Lots of oomph, but does this pretty boy pack a punch?
If there’s one brand that has lately been making waves in the Indian market and growing at a steady pace, it has to be Realme. The OPPO spin-off has been churning out new phones at a really aggressive pace – and despite occasionally starting chatter about some questionable marketing – it has emerged as the biggest threat to the Xiaomi juggernaut in the price-sensitive Indian market. The brand’s latest offering is the Realme 8, which offers some neat specs such as a 64MP quad rear camera hardware, an AMOLED panel, 30W fast charging, and a flashy design that is a tad divisive too. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty:
Design of Realme 8 will stir some debate
Realme 8 has gone with some bold aesthetic choices to make a statement. And I’m not going to mince words here – it’s a hit or miss. If you want a phone that stands out from the crowd, the gaudy Cyber Silver is the one you should go for. There is also a Cyber Black color on the table, which I personally prefer for its stealthy looks.
That huge ‘DARE TO LEAP’ banner? Realme calls it a bold design move. I kinda equate it with turning the phone into a miniature billboard in my mind. But hey, the design is fresh. And in a world where people buy neon green hoodies and bright yellow sneakers to catch a few eyeballs, the Realme 8 blends in really well.
Coming to the build quality, the Realme 8 is solid. No weird flex on the rear panel to be seen here. The frame as well as the rear panel are made out of polycarbonate. Even though the phone is almost 8mm thick, the sloping design around makes it feel thinner than it actually is. The rear panel, especially on the silver variant, gets smudged easily though. Also, the plastic gets scratched easily, especially if you carry keys or coins in your jeans pocket. Thankfully, the retail package comes bundled with a transparent silicone case that is of decent quality.
Interestingly, the top and bottom edges of Realme 8 have a slightly recessed profile, instead of being flat or bulging outside. This makes the edges feel a bit sharper in the hands. The volume and power buttons are comfortably within reach, but the volume rocker was a tad too tight for my liking. Thankfully, you don’t have to sacrifice dual-SIM functionality for storage expansion, as the phone comes with a triple card slot.
Realme 8 offers a good display, even without Hz hoopla
Now. There’s a bit of upgrade as well as downgrade here. The Realme 7 had a 90Hz LCD panel. Its successor, on the other hand, swaps the LCD for an AMOLED panel but reduces the refresh rate to a standard 60Hz affair. Now, you have to weigh your priorities here. If you’ve used a 90Hz or 120Hz panel before, this one will feel slow and janky. It certainly did to me. However, if you’re after the punchy colors and deep blacks of an AMOLED panel, the Realme 8 will serve you well.
Coming to the display quality, it is satisfactory. I didn’t notice any weird bleeding around the edges, and the saturation was also on point. Using it under bright sunlight, I didn’t come across any legibility issues either. Comparing it against the Redmi Note 10 which also falls in the same price bracket, I found the Realme 8 to fare slightly better in the banding test, but the results in contrast and gamma test were almost similar to the naked eyes.
Realme touts a peak brightness of 1000 nits, but I couldn’t verify it using a lab test. What I can tell you is that you won’t be left wanting a brighter screen in most scenarios, be it watching movies or playing games. The display comes with a pre-applied screen protector, although not of very good quality as it got scuffed in just over a week.
There is an in-screen fingerprint for authentication. It is not the fastest out there, but it gets the job done with acceptable accuracy. A minor ruffle for me has to be the sensor’s placement, which is positioned a tad too low alongside the bottom edge. And just in case you’re wondering, you get Widevine L1 certification, which means you can stream high-resolution content from platforms like Amazon’s Prime Video and Netflix.
I love the fact that there are three Dark Mode levels to choose from, and there is also an option to reduce the contrast in low-light scenarios. You also get a force dark mode option for apps that currently lack the trick, but it is in the beta stage as of now, so the mileage might vary on a per-app basis. And even though you miss out on the perks of a 90Hz refresh rate, the touch sampling rate is 180Hz. Plus, the screen does feel more responsive.
Performance – Realme 8 is a reliable one!
The Realme 8 draws power from the MediaTek Helio G95 SoC, the same processor that came fitted inside the Realme 7. While this might sound like a red flag for buyers who care a lot about spec sheet comparison and seek an upgrade – which they absolutely should – the performance is good. I didn’t notice any stutters or the UI freezing during my course of usage.
The RAM management situation though, is a bit aggressive. If you’re eyeing the Realme 8, I’d highly recommend forking out some extra cash and getting the 8GB RAM variant, instead of the base 4GB model. What I do like is that there is 128GB of storage on both variants, which is quite a pleasant surprise for a phone in this price bracket. Plus, you can add more storage using the dedicated microSD card, which is always a welcome convenience.
Now, coming to the gaming chops of the MediaTek Helio G95 SoC inside the Realme 8, it proves itself to be a fairly capable performer. I played Asphalt 9: Legends at the peak settings, and it was a pleasing experience. In Call of Duty: Mobile, I had a fairly smooth experience with the graphics quality set to ‘Very High’, although there were a few occasional stutters during high-intensity combat scenes – but nothing worth spoiling the experience. Pushing it even further, I tried Genshin Impact and got a decent experience at the ‘low’ preset.
To get the best results, set the Performance Mode to ‘Pro Gamer Mode’ in the Realme Game Space overlay. The inbuilt quick tools such as screenshot and screen video capture are useful additions and come in handy for recording silly emotes and braggadocious kill screens. I recorded a peak temperature of 42 degrees on the rear panel after an hour-long session of Call of Duty: Mobile, which is not too bad.
If you care about benchmarks, the MediaTek Helio G95 falls in the same league as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G – after having run a few tests that include Geekbench 5, GFXBench, and AnTuTu. The key takeaway is that if you have any reservations pertaining to MediaTek chips in the budget segment, you can rest assured that it can hold its own against the likes of Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G. While casual games will fly, do keep your expectations in check when running demanding games such as Call of Duty: Mobile and Genshin Impact.
Coming to the battery part, the 5,000mAh battery inside the Realme 8 easily goes past a full day of usage. I got an average screen-on time of around 6 hours during the review period. You also get support for 30W charging, and the good news is that the 30W Dart Charge brick comes in the box. It can fully juice up the battery in approximately 1.5 hours. There is no wireless charging support, of course.
Realme 8 cameras output
The Realme 8 comes armed with a quad-camera setup that is headlined by a 64MP main camera. There is also an 8MP snapper for wide-angle photography, a 2MP macro camera, and a 2MP monochrome sensor. On the front, you get a 16MP selfie camera. Video capture maxes out at 4K 30FPS and 1080p 60FPS. There are a tonne of features to play with, such as Starry Mode (yet to arrive, will be added via an update), Tilt-shift, Chroma Boost, and Neon Portrait to name a few.
Now, let’s talk about the actual camera performance. The main 64MP camera takes pixel-binned 16MP photos by default. The images are adequately sharp with a good dynamic range under natural light. However, one area where the main snapper falters is exposure, especially under harsh sunlight. I noticed that on more than one occasion that my ivory yellow tee looked almost white under sunlight, while the highlights got overblown too.
There is also an AI mode that boosts the saturation scale, making the photos look more vibrant, but in the process, it also gives a warmer tinge. The Realme 8 lets you capture full-resolution 64MP photos as well. But the results are easily discernible. The 64MP photos lose out on the sharpness and also have a weak dynamic range compared to the pixel-binned 16MP pictures. Plus, the 64MP shots offer less depth too, and look comparatively softer.
The 8MP ultrawide camera does a decent job at fitting more elements in the frame without any noticeable distortion around the edges. Of course, the results are nowhere near as sharp as images clicked by the main camera, but what it lacks in details, makes up for it with a decent dynamic range and color reproduction.
The macro camera is not bad though. If you have steady hands, you can click some good close-up shots. While the details are there, the color tone is not accurate, especially in the case of bright-colored objects. Thankfully, focus lock is not finicky and doesn’t give you a hard time. Another thing that I don’t like is the fact that you can’t add certain modes from the ‘More’ section to the main camera app’s home screen where they can be easily accessed.
Of course, there’s a night mode too, but it appears that the feature is half-baked right now. Maybe an update will fix it in the foreseeable future, but for now, it’s just meh. Even the night mode tries to reduce the grainy texture and noise, the exposure is bad and the final image ends up looking dim with a weird vignette effect. Your mileage will vary depending on ambient lighting conditions, but I’ve seen other phones in this segment perform much better in low-light scenarios – and even Realme’s own phones too.
Coming to the selfie camera, it clicks sharp photos with a healthy amount of detail in well-lit conditions. However, the skin tone is slightly on the pinkish side in photos and tends to boost the saturation as well. And that happens with all beautification presets set to zero. Don’t get me wrong there, as the results are pleasing to look at, with plenty of discernible detail.
There are plenty of beautification filters and camera tricks to play with here. And when I say plenty, I really mean it. And not just for photos, but for videos as well. Talking about videos, the 1080p 60FPS and 4K videos turn out average at best. The colors are reproduced well, but there is a healthy amount of jitter- especially if you’re not using a gadget such as gimbals – and the details are soft too. The 4K videos fare much better when it comes to details and dynamic range, and are even better stabilized compared to 1080p 60FPS videos.
Overall, the camera hardware on Realme 8 is quite capable and versatile, with a ton of tricks and tools thrown into the mix. I just wish Realme could work on the exposure and color accuracy issues. And yes, the Night Mode needs some work as well. But if you want reliable cameras on a budget and like to post artistic photos on social media, there is a lot to like here.
Realme UI 2.0 is a big step up with room for improvement
Coming to the software part, Realme 8 runs Android 11-based Realme UI 2.0 out-of-the-box. Pre-installed bloatware is there (Snapchat, Soloop, Facebook, etc.), some of which you can uninstall for peace of mind. A few of the apps such as Browser and HeyFun send out spammy notifications, prompting me to revoke their permissions and notification access. The ad situation has improved, but not totally gone.
Interestingly, if you disable the ad-tracking option, it only reduces the number of targeted ads, but the overall frequency of ads will remain the same. In simple words, you will see the same number of ads, but they will be less relevant. What’s the point of this feature though, I wonder?
Now, the good part. If you love aesthetic customization, Realme UI 2.0 will make you really happy. But there is a lot more here than just granular customization options, as you get a ton of useful features as well. I love the sidebar feature, which allows you to quickly access some of your most frequently used apps and tools. Yes, Samsung’s One UI offers this feature too. But hey, it’s useful, and I’m happy that there is something similar in Realme’s software. The one-handed mode works just fine, however, the gesture to launch it will need some practice to master.
Of course, there’s an always-on display (AOD) mode here to take advantage of the AMOLED panel. Right now, it only shows date, notifications, and battery level, with no extra customization tricks available at the moment. Thankfully, the raise to wake feature works just fine, and so does the double-tap-to-wake function. The floating window feature works well, although not all apps support it.
Another cool feature in Realme UI 2.0 that I like is System Cloner, which allows you to create a separate password-protected user profile to keep your personal data safe. You can protect it behind a layer of passcode, pattern, or fingerprint lock. However, if you switch from one profile to another after going to the lock screen, it takes at least 2-4 seconds to let you in.
Overall, I really like the feature-heavy and customization-happy approach of Realme UI 2.0 on the Realme 8. I just hope the spammy notification situation is toned down, and the questionable targeted ad policy is also addressed.
Should you get the Realme 8, or skip it?
The Realme 8 is a rather interesting device. Right off the bat, you’ll either love or loathe its design. But once you get past the aesthetics, the internals won’t disappoint you. The AMOLED display – especially for the phone’s price – is good. MediaTeks’ Helio G95 proves to be a capable performer and can hold its own when it comes to gaming. The battery is large enough to last a full day, and support for 30W charging is definitely a good thing. The camera hardware is dependable too, save for a few shortcomings – especially the night mode. Realme UI 2.0 offers a ton of features and is less garish too, but the bloatware and ad situation needs some refinement.
Starting at Rs. 14,999, Realme 8 faces stiff competition from the likes of Redmi Note 10 Pro, Poco X3, and even some of its own phones in India At the end of the day, you’ll have to decide if you can live without perks such as a high-refresh-rate display, bad night mode, and can tolerate an unapologetically self-indulgent and ostentatious design. In Europe, the company is apparently selling only the Realme 8 Pro that offers upgrades such as a 108MP main snapper and will evaporate £279 from your bank account.