In India, it's hard to not have heard of smartphone maker Realme by now. Even though it's a relatively new company, it started life within Oppo, and thanks to aggressive marketing and pricing, it has managed tremendous growth over the past year. With the budget smartphone war constantly escalating, the company wants to disrupt the market once more with its new Realme 5 series and Realme is making the leap from dual to quad cameras on the backs of its phones, across the board, including models which are priced below Rs. 10,000.
The Realme 5 is a big upgrade over the Realme 3 (Review) across the board, including its processing power, cameras, and battery capacity — which the company hopes will set a new bar for what buyers can expect from a phone in this segment. Armed with an impressive resume of features, it's time to see if the Realme 5 can deliver an equally impressive Android experience.
Realme 5 design
Realme has updated its design language a bit with the Realme 5. The phone still uses a polycarbonate body with a laminated plastic back, but it's taller than the Realme 3 and features a larger display. The design of the diamond pattern on the back has been updated to a more crystalline pattern, which looks neat and helps the phone stand out. The Crystal Blue finish that we have is very striking, but if you're looking for subtlety, the Crystal Purple option would be a better pick. Also, minor scuffs from everyday use are going to be less visible on the purple version than they will be on the blue Realme 5.
The size of this phone does make one-handed use quite cumbersome, and even with large hands, we struggled to tap anywhere near the top of the display. Thankfully, ColorOS offers a one-handed mode to help tackle this issue. The Realme 5 is a bit heavy too, at nearly 200g. Button placement and tactile feedback of the volume and power buttons are good and at the bottom, we have the single speaker, headphone socket, and a Micro-USB charging port.
The Realme 5 gets an updated crystalline pattern for the back
The front has a 6.5-inch HD+ (720x1600 pixels) resolution display, with a small dewdrop notch and fairly slim bezels all around. The notch is slightly smaller on the Realme 5, although it's not easily noticeable at first glance. There's scratch protection in the form of Corning's Gorilla Glass 3 as well. The display also has a pre-applied screen guard, which got annoying for us pretty quickly but your mileage will likely vary. We found the brightness to be more than adequate, and colours had good saturation. The sharpness of text and icons isn't the best but this is only noticeable if you use this phone side-by-side with one that has a full-HD (or higher) screen.
The Realme 5 is among the first set of Realme phones to pack in four cameras at the back, but we'll get into the details of this later on. There's a fingerprint sensor in the middle of the rear, which works well, and there's face recognition too. Just like previous Realme offerings, face recognition is very quick. In low light, the screen compensates for the lack of light so you can unlock your phone even in the dark.
Last but not least, Realme says that this phone features multi-layer humidity protection for the SIM slots, gaps, battery cover, etc, and says it should be able to survive light splashes of water. In the box, the Realme 5 ships with a silicone case, a 10W adapter, a Micro-USB cable, an extra screen guard, a SIM eject tool, and the usual quick start and warranty booklets.
Realme 5 specifications and software
The Realme 5 is the first phone to be announced in India with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 SoC. As its name indicates, this processor sits between the Snapdragon 660 and Snapdragon 675. This SoC is built on an 11nm fabrication process, so it's more power efficient than the Snapdragon 660 and it even uses the same Kryo 260 cores. The integrated GPU has been upgraded to the Adreno 610, which should enable better gaming performance.
The Realme 5 is available in three variants — 3GB of RAM with 32GB of storage (Rs. 9,999); 4GB of RAM with 64GB of storage (Rs. 10,999); and the one we have, which has 4GB RAM with 128GB of storage (Rs. 11,999). Other Realme 5 specifications include dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5, slots for two Nano-SIMs plus a microSD card of up to 256GB in capacity, support for four satellite navigation systems, USB-OTG, FM radio, and the usual suite of sensors.
The Realme 5 runs on a newer version of ColorOS 6, with some cosmetic changes
The Realme 5 ships with ColorOS 6.0.1, which is the latest version of it. Realme has added a few cosmetic refinements to the interface, compared to what we recently saw in the Realme X (Review). Our unit also had the July 2019 Android security patch at the time of our review.Realme says it has refined the look and feel of some of its app icons and UI elements based on user feedback. The company's own apps, such as ORoaming, Calculator, etc, have a flatter, cleaner look.
ColorOS has gotten rid of the oversized bubbles around notification toggles switches, for a flatter and cleaner look too. The battery section in the Settings app is also a lot easier to read compared to the previous version, although we're still waiting on that battery level graph.
We didn't have any issues with spammy notifications from apps on this phone. You still get the same plethora of preinstalled apps as always, including DailyHunt, Helo, etc, but all of these can be uninstalled.
Realme 5 performance and battery life
We generally had a good experience using the Realme 5 on a daily basis. We got used to the thickness and weight of this phone after a couple of days, even though we found it top-heavy and one-handed use continued to be a challenge. The bundled phone case doesn't add much bulk, and provides a layer of protection to the back. The display offers very good sunlight legibility and its size makes it great for media consumption. There's no Widevine L1 support, though, which means video streaming apps won't be able to play content at HD or higher resolutions.
The AnTuTu benchmark refused to run completely, but in all our other standard tests, we got fairly good numbers. In PCMark, we got a score of 7,719 points, while the T-Rex graphics test in GFXbench managed 50fps. Compared to the Helio P70 in the Realme 3 and even the recent Oppo A9 (Review), the Snapdragon 665 generally has slightly better scores in gaming benchmarks but for CPU, its pretty neck and neck.
The Realme 5 has a slightly smaller notch, compared to the Realme 3
We didn't notice any overheating, even when playing stressful games. In Asphalt 9: Legends, we noticed very minor stutter briefly when a race was about to begin, but nothing much after that. PUBG Mobile oddly defaulted to the ‘Low' preset but ran fine even after bumping the graphics setting up to ‘Balanced.' The Realme 5 did get slightly warm, but never really got hot, even after a 30-minute match in PUBG.
Audio from the bottom speaker sounds a little tinny, but at least the placement is such that it doesn't get easily blocked when holding the phone horizontally. Realme continues its partnership with Dirac, which powers its ‘Real Sound Technology'. Unlike Dolby Atmos Mobile, this only works when you have headphones plugged in.
Even with heavy daily activities, you can expect the Realme 5's battery to easily last beyond a day of regular use. The phone has a 5,000mAh battery, which lasted for a solid 22 hours and 31 minutes in our HD video loop battery test, which is excellent. During our review, with light to medium use, we were able to manage nearly two days of use per charge.
Charging the battery takes a while, which could can be an issue when you're in a rush. From zero, it takes a little more than 3 hours to fully charge this phone using the bundled adapter. There's no fast charging support, which is a little disappointing. You can get up to a 24 percent charge in half an hour, and around 43 percent in an hour, which is a bit underwhelming. If you are in the habit of plugging your phone in to charge each night regardless of its battery level, this shouldn't be an issue.
Realme 5 cameras
This is where things get really interesting. The Realme 5 is the first phone with four cameras to be priced under Rs. 10,000 in India, and the company is really driving this point home. Other than the primary 12-megapixel primary sensor and 2-megapixel depth sensor, Realme has given this phone an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera with a 119 degree field of view, and a 2-megapixel macro camera for closeup shots. The primary camera has an f/1.8 aperture and PDAF, so focusing is quick. The ultra-wide-angle camera lacks autofocus but you can use Nightscape with it. The macro lens has a very narrow aperture of f/2.8, so it's not useful in low light. During the day however, you can get some really detailed closeups.
Shot using the primary camera of the Realme 5 in Photo mode (tap to see full-sized image)
Shot using the ultra wide-angle camera of the Realme 5 with Chroma Boost (tap to see full-sized image)
In daylight, the primary camera captures landscape shots that appear pleasing when viewed on the phone's display, but upon zooming in, we noticed that details in distant objects weren't very good and shadow areas had a bit of noise. The HDR isn't always effective, as colours tend to look a bit pale. This can be fixed by using the Chroma Boost mode, which makes scenes more lively. Wide-angle shots have visibly less detail but you do get a potentially more interesting perspective. Barrel distortion correction works fairly well too, so objects at the sides of the frame don't appear too warped.
Shot using Portrait mode on the Realme 5 (tap to see full-sized image)
Close-up shot with Portrait mode on the Realme 5 (tap to see full-sized image)
Shot using 'Ultra-macro' mode on the Realme 4 (tap to see full-sized image)
Closeups are one area in which the Realme 5 pulls ahead of its competition. Shots of people have good-looking skin tones, and edge detection is handled well when shooting in Portrait mode. You still can't adjust the background blur before or after you've taken a shot, but the blur looks fairly natural. If you want to take super macros, switching to the ‘Ultra macro' mode yields some good results. There's no autofocus, but when positioned correctly over a subject, we managed to get some stunning details which wouldn't be possible with a regular lens.
Shot using Nightscape on the Realme 5 (tap to see full-sized image)
Shot using Photo mode on the Realme 5 (tap to see full-sized image)
Low light is where the Realme 5 struggles a bit. Autofocus speed is still decent, but landscapes generally had weak details, and in very dark scenes, grain was visible. Nightscape mode helps brighten scenes and improve detail, but it also adds a slight crop to compensate for handshake.
There's a 13-megapixel selfie camera, which captures fairly good-looking selfies in daylight. There's HDR for this camera too, and it works well even when shooting against bright light. Portrait shots still looked a little fake, and edge detection wasn't very good. You can shoot selfie videos at up to 1080p, and the footage is stabilised, which is very handy and is not something we see too often in this segment. It worked well in daylight, but in low light, there was visible distortion due to the electronic stabilisation every time we took a step.
Realme 5 selfie test (tap to see full-sized image)
Speaking of video, the Realme 5 can shoot at up to 4K, but without stabilisation. That's not a big deal since none of the other phones at around this price can stabilise video at 4K either. Colours looked slightly boosted, but other than this, details were good when shooting during the day. Footage shot in low light however did tend to look grainy.
1080p video is stabilised, although we noticed mild focus hunting when moving around. Video quality suffered more in low light, with soft details and slight shimmer due to the electronic stabilisation.
The Realme 5 is a significant upgrade over the Realme 3 (Review), and the fact that its pricing starts just below Rs. 10,000 is commendable. Compared to the Realme 3, you get a slightly better processor, nearly two-day long battery life, and improved cameras. Plus, the addition of the wide-angle and macro cameras definitely gives you more creative freedom to capture different types of shots.
Some things to keep in mind are the weight and size of this phone. The bigger battery has made it heavy, and the tall display might not suit everyone, especially if your routine involves a lot of one-handed use. The cameras also struggle in low light, for both stills and video.
Considering you get a dedicated slot for storage expansion, the base variant of the Realme 5 offers better value compared to the 128GB version, which feels a little expensive considering there are phones in the sub-Rs. 15,000 segment that offers higher resolution displays, fast charging and equal or better processors such as the the Redmi Note 7S (Review) and the Realme 3 Pro (Review). If you don't mind the HD display, then the Realme 5 is still worth getting for its big battery and versatile wide and macro cameras.
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