(Pocket-lint) - With the release of the OnePlus Nord, OnePlus went to town hyping up and marketing its "first mid-range phone". But it's not the only phone in town worth considering.
Realme - a sister company of OnePlus and Oppo - has its own take, the X50 5G, which costs even less. It's as if the world was Nord enough, eh? Hard as it is to criticise it based on the spec sheet, does Realme's effort add up to a truly compelling affordable experience?
- Dimensions: 163.8 x 75.8 x 8.9 mm / Weight: 195g
- Glass front and back, plastic frame
- Fingerprint sensor in power button
Over the past few years it's become more difficult for manufacturers to produce phones that look unique. At arm's length - aside from colour choices - there's little to distinguish one of those glass rectangles that we all carry around in our pockets and handbags. That becomes even more of a challenge when you're part of a family of smartphone brands - Oppo, OnePlus, Realme - each using similar sizes, shapes and materials. For Realme there's at least an attempt here not to look like a low-end OnePlus or Oppo phone.
Size-wise, the X50 is noticeably bigger than the OnePlus Nord and chunkier than the Find X2 Neo. It's about 9mm thick - which is pretty hefty for a smartphone, particularly when combined with its almost 200 gram weight. Short version: the X50 5G is big.
To give it some visual appeal, Realme has been up to its usual tricks of layering up different colours and finishes in the glass on the back, and that means the rear can take on vastly different reflective patterns depending on the angle you're holding it and in what sources of light. It's this look that gives the Realme its unique style point.
Despite its visual appeal, the glossy glass finish suffers quite badly from fingerprint smudges. If you so much as think about touching it, the shine is replaced by a greasy smear in no time at all. Apart from that, the only thing worth noting on the back is the long pill-shaped camera system that contains four separate cameras. It's a fairly standard approach to camera design, and protrudes a little from the back of the phone - but in a way that unsettles the balance.
The front of the X50 5G looks like most other current devices. That's to say it has skinny bezels up the sides and a hole-punch camera in the top corner. In this instance, it's a dual-camera setup which eats up a little bit more space than a single cutout would.
So where are the compromises? In a phone that costs less than OnePlus' already competitively priced Nord, there has to be some, right? Yep. Thankfully, they're mostly quite minor cutbacks on the design side. For instance, the chin at the bottom of the display is thicker, which says more about the display panel that Realme has managed to get in at this price point. Like the Nord, the X50 5G has a plastic frame, but unlike the Nord there's a physical fingerprint sensor rather than an in-display one.
The sensor is mounted to the side of the phone in the form of a flat key that also doubles as the sleep/wake/power button. For the most part, it worked reliably in testing, with only the odd misfire and failure to recognise a print. It certainly seems more reliable and consistent than a low-cost in-display fingerprint sensor.
On the whole though, despite its size, weight and a few compromises in materials, the X50 has a reassuring sturdiness about it. It's a solid phone.
- 6.57-inch LCD panel, 120Hz refresh rate
- 1080 x 2400 (Full HD+) resolution
- Realme UI, based on Android 10
Another area Realme compromises a little is with the display tech. The X50 5G uses an LCD panel instead of AMOLED, which explains the lack of in-display fingerprint sensor. But don't let that put you off.
Despite having a reputation for being poorer than OLED based screens, LCD is actually decen, offering nice colour reproduction. Greens and blues are vivid without being oversaturated. Whites are clean, while blacks are dark enough - even if you don't get that same inky black feel you'd get from an AMOLED screen.
However, the X50 5G's screen isn't the brightest on the planet. Compared to the OnePlus Nord - while the Realme's screen appears cleaner - it's just nowhere nearly as bright. But if you never saw them side by side, you wouldn't notice - at least not until you went outside in the height of summer when it's bright, at which point it becomes hard to read.
The X50 5G's biggest draw, we think, is the 120Hz refresh rate. It enables super smooth animations within the user interface and means Realme gets to take advantage of some lovely live wallpapers that animate with a smoothness that's just so pleasing to stare at.
Beyond that, once you're stuck into your games or mid-Netflix-binge, the display holds up well. It's relatively sharp, although if you look closely you'll notice that some of the finer details aren't quite as crisp as you'd get on a Quad HD panel. Still, once you load up a YouTube video, or start browsing through your photo gallery, you'll have little to complain about here. So long as you're indoors.
Performance and battery
- Snapdragon 765G processor
- 6GB/8GB RAM and 128GB/256GB storage
- 4200mAh battery, 30W wired flash charging
The X50 5G runs on the increasingly popular Snapdragon 765 platform, so run it through some benchmarking tests and you'll be able to tell it's not a flagship phone. However, use it day to day for your usual gaming, social media and browsing antics and you won't be disappointed. Nothing about its actual performance tells you you're using a sub-premium phone. Not unless you look closely.
We've played a number of different games and - apart from some of the graphics appearing a little less sharp - the Realme X50 keeps up with pretty much everything. It's smooth, fast and lag-free. It doesn't tend to get overheated under load either, although it's worth noting that we weren't using it in a 5G area and so couldn't test how it fared with a 5G connection.
The battery is incredibly efficient when in standby mode, so if you leave the X50 lying on the side for hours at a time then you're not going to find a depleted battery when you return to it. In fact, it'll comfortably just sit for days at a time if you're the type of person who doesn't use your phone all that much.
With moderate to heavy usage, it'll comfortably make it through the day and get you to bedtime without a sweat. Depending on just how much Mario Kart or Scrabble Go we played, we found somewhere around the 40 per cent mark was normal for our typical usage with a couple of hours gaming thrown in during the day.
On our lighter usage days we found it was almost a two-day battery. And with its fast charging capabilities, we didn't feel the necessity to plug it in overnight either. It uses the same 30W fast charging as the OnePlus Nord and other Oppo phones, which means just 30 minutes plugged in will get you around 70 per cent of the battery refilled.
- Quad camera system
- 48MP f/1.8 primary (25mm equiv.)
- 8MP f/2.3 ultra-wide (16mm equiv.)
- 2MP macro and depth sensors
- Dual 16MP and 2MP (depth) selfie cameras
- 4K video at 30fps
If there's one repeating frustration in the smartphone world in 2020 it's phones with more cameras than necessary. The X50 5G sadly fits into that category. It has four cameras on the back - the primary camera is joined by an ultra-wide camera and two low res sensors: one for depth, the other for macro - when the main two would be adequate. There's also no telephoto zoom to be found here.
Despite not having a dedicated zoom lens, the camera interface does allow you to switch between the ultra-wide, 1x, 2x and 5x zoom views. The last two of those use a digital zoom on the primary camera's sensor. That does inevitably mean detail diminishes when you zoom in - and things get quite blotchy at the 5x mark.
In good daylight, the primary camera can take decent enough shots. It does seem to overprocess colours though, often leaving the image a bit too saturated and contrasty. If you get up close to an object and focus (without switching to portrait mode) it can create a nice looking background blur/bokeh effect, while retaining lovely colours, and even does a decent job of evening out highlights and shadows.
Switching to the ultra-wide camera, we found that - while it was great having that wider field of view - the images seem to come out darker a lot of the time, and also appear noticeably less detailed and sharp. Given its less impressive 8-megapixel sensor and f/2.3 aperture (versus 12-megapixel images and f/1.8 aperture) that does make sense to a degree.
As for the selfie cameras, we were impressed with results from the primary 32-megapixel sensor, more because we're so used to selfie cameras being mostly terrible, especially when it comes to dynamic range. Shooting with a bright sky behind us, the front camera was capable of using high dynamic range (HDR) to keep our face well lit and still have a dynamic sky, without any serious overblowing/bleaching in the clouds.
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On the whole, we're in the same quandary with the X50 5G as we were with the OnePlus Nord. If costs must be saved in camera departments, we'd much rather have seen Realme use a dual-camera system with two equally good cameras than one decent camera joined by a not-as-good ultra-wide and two other relatively pointless sensors. We hope this trend stops soon.
With the X50 5G, Realme is undercutting the OnePlus Nord. For the money it's a very accomplished phone that will serve you reliably day in and day out.
If your primary aim in buying a phone is getting bang for your buck, then you'll get a heck of a lot of phone here. The X50 is fast and can keep going all day without a whimper.
It's true that the camera could be better, and that there are little compromises in terms of design and display tech, but it's unlikely you'll find an all-round better phone than the Realme X50 5G at this price.
It may cost a little more than the Realme, but for that extra you get a much brighter and more vivid display, a better camera system, and a software experience that's clean and bloat-free. What's more, OnePlus offers up to two years of software updates and is known to release fixes and new features quickly.
Moto G 5G Plus
It's the same price as Realme's effort, and arguably has a slightly poorer camera, but it makes up for it with a clean Android software experience and a bigger battery.