Good looks hide the inconsistencies

RealMe 1 128GB detailed review

Oppo has been a player in the Indian smartphone market for quite some time now. The China-based company, owned by BBK Electronics, has positioned itself more as a premium brand in the country. Most of Oppo’s offerings were more or less expensive with a strong emphasis on selfies. You could say that Oppo’s offering is more of a lifestyle device than just a piece of technology. However, the biggest demand in the smartphone market in India is for mid-range phones with low price and many features. Oppo wanted a piece of the mid-range cake, but as a premium brand it can’t just come out with a cheap phone. Hence the Realme brand. Just like Xiaomi did with the Redmi brand, Realme wants to do the same for Oppo.

But whether the bet to introduce a new brand will pay off for Oppo or not is a matter for another discussion. The focus at the moment is whether Realme 1, the first phone under the new sub-brand, is an attractive proposition. The phone certainly looks different and the diamond black flair adds to its premium charm.

The Realme 1 launched exclusively in India to tackle the Redmi Note 5 Pro, but how far does it go to settle the argument? We’ll find out.

Design

The Realme 1 clearly looks different from all other phones for its price, thanks to its diamond-like reflective casing. The phone is housed in a fiberglass housing that has been cut at different angles so that each part of the back of the glass turns a different shade of black when the light bounces off it. It looks a lot like a diamond. If you want to have your gadgets shiny and shiny, this phone will grab your attention. The same glossy finish also runs along the edges.

The front is all screen. There is no capacitive navigation button on the front. Even the fingerprint sensor is missing. The Realme 1 only relies on facial recognition for authentication. It’s a brave move from a brand that’s making its first dive into a highly competitive market, and besides being seen only as forward-looking, it’s actually damaging to the experience. The user loses the trustworthiness of the fingerprint when authenticating purchases. The face unlock is fast, but not reliable enough to keep the user’s data safe. You can use facial authentication to access private space (where you can store apps and data securely) and private apps (which are password locked). In a practical scenario, the phone was unlocked by a colleague by simply pointing it at my face from a distance.

Aside from the diamond black finish, it’s a pretty basic phone. It rocks the in-vogue univisium form factor and is only 7.8mm thick. There is an unsightly bulge along the edge of the phone that messes with the grip. The screen takes up most of the real estate on the front. The screen-to-body ratio is about 84 percent, which Realme managed by putting the usual 6-inch screen in a smaller 6.14-inch frame. The phone will be offered in two more colors – red and silver – but it will be available later in June.

Screen

The Realme 1 has a standard 6-inch Full HD+ display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. The panel is about average with decent color reproduction. The color tones are a bit on the cooler side and the brightness is not high enough to be clearly visible outdoors. There is even some loss of color at maximum brightness and texts appear faded in direct sunlight. The panel is also quietly reflective. You get the usual blue light filters and options to adjust the color temperature.

The good thing about the panel is that it takes up most of the real estate on the front with minimal bezels on the top and bottom. The sides are also quite thin, which gives an immersive feel to the contents.

Performance and UI

The Realme 1 aims to be the phone of choice for mid-range buyers. The price undercutting is an example where it shows. But more than that, it’s the brand’s attempt to beat the best in its first attempt that brings out the company’s competitive stance.

The Realme 1 is powered by the MediaTek Helio P60 SoC, MediaTek’s most advanced chipset. It comes with an AI chip inside that can calculate machine learning tasks on the device itself. It’s what drives facial recognition and battery efficiency, among other things. It is an octa-core chipset built on a 12nm FinFET process with four Cortex A53 and four Cortex A73 cores, all clocked at 2GHz frequency. On paper, it is faster than its Qualcomm counterpart, as AnTuTu 7.0 and Geekbench benchmark results will indicate. However, when I kept an eye on how the chipset was being used, I noticed an anomaly. It appeared that for both benchmark tests, which consist of multiple small tasks that load the CPU to measure performance, the chipset was running at a constant 2.0GHz regardless of whether the CPU load was minimal or at its peak. . It could be an anomaly with the unit I received or Realme is gaming a popular benchmark test. In a more realistic scenario, when performance was measured while playing the new PubG Mobile game, the CPU speed matched the load placed on it. The AnTuTu score for the Realme 1 was 138260 against the 112652 of the Redmi Note 5 Pro. The Geekbench Single Core and Multi Core scores are also higher at 1490 and 5682 respectively. But in both cases, the CPU was artificially picked to get a better score.

We ran a similar analysis on the Redmi Note 5 Pro, which proved to be more consistent in responding to CPU load, both during synthetic benchmark testing and real-world scenarios. The anomaly of the Realme 1 seems a bit too deliberate. Nevertheless, there is 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage on the device we have. It leaves plenty of resources despite a heavy user interface. It also supports dual VoLTE, which is useful in the Indian context.

The Realme 1 relies on Oppo’s Color OS. It’s certainly functional like all Android layered user interfaces these days, but I wouldn’t call it particularly attractive. It lacks the attention to detail that MIUI is known for or the simplicity of stock Android. Instead, the UI seems full of disproportionate icons and generally looks quite cartoonish. It comes with a game mode, private room, and the usual Android Oreo bells and whistles, but that doesn’t stop the UI from looking uninviting for a nitpicking user.

Camera

The fate of smartphones today is determined by how good the camera is. The Realme 1, in that section, is quite disappointing compared to the competition. It has a single 13-megapixel sensor on the back while an 8-megapixel shooter sits on the front. The focus is, unsurprisingly, on selfies and portrait photos. The phone relies on Oppo’s AI algorithms to refine the photos that the company claims to work by analyzing 296 landmarks to understand skin tone, age, gender, etc. Based on that analysis, the phone applies one of 8 million ‘beauty solutions’. ‘ to the image.

The end result is simply a photo with extreme smoothing layers, so much so that all the blemishes and imperfections are hidden. It was a bit difficult for me to accept the effects, but I suppose there is a demand for them in a country where fair trade creams are one of the best selling products. If beautification is what you’re looking for from a smartphone camera, the Realme 1 will be a sheer delight. But if you’re a little more serious about taking good photos, the phone can leave you hanging.

In daylight, the photos have sufficient highlights. There is practically no detail in the clear sky in the photo below. In addition, the camera tends to saturate the colors more than they actually are. It also lacks the desired dynamic range.

Indoor shots are a little more polished. The controlled light brings out the right side of the camera. There’s more controlled AI enhancement and the little it does makes objects look much better than they actually are. You get good sharp images with a slightly warmer white balance. However, there is some glare from the light source, which could be a lens problem.

In low light, the camera is not very promising. Grains appear if you try to increase the exposure to take a photo in low light, with little to no detail. The shutter speed actually ramps up when there’s less light, requiring a steady hand, and if the subject moves, you’ll get a blurry photo.

Portrait mode is present on both the front and rear cameras. The Realme 1 relies on software to simulate the depth of field effect. It is nowhere as consistent as the Redmi Note 5 Pro, but it does the job in terms of blurring the background.

Battery

The Realme 1 is powered by a 3410mAh battery. For those comparing, that’s a hairline over what Xiaomi’s best mid-range phone offers, and the phone’s battery life is more or less equal. The phone managed to run for 6 hours on the PCMark Battery 2.0 test, which should easily convert to more than a day of use for an average user. For the review, I used the phone to browse the internet, play games, take photos and use social media. It took me for a typical work day and then some more. The Helio P60 chipset appears to be quite power efficient and based on battery life, Realme seems to be delivering on its promise to use machine learning to manage resources. The battery section in the Settings app gives some insight into how much juice each app is using, and aside from the resource-intensive game I was playing, the UI sucked up most of the battery. If you run out of power on this phone, you know what to blame.

bottom line

The ambition of debutante Realme 1 to compete with Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro is quite clear. It looks boldly different from the rest, but good design will only make it this far. The performance is nowhere near the best in the market, despite the benchmark results telling you this. The on-device machine learning-supported camera ultimately yields unnaturally smoothed photos, while the user interface comes across as quite amateurish. Battery life is the only saving grace, but overall this phone is not what it advertises. Oppo’s decision to come up with a new sub-brand to cater to the highly competitive mid-range market may be driven by consumer demand, but there’s little in the phone to entice buyers other than a good-looking device.

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