It is well known that Chinese smartphone manufacturers Xiaomi and Realme are racing to outdo each other in the market. Both manufacturers have been launching new smartphone models at an unusually fast pace over the past year.
The latest smartphone to hit the market is the Realme 5i which is the fourth model in the Realme 5 series and the first one from Realme for this year. This new smartphone looks similar to the Realme 5 and the upgraded Realme 5s (which was launched recently) and also boasts of a quad-camera setup.
This new model will replace the Realme 5, which should reduce confusion a little for buyers. Do we really need a Realme 5i, or could we have done without it? We review this new model to find out.
The Realme 5i shares the same design as the Realme 5 (Review) and the Realme 5s (Review). The display measures 6.52 inches and has a mini waterdrop notch at the top that is smaller in size now. This helps liberate a little more screen space, resulting in an 89 percent screen-to-body ratio. The Realme 5i's panel sports an HD+ resolution and has Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for protection.
Just like the Realme 5s, this model also packs in a 5,000mAh battery which makes it a tad bulky at 195g. It measures 8.95mm in thickness. When you turn it around, you will notice that the trademark Realme diamond-cut pattern is missing, and the company has opted for a new sunrise design pattern. The smartphone comes in two colours — Aqua Blue and Forest Green. We have the former for this review. Realme claims that it has added an anti-fingerprint layer at the back which is effective to keep smudges off.
Just like the Realme 5 and the Realme 5s, the 5i is curved at the sides which makes it convenient to hold. The fingerprint scanner is at the back but we found it to be positioned slightly too high, and we needed to stretch a bit to reach it. There is a quad-camera module next to it which protrudes slightly.
The Realme 5i has the power button on the right while the volume buttons are on the left. These buttons are shallow but offer decent feedback when pressed. The SIM card tray is on the left just above the volume buttons and has two Nano-SIM slots along with a microSD card slot.
Realme still uses a Micro-USB port at the bottom, which we wish had been swapped out for a USB Type-C port. It also has a 3.5mm audio jack and the loudspeaker at the bottom. The top of the smartphone is bare.
The Realme 5i shares most of its internals with the outgoing Realme 5 and the 5s as well. This phone is also powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 SoC, which has four Cortex-A73 cores clocked at 2.2GHz and four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.8GHz. Realme only offers the 5i with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of EMMC 5.1 storage, for Rs. 8,999.
You do have the option to expand storage by up to 256GB using the dedicated microSD card slot. There is support for Bluetooth 5, Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, and dual 4G as well as VoLTE. This phone also packs in a 5,000mAh battery.
Compared to the Realme 5, the 5i offers more RAM and storage for the same price. The display and the quad-camera setup at the back are identical but the Realme 5i has to do with an 8-megapixel selfie shooter compared to the 13-megapixel one. The Realme 5 commands a Rs. 1,000 premium for the better selfie camera which isn't worth the price if you aren't keen on using it.
The 5i runs ColorOS 6.0.1 on top of Android 9 Pie. Our review unit had the November security patch which is now relatively dated. The smartphone has a fair amount of bloatware such as Dailyhunt, Opera News, UC Browser, and Helo preinstalled. These push spammy notifications throughout the day after they are first launched. The Realme 5i has also has the company's own Game Center and App Market which are alternatives to the Google Play Store for games and apps respectively. Realme does offer Android's Digital Wellbeing feature along with a system-wide dark mode.
Since the software is identical to what we have used in the past, you can take a look at our Realme 5 review for more details. Realme has stated that the Realme 5i will receive Realme UI updates which will make it look and feel more like stock Android very soon but there is no word on an update to Android 10 yet.
The Realme 5i is a good-looking smartphone and it has the hardware to back that up. The Snapdragon 665 SoC manages to deliver good performance without breaking a sweat. With 4GB of RAM on board, the device could multitask easily without having to kill apps in the background.
We found the display to have decent viewing angles, and it was bright enough when outdoors. The bottom-firing speaker is quite loud, which adds to the content viewing experience. We also found the fingerprint scanner, as well as the face recognition feature to be quick to unlock the smartphone.
We ran our standard set of benchmarks to gauge the performance of the Realme 5i. In AnTuTu v8, it managed to clock 1,70,480 points. In Geekbench 5's single-core and multi-core tests, the device managed 309 and 1,345 respectively. As for the graphics benchmark GFXBench, the Realme 5i managed to score 12fps in the Car Chase scene and 49fps in the T-Rex scene.
We played PUBG Mobile on the 5i and the phone defaulted to the 'Low' preset with the graphics set to Smooth and frame rate set to 'Medium.' It was playable at these settings without any issues. We played the game for 20 minutes and noticed that the phone was barely warm to the touch.
The Realme 5 and Realme 5s offer excellent battery life, and the Realme 5i isn't any different. With our usage which consisted of an active WhatsApp account, using Google Maps and taking camera samples, the Realme 5i easily lasted over a day and a half. In our HD video loop test, the Realme 5i lasted as long as the Realme 5s. Charging the smartphone with the included 10W charger took us over two hours. Fast charging is not supported.
The Realme 5i sports a quad-camera setup at the back, similar to the Realme 5. It has a 12-megapixel primary sensor, an 8-megapixel wide-angle-camera, a 2-megapixel macro camera, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. The primary sensor has 1.25-micron pixels and an f/1.8 aperture. The wide-angle-camera has an f/2.25 aperture, while the macro and depth sensors have f/2.4 apertures. For selfies, this phone has an 8-megapixel front shooter with an f/2.0 aperture.
Realme's camera app remains unchanged and is similar to what we saw on the Realme 5s. It has quick toggles for HDR, the flash, and to switch to the wide-angle-camera. It also has Nightscape and Portrait shooting modes.
The Realme 5i is quick to lock focus when shooting. In daylight, the Realme 5i metered light correctly and photos had decent dynamic range. The photos we took had good levels of detail, which was evident even after zooming in. The wide-angle camera offers a wider field of view but does not deliver the same level of detail. The edges of frames appeared to be slightly stretched. For close-ups, the Realme 5i managed good details and the results were good for a budget smartphone.
The macro camera lets you get very close to a subject and manages to produce sharp shots. However, the macro camera resolution is just 2 megapixels. While shooting portraits, we noticed that the Realme 5i does not offer the option to set the level of blur before taking a shot. Portrait shots were slightly hazy, and portraits shot against the light were not metered correctly.
Low-light camera performance was below average, and photos didn't come out looking sharp at all. We used Nightscape mode and did get brighter images, however, they were still very grainy.
Selfies taken with the Realme 5i had beautification applied to them by default, which can be disabled. The photos were strictly average and backgrounds were often overexposed when shooting outdoors. The Realme 5i also offers portrait mode for the selfie camera, which fared okay, but edge detection wasn't up to the mark.
Video recording maxes out at 4K for the primary camera, but stabilisation is only available when shooting at 1080p. Videos shot in the day were well stabilised. The wide-angle-camera also has stabilisation, but a mild shimmer effect is visible in the output. In low-light, the output was quite grainy and we found the stabilisation to be below average.
The Realme 5i is a watered-down Realme 5 at a more aggressive price. For Rs. 8,999 the 5i does pack quite a punch thanks to the Snapdragon 665 SoC and 4GB of RAM. The 5,000mAh battery also delivers very good battery life. However, camera performance is a bit of a letdown.
The main purpose of the Realme 5i aims at offering powerful hardware at a more affordable price, and it succeeds at that to an extent. If you want a phone primarily for gaming, the Realme 5i should keep you happy. However, if you are willing to stretch your budget, the Realme 5s (Review) and the Redmi Note 8 (Review) are better all-rounders.
Realme 5 or Redmi Note 8: Which one should you buy? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.