Chandrakant IsiMar 31, 2021 14:29:38 IST
Excellent 108 MP camera
Incredibly quick 50 W charging support
Rich AMOLED display
Built to last
Interesting video modes.
Screen’s auto-brightness feature is erratic
Mediocre ancillary cameras
Video recording lacks OIS
In recent years, the mid-range smartphone segment has turned quite exciting. Apart from getting all the basics right, phones in this category often bring a premium feature to the table. In the 8 Pro’s case, Realme offers a whopping 108 MP camera and 50 W charging – usually reserved for high-end smartphones. But how does it fare as an all-around smartphone? Let’s find out!
Design and Build
The Realme 8 Pro comes in “Infinite Blue”, “Infinite Black”, and “Illuminating Yellow” liveries. The blue one is quite photogenic — it looks much better in pictures than in person. The phone has a trendy design and a good in-hand feel. However, some design decisions are questionable. The phone has a giant camera module that protrudes from the back, and that protrusion in turn has four more protruding lens covers. Sure, the large camera assembly is likely to boost the photography performance, but from an aesthetics perspective, it is a bit of an eyesore.
Speaking of eyesores, Realme’s “DARE TO LEAP” branding is so huge that you could see it from the International Space Station. I feel bad for the team that put together a great industrial design, only to be spoiled by a single terrible decision. It is like building a sportscar and then writing “Horn OK Please” on the back. In India, all three colour variants have this text plastered across. Only in the UK, there’s a “Punk Black” hue devoid of this in-your-face branding.
Moving onto the front, the display follows the phone’s rounded edges nicely. The selfie camera is integrated into a tiny punch-hole, which is a way better solution than those distracting notches. If I must nit-pick, the phone’s chin is quite big, though not as bad as my post-lockdown double chin.
The phone features a 6.4-inch AMOLED screen with Full HD+ resolution. Organic LED (OLED) display technology has inherent advantages over LCDs. For starters, while LCD screens rely on a few dozen LED-based dimming zones, each pixel in OLED produces its own light. As a result, you get inky blacks and an incredibly high contrast ratio. Moreover, you don’t have to put up with backlight bleeding, a problem prevalent in LCD screens. The only area where OLED usually lags LCD screens is in brightness. However, Realme has done a great job of cranking it up on the 8 Pro. The company claims a peak brightness of 1000 nits. While I can’t verify that claim, the display does retain its legibility under the bright summer Sun. The auto-brightness feature is erratic, so you will have to change the screen brightness manually.
Realme has tuned the panel for a touch sampling rate of up to 180 Hz. This helps in gaming, where you need to be quick with your reflexes. The screen’s refresh rate, however, tops out at 60 Hz. While we would have loved to see a high refresh rate panel, it is understandable that the manufacturer needed to cut a few corners to keep the phone’s price in check. And I’m glad that it decided to prioritise an AMOLED display over an LCD with a high refresh rate.
Realme has integrated a fingerprint scanner into the display, which is impressively quick for a mid-range smartphone. My only gripe is that the scan area is quite limited.
Software and User Experience
The 8 Pro is the first handset to ship with Realme UI 2.0. It is highly customisable, with elaborate options to fine-tune themes, colour schemes, icons, and other UI elements. Don’t worry if you are not into fine-tuning things though, as the default theme is pretty good in terms of aesthetics. Realme has taken efforts to streamline icon styling and colour schemes.
Owing to Qualcomm’s 8nm Snapdragon 720G chipset paired with 8GB of RAM, the Realme 8 Pro is quite snappy. All open instantly and there’s no sign of a slowdown when switching between the apps. However, swiping to the Google News Feed from the homescreen causes a slight stutter. Hopefully, Realme will iron that out via a software update. The phone comes pre-installed with a bunch of apps most users could do without. What’s more annoying is the constant barrage of notifications from the default browser and other Realme apps. That said, Realme’s latest skin is better optimised than Xiaomi’s MIUI.
Performance and Gaming
The Realme 8 Pro has a good-old 3.5mm headphone jack, but it doesn’t ship with earphones. If you invest in a good pair, the 8 Pro’s sound output is surprisingly good. The same can’t be said about onboard speakers though. The mono speaker can get loud, but it sounds shrill. The phone’s rumble motor is basic and as a result, the haptic feedback is quite poor.
The Realme 8 Pro’s cellular and Wi-Fi reception is spot-on. On my Airtel SIM, the phone would seamlessly use Wi-Fi for voice calls to make up for the flaky network coverage.
I’m still hooked onto Call of Duty Mobile and also try my hand at Free Fire once in a while. In both games, the Realme 8 Pro didn’t let me down. It is quick at registering touch and runs these titles without any lag. The phone runs COD Mobile with graphics and frame rate settings set to “Very High”. You can even opt for the “Max” frame rate, but that brings the graphics setting a notch down. Overall, powered by the Adreno 618, this phone is great for gaming.
The Realme 8 Pro isn’t the first mid-range mobile to sport Samsung’s 108 MP HM2 sensor, but it definitely is the first one from the brand. It uses 9:1 pixel binning to produce detailed 12 MP shots. You can choose to shoot in 108 MP, but be prepared for file sizes of around 30 MB. Jumping straight to the point, the camera does live up to its hype. In daylight, it can give flagship phones a run for their money. Images are loaded with detail while keeping noise under control. There are plenty of shooting modes. However, toggling on the AI mode is the best way to ensure great shots. AI mode spruces up the pictures by making the colours pop and adding blur to the background. Purists may not appreciate this feature, but I love it.
The primary sensor excels in low light conditions too. It does take a couple of seconds to process the image in the ‘night’ mode, but the results are excellent for a mid-range device. As you can see from the samples, you can achieve different exposure by tapping on a different focus point. If you want more control, there’s even a ‘Pro’ mode that lets you fine-tune ISO, shutter speed, white balance, focus, etc.
Moving onto the 8 MP wide-angle sensor, it does what it says. However, the primary 108 MP sensor is so good that there’s no incentive to switch to an 8 MP module unless you are hell-bent on shooting wide-angle. Other sensors including the 2 MP macro and 2 MP monochrome are only meant to tick the boxes.
The 16 MP selfie camera is pretty good at capturing colours and detail. In portrait mode, the Realme 8 Pro does a great job of separating the person in focus from the background. It produces bright pictures, which end up looking blown-out in some cases, but that’s still better than poorly-lit shots.
The phone supports up to 4K video recording at 60fps with the main sensor. The wide-angle lens is capped at Full HD. Much like in still photography, you will mostly want to stick to the primary sensor for recording videos. When it comes to results, the videos look fine, but Realme’s software-based UIS does little to stabilise videos.
Realme has crammed in plenty of features for those who like to experiment. “AI Colour Portrait” mode detects humans and highlights them by turning everything else around them monochrome. It is an interesting concept, but at this point, it struggles with defining the outline for hair. Other modes such as green, blue, crimson work like a charm.
The phone packs in a 4,500 mAh battery, which is a standard affair for mid-range smartphones. What sets it apart from other phones though, is the 50 W SuperDart charging support. Realme claims that the phone takes only 47 minutes to fully charge from a completely drained state. While testing these claims, I found that the bundled charger juiced up the phone over 70 percent within half an hour, which is impressive.
The phone also comes with an “Optimised night charging” feature, which slows down the charging speed at night. This saves the battery from wear by way of overcharging and excessive rapid charging.
For me, the phone easily lasts for over a day on a single charge. Moreover, the ability to top-up 75 percent in just half an hour keeps battery anxiety at bay.
The Realme 8 Pro is a solid phone. It wins you over with a killer camera, snappy performance, a very good display, incredibly quick charging, and rich sound output. If the “DARE TO LEAP” branding doesn’t bother you, the Realme 8 Pro is a great deal for those looking for a mid-range device under Rs 20,000. However, if you can’t stand the large text on the back of the phone, you have two options: wait for a few weeks and hope that Realme introduces the “Punk Black” variant in India, or shell out Rs 2,000 extra and opt for the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro Max instead. Albeit with slightly slower charging times, the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max makes a strong case for itself with a 120 Hz AMOLED display, higher battery capacity, and a premium glass sandwich build.