It feels like each and every week, a newer, cheaper, more powerful Android smartphone is released. The latest such device to hit shelves in European markets is the Realme GT – which turns out to be very impressive.
Outside of India and China, Realme is a fairly unknown quantity in much the same way Xiaomi, Poco, and Redmi were just a few years ago. The burgeoning costs of flagship smartphones and the high-end internals usually saved for those devices has led a charge from the aforementioned brands. It has helped fuel the growth of a rabid fanbase, and in Xiaomi’s case, taken the Chinese OEM into the top three smartphone rankings globally.
It’s clear from that outset that with the release of the GT 5G, Realme wants to leave Xiaomi, Redmi, and Poco in the rearview mirror. So far, it looks like there might be some dust between the Realme GT 5G and the chasing pack.
Video – Realme GT 5G review
Hardware & design
From afar, this is a plain smartphone that has no major distinguishing features. Sure, it’s fine but by no means a head-turner unless you manage to pick it up in the Kill Bill-inspired yellow and black model. The rest of the colors are a little bit lackluster to me, especially the deep blue model I have been using for the better part of a few weeks.
That’s a long way to say that the Realme GT is very plain and generic. Is this a bad thing? I think given the positioning as the “flagship” Realme smartphone, maybe so. It can be forgiven if the rest of the package makes up for it. Although there’s the added bonus in many ways that you’ll slap this phone straight into a case or cover.
I was surprised at just how thin this phone is; I expected a thick, bulky phone. Many affordable smartphones tend to be thick and sturdy. That’s not to say the Realme GT is flimsy. The glossy rear panel is coated in 3D Gorilla Glass, and it picks up fingerprints with aplomb.
The hardware package is enhanced with the addition of a 3.5 headphone port along the bottom edge. It’s quite rare to see devices touted as “flagship” with the port, so it’s a fine addition to the hardware package. At the side, the volume and power buttons have a nice clicky feel when pressed or accessed too. All in all it’s nice enough. It’s lightweight but with an assured hand feel that belies the low price tag.
One of the most striking aspects of the Realme GT is the 120Hz FHD+ AMOLED display, which looks eerily similar to the panel found on the OnePlus 8T. It’s large and vibrant, with fairly minimal bezels at the edges of the 6.43-inch display.
Realme decided to go for a flat display, and it’s very welcome here. Every interaction is heightened and improved as a result, especially when the 120Hz refresh rate is activated. There is a 600 nit maximum brightness, which seems low but has been more than adequate for usage in bright daylight.
The in-display fingerprint scanner is super fast, consistent, and well placed. It’s always good to not be inhibited by the biometric access points to your device, as waiting longer than you probably should is a frustrating aspect of any device. Luckily, the Realme GT doesn’t suffer from a bad fingerprint scanner.
One thing that is worth noting is that Widevine L1 certification is not included here, so that means FHD Netflix is not an option on the Realme GT. It’s a frustrating omission when you have such a good display.
Software & performance
With 8GB of RAM and the top tier Snapdragon 888 chipset packed inside, the Realme GT has all of the prerequisites needed for exceptional performance. I’m pleased to say that everything runs slick and smooth without a hiccup in sight.
Realme UI is very much in the ColorOS mold. It almost, dare I say it, feels like a step between OxygenOS 11 and ColorOS, but with more than a foot in the Oppo OS. If you like customization, then you’ll have so many options at your fingertips to tweak until you are content.
One annoyance is the lack of ability to launch the camera app with a double press of the power button. You can use off-screen gestures to quickly launch into the camera app, but it’s not quite as intuitive. I do hope that future Realme UI builds can add the option for this useful quick gesture.
A Realme GT mode is also included in the software that supposedly boosts performance but with a potential battery hit. I honestly cannot say with any sort of certainty if this even makes a difference to what is already blistering performance levels.
I’ve yet to see a slowdown of any note. Gaming, video rendering, recording 4K 60fps video – the Realme GT doesn’t skip a beat. Everything seems to happen at the blink of an eye. Apps load instantly, games run at the highest settings with solid frame rates, and the 120Hz refresh rate just aids the feeling of speed.
If you’re thinking of picking up the Realme GT for its camera, then, like any “budget flagship” you might be a tad disappointed. The primary 64-megapixel camera produces fairly good images with rich, vibrant colors that “pop.” It’s just on the very cusp of color accurate to my eye.
Images look sharp and crisp, with the 64-megapixel sensor allowing for some good image depth, but the white balance sometimes suffers. The secondary ultrawide is very average with an immediately noticeable drop down in quality. Images can be very soft, and there is even a little vignetting in the image fringes.
The camera quality is exacerbated with the inclusion of yet another pointless macro lens. It’s fine for a little bit of folly every now and again, but it’s a fairly pointless inclusion likely to help lower the overall device production cost.
I found the Realme GT to have a good battery when forcing the screen refresh rate to stay at 120Hz. Screen-on time readings regularly tipped over the seven-hour mark, which is pretty good in my book. Sure, I would love to reach 10+ hours but the 4,500mAh battery handles my usual use-case with aplomb.
Tuning the refresh rate down to 60Hz will have an undoubted lifespan effect, but it would be criminal to not enjoy the display in full flow. Bundled in the box is a 65W charge brick, which is insanely fast. I clocked 0 to 100% in under 40 mins — which is frankly ludicrous. It would have been nice to have wireless charging included, but it’s understandable when this is an affordably focused device.
All in all, the battery tips towards the “good” end of the scale. I had no problems using it for long days, and just a few minutes on a charger is enough to alleviate any worries about not reaching even the most intense of days.
- Haptics – I was kind of shocked at how good the haptics can be when set in short bursts. The initial unlock vibration and keyboard taps and interactions feels great. Tune too far and things start to fall apart and get a little hollow and rattly.
- Speakers – The speakers get very loud without any real distortion.
The Realme GT 5G is a fantastic package if you don’t mind that the camera or build quality are not core tenets of this device. Device performance happens to be levels above that of the Poco F3, which we have rated as the best “value flagship” you can buy right and one that always crops up when discussing affordability and smartphones.
That said, while this isn’t quite able to match the likes of the Galaxy S21 and even the OnePlus 9 series, I really have enjoyed using the Realme GT despite some of the main shortcomings. It’s an impressive hunk of tech that leverages the power of the latest Snapdragon chip and a genuinely great AMOLED display.
By shifting priorities and compromising in specific areas, the end result is a powerhouse device that lacks in the camera and design stakes. This is still the cheapest smartphone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset, which makes it one to pay attention to.
Geo-restrictions mean that even if all of what I have told you has you thinking the Realme GT 5G is your next device, you may have to contend with import fees and some carrier band issues if you are thinking of picking one up. For those in North America, the OnePlus 9 is a better purchase for those reasons, and it does come with much-upgraded cameras, wireless charging, and a far better overall aesthetic.
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