Realme has done a good job of keeping us on our toes since it first debuted in India as a subsidiary of Oppo in mid-2018. The new Realme 5 (Review) and Realme 5 Pro succeed the Realme 3 (Review) and Realme 3 Pro (Review) — the number 4 considered unlucky in some Asian cultures — highlighting the young company's remarkable turnaround rate. Four generations of a product is a lot to deliver for a brand that's barely fifteen months old. Realme has managed to keep up with or displace market leaders Xiaomi, Lenovo, Honor, Asus, and Samsung, by releasing fresh new models each time the bar is raised.
The Realme 5 Pro is priced to compete with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review) and Mi A3 (Review), various members of the Samsung M and A series, and the new Vivo Z1 Pro (Review), plus several older models that have received price cuts. We have with us the top-end variant of the Realme 5 Pro, which is priced the same as the Realme X (Review). This should be an interesting review, so let's get started.
For a low-cost phone, the Realme 5 Pro looks and feels pretty good. It isn't too big or bulky, and the materials and finishes feel premium. You'll immediately notice the geometric pattern on the back, which has so far been used for less expensive phones such as the Realme 3i (Review) and Realme C2 (Review). The concept has been elevated here, with a metallic sheen and completely smooth finish.
The abstract shapes on the rear have slightly different colours and catch the light differently, but there's still a unified gradient running down the back of the device. You can choose between Crystal Green and Sparkling Blue finishes, and we quite liked the blue-green jewel-toned look of our Crystal Green review unit which is distinct without being garish.
Thankfully this phone isn't slippery at all. Despite its glossy look, the Realme 5 Pro is very easy to grip. The rounded sides and curved back panel make it fit comfortably in a palm, masking its 8.9mm thickness. It weighs 184g and is actually more compact than the Realme 5. We didn't have any trouble using it even with one hand.
There's a big 6.3-inch LCD screen on the front, and Realme claims a 90.6 screen-to-body ratio. The chin is fairly prominent but the rest of the borders are narrow and modern-looking. We generally don't like pre-applied screen guards like the one the Realme 5 Pro, but some people do like having them for protection.
Realme has gone with a waterdrop notch for the front camera, which we suppose is fine at this price level – popup cameras and screens with holes are becoming more common but you'll have to spend more if you want that kind of design.
The power and volume buttons are on opposite sides of the phone, and are all within easy reach. On the left, you'll find a tray with individual slots for two Nano-SIMs and a microSD card. There's a USB Type-C port on the bottom, which is interesting because the Realme 5 (Review) has a Micro-USB port. There's also a 3.5mm audio socket and a single speaker on the bottom of this phone.
One slight negative point about the design of the Realme 5 Pro is the raised camera module on the rear which is fairly prominent and also has a slightly rough raised ring around it. You get four rear cameras, which is this phone's biggest selling point. There's also a fingerprint sensor on the rear, rather than embedded into the screen like you'll find on some other phones at this price level.
We first saw the Qualcomm Snapdragon 712 SoC in the value-packed Vivo Z1 Pro (Review), and it makes an appearance here too. This chip has a slight edge over the Snapdragon 710 and Snapdragon 660, which are commonly found in phones in this segment. It has two Kryo 360 Gold cores running at 2.3GHz and six more Kryo 360 Silver cores running at 1.7GHz for power efficiency, as well as integrated Adreno 616 graphics.
You can buy the Realme 5 Pro with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage for Rs. 13,999; 6GB of RAM with the same 64GB of storage for Rs. 14,999; or 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for Rs. 16,999 which is a big jump. The latter variant is priced the same as the Realme X with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, which sets up a bit of a clash within the company's portfolio.
The 6.3-inch screen has a full-HD+ resolution of 1080x2340. There's a 4035mAH battery, and Realme uses Oppo's proprietary VOOC quick charging technology. You get a large 20W charger in the box with this phone. There's also Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5, and GPS, but no FM radio. All the usual sensors, including a gyroscope, are included.
Realme also uses Oppo's ColorOS UI on top of Android 9. ColorOS 6 has been customised a little, with slightly more modern-looking icons and a few other visual tweaks here and there. The UI has an app drawer so all icons aren't strewn around on the home screens. To the left of the first home screen is a Smart Assistant page with panels for the weather, calendar appointments, step tracking, and various other things that you can show or hide. You can get sports scores, track orders from online shops, and keep track of upcoming flights.
There are loads of preinstalled apps ranging from Realme's own Community and Store apps to the popular Amazon Shopping, UC Browser, Paytm, Helo, Facebook, and many more. Game Center, Hot Games, Hot Apps, and Theme Store all try to offer you content to download. Many of these can be uninstalled but the system-level ones can't even be disabled.
Thankfully, we didn't have to deal with constant popup notifications and advertisement spam. There were a few prompts to use some apps and features after the initial setup, but very little after that. Speaking of the setup process, we were prompted to download a few promotional apps, but this step can be skipped.
Fingerprints and face recognition can be used to unlock not only the phone but also individual apps and a Private Safe which lets you store documents and photos away from prying eyes. ColorOS also lets you attempt to supply dummy data including call history and messages when invasive apps ask for too many permissions.
Customisation options include icon density on the home screens, UI animation speed, themes, and various gestures. You can long-press the phone's power button to call up Google Assistant, and launch apps with gestures on screen when the phone is in standby. The standard Android navigation buttons can be replaced with a variety of gesture schemes and there are even customisation options within some of these sets.
Overall, the software and usage experience of the Realme 5 Pro are both quite polished. We like the direction that Realme has taken. Our unit was running the July 2019 security patch.
General performance with the Realme 5 Pro was good, and we had no complaints about how it worked for day-to-day tasks. Keep in mind that our experience was with the 8GB RAM variant; the entry-level one has only half as much, but that should still be enough for most use cases. Handling and usage were easy, including when multitasking between heavy apps. The fingerprint sensor might be a little hard to reach if you have small hands, but it was quick and accurate.
Face recognition was also easy. Enrolling a face took just a few seconds and the process didn't require us to turn or tilt our head at all. The default setting allows the phone to unlock itself even if your eyes are closed, which ideally shouldn't be the case.
The screen can get quite bright and is easy to use outdoors. Video content looked good, with decent colours and sharpness, but this isn't the best screen that we've seen in this price segment. Interestingly, the Realme 5 Pro does support Widevine L1 DRM for high-res video streaming. The single speaker is quite loud and voices are clear even at high volumes, but there's no bass or depth at all when listening to music.
We got scores of 180,193 in AnTuTu, as well as 1,523 and 5,936 in Geekbench's single- and multi-core tests. 3DMark's Slingshot Unlimited test gave us 3,068 points, and the Ice Storm Extreme test maxed out. GFXBench gave us 58fps in the T-rex scene and 23fps in the Manhattan 3.1 scene.
PUBG Mobile defaulted to its High preset and was playable, though the phone did get slightly warm over the course of a round. We didn't have any trouble with Asphalt 9: Legends either.
We were able to get through a full day on a single charge using this phone, and that included about an hour of video streaming, some gaming, and a lot of Web browsing, but we definitely had to plug it in to charge at night. Our HD video loop test lasted for 12 hours, 41 minutes which is reasonable but not great. Using the included charger, we were able to get up to 15 percent in 10 minutes and 70 percent in just over 30 minutes.
The main rear camera has a 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 sensor, which was only found in much more expensive phones till very recently. It also has an f/1.79 aperture and supports PDAF. Next, there's an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera with an f/2.25 aperture, a 2-megapixel macro camera, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. The front camera has a 16-megapixel sensor and f/2 aperture
The camera app looks slick but the layout is a bit awkward. For starters, there's no easy way to switch between cameras. A toggle button at the top of the screen lets you activate or deactivate the wide-angle camera, but to use the macro one, you have to select the Ultra Macro mode which is buried in a spillover menu next to the standard Photo, Video, and Portrait mode selection buttons. This menu is unnecessarily small and you actually have to scroll down within it to find the Ultra Macro mode, which is too many steps.
There are also separate controls for HDR, filters, and Chroma Boost. The latter option makes colours much more vibrant, which can make shots look artificial, so is best used as an effect like any other filter. The other modes include Expert, Panorama, and Time-lapse.
Shots taken in the daytime with the primary camera were quite sharp, and the colour balance was good. The Realme 5 Pro was quick to lock focus and we didn't have any trouble with usability. We liked its results in terms of fine detail in the foreground as well as clarity in distant objects. There was a little grain in shadowy areas and towards the sides of some frames, but the primary camera worked very well, even for high-contrast scenes.
To take 48-megapixel shots, you also have to switch to a different mode in the spillover menu, and HDR isn't available. File size zooms up from 2-4MB to over 15MB per shot, but shots are enormous and you can pick out tiny details at a huge distance when you zoom in.
As expected, the wide-angle camera delivers lower quality shots and should really only be used when you need to fit a lot into one frame. Zooming in to shots reveals significant loss in detail and colour accuracy. Overall quality is poor compared to shots taken with the primary camera a moment earlier from exactly the same spot.
The macro camera is also more for playing with composition than for everyday use. It's a nice addition, but you might not find a lot of use for it. When taking a closeup with the standard camera, the AI scene detection might say “Macro Lens”, which we take as a suggestion to switch manually rather than any indication that the AI has changed any settings.
When you're in Ultra Macro mode, you'll see “Best quality at 4cm” displayed on the viewfinder but there's no way to know for sure that you're at the ideal focal distance. Some trial and error might be needed, because photos might look sharp on the phone's screen but be a bit off when checked out at full size. Colour also tends to shift when getting so close to a subject, especially because there's a large chance the phone itself will cast a shadow over whatever you're shooting.
Macros are just 1600x1200 pixels in resolution (2.1 megapixels) and details outside of the focus are are definitely rough. Colours were blotchy and textures weren't great either. We saw a cluster of bright red flowerbuds almost merge into each other, for example. Just using the primary camera and cropping shots often produced similar if not better results in some cases. However, the depth of field can look pretty great. You can have fun and get quite a bit of creative satisfaction using this camera.
Selfies are also decent, but some of our samples looked a little overprocessed, which made our skin look artificial. Portrait shots seemed to get the edges of our face wrong, cutting off our ears in the camera's viewfinder most of the time. However, the shots benefit from further processing when they are saved, and look far better when opened later.
Unfortunately the shots we took at night were not as impressive. There was a lot of noise and grain even with lights nearby. You can use these photos if you aren't planning to enlarge them or zoom in at all. Detail was poor unless there was direct bright light shining on our subjects, in which case the results were far more appealing. When using Nightscape mode, it took several seconds for the phone to save a shot but the results were brightly lit, and points of light that would usually be blurred because of a long exposure were instead crisp and clear.
The wide-angle camera predictably takes poorer shots at night, with much duller colours. We wouldn't bother even trying to use the macro camera, as objects were barely even discernible. Selfies taken at night weren't too bad, though.
Video is recorded at 1080p 30fps by default though it can go up to 4K 30fps or 1080p 60fps. The quality of video is generally quite good in the daytime. There's electronic stabilisation, which seemed to work fairly well for us at 1080p. Video looked smooth and bright, though at 4K there was an odd pink tinge throughout. One big surprise is that you can't use the wide-angle camera to record video, which seems like a pointless waste.
There's a lot to like about the Realme 5 Pro. The entry-level variants seem like good options and will compete strongly against the Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review), the Samsung Galaxy M30 (Review), and Vivo Z1 Pro (Review). However, if your budget can stretch enough for you to consider the top-end configuration that we have reviewed, you might find the Realme X (Review) or one of our other sub-Rs. 20,000 picks more appropriate.
Four rear cameras will be a huge selling point and will tempt a lot of buyers, but you might want to consider how much utility a 2.1-megapixel macro camera really provides before basing a decision on this marketing point.
This refresh has been timed well and keeps Realme close to the head of the pack. We would have liked better battery life and the camera UI needs a rethink, but in all other respects this is a great phone. The Realme 5 Pro impresses us almost entirely across the board, especially considering its price.