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Realme GT review: A high-tech budget smartphone that’s sure to turn heads

Is the brand’s upstart really ready to slay the smartphone market?

<p>We tested the new model for speed, gaming capability, sound, screen, connectivity and battery life  </p>

We tested the new model for speed, gaming capability, sound, screen, connectivity and battery life

The mobile phone market is saturated. There are more than 200 mobile phone brands across the world, with the top six holding more than 70 per cent of the market share. The old favourites, such as Samsung, Apple and Google, continue to dominate the market thanks to a mixture of reputation, design and tech. Just below them, however, is a glut of newer companies looking to skim the fat off the big three’s margins with affordable handsets that still produce the goods.

Realme is one such brand. It’s the world’s fastest-growing smartphone brand, finally beginning to make waves in Europe, with the Realme 8 5G (£169.99, Amazon.co.uk) proving to be a solid smartphone with 5G capability for a barely-believable price: indeed, the company has made a name for itself producing high-performance handsets for a price that can’t be beaten by more established rivals. At just over three years old, Realme is already the world’s seventh largest smartphone company and one of the top five players in 15 global markets.

It feels strange that such a rapidly-successful company isn’t more widely known to the UK, but Realme seems to have flown under the radar when it comes to the general consumer. Now, however, comes Realme’s first proper big hitter in the UK market, the Realme GT.

Looking at the high-end specs of the GT, including its 5G capability, you’d be forgiven for wondering how many monthly payments it’d take to own one. However, Realme’s business model comes good again, with a base-level GT currently coming in at under £400.

The brand is calling the GT its “flagship killer”, promising new standards in the mid-to high-end flagship phone sector. After getting our hands on one earlier this month, we put Realme’s bold new pretender to the throne through its paces to see if any of its rivals should be looking over their shoulders.

Read more:

How we tested

We treated the GT as Realme as the flagship killer it was designed to be. To this end, we tested it with the expectations a more expensive handset would demand, judging its performance regarding processing power and speed, gaming capability, sound, screen, connectivity and battery life. We also focused on the GT’s general feel – did it give the impression of being a premium phone? How did it feel in the hand? Is it a handset that we could see ourselves using for a prolonged period? Read on to find out.

Realme GT

Buy now £399, Amazon.co.uk

  • Dimensions: 158.5 x 73.3 x 8.4 mm
  • Display: 163mm Super AMOLED screen with 120Hz refresh rate
  • Weight: 186.5g
  • Battery: 4500mAh with 65W SuperDart charging
  • Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G
  • Camera: Sony 64MP triple camera
  • Rating: 9/10

Looks

The phone’s name is inspired by grand tourer (GT) sports cars, linking the speed of the race cars to the rapid processing power of Realme’s new top dog: one of the global launch’s main talking points was the idea that “a high-end chip is as important to a smartphone as a powerful engine is to a GT racing car”. More on that chip later, but the GT’s design is certainly reminiscent of the bright, glossy lines of a grand tourer. It’s available in three colourways, two of which have premium-look, metallic finishes. The model we tested is a departure from the metallic theme and our favourite, a racing yellow, vegan leather dual-tone beauty.

Beside the obvious advantage of being a great-looking phone that makes a statement without being too brash, the vegan leather also adds a grippy feel to the phone: we didn’t ever worry about it slipping from our hand. It’s also treated against odour and cracking, and is fingerprint resistant. Fingerprint marks are the bane of many of us who, before the inception of the glossy smartphone, were happily under the impression we weren’t just greasy organisms. Bonus marks to the GT for perpetuating our blissful ignorance.

Read more: 10 best tablets from Apple, Android, Windows and more

Speaking of fingerprints, the fingerprint sensor is actually built into the screen, emitting a fun firework effect when you line up your digit correctly. The icon helpfully lights up when you pick up your phone, too, so no issue of tapping impatiently on your screen to be let in. Buttons are subtle and easy to navigate, and the camera bump is pretty negligible.

The GT is lightweight at 186.5g, and could be seen by some as too delicate when compared to other flagship models. However, there are no issues when it comes to the phone’s actual sturdiness, and we actually liked the weighting, feeling that it added to the comfortable way it fit into the palm of our hand. The GT feels every inch a flagship phone.

Performance

The GT is among the snappiest phones we’ve tested. The ease with which you glide between screens, scroll through apps and switch between windows is a joy, with a smoothness that makes lag feel like a thing of the past. This is primarily down to the next-gen Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset, a high-tech set up that would not normally find itself in a phone at this price point. To go slightly technical for a moment, the Coretex-X1 core improves the phone’s ability to respond to temporary high load demands, and the A78 cores reduce power consumption by 50 per cent compared to the previous generation. What this all means, ultimately, is that the battery will survive for longer, and large apps start faster and run for ages without so much as a wobble, let alone a crash.

The GT’s screen is among the best on the market. The 120Hz Super AMOLED screen is a huge bonus at this price point, and is a large contributor to the phone’s snappy quality – for comparison, Apple’s iPhone 12 pro max doesn’t offer this level of clarity and smoothness at more than twice the price. The GT’s screen also covers almost 92 per cent of the phone’s face, making the most of the space provided.

Read more: 11 best portable chargers and power banks

The GT’s snappiness continues unabated when it comes to gaming. It has no problem dealing with more demanding games, providing lag-less gaming that’s hard to beat. One main reason for this is Realme’s novel way of keeping the phone cool during heavy usage, with overheating a big culprit when it comes to poor sustained performance in smartphones. The GT combines copper – which offers good thermal conductivity, but can bend and twist out of shape during production – with a stainless steel wrap, providing all the benefits of the copper while benefiting from extra strength: 42 per cent more, apparently. What this means for you is that the phone should perform at its best for longer, giving the GT a better shelf life than many competitors. During testing, we didn’t notice the GT overheat even when we streamed video – a good sign for the phone’s longevity.

RAM is incredibly important for gaming, and the GT delivers here, too, the LPDDR5 RAM offering 6400Mbps of processing power while reducing power consumption per bandwidth by 60 per cent. The phone’s UFS 3.1 storage also has improved reading and writing speeds, so no more long wait times on a loading screen – although we’ll oddly miss the chance to calm down when we inevitably mess up a level.

The GT’s camera setup is pretty good. The 64MP primary camera takes super clear shots, even if they sometimes come out a little cold, and the wide range of options – night mode, panoramic, timelapse, ultra-wide and more – all do their job. There’s even a mode to take the perfect passport photo, something quite a few of us might need as the world hopefully begins to reopen. There are better camera options on the market, but at this price, the GT’s setup still gives you good enough performance, especially for social media.

The 4500mAh battery isn’t the biggest, but gives you plenty of usage for an entire day. If you find the battery waning a little, however, the 65W SuperDart fast charge will give you 100 per cent in a ridiculous 35 minutes. No more overnight charging.

The verdict: Realme GT

Realme has come out fighting with the GT, throwing down the gauntlet to much more expensive flagship phones. The democratisation of tech is an important concept with the introduction of ever-more sophisticated products, and while £400 isn’t a snip for a smartphone, it’s unbelievable that Realme has managed to include the GT’s wide range of features for that price. There are aspects of the GT you don’t see in the almost prohibitively expensive flagships of much more established brands.

For a first foray into the higher-end smartphone market, especially with 5G connectivity, the Realme GT has set the bar with its incredible processing power and brilliant value. The bright colour scheme and bold marketing give you a glimpse into the GT: it’s fun, confident and Realme knows it’ll turn some heads, especially among those who are looking at that level of flagship killer phone brands. It’s a top-end phone for a mid-range price, and deserves to be mentioned in any flagship discussion.

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