Winners and losers: Realme – News GSMArena.com
Another strong year for Realme has passed as the company delivered eye-catching devices across multiple price categories. The only obvious gap in the lineup is the lack of a proper flagship, as the absence of the Series X continues to be felt. The company is heading in the right direction with its software and could establish itself as a maker of good tablets, if only it brings its slates to more markets.
Winner: Realme GT2 Pro
The year started strong with the unveiling of the Realme GT2 Pro. You can think of this phone as a cheaper OnePlus 10 Pro – it lacks the 3.3x telephoto lens, but it also costs €200 less. The OnePlus has other benefits (eg wireless charging), although the savings may make up for lost functionality.
Another difference is the Android skin, Realme UI vs OxygenOS. We don’t know what you think of Realme UI (we love the new version, but we’ll get to that), however, the latest version of OxygenOS strays further and further from its roots, so it’s not the bastion of pure Android sensibility that it once was.
Either way, the Realme GT2 Pro launched globally at €750 or €650 if you got the early bird deal. It’s now a $550 phone. That’s a great price for an LTPO display with QHD resolution, which is the envy of Galaxy S22+ owners everywhere. Also, a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset for Europeans rather than an Exynos. Samsung aside, this phone feels like OnePlus phones used to feel. It was one of the best alternative flagships of 2022 and it was really only the tele camera and relatively short software support that kept it from becoming a true flagship.
Winner: Realme 9
With record-breaking battery life, a solid 108MP main camera, and a bright 90Hz AMOLED display, the Realme 9 proved to be a very well-rounded mid-range and was also very reasonably priced.
This is probably the last year a 4G-only mid-ranger can enter the “winner” column, as a third of the world’s population already has access to 5G (and that fraction is likely much higher in markets than realme dessert). Realme had a good number of 5G-enabled phones this year, but the more affordable ones just weren’t as good as their 4G siblings. Example: the Realme 9 5G.
Loser: Realme 10
Who’s phone is this ? People who prefer a 50MP camera with a small sensor instead of a large 108MP sensor? People who don’t like ultra wide cameras? The Realme 10 just wasn’t as good as the Realme 9, even though it arrived several months later. Sure, the chipset was noticeably faster, but it can’t even sustain 60fps in many games. And it still didn’t have 5G connectivity.
The company may be shifting gears and wants to focus on a single number series release per year with maybe a small upgrade in six months, so we should see more focused releases in the year next.
Winner: Realme 9 Pro and 9 Pro+
The Realme 9 Pro+ has earned its place in our holiday buying guide in the €300 segment. This is an upgraded version of the 9 with a more powerful Dimensity 920 chipset that does 5G, plus the 50MP camera fixed some of the issues we had with the 108MP module (eg it has OIS and better rendering of colors).
The Realme 9 Pro is a completely different device with a 6.6-inch 120Hz IPS LCD display instead of a 6.4-inch 90Hz AMOLED display like the other two, it also uses a Snapdragon 695 and recalls camera hardware. So that’s a different recipe, but if you can’t swing the €300 for the Pro+, you can get the Pro for around €250, it’s one of the best mid-range ones in this price range.
Winner: Realme GT Neo 3
The Realme GT Neo3 was the first phone to hit the market with 150W fast charging. Lithium battery technology hasn’t kept pace with new developments such as GaN transistors and proprietary improvements (and soon standard) of the USB-C socket that allow it to carry as much power.
Some people, especially a Southern California company, say USB-C can limit innovation. The GT Neo 3 is proof to the contrary, USB-C can carry enough power for a Pro laptop, let alone a phone. Not demonstrated here, but USB-C can also carry gigabits of data.
Okay, sure, we’d probably go with the 80W version of the Realme GT3 Neo – it has a bigger battery capacity and the 150W charging is more of a cool tech demo than something practical (for a phone).
Anyway, both were among the first phones with the Dimensity 8100, one of the most interesting chipsets this year. MediaTek has increased the pressure on Qualcomm whose midrange chips like the Snapdragon 780 and 7 Gen 1 have struggled to gain a foothold with smartphone makers.
Winner: Realme GT2 Explorer Master Design
This one is similar to the GT2 Pro, it has the faster Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset, faster 100W wired charging and, unfortunately, a lower quality non-LTPO FHD+ display. But none of that is why the Realme GT2 Explorer Master is here.
Whether or not you like suitcase-inspired looks, Realme is one of the few companies that takes risks and tires to stand out with its design. The black glass rectangle got so boring and it was a breath of fresh air.
Loser: Realme X-series
Series X flopped in 2021, but we were hoping it would make a comeback this year. As noted above, the GT series phones are excellent for their price, although they fall a bit short of the best that OnePlus and Oppo have to offer.
OnePlus hasn’t even bothered to release a non-Pro model in the OnePlus 10 series, so there might be room in the market for a phone with better cameras than the GT2 Pro. We’d have settled for a GT2 Pro+ or something too, but Realme’s first and last premium launch this year was the GT2 Pro on January 4th.
Winner: Realme Pad X
Realme doesn’t make many tablets – in fact, it’s only its third – but the Pad X was a great mid-range offering. It has a premium look and feel, a bright 11-inch display and a punchy Snapdragon 695 chipset, plus optional dual-SIM 5G connectivity.
It’s major flaw (and it’s a big one) is that it’s not offered outside of India. We almost put this slate in the loser category since Realme serves many markets in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America, but we can’t recommend the Realme Pad X to all but one. between them. It’s one of the best ₹20,000 (about $245) tablets money can buy, if you could buy it anywhere.
Winner: Realme UI
Realme was one of the first companies not named Google to release a beta version of Android 13. The global rollout of Realme UI 4.0 began on December 8, and the early access roadmap shows a pleasingly rapid pace of versions. The speed is good, but the duration of software support is even better.
In 2022, Realme only promised 2 years of support. However, some models like the GT2 and GT2 Pro have been upgraded to 3 OS updates and 4 years of security patches. Not as good as OnePlus’ new policy of 4 OS updates and 5 years of fixes, but better than before.
All is not perfect, however. The Realme GT2 Pro got Android 13 with the older Realme UI 3.0 instead of 4.0. Xiaomi has been pulling this stuff for years now, but most companies keep their skin version in sync with the Android version.
That said, we really liked the new additions to Realme UI version 4 – you can read our review to find out why we think it deserves to be in the Top 5 Custom Android Skins.