2020’s been a year to forget for many, but not for Realme. The Chinese brand has seen a growth in market share and shipments despite industry-wide contraction, and it recently launched its new budget ‘flagship’ phone – the Realme 7 Pro, as part of its IFA 2020 line up of wearables, IoT kit and, of course, smartphones.
At £279, calling the Realme 7 Pro a flagship feels strange, and in many ways, it isn’t one. There’s midrange power inside, no optical zoom camera, and the screen’s a 2018-grade 60Hz refresh rate panel, so motion looks less smooth than it does on 90Hz or 120Hz phones. Oh, and there’s no 5G.
What the 7 Pro does have is a high-quality AMOLED screen though – something seldom seen on phones under £350. It also uses the same charging tech Oppo introduced to the west in its £1,199 flagship, so charges from zero to 100 per cent in 34 minutes – class-leading at any price.
Add to the mix an iPhone-beating starting storage capacity, a 64MP camera spearheaded by Sony’s newest sensor and stereo sound, and the Realme 7 Pro becomes a peculiar hodgepodge of flagship, mid-tier, and budget features.
Who it’s for?
If you aren’t living your own private Scrooge McDuck fantasy, saving cash is likely on the agenda and the Realme 7 Pro could be a smart choice for you. Realme doesn’t get its devices certified by the GCF – which means they can’t be sold by most mobile network operators. This usually translates to cheaper devices off-contract, so switching to a pay as you go or SIM-only option in conjunction with a Realme purchase could save you a lot of cash.
It’s also a perfect teen phone – loads of storage, a decent camera, great battery life and a good screen, not to mention enough power for gaming. Who isn’t the Realme 7 Pro for? Apple users sold into the Apple ecosystem, we guess.
It’s easy to cast plastic phones aside as cheap-feeling budget tech, but that would be hasty. At £279, the plastic Realme 7 Pro is in good, plastic company with the likes of Google’s Pixel 3A and the Samsung Galaxy A41. Realme’s phone is well-weighted, comfortably curved and its styling marks a much-needed maturation in the brand’s design language.
High-gloss, fingerprint loving, holographic plastic – it was the same for every sub-£300 Realme phone of old. The specs were so fantastic for the price, the one-note design was never a deal-breaker, but the Realme’s 7-series looks much more grown-up.
With a two-tone matte finish in either a demure silver or navy blue, the back of the Realme 7 Pro looks like frosted glass’s plastic sibling. The phone’s weighting is great too – reassuringly dense, and while you can tell it isn’t made from glass and metal, quality is at least in line with the competition.
Living with it
The practical appeal of the Realme 7 Pro can’t be overstated. The phone’s in-display fingerprint scanner isn’t just handy when quickly unlocking your phone, and novelty at the price. It also frees up the sides and back of the phone, enabling Realme to make it more tapered than any other device it’s released to date.
There’s also no ugly pill-shaped hole punch on the Realme 7. The selfie camera is a single camera, not a dual camera, which oftentimes feels superfluous – a marked improvement when comparing the front of the Realme 6 Pro.
Then there’s that handsome AMOLED screen and the phone’s general multimedia prowess. It combines everyday benefits like a rich viewing experience with stereo speakers that are hard to cover up, all the while, showcasing Realme’s very smooth, light, breezy take on Android beautifully.
A cursory glance at the display specs might confuse some – why is the Pro’s refresh rate 60Hz, but the £179 vanilla Realme 7’s refresh rate 90Hz? The answer is in the screen tech. Realme opted for OLED on the Pro, which is widely regarded as better than LCD when it comes to depth, saturation and contrast. iPhone 11s have LCDs, iPhone 11 Pros showcase OLEDs.
It’s cheaper to put a 90Hz or 120Hz LCD screen in a phone than a 60Hz AMOLED screen; so yes, the Realme 7 Pro is less buttery smooth than the Realme 7, but it’s still a technically superior screen as far as picture quality goes. The cheapest 90Hz AMOLED screen is currently on the £379 OnePlus Nord so even at 60Hz, with exceptional brightness, quality, and a comfortable 6.4-inch size, Realme’s 7 Pro screen is spot on.
The Realme 7 Pro’s battery is a series of wins across the board. With a 4500mAh capacity, it’s big and lasts. You’ll get one day out of it with heavy use and two days if you’re more sparing. 40 minutes of streaming video at peak brightness depleted it by seven per cent – and after a typical day (admittedly, working from home), we were left with about 35 per cent.
The Realme 7 Pro’s 65W SuperDart fast charging fills up the battery from flat in 34 minutes – impressive, but we’ve seen it before. This is Oppo’s IP; after all, Oppo and Realme are both part of the BBK group. With Oppo charging significantly more for this tech though, Realme’s implementation is arguably more impressive. For comparison: the iPhone 11 Pro Max takes one hour and 58 minutes to charge. The more affordable iPhone 11 takes over three and a half hours with the supplied 5W charger, and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus takes over an hour; Realme wins the day.
The Realme 7 Pro doesn’t just outdo flagships with its charging, its 128GB storage is double the starting capacity of the iPhone 11 Pro, and the same as that of the Galaxy S20 series.
Why oh why?
Off the bat, the Realme 7 Pro cameras suffer from a case of Samsung syndrome – boosted contrast and saturation. If you can get past heavy-handed processing though, you won’t have too much to complain about at its price.
Starting with the main camera, a 64MP resolution Sony sensor leads the charge. Sounds ridiculous – a £279 phone that grabs higher resolution photos than most DSLRs. Of course, there’s more to it than that. Sony designed its sensor to work with smart software, combining four pixels into one effective pixel, so it shoots 16MP images by default. This technique – pixel binning – is a tried and tested way of eking out extra performance from a tiny smartphone camera.
There are three additional cameras around the back – an 8MP ultrawide, a forgettable 2MP macro, and a 2MP depth-sensing camera. On the front is a 32MP selfie camera.
In bright scenes, things are snap-happy without too many concerns. Photos from the Realme look excellent for the price, are detailed enough, and only fall down when it comes to dynamic range, with highlights blown out on occasion. Meanwhile, indoors, it’s the other way around – dark spots like a black cat or a mahogany table bleed into a paint by numbers shade of brown, rather than discern textures like better camera phones. If you really value imaging, get a pricier Pixel 3A – it isn’t as good value in other areas, but the camera is untouchable at its price.
In especially dark scenes, while the Realme 7 Pro’s automatic mode crumbles, a toolkit of low-light modes make the Realme 7 Pro something of a Pixel 4 wannabe. For starters, there’s the standard Night mode for handheld shoots. Then there’s Tripod mode, which keeps the shutter open for as long as five seconds to great effect. Finally, Starry mode is Realme’s equivalent of Google’s Astrophotography, and takes in excess of four minutes to take a shot. The results aren’t flagship good by any means, but when you consider the price, deliver excellent value.
The Realme 7 Pro also shoots decent 4K video at 30fps, and Full HD video at 60fps, matching the pricier OnePlus Nord. Its footage looks stable and sharp, again, punching above its price.
The Realme 7 Pro is a smooth, stable phone day-in day out. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G chipset powering it isn’t particularly new, but it has enough oomph to keep day to day tasks stutter free. Brand new 3D titles like Genshin Impact playback at up to 60fps, and thanks to the 8GB RAM, 128GB storage, and memory card expansion, jumping between apps feels nippy, and there’s plenty of room for apps and games.
Should I buy it?
The Realme 7 Pro is an incredibly sensible phone. It has what could be the best screen you’ll find at under £300, a huge amount of storage, excellent battery life, and standout features – that in-display fingerprint scanner, those stereo speakers, and industry-leading fast charging to name a few. If you’re a casual smartphone user ready to upgrade, or are holding off for a pricey flagship and need a stopgap solution, the 7 Pro should be a consideration.
Realme’s facing stiff competition from Xiaomi brand, Poco, and its X3 NFC which undercuts the Realme 7 Pro, but falls down on user experience with its in-UI adverts. Meanwhile, brands like Google and Samsung, also competing around the £300 mark, deliver comparatively anaemic specs, loading up just 64GB of storage in their phones compared to the 128GB in the Realme 7 Pro. Given the last couple of years Honor and Huawei have had, Realme has also swooped in and claimed market share from both brands.
It’s telling that the 7 Pro’s main competition comes from none other than Realme itself. Its recently launched X50 5G is a more powerful phone with a bigger screen and 5G, and it costs just £20 more. Side by side though, and the X50 5G is a clumsier, bulkier, less refined option.
So while Realme may have been an unknown Chinese brand launching in India just two short years ago, if its 2020 and the 7 Pro are anything to go by, now, it’s the one to watch.
The Realme Pro 7 will be on sale in the UK from 13 October from Realme and Amazon. The Realme 7 (from £179) follows on 21 October.
More great stories from WIRED
😷 Life is now one big risk assessment. Here are five life rules for staying safe during a pandemic
🚓 Seven years on GTA V still refuses to die
💻 Putting data centres at the bottom of the ocean might actually be a good idea
🔊 Listen to The WIRED Podcast, the week in science, technology and culture, delivered every Friday
👉 Follow WIRED on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn
Get WIRED Daily, your no-nonsense briefing on all the biggest stories in technology, business and science. In your inbox every weekday at 12pm UK time.
Thank You. You have successfully subscribed to our newsletter. You will hear from us shortly.
Sorry, you have entered an invalid email. Please refresh and try again.