nightscape mode. However, the mode only jacks up the exposure. While this does bring out detail in a dimly lit environment, images captured in this mode also have visible noise.

Coming to the selfie camera, the story remains the same. While the camera captures impressive images in well-lit conditions, it struggles to do so in the dark. You get options like AI Beautification, Portrait, screen flash and HDR. While HDR and AI Beautification mode work as expected, I found visible soft edges while capturing selfies in portrait mode. The nightscape mode in the selfie camera doesn’t work all that well even with the display flash on.

In short, the Realme 5 comes with a capable set of cameras and while there are drawbacks, you can still get some decent pictures in daylight.

Software and performance

In terms of performance, the Realme 5 is India’s first smartphone to feature the Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 SoC. The processor is the successor to the Snapdragon 660 chipset and is based on the 11nm process. The latest processor is considerably faster and more power-efficient than its predecessor. The company is offering the Realme 5 in three configurations – 3GB + 32GB, 4GB + 64GB and 4GB + 128GB.

Getting down to the brass tacks, the Realme 5 has been a consistent performer in day-to-day usage during my week-long rendezvous with it. The review unit I received was the top-end variant, but in case you opt for the 3GB model, you might face a lag here or there. The reason I say so is that while multitasking is a breeze on the Realme 5, resource-hungry apps like PUBG were slow to open.

Speaking of PUBG, the game started in the low-graphics setting by default, but the phone handles the gameplay like a champ. If you don’t mind playing on the lower setting, you will not be disappointed, but I advise against cranking up the graphics setting as the game reloaded a couple of times when I did that. With casual games like Stick Cricket and Subway Surfers, I didn’t find the Realme 5 faltering at any point.

As for the software, the Realme 5 comes with ColorOS 6 based on Android 9 Pie out of the box. Unlike other Chinese interfaces, ColorOS 6 has an app drawer, which will appeal to users who don’t like apps scattered on their homescreen. The software has some third-party bloatware, most of which can thankfully be uninstalled. You also get useful features like navigational gestures, Private Safe to keep your data protected, and more.

The Realme 5 comes powered by a massive 5,000mAh battery that can easily last a whole day. And I mean it when I say a whole day because, in our video loop battery test, the smartphone lasted a whopping 33 hours. However, there is no support for fast charging and the beefy battery takes a considerable amount of time to juice up.

The competition

To speak the truth, the Realme 5 doesn’t face competition from any device under Rs 10,000. Thanks to the powerful processor, quad-camera module, stunning design and mammoth battery, the Realme 5 is an undisputed champ in this segment. The Redmi Note 7s (review) comes close to posing a challenge, but that’s only because of the sharper full HD+ display and 48MP primary sensor on the back.

Verdict

So, should you buy the Realme 5? If you have a budget under Rs 10,000, the Realme 5 presents itself as the best option in the price range. If you can stretch your budget further though, consider the Realme 5 Pro, which adds a full HD display, fast charging and 48MP primary camera to the mix.

Pricebaba’s rating: 8 / 10

Pros:

  • Gorgeous design
  • All-day battery life
  • Good performance
  • Decent quad camera setup

Cons:

  • Poor sunlight legibility
  • Uses outdated micro-USB standard
  • Cameras struggle in low light

Photos by Raj Rout

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