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For mobile gaming enthusiasts on a budget- Tech Reviews, Firstpost

For mobile gaming enthusiasts on a budget- Tech Reviews, Firstpost 1

Realme has been the only brand offering some sense of competition to the dominance of mid-range and budget devices from Redmi. Naturally, the Realme lineup has evolved in a way that it has equivalent, competing products and more for every Redmi device out there. So not long after the Redmi Note 9 series was announced, we have the Realme 7/7 Pro series with us. Even the Realme 6 (Review) which came out in March, was just a month prior to the Redmi Note 9 series. Technically, this is the logical continuation of the Realme series, which originally debuted two years ago.

 Realme 7 review: For mobile gaming enthusiasts on a budget

Realme 7

The Realme 7 series made headlines with the 7 Pro coming bundled with a 65 W SuperDart Charger. Sheldon’s review of the Realme 7 Pro confirms that the phone can indeed be charged from 0-100 within 40 mins. With the Realme 7 though, you get a standard 30 W fast charger. In terms of internals, the Realme 7 sports the Mediatek Helio G95 chipset, which is a first on any device. Like the Realme 6, you have the same 90 Hz display, same button arrangement, same quad-camera module (except that the Realme 7 uses a Sony sensor for the primary 64 MP camera as opposed to a Samsung sensor on the Realme 6).

The Realme 7 is available in two variants: 6+64 GB variant priced at Rs 14,999 and the 8+128 GB variant priced at Rs 16,999 on Flipkart. These seem to be discounted prices, but considering the Realme 7 Pro is priced at Rs 19,999 and Rs 21,999 respectively, it seems like Realme 7 series prices won’t be going up. 

A refreshing new design language, finally!

When I last reviewed a Realme device, the Realme X3 SuperZoom (Review), I had spoken about how Realme had done its design philosophy to death, with many devices having pretty much the same rear, making it difficult to tell apart a high-end phone from a budget device. With the Realme 7 series, it looks like the brand is taking on a new design language. The two-tone back with a matte frosted glass type finish looks quite similar to its elder sibling, the Oppo F17 Pro (Realme was carved out of Oppo before it went independent). The rear is made from polycarbonate. Called Mirror Design, the Realme 7 comes in two colours: Mist Blue and Mist White (under test). The rectangular camera module is placed on the top left-hand corner and protrudes out a bit from the rear plane. The quad-camera setup is present inside this module with the ‘64 MP AI Camera’ branding placed just above the dual-tone flash unit.

The back is curved around the edges where it meets the plastic frame. Also, thanks to the way the light refracts, you notice a purple colour just around the edge where it curves. While the transition between the curved rear and the frame is smooth, that from the frame to the display is a bit abrupt. Unlike the Oppo F17 Pro which floored me with its slim profile, the Realme 7 is quite chubby on the sides, measuring 9.4 mm thick and weighing in at 196 grams. This is likely due to the fact that it houses a massive 5,000 mAh battery.

Realme 7

Thanks to the way the light refracts, you notice a purple colour just around the edge where it curves.

On the right-hand side, you have a flat and slightly depressed power/standby button, which also houses a fingerprint sensor. I like this implementation of the fingerprint sensor over any touchscreen systems, which are always slower. Volume rockers are present on the left-hand edge just below the dual SIM-plus-microSD card tray. While the top edge is clean, at the base you have the USB Type C port surrounded by the mono speaker and the 3.5 mm audio jack.

The 6.5-inch display has a noticeable chin at the bottom and a punch-hole selfie camera located on the top left-hand corner. Every time I look at the front camera, I feel like it should have been a tad bit more to the left, as there is a conspicuous gap between the rounded corner on the left and the circle of the punch hole. Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protects the display. I did notice the display collecting smudges and found myself constantly cleaning it. There is no IP rating on this phone.

Specifications

Display: 6.5-inch IPS LCD with 1080 x 2400 pixels with 90 Hz refresh rate

Chipset: Mediatek Helio G95 (2x 2.05 GHz Cortex-A76 and 6x 2 GHz Cortex-A55 processor)

Graphics: Mali G76 MC4

RAM + Storage in GB: 8 + 128 GB

Expandable storage: Yes

Primary Camera: 64 MP with f/1.8 aperture with 0.8-micron pixel size

Secondary cameras: 8 MP Ultra Wide angle camera with f/2.4 aperture + 2 MP depth camera + 2 MP macro camera

Selfie Camera: 16 MP with f/2.1 aperture with 1-micron pixel size

Battery: 5,000 mAh

Software: Android 10 (5 July 2020 patch) with Realme UI v1.0 skin

Colours: Mist Blue, Mist White (Under test)

Display is fine, scope for improvement for full-screen apps

Realme 7 sports a 6.5-inch FHD+ IPS LCD display with a resolution of 1080 x 2400 pixels. This gives it a pixel density of 405 PPI. This is a 90 Hz display, and the smooth scrolling is apparent once you are in apps such as Twitter, Instagram. You can either keep it at 90 Hz or 60 Hz or let the device adjust automatically depending on what app you are in. While the display is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 and is well protected from scratches, I didn’t find the smudge resistance to be great, despite taking off the protective transparent cover. You will find yourself wiping the phone display often.

The display isn’t the brightest around (peak brightness is rated at 480 nits) and in bright outdoor light, you have to, on occasion, shield the phone display to read or see what’s in the camera frame. In dark scenes, the backlight bleeding is quite apparent. Colour reproduction and viewing angles, however, are good. You won’t have any pixelation issues while reading text or playing games. There is support for Widevine L1, so playing HD movies in Netflix and Prime Video is supported. Just note that there is no HDR10+ support. Barring the backlight bleeding in dark scenes, the display performed well while watching movies.

I did, however, find that many apps which take up the full screen aren’t optimised for the punch hole camera or the rounded corners. For instance, while playing Call of Duty Mobile, I noticed that the text at the corners was slightly cut off around the edges.

Gaming performance is impressive at medium settings

Realme 7 houses the Mediatek Helio G95 chipset, which is similar to the Helio G90T of the Realme 6. The G95 has the Mali G76 GPU clocked at 900 MHz as compared to 800 MHz on the G90T – that’s the only difference between the two. What that translates to in real life is a slight boost in gaming performance. We were impressed with gaming on the Realme 6 and recommended it to gamers on a budget. The Realme 7 continues in that tradition. I had absolutely no issues playing Call of Duty Mobile and Asphalt 9 on medium to high settings. The only time frame rate slowing was noticeable was when I cranked up the CoD Mobile video quality to Very High. If you are at Medium and High settings, it’s smooth gaming all through.

3D Mark

3D Mark

Benchmark scores are comparable to the Snapdragon 720G that’s seen on the Redmi Note 9 Pro. In real life usage, I didn’t notice any slow-downs or abruptness while scrolling at 90 Hz. You also get a dedicated ‘Game Space’ option in the settings menu to which you can add games, accelerate graphics and more. While gaming, you do notice the rear warming up despite the carbon fiber cooling system. The phone gets hot during extended use of the camera as well. But at no point did any app randomly shut down, or behave strangely due to heat build-up.

Geekbench multi core

Geekbench multi core

Call quality is good and the earpiece speaker is quite loud. The single downward-firing speaker is average at best.

Geekbench Single core

Geekbench Single core

The Realme 7 comes with Android 10 with the realmeUI skin atop it. This is just a minor update to ColorOS, with some Realme-specific features such as Realme share, Realme Lab as well as ColorOS features such as App Cloner (letting you have two instances of WhatsApp, for example), Game Space (game-focused system-wide controls) and so on. The phone comes preloaded with quite a bit of bloatware. The camera interface also looks similar to the one seen on Oppo F17 Pro, which has the ColorOS skin. Not much stands out from the Realme UI. You get your standard set of convenience tools such as navigation buttons, gestures, smart slider, assistive ball, there’s a system-wide dark more and more. The interface worked fine and there weren’t any unwanted glitches observed during the testing phase.

PC Mark

PC Mark

Camera is average

The Realme 7 comes with a quad-camera setup: a 64 MP primary camera with f/1.8 aperture supported by an 8 MP ultra-wide-angle camera, a 2 MP depth sensor and 2 MP macro camera. On the front, there is a 16 MP selfie camera. The 64 MP camera uses a Sony IMX 682 sensor and unless you select the 64 MP mode, most images shot will be pixel-binned to 16 MP images.

Daylight images turned out well, with a good amount of colour reproduction and dynamic range. On the camera interface, in addition to the ultra-wide angle setting, you also get 2x and 5x zoom options, which are digital zooms. Only images shot with the primary camera were packed with detail and retained centre and edge sharpness. With the ultra-wide angle cameras, you notice a drop in image quality, even in daylight. The macro mode is unnoteworthy, and appears just to pad the specsheet.

Click here to see the camera samples:

Realme 7

As light levels drop, even the primary camera can’t rescue lost detail. Noise is easily visible and there is a noticeable softness to the images. The ultra-wide angle camera results in relatively poorer-looking images. Night mode does add some dynamic range to the overall image, but if there are any moving objects in the frame while shooting in night mode, the results are poor.

Night mode manages to get some details in the scene, but softness is noticeable: 

Realme7 (56)

The front camera does add an unnatural smoothness and brightness to selfies. I had to scale down the beauty mode to zero, but still didn’t get an impressive-looking selfie. Portrait mode is mostly good, but you do notice that the edge detection fails as light levels drop. Selfies taken after sunset suffered.

Video shooting isn’t the strongest suit of the Realme 7. In the daytime, you can get some usable footage with the ‘steady’ mode. ‘Max steady’ mode produces steady footage but at a significant cost to the video quality; use this sparingly. The video camera is unusable after sunset as the footage captured is soft and noise-filled.

Max steady mode gives stabilised footage but at the cost of video quality: 
Realme7 (11)

Battery life and charging speeds are impressive

The Realme 7 houses a 5,000 mAh battery, which explains the thick profile. The phone comes bundled with a 30W Dart Charger which is quite fast. It was able to charge the phone from 5 to 100 percent in under an hour, a phenomenal achievement. Two years ago, if you bought a phone with a 5,000 mAh battery, you would have to invest separately in a fast charger, which would still take well over 90 mins to fully charge the phone. The Realme 7 really does charge over 50 percent in under 30 mins as well.

photo_2020-09-15_18-33-53

Overall, battery life isn’t going to be an issue with this phone.

In terms of battery life, I could easily extract over a day and a half with regular usage. 30 mins of playing Call of Duty Mobile used up around 11 percent of the battery. Even with a couple of hours of gaming, you will still have some battery charge left after a day. But thanks to quick-charging, intense activity such as gaming, video streaming and shooting videos on the phone needn’t cause anxiety. PC Mark for Android recorded around 10 hours 57 mins. I could get an average screen-on time upwards of 5 hours in my review period. Overall, battery life isn’t going to be an issue with this phone.

Verdict and Price in India

The Realme 7 is a good upgrade from the Realme 6 series, but there are more than a few compromises, apart from the gaming-on-a-budget proposition. The display isn’t the best, and the camera is really only good in daylight.

Battery life is good, and this is particularly important for a gaming-focussed phone. Even if you run out of battery during the day, the charger will juice the phone up in no time for emergency use.

The Realme 7 operates in a landscape that is surrounded by some impressive devices. There is the Redmi Note 9 Pro, the Samsung M31s and the Poco X2. The Realme 7 Pro (Review) seems to correct a lot of the shortcomings I noticed in the Realme 7 – and who doesn’t want that wicked-fast charging? The camera performance on the Realme 7 Pro is far superior to what you get with the Realme 7.

Go for the Realme 7 if, and only if, you want a gaming phone on a budget, and you can make peace with an underwhelming camera and display. If you want to save even further, opt for the Realme 6 (Review) series, which is also an able gaming phone. For those wanting a complete package and for whom gaming isn’t critical, you can check out the competition.

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