Realme has built quite a reputation for itself in a very short span of time – Realme is barely a year old in India - on the back of affordable phones that almost always punch way above their weight. On Monday, Realme announced the Realme X, which is its most ambitious smartphone to date. It is ambitious in terms of specs, of course, but it is also very ambitious in terms of pricing – the Realme X is Realme’s most expensive smartphone to date in India. The phone starts at Rs 16,999 and goes all the way up to Rs 19,999. There’s also a limited Spider-Man: Far From Home edition of the Realme X tagging along, for Rs 20,999, for Marvel fans.
So, what does that kind of money get you?
One look at the Realme X’s spec sheet and you’re bound to check that pricing again – does this thing really cost as much as is does? The Realme X may be Realme’s most ambitious smartphone to date, but those keeping a check will know, it’s still pretty much business as usual. You see, every product that Realme has come up with since May 2018 – since it made its India debut – has been mighty ambitious. And even though the Realme X takes things to a whole new level, it’s still not very different from say, the Realme 3 Pro – which was Realme’s most expensive phone until the Realme X happened. That’s both a good thing and bad.
On one side it’s nice to see Realme trying out something different, something more premium, and on the other, it’s also a risk. It’s hard to change the typical Indian buyer’s perception after all. The same reason why more expensive Mi phones have failed to attract them, applies to a phone like the Realme X as well because much like Xiaomi, Realme also started off as an affordable brand trying to offer all the latest in tech at rock-bottom prices. And it does not help that Realme already has a very capable Realme 3 Pro in the market to spoil the Realme X’s party – at an even more affordable price.
Realme believes it’s a risk worth taking though, and I couldn’t agree more.
For those unaware, Realme is an Oppo spin-off brand which in turn is owned by BBK Electronics – the Chinese tech giant that’s also behind OnePlus. OnePlus phones have almost always borne some or the other similarity to devices from Oppo – which is hardly surprising. But even though Oppo and OnePlus have a lot in common, both brands have carved out their own distinct identity – as also, their own select clientele.
The same is true about Realme. And the Realme X is proof of this sparkling legacy. The Realme X is a Realme phone with a OnePlus twist. This starts with the core design.
The Realme X looks a lot like the OnePlus 7 Pro, from the front as well as from the back – it’s almost as thick and as bulky too. The Realme X has a glossy, iridescent posterior while the front is dominated by a large near bezel-less screen protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5. There’s also a motorized pop-up selfie camera, only Realme has placed it dead center, which is where these things should be in the first place.
Coming back to that glossy, iridescent posterior though, I really like how this thing has been designed – how this thing is a gradual step-up from the Realme 3 Pro even though both these phones seem to have been designed from the same mould. The Realme X isn’t made of glass, like the Redmi Note 7 Pro, but you’ll be hard-pressed to make out the difference – especially from afar. The multi-layered plastic that Realme is using in the Realme X exudes an almost glass-like confidence especially in the way it reflects light. It looks a lot like the Realme 3 Pro, yes, but it’s just better – in both look and feel.
Realme is launching the Realme X with a new Polar White gradient finish – that's the color to buy, if you ask me. It’s got this elegant, understated, shimmery look you’d normally find in more expensive phones. Realme’s signature S-shaped pattern that’s visible at specific angles on here, may look anything from pink to purple depending on how light bounces off its surface - it’s one of those things where you’ll need to see it to believe it. Another interesting thing about this colorway is the faux stainless-steel outer frame which adds another dash of premium to the whole package.
There’s also a Space Blue flavor more suitable for those who like it a-bit-louder.
There are also options for those seeking a matte finish – this may be the first time a brand is offering a phone in as many finishes, and it’s not even a flagship phone. Realme is also bringing the "Garlic" and "Onion" Master Editions of the Realme X to India. The Garlic and Onion editions of the Realme X feature the artwork of Muji's iconic designer, Naoto Fukasawa. Not only do the phones have a colour palette that closely resembles a garlic/onion (in addition to their smooth matte finish), the Master Editions of the Realme X also have Naoto Fukasawa's signature printed on the back. Realme says the distinct colour scheme of these phones was achieved after 72 gradient tests – and over 300 prototypes were used to get to the final look.
The build of the phone is again, what we’ve come to expect from Realme – although, it’s high time now that Realme thinks about making an all-glass phone too. The Realme X is not unibody, but it’s got just the right amount of curves so it sticks comfortably in your palm – even though the back can be tad slippery to hold. The power button on the right and the volume rocker on the left are well positioned so reaching them is no hassle – also, they offer good tactile feedback. The optical fingerprint scanner that sits at the bottom of the screen is fast and accurate.
The Realme X has a 6.53-inch 1080p+ AMOLED display which is a first for Realme. The pop-up selfie cam (and in-display fingerprint) setup on-board the Realme X allows Realme to offer a screen-to-body ratio of a whopping 91.2 per cent. In short, there’s a lot of screen real estate here for thorough immersive multimedia experiences. And it’s a high-quality screen too – with punchy colours and great viewing angles. It can get substantially bright too and because it’s not as prone to smudge as say the Realme 3 Pro, viewing content on it is a pleasurable experience when you’re out and about in direct sunlight.
The review unit that I have been testing does not support Widevine L1 which is necessary to stream HD content on a mobile device – but Realme says, final retail units will ship with Widevine L1 support out-of-the-box.
The Realme X has the same core hardware as the Realme 3 Pro – although, it does boast of more RAM and more storage which is always nice. Like the Realme 3 Pro, the Realme X is also powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 processor. This is paired with up to 8GB RAM and up to 128GB storage which is sadly not expandable.
While it’s no Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 (found inside the Redmi Note 7 Pro) in terms of raw CPU performance, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 inside the Realme X has its own advantages. The Snapdragon 710 is based on a 10nm manufacturing process and has an 8-core CPU (2x2.2GHz Kryo 360 Gold and 6x1.7GHz Kryo 360 Silver) and Adreno 616 GPU – it offers more efficiency and a better GPU.
While thermal efficiency (and long-lasting battery life) seems to be a standard across most mid-tier phones now, a more powerful GPU surely goes a long way in ensuring smooth frame rates while playing graphically demanding games like PUBG. A phone like the Realme X is better suited to play PUBG for longer durations and without breaking a sweat – at high settings. And it does, as advertised. The Realme X also has a thing called game space, that helps allocate resources on a per game basis.
Moreover, it helps that the Realme X is no slouch either in terms of day-to-day usage suggesting Realme has been able to well optimise the hardware with its software – that's always a big plus. The Realme X is generally a fast phone with fluid performance unless you have multiple RAM chugging apps running in the background – and even then, the experience is fairly satisfactory rather than being frustrating. There’s of course an option with 8GB RAM available for those looking for more, but I feel, a 6GB RAM variant would have also been nice.
While I am not a fan of Oppo’s ColorOS, I like the direction in which it is going lately. The Realme 3 runs Oppo’s ColorOS 6 which is based on Android 9 Pie. An all-new ‘borderless’ design with lighter colour schemes and newer fonts and app drawer interface are major highlights. Also, that OLED panel allows Realme to offer an always-on ambient light mode in the Realme X – it’s very basic but at least you get the option.
More importantly, the software in the Realme X is a lot cleaner and more efficient from the one found in past Oppo/Realme phones that were simply a cornucopia of unnecessary settings and features. Also, I can’t stress enough – the Realme X doesn’t show any ads. It does need to re-work on its notifications though, and while at it, maybe it could also get rid of the many duplicate apps on offer here.
A unique thing about the Realme X is that it marks the official debut of Realme’s in-house theme store, so there are more ways you can customise your phone now.
The Realme X packs a lot of megapixels in the camera department and then puts them to good use, is how I'd like to define it. Hardware-wise, the Realme X is pretty well stacked – like a gazillion more phones in and around its price point. There’s a dual camera system on the rear consisting of a 48MP (with Sony’s IMX 586) sensor with f/1.7 aperture and another 5MP sensor for depth sensing aka portrait photography. On the front, the Realme X comes with a 16MP camera with a Sony IMX471 sensor.
While the Realme X’s dual rear camera system (and front camera) supports AI-based scene recognition, Realme is touting two features as highlights. One being Nightscape which is Realme’s take on the night mode we’ve come to see on many phones lately - for cleaner low-light photos with more detail. The other being Chroma Boost – for achieving greater dynamic range and more balanced exposure under different lighting scenarios.
And now, about the image quality. While the Realme 3 Pro was all about playing catch up, with the Realme X, Realme finally has an answer to the Redmi Note 7 Pro – a segment leader in this regard. The 48MP main camera (that uses pixel binning to produce 12MP photos by default) can capture some great photos in ideal lighting with lots of detail and punchy colours that don’t seem exaggerated or artificial. The dynamic range, which is the ability of the sensor to differentiate between light and shadows, is one of the best we’ve seen in this price segment. Chroma boost, when enabled, can bump up the dynamic range a bit further.
The Realme X excels particularly in shooting macros or close-up shots and can capture one of the best portraits (using the secondary 5MP camera) in this price segment – even more so in case of non-human subjects.
The Realme X can also capture good photos in tricky light as well – and brighter, more detailed photos in low light courtesy Realme’s Nightscape. But surely, low light camera performance could be better on this one, what with that impressive hardware.
The Realme X can shoot non-stabillised 4K videos @30fps and electronically stabilised 1080p videos @30fps – the results are far superior than the Realme 3 Pro, and one of the best, in this price segment. The Realme X, in addition, can also record 960fps (at 720p) super slow-motion videos – but it’s more like a parlor trick than one you can usually put to good use.
The 16MP front camera of the Realme X also shoots great selfies with lots of details in all sorts of lighting conditions.
The Realme X may not have a 4,000mAh+ battery as the Realme 3 Pro, but it’s still a one-day phone for even the most demanding users. Toning things down further should get you even more. The phone also supports Oppo’s VOOC 3.0 flash charge through USB Type-C (which is also a first for Realme) and ships with a 20W fast charger (and proprietary cable) in the box that can charge the whole thing from 0-100 per cent in around 1 hour 15 minutes.
X clearly marks the spot for Realme. The Realme X takes everything I loved about the Realme 3 Pro and puts it inside a package that’s a step-up in almost all the departments. A true upgrade is what it is. With a modern design, near full-screen AMOLED display, dependable performance, great all-round cameras, and a battery that refuses to die, Realme has come up with yet another winner.
Remember how I was going on and on about pricing – and how the Realme X is Realme’s most expensive smartphone to date – in the beginning? Well, let me tell you that it’s all worth it, but you should totally get the 8GB/128GB model only and only if you’re looking to get the Onion/Garlic Master editions of the phone – and not specifically for more RAM. The 4GB/128GB model strikes the right balance of features and affordability and going by Realme’s track record, it won’t be surprising if it comes up with a 6GB RAM variant in the days to come. Realme has been keeping Xiaomi on its toes since arrival and if the Realme X is any indication, it's going to stay that way for a long time now.
Photos by Saurabh Singh