In a highly competitive market like India where every other week you see new smartphones, especially in the mid-range segment, it is extremely important for a handset to stand out to stay relevant.
But looks like some brands have other plans. Realme's first smartphone of the year, the Realme 5i, is a continuation of the company's existing 5-series line up. The Realme 5i starts at Rs 8,999.
Realme 5i is not really different from its predecessor — you will get a quad camera setup (something that is common in the entire lineup), same 5,000 mAh battery, same Snapdragon 665 chipset, same display, same 4 GB RAM and same 64 GB internal storage.
My reaction after looking at the specifications of both the phones:
It took me a while to understand what is really new here? I could only narrow it down to two things:
1. A different design with new colour options
2. Different rear and front camera specs
In a hyper-competitive sub-10k space, if this is what Realme will be offering — minuscule changes over existing phones, in its own lineup — then it's just being lazy. There are not many features that make this handset stand out.
But still, let's get into details to find out if Realme 5i is really worth your money.
Build and Design: Good looks despite the plastic back, camera protrusion is noticeable
Earlier, it would seem like Realme liked to push the colour blue down our throats. Realme 5s got a unique red colour variant and now Realme 5i comes with Forest Green colour variant in addition to a blue variant. The good news is that it is scratch-resistant and you will not have to worry about the smudges. Realme hasn't bundled in a clear silicone case with this device.
The downside on the design front is that the vertically aligned camera bump at the back is too pronounced and because of that, it is prone to scratches and dust. While the time I was using the phone, every time I used to keep the phone down, it worried me that the glass on the camera might get scratches. But thankfully, that did not happen in almost 20 days that I used the phone, but I worry that it won't stay like that in the long run.
Moving on, the handset has a shiny design inspired by sun's rays, the company calls it "Sunrise design". It makes the phone look attractive. This design is unique as the previous phones of the line up had "Crystal design".
One noteworthy thing here is, Realme 5i has a plastic back, while it does make it look cheap, but in my opinion, it makes it light (195 gm) as well, even though it packs a massive 5,000 mAh battery. So, personally, it did not bother me. You also get a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor.
On the front, the phone has a 6.5 inch LCD display with 89 percent screen-to-body ratio and 1,600 x 720-pixel resolution. The display spans almost edge to edge and has a waterdrop notch at the top that houses the selfie camera.
You get a power button at the right and volume rocker buttons are on the left edge. In addition to all this, Realme 5i also features bottom-firing speaks, MicroUSB port and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. While holding the phone, it does feel a bit tall, but on the brighter side, it is lightweight and not too broad making it very handy.
Camera: Nothing to go gaga over but covers the basics
Realme 5i features an 8 MP selfie shooter that captures some good quality images provided the scene is well-lit. You will get decent colours and the picture will not look overly enhanced. When you zoom in, that is when you will realise that the image appears grainy. In portrait mode, the images captured are not ideal when it comes to edge detection. A little heads up, do not try AI, as at the 'lowest' setting the photo clearly looks like an edited image and 'highest' setting just makes you look way too pretty (no, no, not in a good way) as it softens the subject's face to another level. But keeping my expectations aside, the quality is not a deal-breaker at this price point.
On the back, there are four sensors — 12 MP primary sensor, 8 MP wide-angle lens, 2 MP portrait lens and a 2 MP macro lens. Truth to be told, Realme has shown its desperation to please buyers with quad-camera setup at Rs 8,999, but the consumers need to know that quad-camera doesn't necessarily mean that it is going to capture top-quality pictures.
Realme 5i manages to capture decent pictures in daylight. The camera scores well in terms of sharpness, colours, overall it is good-looking but this changes in challenging light. In low lit areas, the picture loses its sharpness, becomes completely dull. So that is a big downside to the camera.
More camera samples:
It also offers a nightscape mode. But, you need to be really patient with this one. Sometimes you have to hold still for as long as 7 seconds, depending on the scene and processing time. Any minor shake is noticeable in the form of blurry images. The nightscape was not impressive at all as most of the pictures that I clicked appeared blurry (impatient me, could not hold still for that long!). Do not expect any details as well. Although, one thing that I do appreciate is that it balances the whites and blacks in the night mode.
All in all, I will say, the camera is just average.
Performance: Just about average
Realme 5i is powered by Snapdragon 665 chipset and it runs on ColorOS 6, based on Android 9 Pie. The UI seems good as you get a system-wide dark mode, app drawer. Multitasking is also not a problem. It offers 4 GB RAM and 128 GB internal storage. You will get two nano-SIM card slots and dedicated MicroSD card slot in the SIM tray.
If we talk about the fingerprint sensor, it is quite fast and you also get a Face Unlock feature that struggles in dimly lit surroundings — this is the least secure phone unlocking method and best avoided. The 6.5-inch LCD display provides decent levels of brightness as I did not have to squint to look at it while using it outdoors. Audio is of average quality, though I have to say it is pretty loud as well.
Battery seems to be one of the best and the worst features of this phone that I liked. It is equipped with a mammoth 5,000 mAh battery that can easily last for more than one day. But this one too comes with baggage: It charges frustratingly slowly! The bundled 10 W charger takes over two hours to charge the Realme 5i fully. Vivo U20 which also comes with a 5,000 mAh battery offers a fast charger in the box.
My advice: Keep your phone charger plugged in your bedside AT ALL TIMES!
Verdict: New phone with old problems
Should you go for it? Realme 5i is a fine option for you IF you are just looking for a phone for regular use and all these specifications like an average camera or slow charge don't really make a difference to you. Realme 5i will get the job done and for many people, that will be enough.
But since Realme 5i is like Realme 5s only and all the issues like no Type-C port, no fast charge carry on here, I would suggest you to actually spend an extra Rs 1,000 and buy the Redmi Note 8. The Xiaomi phone offers stylish looks, Type-C port and fast charging. And Vivo U20 is another alternative if you are willing to go a little over 10k (priced at Rs 10,990). Vivo U20 comes with fast charging support, 5,000 mAh battery and premium polished look.
Built and Design: 3/5
Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.