Don’t be deceived by the Realme 8 Pro’s fabulous looks and competitive camera
Over the last three years, Realme has paved its way into the top 10 smartphone brands globally with numerous product lineups and recurring launches. Nearly six months after the Realme 7 series, the company has unveiled the Realme 8 and the Realme 8 Pro mid-range smartphones globally. A 108MP camera is a leading highlight of the Realme 8 Pro, and it is the company’s first step forward from the 64MP cameras seen on numerous devices, starting with the Realme XT. Besides the updated primary camera and a new design, the Realme 8 Pro is nearly identical to the Realme 7 Pro.
Realme started as an OPPO sub-brand with the ambition to recreate the same success as Xiaomi and its sub-brand Redmi. Realme did succeed in this attempt with its initial devices, and its early phones, such as the Realme 3 Pro, showed us that Realme could be a promising smartphone brand. Since then, the company has branched out into different product lineups and categories, and it seems it has been making some compromises while fearing to dare and leap forward with the same vigor as earlier. The Realme 8 Pro is the culmination of the same fear mixed with some haphazard efforts to maintain itself in a race it seems to be lagging in.
As I mentioned above, Realme has repurposed much of the hardware from the Realme 7 Pro for its successor. It may not sit well with consumers, especially when Redmi’s Note 10 Pro (Note 10 Pro Max in India) offers so much more for similar pricing. Will a fresh design, a 108MP camera, and Android 11 salvage the otherwise rehashed spec sheet? We aim to address that in our Realme 8 Pro review.
Before we begin, let’s go through the Realme 8 Pro’s specifications.
Realme 8 Pro Specifications
Realme 8 Pro Specifications; click or tap to expand
|Specification||Realme 8 Pro|
|Build||Polycarbonate back and frame|
|Dimensions & Weight|
|RAM & Storage|
|Battery & Charging|
|Security||In-display fingerprint scanner|
|Front Camera(s)||16MP Sony IMX471 hole-punch selfie camera, f/2.45|
|Software||Realme UI 2.0 based on Android 11|
|Colors||Infinite Blue, Infinite Black, and Illuminating Yellow|
About this review: Realme sent me an 8GB + 128GB variant of the Realme 8 Pro. This review is after 10 days of usage. Realme did not have any inputs in this review.
Design and Build
In its early days, the striking designs of Realme smartphones helped the brand gain users’ attention. This is why the design remains to be a central element to Realme smartphones. The trend continues with the Realme 8 Pro, which features an anti-glare crystal finish on the back. The sand-like grainy surface on the back is accompanied by a glossy patch for the Realme logo and its “Dare To Leap” motto. The surface feels like an intermediate between a frosted glass and sandstone finish upon touching. Notably, it is easy to draw similarities between the designs of the Realme 8 Pro and the OPPO F17 Pro, looking at the square design of the camera bump.
There are three color options: Infinite Black, Infinite Blue, and Illuminating Yellow — and we have the blue variant with us. The neon yellow variant is undoubtedly the most exciting color variant. The material that coats the camera bump and the “Dare To Leap” communication absorbs light and glows in the dark.
The back panel and the frame on the side are made of polycarbonate, which, in turn, helps maintain a low weight. Despite its 4500mAh battery, the Realme 8 Pro weighs only 176 grams. Unlike many other smartphones in the price segment, the Realme 8 Pro has a slim profile and is easy to wield, thanks to the curved edges on the back. The panel feels sturdy and does not easily bend inwards when you apply pressure. The phone lacks any IP rating, and the company does not claim any protection against dust, water, or micro-scratches either.
The side frame is much smoother than the back. It houses the power button and the volume rocker on the right side and a 2+1 SIM tray on the left. A 3.5mm headphone jack, primary microphone, USB Type-C port, and mono loudspeaker are placed at the bottom, while the top features the secondary microphone for noise canceling.
On the front, there is a 6.4-inch Full HD+ Super AMOLED display with a single hole-punch cutout on the top left. The display is protected by Asahi Dragontail Glass — instead of the more popular Corning Gorilla Glass and comes with a screen protector film pre-installed on the phone. I took off the screen protector right after unboxing the phone and have been using it for the duration of my review like this without noticing any scratches on the display.
Overall, the Realme 8 Pro feels well-built for its price, although brands like Xiaomi are already using glass instead of plastic for a more premium feeling. The sparkling design will surely grab other people’s attention, while the convenient footprint allows you to use the phone with ease.
What I love about the Realme 8 Pro
The chief highlight of the Realme 8 Pro is its 108MP quad camera setup. While Realme was among the earliest brands to launch a smartphone with a 64MP camera, it could not do the same with 108MP cameras. This is because Xiaomi’s exclusive partnership with Samsung over the first 108MP ISOCELL HMX sensor allowed it to monopolize 108MP cameras and prevent other brands from using it. The successive ISOCELL HM1 sensor from Samsung was made for flagships like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and did not make sense for a brand like Realme, which targets the mid-range of the market for most of its sales.
In comes Samsung’s new ISOCELL HM2, a 108MP sensor designed especially for mid-range smartphones. The same is seen on the Realme 8 Pro. This is a 1/1.52″ sensor that features 108 million pixels measuring 0.7μm, which is 15% smaller than the 0.8μm pixels on the ISOCELL HMX and HM1 sensors. Despite a smaller size, the sensor is claimed to be more efficient than the HMX and HM1 sensors when capturing light, thanks to Samsung’s Smart ISO and ISOCELL Plus technologies.
In addition to these technologies, the sensor features 9-in-1 pixel binning, resulting in 12MP images with 2.1μm pixel size and much more exposure. Notably, the same sensor can be seen on Xiaomi’s Mi 10i (aka Redmi Note 9 Pro 5G China) and the Redmi Note 10 Pro (Note 10 Pro Max in India). We will be comparing the images taken with the Realme 8 Pro and the Mi 10i to see which brand makes better use of the sensor’s capabilities.
Note: These images were taken before the RMX3081_11_A.27 update for Realme 8 Pro that started rolling out on March 31st, 2021.
To start off, here are some images that were taken with the primary camera on the Realme 8 Pro. As I mentioned above, the 108MP uses nona-binning to combine a grid of 3×3 pixels into a single larger pixel. Therefore, the images captured using the primary camera have a 12MP size. The images below were captured with the default settings without the AI scene enhancement feature.
As you can see from the images, the camera captures an immaculate amount of detail. Even in low-light, the images turn out to be fairly sharp and well-defined. However, one thing to note is that the colors appear artificially amplified even when the AI enhancement is turned off.
108MP vs. 12MP
The Realme 8 Pro comes with a specific mode to capture images in 108MP. While comparing 12MP and 108MP side-by-side, the former’s bright shadows and muted color tones are easily apparent. Both the images have an excellent amount of detail.
108MP camera on Realme 8 Pro vs. Xiaomi Mi 10i
We compared the 12MP and the 108MP images captured using the Realme 8 Pro and the Xiaomi Mi 1oi, both of which use the same 108MP sensor. The images from the Realme 8 Pro appear more detailed and with greater contrast, but the same artificial oversaturation seeps through on both the 12MP and the 108MP images. The images taken with the Mi 10i have more neutral colors and an even exposure throughout the canvas, but the 108MP is not as sharp as the 12MP image or the ones taken with the Realme 8 Pro.
When we crop out a small section of the 12MP and 108MP images taken with the two devices and compare them side-by-side, we see the images taken with Xiaomi Mi 10i have brighter highlights, more exposure, and more clarity. One potential explanation for this is that the Mi 10i’s 108MP camera is paired to a lens with a bigger aperture (f/1.75) than the Realme 8 Pro’s primary camera’s lens (f/1.88).
In addition to the standard 108MP camera, the Realme 8 Pro also features an 8MP ultrawide angle fixed-focus camera with a 123° wide field of view. As evident from the images below, the colors and details captured by the ultrawide angle are much more subdued compared to the primary camera.
Because of its shorter aperture of the ultrawide angle, the images have much exposure. Further, there is a significant amount of visual noise around underexposed areas.
Using the Realme 8 Pro’s inbuilt Nightscape Mode, you can capture images with better contrast and improved sharpness than without it. While Nightscape does not increase the lighting dramatically, it does patch poor shadows to a noticeable degree. Instead of using a long-exposure mode, Realme captures multiple images at different ISO levels and then superimposes them for a more contrasty image.
Images without Nightscape mode are on the left, while the images with Nightscape are on the right.
The Nightscape mode also improves the images taken with the ultrawide angle camera to a significant degree. Not only does it improve the lighting, but it also makes the images appear much sharper.
Portraits and Selfies
The portrait shots captured with the Realme 8 Pro are fairly detailed. The edge detection in portraits is extremely accurate, but the oversaturation of colors is unmistakable once again.
Realme 8 Pro features a 16MP selfie camera that sits inside the hole-punch cutout on the front. The colors in selfies are relatively washed out as compared to the portraits using the primary camera. Besides the erratic colors, the face is also artificially smoothened out, even when the beauty mode is turned off.
Other Camera Features
Aside from these camera features noted above, the Realme 8 Pro also supported other notable ones such as Pro mode, Pro video mode, EIS, and Starry Mode, which is Realme’s take on Google Astrophotography mode.
The smartphone supports up to 4K recording at 30fps or Full HD recording at 60fps using the rear camera for video.
50W charging and great battery life
The Realme 8 Pro supports the company’s SuperDart fast charging rated at 50W. This uses the same technology as OPPO’s SuperVOOC. Although the fast charging rate is capped at 50W on the Realme 8 Pro, you actually get a 65W charger in the box, and it can be used to charge any other Realme, OPPO, or OnePlus device with up to 65W fast charging support.
As per the company’s claims, the 50W fast charging technology takes 47 minutes to charge the 4500mAh battery from 0 to 100%. In our test, the phone took about 15 minutes to go from 10% to 50% battery capacity, another 20 minutes to reach 90%, and a total of 50 minutes to go from 10% to 100% battery charge.
The Realme 8 Pro has excellent battery backup and went from 100% to 30% battery after over a day of moderate usage, mostly web browsing and watching videos on YouTube at auto-brightness. During this timeframe, the screen was on for almost seven hours. If you have more strenuous tasks to complete, the Realme 8 Pro can still easily last for a day worth of battery with ease.
What gives me mixed feelings about Realme 8 Pro?
The Realme 8 Pro runs on the company’s custom Android skin called Realme UI 2.0, based on Android 11. Realme UI 2.o is based on OPPO’s ColorOS 11, and it adds many customization options to Realme devices. The Realme 8 and the 8 Pro are the first devices to sport stable versions of Realme UI 2.0.
Aside from the changes brought about by Android 11, the new features added to Realme UI include:
- New accent colors including 10 single-color options and five dual-color options for the theme
- Customizable icons for apps and quick settings options
- Three different dark modes with varying intensity of the dark shade
- New Always-On Display options (which are not available on the Realme 8 Pro yet). These include options between digital or analog clocks, text on the always-on display, and custom patterns.
- One-hand icon launch gesture, which compresses the grid of icons into a smaller, more accessible grid that facilitates easier app launch
- Experimental features such as Sleep Capsule, which enables users to easily unwind at night by preventing usage after you set bedtime.
With Realme UI 2.0, the company also claims that the system stability has improved by 32% and the frame rate stability by 17%. Despite these claims, one can easily see the lag in the UI. Even when the phone is idle with barely any apps running, only 4GB RAM out of the available 8GB RAM is available. You can imagine what happens when you open 10-15 different apps and leave them running in the background.
Besides, the interface is loaded with a boatload of unwanted apps that bloat the storage.
Things I dislike about the Realme 8 Pro
Display refresh rate and slow fingerprint scanner
The Realme 8 Pro features the same 6.4-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display that we have seen on its predecessor — the Realme 7 Pro. Besides the size and the resolution, the refresh rate of the display remains unchanged at 60Hz. The 60Hz AMOLED display feels irrelevant and obsolete at this price range. The Redmi Note 10 Pro, which is priced only slightly higher than the Realme 8 Pro, features a 120Hz refresh rate AMOLED.
Even when it comes to the quality, the Realme 8 Pro’s display lacks the same punchiness or color saturation that we see on more expensive AMOLEDs.
Lastly, the in-display fingerprint scanner on the Realme 8 Pro fails to let you pass through at least one out of four times. Besides, it is placed too close to the bottom edge of the display and may require you to stretch your thumb to access it. The bottom placement of the fingerprint scanner is a recurring theme with the current crop of phones from OPPO and OnePlus too.
Snapdragon 720G – Same old
In terms of its processing capabilities, the Realme 8 Pro makes no progress over the Realme 7 Pro. It features the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G chipset seen previously on the Realme 7 Pro and even the older Realme 6 Pro. Realme 8 Pro buyers also get the dated choice between 6GB or 8GB RAM of LPDDR4x RAM, while 128GB UFS 2.1 storage comes as standard in both variants.
The Snapdragon 720G is undoubtedly one of the best-performing mid-range chipsets from Qualcomm, but it limits the smartphone to 4G. Meanwhile, the relatively newer Snapdragon 732G has a similar CPU performance but is paired with a slightly better GPU and Qualcomm’s Elite Gaming features. The use of Snapdragon 720G shows that Realme does not intend to compete in the market on the basis of performance and is clearly focused on crowing the 108MP camera.
The performance of the Realme 8 Pro is comparable to the Samsung Galaxy A52 (review), which also features a Snapdragon 720G chipset. For those who want better performance and 5G, Realme recommends the Realme X7 or the X7 Pro, which were launched earlier this year.
The primary competitor for the Realme 8 Pro is the Redmi Note 10 Pro. The latter also comes with 108MP cameras, comparable performance, similar RAM, and MIUI, which has the same pitfalls as Realme UI — if not worse. Realme 8 Pro features faster charging, though.
However, the Redmi phone takes the lead with its 120Hz display, a bigger 5020mAh battery, and a better haptics engine. Not just that, Xiaomi and especially the Redmi Note series also enjoy much more support from the developer community, allowing users to migrate to a custom ROM if they do not like the stock firmware that comes with the smartphone.
If you want better camera performance, the Mi 10i (aka Mi 10T Lite or Redmi Note 9 Pro 5G China) benefits from the bigger aperture lens attached to the primary camera. If you want hardcore performance and can compromise on the camera, the POCO X3 Pro is another viable option.
Conclusion – To buy or not to buy?
Quite frankly, the Realme 8 Pro is a confusing phone. While it does feature some exciting features, such as the 108MP camera or super-fast charging, it lacks the usual competitive poise and vigor of Realme smartphones. The smartphone is intended to woo users with a striking design but misses out on features that are becoming more mainstream for this price range — such as a higher refresh rate display.
Realme 8 Pro does give Realme the bragging right for the “most affordable 108MP camera phone.” But despite that, it does not give you the impression of being a phone that is worth its pricing. It makes sense for you to buy the Realme 8 Pro only if you want a good camera setup — and have reasonable patience to cure the oversaturated colors — and are spoiled by fast charging and cannot opt for something slower.