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Affordable smartphones have come a long way over the last few years. The more time passes – and the more technology trickles down from higher-end units – the more powerful and desirable even the least-expensive units get.

The Realme 5i, Realme’s latest budget entrant for the Philippine market and its first new phone for 2020, is one such phone. And like many of its peers it could easily have passed for a pricier phone from a couple years back – so much so, as a matter of fact, that this phone might just sway some of those prospective buyers who are after a much pricier unit.

Check out our review to see exactly what we mean!

Decently powerful

With the 5i, Realme has seen fit to build in some pretty sturdy foundational features which will help endear it not only to gearheads but also to those people who just want a good phone – and especially to those with a nose keen for a good bargain.

The 5i looks pretty nice, if nothing too different from other Android phones, especially out back thanks to the vertical orientation of its main camera lenses and its rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. We will say, however, that this phone is a bit on the bulky size, but that’s fine given what you’re getting out of it. The 5i can be had in your choice of Forest Green or Aqua Blue, both of which are striking.

Let’s start with the display, which is a massive 6.5-inch affair – it’s relatively bright and sharp, an HD+ IPS unit with 1600 x 720 resolution. While not exactly as awe-inspiring as the screens of, say, a top level iPhone or Galaxy, the 5i’s display is good enough to look at and gets our nod. 

Corning Gorilla Glass 3+ helps make sure the glass stays nice to look at over the long run (although, of course, we urge you to use a screen protector). You also get a ‘mini-drop’ notch that houses the front-facing camera (more on which later).

The 5i comes with Android 9 Pie out of the box, with an overlay of Realme’s ColorOS 6.0.1. We’re expecting that it’ll see an upgrade to the Realme UI soon, along with Android 10 OS when it drops.

It’s also worth mentioning that the 5i comes with dual-band Wi-Fi – which used to be a feature found only in top-level and midrange smartphones – as well as Bluetooth 5.0. Kudos to Realme for bundling the 5i with good wireless connectivity tech. You also get a built-in FM radio as well, if that matters, but this requires a headset to operate.

Perhaps the biggest giveaway that the 5i isn’t a top-end unit is the inclusion of a microUSB port instead of a USB Type C port. All in all, though, the 5i’s feature set isn’t bad at all and is pretty good for the segment.

Acceptable snappers

The 5i’s cameras rate a separate mention. The main snapper set is a quad-camera set (12 megapixels with a 5P lens, 8 megapixels with a 119-degree ultra-wide-angle lens, 2 megapixel macro lens allowing for a 4cm shooting distance, and 2 megapixel portrait snapper) and it resides in a vertically-oriented camera bump out back, right beside the fingerprint sensor. 

We found the main camera set to take pretty decent pictures, especially the 12MP main lens, and the phone’s built-in AI features and others like chroma boost, panorama mode, and super nightscape help improve photo quality and boost usability quite a bit. The usual caveats apply – in good lighting, the 5i takes nice photos, but in poor lighting and darkness they’re rather less nice, and the same can be said for its video capabilities. All in all, this is really not too bad given that this phone competes in the budget segment.

As for the 5i’s front-facing camera, it’s an 8MP affair that also takes decent selfies and video snippets (albeit less competently than the rear camera set, as can be expected). The expected features such as AI beauty help boost usability as well.

It’s got game

Up next is the processor, which is a decently powerful octa-core Snapdragon 665. 3GB of RAM makes this phone relatively snappy, and 64GB of onboard storage space isn’t too bad and is expandable at any rate.

The 5i’s combination of the Snapdragon 665 and 3GB RAM makes it pretty good to use as an everyday device and acceptable as a gaming device, which is what we daresay many people will want to do with this device. We tried playing a bunch of games including Mobile Legends and Call of Duty Mobile and were happy to see that both were quite playable. Our test 5i never heated up, although there were instances when we pushed it a little hard for a little long and it began to stutter a little.

If you’re using a 5i for gaming, we recommend ensuring that your graphics settings are pegged to medium instead of high, as trying to use your 5i for gaming at high graphics settings will tax your processor quite a bit and eat into your battery life rather significantly as well.

We’re happy that Realme’s seen fit to include a pretty powerful battery to help make sure that the 5i doesn’t run out of juice – all of 5,000mAh, which helped us power through a typical day without having to scrimp. We mostly ended up with 15% to 10% of battery capacity left after a day of moderate usage.

The verdict

Realme asks us to “dare to leap” – perhaps to its brand from more established brands – and the 5i is a phone that makes that decision to leap a little bit easier. It’s a good phone, most especially as an entrant in the budget segment – it looks good and performs relatively well, and you won’t lack for power and battery oomph to get your stuff done. We think it’s worthy of your consideration.



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