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(Pocket-lint) - Flagship smartphones have become very expensive over the past few years. Some of the big-name models are skyrocketing in price, and even devices from once-affordable manufacturers like OnePlus are churning out more expensive phones than ever before.

Thankfully, if you want flagship power and don’t have unlimited cash, there is an alternative to the household names: Realme.

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In a nutshell, the company's flagship phone - the Realme GT 2 Pro - offers all the speed and power you’d expect from a top-level device but without the price tag.

Are there compromises to be had here, though, or is this a perfect option for those who want an affordable Android powerhouse

We've put it to the test in order to find out. 

Our quick take

On face value, it's fair to assume that you can’t really build a flagship-standard phone without making some compromises. It's certainly the case with the Realme GT 2 Pro, but, on the whole, this is a device that gets most of the key things right.

Combining great software, a brilliant display, flagship performance, speedy charging and a great design, you get a fantastic smartphone in your pocket here. 

Realme may not be a phone maker you’re all that familiar with, and the GT 2 Pro, as a consequence, isn't necessarily a phone you will have considered buying. Given our experience, though, it definitely should be.

You won’t get a better phone at this price. And, in fact, if having top-end cameras isn’t your priority, this is a phone we’d absolutely recommend. 

Realme GT 2 Pro review: Mint green turbo machine

Realme GT 2 Pro

4.5 stars - Pocket-lint recommended
For
  • Very competitive price for the spec/performance
  • Slim and practical design
  • Lightweight and customisable software
  • Great display
Against
  • Some data loading hangups
  • Ultrawide camera could be better

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Design 

  • Dimensions: 163.2 x 74.7 x 8.2mm
  • Weight: 189g

With the GT 2 Pro, Realme wanted to try something a bit different. One motivation was to make a phone that was more environmentally friendly, and the other, presumably, was to make something that stands out from the ocean of glass rectangles. 

While there may be claimed environmental reasons for going with the paper-like material on the back, Realme’s claims to be more planet-conscious seem a little laughable when you realise just how many phone models the company launches each year - and how frequently it updates existing models. 

In fact - at the time of writing - since the GT 2 Pro was first announced in January 2022, Realme has announced 22 new phone models. It’s safe to assume that the GT 2 Pro’s plasticky paper rear is only making the tiniest dent in its environmental efforts, then. And that makes it feels like a bit of a box-ticking exercise - or just a way to try and tempt environmentally-conscious buyers into getting the phone. 

Cynicism aside, there is a benefit to the user for choosing this more environmentally-friendly paper-inspired rear: it’s incredibly practical and, in this ‘Paper Green’ (essentially a soft mint green), it looks great. 

The textured surface not only means it’s really easy to grip, but also that it’s never likely to slip off furniture or out of pockets. And from a pure comfort point of view, it’s one of the nicest phones to hold in two hands while texting that we’ve tested in a long time. That’s thanks in part to the slim 8.2mm sides and curved edges, plus the relative lightness of the handset. For a big phone, it’s remarkably nimble. 

If we were to describe the entire design ethos in one word, it would be ‘practical’. Everything about this phone is unfussy, sensible, and without any unnecessary decisions. The display on the front is completely flat, making it easy to type on without curves getting in the way or producing accidental touches. 

Both the wake/sleep key and the volume rocker on opposite sides of the frame are positioned to be easily reached with either right or left thumbs. And despite its lightness, that aluminium frame - in its understated green anodised finish - feels sturdy and stable. Plus, it’s splash-resistant.

It’s safe to say that if you have one of the ‘paper’ finishes, you won’t need a case, and that saves you both additional cost and saves you from the necessity to have an even chunkier device in your hand or pocket. 

Display and software

  • 6.7-inch LTPO2 AMOLED display
  • 1440 x 3216 resolution; 526 pixels-per-inch 
  • 120Hz adaptive refresh; HDR10+; 1400 nits peak
  • Realme UI 3.0, Android 12

What you often find on smartphones seeking to cut costs in order to keep pricing competitive is a Full HD display - or a display that’s not quite up to spec compared to the premium models.

With the Realme GT 2 Pro, though, that simply isn’t the case. It’s a Quad HD display with the latest LTPO-type panel for smooth, variable refresh rates up to 120Hz and 1400 nits peak brightness. It’s got everything, and it’s flat, which, in our books, is a bonus. 

As we’ve found with a few other top phone models, the highest resolution isn’t enabled by default. Instead, the phone is set to Full HD in order to save battery and help the phone stay fast even under load. However, you can change it and select the full 1400 x 3216 resolution if you want to. 

For the most part, we didn’t see the need for it. In fact, we tested it for the first week with the lower Full HD+ resolution selected and had no complaints. Plus, the battery life we were getting more than made it worthwhile. 

However, if you like everything to look pin-sharp and often have the phone closer to your face than arm’s length and just enjoy it looking extra crispy you’ll like how it looks with the full resolution enabled. Because while it’s hard to see the need for it at arm’s length, it’s something you can see when it’s a little closer, or when looking at fine details and curves. 

In terms of colour, contrast and brightness, it’s up there with the best of them. It’s a great screen for watching all manner of content. Whether you’re browsing through photos or catching up on your favourite HDR shows, it’ll do the trick. In fact, it’ll more than do the trick. It’s bright, vibrant and has plenty of contrast. It’s ideal, really. 

Now, officially, Realme isn’t an Oppo sub-brand, just like OnePlus wasn’t (until 2021). Still, it is part of the same group, and that means you’ll see similarities in hardware tech, and in software. Like Oppo’s latest phones, it runs an Android 12-based system but with the Realme UI 3.0 skin on top. 

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It’s not identical to ColorOS, but, like OxygenOS, is very much based on Oppo’s Android software, and shares more than a few similarities. That’s no bad thing, though - there are lots of things to like. 

For one thing, it’s very light on bloat and redundant apps. You won’t find Realme trying to push its own phone, messages or email apps like Samsung might, or find lots of additional apps you couldn’t ever find a use for. It sticks with Google’s defaults for most of the important things. 

It’s pretty lightweight, too, and optimised to ensure that it feels fast and responsive all the time, regardless of the part of the interface you’re interacting with. Plus, the ‘Personalisations’ option in the settings menu ensures it’s really easy to get to any part of the experience and tweak it to your preference. Whether you want to change the always-on display style, customise the icon size and shape, or pick a new wallpaper or accent colour, it’s all done here. 

Performance and battery 

  • Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor
  • 12GB RAM - 256GB storage (other variants available)
  • 5000mAh battery - 80W fast charging (33mins full charge)

If there’s one area the Realme GT 2 Pro really does pull out all the stops - apart from display - it’s in the internal hardware and performance. Just like all the highest performing phones, this one has the flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, plenty of RAM and a big battery, plus fast charging. It’s got it all. 

When you combine that Snapdragon processor and 12GB RAM (in the UK unit) with the 120Hz refresh display, you get a very quick phone. It doesn’t really matter what you try and do with it, it’ll do without a whimper. Whether that’s your daily fix of Wordle or smashing through the hours in Call of Duty Mobile or Mario Kart. There’s just no waiting; it loads it all instantly and can go through many hours of gaming without so much as a stutter. 

It wasn’t all plain sailing, sadly. There were some instances where it seemed data just didn’t want to download. It wasn’t all the time, and certainly not even frequent enough to call it ‘often’ or even every day, but there were moments with apps like Twitter and Slack when the phone just seemed to not want to download or refresh with new data. 

We also tested it with the SIM out and airplane mode enabled to check if it was the phone being confused between cellular and Wi-Fi, and that didn’t make any difference. 

As for battery life, the mileage varies depending on your usage - as always. If you’re an avid gamer with all the performance boosted, frame rates and resolution boosted to maximum, you’re going to drain your phone quicker than someone whose usage mostly consists of social media and web browsing. 

While we had the phone in its default Full HD resolution and with the smart refresh rates enabled, we’d sometimes finish our day with near enough 50 per cent left over after 2-3 hours of screen time mostly made up of Twitter, Slack, Chrome and camera usage. And that’s with a Huawei smartwatch connected and tracking daily activity in the background in a 4G area. 

With Quad HD enabled, and ramping up the game time, we still found that we’d struggle to completely drain the battery in a day, even if using music playing via Bluetooth for an hour or so each day. What this should mean is that even the most demanding users in 5G areas should comfortably get from morning to bedtime without needing to plug it in. 

The best thing about this whole battery experience is the charging speed. It’s yet another area where Realme has borrowed from Oppo. It’s shipped with an 80W SuperDart-branded charger. This is - unsurprisingly - the exact same 80W charging you get on the most recent Oppo and OnePlus phones. It just has a different name. 

With this charger - which comes in the box - you can get from empty to full in a little over half an hour. What we’ve found with this technology is that even if you do forget to charge it at night, it’s not a big deal. Just charge it when empty. A charge time of 15 minutes is usually enough to get it nearly a full day’s worth of battery back in again. In short: there’s no battery anxiety with the GT 2 Pro. 

Cameras

  • 50MP primary f/1.8 camera w/PDAF and OIS
  • 50MP ultrawide f/2.2 150-degree camera
  • 3MP microscope camera

Up until you get to the cameras, pretty much everything about the Realme phone screams ‘flagship’. And, to an extent, even the cameras are strong. However, if there’s one area it doesn’t quite live up to the really expensive phones, this is it. 

Even just from a basic layout standpoint, there are only two useful cameras. There is a third ‘microscope’ camera, but, beyond a few hours of phone, it’s not the most useful. It’s a repurposing of the camera found in the Oppo Find X3 Pro, and is hard to get a good shot from.

It’s not stabilised, but, also, being a microscope camera means it needs to be within a specific narrow range of distance from the subject in order to be in focus. Plus, as we know, when you magnify something to 40x levels, any small hand movement is enough to completely ruin the shot. 

As for the two useful cameras, those are both 50-megapixel. You get a primary/wide and an ultrawide. The former of those is better than the second, but neither is market-leading. 

In good daylight, you can get eye-catching shots with lots of colour and contrast. And, for a lot of people, that’s going to be enough. In fact, it doesn’t really struggle to take photos that are primed and ready for sharing on social media. 

It’s when you look a bit closer you start to see flaws, like its tendency to overblow the colours. Greens in plants and landscapes are a little too hyperreal, and the boosted contrast certainly doesn’t help the images retain any kind of realism. What’s more, when you shoot objects close up, the camera automatically creates a heavy background blur which - from a distance - looks great. But look closer, and it just seems very unnatural. 

Shooting reds in particular we found were a bigger problem than greens. In fact, anything approaching red - like bright orange flowers - the colour would be so overblown, that it’d lose any sense of detail when shooting with the automatic/default mode. 

In lower light situations - like indoors away from bright light sources - we’d find a bit of noise creeping into pictures, particularly in shadows. This was even more noticeable in the ultrawide camera which - again - is decent enough outdoors. It is a little more limited though. It doesn’t focus on closer objects at all and suffers from the same colour processing as the main lens. Indoors, or in lower light, it doesn’t tend to match at all. It’s more faded. 

In truth, the cameras get the basics right and generally will let you take decent photos without much effort. However, if you’re a stickler for really good images and natural representation of colours and depth of field, you’ll maybe want to look elsewhere. 

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To recap

Whether you like the design or not, Realme's GT 2 Pro has a lot of positives going for it, from its flagship-grade innards to capable (and quirky) cameras. It might not be the biggest brand name right now, but, with pricing this keen, it's hard to not pay attention to what is a very capable offering - the kind of OnePlus competitor that so few have been able to quite master.

Writing by Cam Bunton. Editing by Conor Allison.