The Realme 7 5G is one of the best value 5G smartphone options around. It straddles the price/performance fence perfectly with great battery life, camera performance that suits most situations, and a fast, sharp, vivid display. 5G performance is also superb (when you're in the right area). The user interface may not appeal to some long-time Android users, but there are enough customisation options to make the display more suited to your tastes.
When brands like Samsung and Apple sell smartphones that are priced at $2000 or more, it leaves room for companies like Realme to fill the affordable void with good quality, reasonably priced units. The Realme 7 5G is a high performing smartphone that does exactly that for under $500. So well, in fact, that it raises the question: why pay $2000 for a phone at all?
Realme 7 5G specs
- Screen: 6.5-inch (1080 x 2400) 120Hz refresh rate with HDR support
- Battery: 5000mAh, 30W fast charge, (65 minute full charge, 30 minute 60% charge)
- Rear (main) camera: 48MP (primary) + 8MP (wide-angle) + 2MP (portrait) + 2MP (macro)
- Selfie camera: max 16MP
- Video: 720p @ 30fps, 720p @ 60fps, 1080p @ 30fps, 1080p @ 60fps, 4k @ 30fps
- Storage: 128GB (microSD expandable up to 256GB)
- Bluetooth and network: dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5, LE, A2DP (no ax Wi-Fi)
- Audio: stereo speaker, 3.5mm headphone jack
- Processor: MediaTek Dimensity 800 dual-SIM 5G chip with 8GB of RAM.
Camera performance, battery life and display quality are the three most important things for most smartphone users, and most of us want good performance without breaking the bank. The $499 asking price for Realme's 7 5G phone may suggest that it's a lower mid-range model at best, but it's actually the company's flagship device. All the bells and whistles are there and you don't feel like you need to upsize to a more expensive mode.
The Realme 7 5G is available in 'mist blue' or 'flash silver' with a basic yet serviceable clear bumper case to provide protection from the inevitable bumps and drops of daily life. There is no IP (protection rating for dust and water) which is a shame, but not surprising for a smartphone at this price point.
5G: Ultra-fast mobile data future proofing
The big selling point here is the 5G connectivity on a smartphone for $500. So far, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are providing support for 5G in population-dense areas, but coverage is limited. For the moment, count this as a nice to have and if you happen to live in an area with 5G support – happy days.
We assessed the Realme 7 5G using a Vodafone SIM and spent some time in the designated 5G areas with speeds reached between 250Mbps and 500Mbps, which is very impressive for mobile data compared to the current 4G network. Also, both the SIM slots in this dual-SIM Realme 7 support the 5G network.
The rollout seems to be occurring at a good pace, however you also need to ensure that your existing mobile plan supports 5G as there are plans that remove support for 5G even though you may be in a 5G area. You may also need to activate 5G on your plan.
A set of Realme air buds (wireless in-ear headphones) are also available up till August, making this a very good deal.
This phone has a good quality camera suitable for simple day-to-day snaps. However, it's one of the few areas where premium phones have the leg up, as it's not quite on par with a $2000 unit from Samsung or Apple. There are four cameras on the back with the familiar raised bump – a 48MP wide, 8MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro and 2MP depth lens, plus a 16MP selfie camera.
You can get a nice portrait and highlight shots, with effective separation between the subject and the background, and the flash leaves pictures with balanced colours and a good amount of detail. However, images in daylight and night mode look over-sharpened, and if you use the zoom for anything other than tightening up a shot a little bit for composition, your photos will end up blurry.
Videos on the rear cameras are much better. Image stabilisation keeps your clips fluid and the colours come through well with a good amount of detail. You might want to avoid taking too many photos and videos on the front camera. Selfies come out looking flat and pale, and the separation between your head and the background is very artificial. Video clips also end up with poorly contrasted colours and random changes in brightness.
Multiple lens options allow you to get closer to the action without using the digital zoom.
You'll get great battery life from this phone no matter how you use it. For general use it lasted an astonishing 46.5 hours (or 37.5 on full brightness). Quick charge is also very impressive, with the Realme 7 5G lasting 12 to 14 hours after just 20 minutes charging. Bear in mind though that all these fantastic charge times are with the supplied charger and cable. Lose either and you're back to charge times that are significantly longer.
The 5000mAh battery doesn't add much to the weight or size of the mobile, considering the 6.5-inch screen. If you need to charge up any of your other smart devices you can even use the Realme 7 5G as a power bank, with support for OTG power sharing (which could make you very popular among friends during a day out). But you need to buy an extra cable to enable this feature. To use it, simply plug the cable into the Realme 7 5G USB-C port and select OTG settings.
The 6.5-inch LCD display is a higher quality than we usually see on phones this cheap, with a high 120Hz refresh rate and HDR10 support. However, it does suffer from the usual LCD problems compared to AMOLED displays to be found on premium priced smartphones, with a slight bluish tint and less readability from the sides. You can see the screen in bright or dim light thanks to the high brightness, but you'll need to watch out for fingerprints showing up easily.
User Interface (UI)
Realme runs on the Android OS but uses a proprietary user interface (UI) based on Oppo's ColorOS. It has a bit of an Apple iOS look and feel and may not appeal to traditional Android users. Even so, navigation is intuitive, app icons have a clear, modern appearance and the settings are easy to find.
There are several home screen settings and customisation options, such as being able to alter the size and shape of the icons and fonts. Thankfully bloatware is kept to a minimum and some of the Realme apps are actually pretty useful and worth trying out.
Sign-in options include face scanning, fingerprint scanning and a pin code. The face scanning is simple and effective although it's sometimes less useful than fingerprint scanning when you don't particularly want to hold the phone up to your face to use it.
Fingerprint scanning is incorporated into the power button located on the right side edge of the phone. If you hold the phone in your left hand, your middle finger will be used for fingerprint recognition while your thumb will be used if you hold it in your right hand, so it would be recommended to go through fingerprint scanning on both these fingers when setting up the phone.
The Realme UI is very similar to the Oppo version, with the abilty to alter the home screen and UI to suit your taste.
The call quality is clear and natural for both the caller and receiver even if you're in an environment with lots of background noise, but music and video playback is a bit flat. While support for Dolby Atmos sounds like a great feature when casting to good quality audio gear, it doesn't help the mono sounding phone speakers. Music played loudly lacks bass and can sound a bit squawky but no worse than you would expect from a tiny smartphone speaker and in no way a deal-breaker.
You don't get any headphones in the kit, but there is a promotion going until August with a set of Realme buds Q included in the price. Normally priced at $79 these are pretty good wireless earbuds, but not as good as the Realme buds Airpro priced at $199.
A headphone jack is a welcome inclusion and something often missing on premium smartphones. This not only means you won't need an adapter for your wired headphones, but you can listen to music while charging the phone through the USB-C port.
Should you buy the Realme 7 5G?
This phone may not have everything you'd find in a flagship Samsung or Apple model, but nothing is really lacking aside from the camera which could be improved. Plus, 5G connectivity for under $500 is pretty impressive no matter how you slice it. As far as simple day-to-day phones go, the Realme 7 5G is really worth considering.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.