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Realme 8 5G shows us the real cost of 5G

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We’ve all seen examples of insane 5G download speeds, and maybe that makes you want 5G in your next phone, but the reality on the ground is different. As it currently stands, 5G is far from ubiquitous — it doesn’t even exist in markets like India — and the compromises and costs associated with it are substantial. It’s still fair to want 5G from a flagship phone if you plan to use it for a few years, but the equation changes when we talk about the budget segment where the compromises caused by 5G are more noticeable. The Realme 8 5G is the perfect example of that.

At a price of ₹14,999 (~$200), it’s currently the cheapest 5G phone in the Indian market, where again,  5G doesn’t even exist. Unsurprisingly, in a bid to make it worthy of that title, Realme had to cut a lot of corners, and in the process created a phone that sacrifices too much for a future that seems distant at this point.

The Realme 8 5G primarily exists to offer customers an affordable 5G phone, even though I’m pretty convinced it wasn’t needed — the company’s very own Narzo 30 Pro 5G costs just a bit more and is as good if not better in all other aspects. Nevertheless, the Realme 8 5G looks fairly similar to the Realme 8, except that it (thankfully) doesn’t have any huge branding on the back. Speaking of the back, it is polycarbonate, but it doesn’t feel cheap; unfortunately, it’s also a fingerprint magnet. I’m worried about durability, too, because the phone caught scratches and scuffs pretty quickly during my testing.

There’s no OLED display here; a 6.5-inch 90Hz LCD panel will serve your viewing needs. While it doesn’t support HDR, it has good viewing angles and sunlight legibility. I can’t help but think this display could be better if not for the added expense of mostly useless 5G. The single bottom-firing speaker isn’t particularly great, but the presence of a 3.5mm headphone jack means you can use your wired headphones.

The Realme 8 5G runs on the Dimensity 700, which is a mid-range octa-core processor. It scores higher than the Snapdragon 732G in raw benchmark scores, but not all games have been optimized to make the most of it. For instance, Call of Duty: Mobile tops out at medium graphic quality settings when I’m pretty sure the chip can deliver better. You needn’t worry about day-to-day performance though, and the accompanying 8GB of RAM helps keep apps open in the background.

At a time when competitors are bundling 108MP sensors on phones in this price segment, the Realme 8 5G doesn’t even attempt to entice users with its triple-camera setup consisting of a 48MP wide, a B&W portrait lens, and a macro lens. I’m going to chalk this up to the higher cost of 5G components. The primary sensor takes decent shots in daylight, but low-light performance is underwhelming. Videos are capped at [email protected] For selfies, there’s a 16MP sensor, but it doesn’t get skin tones right. You’ll get a better, more versatile camera experience from phones that cost less but don’t have 5G.

Realme 8 5G shows us the real cost of 5G 2

On the software front, there’s Android 11 out of the box with Realme UI 2.0 on top. There are plenty of useful features like floating windows, customizable dark mode, and dual-mode audio, among others. My one major complaint with the software is that system apps like Browser and Themes send a ridiculous number of spammy notifications. There was a time when Realme ridiculed Redmi for showing ads, but well well well…how the turntables! As for Android updates, I wouldn’t bet my money on the phone receiving Android 13, unless Realme decides to wow us.

With the absence of any 5G networks right now, the phone’s 5,000mAh unit can easily last you a day and a half. I’ve had a couple of days where my screen on time has exceeded the 8-hour mark, even with the display always set to 90Hz. Unfortunately, the phone takes too long to charge, almost 2 hours and 30 minutes, with the bundled 18W proprietary charger. Realme has spoilt us with 30W and 65W chargers in this price segment, and anything lower than that feels like a major step back.

Should you buy it?

No. For the sake of 5G connectivity, the phone sacrifices a bunch of features available in Realme’s own competing devices — the Realme 8 and the Narzo 30 Pro 5G. The camera setup is inadequate, charging is slow, and the display, though isn’t bad, is not an OLED panel. While these may not seem like absolute dealbreakers, there are competing offerings like the Realme 8, the Redmi Note 10 Pro, and the Moto G40 Fusion that offer a lot more bang for your buck and even have extras like stereo speakers, higher-refresh-rate displays, IP certification, glass backs (granted, that’s subjective), and faster charging.

In order to qualify to be the cheapest 5G phone in the Indian market, the Realme 8 5G makes too many compromises. Being the cheapest 5G phone is of little value when 5G spectrum hasn’t even been auctioned in the country, and mass adoption is at least a couple of years away. Rest assured that by the time 5G rolls out for real, you’ll have a buffet of budget phones to choose from that will be better on all fronts.

Buy: Realme, Flipkart

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