Realme, once a subsidiary of Oppo and now an independent (ish) company, has been releasing more and more devices lately and whilst some have been doing really well, others have been doing less well. When I was asked if I wanted to check out the Realme 8 Pro I was interested mainly because I’d kept myself out of the loop, the only thing I knew about it was the fact it had a 108mp main camera, so how is it? Well, that’s complicated.
- Striking Design
- Good Battery and Charging
- Nice screen
- Main camera is good
- Snapdragon 720G getting old
- Secondary and auxiliary cameras underwhelming
- Sketchy update record
- Jump to… Spec Sheet
- Jump to… Hardware
- Jump to… Software
- Jump to… Camera & Samples
- Jump to… Performance
- Jump to… Battery Life
- Jump to… Final Thoughts
- 6.4” Super AMOLED screen
- 60Hz refresh rate
- 430nits typical brightness
- 1000nits peak brightness sunlight mode
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G
- 2x Cortex A76 @2.3Ghz
- 4x Cortex A55 @1.8Ghz
- Adreno 618 GPU @ 500Mhz
- Samsung 8nm LPP
- 4500mAh Lithium Ion battery
- 50w wired charging
- Main Camera
- 108MP Samsung ISOCELL HM2
- 1/1.52” sensor size
- 26mm effective focal length
- 0.7µm pixel size, 2.1µm in 9-in-1 binning mode
- 1/4.0” sensor size
- 16mm effective focal length
- 1.12µm pixel size
- Front Camera
- 16MP Sony IMX471
- 1/ 3.0” sensor size
- 1.0µm pixel size
- 6GB/8GB LPDDR4X RAM
- 128GB UFS2.1 storage
For a more exhaustive spec sheet head on over to the Realme 8 Pro page on GSMArena.
I’ve had the pleasure of using the Realme 5 Pro, 6 Pro and 7 Pro before this, so I can see its lineage, the ups and the downs and I do like where they are going here, but it isn’t perfect. Let’s start with the obvious thing, that rear panel. Realme calls this the “infinite bold design” inspired by the night sky, and whilst that’s all a bit marketing fluff-y, I actually do quite like this back panel, my unit is the Infinite Blue colour that goes from an electric blue like colour to a pale teal at the top with a nice soft gradient. This rear panel is all plastic but I actually don’t mind, for one it allows the phone to be a bit lighter, but also it gives them the ability to do this cool texture over most of the panel apart from the lettering, think of it like a 1200 grit sandpaper, just enough texture for you to know it is there but not enough to be uncomfortable.
In the top left is the camera setup which looks like an induction stove, in the top left is the 108MP main camera, next to that is the 8MP Ultrawide camera, bottom left is the 2MP monochrome depth sensor and bottom right is the 2MP Macro camera, bellow that is the single LED flash Overall, I really enjoy the look of this rear panel and I don’t mind it being plastic.
Going to the front we have the 6.4” 1080p AMOLED display and it is a pretty damn nice panel from Samsung, it has seemingly been tuned a lot cooler than usual but I’m not complaining, I personally prefer a cooler hue to a warmer one. In the top left is the 16MP selfie camera, and the slit for the earpiece speaker is tucked away in the upper sliver of a bezel, only the chin has a somewhat sizable bezel which looks a bit odd in comparison with the others. The right-hand side of the chassis has the power and volume buttons whereas the left-hand side holds seemingly the longest SIM tray in the history of man requiring a longer SIM removal tool (thankfully the phone includes a correct length one) this tray is so long because it can accommodate 2 NanoSIM cards at the same time as a MicroSD card, whereas most do dual-SIM or microSD. The only thing up the top of the note is the secondary microphone for noise cancelling in phone calls, but the bottom has the main speaker to the right, with the USB-C port in the centre, the main microphone to the right and the 3.5mm audio jack on the far left.
This feels a lot more playful than the very serious Realme 7 Pro did, which had a glass back, metal frame, but in a way the 8 Pro is a regression, it drops down to 50w charging over the 65w, the 32mp front camera gets replaced by a 16mp camera and there isn’t an option for 8GB of RAM, it’s very strange, but given how recently these where release together it feels like maybe this isn’t meant to be an upgrade for Realme 7 pro users, or even Realme 6 pro users. But for Realme 5 Pro users.
The Realme 8 Pro is the first device I have been able to test that runs RealmeUI 2.0, built upon Android 11 and I really enjoy it. RealmeUI now has the cohesiveness that I enjoy about MIUI without the performance deficit of running that, in fact, I prefer RealmeUI to Samsung’s OneUI and OnePlus’ OxygenOS, only Google wins out on my favourite android User interface because, well it is the most optimised.
RealmeUI 2.0 has a lot more rounded corners and well-defined circles than previous iterations of RealmeUI the grey-white status bar now floats from the edges but the toggle buttons are bright blue, more in line with stock android but also a better indicator of whether they’re on or not, nice, of course, the notification shade also got an update with Android 11 with sorting the notifications which work quite well.
Realme’s first-party apps are also really well designed to get acceptable frame rates out of this ageing chip, swipes and transitions just work flawlessly and things like the scientific calculator toggle in the native calculator app has a weight to it that just makes it fun to slide up and down also in the native dialler, swipe down on the number pad and see it shrink and move into a F.A.B (floating action button) in the bottom right corner nice and smoothly.
Not all is great though, the new Android 11 power menu has somewhat been butchered. There are the smart home controls you can set up, but the Google Pay card selector is gone. Something on the phone is having a hard time transmitting Android Auto to some cars as well, with the unit locking up when in turn by turn navigation mode. And as always when you go into the settings menu there is a sub-setting for almost everything which can get a bit much, whilst in theory, having almost every setting and UI element be customisable is great it’s a double-edged sword because it can very quickly become information overload and you forget what setting you changed for what element and where it is setting was.
Something I was initially excited to see was the fingerprint unlock animations from the 7 pro and X50 pro, sadly this was not done well. Whilst most of the UI is well optimised for this ever-ageing chip, this one part of the phone chugs, and often I’ve found stalls out the fingerprint reader whilst it is trying to play the animation causing a failed reading, it is unpredictable when this would happen to.
Realme’s software support is also a bit up in the air, whilst my 6, 6 Pro, X50 Pro and X50 have gotten multiple updates, my X3 superzoom and Realme 7 Pro feel somewhat abandoned, and whilst those that do get updates to get them somewhat recently, none of my Realme phones have Android 11 and RealmeUI 2.0 yet, there have been a few open BETAs, but Android 11 came out 7 months ago, these should all have it by now.
Camera & Samples
This is where the change in the Realme phones has come from, the Realme 5 Pro used a 48MP Sony unit (the IMX586), the Realme 6 Pro moved to a 64MP Samsung ISOCELL GW1, the Realme 7 Pro flipped back to Sony with a 64MP IMX682, now with the Realme 8 Pro we’re back to Samsung with a 108MP ISOCELL HM2. not only has the resolution gone up but so has the sensor size, meaning that whilst there are more pixels packed into it, the pixels themselves stay at 0.7µm and balloon to 2.1µm when in the default 9-in-1 pixel binning mode.
The ISOCELL HM2 is a really quite decent sensor, there are actually 108 million pixels, however, they are arranged with the Bayer filter in such a way that 9 subpixels of the same colour are grouped, this is where the 9-in-1 pixel binning comes from, it takes 9 pixels and makes one much larger pixel so that the phone takes great 12MP images, however, there is a setting to ‘remosaic’ the pixels in software to take an actual 108MP photo. The HM2 is still an ISOCELL sensor, in fact, it’s ISOCELL Plus, the 2nd generation of Samsung’s ISOCELL technology to reduce interference of light between pixels, and because it is still ISOCELL, it still has the characteristic ISOCELL colours, wherein Greens, reds and occasionally yellows that an almost nuclear/radioactive colour to them, this isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t always for me, but I do have to admit that I do like this look a lot of the time, there are times when I want an accurate image, but oftentimes I want the most pleasing image, and for me, the brighter colours and higher saturation is more pleasing to me.
The Ultrawide camera here is seemingly the same as the one in the 7 Pro which is to say, somewhat disappointing, what’s making this worse is that the main camera to me got noticeably better, so the ultrawide, which was already disappointing, get more disappointing. Colours are wildly different to the main sensor, the edge distortion is drastic, especially coming from the OnePlus 9 Pro with the new freeform lens for lower distortion. And being 8MP you can’t use it in 4K video capture so no 4K ultrawide, and lastly it is just soft, not quite as bad as the TCL 10L and 10 5G, but it is a really soft lens which is disappointing. I would rather see Realme drop the utterly useless 2MP macro and 2MP depth cameras and instead use a comparable sensor for the Ultrawide, heck maybe even give the Ultrawide and the main camera the same sensor, that would be very cool to see.
Selfies on the Realme 8 Pro are better than I was expecting but It’s still not great, the IMX471 is almost 4 years old and it is starting to show, it gets very easily overwhelmed by almost any front lighting and even some backlighting, it seems to smooth skin even with all the filters turned off, and fine detail like stubble is often crushed and looks weird, I would very likely have put this down to the Snapdragon 720G’s ISP (image signal processor) not being up to the task, but the same sensor is in the OnePlus 9 Pro that I just reviewed and it exhibits most of the same issues, so I’m starting to think it is a problem with the sensor itself.
Lastly is video performance, and oh boy is it kind of rough here. The 4K30 video performance is somewhat decent in okay lighting, but anything approaching low light or sunset and it all goes to crap, unfortunately. Whatever black magic is done in stills mode to make the 2x digital zoom look good is completely gone in video mode and stabilisation is a bit all over the place. I really hope this is just an issue with pre-release firmware because the 1080p video performance is, frankly almost unusable, that’s all I want to say about it, it looks like it is a 480i video.
This is a section that I both do and don’t want to write, because whilst the Snapdragon 720G inside of the Realme 8 Pro might be mostly enough now, it won’t be very soon and I’m some cases I’d say it is past it already. The Cortex A76 and A55 based SoC is getting older and the Adreno 618 GPU and the image signal processor is lagging behind, with cameras, screens and AI/ML becoming a more important part of phones these days, this chip can’t really cut it.
Whilst the base UI is rather well optimised for the chip, opening up any heavy app can make it struggle or chug a bit when scrolling for a second or two before it catches up with itself. Whilst the GPU is enough to keep up with the types of games I play, I would not in a million years classify this chip as gaming worthy, especially not enough to add the G moniker to the end, the best things about the 720G are the modem and the fact it’s fabricated on a modern 8nm process.
I’ll post some benchmark screenshots below and they’re fine, but I want to put it out there that this is a fine phone now, I really don’t know how well it will hold up, this is the same SoC that was used in the Realme 7 Pro, and in the Realme 6 Pro and it wasn’t great in them either. In fact, the only device I have with a 720G that I’d call decent would be my Pixel 4a, and even then that boy can chug.
Battery Life and Charging
This section is thankfully much nicer for me to write. The 4500mAh battery inside the Realme 8 Pro is very nice to have, with the rather efficient snapdragon 720G chipset and a 60Hz 1080p AMOLED screen, it can go for a day and a half easily and depending on how lightly I use it that second day, I might even eke two days out of it. Certain things I have found that just wreck the battery more than others though. Video playback on this phone seems to hit the battery harder than on other phones leading the back to get a tad warm and run the battery down quickly, an hour of Disney+ could easily sap 20+% of your battery, but once again I hope this is just a pre-release software glitch.
Charging is, as usual, nice and rapid, with the Realme 8 Pro charging up at a maximum of 50w. Realme actually includes the same 65w charger as they included with the Realme 7 Pro which is neat. And yes, whilst 50w is lower than the 65w of the 7 Pro, I’d be lying if I said I notice a difference unless I was timing it, both of these charging systems are outrageously fast.
So if after all this, you’re wondering why I called this review “long in the tooth” it is for a few reasons, first is the SoC, Realme cannot go another generation with this chip, either move up to the higher grade chips like the 780G or move to MediaTek and pick up one of their Dimensity chips, heck even going to the Snapdragon 750G would be an improvement over this. But also, I am so sick and tired of having to tell OEMs that having these useless cameras on the back is not positive. If you tell people they’ve got a macro camera, but it is a pointless, tiny, fixed focus 2MP piece of crap, they’ll use it once and regret it, never touching it again, that’s money you wasted that you could have used to make the other cameras better or the phone cheaper.
Lastly, software support. I really wanted to give Realme the benefit of the doubt here, but I have their current flagship phone and it still doesn’t have Android 11 nearly 7 months after release, they’re releasing so many phones I don’t know how, or if they are even going to keep them all up to date, so whilst there are some parts of the Realme 8 Pro I really like and will continue to like, there are others that have me conflicted.