Technophile

Review | Realme 5 Pro brings you four cameras on a budget

Mirza Mohammed Ali Khan | Updated on August 29, 2019

The intense competition in this space has resulted in great features coming to consumers at lower prices

There is no doubt now that Realme makes very capable phones that are giving its competitors, Xiaomi being the biggest of them, a run for their money. The Realme 5 and the 5 Pro, just launched, are the latest offerings in the mid-range segment from Oppo’s sub-brand. But before I get into reviewing the 5 Pro, here’s an observation:

Hardware innovation on smartphones is seeing a major plateau. The notches are now ubiquitous, pop-up cameras are now on less-expensive phones too, the screens have got bigger to the point where tablets (or whatever is left of them) are hiding in shame. So where do manufacturers go? Primary cameras, by the looks of it. What Apple started with a dual camera is now reaching almost absurd levels of lens’ addition. Personally, I feel that multiple lenses on a phone’s back look very creepy, almost like a three-eyed alien creature is staring at you all the time. With a quad camera, Realme has given the alien creature another eye.

Mind you, this is nothing to take away from what Realme has managed to do, especially on a mid-range offering. Phone-makers are trying to eliminate the need for a DSLR and if this brings good features to customers at a budget, nobody’s complaining. But unless hardware designers think out of the box, the back of your smartphone will look more and more like a multi-eyed creature. What’s to say there won’t be a five- or six-camera set-up coming soon?

Gorgeous back

That being said, the rest of the back of the Realme 5 Pro is gorgeous. Even though it retains a fingerprint sensor, the silver accent gives it glam. And the gradient-flaunting back is almost a work of art. The Crystal Green variant that I insisted on getting to review puts the phone a couple of segments above, in terms of looks. The light catches it in ways that reveal shifting, glistening patterns that can be looked at just for the sake of admiration. It also helps take away attention from the long camera lens-assembly strip on the top left.

On the front, the 5 Pro looks like a lot of other phones in this segment, with a drop notch and a slight bottom bezel. The power button is on the right and the volume rockers with the SIM and SD card tray are on the left side.

It gets a large 6.3-inch screen, with a 1080 x 2340 p resolution. The display is good for a phone at this range, but it cannot be compared to higher-priced models for obvious reasons. The big display makes watching videos a decent experience when on the go and it does support high-res video streaming too. Legibility under direct sunlight is good as well. There is a single speaker which is quite loud, but of course, external devices are needed to improve your audio experience.

Performance is where this phone impresses and carries on what Realme phones have done quite capably. The Snapdragon 712 processor, more than good enough at this price, is a powerful chip and supports gameplay well too.

Performance

I was reviewing the top-end 8 GB/128 GB version and the smartphone hardly gave me any hiccups during use, including playing games like PUBG and Asphalt 9. Of course, it cannot be drawn against a flagship or a gaming smartphone, but for those on a budget who also want to game frequently, not a bad option. Daily tasks and apps are also handled well and if you aren’t going to use this phone for a lot of gaming, then consider the lower variants with less RAM that come cheaper.

The phone runs Android 9 with the Color OS on top and I appreciated that the numerous pre-loaded apps could be uninstalled. Color OS is no stock Android and I have a big preference for stock, but it has managed to get some polish and doesn’t look low-budget or cartoon-ish anymore, with the icons and the look of the interface getting some sobriety. The 4,035 mAh battery will last a day with the usual usage metrics (calls, video, browsing, instant messaging, etc) but will run out faster with prolonged gaming. The VOOC fast charger, using USB Type C, will ensure that the phone juices up a lot quicker, however, and we went from almost-zero to 50 per cent in less than 40 minutes.

What about the cameras?

Right, now the cameras. Let’s get the selfie camera out of the way first. It is a 16 MP unit with an f/2.0 aperture. Gets HDR, portrait, and a lot of face-beautifying features. Not much to say here, but it works well for social media selfies and video-calling.

The rear set-up is what is interesting. First, there’s a 48 MP primary Sony sensor at a middling price point, which is good to see. Xiaomi brought it to this segment first earlier this year and others are following suit. There is an 8 MP wide-angle lens, a 2 MP telephoto lens and the fourth is a 2 MP macro lens. On paper, so far so good. Here’s the rest:

You can select the 48 MP option when shooting but that leads to a massive bump in image size. Thankfully, there is UFS 2.1 storage so transfers can be faster. Regular shots, clicked under daylight conditions, are good. Sharp, good saturation on the colours, no marring of the image by dull spots. When you select the wide-angle lens, however, you will discern a drop in image quality, not entirely unexpected. Under night conditions, without the Nightscape, the pictures are below-average. So don’t expect much with the wide-angle shots at night.

Under Nightscape mode, it is a different story. For a phone in this price range, the software does a commendable job of adding visual prowess to a picture clicked in dark conditions. Light-coloured objects are reproduced the best and images are salvaged. I enjoyed clicking shots using this feature.

The 2 MP telephoto lens does its job of background blurring, but don’t expect DSLR quality. As far as the macro lens is concerned, it isn’t a gimmick and you can actually play around with the feature to click flowers, patterns on tiles, etc, but it works well only during the day or bright light. Don’t expect much if you aren’t outdoors under sunlight. However, even budget phones now getting this feature is something to commend Realme for. One surprising aspect is that there is no wide-angle video recording, which would have been a welcome feature. My overall take on this quad-camera set-up is, not bad at this price. Very daylight friendly. Realme does need to work on the interface and layout of its camera app to make it more user-friendly and intuitive.

Realme has shown intent in taking the fight to the competition and ultimately, the consumer is the winner. The 5 Pro is a very compelling offering. Next week, we will look at its younger sibling, the Realme 5.

Published on August 29, 2019

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