Realme has had quite the meteoric rise in India over a relatively short time span. The highly competitive company currently has a vast portfolio of smartphones, but the rate at which it's going, I think it needs to pump the brakes a bit and take a more focused approach to its launches. I'm referring to the recently launched Realme 8, which launched alongside the Realme 8 Pro. The company has managed to cover pretty much every single price point under Rs. 20,000, but the sheer number of phones it now sells, including the 7 series, X-series and Narzo models, means that there's a lot of overlapping, with just minute differences between many of them.
The Realme 8 starts at Rs. 14,999 and going purely by specifications, is essentially a slimmer Realme 7 with an AMOLED display. The Realme 7 itself is essentially a Realme 6 Pro with a MediaTek SoC instead of Qualcomm, and both these models are also still on sale at similar prices. The top-end variant of the Realme 8, which I'll be reviewing, costs Rs. 16,999. This means it competes directly with the Realme Narzo 30 Pro, which happens to have a 5G SoC and a 120Hz display. Do you see what I mean? Choosing a Realme smartphone today can be quite challenging.
It's time to see how the Realme 8 actually performs, and whether you should bother with it or pick something else.
The Realme 8's design is heavily focused on making it slim and light, and it does a very good job here. The all-plastic body helps it achieve a comfortable weight of just 177g, and it isn't very thick either at 7.99mm. Both these figures are big improvements over the hefty Realme 7. The plastic back is a bit of a letdown, since the edges picked up scuff marks very easily. A glass back could have prevented this. The buttons on the Realme 8 have good feedback. At the bottom, we have the speaker, headphone jack, and USB Type-C port.
The big change compared to the Realme 7 lies in the display, which is a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED panel with a full-HD+ resolution, rather than an LCD panel. This is the first time Realme's non-Pro number series has received the AMOLED treatment. With this display, you also get a speedy in-display fingerprint sensor, but you sacrifice the 90Hz refresh rate that the Realme 7 offered. The display has a screen protector pre-applied but there's no official mention of reinforced glass, which previous models had. When we asked Realme, a company representative told us that it has used Dragontrail glass on the Realme 8.
I'm not a big fan of the Cyber Silver colour that I received, as the rainbow effect on certain sections of the back panel and the massive ‘Dare to Leap' slogan are a bit too flashy for my taste. Fingerprints are also a big problem on this colourway. The Cyber Black option looks a bit more subdued and is probably the one I'd go with.
The Realme 8 is one of the more comfortable phones I've reviewed recently and should be easy to live with, especially considering it has a 5,000mAh battery. However, I think Realme could have done a lot more to up the premium quotient, such as offering a glass back instead of plastic. The box contents include a 30W charger, Type-C cable, case, and SIM eject tool.
The Realme 8 reuses the MediaTek Helio G95 SoC from the Realme 7, which has proven to be good enough for gaming at this price level. The Realme 8 is available in three RAM variants, all having the same 128GB of UFS 2.1 storage. The 4GB variant is priced at Rs. 14,999, the 6GB variant is Rs. 15,999, and the 8GB variant is Rs. 16,999. Realme sent me the top-end 8GB variant for this review. Other specifications include dual-band Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.1, and the usual array of sensors and satellite navigation support.
The Realme 8 (and 8 Pro) are some of the first phones to ship with Realme UI 2.0 out of the box. It's based on Android 11, and on the surface, it looks very similar to the previous version. However, there are subtle design and animation changes. There's an upgraded icon customisation menu, and all the security and privacy benefits that come with Android 11 have been implemented.
Unfortunately, the new version hasn't shed any bloatware, and there's still a tonne of third-party and redundant apps that come pre-installed. Most of them can be uninstalled if needed, but some such as Browser, which can be notorious for spamming you with unwanted notification, cannot.
Having an AMOLED display instantly livens up images and videos, making the Realme 8 a good device for media consumption. The display's contrast levels are good and brightness is more than adequate even for outdoor use. The in-display fingerprint sensor is very quick at authentication, and face recognition is just as reliable. The bottom speaker gets decently loud, although it would have been nice to have had stereo speakers.
In terms of performance, the Realme 8 feels snappy. I did miss the fluidity in scrolling offered by a 90Hz display but usability was still good. The Helio G95 SoC posts good benchmark numbers too, scoring 2,89,587 points in AnTuTu. I didn't encounter any heating issues, even when gaming for long stretches. Speaking of which, games ran very well and looked good on this display.
The Realme 8 also delivers solid battery life. The 5,000mAh capacity easily lasted me for an entire day with heavy use, and even longer when my usage was a bit lighter. In our HD video loop test, it ran for a total of 24 hours and 11 minutes. 30W fast charging allows it to charge fully in roughly 65 minutes. There's also support for USB Type-C Power Delivery (PD) fast charging (up to 15W).
The rear cameras are similar to what we saw on the Realme 7 in terms of specifications. At the back, there's a 64-megapixel primary camera, 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera, 2-megapixel macro camera, and a 2-megapixel monochrome camera. However, the primary 64-megapixel sensor is manufactured by Omnivision and not Sony, like the one on the Realme 7. You get a 16-megapixel selfie camera. The camera app offers a rich selection of shooting modes, similar to what we've seen on previous Realme smartphones.
Image quality, sadly, is weaker than what I experienced with the Realme 7. Landscape shots looked alright when seen on the phone's display, but upon closer inspection, details and textures on objects often appeared flat and not well defined. The ultra-wide camera produced even weaker details, as expected, with visible barrel distortion along the edges. Close-ups fared much better in terms of details, but they tended to have a heavily processed look when magnified. The AI scene enhancer has the tendency to boost colours, so if you prefer a more natural look, it's best to leave it off.
Low-light photos generally turned out a bit grainy unless I used Nightscape mode. This also helped get usable low-light photos with the ultra-wide camera. For close-ups, the autofocus wasn't very accurate in less-than-ideal light, so at times, it took a few tries to get a good shot.
The Realme 8 can record video at up to 4K 30fps, but without any stabilisation. Video quality is quite average. At 1080p, the phone tries to stabilise footage but ends up doing a pretty poor job of it. You can shoot video with the ultra-wide camera too, but the quality is below average and there's no stabilisation. Needless to say, video quality in low light is not the best unless your subject or scene is very well lit.
Selfies shot during the day look decent but ones taken in low light are just fairly average. The macro camera lets you get extreme close-ups but the quality is not great. Portrait mode works well and there are various filters to play with.
Overall, the cameras on the Realme 8 are definitely serviceable in the right conditions, but this model is not a step up from the Realme 7 in terms of features or quality.
After spending a week with the Realme 8, it's safe to conclude that it's nothing more than a Realme 7 (Review) with an AMOLED display and slightly worse camera performance. I think the Realme 7 is still a better pick as it's less expensive, offers a 90Hz display, and hopefully should receive an Android 11 update soon. The only real advantage of the Realme 8 is that it's slimmer and lighter than the 7. Realme is also preparing to launch a 5G version of the 8 very soon, which could be priced between the Realme 8 and Realme 8 Pro, so it's worth at least waiting.
The top-end variant of the Realme 8 is a much harder sell than the base variant, as the Realme Narzo 30 Pro is available at the same price, and offers a more powerful 5G SoC as well as a 120Hz display. There's also the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro, which is better than the Realme 8 in every possible way, at least on paper, and starts at Rs. 16,999. Other than the primary rear camera, the Redmi Note 10 Pro is identical to the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max (Review), which we have reviewed and liked quite a bit.
The Realme 8 might not have any deal-breaking flaws, but it doesn't really offer anything special, even when compared to its own siblings, which makes it hard to recommend.
Why did LG give up on its smartphone business? We discussed this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Later (starting at 22:00), we talk about the new co-op RPG shooter Outriders. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.