These days there is no shortage of affordable devices with premium-like features. Now there’s one more: the Realme 1.

Realme is a sub-brand of OPPO and this handset is the result of a partnership with Amazon India, where the phone is launching exclusively. The device will sell for 13,990 rupees for the top version (6GB+128GB), which is the equivalent of $200 or 150 pounds.

And for that, you’re getting an interesting slew of features, while also facing some interesting compromises. The Realme 1 is not your usual combination, but rather a setup that seems to put the device’s smarts at the center of the equation.

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Find out more in our Realme 1 hands-on.

Design

Realme 1 OPPO

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The first thing you’ll notice is the Diamond Black Finish. It’s a glossy finish that reflects light in a kind of polygonal pattern. This looks a lot more impressive in press photos than in the flesh to be honest. At first I thought (and hoped) it would be textured in some way, but in reality it’s just a trick of the light that will often go unnoticed (especially under the provided case). In a lot of lighting conditions the pattern just simply disappears. Still, it is nice to see a budget brand trying something a little different.

The phone generally feels quite cheaply made – very plasticky and light

To be honest though, the phone generally feels quite cheaply made – very plasticky and light (and not in the good way). The buttons are pretty flaky too and instead of a volume rocker, you get two individual buttons located inconveniently on the left of the device.

Realme 1 buttons

I was also a pretty disappointed to discover a micro USB port down the bottom. That definitely feels like a cheap choice, as do the haptics effects, which come from a very noisy and clumsy motor. Most baffling, there’s no fingerprint sensor, which is something you almost always find even on budget handsets. This is a problem seeing as a lot of apps these days work with fingerprints – and going back to PINs just seems old fashioned.

Display

Realme 1 UI

Better news comes from the 6-inch 2160 x 1080 screen, which features some very slim bezels. Some of the early official photos showed a notch, but it seems that this design feature was dropped last minute, as mine has a regular looking screen. It’s bright enough in use (perhaps a little tricky to make out in direct sunlight) and blacks are pretty black, though it does feel a little plasticky along with the rest of the device – you’ll notice when swiping to bring down the notification tray, for instance.

There’s a single speaker down the bottom, but it is actually pretty loud as they go.

I was pleasantly surprised during set-up to discover the option for face unlock.

Performance and features

That micro USB and cheap feel had set me up not to expect much when I first booted up the device. However, I was pleasantly surprised during set-up to discover the option for face unlock. This would be the result of the Helio P60 processor with its built-in NPU. And of course, it somewhat mitigates the lack of fingerprint sensor. Though not quite, seeing as it’s pretty slow and won’t be secure enough for some applications.

Realme 1 screen playback

And that AI prowess should also be able to help get the very most out of a 3,410mAh battery. The 6GB of RAM is also a generous choice for a budget handset, as is the 128GB of internal storage. Some users will be glad to see a hybrid SIM here too, which means there’s the option to expand storage or add another SIM. And on the whole, performance seems perfectly adequate. The Helio P60 is roughly equivalent to the Snapdragon 660 in that regard, and the 12nm production process may help to contribute to the superior battery efficiency. That said, the chipset features a lesser GPU in the Mali G72 MP3. You may notice the odd dropped frame in demanding games, but nothing major. I’ll be testing that out myself in the full review though to be sure.

Realme 1 Android 8.1

The Realme 1 is running Android 8.1 Oreo with the Color OS UI layer on top. I can’t say I’m a fan, but that’s a matter of personal taste and again, things seem to breeze by with nary a stutter.

The 6GB of RAM is also a generous choice for a budget handset, as is the 128GB of internal storage.

Camera

The camera also seems to be above-par for the price point and once again it gets to join in with the AI fun. Around the back is a 13MP shooter, while the front gets a decent 8MP. Both are capable of portrait-mode, depth-of-field effects as well as ‘AI beauty’ technology, which are handled by the NPU despite the single lens. Low light performance also seems better than I expected and in my brief tests so far, the camera performance seems pretty decent. I’m going to need a bit longer to give it a verdict.

Realme 1 Diamond Black Finish

Final thoughts

So, this is a phone that is very much a budget device. It feels it and it looks it, despite Realme’s best efforts with that weird pattern on the back panel. But there are also some cool features here that largely come down to the AI. And, at such a low price, this might just be enough for some punters.

Check back here for the full Realme 1 review soon, where we’ll put it through its paces and see how it performs under scrutiny.

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