Android devices in the sub-$200 bracket aren't necessarily the cream of the crop but, a review of the Realme 6 has now proven that it doesn't have to be terrible either. Now, Realme is an offshoot brand from OPPO and should require very little introduction. Budget-friendly handsets are definitely among its fortes. That doesn't mean this device is at all perfect but it's worth taking a closer look.
The drawbacks of the Realme 6 are plentiful, owing to its extremely low cost. As with most affordable smartphones, the caveats extend across a range of features and aspects. Unlike most affordable smartphones, this device doesn't have any areas where it just completely drops the ball.
Its speakers, for instance, aren't the best. But it includes a 3.5mm jack and Bluetooth means that the most common listening methods aren't affected. On the other hand, the camera software could definitely use some work in low-light circumstances and dealing with zoom. But well-lit shots are still almost always going to turn out better-than-average.
A similar list of sentiments can be expressed across almost all of this smartphone's features. Conversely, there are some areas where everything works as well or better-than-expected. Performance is among those and its use of a clean — and brand new — OS overlay are among those. And that's where Realme really stands out, deserving of deeper examination.
Realme 6i looks more expensive than it really is
Now, the design language used to build the Realme 6 is aesthetically pleasing but — as will be shown in this review — imperfect. But we'll get to that momentarily. This 191g smartphone's design is much better than might be expected for the price.
To begin with, Realme engineered this phone in two colors Comet Blue and Comet White. Both are a stunning gradient that, combined with premium-feel materials in a glossy finish, lends to a device that looks much more expensive than it is. It also feels great in-hand thanks to curved corners that also curve slightly toward the back panel.
There won't be any reaching for a fingerprint scanner here either. That's been placed in the power button on the right-hand edge. And that undoubtedly helps this device feel great to hold, in addition to fast and reliable.
Our Realme 6 review unit was the Comet Blue color. Realme designed the hue so that it starts at a deep blue along the bottom, fading to a shimmery silver-white blue at the top. That's followed in the edge coloration too, creating a cohesive aesthetic all around. The buttons break from that, using a light blue color but the look isn't jarring.
Like its other Realme 6-series counterparts, the overall design is offset by four-lens vertical camera hump that sits to the left of the back panel. That's also where this design starts breaking down. To begin with, the hump makes this device rest awkwardly when it's placed on a surface screen-side up. The bulge is just high enough that it peeks just over the top of the included protective case too, making matters worse in case of drops.
Around the front of the Realme 6, the front panel takes up almost the entire design, allowing for a 90.5-percent screen-to-body ratio. A small dot-style cutout houses the front camera so that minimal bezels are required. The front-facing speaker grille sits at the top, embedded somewhere between the edge and Gorilla Glass front panel.
All of the speakers, buttons, the 3.5mm headphone port, and the USB-C port are equally smooth to the touch, with no wiggle or jostle in any of those — with the exception of the power button, for some reason. But the buttons click through satisfactorily even when the case is installed, giving the sense they're going to last a while. Ports are all tight-fitting without being too difficult to plug into or out of.
The screen feels great in-use as well, even with the in-box slim-fit case and pre-installed screen protector installed.
However, that component also lends itself to the second design problem with the smartphone itself. While the rest of the build feels and looks premium. It does collect dust and other particulates like crazy. Not only does that happen on the back, where the materials here might make that easy to guess. It happens on the screen side.
With the lip of the slim case trapping those particulates there, it's also hard to get those off without taking the protective accessory off entirely. This simply isn't going to be the device for those who want a clean smartphone all of the time.
The display here is better than expected too
Realme topped this budget handset with a 6.5-inch FHD+ (2400 x 1080) display panel. That also happens to have a variable refresh rate, maxing out at 90Hz. Users can select 60Hz for battery conservation or 90Hz for a smooth flagship-like experience. Or they can choose to let the system automatically move between those refresh rates as needed. For my review of the Realme 6, I left that set to "auto select."
But it's one thing to have a better-than-average refresh rate in the settings and quite another for that to be implemented well. That's one of a few things Realme really got right with this handset, despite apparently utilizing a super-high contrast LCD panel instead of OLED.
The high refresh rate isn't the only thing done properly with that panel either. And not only is the display on Realme 6 more than bright enough to handle direct sunlight comfortably. Not only does this display showcase colors accurately, with options to slide that toward a warmer or cooler hue. The company also includes an option to enable OSIE Vision Effect.
OSIE isn't going to be pertinent in every app. For most use cases, it's going to make no difference at all. But it does allow some apps to take advantage of AI-driven eye-tracking.
All of that is packed into a screen that is responsive to touch and that was lag-free during this review. The punch-hole camera is placed in a position that's well out of the way. So overall it was an amazing experience with consideration for the price.
The one drawback here, as noted above is that the screen seems to almost attract dust and other particulates.
Battery life isn't the best but Realme delivers on charging
Thanks to a 4300mAh battery and 30W fast charging, the battery-specific portion of my review of the Realme 6 went just about as expected. The battery life here isn't the very best, likely owing to the use of a more powerful chipset. But that also came down to the fact that I left screen brightness all the way up for the test and left off all battery savings features.
In total, the Realme 6 lasted for 28 hours and 49 minutes from 100-percent charged. Only around 6 hours and 49 minutes of that were dedicated 'screen-on' hours. That was divided with just short of four hours for gaming, two hours for gaming, and the rest was a near-even split between camera use and flashlight use. But I also included music streaming, messaging, calls, some social media, and light browsing under screen-off time.
In fact, the device was playing music with the screen off for an hour and a half. And around 8-hours and 15-minutes were spent in messaging and with periodic checking of social media. That's out of a total of 22-hours spent on "standby."
This device did well in an 'overnight' test too. Left with the screen off for 12-hours, the battery only dropped by four percent.
So the battery life here could be much better, especially if performance mode is set to a more efficient setting. Other settings, from adjustments to the refresh rate and dark mode to battery-specific settings, would only extend that life further. So, just short of seven hours of screen-on time should almost certainly be guaranteed.
On the charging side of things, this phone is nothing short of impressive. Realme advertises a charging time of around 55-minutes. My review of the Realme 6 showed a charging time of 56-minutes with the included 30W charger. 15-minutes took the battery to 35-percent and a half-hour took that to 65-percent. At 45-minutes, 91-percent of the battery was charged.
Performance, on the other hand, is on point
Realme 6 utilizes a brand new chipset from MediaTek — the Helio G90T — and as my review showed, that makes a huge difference. As with the Helio G90 SoC used in the Realme 6i, the hardware performed flawlessly in every app I tested. I never noted any instances of lag or latency. And, in fact, the performance felt better here than with the Samsung Galaxy 9 I had been using.
That's not to say that it will be better across the board. A flagship device will still, almost certainly, perform some tasks more rapidly. That's particularly true when it comes to tasks involving large processing operations such as video, audio, or photo editing. Some titles and apps don't load up as quickly as on a flagship.
At the very least, this chip likely won't perform those tasks as quickly, although there should still be no deal-breaking problems either.
Setting those instances aside, even while I was installing my usual large number of apps — I typically install over 500 apps right from the start — the performance here stayed on point. When I played high-intensity titles such as Call of Duty from the Google Play Store, the games ran as smoothly as any other device I've used. That includes flagships.
The 90Hz refresh rate undoubtedly made that experience better and so does the available "High Performance Mode" found in Settings. But this device does just fine without that and it saves battery to leave that setting on the other available options.
Gaming, in particular, is made all the better by the included Game Space software. That optimizes the gameplay and limits interruption, with options to improve battery life, stability, or performance.
Summarily, Realme is offering a top-tier Android 10 experience with this phone despite its low cost. On performance, this phone is well worth its price tag.
The Realme 6 cameras are acceptable, under the right conditions
The one area where Realme seems to have fallen short, even of the expectations for a budget device, is its cameras. Now, as we'll discover, my review of the Realme 6 didn't show that those are unusable. But they also aren't acceptable in every situation and they don't quite live up to the quality set by the rest of the handset. If Realme took any shortcuts, this is where that happened.
Interestingly, there's a disparity in the cameras here too. Starting with the positive aspects of the Realme 6, it performs better than expected in good lighting. In fact, it should live up to mid-range standards on that front, if not at least a few flagships. That's thanks to its use of a 64-megapixel AI-managed quad-camera array.
Color accuracy under those conditions is high, details are captured well even with movement, and all of the modern features are present and accounted for.
The camera software itself is quick and intuitive too. So is this camera's autofocus. That's an added bonus here since that isn't always the case with affordable smartphones.
Things start falling apart though as soon as the lights go down or zoom is used. Even the dedicated "Ultra Macro Mode" doesn't quite stack up, although it does allow shots optimized for a distance of 4cm.
When shooting between bright and low-light areas, the camera quality could best be described as acceptable. Automatic HDR does a reasonable job to keep details in both regions. But shots in low-light or even moderate light fail to impress in a way that can only be described as 'spectacularly'. As long as there's enough light to see clearly, colors are kept accurate but details begin to pixelate.
Under lower-light conditions, however, and even with Night Mode active, artifacts are abundant. That's something that's almost always repeatable and immediately ruins shots taken under conditions other cameras would have no problems with. In short, the lower the light in a given environment, the worse this camera does. It almost feels as though it would be better with no dedicated Night Mode at all.
To a large extent, the problems here could likely be fixed with a software update. After all, this is the first iteration of Realme's new Realme UI Android overlay. In effect, this is the first time Realme has stepped out on its own on software. That doesn't really excuse how bad things can be, as is highlighted in our sample gallery on Flickr.
So buyers will likely want to avoid this phone — at least until an update to fix things is released — if they're looking for a great camera phone.
Realme 6 connectivity is solid, works in the US without issue
Realme 6 is a great phone in most regards but most Chinese devices under review simply don't work in the US. Or texting and calls work but no data services or MMS do. That wasn't the case here. After popping in a SIM for Google FI and installing that app via WiFi, this phone worked without hitches across all available services via 4G LTE.
That, in and of itself, sets this phone apart from the competition. But I also didn't note any degradation in the performance of that network as compared to flagships I've tested or used. Instead, connections were solid and the responsiveness of the network was as quick as expected.
That carries over to Bluetooth connections too, thanks to the use of Bluetooth 5.0 instead of an older protocol. That worked well with a number of different headsets and Bluetooth speakers. NFC is included as well, which isn't always the case, in addition to Realme's own Wi-Fi-based "realme Share" service. Wi-Fi Direct via Screencast, VPN settings, Android Beam, Hotspot, and both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth tethering are part of the package too.
Call quality was great too, leaving little doubt that this phone connects well across the board.
Stacking on top of all of that, Realme went out of its way to ensure that there are plenty of options for connecting to mobile data without compromising expandable storage. The SIM drawer on the Realme 6 has two SIM slots and a third slot for a MicroSD card.
The new Realme 6 comes with bloat but not as much as expected
The software ecosystem found on the Realme 6 for this review — like its 'i'-branded counterpart — is a brand new Android 10 overlay. That's been dubbed "realme UI" and it's a far cry from the OPPO skin that Realme used to have in place. But that's not at all a bad thing and it is buttery smooth to interact with.
Similarities between the two OS skins remain, including the other company's Game Space, App Cloner, HeyTap Cloud, and Theme Store. But the OS itself is trimmed back, with fewer commitments to aftermarket, preinstalled apps. That leaves plenty of breathing room for Android 10 to really shine, aside from Realme's decision to stick with standard navigation buttons — swappable in settings for gesture controls.
There are, in fact, far too many features and inclusions in the Settings app to really cover here.
Those range from convenient side-bar tools similar to Samsung's Edge Panel, Smart Driving features that help users keep the focus on the road, or a dedicated Realme AI assistant to Realme Lab. The latter of those is well worth mention since it includes experimental features. As of this writing, it includes settings for "dual-mode" audio that enables Bluetooth 5.0 and 3.5mm audio jack to be used simultaneously for audio output.
Digital Wellbeing and other Android-specific features are present and accounted for.
The bloatware that Realme has included can mostly be removed too. Now, apps such as the calculator, clock, calendar, compass, FM Radio, recorder, and weather apps can't be removed. Neither can most of Google's apps. But the preinstalled browsers, Mail, and even apps like Facebook are removable.
Of course, the OS here should improve over time as Realme expands and iterates on its new skin.
Audio quality is as good as might be expected in the budget end
The audio quality delivered by the overwhelming majority of smartphones is, summarily, not great. My review of the Realme 6 shows that holds true here too, although the single bottom-firing speaker does try to maintain balance. There's just no bass punch and highs seem a bit more pronounced than is desirable.
The speaker is clear and ringtones, movies, and other media aren't going to be annoying. Calls, including speakerphone calling work well, without artifact. But it definitely shouldn't be used for music. Fortunately, Realme includes Bluetooth 5.0 and a 3.5mm audio jack. So sound from this phone, by the methods most will use for listening, is acceptable if not the best available.
The headphone port does allow for in-depth equalization through the Settings menu. Real Sound Technology, built via collaboration with Dirac Research AB delivers HD audio features that aren't typically found at this price. And those work better than expected.
The headphones can be used as a monitor too, for a "karaoke experience" although that's going to be largely app-dependant or better used to maintain situational awareness. That's available in settings via an included "Monitor Mode."
Realme 6i delivers a good experience with every expected caveat
Despite the caveats listed above, Realme 6 delivered a better experience than expected throughout my review. That's thanks largely to considerations taken by the company when it was building the device but also because the realme UI software is intuitive and well-optimized. What Realme lacks in high-dollar parts, it more than makes up for with simplicity and features.
The caveats are, of course, still there and some of them are glaring. This isn't the smartphone for photography aficionados. The camera just doesn't shoot well at all in dwindling light conditions. Realme counters that with great display quality and a 90Hz refresh rate. It's coupled that with a level of performance that far outstrips most of the competition.
Audio isn't great but that's true of almost all smartphones, even those that cost a significant amount more. Top tier amenities such as a fingerprint scanner, NFC, and more are present too, as outlined above. Better still, this phone will even work in the US with GSM carriers — or at least those associated with Google Fi.
All of that comes together as a handset that's well worth the time to consider.