Is this phone just the Realme C3 with a new look and some minor tweaks?
By Jamshed Avari | Updated: 27 May 2020 15:39 IST
The Narzo 10a has a fingerprint sensor and a rear macro camera
The phone is powerful enough to offer a decent gaming experience
You should be able to get two days of use out of a full battery
Realme Narzo 10A is the more affordable model in the new Narzo series, and is getting quite a lot of attention thanks to a high-profile launch. Priced under Rs. 10,000, the Narzo 10A doesn't promise quite as much as the Narzo 10, but should be a solid addition to your list of choices if you're looking for a new budget phone. Even before we got the phone, we could say with some confidence that the Narzo 10A will do well in its review, since it's very nearly identical to the Realme C3, which was launched at the beginning of this year and has dominated our buying guide.
However, anyone who has recently bought the Realme C3 (Review) will probably be annoyed since the Narzo 10A costs just Rs. 500 more and fixes one big complaint that we had with it. Read on for our full review.
Realme Narzo 10A design
The Narzo 10A is exactly the same shape and size as the Realme C3, and in fact it's imperceptibly slimmer than the the Narzo 10 (Review). When seen from the front it would be impossible to tell any of these devices apart. That said, Realme has gone in a dramatic new direction with the rear shell of this phone. Gone are the bold patterns, textures and gradients of other Realme models – in their place you'll find a stark flat white or blue with a gigantic Realme logo splashed across the entire length of the device.
The logo looks really prominent in Realme's advertisements and marketing materials, but it's actually fairly subtle in person on our So White review unit. You might not even see it if the light isn't hitting this phone at the right angle. The lettering has a very slightly raised texture and overall it's quite unobtrusive.
We like the fact that the Narzo 10A is designed to be tall and relatively narrow, with a 20:9 aspect ratio display and 89.8 percent screen-to-body ratio. The rear is not slippery which is a good thing since you'll have to shuffle this phone in your palm in order to reach all corners of the screen. There's a waterdrop notch at the top, and Realme ships this phone with a pre-applied scratch protection film. Unfortunately you don't get a plastic case in the retail box.
The logo on the back is huge but still relatively subtle
The power button is on the right, and the volume buttons are on the left with the triple-slot card tray. We're disappointed to see a Micro-USB port on the bottom rather than a more modern Type-C port. There's also a single speaker and a 3.5mm audio socket. One very interesting feature is the fingerprint sensor on the back, which the Realme C3 lacks.
The only other noticeable difference between these two models is the third camera in the bump on the Narzo 10A. This is a 2-megapixel macro camera, joining the 12-megapixel main camera and the 2-megapixel depth sensor that are also found on the Realme C3. The vertical camera bump itself is something we've now seen on multiple generations of Realme phones.
If you're looking for slick design in the sub-Rs. 10,000 price segment, the Narzo 10A delivers. It looks fresh even though this is essentially the same old Realme C3 (or at least the international version of it) with a different rear shell. Not everyone will like the huge logo on the back, but a protective case will easily mask that.
The Narzo 10A is physically very similar to many previous Realme models
Realme Narzo 10A specifications and software
At the heart of the Narzo 10A is the MediaTek Helio G70 processor, and Realme touts its “ultimate gaming performance” even though that's an obvious stretch considering the segment we're talking about here. In our review of the Realme C3 with the same processor, we noticed some stutter while gaming, and we'd expect the same here. There's only one configuration – 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage – but of course you have to consider that this phone itself is another minor variant of the Realme C3.
There's a 5000mAh battery but quick charging isn't supported beyond 10W. Wired reverse charging is available, for which you'll need a USB-OTG adapter. There's also Bluetooth 5, Wi-Fi 802.11n, and GPS.
We have a 6.5-inch HD 720x1600-pixel screen which is perfectly adequate for this price and our level of expectations, in terms of brightness, sharpness, and colour reproduction. You get only Widevine L3 DRM support for lower-than-HD video streaming quality.
Overall there are few surprises here. The hardware of the Narzo 10A represents very good value. On the software front, we have the exact same Realme UI as on other recent Realme phones, running on top of Android 10. Our unit had the April 2020 security update. Realme UI looks somewhat like stock Android but offers quite a bit of visual customisation and several value-added features. You can read all about these in our very recent review of the Realme Narzo 10.
As with other budget Realme phones, there isn't a huge amount of bloatware but the Browser app is full of promotional content and sends 3-4 spammy, sensationalised and seemingly sponsored “news” notifications each day. The Hot Games and Hot Apps stores are also unnecessary.
The Micro-USB port on the bottom is a little disappointing
Realme Narzo 10A performance
We had no major issues when using the Realme Narzo 10A over the course of several days. The UI was generally smooth and fluid enough for day-to-day tasks. We experienced some stutter when launching heavy apps and even when scrolling through our photo album. Switching between apps wasn't always very quick but that's to be expected. The level of performance and finesse you get is still great for a sub-Rs. 10,000 phone.
The AnTuTu benchmark gave us a score of 180,905, and the results in Geekbench's single-core and multi-core tests were 386 and 1,304 respectively. 3DMark gave us 1,612 points in its Slingshot test, and we saw frame rates of 52fps, 27fps and 15fps in the T-rex, Manhattan, and Car Chase scenes respectively. The Narzo 10A seems to trade blows evenly with the Realme C3, scoring only very slightly better or worse in each test, though we tested the version of that phone with 4GB of RAM.
As for gaming, which is one of Realme's selling points for this phone, we had a decent enough experience. PUBG Mobile ran relatively well at the High graphics preset though we found that gameplay was smoother with the quality turned down a bit. Asphalt 9: Legends wasn't perfectly fluid in spots but was also still enjoyable. The rear of the phone got only mildly warm after ten minutes of playing these games.
The fingerprint sensor and face recognition both worked quickly and seamlessly. We enjoyed games and videos on the screen, though of course the size and resolution aren't exactly ideal. Sound from the single speaker was a bit rough and not that loud.
Where the Narzo 10A really stands out is battery life. We were repeatedly surprised to see how slowly the battery level percentage dropped over the course of our review period. Especially when left alone, standby power drain was minimal and if your usage pattern involves less than 2-3 hours of screen-on time per day you could go for multiple days without needing to recharge.
We streamed a movie, played games, used the cameras, and browsed the Internet throughout our time with the Narzo 10A, and we could stretch one charge over at least a day and a half. Our HD video loop test ran for 26 hours, 20 minutes. It's a pity that more modern fast charging isn't supported, but 10W isn't too bad.
The Narzo 10A ships with a screen protector pre-applied
Realme Narzo 10A cameras
Once again, we find ourselves repeating what we've said about the Realme C3. The Narzo 10A has the same 12-megapixel f/1.8 primary camera with PDAF and AI beautification, along with a 2-megapixel depth sensor. The big change is the addition of a 2-megapixel macro camera. This isn't necessarily very useful because of the low resolution, but it can be fun to play around with. The 5-megapixel f/2.4 front camera is also common to both models.
Realme's camera app is generally well laid out but there are some quirks, such as the macro camera switcher being buried in a spillover menu. There are fewer shooting options than we saw on the Narzo 10 – the less expensive Narzo 10A doesn't offer a night mode, and of course there's no pixel binning down from a large sensor so no full-resolution mode either. That said, you still get Pano, Pro, and Slo-mo video modes.
Realme Narzo 10A camera samples (tap to see full size)
The primary camera is capable of capturing some decent landscapes and closeups in daylight, but don't expect great quality. Details were lacking and objects even at a slight distance looked somewhat artificial. Exposures were handled well even under direct sunlight, but colours were dull and detail wasn't sharp, especially in the shadows and highlights. The portrait mode was just about okay, but it took some time and a few attempts to focus on the subject. Macros were just about acceptable.
At night, focus speed dropped and we noted that the Narzo 10A very often failed to get a focus lock unless we tapped the viewfinder ourselves. Detail was murky and noise was unavoidable, even in frames with quite a bit of ambient light.
Realme Narzo 10A macro camera sample (tap to see full size)
The front camera is just about average in the daytime, but not really worth trying to use at night. Beautification is turned on by default and there's only a single slider, as opposed to the plethora of individual adjustments for facial structure that you get on the Narzo 10.
Video came out looking overprocessed and colours were a bit blown out in bright sunlight, but the quality wasn't too bad overall. There's no stabilisation at 1080p and so you won't get great results while moving. Detail is not great at night but you'll get usable footage if there's adequate artificial light.
Realme has done a good job with the Narzo 10A considering its price of just Rs. 8,499. It is quite powerful considering its price, and has no major features missing. Battery life is excellent, the cameras are serviceable, the display is big, and the overall look is quite slick.
However, this phone is virtually identical to the Realme C3 and so the positioning of the Narzo 10A within a new, gaming-centric, youth-focused series is confusing. We think many people who bought the Realme C3 back when it was first launched would have preferred the option of the Narzo 10A for just Rs. 500 more – and this would have been even more frustrating if the Narzo series had been launched on target in March.
If you don't need a fingerprint sensor or macro camera, then by all means, save Rs. 500 and go for the base variant of the C3 instead. On the other hand, the C3 with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage costs just Rs. 500 more at Rs. 8,999 and feels like slightly better value, but you lose the Narzo 10A's two additional features. Of course, if you prefer the style of either of these models over the other, that's worth taking into account as well – you can't really go wrong, whichever of the three you choose.
Is Redmi Note 9 Pro Max the best affordable camera phone in India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.
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