Realme had a strong year where we saw plenty of devices in all prices and categories. There were gaming handsets, capable upper mid-rangers with top-tier chipsets, and the usual legion of phone taking on the overly competitive midrange market.
As the year is rounding to an end, we decided to look at Realme’s successes and failures, and with such a wide portfolio, it wasn’t hard to find plenty of products to put on both sides of the fence.
Winner: Realme GT Neo2
This phone arrived late in the year but quickly managed to steal our hearts. It is, by far, the best “flagship killer” on the market with an incredible price/performance ratio. The Snapdragon 870 chipset is pretty capable; the screen is a neat OLED with high refresh rate.
We also loved the long battery life, proper fast 65W charging and some solid camera performance, although nothing extraordinary from this midranger.
What we didn’t like about the GT Neo2 and what could’ve made the phone perfect is the lack of a microSD slot, official water protection and 3.5mm audio jack. Other than that, it is a fairly easy phone to recommend for the holidays, especially with its sub-€400 price.
Loser: Realme 8 Pro
This phone was supposed to be a big deal, being the first for Realme with a 108MP camera. However, it has the same chipset as its two predecessors – that’s right, the Realme 8 Pro has the same chipset as the Realme 6 Pro. And even if this phone wasn’t made for users to upgrade from the Realme 7 series, it still feels like a disappointment.
Another major issue with the Realme 8 Pro is the price tag. The company put it against the Redmi Note 10 series, particularly the Pro variant, and it never stood any chance. Selling this phone for €300 was a major mistake that relegated the 8 Pro to the role of an also-ran.
Winner: Realme 8
The Realme 8 series as a whole wasn’t that bad. Although it faced stiff competition at its €200 price point, this vanilla option brought plenty of intriguing specs for its class – great battery with fast charging and a lovely screen. Yes, the camera processing could’ve been better, but we shouldn’t expect much from the Helio G95 chipset powering the Realme 8.
It is a phone for €200 after all, and it was the first of its sort with an AMOLED and under-display fingerprint scanner. We could easily identify a large group of people that need little else.
Loser: Realme GT 5G and the flagship battle
The only true flagship from Realme in 2021 was a massive blunder. It launched the GT series that is supposed to have devices as fast and snappy as a Grand Turismo car, and it slotted right into the flagship killer territory.
The phone, albeit trying to be a flagship and a gaming handset, did not deliver on performance – games were capped at 60 fps, the cameras failed to impress, and the throttling was a massive issue.
Here’s the thing – the Realme GT 5G is a nine-month-old phone. We expected Realme to bring a slight upgrade, probably a GT Pro of some sort, with the Snapdragon 888+ while addressing its issues. However, the brand decided to skip the summer chip from Qualcomm and go straight for the 8 Gen 1 in Q1 2022.
Let’s put it straight – the loser here is not the Realme GT 5G in itself. The loser is the whole participation of Realme in the flagship battle. The company did promise a truly premium phone in the early days of 2022 with the GT 2 Pro, however, so hopefully next year this one will be in the winners’ section.
Winner: Realme 8i
Realme is a brand known for its low-priced smartphones, and we have to mention the Realme 8i. It falls in the affordable price segment and offers a snappy smooth experience and a big battery for its cost. Priced at $190/€170, the Realme 8i sure comes with many compromises. There is only one speaker, and it’s not that good, but we can’t hold such shortcomming against it, when you consider the target audience.
The Realme 8i smashed all its competitors in our bespoke battery test, winning over those that want their phones to be constantly available to them. With over 131 hours in our tests, this device can go a long way.
Loser: Realme 8s 5G
While on the topic of affordable phones, we have to mention the Realme 8s 5G. It was supposed to be a better variant of the Realme 8 5G, but these two phones were somehow less capable than the LTE-only Realme 8 and the Realme 8 Pro.
And even if you do value 5G connectivity, the phone is sold in India, where the next-gen networks are still not available, putting it in a really awkward place.
Winner: Realme GT Master & GT Explorer Master
Some might say it is unfair to put these two phones next to each other because they are so different. And while this is true, we’re grouping them for the ability to disrupt the midrange market like no other series.
Both the GT Master and the GT Explorer Master offer a Super AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate, Full HD+ resolution and plenty of capable cameras. The 32MP selfie shooter performs great, and we shouldn’t ignore the 65W fast charging.
Realme GT Explorer Master in Voyager Gray (Suitcase design) next to the GT Master in Luna White
What is most impressive, however, is the looks of these two phones. In a world where specifications rarely differ anymore, looks sometimes are everything. The lovely Gray and Apricot back panels, inspired by a suitcase and developed by Naoto Fukasawa, are candy to the eye. Even if you don’t want the weird design, the white option feels smooth and sturdy.
Loser: Realme UI 2.0
The Realme UI 2.0 is based on Android 11, which is excellent, but in a more real sense, it is a rebadged ColorOS 11. Realme did not do anything specific to differentiate its UI from Oppo. We do understand both companies are under the same umbrella, and it is cost-effective to slap a new color on an existing UI and call it a day, but it still feels incomplete.
One thing we have to admit to Realme is the dedication to bringing software updates to its devices. The user interface was officially introduced in September 2020, and the first stable versions started hitting phones in early 2021.
The Realme UI 3.0 is already in a closed beta stage, and it will again be inspired from the ColorOS 12, but hopefully, this time, Realme will add something more to make the interface a tad more personal.