There are a few smartphones available today that fit nicely not just into the segment they were intended to operate in, but also into segments above and below them. And this is what makes such phones attractive to buyers coming from various segments, a feat that can only translate into higher sales figures for the brand. One such smartphone was the Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro. It has got everything (108 MP camera, Snapdragon 865 SoC, 144 Hz display) a premium smartphone buyer would ever ask for, but it’s priced at the lower-end of the premium range and is also within the reach of those looking for a top-end mid-range smartphone (in the high 30s). While it was crazy good value for money in comparison to offerings such as the OnePlus 8T and the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, it also appealed to high-end mid-range buyers (who would normally opt for a Vivo or an Oppo) and were ready to shell out a few thousand rupees more, for a gigantic leap in overall performance.
The recently launched Realme X7 Pro falls in the same category that will appeal to buyers in the mid-range segment and those who are looking for premium smartphone-like performance on a budget. That MediaTek Dimensity 1000+ SoC will not run circles around the Snapdragon 865, but it comes close enough in terms of performance when you keep in mind its cut-throat pricing.
After using this jack-of-all-trades smartphone for a week, I discovered it is a really good value for money proposition, but also comes with a few flaws that might make a difference to some buyers.
The Realme X7 Pro belongs to the X series, so design is a bit of a priority. While I have no clue what the more attention-grabbing “Fantasy” finish looks like, I liked the subtle and understated look of the Mystic Black option that I received for review. Made of 3D curved Gorilla Glass 5 that sits within a metal frame, the reflective finish looks pitch black when viewed straight up but transforms into a navy blue shade when viewed at an angle.
I’m glad Realme has given buyers an option to opt out of the ‘Dare to leap’ branding that stands out quite a bit on the back panel. Since I also had the Realme 7 in the Nebula colour option with me, I asked friends and family what they thought about a company mantra on the back of a phone, and to my surprise, most were okay with it, while some (strangely) loved it. So, it’s all down to personal choice, but I’m glad there’s one colour available that eliminates the branding for buyers who prefer a more subtle option.
The X7 Pro is quite unlike its Oppo counterpart, the Reno5 Pro 5G, that’s known for its super-slim design. It’s not pencil-thin like the Oppo, but it’s thin enough and not as chubby as the Galaxy S20 FE or the Mi 10T Pro. Given its 8.5 mm thickness, Realme engineers surprisingly managed to squeeze in a liquid cooling system that works wonders when you’re playing heavy games, keeping the phone cool during long gaming sessions.
A good OLED display
Flanked by two quality stereo speakers at either end, the 6.55-inch FHD+ AMOLED hole-punch display is a bargain deal, given this smartphone’s competitive pricing. It’s got skinny bezels all around and a 120 Hz refresh rate with 240 Hz touch sampling rate that makes it great for gaming and makes interactions with the Realme UI truly fluid.
The display is quite sharp but the colours pop. There’s no way to change or reduce the saturation, but it’s tolerable and not over the top.
Legibility in bright sunlight was not a problem, and the Gorilla Glass 5 screen means it won’t get scratched or crack easily either. Being an OLED display, you also get the always-on display (AOD), which is nice to have given that it does not feature an LED notification lamp. Another benefit of the OLED display is the in-display fingerprint reader, that works quite fast.
As fluid as software can get
The handset comes pre-loaded with Realme UI 1.0 with Android 10. In its briefing, Realme said the phone will get an Android 11 update (that also brings along Realme UI 2.0) shortly after it goes on sale.
From a software standpoint, I just wished the AOD was more customisable, given that you can only personalise the mantra (by default set to ‘Dare to leap’) and nothing else, which is a far cry from what you can do with ColorOS 11 on the Reno5 Pro 5G. I do get that Realme 2.0 will bring these customisations, but for now, it falls a bit short of its sibling on this front.
But when it comes to the UI experience, there’s really no beating this smartphone in this segment. Realme’s call to always keep the Realme UI stock and light worked wonders on the Realme 7 Pro, despite it sporting a regular 60 Hz panel. With a 120 Hz OLED display on the X7 Pro, this experience gets smoother and makes UI interactions fluid.
You can swipe away, open apps or multi-task to your heart’s content and you won’t notice any lag or slowdown. The software seems well-optimised for the 120 Hz panel, and the 240 Hz touch sensing ensures everything keeps up with the swipes of your fingers and is not a millisecond behind. Overall, it has a proper sense of speed and fluidity you will not find in most smartphones both below and above this price point.
No Snapdragon? No problem!
Given that it packs in the same 5G-enabled MediaTek Dimensity 1000+ chipset that debuted with the Reno5 Pro, I expected the performance of the smartphone to be pretty much the same. But that 120 Hz display sure makes a big difference, and is a noticeable upgrade even from the 90 Hz panel on the Reno5 Pro. Add to this the presence of a liquid-cooling system, thanks to the phone’s slightly thicker waistline, and I did not notice any heating issues while gaming, like I did on the Reno5 Pro.
It played my usual pick for testing, Call of Duty: Mobile at Very High graphics and Very High frame rate (with Water Reflections ON since there’s no AA available for MediaTek chipsets), and the phone handled it all just fine without heating up. The gaming experience was lag-free and touch sensitivity was quite good, which makes the X7 Pro a great phone for gaming if you are a gamer on a budget. Asphalt 9: Legends at High Quality and 60 fps mode switched on, ran stutter-free, which is something I could not enjoy on the Reno5 Pro.
The Dimensity 1000+ is definitely better than the Snapdragon 765G you get on a OnePlus Nord (priced from Rs 24,999) or the Vivo V20 Pro (priced from Rs 29,990). It comes quite close to the Snapdragon 865 chipset on the Mi 10T Pro in terms of performance, but it won’t replace the 865, which is a whole different animal in theory. Then again, Xiaomi’s contender costs an additional Rs 10,000 over the X7 Pro, so you are getting really good value for money with the X7 Pro.
Realme does not provide earphones in the box, but it does throw in a Type-C to 3.5mm adapter that will let you plug in your third-party earphones. The audio quality is quite good and the dual stereo speaker setup made for a fully immersive gaming experience. You can max out the volume when watching movies and listening to music. It all sounds balanced, crisp and clear with the usual lack of bass.
A capable camera
Featuring a camera setup that is identical to the one on the Oppo Reno5 Pro, I expected similar problems to show up on the X7 Pro as well. But thanks to Realme’s camera tuning, things have improved out here.
The 64 MP primary shooter gets you some crisp and vibrant photos in daylight. The level of detail is quite impressive, and I managed to get some decent shots even when using the digital zoom. Unlike the Reno5 Pro that focussed on getting the subject exposed right and blew out the backgrounds with some highlight clipping, the Realme X7 Pro showcased no such problems. The HDR system worked a lot better and smarter, meaning that it fired up quite frequently resulting in well-exposed images and good dynamic range, whether you are shooting a landscape, an object or a person.
Click here to see the camera samples:
Around sunset, things start to get a bit noisy. As the scenes get darker, the dynamic range also drops, resulting in crushed shadows in most scenes. Some may like this over-contrasted look, but I am not a fan of it mainly because it kills the details.
Switching to Night mode resulted in better dynamic range and good noise reduction, but these often resulted in dreamy-looking photos with less details when you pixel peep. The photos had the same random blurry patches that I noticed with the Oppo Reno5 Pro.
Selfies from the 32 MP camera came out quite well no matter what the lighting condition, and there was always a Night mode available if the scene got too dark. The Portrait mode clicked the usual sharp selfies with accurate edge detection, but it almost always showcased some random and distorted colours in the blurred background. I have reported the same to Realme and a fix should hopefully be on the way. Oddly, the Portrait photos from the rear camera don’t showcase these odd colours in the blurred areas.
The 2 MP camera is a capable little unit and worked best in daylight, but I still preferred cropping images from the main sensor, which delivered better results despite the shallow depth of field. The 8 MP ultra-wide was not all that useful, shooting average images in daylight and blurry images after sunset.
Video recording on the Realme X7 Pro was a good experience. The camera shoots some impressive video with good detail both in steady scenes and while panning. The presence of a 4K 60 fps mode is a biggie, as no other smartphone in this price range offers the same.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the Realme X7 Pro’s photo and video capabilities, but the level of detail both with the triple rear camera and dual front-facing camera is a lot better on Vivo’s V20 Pro.
With a 4,500 mAh battery inside, I didn’t expect any battery-related issues with the X7 Pro. As expected, I got more than a full day of battery life despite my gaming-heavy usage. If you can cut down on gaming a bit, you can easily average a day and a half on a single charge. And, I got these numbers despite switching to the higher 120 Hz refresh rate mode (default is Auto).
Once the battery dies out, there’s an in-box 65W charger to fuel it up to 100 percent in about 35 minutes. Realme is really going for gold here, as even premium flagships such as the Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro and Samsung’s Galaxy S20 FE don’t come close with their 33W and 25W charging systems, and they cost a lot more as well.
Should you buy one?
That’s an easy “yes”! You get really capable hardware that’s better than anything you can get, not just for under Rs 30,000 but also above it. This makes the Realme X7 Pro an attractive purchase not just for those looking for a budget flagship, but a high-end mid-ranger as well, if you can stretch your budget to Rs 30,000.
If you are looking to buy a OnePlus Nord (Rs 24,999 - Rs 29,999), you should really give the X7 Pro a long, hard look. The Oppo Reno5 Pro 5G (Rs 35,990) retains the title of the slimmest smartphone in the budget flagship segment. So, it’s still the one to go for if sleek design is all you care about. If a great camera is your biggest priority, then Vivo’s V20 Pro will ensure the best photos and selfies along with a slim and sexy design. But for everything else, with a 120 Hz display, powerful chipset, fluid software and crazy-fast charging, the Realme X7 Pro not only delivers the goods, but also comes at an attractive Rs 29,999 price tag.
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