Realme X Review: Practical Meets Premium
Realme began its journey in India over a year ago with a much simpler nomenclature. After being jump-started by OPPO, and cherishing the success of the Realme 1, the company announced that it will be spinning out and establishing itself as a separate entity. Since then, it has launched several smartphones to meet the expectations of users in the budget segment. While many other brands have had to bite the dust in India’s competitive market, Realme has taken a nice share of the pie with its consumer-friendly pricing. After launching the Realme 3 Pro in India and in China during the last quarter, Realme is now bringing its flagship – the Realme X – to India.
In India, Realme has been hailed for its offerings in the affordable smartphone segment and now with the Realme X, it takes a long stride towards the premium segment. The smartphone adorns an intriguingly premium design which includes a notchless AMOLED display with an in-display fingerprint scanner, a pop-up selfie camera, and so much more, making a strong case against other sub-flagship segment smartphones available to the Indian consumers. Further, Realme has once again struck the right chords with its pricing. The Realme X appears to be a lucrative package from the first look even with a certain amount of skepticism for an older processor.
|Dimensions and Weight|
|Display||6.53″ FHD+ AMOLED|
|SoC||10nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 710|
|RAM & Storage|
|Battery||3765 mAh with 20W VOOC 3.0 Flash Charging|
|USB||USB Type-C connector|
|Fingerprint Scanner||In-display fingerprint|
|Front Camera||16MP, f/2.0|
|Android Version||ColorOS 6 on top of Android 9 Pie|
Having fiddled with the Realme X for nearly a week now, I feel the smartphone with all its premium quirks can lure consumers into spending a little more than they typically would. Looks, however, can be deceptive, which is why this article is intended to provide you with some tenable assertions about the Realme X, starting off first with its design.
The Realme X has a gorgeous back panel, which is deceptive – but in a good way. It is made out of polycarbonate but you’re likely to err at identifying the material as glass. The slick and crafty back not only offers the impression of glass but also reflects light back in the shape of race tracks – similar to the Realme 3 Pro – even without the ingrained ridges under the lamination. Seeing this level of craftsmanship on a smartphone that costs less than ₹20,000 (~$290) gets you a feeling of sheer bliss. Realme asserts that it has chosen polycarbonate instead of glass with an eye towards practicality, as polycarbonate is more durable than glass. Even if you get a few careless drops in, the smartphone has a higher chance of survival and a lesser probability of permanent damage.
The Realme X has two color variants – Space Blue and Polar White – and we have the former. The Space Blue color reminds me of the back on the Realme 3 which Kishan reviewed a few months ago. Apart from these two, Realme has also launched the Realme X’s Master Edition variants, which are inspired by the bulbs of onion and garlic. The Japanese designer, Naoto Fukasawa, has taken a curious look at the common things that surround us to take inspiration for these design variants. Further, there’s a special Spider-Man edition of the Realme X, which is essentially the Polar White variant but comes with a special protective case and theme, the latter of which might hopefully be available for other Realme devices via the Theme Store at a later time.
On the rear of the Realme X, you see the dual-camera setup, which is raised and has a chrome rim surrounding the pill-shaped design of the module. The primary 48MP Sony camera on the back is highlighted by a yellow ring. Additionally, there’s a Realme logo, with a peculiar placement in case of the special variants.
The metal frame, which packs the edges of the non-glass back of the Realme X, also lends to its premium design. The color of the frame is blue for the Space Blue, chrome for the Polar White and the Garlic variants, and golden for the Onion-inspired Master Edition model. The frame, however, does feel more prone to scratches compared to the plastic rim on other Realme smartphone but that is a healthy trade in favor of cosmetics.
The delight is liable to stay intact when you turn the smartphone over to probe the front for the first time. The front of the Realme X features a 6.53-inch AMOLED display which is surrounded by thin bezels on all the sides nd no hints of any notch. The chin is visibly thicker than the bezels around the other three edges but since there’s no notch to rob the symmetry, this should not concern a lot of users. Since this is an AMOLED display, Realme has taken the course of adding an in-display optical-type fingerprint scanner on the Realme X. Above the display, there is slender yet wide slit for the earpiece.
Compensating for the lack of the notch, there’s a pop-up camera on the Realme X, positioned at the center. This helps the smartphone maintain a high screen-to-body ratio of 91.2%. Realme asserts that this pop-up camera can survive 200,000 cycles of opening and closing. This means that even with 50 selfies each day, the camera mechanism should last ~10 years. This calculation seems flawed since it does not include the times the camera rises and closes for face unlock or video calls. With those factors accounted for, the camera might last for a lesser duration but the exact life of the camera mechanism should surpass that of the device. This camera takes 0.74 seconds to pop-out of its cavity and while it may not be as fast as OnePlus’ claims of 0.53s, Realme’s endeavor of bringing a premium feature to a rather affordable device is still praiseworthy. Between the retraction and the re-extraction of the pop-up camera, there’s a noted delay. The camera also has a fall detection mechanism which ensures that it is drawn back into the cavity if you happen to let the smartphone slip out of your hand. To ensure that several movements of the elevating camera do not wear it, there’s a layer of sapphire glass to protect it. I’m feeling convinced that the pop-up does has a decent response time and I haven’t run into any issue so far, but shall take note of any such event in the long run.
Meanwhile, the sides of the smartphone house a power button with a yellow accent and the dual SIM tray on the right side, and separated volume up and down buttons on the left of the smartphone. Realme is finally welcoming USB-C into its portfolio with the Realme X and present besides this port are the primary microphone, a headphone jack, and a single speaker lie, all on the bottom. On the top, there’s the secondary microphone adjacent to the pop-up camera. Just like we saw on the Huawei P30 Pro, the bottom of the device frame is flattened so that your fingers don’t muffle the sound in the landscape mode.
Outrightly, Realme has endeavored hard to make the Realme X’s finish premium. In my opinion, the smartphone checks all the boxes that safeguard its appearance of a premium device and if I hadn’t known the price, I would most likely mistake it for a much more expensive smartphone. This premium feeling reigns in spite of the use of polycarbonate for the body. Meanwhile, the Garlic and Onion special Master Edition portray a different story altogether. For some users, these designs may inspire humility and modesty, but if you want to keep things philosophically simple, the matte finish over the soothing colors are satisfying to the eyes while the pattern comprising vertical lines, although basic, can actually appeal to the hidden art connoisseur in you. Overall, the design not only feels premium but is also fashioned for a classy and mature taste.
A good display is central to an enjoyable experience on a smartphone and in this area too, Realme is taking an approach exotic to its usual preference for devices. The Realme X is the first smartphone from the company to feature an AMOLED display. This display is dressed to exude panache, due to its full-screen notch-less design with thin bezels around all sides save the chin. The display is only meagerly rounded along the edges instead of a brandishing curve and this sets it apart from the AMOLED displays on pricier smartphones such as the OPPO Reno or the OnePlus 7 Pro. At this price, this not really a gripe and Realme has ensured that the edges don’t feel sharp, especially since the navigation gestures require swiping inwards from the edge.
The ease of use with this display is matched by the striking color reproduction. This display on the Realme X does not exhibit the usual yellowing witnessed on OLED or AMOLED display in the past whilst producing rich contrast and vibrant colors. In terms of brightness, the display is legible even under direct sunlight. There is a fair bit of reflection to counter the brightness but apart from the reflective finish, there’s virtually nothing to complain about the quality of this display. On top that, it feels very responsive with no lag in typing, swiping or scrolling whatsoever.
The large size of this display is something that might bother a certain band of users. Single-handed usage is a challenge and this is just one aspect of the Realme X that makes me feel Realme could have done better without attempting at being prodigal. On the brighter side, the large display without a hampering notch is immensely enjoyable for consuming video content. The gamer in you will prosper from the inclusive and indulging gaming experience that it facilitates. The 19.5:9 aspect ratio is also optimal for watching YouTube as well as movies through over the top applications like Netflix and Prime Video.
For those who may want to tweak the original colors of this display, the Display settings on the Realme X allow you to tweak the temperature of the colors to be cooler or warmer. Further, the display gets a Night Shield option to add a blue light filter for convenient night time usage along with adjustable intensity. Additionally, there are options to turn the display black and white – just like the Wind Down feature, as well as an option to set a high-contrast mode for night-time reading that basically inverts the colors shown in the monochrome mode. You can either turn any of these light filters on at will or schedule them for a specific time during the day. Lastly, the smartphone also gets a “Low-Brightness Flicker-Free Eye Care” mode which is a descriptive name for the DC Dimming feature.
The Realme X also gets an always-on display setting disguised as the obscurely named “Off-Screen Clock” feature. The feature is primarily to display the clock during certain parts of the day. Besides the time and date, it also displays the amount of battery left in the smartphone along with notifications for missed calls and unread text messages. However, the feature currently lacks support for third-party apps like WhatsApp and I would like to see Realme incorporate in the future update, primarily because there’s no notification LED or any similar mechanism.
Another element to add to the premium persona of the Realme X is its in-display fingerprint scanner. Just like the AMOLED display, the fingerprint scanner is a first for Realme. This scanner is fairly responsive and in the last week or so the time I spent with the Realme X, the sensor has rarely malfunctioned. In fact, there’s no need to rest the finger over the scanner as it also detects the finger if you tap the area gently and then retract it. Within settings, you can choose from among five different animations associated with the unlocking of the smartphone. The performance of the scanner will only be evident in the long run but in my opinion so far, the experience has been gripping and makes me hopeful for the future of in-display fingerprint scanners on other non-flagship devices, not only from Realme but other brands too.
All in all, this display has striking colors and Realme deserves a pat on the back for taking their time and optimizing the depth and vibrancy of colors. Like many other manufacturers, Realme also lets you customize the temperature of the display if you do not like the default settings. It remains unbeaten even under the strong sunlight, which is great for outdoor usage. The seemingly stellar display hardware plus praiseworthy software optimization dispense a tasteful and topnotch experience (without a notch).
Camera First Impressions
The company’s choice of the camera on the Realme appears to be in tandem with its intent to craft a premium device. On the back, the Realme X has a 48MP primary camera with an f/1.7 aperture. This is a Sony IMX586 sensor, which has graced many of the leading smartphones launched this year and names in the long list include the OnePlus 7 Pro and OnePlus 7, the Honor 20 and the 20 Pro, the ASUS ZenFone 6, the Redmi K20 Pro, Note 7 Pro, the Mi CC9, the OPPO Reno series, and many more. With 4-in-1 pixel binning technology, the Sony sensor produces 12MP images to amplify the ambient light in the images. If you want full-blown 48MP images, the topmost option in the settings allows you to change the default resolution to 48MP. Along with the primary camera, the Realme X get a 5MP depth sensor with an f/2.4 aperture lens and this is similar to what we see on the Realme 3 Pro.
The elevating selfie camera houses a 16MP setup with an f/2.0 aperture. The front camera also supports 4-in-1 pixel binning but instead of 4MP, it produces 8MP images. The math behind this is perplexing and I hope Realme’s product team can clarify this for us.
The image capturing algorithm on the Realme X is similar to Google’s HDR+ in which the camera captures several different images and binds them together for well-contrasted images with a decent dynamic range. On top of that, Realme claims to have done several software optimizations to maximize the output of the remarkable camera hardware. These include a Chroma Boost mode, which is limited to the rear camera and automatically pumps up the vibrance in the images. Further, the camera features Nightscape mode and also supports slow-motion video at the rates of 120, 240, and 960 frames per second. Additionally, the Realme X comes with Camera2 API support, thanks to which you should be able to use most of the features in unofficial Google Camera ports, if they come into existence in the future.
The Realme X comes with the same camera app that we’ve seen on previous Realme devices. The various options in this app are neatly shelved into three major clusters – Photo, Video, and Portrait. All of the other options such as Nightscape, Panorama, Expert (Pro mode), Time-lapse, and Slo-mo are accessible by a tap on the hamburger button on the side. The major options in the app are easily accessible with the toggles for flash, HDR, Chroma Boost, several color filters, and lastly Settings.
The 48MP Sony sensor has been hallowed as perhaps the most pragmatic and utilitarian choice for the camera, being used on smartphones across different leagues. So, we don’t expect it to be a disappointing choice. I’ve only taken a handful of images with the Realme X but these should attest for its dependable performance.
Between the 12MP and the 48MP images, there is a noticeable degree of difference, mostly in the terms of exposure and saturation. Since I took most of these images around the golden hours, the 12MP images have more warmth than the 48MP shots due to Pixel binning. Naturally, the 48MP images occupy more storage. The advantage of the 48MP images is that they can be zoomed into much more but the difference in terms of the details is minimal. The images in both the cases are vibrant with colors and mind you, these have been clicked with the Chroma Boost mode turned off. The f/1.7 aperture lens ensures that you get an ample amount of light in the images.
Selfies clicked with the Realme X are delightful. You might find the AI beautification mode, which is turned on by default, a bit upsetting. The images clicked with the Realme X’s front camera have an appreciable amount of sharpness. Realme has improved the portrait mode compared to earlier devices with a lesser aggressive background bokeh, which gives the portrait shots a more realistic impression.
The rear camera is capable of capturing up to 4K video and even though the Sony IMX586 supports UHD recording at 60fps, only 30fps is supported on the Realme X, probably owing to the processor. You can record 60fps videos in Full HD on the Realme X. For stabilizing videos, the smartphone gets an AI-backed EIS. As mentioned previously, the smartphone does get slo-mo support at up to 960fps but the option to trim the slowed down part of the video is only available at 120fps.
During my few days of use, the cameras on the Realme X have put up a promising performance and inspire me to dig deeper and experiment with more images.
Realme borrows the ColorOS interface from its parent, OPPO, and thus, features ColorOS 6 based on Android 9 Pie. ColorOS has an extensive set of features to optimize power consumption, and a bunch of utility-oriented features like automatic switching between earpiece and loudspeaker based on the proximity from your ear, the Clone Apps feature for multiple instances of messaging apps, and an automatic call recorder. In terms of security too, ColorOS gets a multitude of features for safer banking, or protection against fake base stations which might be used to hack SIM cards, and some more.
At the same time, ColorOS also has some really user-friendly options such as driving and bike modes, and a Smart Assistant which curates suggestions for app actions and shows usable information in the form of fanciful cards. I’m also fond of the variety of navigation gestures that ColorOS 6 offers as well as the smart slider bar, which can be drawn out on in an overlay winder over any app to serve as a useful quick access mini launcher.
However, the interface gets the much-deserved criticism for its appearance, and the UI elements in ColorOS can make you question your affinity towards the otherwise remarkable Realme X. This is because of the large icons in the quick settings shade, the choice of colors for icons in the status bar as well as in Settings. Even though you may not be necessarily concerned by the aesthetics of ColorOS, there will be a learning curve that you’ll have to drag yourself through. Apart from these, Realme is adding some controversial features such as its own App Store and Game Store, along with deceptive folder-like icons for Hot Apps and Hot Games, which only take you inside the Stores. Added along with these options is the Lockscreen Magazine options, which may be a little overbearing for users who like a clean interface.
My pet peeve with ColorOS is that it doesn’t let me delete these so-called system apps, which will try to hijack auto-updating of installed apps if you don’t switch the feature off. Further, the OS also comes with a dreary load of bloatware pre-installed and will not be liked by people who prefer a clean interface.
Overall, ColorOS does show some room for usability improvements, and there’s a huge scope for the addition of features if OPPO and Realme can work together and seek some inspiration from MIUI and EMUI. As I have said, ColorOS has a learning curve and it may not seem very challenging, but it does have its own peculiar and awkward interface.
Realme has usually keeps the developer community in mind and they should be opening up the bootloader for unlocking as well as provide the kernel sources for the Realme X very soon. So I hope to see some support in the form of custom ROMs which you can use to redeem yourself from the somewhat overwhelming experience.
Surpassing my expectations with the design as well as the display, and amusing me with its camera, the Realme X does leave me a bit concerned due to its processor. While the company has invested its time in making the Realme X a premium smartphone – at least that’s the impression it casts, the processor has not been upgraded from the Realme 3 Pro. Whether this has an impact on the performance or not is to be seen in the long run, but it leaves the consumers with the impression that the same processor has been used on a relatively affordable device, leading to a possible feeling of deception which may be tough to fight.
As a consolation, the Realme X comes with up to 8GB of RAM and with a UFS 2.1 storage, which results in a perceivably smoother experience. The unit Realme has loaned to us for review comes with 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM, so performance can be expected to be better than the 4GB variant. Interestingly, the transfer speeds on the Realme X are too slow for a UFS 2.1 storage and in line with the older UFS 2.0.
Update (7/16/19): UFS 2.1 storages typically have separate channels for reading and writing the data simultaneously. However, Realme has clarified that Snapdragon 710 does not support dual channel transfers, and thus leading to the slower transfer rates.
From a generalized perspective, I see nothing complain-worthy in terms of the performance of the Realme X. While playing PUBG and Fortnite, I can get frame rates within the range 25 to 30 fps and while I have had the chance to test these only for a limited duration, not a single factor has actually deterred my experience. Further, the large notchless screen endorses unfettered gameplay. Looking at the overall persona of the smartphone, there is room for improvement in the quality of the graphics but apart from that, there’s nothing really left to desire, especially noting the price of the smartphone.
Following the vogue of differently-named game modes on smartphones, the Realme X also gets the Game Space feature for an optimized battery performance along with some claimed improvement in terms of performance. With Game Space, the Realme X gets Hyperboost 2.0 to prepare for the demand of resources microseconds before a frame appears in order to avoid frame drops. Additionally, there’s TouchBoost for faster response by the display, especially while gaming. Lastly, there’s a Dolby Audio for an immersive, 3D audio experience in the headset.
After 30 minutes or longer sessions of playing intensive games, the phone does tend to heat up a bit. The heat can be felt through the polycarbonate back and sometimes even through the bundles cover but it does not reach unbearable levels. Realme says that the smartphone has a heat radiation assembly which combines a copper foil, a conductive gel, aluminum alloy, and graphite flakes to dissipate the heat across the body.
In terms of connectivity, the Realme X gets 2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi with dual-band support, 4G with dual VoLTE, along with Dual Channel Acceleration system which lets you combine the strengths of both Wi-Fi and cellular connection for higher download speeds when required.
I’ve not faced any lag during my use and my experience has been smooth all along. This leaves me with the perception that judging this book by its cover, inscribed with the Snapdragon 710 in bold, may not be the best way to treat it. The phone works, and it works very well.
With improvements in all areas, the Realme X actually gets a smaller battery than the Realme 3 Pro. The Realme X features a 3,765mAh battery but it also gets support for the VOOC Flash Charging technology via USB Type-C. The charger provided in the box of the Realme X is the same 20W fast-charging brick as the 3 Pro.
In my usage, I have had been able to churn out more than 24 hours on battery with my daily dose of messaging, social media, some sessions of heavy gaming, a healthy video content consumption via YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix. During this, I have been able to get an average SOT of around 5 hours. Since ColorOS does not show an SOT counter in Battery Settings, I’ve had to rely on GSam Battery Monitor (I didn’t have much luck with Better Battery Stats) so these readings might be a bit off.
The aggressive battery optimizations in ColorOS do a wonderful job at keeping the battery from draining much in standby. Overnight, there’s merely a 2% drop in the battery percentage, which is amazing, given your work allows you to avoid notifications at night.
While recharging, the phone goes from 10% to 100% in nearly 75 minutes, which is certainly impressive, even as I find myself reaching for the charger less and less. This may not be as good as Realme’s claim of 55% in 30 minutes but that does not seize away from the luster of Realme X’s brilliant battery. Lastly, while there’s no support for USB-PD, the Realme X does charge quickly using a OnePlus fast-charging brick which is nice if you’re moving from a OnePlus device.
Realme X: The budget smartphone for a premium experience
At its launch, the Realme 3 Pro seems competent enough to chisel out its own niche in the ₹15,000 segment and with the Realme X, it seems that Realme has become habituated to surprising us with its practical hardware choices and a knack for making smartphones that look premium without burning a hole in users’ pockets. With its pricing, the Realme X does not seem to violate that impression. Although my experience with the Realme X has been limited, I do find myself leaning into exploring it more and more. The only thing that does make cautious is ColorOS but I’m willing to give that a chance too.
The gorgeous design and the compelling display feel exotic for this price point and the camera has been promising in my limited experience too. The pop-up camera is another fanciful aspect of the smartphone and I feel confident that these features will entice more users into the Realme clan. This time, the focus is still on young users but the company is expanding its ambit and targeting not just teenagers but also young adults. Meanwhile, the classy design of the Master Edition should attract users from more mature age groups.
The performance of the Realme X has been decent if not as surprisingly good as its aesthetics. Meanwhile, support for Google Camera mods and Realme efforts to keep the developer community pleased should also bring some exciting efforts from them in the form of custom ROMs, kernel, and other mods.
If you’re looking for a stunning multimedia experience, a good set of cameras, a rock-steady battery performance along with 20W fast charging, and a ravishing build overall, the Realme X is worth every penny you spend on it. The smartphone goes on its first sale on 24th July 2019 via Flipkart as well as Realme’s online store with the 4GB/128GB variant priced at ₹16,999 (~$250) and the 8GB/128GB variant priced at ₹19,999 (~$290). The Realme X Master Editions will cost ₹19,999 for the 8GB/128GB variants, while the Realme X Spider-Man Limited Edition will cost ₹20,999 for the 8GB/128GB variant. Both of these will be made available in August.
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