Realme GT Neo2 5G Review: who needs a flagship

The Realme GT Neo 2 is a weird device, coming just 8 months after the first GT Neo, aside from the main chipset being swapped, it is a very similar device, in fact, many parts are just carried over, is it a good or bad thing? Not necessarily, but it is weird, so in my 3 weeks with the GT Neo2 I wanted to see if it made sense.

Realme GT Neo2 5G
+ FOR
  • Stellar performance
  • Incredibly battery life
  • Gorgeous screen
  • Main camera is good
- AGAINST
  • Auxillary cameras are weak
  • No UK price or release
  • Software updates in question

Buy on Amazon – £470

Disclaimer

Realme PR sent me (Dom) this GT Neo2 sample for the purposes of review, they will not see this content before it goes live and has no option to change it, and no money has changed hands between either entity. The GT Neo2 has been used on the Three UK network in the southeast of the UK for 3 weeks.

Realme GT Neo2 5G Review

Quick Links…

Overview

Doing a small hardware overview, this is a classic Realme phone, with a large flat-display up front, 6.62” with a small hole punch in the top left for the 16MP selfie camera, there is a pre-applied screen protector as is common and I haven’t taken it off on this unit, but if I owned it I would, it somehow both has too much friction, but feels greasy and slippery, so replacing with a nice glass screen protector would help this.

Realme GT Neo2 5G Review

Under the screen is the optical fingerprint scanner, I really enjoy this over the side-mounted scanners because they’re usually on the right side of the phone, and as a leftie, they suck, sure you can register your index fingers and redo the training and you might kinda get it to work for a few tries, but using it for days or weeks, you see how badly they work, because there is just less surface area for the scanner and less fingerprint data on that part of your finger than there is on the thumb. This optical scanner is fast, accurate and can have the unlock animation changed, I personally chose the one that looks like Dr Strange opening a sling ring portal.

On the right side of the phone is the power button which has this gorgeous, lightly textured pattern, you can barely feel it with a finger but if you drag your fingernail over the rear you can feel it, it is a nice touch, in my unit, there is no wobble in the button and the detent force is quite low, you don’t feel like you have to crush the phone to press the button. Flipping the left-hand side we have the two separate volume buttons. Once again these have no wobble but these do require more force than I was expecting, but this could be down to the long and thin nature of the button feeling like impressing harder than I am.

Realme GT Neo2 5G Review

The top and bottom of the phone take the curved edges and slice them flat, meaning that the GT Neo2 is one of the few phones able to stand up on its own. Up top, there is the secondary microphone used in noise reduction in video and calls, and the bottom houses the USB-C port which operates at USB2.0 speeds, the main microphone, the NanoSIM tray as well as the main speaker.

Realme GT Neo2 5G Review

Now we look to the rear, this is the same “second-gen” Realme design with an iridescent rear and a large camera module in the top left, this design is actually quite reminiscent of parent company Oppo’s design and more than a little familiar with the OnePlus 9 and Nord 2, but it is a pretty design and feels a lot more premium than what this device will retail for. The aluminium frame and the glass rear is no longer the indicators of premium, but the fit and finish here, such as how flush the SIM tray sits, is incredibly well done. 

Spec Sheet

  •  6.62” AMOLED Screen
    • 2400×1080
    • 120Hz
    • 1300 Nit peak brightness (1000 nit sustained)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 870
    • 1x Cortex A77 @ 3.2Ghz
    • 3x Cortex A77 @ 2.42Ghz
    • 4x Cortex A55 @ 1.8Ghz
    • Adreno 650 @670Mhz
    • 7nm (TSMC N7P)
  • 8/12GB LPDDR4X RAM
  • 128/256GB UFS3.1 storage
  • 199g
  • 162.9 x 75.8 x 9 mm
  • Cameras
    • 64 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/1.73″, 0.8µm, PDAF
    • 8 MP, f/2.3, 16mm, 119˚ (ultrawide), 1/4.0″, 1.12µm
    • 2 MP, f/2.4, (macro)
    • 16 MP, f/2.5, 26mm (wide), 1/3.09″, 1.0µm (front camera)
  • 5000mAh battery
  • 65w Realme dart Charge

For a more complete specification sheet head on over to the GSMArena page for the GT Neo2 here

Performance & Use

Initially, I didn’t know what to think when I got this, this is my first Snapdragon 870 device, and y’all, this is killer, not for other companies, but I think the 870 just killed the 888 it runs cooler, performs almost as well, is physically smaller and cheaper, all the problems I had with the SD888 devices are gone here, this should have been the flagship chip, but it can’t, because it’s basically a Snapdragon 865++, and Qualcomm didn’t want to become Intel, which I get.

Realme GT Neo2 5G Review

The core layout here is the same as it has been for a few years, 8 cores spread into 3 clusters, one cluster has a single “prime” Cortex A77 core clocked all the way up at 3.2ghz which, let us be frank, is insane for an ARM core in a mobile design. Then the second cluster is 3 Cortex A77’s at a lower 2.42Ghz clock, this is for the normal medium performance loads, then lastly the third cluster has 4 Cortex A55 low power and high-efficiency cores for background tasks or the boring things that you don’t need all the power for. 

This was fabbed on TSMC’s N7P (7nm performance) node which is the main reason they were able to get that peak 3.2Ghz clock for the prime core. This is a great fab node, it is quite mature, the defect rate is low and is arguably better than the 5nm that Qualcomm used for the 888 from Samsung Foundry.

As is usual I will post benchmarks here but don’t put too much faith in them, when I tell you that the experience of using this is practically indistinguishable from the Snapdragon 888, I mean it, the Snapdragon 870 has really impressed me here.

Radio performance is also pretty nice here, the X55 modem in the 870 is also a bit of a beast, here in the UK we only use the Sub 6Ghz 5G type, so the lower frequency wider band than mmWave, but even so, there is a reason that Qualcomm is a modem leader, the X55 is top-notch, even the sparse 5G around where I live I’ve found the Realme GT Neo2 to pick up a 5G signal in places I wasn’t able to on my OnePlus Nord 2, but also, strangely with my OnePlus 9 Pro, though that was a few months ago it is likely that new towers have been erected/witched on in that time.

Realme GT Neo2 5G Review

Camera & Samples

The Camera system on the Realme GT Neo2 5G is a bit complicated, as with most BBK sub-brands, the main camera is really quite good, you can see the time and money went into making sure the one people are going to use the most (duh, it is the default) was acceptable. However, the secondary and tertiary cameras on this, much like other BBK brands definitely feel 2 steps behind, so much more of an afterthought than the main or selfie camera, and this is a shame as they didn’t have to change much to make them great.

Realme GT Neo2 5G Review

Starting off with the main camera, it’s a 64MP unit, 1/1.72” sensor size which means it is likely a Samsung ISOCELL GW1, but it could also be a Sony IMX686, but I feel that if it were the latter, they would be telling us, much like they did with the Realme 7 Pro. Either way, the main camera here is really quite nice, the shutter speed was a hair slower than some other devices, but that could have just been pre-release software issues, for most of this review I was using pre-launch firmware. The colours look very vibrant, once again leading me to believe this is the Samsung sensor. Great dynamic range and whilst depth could be improved, this is a really nice main camera that I was happily using during my time.

Realme GT Neo2 5G Review

Moving on to the Ultrawide camera, this is where things start to take a downward spiral. The ultrawide is just 8MP, a quarter of the resolution, then the size, this is a 1/4.0” sensor,so fewer pixels, in a much smaller space, being able to take in less light, this is not a great start, and the processing seems a bit heavy-handed, it knows it doesn’t have a lot of resolution to play with so it seems to favour over smoothing things. Whilst the colours are better matched to the main sensor than some others are, that seems a bit of a moot point if you can’t or don’t want to see the rest of the image.

Realme GT Neo2 5G Review

Lastly is the 2MP macro lens, I don’t really know how often I can say this before I start snapping my keyboard, but these tiny, dull, low-resolution sensors are worthless, they take up space, they eat up cost and they cause more software lead time as you have to add in this feature. Leave out these sensors, take the space that would have gone to this to enlarge the ultrawide camera a bit, and with a good ultrawide you can do macro photography if you want, but you still get the benefit of a good ultrawide. As you can see, even with more than sufficient light (my LED panels blasting directly at it) these just aren’t good images, they’re grainy, and the 4cm distance just isn’t very macro-y.

Realme GT Neo2 5G Review

Onto the front we have the selfie camera, this one is decent, a 16MP unit that, with a 26mm effective focal length is a touch narrower than I’d like but it has quick shutter speed and whilst the colours are marginally more washed out than on the rear camera, I’m going to leave that down to the fact that the rear one is likely a Samsung, and this one is likely a Sony sensor. It doesn’t appear to have autofocus, which is a shame, some more expensive devices are shipping with that now, but I feel that just as Autofocus on rear cameras became industry standard, it should on the front as well.

Video recording, the bane of practically every Android device is still an issue here but we are getting better. The rear camera can shoot at up to 4K60, whereas the ultrawide can only shoot at up to 1080p30, the front camera can only shoot at 1080p, and seeing as it doesn’t give me a frame rate adjuster, I am going to go ahead and say that It is stuck at 30FPS. As you can see in the video samples below, when static and having a moving object, the phone handles this actually quite well, but when the subject is moving and the phone is moving, this is where it all falls down, smeary mess with the exposure and focus unable to keep up. Even after moving to launch firmware, this didn’t change things.

Software

Disclaimer: for the majority of this review period I was using pre-release firmware, the last week of testing I received the retail firmware, anything you see here still persisted after the update.

The GT Neo2 5G is running RealmeUI 2.0 on top of Android 11, it’s a shame a device that is launching so far after Android 12 still isn’t launching with it, though there are beta releases for the GT Neo2 5G for RealmeUI 3.0 with Android 12, so that is encouraging if nothing else.

Realme GT Neo2 5G Review

The current version of software on my unit (RMX3370_11_A.05) has the November 2021 security patch, but given how December was a bit of a mess for Android in general, I’ll give them a pass if they catch up with the others. The good news is, is that performance on the current build is flawless, as I said in the performance section, for the most part, I couldn’t tell the difference between the 88 and the 870 in performance, but I could due to the drastically lower temperatures of the 870.

Flitting through the OS was snappy and perfectly cohesive. RealmeUI, which is little more than a mildly skinned ColorOS, I very well polished at this point, everything fits together and just works well. The stock apps are designed in a way that if you decide to use the google stock apps instead of Realme ones they don’t look out of place, but they are still distinctly their own.

The GT Neo2 5G still has some weird Asia optimised features such as the extreme battery management sometimes (likely what also helps with the immense battery life) but also a weird one is that if you are in an app and go to the recents screen and hit “clear all” it will clear all except the app you were just in and then return you to that app, very annoying, but a common behaviour I’ve encountered on Asian firmware from multiple vendors so this is definitely a feature, not a bug.

Battery

This is easy, as it is with most Realme devices. The battery on the GT Neo2 is absolutely banging. The 5000mAh dual-cell battery with 65w charging is a real breeze, for me It was a 2 days phone, the only day it wasn’t was when I had an extended GPS run in the car (3 hours each way) and a bit too long on TikTok (don’t judge me) but I was easily able to get through day 1 with between 40-50% leftover, and If I got a bit skittish sometime in the second day, plugging it in whilst I went to make a coffee was more than long enough to get me to a safe place once again, battery life is not a concern for me on this in the slightest.

Realme GT Neo2 5G Review

Heat also wasn’t an issue. Sometimes on these 65w chargers with dual cell batteries, you can feel the battery get warm, but strangely, not here. I do wonder if there is an extra graphite or copper film to wick the heat away, but only the wall plug got warm, which is less of an issue. Whilst it charges incredibly fast on the bundled charger, this is once again a proprietary fast charge algorithm, and when plugged into a standard USB-C charger you will top out at 18w, so even my 65w laptop charger will only give this phone 18w, a shame, as even pushing this to 30w would make a big difference.

Final Thoughts

The GT Neo 2 is a very well rounded phone, it’s shockingly close to flagship performance, it is got a stellar screen, a beautiful software experience, a snappy and accurate fingerprint scanner and just stupid long battery life. It is a shame that the camera experience is a bit middling. But does any of this matter if the device is overpriced? Well, despite there being no current plans to bring it to the UK if we extrapolate a UK price from the European one, it works out to about £385, which, I’d say is an absolute bargain! However, for £16 less you can get the OnePlus Nord 2, which is in my opinion the better buy. The Dimensity 1200-AI trades blows with the 870, the main camera is better and it is in the UK so returns and warranties are easier.

Realme GT Neo2 5G Review

I do hope Realme bring the GT Neo2 5G to the UK, this price point could be a great place to start from and take back some of the marketshare that Realme gained a few years ago.

About Domenico Lamberti

Technology has been a big part of my life for years, whether it be ripping the family computer apart to see how it worked, playing with the new phones that Dad brought home from work. Senior Reviewer for MTT.

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