The Realme 5G Is a Refreshingly Simple and Cheap 5G Phone

Illustration for article titled The Realme 5G Is a Refreshingly Simple and Cheap 5G Phone
Photo: Sam Rutherford

It’s not very flashy, and it doesn’t have a huge tagline emblazoned on its back like its more expensive sibling, but the Realme 8 5G is the kind of simple and affordable phone we could use more of in the U.S.

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The Realme 8 5G starts at 200 pounds (around $285) for 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, or 250 pounds (around $350) for 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. When you convert the prices from pounds to dollars—give or take a little since direct conversions are always subject to a little wiggle room—the Realme 8 5G has specs that blow a lot of comparably priced phones out of the water, especially the kind of budget phones typically available in the U.S.

Compared to the $350 Pixel 4a, which is one of the best budget phones available in the U.S. today, the Realme 8 5G features a much larger 6.5-inch display with a 90Hz refresh rate, which is a feature that until recently has mostly only been available on phones that cost $500 and up.

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The Realme 8 5G also packs in a MediaTek Dimensity 700 chip with support for sub-6Ghz 5G, a big 5,000 mAh battery, a nifty side-mounted fingerprint sensor, and three rear cameras: a 48-MP main cam, a black-and-white portrait cam, and a dedicated macro cam. That’s not your typical camera setup, but it’s nice to see a company do something different.

Illustration for article titled The Realme 5G Is a Refreshingly Simple and Cheap 5G Phone
Photo: Sam Rutherford

And like all good budget phones, the Realme 8 5G also features a 3.5mm headphone jack and microSD card expandability, along with dual SIM card slots to boot. The Pixel 4a does have a richer OLED screen and the best camera quality available on a phone in this price range, but the Realme 8 5G offers way more storage (and storage flexibility), a faster refresh rate, and some handy bonuses for frequent travelers thanks to its extra SIM slot and 5G connectivity.

Unfortunately, Realme doesn’t have any plans to release the Realme 8 5G in the U.S., which is a fate shared by a lot of other affordable smartphones from Chinese companies like Xiaomi, Poco, and others. This is doubly frustrating because not only does this rob the U.S. market of a lot of good phones with premium specs for the price, it also limits the number of affordable 5G phones on the market. And honestly, that’s kind of a bummer, because it would be nice to at least have the choice.

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In the short time I’ve had to play around with the Realme 8 5G, I’ve been really impressed with its battery life, which uses its large internal battery along with some software-based battery-saving techniques to help eke out every last minute of juice. And while its design is pretty simple, Realme still managed to keep the bezels around the screen relatively slim.

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Compared to some other Chinese skins for Android, there’s not much to complain about when it comes to Realme UI 2.0 either, aside from all the annoying pre-installed apps.

Following LG’s decision to exit the mobile phone game, I was hoping we would see more Chinese OEMs finally bring their phones stateside and put more pressure on companies like Google, Motorola, and Nokia to release budget phones with more competitive specs. But sadly, that hasn’t happened quite yet.

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So while people in the U.K., India, and China will soon see a pretty solid new phone, it seems folks in the U.S. are going to miss out again.

Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.

DISCUSSION

Tebow Kneeled First

I’m still rocking my Note 8, and don’t have any intention of ditching it any time soon. But when it does kick the bucket hopefully around the 9 year mark I can’t see myself buying a flagship again. Commodity phones seem pretty great now. I’m legit considering a backup phone (MFA tokens are proliferating and I have anxiety about this), and things like this one look appealing.