(Pocket-lint) - Realme is one of those brands that's fighting for space in the affordable smartphones market. Which, from a consumer point of view, is a generally good thing - the Realme 8 Pro being one example of a generally solid specification for less than a third the asking price of many flagship devices.
The brand, which falls under Oppo's umbrella and is less than three years old, seems to have continually surfed under the radar though. Perhaps its the peculiar name. Perhaps it's the outlandish styling and statements. Perhaps the Realme 8 Pro is the affordable phone to break through?
Design & Display
- 6.4-inch AMOLED panel, 1080 x 2400 resolution, 60Hz refresh
- Dimensions: 160.6 x 73.9 x 8.1mm thick / Weighs: 176g
- Finish: Infinite Blue, Infinite Black, Illuminating Yellow
- In-display fingerprint scanner
- 3.5mm headphone jack
Like it or lump it, there's no escaping it: the Realme 8 Pro is one boldly designed handset. To paraphrase a certain famous sci-fi series: it boldly goes where no one has gone before. And, to our mind, it goes where no one should. That massive 'Dare To Leap' emblazoned across the rear. Ugh. Leap where? Off a cliff? As that's where such edgy, sweeping statements belong in our book.
Which is a shame, as the glistening blue finish is otherwise a good-looking metallic aesthetic that's just lost. With that massive slogan on the back the Realme 8 Pro is one of two phones we've seen in 2021 that would have to live in a (non-transparent) case - the other being the Moto G30, but not for any whacky slogan, rather for its ill-conceived two-tone colourway.
Anyway, if you're on team Dare To Leap and the design is up your street then, well, good for you. If you really, really like it then the Illuminating Yellow version comes with a glow-in-the-dark version.
Otherwise the Realme 8 Pro is a fairly neatly designed handset. Its 6.4-inch screen is large without going overboard like some of the biggest devices available, delivering generally trim black bezel to all sides and a punch-hole camera cut-out to the upper left corner. Using face unlock for quick login and the screen space surrounding it animates nicely, enhancing the interaction.
Not that you have to use facial recognition: there's also an under-display fingerprint scanner, which is a strong feature at this kind of price level. Sadly, however, it's not the best of scanners, failing more often than some of the more up-to-date versions - it might have been better to go down the side-mounted scanner route, as you'll find on the Redmi Note 10 Pro and many other handsets these days.
The screen is an AMOLED panel, so that means you can switch on an Always-On Display feature in the settings, which is handy for getting notifications even when the device isn't actively in use. AMOLED also means rich blacks and decent colour, both of which the Realme delivers well enough - there are even multiple colour profiles to adapt to your personal taste - and black crush isn't an issue. The auto-brightness does keep things from popping as much as they otherwise can though.
Performance & Battery
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G platform, 6GB/8GB RAM
- 4500mAh battery, 50W SuperDart Charge
- 128GB storage, microSD expansion
- Realme UI 2 (over Android 11)
A big part of the Realme 8 Pro's lure is its overall specification at this price point. It doesn't quite hit flagship levels, but it's not far off the mark in a number of areas.
Take the Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G platform for starters: it's got plenty of get up and go, and while it's not 5G connectivity capable, we don't think that matters in this price bracket.
It's the kind of processor that's enabling though. Want to play games? No problem, whether that's PUBG Mobile or South Park: Phone Destroyer, there are little qualms to encounter. There's even a dedicated gaming space, which can tweak specific settings, such as Do Not Disturb, while you're gaming - although why it has to pop-up and be interacted with every time a game loads, we don't know.
If your goals are simpler, and it's just browsing, email and such like that you need then the Realme 8 Pro will throw no problems your way. Well, other than the Wi-Fi, which is unusually slow - it took hours to migrate phones, including a number of 'hangs' with Google Play Store where apps ceased to download without restarting the device.
That could be a contention with the software, here Realme UI 2.0 over Google Android 11, as there are other quirks that come as part of this package. Notifications is perhaps to most notable, with a busy swipe-down screen as a result of the layout, plus per-app detailing over permissions and battery use that you'll need to manually adjust for your most used day to day apps.
This kind of battery management seems to be a standard must-have for the Chinese phone makers. Oppo, Realme, Xiaomi, Redmi, and so forth, all seem to push apps being limited from background operation. We would rather they ran as they should and warned of excess battery drain by a one-off alert to see if it could make sense to switch these options off. Otherwise, by leaving them on, you might get, say, GPS drop-out when tracking in Strava, or delayed notifications from a messaging app.
Still, there's obvious benefit to some throttling: longevity. With its 4,500mAh battery - which is fairly large, although plenty of competitors are 500mAh more capacious - we've been cutting through 70 per cent in around 16 hours of use, including a couple of hours of gaming. And that's with the phone setup to our liking, i.e. with these performance thresholds switched off. Thus, realistically, you could get even longer out of a single charge.
Overall, however, Realme UI 2.0 delivers the bulk of what you expect from an Android system. There's Google Play Store. There's an app drawer (although, by default, the device like to throw every app icon across pages). There's light and dark modes. It's felt acceptable - even more so, actually, than the pricier Xiaomi Mi 11 that we reviewed.
- Quad rear system:
- Main: 108-megapixel, f/1.9 aperture, 1/1.52 inch size,
- Wide (119 degree): 8MP, f/2.25
- B&W Portrait: 2MP, f/2.4
- Macro: 2MP, f/2.4
- Front punch-hole camera: 16MP, f/2.45
And so to the cameras, which are arranged in a square-like formation on the rear. Each of the circular lenses is the same size, giving some visual equality and symmetry to that unit. Beneath is a mark that reads '108MP Quad Camera' to show-off its best feature.
Because, like many affordable phones these days, the Realme 8 Pro massively oversells the idea of a "quad camera" system. Sure, there's four on the back. But one is a black and white portrait sensor (AKA depth sensor), which you could never use and not care. The other is a 2-megapixel macro for close-ups, which is of such poor quality and resolution - not to mention that it's not auto-activated - that, again, you'll never want to use it, or perhaps even know about it.
It's with the main pair of cameras that things get better though. The 8-megapixel wide-angle isn't especially decent quality, but having that wide-angle of view available is useful in some circumstances. Meanwhile the main 108-megapixel sensor is the real deal, utilising a Samsung sensor and combining nine pixels into one to sap as much detail, colour and range out of a scene as possible - in 12-megapixel results as standard. It's also possible to use the full 108 megapixels for a single image, should you so wish, but we'd advise against it.
That 108-megapixel camera is where the Realme 8 Pro shows its worth. Indeed, its this sensor that gives the 'Pro' stamp to this device. And it's not just that it offers a higher numerical number, it's that the quality is solid. Even in low-light it's possible to pull in sharp enough results.
The hang up? There's no optical stabilisation. Which would be really useful here to help steady the shot. You can often see the frame 'vibrating' in preview when wobbly hands are involved. And as the camera app is a little slow to actually take an image in dimmer conditions, any mechanical support that could be offered would really help push this camera solution up a level more.
If you can get over the massive slogan on the rear - which, we know, is a big ask - then the Realme 8 Pro delivers a decent specification considering the asking price.
A solid main camera unit, decent battery life, and ample power lead the charge. But there's a lot of competition out there, too, where subtlety presides as the greater success.
Redmi Note 10 Pro
Xiaomi's budget offshoot has delivered perhaps the best phone in the category for 2021, with a better design, better display, better software, and better battery than the Realme.