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Realme X review: hits the bull’s-eye

Xiaomi has been the unchallenged leader of the budget segment in India for the last couple of years. Naturally, when a new brand called Realme popped into the scene giving fierce competition to Xiaomi, people were quick to draw parallels between the two. Realme has been launching a smartphone to compete with nearly every single Xiaomi offering, and with its latest launch, has managed to beat Xiaomi at its own game, offering a compelling package at an even more compelling price.

Of course I am talking about the Realme X here, which goes head on with the Redmi K20. At a price tag that is almost Rs 5k lighter than its direct competition, does the Realme X have everything you need in a mid-range phone? I intend to find out during the course of this review.

Design

While the Realme X follows the now in-trend gradient design, the company has somehow managed to keep the paintjob subtle. The merging of the violet and blue on the Space Blue model is very subtle and it’s not very in-your-face glossy, which lends Realme X a classier look. In case you are not a fan of gradient hues, the phone is also available in a Polar White colourway. Personally, I prefer the Space Blue variant, which is the one I received for the purpose of this review. Like all glossy phones, the back panel is prone to smudges but these are not easily visible and can be wiped off instantly as well.

The rear panel of the phone is crafted from polycarbonate, and seamlessly integrates into the metal frame, making it a very comfortable fit for your palm as well. Adding to the elegance of the phone is a metal trimming around the centrally-mounted pill-shaped camera module and a golden trim outlining the main sensor. You will not find a fingerprint scanner here since the smartphone makes use of an in-display biomterics – a first for Realme – which was very fast and accurate in my experience.

Apart from the fingerprint scanner, the phone also makes use of face unlock. This brings me to another first from Realme, the elevating selfie camera on the top. The brand claims that the pop-up camera takes just 0.74 seconds to rise, and combined with AI Face Recognition, can identify the user in a blink. During my time with the phone, the face unlock was pretty fast and accurate. However, to use face unlock you need to wake up the display and swipe up, which is why I found myself using the fingerprint scanner more.

The selfie camera can be used over 200,000 times, according to the brand. Moreover, the camera is protected by Sapphire Glass  and comes with fall detection to auto-retract in a snap. I tested the feature myself and while there is a very slight delay, it does completely go in before the phone hits a surface.

As for other elements, you will find volume buttons on the left and the power button with a unique yellow highlight on the right. The SIM slot is also present on the right and it can take two nano SIMs at a time. Unfortunately, there is no support for expandable storage. The USB Type-C port is located on the bottom along with the 3.5mm audio jack and a single speaker. The audio quality from the speaker is pretty loud but it lacks bass. To make up for the audio signature, Realme has equipped the X with Dolby Atmos and a configurable equaliser.

Display

The 19.5:9 screen on Realme X offers an impressive screen-to-body ratio of 91.2 percent despite having a slight chin. The screen itself measures 6.53-inches and offers a resolution of 2,340 x 1,080 pixels, which is adequate for the screen size. There is a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on top to protect against scratches and drops.

Additionally, the AMOLED panel (which is a huge pro at this price) on the Realme X offers a peak brightness of 400 nits, which doesn’t sound as impressive on paper. However, I have been using the device for a large part of the past week and did a lot of browsing outside in direct sunlight, and trust me I didn’t have any issue as it gets plenty bright. Moreover, the use of an AMOLED panel means that the blacks are deeper and colours are punchy.

My only grouch with the display is that there are not a lot of customisation options available. You only get the option to change colour temperature between cooler, normal and warmer as well as the quintessential Night Shield (Blue Light Filter). Realme has also for the first time integrated an Always-on display on the X, but once again there are no customisation options. The Always-on display doesn’t even show notifications, which is kind of a letdown. And if you are a binge Netflix or Amazon Prime watcher like me, you will have to make do with SD quality since Realme X only has WideVine L2 certification.

Cameras

Let’s get the tech specs out of the way before I wander deep into the imaging prowess of the phone. The Realme X comes with a dual-camera setup on the back comprising of a 48MP IMX586 f/1.7 primary camera backed by a 5MP f/2.4 depth sensor. As for the front camera, you get a 16MP IMX471 sensor, which has been centred for natural-looking selfies according to the brand. You get various modes like portrait, Chroma Boost, HDR, AI Scene Recognition, Night Scape, Expert and more.

The rear cameras are as good as they get in this price segment, as they captured some highly detailed images during daylight. Whether you are shooting against the light or when the light source is behind you. However, the camera tends to over-expose the picture slightly when you are clicking pictures in bright day light. The AI scene recognition is pretty impressive as 9 out of 10 times the camera was able to detect the scene accurately and optimise the camera settings to capture the frame perfectly. As for the portrait mode, the secondary 5MP depth sensor does its job and creates a pleasant job detecting the edges and blurring the background.

I was particularly impressed by the lowlight imaging of the Realme X. In normal lowlight shots, the IMX 586 sensor on the back manages to capture sharp and noise-free images when there’s slight light. However, it muddles the image when there’s next to no light and that’s where the Nightscape mode comes into the picture. The mode uses the long exposure to capture multiple frames and produce a brighter picture. Below is the gallery of two different frames shot in low light, where the tomb has been shot in complete darkness while the tree had streetlight as the source of illumination.

Coming to selfies, the 16MP sensor clicks pleasant selfies in both standard and portrait modes. However, there is a slight pinkish tint when you click in portrait mode. Take a look at the samples below.

Software, performance and battery

The Realme X boots Android 9 Pie out of the box with Color OS 6 garnished on top. While the interface feels very uncluttered and fresh, I am personally not a fan of iOS look-alike and massive toggles in the notification area.

Apart from that, you get a load of bloatware, but thankfully most of the apps can be removed to free up resources. However, you also get some useful features like the swipe-in sidebar for customisable shortcuts, Game Space, and more.

On the helm of the performance side of things is a 10nm octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 SoC. The smartphone is being offered in two configurations – 4GB RAM + 128GB storage and 8GB RAM + 128GB storage. I have the latter with me and got around 95GB out of the box, which is another indication as to how much bloatware is present on the phone. The onboard storage is UFS 2.1, which is a faster standard and transferring data from phone to laptop was very quick.As for the actual performance, the Realme X handles multitasking and routine tasks like a champ. Further, the combination of  the Adreno 612 GPU and dedicated Game Space mode make for a pleasant gaming experience as well. Playing PUBG was buttery smooth on the Realme X, even on the high-graphics setting. I also played Modern Combat 5 and other less demanding games on the smartphone and it didn’t break a sweat.

However, the battery of Realme X did drain a lot faster while gaming and that’s where the VOOC 3.0 fast charging tech comes into the picture. With the bundled 20W charger, the Realme X goes from 0 to 100 percent in under 1.5 hours. As for the battery itself, the 3,765mAh cell might be smaller compared to the competition but easily last through a day of normal usage. In our video loop test, the phone lasted for 17 hours which is an impressive runtime.

The Competition

While the Realme X was intended to be direct competition to Redmi K20, the latter’s pricing has tipped the scales in favour of Realme. Now, the Realme X is directly competing with the Redmi Note 7 Pro‘s top-end variant and coming out on top of it with much better display, design, performance and more. The closest competitor, however, is the Vivo Z1 Pro. For Rs 14,990, you get a triple camera on the rear and a powerful 32MP front camera. Moreover, the recently launched OPPO K3 (first impressions) also matches the Realme X nearly spec by spec, while adding an option for expandable storage.

Verdict

As things stand, the Realme X has found itself in a very favourable spot with its pricing. If you’re looking for a powerful phone below Rs 20,000, the Realme X is a no brainer. But if you can stretch your budget and want a more powerful processor and a unique design, the K20 gets our vote.

Pricebaba’s rating: 8 / 10

What works:

  • Large, immersive display
  • Capable cameras
  • Good gaming performance
  • Stunning design

What doesn’t:

  • Smaller battery
  • No expandable storage
  • Bloatware on ColorOS

Photos by Raj Rout

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