Realme only recently broke into the UAE market and earlier, we took the X2 Pro for a spin. The 5 Pro is a much more affordable smartphone starting at Dh699. While we have seen value phones in the past, nothing of late has had a better package than Realme’s offering.
Adequate build with a flashy design
Naturally, to be able to accommodate for a lower price tag, sacrifices in design had to be made. While the front of the phone is protected by Gorilla Glass 3+, its frame and back is noticeably made from plastic. What this means is that over daily use, the phone will see scratches which may take away from its otherwise gorgeous aesthetic. The back surface has a crystal like design and is sure to turn some heads. And in order to get the best of both worlds, a transparent hard back or silicone case should do nicely.
On the back, you also find the 48MP quad-camera setup on the right edge as well as the fingerprint scanner. I am a fan of the latter because in-screen scanners especially on budget smartphones do not provide the best experience. And in that case, reverting to the more traditional fingerprint scanner is no issue. I will be honest, it does give the phone a dated look but that does not bother me. As for the camera, its placement and protruding design means the phone will wobble when used on a flat surface.
Otherwise, the design is fairly standard. You find the volume buttons and power button on the left and right edges respectively although they feel a bit less premium. Additionally, the left edge also houses the dual-SIM slot and a separate dedicated micro-SD slot which is incredibly useful. The top edge has the secondary microphone while the primary microphone, speaker, Type-C USB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack are on the bottom edge. While there is no official IP water or dust protection, the phone is resistant to splashes.
IPS LCD tear-drop style display
The front of the device sports a 6.3-inch 2,340 x 1,080 pixel 19.5:9 display. Being an IPS panel, something that is good are its viewing angles. And with no considerable bezel around the display, the phone offers a fairly immersive experience. By default, the display is calibrated for a warm look however that can be adjusted in the settings.
But with no DCI-P3 color coverage or HDR certification, content may look a bit colour inaccurate and bland. And this may especially be the case if you are coming from a device that had an AMOLED panel, where colours are typically more saturated. But that is not to say the display is unusable. There is no reason anyone should find trouble using it for casual multimedia watching and even in moderate sunlight, as the 450 nit maximum brightness is not bad.
Where you may be let down is with the speaker experience. There is only a single bottom firing speaker on the device which means it lacks stereo output. On top of that, the speaker itself lacks quality. At higher volumes, audio suffers from peaking and because of the speaker’s position, it is easily muffled in the landscape orientation. To avoid this though, just use any pair of 3.5mm or wireless headphones.
Hardware and software experience
The mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 712 octa-core chipset is what you find on the 5 Pro. It is made from a 10nm process and is clocked at 2.3GHz. In particular, the chipset also helps with capturing 4K video footage but more on that in a later section. With the power and up to 8GB of RAM, daily performance is still only on par. It lacks smoothness and at times, you do see some hiccups in transition but nothing game breaking. Even with that amount of RAM, applications have to reload at times, especially heavy games. However, in-game experiences are quite good, with a playable frame rate thanks to the Adreno 616 GPU.
On the software front, the phone runs Color OS 6.0 on top of Android 9.0. An upgrade to Android 10 is in the works but we are not sure when this could be. Going by how frequently Realme is upgrading the 5 Pro though, it should be fairly soon. The on-board software takes about 18GB of the default storage space on the phone, either 64GB or 128GB but does bring some useful touches. Things such as Game Space, an App Cloner and Split Screen functionality are great to have among gestures and in-built screen recording.
However, I feel Realme is trying to cram a bit too much into the phone given its price point. These extra features are great but given the hardware power on the phone, they do not work as well as they should. And maybe toning down the software experience a bit for smartphones at this budget would improve overall responsiveness and fluidity. Not just that, Realme could also look at including NFC on its future smartphones at this price point as the industry actively shifts towards mobile payments.
Excellent quad-camera system
I have referred to the phone’s 48MP quad-camera system throughout the review but now it is time to get a bit more in-depth. Alongside it, you find an 8MP ultra-wide lens, a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth sensor. While there is no optical image stabilisation or a telephoto lens, the images the phone captures are impressive.
Pictures tend to have solid dynamic range and a good amount of detail. When switching to the ultra-wide lens, a noticeable change in colour tones and drop in detail is seen. However, for the extra landscape coverage, there is not much to complain about. With the 2MP macro lens too, the phone can get up close to a lot of subjects. And while detail is not too high from photos captured this way, it is still impressive to see the extent of this phone’s capabilities.
Without night mode, photos look hazy and have a fair bit of noise. However, with night mode, the difference is surreal. Something I do not like is how the pictures shift colours from the original when using night mode. But the detail and sharpness you get in return is a good trade-off. Of course, this stays true as long as you do not zoom into an image taken with night mode. Because by doing so, you see more of the photo’s discrepancies such as noise and over processing.
As far as video is concerned, the phone is capable of both 1080p video up to 60fps and 4K video up to 30fps. Video quality is fairly average with decent stabilisation at 1080p resolution. With 4K, you notice a visible increase in the sharpness of footage however, stabilisation is much worse. The phone is also capable of filming with the ultra-wide lens up to 1080p resolution for a more cinematic look. For that quick video, the 5 Pro is no slouch but for anything more professional, you may want to look elsewhere even though it has one of the better video packages than its competition at this price point.
Reliable battery life
Given its lower-end processing power, the most impressive aspect about the 5 Pro is its consistent and reliable battery life. It has a 4,035mAh cell that supports 20W fast charging via its Type-C USB port. With VOOC 3.0, it can go from 0-50 per cent in 30 minutes of charging. For the most part, it can easily get through more than a day’s worth of usage. And that is without toggling any power saving options. As for the lack of wireless charging, it is anything but a deal breaker at this price range.
The Realme 5 Pro has a lot going for it. While we cannot comprehensively speak about the international market, in the UAE at least, it is a phone that should not be overlooked. It offers a solid feature set and hardware that you can easily get by with for the next year or so. Its closest competition is the Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro, which at the time was pushing the boundaries for value for money. But with Realme’s emphasis on hardware, camera and build quality, it may just beat it in a head to head.