Tech review: Realme challenges Xiaomi with mid-range XT smartphone

The Realme XT goes head-to-head with another recent phone, the Redmi Note 8 Pro (not pictured).
The Realme XT goes head-to-head with another recent phone, the Redmi Note 8 Pro (not pictured).PHOTO: REALMEINDIA/INSTAGRAM

The latest kid on the smartphone block is Realme, a fast-rising brand that, since its debut last year, has shipped over 10 million phones for an incredible year-on-year growth of over 800 per cent.

But Realme is no stranger to the business. The budget arm of Chinese smartphone brand Oppo, Realme appears to be conceived - given its similar-sounding name - to compete with Xiaomi's budget Redmi brand.

One of its first phones in Singapore is the Realme XT, which was launched earlier this month. The Realme XT goes head-to-head with another recent phone, the Redmi Note 8 Pro. Both models have a quad-camera system anchored by the same Samsung 64-megapixel (MP) camera sensor. The similarities do not end there, as they both have an identical configuration of an 8MP ultra-wide camera, a 2MP macro camera and a 2MP depth camera.

The main camera takes 16MP photos by default, using photo-binning to get the best result from the 64MP sensor. The resulting photos, however, look overly processed with a lot of smoothening and sharpening.

The same could be said for the camera's 64MP photos. In addition, these high-resolution photos have plenty of noise. I would probably only shoot 64MP photos if I plan to zoom in at faraway objects, given the absence of a telephoto camera.

The phone has a night mode that significantly brightens low-light shots. It produces decent results that pass the initial eye test, but on closer examination, I found the colours in the photos to be unnatural. The photos also look smeared and lack details.

Unlike its more affordable Redmi rival, the Realme XT offers slightly higher-end features. For instance, the XT has a more expensive Oled screen that offers deeper blacks than the Redmi's LCD screen. However, I did find the Realme's screen to be a tad cool and bluish.

Both of these 1080p displays have a near-bezel-less look, broken by the waterdrop-like front camera at the top centre of the screen. But they lack the proper level of digital rights to play Netflix videos at HD resolution. Instead, Netflix videos play at standard 480p resolution.

The Realme XT has an in-display fingerprint sensor that works reasonably fast. In comparison, the Redmi Note 8 Pro has a standard touch-capacitive fingerprint sensor at the back.

  • FOR

    Realme's version of ColorOS closer to stock Android

    Good battery life

    Fast charging

    AGAINST

    64MP photos are noisy and not very useful

    Standard resolution video quality for Netflix and other DRM-protected video streaming services

    SPECS

    Price: $469

    Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 712 (Dual-core 2.3GHz, hexa-core 1.7GHz)

    Display: 6.4-inch Super Amoled, 2,340 x 1,080 pixels, 402 ppi pixel density

    Operating system: ColorOS 6 (Android 9)

    Memory: 128GB (microSD expandable by up to 256GB), 8GB RAM

    Rear cameras: 64MP (f/1.8), 8MP ultra-wide (f/2.3, 119-degree), 2MP macro (f/2.4), 2MP depth (f/2.4)

    Front camera: 16MP (f/2.0)

    Battery: 4,000mAh

    RATING

    Features: 4.5/5

    Design: 4/5

    Performance: 4/5

    Value for money:4/5

    Battery life: 4.5/5

    Overall: 4/5

Both its front and back are protected by Corning Gorilla Glass. My Pearl Blue review set has a flashy blue-purple gradient finish that is the norm for many Chinese-made smartphones. The phone does feel wobbly on the desk because of its large camera bump.

As expected of a mid-range model, the Realme XT does not have wireless charging and is not officially certified for water and dust resistance. On the other hand, it still has a headphone jack and a microSD card slot. Near-field communication (NFC) is also available for mobile payments.

It is powered by a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 712 processor with 8GB of system memory. While I found the phone to be reasonably fast in normal usage, it is slower than the MediaTek Helio G90T chip in the Redmi Note 8 Pro. The Realme XT scored 317 in the single-core test in Geekbench 5 compared with 496 for the Redmi Note 8 Pro.

To my pleasant surprise, the Realme XT runs a special "Realme edition" of the ColorOS interface (based on Android 9) that hews closer to stock Android with a cleaner interface. It also has an experimental Dark Mode option that uses a darker colour for the interface to save power and reduce eye strain. ColorOS is found in phones from Realme's parent firm Oppo. However, I feel Realme could go a step further and have the Google Now feed appear instead of its own Smart Assistant, when swiping right from the home screen.

Charging its 4,000mAh battery was quick with its included fast charger. Plugging the phone in for just 30 minutes recharged it from zero to 47 per cent.

This battery also lasted me more than a day with moderate to heavy usage. I typically end up with around 40 per cent battery life in the evening. In our usual video-loop battery test, the Realme XT lasted 12hr20min with the screen set to maximum brightness.