When the Realme 3 launched earlier this year, we called it the Pocophone of the entry-level segment. The brand has mounted an offensive against Xiaomi and is consistently delivering hardware that doesn’t just keep up with rivals, but often outpaces them. The Realme 5 series is no different.
Realme 5 Review: The big picture
The Realme 5 enters a fairly crowded segment. Between Xiaomi’s myriad options and the likes of Asus’ Zenfone series, Realme has made a mark for itself by stepping up the hardware game. Add to it a reasonably well polished software build and cameras that are a cut above the rest, and it’s no surprise the phones are extremely popular.
In fact, according to IDC, Realme garnered a respectable 7.7% of the market in India during the second quarter of 2019. This is no mean feat, given Xiaomi’s stronghold on the market and ample competition from the likes of Samsung, Oppo, and Vivo.
Primary competitors for the Realme 5 include devices such as the Redmi Note 7S and the Asus Zenfone Max.
What’s in the box
- Realme 5
- Micro-USB cable
- SIM ejector tool
- User guide
- TPU case
The Realme 5’s in-box contents are pretty standard and include the phone, a charger, and a micro-USB cable. The phone doesn’t support fast charging. Other box contents include a TPU case and user guide.
- 164.4 x 75.6 x 9.3mm
- Fingerprint reader
- Polycarbonate construction
Design has always been a strong suite for Realme. The Realme 5 furthers that tradition with a beautiful diamond cut finish. While the finish isn’t quite as aggressive as on some previous devices, I feel the restraint works in its favour. Our unit is finished in a glittering blue that has an almost jewel-like appearance. Up top, you can find the quad camera module as well as the fingerprint reader.
The phone errs on the heavier side, but that can be attributed to the large battery. I suspect most people will be okay with the trade off. Build quality is generally solid and the buttons have a good feel to them. If I had to nitpick, the volume rockers are placed just a bit too close to each other, which made me fumble around when adjusting the volume when the phone was in my pocket.
The front of the phone is unremarkable. Between the water drop notch, which is shorter than before, and the large chin at the bottom, the Realme 5 looks nigh identical to most of the phones in this category.
Like most budget devices, there is no IP rating here. You do get a dedicated triple-slot on the side though, allowing you to slot in dual nano-SIM cards as well as a memory card. The headphone jack lies along the bottom edge of the phone next to the microUSB charging port.
- 6.5 inches
- 1,600 x 720 HD+
- 20:9 aspect ratio
- Gorilla Glass 3
- IPS LCD panel
The Realme 5 trades screen size for resolution. Clocking in at 6.5-inches, the display is one of the largest in the sub-$150 segment, though the HD+ resolution doesn’t do it any favours. Text rendering, in particular, quickly reveals blurry edges and a distinct lack of sharpness. The default color profile has an obvious blue tinge to it and is far from neutral.
We measured peak brightness levels of 460 nits in our lab tests. This is ample for outdoor viewing. The phone doesn’t offer robust options to tweak picture profiles, but you can toggle between a warmer and cooler setting. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make much of a difference.
No, the phone doesn’t have support for the Widevine L1 DRM, so you won’t you be able to stream HD content on the phone.
- Snapdragon 665
- Adreno 610
- 3GB/4GB RAM
- 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB ROM
The Snapdragon 665 on the Realme 5 is an interesting beast. Built on an 11nm process (compared to the 14nm process of the Snapdragon 660 of the Redmi Note 7S) you can expect to see some gains in battery life. On the other hand, the peak clock speed has been dropped a bit, which means that performance, at least in CPU benchmarks, isn’t quite as good as the 660. The improved GPU should, however, give a boost in gaming applications. All this to say that the Snapdragon 665 isn’t quite a performance leap forward and you should keep your expectations tempered.
Realme has traditionally done a good job at optimising its software for the hardware on hand and the Realme 5 is no different. Day-to-day usage presents no issues at all and most users should be suitably happy with the phone’s normal fluidity. The hardware isn’t necessarily meant for performance-seekers or gamers, but it’ll do the trick in a pinch. I had no issues playing PUBG at the medium setting, but anything higher than that was a miss for the Realme 5.
In the GPU-centric 3DMark benchmark, the Realme 5 managed 1081 points. Meanwhile, in the CPU-focussed AnTuTu benchmark, the phone scored 139495 points, which is just a bit lower than what we observed on the Snapdragon 660-toting Redmi Note 7S.
- No fast charging
A key requirement for entry-level phones in India is tremendous battery life. It is no surprise that we are seeing a host of smartphones packing enormous 5,000mAh batteries. The Realme 5 is one such phone and, predictably, battery life is pretty darn great. Of course, there is a caveat here. The phone does not support fast-charging and topping off that huge battery takes an equally huge amount of time. You will have to put aside a little over 150 minutes for the phone to charge fully from scratch.
The 5,000mAh battery gets you through two days of use, but takes forever to charge.
For most use cases, the phone should easily get through a day and a half, or even two days. During my testing, I rarely, if ever, had to charge the phone after a single day of use.
Love it or hate it, Color OS is what you get on Realme’s hardware. I find it odd that the company keeps flipping between different visual styles for notification shade toggles and iconography. The phone makes extensive use of white in its interface, a definite eyesore.
My biggest gripe with budget devices in general is the boatloads of pre-installed apps. The Realme 5 is no exception, and while most can be uninstalled, the ‘Hot Apps’ folder and its constantly refreshed list of apps cannot. Beyond that, however, this is a fairly typical budget smartphone from a Chinese manufacturer. It comes with the standard range of customisation options, including gestures, a floating convenience key, and the magazine-style lock screen that constantly refreshes the wallpaper.
- Standard: 12MP, f/1.8
- Ultrawide: 8MP, f/2.2
- Depth sensor: 2MP, f/2.4
- Macro: 2MP, f/2.4
- Standard: 13MP, f/2.0
- 4K at 30FPS
Realme has been delivering the goods as far as camera quality is concerned and the Realme 5 keeps pace for the most part. Images look pretty good, but have a bit too much sharpening. This isn’t particularly noticeable on the phone’s display, but enlarged on a monitor and you can easily spot the processing.
The image below demonstrates wide and ultra-wide angle shots on the Realme 5. I didn’t have very high expectations from the 13mm equivalent lens, but the results are better than I imagined they would be. Yes, the phone continues to over-sharpen, and there is a bit of over-saturation at play as well, but this is right in line with current consumer trends. On the phone’s display, the images tend to look very bright and vibrant, but not necessarily natural.
Where the camera system completely falls apart is the macro-mode. A gimmick at best, I failed to get usable shots with the camera. Getting a sharp and in-focus shot was an exercise in frustration. It appears that the macro camera is going to be a feature across Realme phones and I can’t say that I am very excited about it.
The front-facing camera defaults to a beauty filter every time you switch it on. Turned off, images were reasonably detailed. The camera doesn’t do all that well with dynamic range.
Video quality varies between good enough and strictly average depending on the amount of ambient light.
The Realme 5’s single speaker turned out to be sufficiently loud for blasting some music or for taking a call. Quality isn’t particularly great. There is no bass here, but the audio doesn’t crackle unless you crank the volume up to the maximum level. I would say the Realme 5’s speaker performance is in line with most of its competitors.
Audio output from the headphone jack is average at best.
Audio output from the headphone jack is not that great. I noticed a bit of hiss when listening to music using my 1More Triple Drivers. If music listening is a primary use case for you, I would look at other hardware.
Realme 5:6.5-inch, IPS LCD
1,600 x 720 resolution
20:9 aspect ratio
Gorilla Glass 3+
Realme 5:Qualcomm Snapdragon 665
4 x 2.0GHz Kryo 260 Gold
4 x 1.8GHz Kryo 260 Silver
Realme 5:Adreno 610
Realme 5:3GB/4GB RAM
12MP standard at f/1.8
8MP Ultra-wide at f/2.2
2MP depth sensor
Video: 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 120fps, EIS
13MP at f/2.0
AI beauty mode
Realme 5:Dual nano-SIM slots
Dual SIMs dual VoLTE 4G
Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4/5Ghz
Positioning system: GPS, aGPS, GLONASS, Beidou navigation system
Supports Bluetooth 5.0 connections
Supports aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC
Realme 5:Rear-mounted fingerprint scanner
Realme 5:ColorOS 6.0, Android 9 Pie
Realme 5:Crystal Purple, Crystal Blue
Realme 5:164.4 x 75.6 x 9.3-9.33mm
Value for the money
- Realme 5: 3GB RAM, 32GB ROM — Rs. 9,999 (~$140)
- Realme 5: 4GB RAM, 64GB ROM — Rs. 10,999 (~$153)
- Realme 5: 4GB RAM, 128GB ROM — Rs. 11,999 (~$167)
The chief competitor for the Realme 5 is the Redmi Note 7S. Xiaomi’s budget offering delivers a Full HD display and a somewhat better camera at a similar price point. The glass build comes across as a bit more premium, as well.
However, the overall package offered by the Realme 5 is more than competitive. The phone looks brilliant, has a long-lasting battery, and the camera delivers good enough images and offers a lot of versatility.
Realme 5 review: The verdict
The Realme 5 is a good package that redefines what you can get in an entry-level smartphone. Between the top-tier build quality, the versatile camera, and a solid hardware package, it’s hard not to get excited about this smartphone.
If you want a reasonably priced phone that delivers the essentials and more, the Realme 5 is one of the better options available today.