What the latest 5G android phone has to offer
Affordable 5G phones are fast becoming a crowded market.
At $499 the realme 7 5G is a full $100 cheaper than Google's Pixel 4A with 5G and comes with two extra cameras to boot; but not all cameras are created equally.
The realme 7 5G ticks a lot of boxes which many of the industry's most expensive phones have slowly stripped away.
You can expand the phone's 128GB storage with a micro SD card, a USB-C wall adapter comes in the box (here's looking at you, Apple and Samsung) and there's space for a second sim card to "separate work from play" for those sick of carrying around separate work and personal phones.
By design, the realme 7 5G is nearly identical to Google's Pixel 4A with 5G.
Realme has combined a responsive fingerprint reader and on/off button on the right hand side of the phone (which I now personally prefer) and keeps its camera "bump" to a minimum.
The phone still rocks slightly while lying flat on the table, but it's nowhere near as cumbersome as the bump on the back of the new iPhone and Samsung models.
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The 6.5" screen mimics the hole-punch selfie cam placement on the Google Pixel too, which rarely to never obstructs your view while watching videos.
The screen doesn't get quite as bright as the standard iPhone 12 to my eye, but I never had any problem reading the screen in full sunlight with the brightness cranked up.
It may not be as crisp as the competition's best AMOLED displays but realme's LCD holds its own for $499.
The realme's 120Hz at that price tag is wildly impressive and makes for an incredibly smooth experience.
Gamers will love those numbers too, and should have few problems with the Dimensity 800U chip powering the device.
Overall the device feels snappy and quickly reminded me why I love Android after a few months using the new iPhones.
Problem is, the latest update, Android 11 isn't available on realme 7 5G with no word on when it could arrive.
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That means it's missing features like an in-built screen recorder and my favourite Google-exclusive app, Recorder - which automatically transcribes audio without needing an internet connection.
Out of the box, the realme 7 5G's battery doesn't disappoint.
Its 5000 mAh's easily got me through full work days taking calls, hotspotting to my laptop while downloading and uploading videos.
Using the "dart" charger that comes in the box should get a flat realme 7 5G to around 60 per cent in 30 minutes according to realme, which was accurate in my testing.
Finally, the cameras. There are five on the realme 7 5G: a 48MP standard lens, an 8MP ultra-wide lens, a macro lens for extreme close-ups, 2MP black-and-white portrait lens and 16MP selfie camera.
We're fast learning that not all pixels are created equal. Apple and Google work wonders with 12MP cameras thanks purely to the power of their camera software and, with the exception of Samsung, the focus of the big name companies has been on improving AI and stability, rather than megapixels for years now.
Realme has stuffed a lot of lenses into the 7 5G, but in practice, its camera doesn't focus as quickly, pick up as much detail or accurately capture colours as well as you may expect in 2021.
Compare these three images inside Victoria's parliament taken with an iPhone 12 Mini and the realme 7 5G.
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At full digital zoom, you can clearly easily make out the numbers on the clock on the iPhone 12 shot, but not on the one shot on the realme 7 5G.
The field of view is greater on the iPhone 12's ultra-wide but I would argue that the realme's bolder contrast (and possibly macro camera) make the close up of the balustrade more striking, despite the extreme background blur.
Now compare these two portrait shots. Against a bright background, the realme 7 5G doesn't take a natural looking shot.
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The puppy's fur appears to be a much darker, rusty red rather and loses plenty of detail in that darkness.
All phones struggle in low light, but I was hopeful night-time video would hold up on the realme 7 5G thanks to its new astrophotography setting.
Alas, it's almost impossible to see what's happening on this video of a darkened Melbourne airport which was captured in much more detail and with much fewer artifacts on the same iPhone 12 Mini.
Again, the iPhone 12 Mini is more than double the price of the realme 7 5G and as such, one-to-one comparisons aren't exactly fair.
Ultimately, realme has delivered an impressive phone for the price.
The 5G speeds were expectedly quick and the connection was strong across much of Melbourne's CBD.
The 5G didn't drain the battery as heavily as I expected and for anyone looking for a cheaper way to buy into the next generation network, the realme 7 5G is a compelling option for the price.
Realme 7 5G is available from February 11, 2021 in Australia.
Realme supplied an early model of the phone to 9News for the purpose of this review.