Realme is a relatively new brand, a few years old but has absolutely flooded the market with devices, but not in a bad way. Whilst launching nearly 30 devices in under 3 years seems excessive, the fact that Realme has able to release these, gain feedback, and make a better phone a few months later is impressive, it’s a nimble company, and it is not surprising, it’s under the BBK electronics umbrella, like Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus and IQOO. With the Realme 6 and 6 Pro though, Realme is focusing on one main thing though, the screen, upping them to 90Hz, is it worth it?
- 90Hz Screen
- Stellar battery
- USB-C and fast charging
- Android 10
- Screen is very over-sharpened
- Secondary and tertiary cameras are under-cooked.
- Unknown update record.
- 6.5” IPS LCD
- 90Hz refresh rate
- 120Hz touch polling rate
- MediaTek Helio G90T
- 2x Cortex A76 @ 2.05Ghz
- 6x Cortex A55 @ 2.0Ghz
- 4 core Mali G76
- 4GB/6GB/8GB LPDDR4X
- 64GB/128GB UFS2.1 storage
- 4300mAh battery
- 30w VOOC
- 64MP Main Camera (Samsung GW1)
- 8MP Ultrawide Camera
- 2MP Macro Camera
- 2MP Depth camera
- 16MP Selfie camera (hole punch)
For a more in-depth look at the spec sheet, head on over to GSMArena
The device hardware is often just as important as the specifications underneath. For years Samsung created high-end phones that felt like cheap plastic toys in the hand, and this is also where cheaper phones usually lie, mainly because there is less money to go around so you maximise performance for the cost and then spend the rest where you can and hope it doesn’t feel like something you’d find in Poundland/the dollar store.
Realme has done a pretty decent job on this one, there is no denying that this is cheap plastic, it’s a bit thick at 8.9mm, and paired with the 193g mass, the word “brick” doesn’t feel too far off here. But that doesn’t mean it feels bad in the hand. On the contrary, it’s curved in just the right ways in order to make it a comfortable device to hold, but even compared to the 6 Pro and 6i, this definitely feels like the cheaper of the three phones.
Taking a hardware tour, upfront, of course, we have that lovely display. It’s a 6.4” 1080p IPS LCD running at up to 90Hz, you can set it to 60 or 90Hz, or you can let the phone decide when to ramp up to 90Hz and when to leave it at 60Hz to save battery. It’s a really nice screen. The panel itself does seem to be over-sharpened a fair bit, which when looking at highly compressed such as those on social media, you can see the tell-tale black border on images on the screen, this is not a deal-breaker, but it is a pretty obvious cost-cutting measure, in order to get an LCD that can comfortably run at 90hz you have to make trade-offs to not destroy the rest of the budget, and I’m fine with this trade-off.
In the top left of the screen is where the selfie camera is, in its own little hole punch. Do I like the hole punch? Yeah, I think it is nicer than the notch and I was one of those few people that never liked the motorized pop-up cameras, this seems like a nice compromise. But there is a little problem with hole-punch cameras on LCDs and that is the hazing or feathering around the edges of the lens, I understand why it’s there, it makes sense when you understand how LCD panels work and you can’t have the backlight bleed onto the camera sensor, but it is obvious and makes the black border around the camera larger than it would be on a comparable OLED display.
Taking a look around the perimeter, at the bottom we have the USB-C port, sadly limited to USB2.0 speeds, but at least It’s type-C. There is a loudspeaker to the right of it, and a microphone hole to the left, and on the far left? That ever rare addition, a 3.5mm audio jack. Whilst It’s not important for me and whilst Bluetooth earbuds are oftentimes just as cheap as 3.5mm ones these days, people do like to have it, so here it is. On the right-hand side of the phone is the power button that also doubles as a fingerprint scanner. I’ve gone on the record before as saying I hate side-mounted fingerprint scanners, they’ve less convenient than a front or rear ones, and especially, if like me, you’re left-handed. Whilst they work fine if you’re a righty who can enrol their entire thumb on the scanner, having to enrol a weird sliver of your left middle or index finger is a nightmare that is rarely a first time unlock this was such an annoyance for me I actually ended up using the face unlock, as insecure as it is.
The left-hand side has the volume buttons, two separate ones not a rocker. Whilst they’re a bit loose and rattly, they do have a definitive actuation point. Above this is the SIM tray, and something that is still somewhat rare is the way this phone does Dual SIM. The tray here is extra-long, meaning there is space for 2 NanoSIM cards and a MicroSD slot, usually you have to choose whether you want that second SIM or the expansion card, not this time. On the top we have… nothing it is clear, no holes at all.
Lastly, we have the rear of the phone, I have the Comet White variant, so this is almost a pearlescent finish, shifting to pinks and blues depending on the angle, it’s really nice. In the top left we have the camera cluster with the single colour LED flash next to it, and in the bottom left we have the Realme logo, nice and simple.
Realme has managed to make a cheap phone, that feels cheap, but not cheap, it’s plastic, you know it is plastic, it’s a bit thick and a bit heavy, but it still feels like a nice phone to have in your hand, I just wish the back curved a little more to try and mask some of that chonk.
The Realme 6 series is one of the few devices shipping with the new Realme UI, it’s a lightly modified version of ColorOS 7 running atop Android 10, but the important thing here folks is, that unlike ColorOS prior to version 7, this doesn’t suck.
This isn’t a stock device with a new icon pack, but in many ways, I wouldn’t say it is much farther off than that. The status bar is themed, but not too far from stock. The settings app has changed and this is one of the bigger changes, but everything is still clear and easy to access and if you can’t find it, the search bar is still at the top, neat! And let’s not forget, this is based on Android 10 from the off, so you get all the goodies from Android 10, seamless updates, project mainline, the new Gestures and more, and speaking of the Gestures, Realme has included the code that lets you use the full native android 10 gestures no matter your launcher, so I can switch to my favourite Launcher (Action Launcher by Chris Lacy) and still have full gesture navigation, something that even my Huawei P30 Pro cannot do.
I can’t fully attest for how well Realme will do with updates in the future when it comes to platform updates and stuff, but in the few weeks I’ve had the Realme 6, it’s had 3 software updates already to fix bugs and add features such as HDR selfies. On the security patch side, this is running the March 1st update, so a month behind, whilst I’d like to see it on April, I can’t really chastise it too badly when most phones double, triple or quadruple this price still isn’t on the April patch.
This is where I was expecting the Realme 6 to fall flat on its face. It’s using a MediaTek chip, which usually isn’t a great sign (and depending on how you feel about benchmark cheating, still isn’t). But the MediaTek Helio G90T is actually a really decent chipset. Rocking 2 high-performance Cortex A76 cores from ARM, backed up by 6 lower power Cortex A55 cores, these are practically the newest cores on the market (the A55’s have no replacement, and the A76’s have only recently been superseded by the A77s) the Mali G76 is a nice GPU but I feel the 4 core cluster is just a bit small, even for the price of this.
And even the 12nm process node from TSMC that these are built on is modern enough that this is not going to suck down too much juice whilst doing anything. As always, I’ll post benchmark screenshots below, but you can’t just judge a phone performance on numbers alone, especially when they’re paired with a high refresh rate display.
The Camera set up on the Realme 6 is better than I was expecting, whilst I would happily get rid of the depth sensor and the macro camera, leaving me with the 64MP main camera and the 8MP ultrawide, as I feel like that would give a better experience, what we have here is not a terrible setup.
The main camera is a Samsung ISOCELL GW1, this is a 64MP sensor with 0.8µP pixels, and whilst there are 64 million pixels here, the way they are arranged on the sensor is to make a great 16MP image, what it does is that it takes 4 pixels next to each other and makes them pretend they’re one big pixel, a bigger pixel can absorb more light, and in photography, more light is, most of the time, better. You can do something called “remosaicing” that tells the pixels to pretend they’re organized like a normal camera sensor and take 64mp shots, so yes, there are 64 million pixels here, but they’re designed in a way to take awesome 16MP shots, and you know what? It actually does.
There was a time wherein the ISOCELL Cameras from Samsung where just cheap counterparts to Sony sensors, but in this last generation, things have certainly changed, the GM1 (48MP) GW1 (64MP) and HM1 (108MP) are contenders. They still have some of the tell-tale characteristics of ISOCELL sensors, like the nuclear greens or the reds blending in with browns but also we get the gorgeous yellows and blues. Samsung’s ISOCELL tech was developed to stop crosstalk or light bleeding between pixels and I think Samsung is at a point now where that is obvious throughout the lineup from entry-level to the top end.
Next up is the 8MP Ultrawide camera and Whilst I like it, the Camera is a useful addition, but the actual quality of the sensor. It’s just not a great sensor, which I’m reminded of every time I swap over to it thinking that the shot would look better with a wider perspective. It’s not unusable garbage, but it also isn’t anywhere near the quality of the main camera, and they are pretty poorly matched in software as well, so swapping out to wide physically changes the shot as the sensor is in a different place than the main, but some phones, specifically Apple devices do a really good job at making it seem as if it is a single lens going through wide to zoom. Colours are also not particularly well-matched and the over the top sharpening is present as well. It’s still a usable camera, but it could be a lot better, and I feel one of the ways it could be done better is by scrapping the depth and macro cameras and using the money saved from that by adding a better ultrawide camera in or spending more time on the software pairing of the two sensors.
Next up I’ll speak about the practically useless macro camera. It’s a 2MP camera with a tiny sensor, tiny pixels, nothing about that sentence sounds good and that’s because it isn’t. Whereas other phones repurpose their ultrawide cameras as macro shooters, a lot of OEMs feel the need to add a separate, low-resolution sensor in and I wish they’d stop, this is becoming the replacement for the also useless extra depth-sensing camera, of which the Realme 6 also has, and deserves even less words written about it than the Macro lens.
Last is the video performance. Android Phones aren’t great at recording video for a multitude of reasons, cheaper android phones are often worse, and cheap Android Phones with MediaTek processors tend to fall even further down that list. The ISP (Image Signal Processor) in MediaTek chips has historically been pretty bad, and whilst the rest of the chip is actually pretty good here, the ISP is still one of it is weak spots, so here are samples of 1080p30, 1080p60, 4K30 on the rear camera, and 1080p30 from the front.
This is thankfully an area that the Realme 6 has no issue dominating in. with an easy to run 1080p display, a 12nm SoC and a monstrous 4300mAh battery, even a 90Hz refresh rate and purposefully high brightness (auto-brightness was a bit wonky so I left it set ay 70%) couldn’t comfortably kill it in a day.
If you wanted to make this a 2-day battery monster, sure turn it down to 60Hz, leave auto-brightness on, but with the other great addition over the Realme 5, 30w VOOC flash charging I don’t even feel the need to. Dead to full in about an hour, the Realme 6 is an absolute beast in the battery department, and there aren’t really any downsides either. Good job.
Any Other Business
Those of you who are new here, my Miscellaneous sections in my reviews are for things I feel like need to be mentioned but don’t need their own section. For the Realme 6, that would be the Screen. Whilst the screen is important, what makes it important is the refresh rate, otherwise, it is just a standard 1080p LCD with a hole punch in the corner. The experience you get with the higher refresh rate drastically improves user experience, it makes a phone feel that much faster, even if it isn’t using top of the line silicon. I could switch between the Realme 6 with the MediaTek chip, and the Realme 6 Pro with the Snapdragon 720G, and honestly, could barely tell the difference. Specs rarely tell the full story, and that’s even harder with high refresh rate displays.
It’s rare that I have the ability to review all the phones in a price segment from a manufacturer at once, but I happen to have the Realme 6i, the Realme 6 and the Realme 6 Pro here with me right now (reviews on those incoming) and it’s amazing that I can’t think of many reasons to pick those over this. The Realme 6 Pro is the technically better phone, but experience-wise? It’s really similar, and this is likely to be much cheaper. And the 6i is only about £20 cheaper than the entry-level 6, wherein you get a worse SoC that shows, a 60Hz screen and only 18w charging.
Starting at £219, the Realme 6 is an absolute beast of a mid-ranger. You aren’t giving up most of the traditional stuff you give up on a cheap phone. You get NFC, you get USB-C, you get fast charging, a high refresh rate screen and a really capable main camera with stellar battery life. Should you buy the Realme 6? Hell yeah, other phones in this price range have their work cut out.