review

Realme X Review: Out to X-terminate the Note?

Realme turns on the style

Another brand (also with links to Oppo) might have grabbed the Never Settle tagline, but realme (now spelled with a lower case ‘r’) can lay claim to it as well, by sheer dint of its activity. A little more than a year into its existence, the brand which started out as mid-segment player, has been turning its attention to more affordable price points (witness the C2) and has also been gently nudging its way up the price ladder, first with the Pro series, and now with the X (pronounced X, rather than ten). But does this move upwards work?

Plastic CAN look fantastic!

Some people think that a phone with a plastic back cannot look premium. They clearly have not used the realme X.

For, there is no denying that the X looks premium from the word go. The phone is available in two shades – Polar White and Space Blue (there are also the famous Garlic and Onion special editions, which will be released later). We got the Polar White edition and it looked downright gorgeous. In fact, the finish on the back was so marble-like that we actually had to double-check that this was plastic and not glass. The back curves towards the sides, so even though the phone is a wide one, it is comfortable to hold – you will need both hands to operate it most of the time, though, as it is definitely on the longer side at 161.3 mm. The back also has a dual-camera arrangement in a vertical unit in the top center, with one of the cameras being outlined by gold circles – a very neat design realme design touch which even adds a bit of dazzle to the otherwise routine camera set up.

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Adding to the premium-ness of the design is the metallic frame, which shines and reflects light gloriously – very edgy, literally. The phone has a got a very rounded, slightly curve-y feel to it, in a classy manner. The front, of course, is all about the 6.53-inch AMOLED full HD+ display and the display literally dominates the front (the phone has a 91.2 percent screen to body ratio) because there are no notches to spoil the show – there is instead a pop-up camera that slides out from behind it and bang from the center too. It too has shiny metal outlines which add to the premium feel.

At about 191 grams, the phone is a little on the heavier side, but given its size, the weight seems well-distributed. And to be honest, it adds a little substance to the truckload of style that the phone brings to the table. We really think this should end the “plastic vs glass” debate for a while in the design department at least.

Them cameras deliver!

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Those stylish looks hide some very good hardware. We have already mentioned the large AMOLED display. Well, realme joins the 48-megapixel camera league with the X, the back holding a 48 megapixel Sony IMX 586 half-inch sensor (f/1.7 aperture) with a 5-megapixel depth camera. And when the light is good, that combination rocks, in best realme tradition. The camera defaults to a 12-megapixel shot, although you can get to the 48-megapixel mode, through the settings (once again, we must confess we are surprised at why this part is kept recessed in menus), and delivers very good detail and colors. A word to the wise – do not go for the 48-megapixel mode unless you really are looking for a very large picture, as you get waaaay better colors and detail in the default mode. Portrait mode has been hugely improved, where some edges were still missed but most were well spotted, and we must confess that more often than not, we were happy with the way in which AI detected scenes and made adjustments (something that is a pain point in other phones).

If we were a little nit-picky, we would say that some of the colors, the reds, and greens, in particular, tend to look oversaturated, but rest assured if you are looking for pictures that look good, you will not be disappointed here. A point that we would like to highlight is the speed of the camera – it was very quick to focus in decent light conditions. Dim the lights, however, and the camera’s performance dipped – no, we would not say that the realme X is a low light disaster like some of its competitors, but it is just that its Nightscape mode tends to be a little too aggressive in smoothing out noise, which makes the pictures look a little “smudgy” when you zoom into them. Yes, glare handling gets much better in Nightscape but speaking for ourselves, we would recommend going with auto mode rather than Nightscape unless you have a very stable subject.

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The 16-megapixel Sony IMX 471 pop-up selfie camera takes some very good snaps, and once again, portrait mode has been significantly improved. We would have liked skin tones to remain a little more realistic (they do get “faired” up and smoothed out, even at zero beauty levels), but once again, fans of “good looking” pictures will love the results. The camera is solidly built (those metal accents add to the effect), rises and retracts fairly briskly, and is programmed to retract if the phone falls. However, for some reason, does not retract when you take a picture and are viewing it – in fact, it remains raised even if you browse other pictures after seeing the selfie you have snapped. A little odd, as most pop up cameras tend to retract, the moment you get into image browsing mode into the camera app. Video quality is well above average with 4K video at 30 fps and 960 fps slow motion at 720p resolution, although we would have liked better sound reproduction.

Some serious multimedia magic

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On the matter of sound, the realme X really ups the audio ante over earphones (yes, there is a 3,.5 mm audio jack), with the presence of Dolby Atmos. That big display is not the brightest we have seen, but punches well above its weight in the price segment, and allied with that sound, makes the realme X a very good gaming device – with no notches to clutter the view at all. The loudspeaker could have been a little louder but then plug in a pair of earphones and videos and games really work very well.

A big reason why they work well is that the phone comes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 processor and in our unit, paired with 8 GB RAM. Yes, we know the disputes between which of the Snapdragon 710 or the 675 is better at gaming are well and truly ongoing, but what we can tell you is that the realme X can handle gaming very well indeed. We were able to play PUBG at Asphalt without any major lags (although we would recommend not playing for an extended period at maxed settings when lags and freezes do creep in), and causal games were a walk in the park. We did not face any heating issues either, barring a slight rise in temperature when our PUBG sessions went beyond the half-hour mark. Nothing alarming, though. That display and the sound over earphones make this one of the better media content viewing devices out there. And of course, the processor and RAM combination ensure that multi-tasking is a breeze on the device. The Snapdragon 710 might be an “old” processor in some books but hey, we are not complaining as long as it performs. And it definitely does so in the realme X!

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Storage stands at a non-expandable 128 GB. There is a 4 GB/ 128 GB variant as well. And of course, you have the usual connectivity bells and whistles including 4G, GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. There are not too many boxes that the Realme X does not tick. An area of relative weakness, however, was Color OS 6 running over Android 9. Yes, the OS was relatively clean and for the most part, performed smoothly, but showed a tendency to crash sometimes. That is a complaint that we have about the in-display fingerprint scanner too – it does very well most of the time, but because it is used so frequently, even its odd stumbles (and they do occur from time to time) tend to get magnified. Truth be told, we are still not convinced about in-display fingerprint scanners but that is another story for another day. Yes, you can use face unlock on the X, but we found it working even when our eyes were shut, so would advise some discretion there!

Finally, we would have liked a bigger battery. The X comes with a 3750 mAh battery which will see you through a day of usage but does start to fade a little as evening comes. There is VOOC 3.0 charging along with a 20W charger in the box that makes sure you get more than half the battery charged in about half an hour (over USB type C), but well, we have been spoiled a little by the large batteries on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy M30, the Redmi Note series and indeed, the Realme 3 Pro itself. And that display, though magnificent, will drain power, especially if you get into binge-watching or gaming modes!

No X factor, but the mid-segment has a premium player!

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Realme has a reputation for pricing its devices very competitively, and the Realme X continues it. At a starting price of Rs 16,999, it offers terrific value for money. And it goes right up against the established favourite, the Redmi Note 7 Pro (which starts at Rs 13,999), its own cousin, the Realme 3 Pro (which starts at Rs 13,499), and of course, Vivo Z1 Pro, which brings a lot of gaming artillery to the battle at Rs 14,999. The big question is: does it beat them? We are not too sure. For, while there is a lot that the realme X gets right, it does not exactly pull itself clear of the competition. Its biggest assets are its design and display (we consider pop-up cameras a little gimmicky right now), which are among the best at this price point, although some would point to the AMOLED display on the Galaxy M30. Go beyond that, however, and the competition starts catching up – for instance, the Redmi Note 7 Pro tends to match it in terms of camera and battery, as indeed does even the Realme 3 Pro (whose 16-megapixel rear camera is perhaps one of the most underrated out there). Similarly in the gaming department, although it does well, it does get outflanked by the Vivo Z1 Pro. And yes, software remains a slight Achilles Heel for realme, although to give the company credit, it is one of the most consistent when it comes to bug fixing.

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So should you be considering investing in the Realme X? We would say definitely. Simply because although it does not have a killer feature, it manages to do everything that you would expect. And combines it with very good design. The likes of the Redmi Note series have good reason to be worried. Yes, the Realme X starts at a higher price than the Redmi Note 7 Pro, but it brings features like a bigger display (an AMOLED one at that), a pop-up camera and an in-display fingerprint sensor to the battle.

Some would say that it is ironical that the phone with an X in its name does not really have a killer X factor that gives it the edge over the competition. We would say: it just does everything well. And looks damn good besides.

That’s more than enough for most people. And with THAT design, ladies and gentlemen, the mid-segment has a premium player.

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Pros
  • Competitive price
  • Premium build and display
  • Good cameras
  • Very good overall performance
Cons
  • UI slightly buggy
  • Relatively smaller battery
  • No expandable memory
Review Overview
4.10
Overall Score
Design
Software
Performance
Cameras
Price