Not many new tech brands manage to stick around, especially in India, but Realme has come a long way in a short time. Its portfolio has expanded from smartphones to audio products, TVs, wearables, accessories, and personal care products. Earlier this year, the company branched out even further, launching a new tablet and a laptop. The target market is the same in nearly all cases – young, tech-savvy Indians who like a bit of style but love a good price even more. It will be interesting to see whether Realme can replicate its success with smartphones in the far more cost-sensitive laptop market in India.
The Realme Book Slim is obviously positioned as an ultraportable laptop. As with many of its phones, Realme has chosen a few features and specifications to focus on, allowing it to grab potential buyers' attention. We're going to talk about all of them, and what they mean for overall usability. Read on to see whether the Realme Book Slim should be on your radar the next time you go shopping for a laptop.
The starting price for the Realme Book Slim in India is Rs. 46,999. This gets you an 11th Gen Intel Core i3 CPU and 256GB SSD. If you want to step up, there's another option with a Core i5 CPU and 512GB SSD, priced at Rs. 59,999. There are a few other subtle differences between these variants too, which we'll get into detail about in this review.
You also have a choice between Real Blue and Real Grey body colours. This laptop is available from Realme's website as well as Flipkart and offline retail stores.
The body of the Realme Book Slim is made entirely of aluminium. The Real Blue unit I received for this review looks quite striking. The colour is a rich jewel tone, and is spread all across the inner and outer surfaces of this laptop, except for the frame around the screen. As its name suggests, this laptop is 15.5mm thick at its thickest point, and weighs 1.38kg. It isn't the most compact 14-inch laptop around, but it fits well within the ultraportable segment.
The lid has a sandblasted texture, and there's a reflective but relatively subtle off-centre Realme logo. We've seen some over-the-top designs from this company recently, and luckily the Realme Book Slim does not have any such flair. The Real Blue finish might stand out a little in a conference room or lecture hall, but there's always the Real Grey option if you prefer subtlety.
You can't easily raise the lid with one finger, but the hinge does feel solid, and the screen can be pushed back to a little less than 180 degrees. The side borders are quite narrow and there's only just enough space at the top for a webcam. There is some minor flex to the lid but the screen only distorts if a lot of pressure is applied deliberately.
One result of the unusual 3:2 display aspect ratio is a squarish overall body, which means there's enough room on the lower deck for a large keyboard and trackpad. In terms of keyboard layout, Realme has done well enough. There aren't any dedicated paging keys (or even markings for Fn key combos), and the arrow key cluster is cramped but usable. White backlighting is good to have, but there are only two brightness levels. The power button in the upper right corner has an integrated fingerprint sensor.
On the left, you'll find two Type-C ports (the exact specifications vary based on which variant you choose) and a charging indicator. Both ports can be used for fast charging at up to 65W, and DisplayPort video output is supported. On the right, there's one more USB 3.1 Type-A port and a 3.5mm audio output. That isn't a lot of ports, but it's alright for ultraportables today. An SD card slot and HDMI video output would have been nice.
Once nice touch on my review unit was a lack of visible stickers. These are on the bottom, along with down-firing speakers and a large air intake vent. There are two cooling fans, and warm air is exhausted through the hinge barrel.
Realme offers two variants, and as stated earlier, there are some obvious as well as some subtle differences. The lower priced one features an Intel Core i3-1115G4 CPU while the more premium offering has a Core i5-1135G7. Both are based on the 11th Gen 10nm ‘Tiger Lake' architecture, but while the former has only two cores and features the older Intel UHD integrated GPU, the latter has four cores and benefits from Intel's higher-tier Iris Xe graphics.
You get 256GB and 512GB of storage with these two variants, respectively, both in the form of NVMe SSDs, and Realme has shared different performance targets for the two: 2400MBps and 950MBps sequential reads and writes respectively for the former, versus 3100MBps and 1800MBps respectively for the latter. In real-world use, these numbers won't matter so much except in rare situations.
Beyond that, the Core i5 version of this laptop features LPDDR4X-4266 RAM, a Thunderbolt 4 port, and a Wi-Fi 6/Bluetooth 5.2 module, while the Core i3 version makes do with LPDDR4X-3733, USB 3.2x2 Gen2, Wi-Fi 5, and Bluetooth 5.1. Interestingly, only the higher-end variant qualifies for an Intel Evo badge – you can read all about what that means here.
Realme makes most of this information clear on its website, and the rest, particularly the SSD performance information, was shared with Gadgets 360 for the purpose of this review. Not all companies are so forthcoming with such details.
Both versions have 8GB of RAM which is unfortunately soldered and not upgradeable. The webcam has a 720p resolution. You get a 54Wh battery and 65W fast charging support. Realme ships a relatively compact 65W USB-PD charger in the box, which is also capable of 30W Dash Charging if you use it with a compatible phone.
But the main attraction for the Realme Book Slim is its display. It's an unusual panel, especially at this price level, with a 3:2 aspect ratio that's more square than rectangular, and a pretty high resolution of 2160x1440 (which qualifies as “2K”). The 3:2 aspect ratio is useful for work, especially if that involves a lot of vertical scrolling. On the downside, you'll see thick black bars above and below any widescreen video that plays. The company claims 100 percent sRGB colour gamut coverage and 330nits typical brightness.
You get Windows 10 Home, which can be updated to Windows 11 Home for free as and when Microsoft rolls it out. You also get a full license for Microsoft Office Home & Student 2019. Realme preinstalls an app of its own called PC Connect, which is meant to let you copy data wirelessly as well as sync clipboards and notifications with a Realme or Oppo smartphone. As of now, it's only officially compatible with a few phones in the Realme GT series, though some users have reported getting it to work with older models as well.
Realme sent me the lower-end version of this laptop, with the weaker 11th Gen Core i3 CPU for this review. Despite having only two cores (plus Hyper-Threading), performance was actually quite snappy. I managed to get my work done with a dozen or more browser tabs open, some of which were fairly heavy Web-based apps.
Videos look pretty good, and I didn't mind the letterboxing because there's still enough screen space, and it's well worth the tradeoff when it comes to getting work done. Realme has gone with a glossy panel which is fairly reflective, especially under overhead lighting, and I had to bump up the brightness to work comfortably sometimes. Colours look fairly natural and everything is crisp, but this panel isn't especially vivid. I reduced Windows' default 150 percent scaling to 125 percent, which allowed me to more comfortably fit two Web pages or documents side by side. The stereo speakers are fairly loud and produce a surprisingly deep, roomy sound, though the treble is still a bit harsh.
The keyboard has a crisp action and travel is reasonable for an ultra-slim laptop. I found it fairly easy to type on for long stretches, and accuracy wasn't a problem. On the downside, the Fn row is set to prioritise shortcuts by default and there's no way to swap or lock, so you need to use Fn key combos to use their intended functionality. Some manufacturers can sense common shortcuts such as Alt+F4 no matter what your default is, but not Realme. Another little quirk is that the PrtSc button doesn't actually send a Print Screen command – it's a shortcut to the Windows 10 Snipping Tool. This means you can't use keyboard combos to automatically save a screenshot or capture one to the clipboard without additional clicks. This can be verified by simply checking keypresses against what registers on the Windows On-Screen Keyboard. It isn't a huge problem but it can be irritating.
The trackpad is large but doesn't get in the way. It supports Windows' multi-touch gestures. I wasn't too impressed with its physical click mechanism but tapping works fine. There's almost no flex when pressing down hard on the keyboard.
I did notice the upper middle of the keyboard get a bit warm when anything even slightly stressful was running. Under heavy load, the metal above the keyboard got quite hot but thankfully the wrist rest areas stayed cool. Also, I could feel the whole body vibrating when the fans were spinning.
Speaking of heavy load, let's talk about benchmarks. PCMark 10 gives us a general overview of performance, and the Realme Book Slim scored 4,213 and 3,677 in the standard and Extended runs respectively, which is not bad at all. Cinebench R20 reported scores of 497 and 1,273 points respectively which shows the limited scaling you get with only two cores in heavily threaded applications such as content creation. POVRay took 4 minutes, 13 seconds which is a bit above average for the same reason. As for the integrated GPU, 3DMark's Fire Strike Extreme test produced a score of 1,412, while the Time Spy score was 1,019.
Even somewhat dated games ran poorly on the Core i3 variant of the Realme Book Slim. Many games won't recognise the 3:2 aspect ratio, but can work at 4:3 or 16:10 which minimises letterboxing. I kept the resolution at 1280x960 for game tests. Shadow of the Tomb Raider only managed to average 21fps at this resolution using the Low preset, and Far Cry didn't do much better, with an average of 25fps. The Unigine Superimposition test averaged 14.02fps at 1920x1080 using the Medium preset.
We also saw better SSD performance than Realme has indicated for this variant – 3113.7MBps and 1239.7MBps sequential reads and writes respectively, measured using CrystalDiskMark. Random reads and writes were also respectable at 900.3MBps and 476.3MBps respectively. The 256GB of storage space on my unit was for some reason partitioned into two logical drives, which is unnecessary.
I was able to get between six and eight hours of ordinary use including a little video streaming, before this laptop needed to be plugged in. The intense Battery Eater Pro benchmark ran for just over two hours. I was able to charge the Realme Book Slim to about 30 percent in half an hour when it wasn't being used, and it took almost two hours to fill completely when it was running.
Realme clearly has the current-gen MacBook Air in its sights. The Realme Book Slim comes in at a much lower price but has a lot of the same appeal. It's highly portable and has a crisp, high-resolution screen, which is something you don't usually see in this segment. Established Windows laptop makers should also take notice – there aren't many competitors with this combination of features in an ultraportable at this price. Even recent entrant Xiaomi doesn't quite target this market, though the 2021 Mi Notebook Pro will compete with the Core i5 variant of this laptop.
The large, crisp display is the main attraction here. Battery life is good, and even the seemingly modest specifications of the lower-priced variant should be enough for most students, office workers, and home users. However, the overall usage experience lacks a little polish, and Realme could have done better with the keyboard, port selection, and cooling.
Potential buyers should read the fine print carefully to see what exactly they get with each variant. Ultimately, it all comes down to price, and Realme's brand is now strong enough that people will likely trust it when considering a laptop purchase.