As flagship smartphones have begun to plateau over the years, with no real ambition or competition between manufacturers, there appears to be a huge competition developing in other certain smartphone categories: namely budget and mid-range devices. Now you can purchase a phone for less than £200 and get features that not even Flagship devices have in the modern age for almost triple the price, in the Realme 7.
- Spectacular Design
- Dart Charging is Game-Changing
- Wonderful 90Hz Display
- Good Camera Performance
- Decent Overall Performance
- Stock-Like Software
- Video Quality is Sub-Par
- Facial Recognition Problems
Companies like Samsung, OnePlus, Apple and Huawei are blurring the lines as to what is possible in terms of smartphone capabilities and pushing them to their absolute limits without sacrificing your precious wallet space. Another company that is slept on for the most part are Realme.
Now you will know that in my previous review of a Realme device, I wasn’t the biggest fan and I felt like it was a product that had been led astray by being too ambitious for a phone worth £179. Now that the water is under the bridge for that device, Realme have announced a new line of products to yet again stake their ambitious claim to be the budget king with the Realme 7.
Realme 6iLooking at the spec sheet by itself, with a 90Hz 1080p display coming in at 6.5 inches, a side-mounted fingerprint scanner and a 64MP wide sensor accompany with 3 additional lenses to boot you would think that this device could perform like any other flagship device out there and be priced as such. Here’s the kicker, though: it costs just £179. No, I’m not missing a 0 in there, that’s as plain as simple as it gets.
So let’s get into the detail, shall we? Follow me.
Hardware: Originality at its Finest
One thing I noted whilst reviewing the Realme 6i is the fact that Realme add a touch of originality to their phone designs, which I greatly appreciate in the sea of standard coloured slabs out there. Realme want to stand out for the right reasons, and starting with the one thing you notice almost instantly when unboxing any smartphone in this modern age is the back of the device.
Last year, Realme opted for a wonderful green colour, adding their touch of personality with the hash-like design around the back to help it stand out.
This year, Realme decided to take the more professional approach but still not shying away from the sheer personality their smartphones have imposed over their short tenure in the smartphone world. As soon as you unbox the Realme 7, you’re awestruck once again with how beautiful the Mist Blue shimmers with the two-tone design and the sheer vibrance the ‘Realme’ logo presents when you shift it in the light.
One thing I adore about Realme 7’s design is how well put together it is. Sure, it is a plastic phone and there’s no way around that, but if you look at it without touching it, that doesn’t matter when it looks the part and plays it all the same.
Delving a little deeper into the design, the pattern Realme opted for this year is a hard one to describe. The first quarter of the device on the back has a line down it, with the lustrous blues seeking attention, with the next half having a similar effect but rotated round to give it a shining start glimmer down to the side of the back of the device to give it that touch of personality, and brilliance. Another thing to note, from an OCD person’s perspective is fact that said line down the back of the device almost underlines the ‘Realme’ logo below it. Smart move, and a move I appreciate for my sanity.
Moving away from the back of the device, a welcomed USB type-C port appears at the bottom of the device, because it would be weird if it was on the side or top, albeit original.
The left-hand side features small, but very responsive volume rockers that have no wiggle room which shows how well manufactured this device is. On the right is a very large power button with the in-built mounted fingerprint scanner which I’ve grown to love exponentially over the time I have had with this device.
For completionism sake, on the top is nothing at all.
Overall, the design and build of the Realme 7 have struck me back in the best way possible. A gorgeous Mist Blue colour, a rich Realme personality as we’ve come to expect, to moving in a cleaner direction for everyone to enjoy. Realme have hit it out the park with the overall aesthetic and design of this device and it’s a sight to behold that you almost begrudge wanting to use a case with it! Which, on that subject, does come with one in the box; a nice touch.
Display: 90Hz Goodness
I’ve been looking forward to writing this section because there’s so much good that Realme did on this display that it needs to be said from the rooftops from a safe social distance. Being a device that costs less than £200 right now, you’d expect a few corners to be cut in important parts of the device which usually means the display loses a few features that aren’t exactly deal-breaking, but at least ‘nice to have’. But with the 7, Realme added a feature that not even the £1,000 iPhone 12 Pro has right now, which is a high refresh rate display.
Out of the box, 60Hz is enabled by default upon turning it on. When going through the setup process you get the option to switch onto 90Hz which I highly recommend. Sure, you will sacrifice battery life to some degree but as you’ll see in the battery life section, later on, that’s not a big deal in the first place thanks to the 5000mAh battery packed into this beast.
With 90Hz enabled, it gives the Realme 7 that aura of blurring the lines and you end up comparing it to devices well out of the range of comparison but there’s nothing close to it in terms of how the display works. Everything feels fluid from navigating the operating system to switching between applications. The 90Hz display just adds that natural feeling of power that not a lot of devices in this range manage to perfect as good as Realme have here.
In terms of display quality, it’s fine. It won’t win any awards for the most breath-taking display out there but it’s a device worth a fraction of a flagship so we can’t expect the world here. One thing I will say regarding display quality, colours feel as flat as a slow puncture and come out quite boring which dampens part of the experience for the most part, but overall I’ve had no complaints with how it handles everything. Thanks to the OSIE visual effect setting, playing media in any form does boost the vibrancy of the display to enable a more cinematic experience without blowing out the colours too much where they change their identity. Whites are perfectly fine with the accompaniment of the white balance slider in the settings menu. By default, it leans towards the warmer side of the spectrum.
In closing to this part, the 90Hz display on a device that’s so cheap is just amazing to see and adds an aura of premium in a device that by no means is meant to be aiming towards that market, but Realme intentionally put themselves into a mid-range/flagship category without trying too hard.
Performance: To Helio and Back
With a world-debuting Helio G95 chipset improving from the previous years’ variation of Realme’s beastly CPU/GPU combo, you’d expect that performance of the 7 would be breaking those barriers even further – and you would be correct in assuming that.
With 8GB RAM and 128GB storage on the device I received for review purposes, alongside this astonishing Helio G95 chip, the world is your oyster with this device in more ways than one.
First of all, accompanied with the 90Hz refresh rate, everything feels so smooth and snappy no matter what task you throw at it. I used this phone as my daily driver for the best part of 2 weeks and there wasn’t a day where I was waiting for the phone to catch up to what I was doing and I was pushing it as hard as I could. Constantly switching between applications at a quick pace. Copying from one application and pasting it into another, moving over to already-open games and moving back to previous tasks and the phone didn’t even bat an eyelid. Apps switched within milliseconds and stay in the background for a lengthy amount of time before Android inevitably freezes it due to inactivity.
Having a high amount of RAM in a device helps with overall multi-tasking, and Realme made the correct decision to put 8GB in at least one of the variants of the device.
In terms of gaming performance, after playing hours of Call of Duty Mobile and Forza Street, both very high graphical intensive games in their own right – and even at the highest possible settings the Realme 7 doesn’t even show a sign of struggling. With Octa-Core performance, mixed in with the 90Hz refresh rate, gaming and multitasking is a breeze with the Realme 7.
The Realme 7 comes in 2 variants. 6GB/64GB & 8GB/128GB respectively.
Software: Like a Pixel, But More Improved
Much like the Realme 6i, I reviewed a while back now, the software is one thing that Realme seem to hit the nail on the head with. Not straying too far from Google’s preferred image of the Android operating system, but adding the odd feature here and there to make it their own.
With the improvements going into the Realme 7, it’s becoming more and more like stock Android by the year, which I greatly appreciate as I have always been a personal fan of Google’s design standards. The default launcher on the Realme is a hybrid of the Google Launcher with a sprinkle of personality that we have learned to love. The slight touches added to the launcher include a more refreshed settings menu with options like swipe down for the notification panel, changing the home screen layout and a personal favourite of mine: double-tap to lock.
Another feature I like, but didn’t use was the options of home screen mode. If you’re a fan of the cluttered old-school iOS way of app layouts on the home screen, then there’s a ‘simple’ mode without an app drawer, and then a drawer and standard mode. The difference between standard and ‘drawer’ is no search box at the top of the app drawer in standard mode and that’s where the differences end.
Realme’s standard apps don’t stray too far from Google stock applications but are heading in a direction of Samsung-esque design. It’s not entirely a bad thing but with the amount of personality they have put into the rest of the device a little software originality wouldn’t go amiss in certain aspects. The colourful settings menu makes its long-awaited return in the 7, too. Keeping that personalised experience and consistency without making changes for the sake of it.
A lot of the multi-tasking menu is taking directly from the Android 10 resources. Speaking of Android 10, the Realme 7 comes with the aforementioned software out of the box with Realme’s 1.0 version of the software. The last security update I received was back in August, with no sign of the September ones yet. Similar story to the 6i unfortunately with the slowness of security patches. But since the device isn’t due to be released until the 27th October, I’d expect that to be rectified very soon if not by the time this review goes live.
Camera – At Least It’s Consistent
If there is ever one thing that can be extremely damming from a budget-priced device is that the camera can be extremely inconsistent in most scenarios. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting it to be Pixel-like but if it can take a decent shot in decent light, I’m happy enough for a device of this calibre.
Luckily, the Realme 7’s camera is extremely consistent in almost any situation you end up throwing at it. Not only that, but it has a lot of features that Flagships have just started implementing throughout the past few years!
When it comes to the camera app itself and the features it holds, you wouldn’t expect half of the features to be in here just because of the sheer price of this device. For example, you can video record in 4K which is an impressive feat for any device, not just one that cost a fraction of the price of a flagship. Night Mode makes an appearance in the camera app, too. The inconsistencies show more prominently in this department, with most shots being completely overblown and blurry for the most part. I wasn’t expecting the world with the night mode, but I wasn’t able to take a decent shot in almost pitch-black conditions. Sure, if you have a little light it does give you more clarity to the shots but those situations are getting few and far between when we enter the winter months.
The Realme 7 features 4 (FOUR!) camera sensors, which include a 48MP primary camera, an 8MP ultra-wide-angle lens (FOV 119 degrees), a B&W Portrait Lens, and last but not least a Macro lens.
The front-facing camera comes in at 16MP.
In terms of shots, this camera can take, the images provided do it all the justice in the world. In bright lighting conditions, in broad daylight, the Realme 7 shines. The pictures are supremely vibrant, the sharpness doesn’t overcompensate for an inadequate sensor, and the black and white balance are just… chefs kiss.
Even when it comes to conditions where the lighting isn’t entirely perfect with the sun facing directly towards you, the processing of the image in the back-end from the device’s side does end up giving you a pretty amazing photo.
Overall, for the camera and the features, it can do, the Realme 7’s camera can take some pretty amazing photos and consistency is key to most of these situations. Night mode is the only qualm I had with this camera, but I’m not going to tear Realme a new one because it’s impressive that they managed to put the feature in there in the first place for a device of this price.
In term of video, it’s very…acceptable at best. I tried both 30 and 60FPS at 1080P with my extended testing of the device in the park on my daily walk, and as long as you don’t zoom it any further than 1X, the quality will be superb. The ripples of the lake glisten through wonderfully, and the motion of the ducks is pro-motion like which is impressive.
Battery – Dart Charge
As the sub-heading suggests, Dart Charge is a feature that Realme have been pushing hard on this device, including the Pro model. I mean, 30W charging with a 50% charge in 26 minutes? That’s just insane to think about never mind putting it into practice.
I rarely let my phones go to 0% battery to the point where it completely depletes with no life, just because the sheer time it takes for the device to come back to life again when you put it on the charge. But with the 7, Dart Charge makes life a lot easier to stomach that thought. Dart Charge is so fast, that upon charging, the percentage meter goes up in 0.1 increments! It’s a nice little touch in the software to show how impeccable the charging is. Sure, the cable and power brick is a little thick but it mainly hides in the background anyway so who cares, right? I did a test, and from complete depletion to 100% charge, it takes just under an hour at 53 minutes. If you compare that to a standard iPhone charger, it would take twice the time, possibly more.
Now Dart Charging would be important if the battery optimisation in the software wasn’t ideal, but here’s the kicker: even the battery life of this device is astonishing! With a 5000MAH battery secured inside this beautiful unibody design, I got easily 7-hour screen on time every day with 20% battery left to spare.
If I didn’t use it as often as I did during the review purpose, then you could easily get up to 3 days of battery longevity on this phone.
Honestly, this is the best feature the Realme 7 has to offer alongside the beautiful, crisp display, acceptable cameras and fun performance.
Conclusion – This Phone is the Real Deal
While my colleague Dom puts his finishing touches on the Realme 7 Pro review, I’ve been in awe of the Realme 7 inside and out. From the gorgeous originality of its hardware design to the supremely excellent 90Hz display function, this device should be a winner in anyone’s book.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the 6i when I reviewed it at the start of the year, but I’ll be dammed if Realme hasn’t put me back on their side again. This phone has blown me away and exceeded any of my wildest expectations from a budget-priced device. It performs like a flagship in most departments, the display reaction is mere milliseconds, and the software is almost Pixel Perfect with a few personality traits that Realme have been pushing towards for the last couple of years now.
Realme have added more to the budget smartphone game that any other company out there at this present moment. Sure, Samsung has a smartphone for every day of the week and that’s fine, but the thing with Realme is the fact that they add an extra touch of personality to each device they create and that’s what makes them stand out.
Thank you so much to Realme for sending me this device over for review, you knocked it out of the park!