(Pocket-lint) - If you're wondering "who or what on earth is Realme?" then let us explain. Found under the same umbrella as Oppo phones, Realme is a different brand with a different take - you only need to hear the brain-deafening jingle, as used at the company's X2 Pro launch event - that's looking to scoop up a different part of the market.

While the Realme 5, as reviewed here, squarely satisfies the budget end of the market, the company isn't an out-and-out "cheap" brand. But it does do big things for a cut of the price compared to some of the established companies, looking to satisfy upcoming markets, such as India in particular.

Does the Realme 5 hit all the right notes (unlike its promotional jingle)?

Design & Display

  • Dimensions: 164.4 x 75.6 x 9.3mm / Weight: 198 g
  • 6.5-inch LCD display, 1600 x 720 resolution
  • Finishes: Crystal Purple, Crystal Blue
  • Rear fingerprint scanner
  • 3.5mm headphone jack

Having just reviewed the Oppo A5, it quickly dawned upon us that the Realme 5 is, by and large, the very same phone. However, there are some key differences: the Realme has a different rear finish, with flashier blue panels; the Realme also uses Micro-USB for charging, not the more modern USB-C of the Oppo; and the Realme is the cheaper device too.

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Otherwise there aren't any immediate signs that it's a budget handset, as that rear design is rather attractive, the way its sectioned into different shapes to be that bit more eye-catching. The cameras unit is aligned to the side in a neat format, while the rear fingerprint scanner is positioned to the centre so you're unlikely to rub the lenses when using it for security sign-in.

Flip the phone around and its 6.5-inch screen delivers a large visual, without being unwieldy in size terms because there's not excessive bezel that would otherwise pad out the overall body size. There's a dewdrop-style notch out of the screen up top, which is where the front-facing camera lives, but it's not distracting and hasn't been bothersome for any apps that we've been using.

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However, just as we said of the Oppo A5, the screen isn't the highest resolution going, at just HD+, which is a bit like a 720p TV of old. Although this doesn't mean unworkable blocky details, you're not going to see the same level or finery from this panel as you could elsewhere. The Motorola G8 Plus, for example, has a higher resolution, but that does also cost a fair whack more money than the Realme.

There's another potential problem with the screen: remove the plastic screen protector and the surface layer isn't the best at repelling fingerprint smears. We left the screen protector on this phone, having made that mistake with the Oppo A5. The protector adds a bit of an 'edge' that's visible, but it's still workable and will help resist scratches too.

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Elsewhere, the Realme 5 comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack, so there's no reason you can't plug headphones in, while its bottom-positioned speaker is actually pretty loud when delivering audio for games and movies. Just a shame it's Micro-USB with no fast-charging options, when we'd rather have the quicker and more up-to-date USB-C format.

Performance & Battery

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor, 4GB RAM, 128GB storage
  • 5,000mAh battery, Micro-USB charging (10W)
  • ColorOS 6.0 operating system (Android 9)

As we said of the Oppo A5, the Realme 5's best feature is its exceptional battery life. Despite the body not being too thick, it's squeezed a 5,000mAh cell in there. Considering the flagship Samsung Galaxy S10 is just 3,400mAh by comparison, you can see why the Realme lasts that much longer. We've been getting two days from the battery no problems.

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The battery life is aided by a number of specifications: the screen, as we've said, isn't the highest resolution panel going; while the processor, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665, isn't the most powerful chipset on the block. There is 4GB RAM here, though, which is more than the Oppo A5 offers - an oddity, given that the Realme is the cheaper device of the two.

That reflects fairly well in performance terms. Don't expect games to play the best you've ever seen, but they will play without chugging away of being choppy. The only exception to this is if you're doing another major task in the background, such as a large download, in which case the performance does stutter in a concertina kind of fashion. There's just not the pipeline here to withstand super hardcore use such as that.

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Nonetheless we've been able to play a number of games without issue, including Archero and our go-to, South Park: Phone Destroyer, without finding any problematic lag. That's more than we can say for the Moto E6, which is a relative competitor to this Realme, which goes to show just how much more you can get for your money - even if the brand is, at this stage, unfamiliar to many.

The software on board is Oppo's long-established ColorOS, which is a lot like Google's Android operating system, upon which ColorOS sits, but with various additions, tweaks and layout adjustments. As a result we don't find the experience quite as clear-cut as an Android phone proper. Things like constant notifications from battery management, every app being layed out across multiple pages (even when App Drawer is activated), and numbered notifications have been a little taxing at times.

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That said, there are additions such as fingerprint/face locking per app for additional security, high levels of customisation within notifications, a side-swipe quick-access favourite apps panel, and app duplication to make use of the Dual SIM. Having two phone numbers also doesn't affect the possibility of expanding upon the 128GB on-board storage (again, double that of the pricier Oppo A5!), as there's a dedicated microSD card slot. It's a rather massive tray as a result, but we like the openness of the options.

Cameras

  • 'Quad' rear cameras:
    • Main: 12-megapixel, f/1.8 aperture
    • Ultra-wide: 8MP, f/2.2 aperture
    • Two 2MP depth sensors, f/2.4
  • Front camera: 8MP, f/2.0

The camera situation in the Realme 5 mirrors that of the Oppo A5. That's to say: it's a total oversell. It claims to be a 'quad' camera system, but as two of those on the rear are depth sensors, and the specified ultra-wide camera doesn't operate for wide-angle stills, you can think of it more as a single lens system really.

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The camera app is a little slow, but this main camera isn't too bad for an affordable device. We've had no issues shooting in even low-light conditions, while close-up focus works really well thanks to that depth sensor doubling-up as a macro lens - something of a rarity in many phones.

There aren't many bells and whistles though. Yes, you get HDR (high dynamic range) to level out those shadow and highlight details, but you won't find anything to cater for night shooting - at least not to the level of a Google Pixel 3a, for example - and, like we say, there's no wide-angle option. You do get a 2x and 5x digital zoom, which crops into the image, but still delivers a 12MP final result.

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The shots we've taken with the main camera have ample detail in good lighting conditions, although low-light causes inevitable softness and grain to become visible. That said, for looking at on a phone screen or to share on socials, that's perfectly fine, especially when a low-resolution screen such as this won't reveal the not-so-good aspects.

On the front, there's an 8MP camera which has the usual glut of Oppo's smoothing and face-thinning effects which, um, we're happy to never use. Each to their own, though, we know there are fans of the 'beautification' options. 

Verdict

Even if you don't know the name, Oppo is certainly onto something with the Realme brand: the Realme 5's battery life is exceptional, with near two-day life; its screen is large; and its processor is ample for tasks and games alike.

That said - and while we can forgive the screen for not being the highest resolution at this price point - the so-called 'quad camera' is a total oversell, with an apparent wide lens that isn't available for stills, alongside two depth sensors that don't add a great deal. Treat it as a single 12MP main and it's fine, but that's a far cry from its billing.

Where the Realme 5 really excels is in delivering a balanced experience for the money. For not a huge amount of extra cash it runs better than the Moto E6 Play, for example, and in some regards (ignoring the Micro-USB charging) this is better than the pricier Oppo A5 too.

Also consider

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Oppo A5

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Oppo, which is under the same umbrella of ownership as Realme, makes a very similar phone. Indeed, you could argue its identical, except for finish and the addition of USB-C for charging. Oh, and it'll cost you a bit more cash too.

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Moto E6 Play

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If money is tight then this Motorola ought to be even more affordable than the Realme. It's not as smooth in operation, though, even if we do prefer the simpler software approach here.

Writing by Mike Lowe.