Last year, Realme added a 5G model to the Realme 7 series after the initial launch of the series. Now it has done the same again with the Realme 8 5G.
As EE celebrates reaching one million active 5G users in the UK, it’s becoming more sensible to consider buying a new phone with 5G support – even if you may not yet have 5G coverage at home, work, or the places you travel to most.
The fact is, 5G is going to grow – and quite rapidly due to many sites being ready for 5G activation with minimal work. The recent purchase of 700MHz 5G spectrum (a frequency that improves rural coverage and in-building coverage) makes it all the more useful to have a phone able to use all available coverage in any given area.
5G isn’t just about speed, so if you’re thinking a low-end budget phone doesn’t need the latest generation connectivity, think again.
With that explanation out of the way, the latest Realme 5G device is a bit of an oddity, given it comes with a lower-category chipset than the model that preceded it. The Realme 7 5G had a Dimensity 800U chip, manufactured by MediaTek, and the Realme 8 5G drops down to a Dimensity 700 SoC.
Looks can be deceiving in the world of tech however, and the performance of the 7-series chip actually benchmarks higher, at least in some categories.
With a retail price of £199-£249 depending on RAM and storage specification, it now allows a cheaper entry offering into the world of 5G, but it does leave you with the predicament of having to choose a number of compromises between this and the Realme 8 Pro, such as fast charging that drops to just 18W (last year’s Realme 8 5G had 30W), a 48-megapixel camera over 108-megapixels (with the loss of an ultra-wide camera), and an LCD display, albeit with a higher refresh rate.
Design & Build
The Realme 8 5G is built with a plastic rear, but the camera array looks rather more impressive than it is. It looks like there are four cameras, but in reality the phone has just three (and as you’ll see later on, it really only has one camera of any real value) and the fourth is a fake lens with the letters AI on it, referring to the Artificial Intelligence software used for scene recognition in the camera.
The rest of the back is clean and reflects light nicely despite the matt finish, and there’s no ‘Dare to Leap’ branding as found on the Pro model. A case comes included in the box, which is also devoid of any such wording.
Instead of an in-glass fingerprint reader with the AMOLED endowed Pro, the Realme 8 5G has a side-mounted fingerprint reader that combines with a power button. There are volume keys on the left, and a single downward-firing speaker next to the USB-C below. All pretty standard, and perfectly adequate for a device at this end of the market.
There’s also just a single microphone, so no ability to record in stereo sound or filter background/wind noise by using multiple mic inputs. Again, to be expected perhaps on a budget phone.
Going back to the display, the 90Hz refresh rate gives this a benefit over the Pro model (the Realme 7 5G had 120Hz.. go figure), but the LCD display has a larger chin than its AMOLED counterpart. It’s bright though, and the cut-out for the selfie camera is in a good position to be hidden if you’re watching a film or playing a game in landscape mode.
The mono speaker is pretty loud but not particularly clear, so it’s not something you’re likely to want to use for long periods of time listening to music or watching Netflix. It’s fine for occasional use, but I’d recommend opting for some good wireless earbuds or headphones. Realme offer plenty of the former for not a lot of money, and if you don’t fancy something else you’ll need to remember to charge, the Realme 8 5G still retains a 3.5mm headphone socket!
Like the Realme 7 5G, having 5G comes with a compromise on the camera setup. The Realme 8 5G has three cameras (plus a 16-megapixel selfie camera) but only one of note.
The primary camera is a 48-megapixel image sensor, with a f/1.8 aperture that makes it work well even in low-light, but the other two cameras are pretty much useless. Both are just 2-megapixel (f/2.4), with one for macro shots that will ultimately look blotchy and lacking in detail, and the other for depth detection to aid portrait photos. These days a lot of the necessary processing of bokeh effects can be done in software, often with better results.
Video recording maxes out at 1080p with just 30 frames-per-second. Fine for most people, but if you want more flexibility or had any desire to record in 4K, you’ll have to spend more and get the Pro.
There’s no ultra-wide photo capability (the Realme 7 5G did have this), and zoom photos rely on cropping images from the main camera. Given the big drop in pixel count, this limits you to 2x before the image quality starts to drop. The 5x mode is usable, but go up to the maximum 10x digital zoom level and the detail drops markedly.
However, the main camera offers you good photos in almost all conditions. Once it gets extremely dark (so dark that you wouldn’t generally attempt to take a photo without the use of a flash), the night mode really can’t cope, but as long as you’re not attempting to push the boundaries too far, think of this phone as back to the days when a phone only had one camera in the first place.
Overall, the camera will be fine most of the time and no issue for sharing content on social media, and perhaps the odd casting to a HD TV.
Performance & Battery
As you can see from the AnTuTu benchmarking, the Dimensity 700 narrowly beats last year’s Dimensity 800U chip in the Realme 7 5G. However, the GPU performance is down and the overall score was higher primarily due to faster memory, and the results of other user experience testing (like web browsing).
The phone sells in the UK with a choice of 4GB or 6GB of RAM, and 64GB or 128GB of storage. The model I reviewed had 8GB, for a variant not released here yet, but I am confident that both 4GB and 6GB will be adequate for most usage cases. It’s not a phone I’d envisage people using to run multiple apps concurrently with a need to quickly rotate between.
Realme has developed something called Dynamic RAM Expansion technology (DRE) that effectively works like virtual memory on a PC, turning storage space into RAM to keep applications loaded for longer. Sadly, I wasn’t able to properly test this given the review model having double the RAM of the entry-level model.
Storage wise, 64GB is a little below the ‘sweet spot’ that 128GB has now become, but the good news is you have a microSDXC card slot that can take memory cards up to 1TB in capacity if you really need a lot of storage. Better still, the SIM tray has a dedicated third slot for a memory card, so you won’t need to choose between a second SIM and more storage.
Given the primary reason this phone exists is to add 5G to the Realme 8 series, it wouldn’t be much use if this fell short in performance, and fortunately the chip ticks all the boxes for future-proofing over the next few years, like support for multiple 5G bands, dual SIM with 5G on both slots, 5G carrier aggregation (to combine bands for faster speeds) and readiness for standalone 5G networks when the time goes – as well as Voice and Video over 5G.
When tested on 5G, I couldn’t achieve the same speeds (in the exact same location, on the same EE network) as a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 (flagship) 5G device, but it was still pretty close – and speeds in excess of 660Mbps are hardly to be sniffed at.
With a 5,000mAh battery inside the Realme 8 5G, the phone can be used as a portable 5G Wi-Fi hotspot, or tethered to a computer via USB. Wi-Fi is limited to a 433Mbps 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5 1×1 5GHz) connection, which is important to take into consideration if you are thinking of sharing a 5G data connection with other devices wirelessly.
The large battery also gives a better battery life than the Pro, but it must be noted that the phone has dropped its charging speed from 30W on the Realme 7 5G to 18W. A charger is included in the box.
Last year, the Realme 7 5G addressed the issue of the flagship Pro model coming without 5G support. Just like now, it also had compromises in the camera department, but it beat the Pro in other areas (if you could accept an LCD display instead of AMOLED).
Now the differences are a little more blurry, but the Dimensity 700 chip stands its ground well. I am not sure why Realme didn’t just opt to give the Realme 8 Pro 5G connectivity from the outset and then release the Realme 8 as the phone that was 4G-only. It would have made things a lot easier, especially as the Realme 8 further muddies the water by having a 64-megapixel camera and near identical pricing.
With the offer of a 4+64GB model of the Realme 8 5G, there is now at least a decent price differential between it and the Realme 8 Pro, but I would have to recommend reading my review of the Realme 7 5G because this might actually suit you better if you need faster charging or a slightly more versatile camera setup. That also has a 120Hz display.
For now, despite my intro extolling the virtues of 5G, even I can see that you are getting a better overall package with the Pro model, but me trying to conclude by implicitly recommending one over the other is near impossible as you have to decide what features are most important to you.
Hopefully this review will help you do that, and by the time the Realme 9 series comes along 5G will have become standard across the board, so such decisions won’t be necessary again.
- Realme’s early bird discount (and the possibility for future promotions through 2021) does see a further £20 discount that brings the Realme 8 5G down to as low as £179, and with £100 between this and the Pro, maybe your choice will be that little bit easier to make.
Pricing and Availability
The Realme 8 5G goes on sale from May 20th at a retail price of £199 for the 4+64GB model and £249 for 6+128GB, but early birds can get £20 off and purchase the 4GB model for £179 or the 6GB model for just £229.
The phone is available in Supersonic Blue (as reviewed) or Supersonic Black.
(For reference, the base Realme 8 will retail for £199 with 4+64GB and £219 for 6+128GB)
|Realme 8 5G|
|Size/Weight||162.5 x 74.8 x 8.5 mm / 185g|
FHD+ 1080×2400 pixels
90Hz refresh rate
600 nits brightness
|Audio||Mono speaker (down firing)|
|Chipset||MediaTek Dimensity 700|
Max freq 2.2GHz
ARM Mali G57 MC2 GPU (950MHz)
|RAM||4GB or 6GB LPDDR4x Dual Chanel|
|Storage||64GB or 128GB UFS 2.1|
+ microSDXC (max 1TB)
|Camera (front)||Punch-hole 16MP Fixed Focus|
(f/2.1 79.3 degree Field-of-View)
Video: 1080p 30fps with EIS
|Camera (rear)||Primary: 48MP (f/1.8)|
Macro: 2MP (f/2.4)
B&W Portrait: 2MP (f/2.4)
Video: 1080p/30 with EIS
|Connectivity||Dual band Wi-Fi 5 SISO|
5G NR (SA & NSA) Sub 6
4G+ with VoLTE, ViLTE and VoWiFi
|Other||3.5mm headphone socket|
Protective case (clear)
Factory fitted screen protector
Realme 8 5G£199-249
- Addition of 5G offers both faster speeds and better coverage in future
- Primary camera is good in all but near-dark environments
- Expandable memory makes 64GB model a more viable choice
- No ultra-wide camera
- Two rather pointless 2-megapixel cameras
- Slow charging compared to other Realme devices