High-end gaming smartphones don't come cheap – take a look at Asus' ROG Phone 5, which has everything a gamer might want, but comes at a price. Asus' ROG Phone 5 (First impressions) is available in three variants priced between Rs. 49,999 for the base version and a whopping Rs. 79,999 for the top-of-the-line ROG Phone 5 Ultimate.
But most casual gamers don't necessarily need that kind of hardware, so Poco came up with the F3 GT (Review), which is currently a solid contender in the mid-range gaming space with prices starting from as little as Rs. 26,999. Now, we also have a smartphone from Realme that's priced similarly but does not scream ‘gaming' like the Poco F3 GT. It has no trigger buttons and no RGB lighting, and is available in bold as well as subtle colours. So, without the gaming thrills, does it fulfill the needs of the mobile gamer? And, does it go a step further to become an all-rounder?
The Realme GT Neo 2 is available in three finishes: Neo Green, Neo Blue and Neo Black. As for variants, there are just two to choose from. The base 8GB RAM and 128GB storage variant is priced at Rs. 31,999, and the 12GB RAM and 256GB storage variant is priced at Rs. 35,999 in India. Both options are priced competitively against the competition which includes the Poco F3 GT and Xiaomi's Mi 11X. What's missing though is a 6GB RAM variant, which would have made the GT Neo 2 more accessible.
The Neo Green Realme GT Neo 2 unit that I received for review has a unique dual-tone glass back panel. The green part has a soft, matte-finished texture, while the two black stripes that run all the way down the panel are glossy. Being made with multiple sheets of glass, the back panel does not pick up fingerprints and makes this device quite easy to grip, which is good for a smartphone that's mostly going to be used by gamers. The Neo Blue and Neo Black options don't have such stripes, and while the former has a gradient, the latter is completely plain.
The mid-frame is made of polycarbonate even though it looks like metal, and has a matte finish. There's also a matte grey silicon case in the box, but it makes the phone a bit slippery. The camera module protrudes by about 3mm from the back panel and looks a bit like the ones on the OnePlus Nord 2 (Review) and Oppo Reno 6 Pro (Review). This phone will wobble quite a bit when placed on a flat surface.
While I like the unique colourways (each of them looks different) that Realme has come up with for the GT Neo 2, the bright green Neo Green finish is quite loud and will grab a lot of attention. It might be best to go for the smoky Neo Blue or the satin-like Neo Black if you don't want to stand out.
The bezel around the display is quite thin. The 6.62-inch display is quite broad (which is good for gaming) compared to ones on the Realme GT Master Edition and the GT, and you will need two hands to use this phone. In terms of weight, the Realme GT Neo 2 feels lighter than it appears, at around 200g. There's no IP rating but you do get stereo speakers.
The Realme GT Neo 2 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 SoC. The phone is offered with up to 12GB of RAM and 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage, but there's no microSD slot for memory expansion. There are two Nano-SIM slots, and this phone supports dual 5G standby as well as several SA and NSA 5G bands. Communication standards include Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, and the usual satellite navigation systems. The Realme GT Neo 2 packs in a 5,000mAh battery that can be charged using the 65W charger that comes in the box.
The software is the typical Realme UI 2.0, which is based on Android 11. It looks very similar to Oppo's ColorOS, and has several customisation options, which include the ability to change and modify the shapes of icons, customise the always-on display, and even change the weight of the Adaptive font. What I did not like were the annoying notifications from the Theme store. Thankfully, these could be switched off in Settings. The phone also comes with several preinstalled third-party apps which include Netflix, Facebook, Snapchat, and Josh. Save for the FinShell Pay app, all of these apps can be uninstalled.
The GT Neo 2 features an AMOLED display with a full-HD+ resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate. The display also offers up to 600Hz touch sampling, which is said to be useful when playing games. The display showcased slightly punchy colours so I used the Gentle screen colour mode for most of the review period. What I missed is HDR support, which would have been a nice addition given the large size of this screen, and would have made it much better for streaming video. The phone also has stereo speakers that get quite loud and make for an immersive experience while playing games.
The Realme GT Neo 2 pulled some impressive numbers in our benchmark tests. It did better than its competition, with scores of 7,19,508 in AnTuTu, and 1,005 and 3,152 respectively in Geekbench's single and multi-core tests.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 processor has enough grunt to run the most demanding 3D games smoothly. What's more, the GT Neo 2 remained cool even during long gaming sessions, which is mainly thanks to its large stainless steel cooling system and a new “diamond thermal gel” that's used as a layer of heat dissipation, as per the company.
A gaming mode called ‘GT Mode' is available on the Realme GT Neo 2. As we saw on earlier GT-series models, it cranks up the processor's clock speed and the display's touch sampling rate (the display is capable of up to 600Hz), but I did not notice anything vastly different in terms of responsiveness, compared to when GT Mode was switched off. The usual Game Space app also has a slide-out console which let me customise swipe and touch sensitivity, but these are not per-game optimisations, so they will need to be adjusted between games.
The Realme GT Neo 2's 5,000mAh battery is the biggest in a GT-series smartphone so far. Battery life with casual use is quite impressive, and the phone easily lasted a day and half, even with some gaming. The GT Neo 2 lasted an impressive 28 hours and 56 minutes in our standard HD video loop battery test. Charging was also quite quick for a 5,000mAh battery. The phone managed to go from a dead battery to a 100 percent charge in just 44 minutes.
The Realme GT Neo 2 features three rear-facing cameras – a 64-megapixel primary, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle, and a 2-megapixel macro camera. Selfie duties are handled by a 16-megapixel front-facing camera. The camera app interface is similar to what we have seen on other Realme smartphones with Realme UI 2.0. The most important controls are a tap away, and a neat slide-out tray on the left side gives you access to more advanced functions such as the tilt-shift mode, frame selection, and a timer for the shutter.
Photos taken in daylight came out quite saturated in general but showcased decent detail and dynamic range. There's a noticeable shift in colour and tone when switching between the primary camera and the ultra-wide-angle camera. Colours in general shift quite a bit from scene to scene so there's no consistency between shots, with some showing natural colours while others look wildy saturated. Shooting pets and people indoors resulted in soft and textureless images with super saturated colours. The ultra-wide-angle camera reproduces even less detail and shots also had noticeable purple fringing in brighter areas.
Selfies taken with the front-facing camera showed good detail and decent dynamic range but tended to be overexposed. Edge detection when using the front-facing camera in Portrait mode was decent at best. Using the Portrait mode with the rear camera did however result in good edge detection and dynamic range.
The fixed-focus macro camera takes decent photos, but with a 2-megapixel resolution, they don't pack in enough detail. Close-ups shot with the primary camera looked much better with more detail.
In low light, details were on the lower side with some photos appearing murky. The Night mode bumped up contrast and increased saturation and sharpness, making for some dramatic landscape shots, but you have to wait for 3-5 seconds to shoot each one, so this mode definitely cannot be used to shoot people or pets in dim lighting.
Video quality in daylight was decent at best. You can shoot at up to 4K at 60fps but the camera offers no stabilisation at these settings, so videos come out quite shaky. 4K footage at 30fps came out fine, with good detail and stabilisation, but like 1080p videos, tended to be overexposed. In low light, video shot at any resolution looked murky and dreamy at best.
After using the Realme GT Neo 2 for more than a week, it's clear that it's not an all-rounder. This is mainly down to its unreliable camera performance, which fell short of expectations, given its price tag. Simply put, you can get better camera performance from Realme's own GT Master Edition (Review), which is priced a lot lower, starting from Rs. 25,999.
What you can't get anywhere else is the hardcore gaming performance that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 SoC and this phone's cooling system enable. It's missing dedicated trigger buttons and RGB lighting, which you'd get with the Poco F3 GT (Review), but instead, this phone gives you a high-quality AMOLED display and excellent battery life.
At this price point, it's hard to recommend anything else to a mobile gamer. For the non-gamer, there's the Xiaomi's Mi 11X (Review) which also has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 processor and an IP53 rating, but dials down the display specs, battery life, and charging speed in favour of a slimmer design. So, the GT Neo 2 still offers good value at Rs. 31,999, provided you are okay with its average camera performance.