Realme 8i Review: What can you expect from a budget phone at the tail end of 2021?
- Large, 120Hz refresh, display with bright and vivid colours
- Respectable performance from primary camera
- Smooth operation and long battery life
- Besides main camera, other cameras are near useless
- No 5G, limiting future-proofing
- Not initially available from UK website (but can be imported easily)
The Realme 8i is perhaps not the first phone you’d think of when looking for a decent mobile camera, or to play games, but you might be surprised to learn that it can do both pretty well.
It’s easy to forget that not everyone wants to spend hundreds of pounds, or even over a thousand, on a new phone. Many people have far more modest needs – but still want a decent experience in certain key areas.
If a phone has a good display (the part of the phone you’ll be looking at most), decent battery life, a camera that takes photos you can share on social media, and allow the playing of the occasional game to kill time, it has probably ticked all the boxes for a great number of people. Could that person be you?
To cut the retail price, costs have to be cut somewhere, and manufacturers seem to be finding themselves in a situation where they’re producing a huge number of different models to try and appeal to everyone.
The Realme 8i is the latest addition to the Realme 8 series that tries to appeal to a certain segment of the market.
The emphasis here is on a 120Hz Full HD display, strong battery life, and a 50-megapixel primary camera. What you lose is features like 5G, and in the benchmarking department the MediaTek Helio G96 SoC isn’t going to win any awards for outright performance – but that has enabled the company to sell this phone for around £160 or less.
It can get rather confusing when comparing different models and specs within the Realme 8 family, with a huge number of models to choose from, and I hope in 2022 we can perhaps see a bit more streamlining.
However, let’s move on and look at the phone to see what it can do. It won’t be as much of an in-depth review as normal, but I will be placing a lot of my time and attention on the camera, which is something that has impressed me a great deal.
Look and Feel
As you can imagine, there’s quite a lot of plastic when it comes to the construction. The phone comes with a protective case in the box, so once fitted you’ll never know it isn’t glass – and can perhaps rest easy knowing it is going to be a lot more durable as a result. The phone even has a screen protector factory fitted.
Like almost every other Realme phone, the volume keys are on the left, a power button on the right, and a downward firing speaker and USB-C (USB 2) connector at the base.
The power button acts as the fingerprint sensor – which makes for quick and easy unlocking with a great level of accuracy. It’s funny that this is something usually kept for lower end products, but in many cases can outperform in-glass fingerprint readers and make it easier to use on a day-to-day basis.
The Realme 8i has the largest display out of the similarly priced Realme 8 and 8 5G, with the 6.6-inch LCD display having a 120Hz refresh rate – instead of just 60Hz and 90Hz on the other models respectively.
Screen brightness tops out at 600 nits (peak), which isn’t as high as an OLED display but still adequate even for outdoor use.
You’ll also find a 3.5mm headphone socket, and a memory card slot to bump up the storage – a feature nearly always removed on higher end smartphones.
Again, when you move down the range you often find some beneficial features that are removed from the flagship end (often forcing you to pay more for a model that has more than the base storage level).
The camera setup on the Realme 8i is pretty basic, with a 50-megapixel primary camera and two rather forgettable macro and depth-sensing cameras, at 2-megapixels each. The camera design makes it look there are three cameras in total, but one aperture is in fact for the LED flash.
I pray that in 2022 we see an end to 2-megapixel sensors being included on any phone for any purpose. Indeed, as you can see below, it’s possible to get decent close-up images with the primary camera that looks significantly better than in macro mode.
The lack of an ultra-wide or telephoto camera is also limiting, but not necessarily a dealbreaker for people who just want to fire up the camera and shoot quickly. You can get up to 10x digital zoom, but – newsflash – don’t ever use this.
Video recording maxes out at 1080p with 30fps, so all of this possibly doesn’t sound particularly reassuring. If you want a camera experience that comes close to that of more flagship models, you’re not going to get that here.
However, if you mostly take photos to share on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll find it to be just fine. The images don’t stand up to scrutiny at 100% (there is rather too much softening in the image processing), but they look surprisingly good on a phone screen – which for a lot of people, a lot of the time, is the only way these photos will be viewed.
The performance in low light makes it pretty versatile too, so while this won’t be your go-to camera for that holiday of a lifetime, or your wedding, it is plenty good enough.
It can seem quite confusing to have so many different choices of phone with relatively small differences in price. This is why it makes more sense to narrow the choices down, and not try and build a phone for every single type of customer out there.
The Realme 8 has a better overall camera setup (with an ultra-wide), plus a AMOLED display, but only has the 60Hz refresh rate that might put people off. The Realme 8 5G has, well, 5G. The Realme 8i effectively sits in-between, with a respectable camera (as long as you accept its limitations) and the higher screen refresh, which will make using the phone a more pleasant experience with buttery-smooth scrolling.
To further confuse matters, you have other choices like the Realme 8 Pro, which offers a 108-megapixel primary camera, but also loses 5G. It’s a bit of a minefield – and that’s before comparing things like battery capacity and charging times.
The Realme 8i battery is 5,000mAh in capacity, and limited to 18W charging, but will keep the phone going for ages. If you want a phone capable of going a couple of days between charges, this is it.
Is the Realme 8i a good phone and worth considering? Well, if you’re looking for cheap phone that has a quality display, good battery life, the ability to browse the web, run apps, allow mobile payments, run the occasional game, as well as getting photos you can just point-and-shoot with little fuss, it’s a good value offering.
The Realme 8, especially if found at a discount, might prove more enticing as a choice. Sadly, that’s a decision I cannot make for you and simply give you the means to help make a decision.
Pricing and Availability
The model reviewed here was the 6+128GB model, in space black, but there are also 4+64GB and 4+128GB models. At the time of publishing, the Realme 8i is still not available to buy on the Realme UK site, but can be purchased from AliExpress (4+128GB) for around £155 with free shipping.