The Realme X, which shares many design similarities to previous Oppo and Vivo devices.

Ben Sin

Sub-brands from major Chinese phone companies—such as Huawei’s Honor and Xiaomi’s Redmi—were originally created to infiltrate developing markets such as India and intended to stay out of developed markets in which the parent company is thriving. Oppo’s Realme, introduced roughly a year ago, followed that script initially, too, selling in India first and then in Southeast Asia. But with today’s launch of the Realme X in Beijing, Realme is shifting direction and venturing into its home country, too.

This decision likely comes from confidence from the parent company side. Oppo has expanded rapidly outside of China over the past year—including launching a 5G device this month in Switzerland, the first such release in Europe—and now has eyes on becoming a major European named a la Huawei.

This frees up space in China for Realme to jump in. Oppo knows as well as anyone the vast nature of China’s smartphone market—it became a top five phone brand globally by 2016 solely by selling inside China—there is enough pie for parent and sub-brand to co-exist.

All about value

Like many Chinese handsets, especially ones from sub-brands, the Realme X offers a great value. Retailing between $220 to $260 depending on the configuration, the X is a glass-body phone with a 6.5-inch OLED screen accompanied by an in-display fingerprint reader. The notch-less display spans almost edge to edge, with a pop-up selfie camera that’s been seen in several Vivo/Oppo flagships (and soon the OnePlus 7 Pro), as the workaround for avoiding the screen interruption.

The phone runs on a Snapdragon 710 chipset, which is not the top-tier Qualcomm processor but still more powerful than, say, the Snapdragon 670 seen in Google’s own “budget” offering, the $400 Pixel 3a.

When I reviewed the View 20 from Huawei’s sub-brand Honor, I wrote that the phone presented such a great value it sort of undercuts Huawei’s own phones. The Realme X does that to another degree with Oppo’s handsets. The X is very similar in design and specs to several Vivo and Oppo devices that sell at higher prices. The hard line that Apple, Google and Samsung place between their flagship and mid-tier offerings (the iPhone XR and Google Pixel 3a use noticeably cheaper components compared to their more premium counterparts) doesn’t exist with Oppo and Vivo.

I guess Oppo’s decision to bring this phone to China shows that the brand is confident in its global ambitions: from here on out, Oppo is the premium, international name, while Realme is the value brand.

6.4-inch OLED screen with vibrant colors.

Ben Sin

Optics: 48, again

Every mid-tier smartphone out of China released in the past few months has used a 48-megapixel camera sensor sourced from either Sony or Samsung, and the Realme X is no different. The good news is the X uses Sony’s IMX 583 sensor, which is decidedly superior to Samsung’s GM1 sensor. Unlike Samsung’s GM1, which is essentially a fake 48-megapixel sensor that uses interpolation to achieve that pixel count, Sony’s sensor can actually achieve a true 48-megapixel count, though to be honest no one should ever shoot in that mode. The main use of these 48-megapixel sensors is to produce a 12-megapixel shot with pixel binning tech (combing four pixels worth of data into one).

There are two cameras on the back, a 48-megapixel Sony IMX sensor with a 5-megapixel depth sensor.

Ben Sin

Truth be told, I find the 48-megapixel camera hype very tiring (the fact that actual flagship phones from Samsung and Huawei do not use these sensors speaks to their hierarchy), but at least Realme’s image software processing—or more accurately, Oppo’s—is strong.

The Realme X has a larger-than-usual half-inch sensor, and Oppo’s software also pulls data from the secondary depth sensor to further boost image information. This extra work is apparent in low-light images, as the X can grab really good low-light images.

In fact, here’s a shot captured by the Realme X, side by side with another shot from Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S10.

Sample shots captured by the Realme X and the Samsung Galaxy S10.

Ben Sin

In almost any situation, the main cameras on the Realme X performs at near flagship level. Or rather, Apple and Samsung flagship level, which is a step below the Google/Huawei level. The Realme X can’t generate light from pitch black scenes as magically as Huawei’s P30 Pro, nor can the X produce bokeh images as gorgeous as the Google Pixel 3; but otherwise, I can place Realme X shots side by side with the iPhone XS or Samsung Galaxy S10 images and know it can hold its own.

A $350 phone against two $1,000 phones.

Ben Sin

This image, captured in HDR mode, is vibrant and sharp.

Ben Sin

The Realme X also has an improved version of Oppo’s night mode, which captures a series of images in quick succession to produce one single image containing several shot’s worth of data. The results can appear a bit artificial at times, but it can indeed recreate light and colors in what would normally be a dull, dim shooting situation.

Oppo’s night mode in action.

Ben Sin

For a $350 device, the bar shot on the right is jaw-droppingly good.

Ben Sin

Moving to the front-facing selfie cam, the results are more mixed. The pop-up module houses a 16-megapixel sensor, and it is plenty sharp, but as is the case with most Chinese phones, the digital processing is far too strong, resulting in selfies that look highly unnatural at times.

The pop-up selfie camera has aggressive beautifying and portrait modes that just result in unnatural selfies.

Ben Sin

The pop-up module is sturdy and fast: it elevates or retracts in under a half second.

Ben Sin

None of the cameras have OIS, but Realme’s EIS does a solid job of stabilization during videos at up to 1080p/30fps. At 4K, however, expect jittery footage if you’re shooting and walking at the same time.

Performance: solid all-rounder

The Snapdragon 710 processor here is a 10nm chipset that is more than capable of handling normal tasks. It falls short when trying to handle neural/AI tasks. RAM management has been an issue, however, with some apps closing in the background resulting in broken push notifications. But I think this has to do with the software rather than lack of memory.

The screen reaches a max brightness of 450 nits.

Ben Sin

That 6.5-inch OLED screen is also impressive at this price point. Sourced from BOE, its color gamut doesn’t run as wide as a Samsung OLED panel, and max brightness at 450 nits is lower than what Huawei’s P30 Pro or the iPhone XS can achieve, too, but colors are still very lively here, with deep blacks. The lack of a notch really helps make the screen appear immersive: Instagram Stories or YouTube videos look better on a full-screen than one with a cut-out.

The X runs on ColorOS version 6, the same software seen in the last few Oppo devices. It’s much improved over ColorOS 5: there’s now an app drawer, and a useful shortcut menu accessed by swiping from the sides. The swipe gesture navigation here is intuitive and far better than Google’s own native version used in Pixel devices (Google’s current “pill navigation” is so bad that it is already being scrapped after just one year, as the next version of Android will use a revamped swipe navigation similar to what Huawei and Xiaomi phones are already using).

Battery life is also solid. The 3,750 mAh cell here is smaller than previous Oppo or Realme devices, but in over a week of use the phone almost always lasted an entire day. Only one day during my testing did the phone fail to last through the day. I suspect the smaller cell is to make room for the elevating selfie-camera module and the in-display fingerprint sensor.

Another great value from BKK.

Ben Sin

Good enough for most people

The Realme X lacks some of the flashier headline-grabbing features of recently released flagship phones: its zooming capabilities fall far short of what the Oppo Reno 10X or Huawei P30 Pro can do; it doesn’t have an wide-angle camera, which has become standard in smartphone release in 2019; it cannot charge wirelessly; and it doesn’t have that ultra-smooth 90Hz refresh rate of the just-announced OnePlus 7 Pro.

But only tech enthusiasts and very serious mobile userspeople such as myselfwould mind, or notice, these omissions. To the untrained eye, the Realme X has a bezel-less screen that spans the entire front of the phone; it has a glass back, it has a strong main camera; and it can run any game or app off Google Play store with no issue.

With a price tag of under $270, that’s good enough.



READ SOURCE

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here