Realme first appeared as OPPO Real in 2010 as a sub-brand of OPPO. In 2018 the brand had become successful enough to venture off on its own becoming Realme. The company released its first phone as Realme in 2018 and as such, it’s really just a babe in the woods.
Given the manufacturing prowess of its parental unit, it is no surprise that Realme’s phones are well known for have great build quality. Last year, the company ventured into our market hoping to fill a space in the low to mid end of the market. When we asked Realme about when its new UI was arriving, they offered an XT for review.
The phone is priced at $499 which should be considered before reading the review. We are classing it as a mid-range phone but is, these days, most likely in the very bottom of that mid-range pricing.
Read on to find out our verdict of the phone.
|Colour is a funky Pearl Blue colour — it is also available in a Pearl White colour||No NFC – a big fail in my opinion|
|Camera was quite good for the price||Oppo’s ColorOS is too invasive still and has its quirks|
|10x zoom is amazing|
|Fast and accurate in-display fingerprint sensor||The accidental screenshots combined with their auto-uploading is annoying|
|Reliable — it did not miss a beat|
What a stunning device!
Although 2020 looks to be the year of the hole punch display, in 2019 we saw a lot of tear drop or water drop notch. The Realme XT is one of those. The tear drop on the display is relatively small with very small bezels all around the display.
The display is just a 1080P display but is still of decent quality with good sharpness. It is a SuperAMOLED display but is still not the best quality having decent colours but lacking brightness. Inside, out of the sun, it was fine, although the auto brightness seemed to tend to prefer a darker display to what I had set.
Outside though, forget about it. Trying to see this display outside , even at maximum brightness is a struggle. You can eventually make out what is on the display but only just. That is one of the compromises often made when constructing a mid-range phone — a cheaper display.
Thanks to the curved rear of the device it felt extremely comfortable sitting in the hand without being overly thick, even though it is housing a 4,000mAh battery.
I’m not convinced of Realme’s button placement as the power button was directly opposite to the volume down button which meant that when you gripped the phone to turn the display off you also pressed the volume button — screenshot activated. There is an even bigger reason why this is annoying but I’ll touch on that later in the review.
A $499 phone with decent specs?
This is a mid-range phone and as such should be considered when considering the specs of it. The processor is a very decent quad-core Snapdragon 712 with the review device housing 8GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage. There is of course also a microSD slot for memory expansion — and in the same holder, two slots for SIM cards.
These specs are easily enough to run the device well. Sure it does not have OnePlus speed or Pixel smoothness but speeding the animations in the developer settings made a huge difference and made it a lot faster. There was very little lag, but it was present — mostly when opening apps but once open the apps functioned fine — all of them. A couple of times I had redrawing issues on the launcher but not very often.
There is a headphone jack and a single loud speaker at the bottom of the device alongside a USB-C port. There is support for Bluetooth 5.0 and the usual Wi-Fi bands. The battery is a 4,000mAh battery with support for 20W fast charging — VOOC 3.0 charging. The battery itself was very long lasting easily lasting a full day without having to charge it during the day from 5am until 10pm, with a heap of streaming of media during the day.
Realme has also included an in-display fingerprint sensor which is especially responsive — most likely as it uses the same hardware and software as the OPPO in-display fingerprint sensor which is one of the fastest around.
Seems they have everything right? Well, unfortunately not. Realme has made a similar mistake that OPPO used to do when they ventured into the western markets — no NFC. In the western world tap and pay with NFC is the most used digital payment system — we don’t use their QR code WeChat Pay and AliPay here in Australia. For the sake of a very small cost (I would hazard a guess at around 25 cents) the exclusion of the NFC chip makes the phone not good enough for me for day to day use.
How’s that ColorOS these days?
With a phone running OPPO’s software it is definitely worth discussing the software fairly closely. The problem is that discussing the software on a phone that is set to get an entirely new operating system in the next few weeks is kind of irrelevant.
Think of every other OPPO phone we have reviewed running ColorOS 6 and you have all the good and bad things about the software. These things are still issues now — maybe ColorOS 7 will fix them but this phone will be receiving Realme UI in the new few weeks which is meant to be closer to stock Android than ColorOS (which probably wouldn’t be difficult) so it is kind of irrelevant.
The phone still won’t run Android Auto while developer settings are turned on.
The screenshot folder is still located inside the DCIM folder with no way to separate them from photos taken on the device in Google Photos and thus every screenshot you take — and most annoyingly the accidental captures due to the location of the buttons — are automatically uploaded to Google Photos (if you use Google Photos that is).
The phone will still turn the display on at night when you get a notification even though quiet time and night shield are turned on — you activate turning display on in settings but it should not still wake the device at night or whenever you have Quiet Time activated. I want my display to light up during the day when I get a notification but not at night. There was no way to accomplish this — so I turned the phone face down overnight.
There is still no double tap power button to launch the camera — they say the camera shortcut on the lockscreen is enough but I found that difficult to see when out in the sun. You still MUST have a six number passcode as your backup security with no ability to have a pattern unlock.
The memory management still continually kills Last Pass and drops its accessibility access off at times. This sort of software is becoming more and more common — as it should — so OPPO/Realme really need to do something about their software killing essential apps such as these.
The software will most undoubtedly improve with ColorOS 7 but that won’t affect this phone with it slated to receive Realme UI soon.
A mid range device surely can’t have a decent camera?
The camera in mid-range phones has traditionally been a big step down from the flagships. The Pixel 3a changed all that with its amazing photography at an attractive price point. Realme have included a quad rear camera in this device giving it some great possibilities — most that you would only expect in a more expensive phone.
The rear cameras are a 64 MP main camera with f/1.8, an ultrawide 8 MP lens, a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth camera. Now while the specs on those lenses aren’t the best you will ever see, the quad lens combo made from quite good images. The front facing camera is a 16MP wide-angled lens which produced some decent images and quite accurate portrait/bokeh images. Not bad for a $500 phone.
The camera took some amazing shots, inside and out — I matched it up against the camera of an iPhone 11 at one point and the Realme XT smashed it:
Realme have included a night mode but there was no way to select it yourself. The AI within the camera app decides when night mode is required and adjust the settings as such. The night mode was actually quite good, especially for a mid-range phone.
Should you buy one?
That depends on whether you use Google Pay or any other NFC-enabled digital wallet. If you do then definitely steer clear and do not purchase but if you are after a decent mid-range phone (in the lower end of mid-range too) then it is hard to at least not consider.
The funky colours, the very decent camera and the reliable software — sure it’s not the fastest nor the smoothest — make it a compelling purchase. At just $499 it is extremely affordable and thus you could consider this very Realme — decent specs and great usability at a very affordable price.
The Realme XT can be purchased from the Realme website for just $499.