Is India ready for a 5G smartphone? The short answer is no. We have no commercial 5G networks and no clear indications that they will be rolling out in India in the near future. Major telecom operators are struggling after having slashed tariffs thanks to price wars over the past few years, so we can't be sure that any of them will undertake major infrastructure upgrades across the country this year, and then of course there's the massive cost of 5G spectrum blocks. When 5G rolls out, it will likely cost more than we are all used to paying now, and it will be a while before 5G-enabled phones are commonplace.
The long answer is that 5G is coming anyway, and if you want to be one of the first to be able to use it when towers do light up, you might as well have a 5G phone now. Realme and several other companies are hoping to capture this early adopter market. Besides, it doesn't make sense to develop 5G-capable flagships for some parts of the world and entirely different products for others. The Realme X50 Pro 5G is not only Realme's most expensive model yet in India, but it's also the first 5G phone and the first one with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 processor to officially be launched in India.
We won't be able to test its 5G functionality but we can tell you whether it's worth spending your money on, and whether this phone offers potential future functionality at the cost of current-day usability.
In a relatively short span of time, Realme has established its brand aesthetic and the X50 Pro looks a lot like the company's previous models. This phone is a little blockier than other Realme models but it still feels modern. The front and rear are both made of Corning Gorilla Glass, and the screen is interrupted by a dual-camera cutout in the upper left corner rather than a notch. There's also a noticeable chin below the screen.
As for the rear, Realme has gone for subdued solid colours and no gradients or patterns for this high-end device although the glass does appear to have some depth and the colour shifts a little when you move the phone in your hands. You only get a choice between Rust Red and Moss Green, so there's no completely sober option. While the texture of the rear glass appears frosted, it's actually quite smooth and a little slippery.
We have Realme's familiar vertical camera strip on in the upper left corner of the rear, though it does annoy us a little that the four lenses are very unevenly spaced. The power button is on the right and volume buttons are on the left, low enough to be within reach. On the bottom, we have the USB Type-C port, speaker, and SIM tray. We have to point out that there's no 3.5mm audio socket, which is frustrating. Realme representatives told Gadgets 360 that while fans of its budget phones needn't worry just yet, the company believes that high-end phone buyers are ready to go exclusively wireless.
The frame of the phone is made of metal and the overall construction quality is very good. The Realme X50 Pro 5G does feel like a pretty high-end phone; at least on par with current OnePlus offerings in the same price bracket. Unfortunately it's quite a bit heavier than average at 205g. We found one-handed usage difficult because of how tall the 6.4-inch 20:9 screen is and how smooth the glass back is.
The big news here is of course 5G, which is enabled by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor and its companion Snapdragon X55 modem. If used to its full potential on a suitable 5G network, Qualcomm indicates potential download speeds of 7.5Gbps and uploads at 3Gbps, which is just staggering. We don't know what standards each carrier here will adopt, but Qualcomm boasts of support for mmWave and sub-6, the current major 5G implementations rolling out worldwide.
The Snapdragon 865 is also a brand new flagship processor, which we're very eager to test. It's built around four Qualcomm Kryo 585 Silver efficiency cores running at 1.8GHz, three performance Kryo 585 Gold cores at 2.42GHz, and one additional Kryo 585 Gold core running at up to 2.82GHz. There's also the top-end Adreno 650 integrated GPU, and improved subsystems for the cameras, AI processing, gaming, ambient sensors, audio, and more.
Display quality is also one of the X50 Pro 5G's selling points. Realme has used a 6.44-inch Super AMOLED HDR10+ panel with a 90Hz refresh rate and 1080x2400 pixel resolution. You can set the refresh rate to 60Hz, 90Hz, or Auto, to balance performance and battery life. Speaking of which, the battery capacity is 4200mAh and Realme claims it can be charged from zero to 100 percent in just 35 minutes using the included 65W ‘SuperDart' charger.
Realme offers the X50 Pro 5G in three variants: the base offering priced at Rs. 37,999 has 6GB of RAM with 128GB of storage; you can step up to 8GB of RAM with the same 128GB of storage for Rs. 39,999; and the top-end option gives you 12GB of RAM with 256GB of storage, but it will set you back by Rs. 44,999.
The company says it has used LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.0 storage to make this phone quick and responsive. However, you don't get a microSD card slot. There's a vapour cooling system for the processor and various other modern conveniences such as dual-frequency GPS as well as NavIC support, stereo speakers, NFC, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5.1 with the AptX HD audio codec.
What you won't find on this phone are wireless charging, an IP water and dust resistance rating, a more exotic selection of cameras, and a super-sharp display. Much like OnePlus with the OnePlus 7T (Review) and the upcoming 8 series, Realme has held back on features in order to hit an attractive price point.
As for software, we have Android 10 with Realme UI 1.1 on top, which is a slightly customised version of Oppo's ColorOS. The UI is fairly simple and sticks to the general layout of stock Android, but there are a few modidications. The Settings app has a lot of additional categories and things might not always be where you expect to find them. You also get lots of UI personalisation options including a choice of icon styles, control over the icon grid density, and the ability to dispense with an app drawer so all icons are placed on your phone's homescreen.
Some of Realme's own features include Game Space, which now lets you prioritise a game's Internet traffic; lighting effects around the screen's edges for notifications; an ambient display mode (disabled by default); driving and riding modes; app cloning; and the ability to feed dummy personal information to apps to protect your privacy.
The initial phone setup process includes a step that tries to make you download more apps. The default “lockscreen magazine” shows promoted content, but this can be disabled easily. We noticed a lot of clickbait spam notifications from the Realme UI's web browser, and we weren't thrilled about having multiple app and game stores plus preinstalled bloatware apps, many of which can't be uninstalled.
We obviously had high expectations thanks to the Snapdragon 865 processor, which sets a new standard for performance. Needless to say, we had no trouble at all with speed and responsiveness when using this phone. We haven't felt any lack of performance from the past few generations of flagship SoCs, so it's hard to tell that there's anything new going on under the hood when going about your everyday business. The 90Hz screen, LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.0 storage also contribute to this phone's overall snappiness.
Benchmarks of course exist to illustrate what eyeballing a device can't adequately differentiate. AnTuTu gave us a stratospheric tally of 584,447, and Geekbench 5's single- and multi-core scores of 905 and 3,314 respectively. GFXBench's T-rex and Manhattan 3.1 tests both maxed out at 60fps, while even the demanding Car Chase test ran at 45fps. 3DMark's Slingshot Extreme and Unlimited scores were 7,263 and 9,837. The Realme X50 Pro 5G even has a clear lead over the Samsung Galaxy S20+ (Review) with its Exynos 990 SoC, which is Samsung's in-house equivalent.
The Realme X50 Pro 5G's screen is excellent, with nice vibrant colours and adequate brightness. It isn't as crisp as the 1440p screens you'll see on more expensive flagship-grade phones, but we don't think anyone will complain. The wide dual-camera cutout can be distracting when watching full-screen video, but at least it's in one corner and not centred. The stereo speakers on this phone are a very pleasant surprise – sound is very loud and rich, with a reasonable amount of bass, and distortion is under control unless you max out the volume.
We used this phone for all our everyday activities including streaming media, games, photography, and general entertainment. We only felt the rear get a little warm when running tests and recording 4K video for long stretches. We played PUBG Mobile and were able to bump the graphics quality up to HDR and the frame rate to Ultra with no noticeable reduction in smoothness or responsiveness. Asphalt 9: Legends was also thoroughly enjoyable with no stuttering whatsoever.
Realme has managed to deliver impressive battery life as well. 4200mAh might not seem like a lot these days but the Realme X50 Pro manages to make that last for well over a full day. We didn't have to charge our unit till midway through the second morning after using it throughout the day. Our HD video loop test ran for 19 hours, 4 minutes.
Super-quick charging is one of this phone's USPs and we did find this very convenient. The bundled 65W charger is bulky and heavy, and you'll need to carry it around with you if it's to be useful. We managed to go from completely dead to 25 percent in roughly 7 minutes, 50 percent in just over 14 minutes, and 75 percent in 22 minutes, after which the charging rate began to reduce. A full charge took exactly 41 minutes, 16 seconds which is longer than Realme's 35 minute claim, but still extraordinary.
The Realme X50 Pro has four rear cameras, as is the norm these days. First up is a 64-megapixel primary camera based on the Samsung GW1 sensor, with an f/1.8 aperture. There's also an 8-megapixel f/2.3 wide-angle camera which is now fairly common even on low-end phones, but in this case doubles as the macro camera. The biggest surprise here is the 12-megapixel telephoto camera which gives you 2X optical zoom but has an f/2.5 aperture. Finally, there's a 2-megapixel monochrome depth camera. On the front of the phone we have a 32-megapixel primary camera and an 8-megapixel wide-angle one.
All in all, this feels like Realme checking boxes rather than choosing hardware that pushes boundaries or delivers killer photographic capabilities. On the other hand, Realme is playing up many aspects of the X50 Pro 5G's camera software. There's Night Mode 3.0 with a Tripod setting that lets you have an exposure as long as 50 seconds if the phone is stable. Video stabilisation is implemented on both front cameras, and there's also continuous Portrait Mode for video giving you depth effects, plus 120fps slow motion recording.
The camera app is fairly well laid out but has some quirks. You can tap the dots above the shutter button to quickly switch between the wide-angle camera, standard, and optical zoom cameras, and there's another dot for 5X hybrid zoom. You can go beyond this to 20X digital zoom, but you wouldn't know this without long-pressing any of the dots. This brings up a more granular zoom slider, but strangely you have to drag your finger back towards where the lower zoom level dots were to zoom in farther.
Daylight photos seemed richly detailed with crisp focus, but slightly subdued colours. A little grain was visible when reviewing photos at full size. The phone did handle exposures well even when shooting against the sun, and we had no trouble using the camera app. The wide-angle camera works well enough and distortion at the edges was minimal. Photos are good enough to use and aren't visibly worse than those taken with the primary camera when seen on the phone's own screen, but you can't expect the same level of detail at full size.
The telephoto camera is also useful and the photos we took at 2X were fine in terms of quality. Things do degrade when you get into the digital and hybrid zoom ranges but in the daytime at least you might be able to pick out some detail in the distance.
We had a lot of trouble trying to focus on macro subjects and the app didn't help with prompts when we were trying to move closer to or farther away from what we were shooting. Some trial and error might be required, and it doesn't seem to work well for small subjects even if the background is in the distance.
On the other hand Portrait Mode gave us some very impressive results, preserving fine details on our subjects and gently blurring the background to make subjects really stand out. Even without Portrait Mode, there was some very pleasant depth of field.
At night, photo quality was okay but not always great. We did have to hold very still as motion blur could be an issue thanks to the shutter staying open very long. Photos were bright and colours were well represented though. Strangely, Night Mode gave us some extremely weird results with extremely distorted colours, and details weren't improved that much in some shots. We wouldn't depend on this mode, and we hope software fixes can take care of this in the future.
The wide-angle and telephoto cameras both did okay jobs if there was enough light around, and the results were murky but usable. We did often notice that the Realme X50 Pro 5G couldn't decide whether to use the telephoto camera or default back to the primary camera with a digital zoom, and the viewfinder would be stuck visibly and rapidly switching between the two views. The threshold of light required for the phone to decide between these options could also use some tweaking.
Our main complaint with the front cameras is that beautification is on by default and it takes a lot of tapping to turn all the supposed enhancements off. Photos looked good even at night. Edges were defined well in portait shots, but backgrounds were sometimes overexposed.
You can shoot video at up to 4K. Stabilisation isn't great though, and video that we shot while walking was very jerky. Colours were way overblown and oversaturated at 4K both in the daytime and at night, making video look artificial and unpleasant. The tone was much more neutral and natural at 1080p. We did notice some shimmer and jerkiness in clips shot at night, but they were bright enough and detail was surprisingly good while noise was under control.
The Realme X50 Pro offers 5G without making it a premium feature that you have to pay extra for. Sure, 5G isn't a practical reality in India yet, but you might be able to use it when traveling abroad and it can't hurt to be ready. We'd have had reservations if other features had been compromised relative to other phones at this price level, but that doesn't seem to be the case.
This smartphone competes at the same price level as the OnePlus 7T and is in many ways more modern and capable – we don't know how much time Realme will have to capitalise on its first-mover advantage before the OnePlus 8 series is announced, but for now, its lead is clear.
Among the Realme X50 Pro's best attributes are its super-fast charging, versatile cameras, powerful processor, and slick overall look and feel. You don't get wireless charging or an IP rating, and we'd have liked a less slippery back, but these are minor issues considering the price.
If features and specifications aren't everything, you could check out last year's Samsung Galaxy S10e (Review) or the more recent Galaxy S10 Lite (Review). The iQoo 3, from the house of Vivo, offers 5G on one variant and it will be interesting to see how that model stacks up. The iPhone XR (Review) could also be worth considering since its price drops to around this level when it goes on sale.