It's no secret that since the dawn of 5G-connected smartphones, devices have gotten bigger, hardware more powerful and - as a result - it's all more expensive. Or is it?

As with any technological development, the good stuff trickles down. This is where the likes of Realme comes into play: the company's X50 Pro 5G features a lot of the same high-performance components as the OnePlus 8 Pro but with a slightly more affordable asking price.

Design 

  • Dimensions: 159 x 74.2 x 8.9mm / Weight: 205g
  • Finishes: Rust Red, Moss Green
  • Glass front and back

It's no surprise that Realme's 5G device is a pretty hefty phone. It's nearly 9mm thick, which makes it a full millimetre thicker than the OnePlus 8. We know that a millimetre here and there isn't all that much, but Realme's wider and heavier design is something we noticed when picking it up for the first time. Unless you're coming from a bigger device - and there aren't that many - it will feel quite cumbersome to begin with. 

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Part of that is down to the flat screen on the front. That means the curves on the sides aren't as pronounced as some other phones, so you don't get as much of a gradual slope into the width of the phone. That flat screen has its benefits though, primarily that you don't get the same number of accidental touches as you would on a 'proper' curved display.

As well as being flat fronted, the Realme X50 Pro has pretty skinny bezels around the display. They're slimmer than the iPhone 11's bezels, but not as even. As seems to be typical among Android smartphone makers, the bottom bezel (or 'chin') is a bit thicker than the frame up the edges and along the top. 

With that said, Realme has opted for a dual selfie camera placed in a pill-shaped hole-punch cutout in the top left corner instead. It's not as subtle or ignorable as the single cut-out on the Samsung S20 or Oppo X2 Pro latest devices, but using a wallpaper that's dark near the top can help disguise it somewhat, and you can enable a setting to camouflage it by enabling a virtual bezel along the top of the display in certain apps. 

It's safe to say that the rest of it is a fairly straightforward design. The back is coated in a matte, frosted glass that curves slightly towards the corners and edges. Our unit is a rusty brown-red that manages to resist fingerprints more than a glossy finish might - but it is harder to wipe clean than a glossy finish would be, so that is something of a trade-off. 

Display 

  • 6.44-inch AMOLED display
  • 1080 x 2400 resolution
  • 90Hz refresh, HDR10+

High refresh rate screens are something of a trend right now - and Oppo's family of brands (which includes Realme) is all over it. This particular display is a Ful HD+ resolution with a maximum refresh rate of 90Hz, which makes it very similar to the OnePlus 8 panel in terms of specifications. It's also HDR10+ capable with a peak brightness above 1000 nits, so serves for high dynamic range content too.

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Being a flat display, Realme's panel doesn't suffer from any of that distorting or uneven brightness that happens on most curved screens at the rounded portion of the glass. It's flat and even throughout. 

The experience of the display, however, heavily depends on how it's calibrated and what you're doing with it. For instance, setting it to its Vivid mode makes colours pop and blacks really dark and inky, but it also boosts the contrast too far and ends up making video and photos look unnatural. The overall appearance of it, especially in the general user interface, is really bright and attractive though.

In its Gentle mode, you don't get the same eye-popping colours, but once you start watching a live action movie, documentary or TV show, you're grateful for that as it's far more pleasant to watch. However, the overall phone user interface and app icons seem a bit muted. Still, even in this mode, the screen still has a bit of a contrasty look, making some graphics and imagery look a bit harsh and dark.

Although the X50 Pro doesn't have the highest resolution out there, at an arm's length details and text still look plenty sharp enough. There aren't any serious issues with it, and the 90Hz does seem to make the user interface and general fluidity very smooth (we could argue at length about whether higher refresh rates are visible to all - such as the 144Hz panel in the Red Magic 5G). 

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On the software side, a lot of Realme UI - which is loaded over the top of Google's Android 10 - is very similar to Oppo's ColorOS, which we've enjoyed using in the Oppo Find X2. This UI takes advantage of the display's capabilities: live wallpapers can adapt and change, feature bright colours, fluid animations, and are perfect for this fast-refresh panel. 

Similarly, it has an always-on lock screen which can be customised to show a number of different clock styles in various colours, with small colourful notification icons that make it easy to see which app has sent you the alert. The level of customisation here is great, and the inky black screen means it doesn't consume too much power. 

Performance and battery

  • Snapdragon 865 processor, 6GB/8GB/12GB LPDDR5 RAM
  • 4,200mAh battery, 65W SuperDart charging
  • 128GB/256GB storage
  • 5G connectivity

You needn't be concerned with the X50 Pro's battery life, for two main reasons: firstly, the 4,200mAh battery is capacious; secondly, when you charge it up, it refills really quickly thanks to SuperDart charging.

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On a day where we spent a good 40 minutes gaming in the morning, we got to noon - four hours after taking it off charge - with the battery having only dropped 10 per cent. By the end of our busiest days we were at somewhere near 40 per cent remaining. Even on days when we tested the camera and gaming performance, we struggled to completely drain it in a single day. 

Then comes charging, and boy is it fast! Realme has a 65W SuperDart charging technology, which is literally Oppo's SuperVOOC 2.0 but rebranded. That means you can get the battery from completely empty up to 100 per cent full in about 35 minutes. It's fantastic. 

The real joy is the freedom that comes from knowing you just don't need to plug it in overnight. There's no need. It likely won't be dead at bed time to begin with, so you can just plug it in when you wake up, make your coffee, get ready for the day, and within about 20-25 minutes you've got more than enough charge to get you through that day. 

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It's a similar high-end experience in general speed and performance. Animations and transitions between apps and layers of the interface is really quick. Loading up games with fast animation and intense graphics poses no problem to the X50 Pro, thanks to being powered by the top tier Snapdragon 865 processor from Qualcomm.

This phone also uses the latest LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.0 storage. For reference: that's the same kind of memory OnePlus uses in its ultra-fast OnePlus 8 Pro. It means everything from loading games, downloading content, and running apps is as fast and problem-free as any phone on the market. 

The only aspect we've not been able to test is 5G connectivity. During lockdown we're nowhere near to such a network, so it'd 4G only for the time being. This means we can't yet comment on how 5G might affect battery life.

Camera

  • Quad rear cameras:
    • Main: 64-megapixel, f/1.8 aperture
    • Wide/macro: 8MP, f/2.3
    • Zoom (2x): 12MP, f/2.5
    • Mono: 2MP, f/2.4
  • Dual selfie camera:
    • 32MP & 8MP ultra-wide

Realme, like so many other brands, has equipped the X50 Pro with multiple cameras on its back. There are three useful ones, and a less useful fourth one that's there to capture black and white data.

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It's completely possible to take good photos with this system, whether you use the wide, ultra-wide or telephoto zoom lens. Photos are full of color, and relatively detailed when you take them in good light.

But it's not perfect. First and most prominent is that the main camera shows crazy lens-flare if you happen to point it vaguely in the direction of the sun or light source. Often we found it would create a very distracting rainbow pattern across the entire shot if you had the sun up in the top right corner (even out of shot). 

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Then there were issues with taking macro shots. Like some other manufacturers, the ultra-wide lens can be used as a macro to get up close to objects. Results aren't terrific. Even when shooting completely still objects, ensuring it's in focus before capturing, the resulting image is soft and visually mushy. 

The other issue with macro is that, when using the primary camera, if you get close enough to an object, the camera decides that you want to shoot in macro mode and then switches to the other lens, forcing you to reframe and reposition the camera. At which point, while you're moving, it may decide it's no longer close enough and switches back. This is because there's a little distance between the main and ultra-wide lenses, and switching between them alters the position, since they're all laid out in one line on the back of the phone. 

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We found sometimes that images came out looking like contrast was too high and the image was over processed, making textures look quite harsh and unnatural. But all these points could well be fixed by a software/firmware update. There's a lot of potential here, it's just not quite realised yet.

Verdict

The Realme X50 Pro looks like it could be a real challenger to the likes of the OnePlus 8 Pro. It's a high powered smartphone, with a quad camera system, crazy-fast charging, and a more affordable price point.

But it faces some stumbling blocks - largely of its own making. The cameras on the back can be inconsistent, especially when switching to macro, or when lens flare kicks in. The display ticks a lot of boxes, too, but is either a bit too contrasty or a bit too muted.

Still, there's a heap of good stuff to praise. It can take great photos, its display is bright and vivid, the battery life and charging speeds are superb, internal hardware is top-drawer, while 5G support at this price point means super-fast connectivity in the future.

For a lot of people, this Realme could be a great way to get flagship performance without spending flagship prices. But in the same breath the established OnePlus 8 series is hard to ignore.

Also consider

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OnePlus 8

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It may not have the ultimate camera performance of other flagships, but the OnePlus 8 still represents great value for money when it comes to build quality and performance. Plus that light approach to software is a real winner. And the green finish is lush.

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Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro

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Xiaomi makes fantastic and powerful phones that don't cost a lot of money, with the Mi 9T the pinnacle of that ethos. It'll cost you a lot less than the Realme and still offers great overall performance.