After staving off Xiaomi’s stranglehold on the mid-range smartphone segment, Realme has been consistently aiming upwards. The Realme GT is the company’s attempt at the value flagship market, a market erstwhile dominated by OnePlus that has been seeing increasing competition from Xiaomi, Iqoo, and Vivo.
In the Android Authority Realme GT 5G review, we see if a deep focus on design and a solid feature set is good enough to set the phone apart from the myriad options on the market.
What you need to know about the Realme GT
- Realme GT 5G (8GB RAM/128GB Storage): €499 / £399 / Rs. 37,999
- Realme GT 5G (12GB RAM/256GB Storage): €599 / Rs. 41,999
The Realme GT is the Shenzhen-based company’s flagship device for 2021. It’s the top-end device in the GT series that includes the Realme GT Master Edition as well as a GT Explorer Master Edition. Confusing and similar names aside, the three phones are distinct not just in terms of capabilities, but also design. Unlike the other phones in the series, the Realme GT has its sights set on the affordable flagship segment with its top-of-the-line Snapdragon 888 chipset.
The Realme GT 5G is available in a range of colors, namely Dashing Blue, Dashing Silver, and Racing Yellow. The Racing Yellow variant includes a unique leather and glass design and is only available in top-spec, so you’ll have to splurge out a bit more for it.
In India, the phone can be purchased on Realme.com and Flipkart. In Europe, the phone can be purchased directly from Realme.com as well as Amazon, though only the 8/128GB version is available in the UK via Amazon at the time of writing.
How’s the design?
Lean back far enough, and you might spot some signs of the Grand Touring cars that the Realme GT appears to be based on. The phone makes copious use of racing lines and clean stripes to craft a distinctive visual identity that stands out amidst a plethora of glass and metal sandwiches, all while hinting at the speed under the hood.
The Realme GT’s racing line hints at speed, while the vegan leather keeps fingerprints at bay.
The balance of speed and luxury extends to the vegan leather back that is juxtaposed with a black strip of glass to great effect. It looks rather good, especially in the Racing Yellow color we have on hand. What’s even better is the overall hand-feel of the device. The material gives exceptional grip and keeps fingerprints at bay.
Realme is continuing its use of polycarbonate mid-frames with the GT, and I can’t really fault the company for doing so. The material feels solidly built, albeit not as premium as aluminum. More importantly, it helps keep the weight down. At 186g, the Realme GT is light enough to be comfortable all day long. Compared to other high-powered beasts like the Mi 11 Ultra (234g), the Realme GT feels positively feather-light.
The 6.43-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED display on the Realme GT is a delight to use. It’s a perfectly comfortable size for typing and casual use, as well as gaming and watching movies. Realme is using Asahi’s Dragontrail protective glass solution on the Realme GT rather than the more common Gorilla Glass from Corning, though it’s still tough by industry standards.
As for the actual image quality, the panel has all the standard characteristics of Realme devices. Colors tend to be a bit oversaturated out of the box, but this can be easily tuned in the settings. Peak brightness levels are more than satisfactory and the 120Hz dynamic refresh rate is enabled by default. Equally important, the automatic brightness calibration works markedly better than on competing devices by Xiaomi and OnePlus, giving the Realme GT a small but important win.
The in-display fingerprint reader is quick to unlock the device and I didn’t come across any issues with accuracy. Elsewhere, the phone includes dual speakers that can be turned up particularly loud. As is the case with many more affordable devices, the speakers are a bit imbalanced, with a skew towards the bottom-firing speaker. However, they sound really good even when cranked up high.
Realme’s focus on refinement and polish is evident once you spend some time with the phone. Basics like ergonomics, tactile feedback, and typing experience are just as important as specs. The combination of soft-touch materials and a lightweight frame makes the phone a joy to use and comfortable to grip for hours on end.
How powerful is the Realme GT?
This being Realme’s 2021 flagship, there’s ample power on offer. The phone is equipped with a Snapdragon 888 chipset that packs enough grunt to power through nearly any task you throw at it. Rounding off the specs is an Adreno 660 GPU, up to 12GB of RAM, and between 128GB and 256GB of non-expandable storage. Clearly, the phone is no slouch.
While some of the benchmark scores fall below the very fastest we’ve seen from other Snapdragon 888 phones, the day-to-day performance is perfectly smooth, and Realme UI makes the hardware shine with its smooth transitions and nifty animations. That is, however, to be expected with top-tier hardware. The real test then is gaming. I put the Realme GT through multiple rounds of Call of Duty: Mobile and it absolutely aced it, with round after round locked at a smooth 60Hz.
A built-in utility allows you to switch performance profiles. However, even with the performance set to balanced, I had no trouble maxing out all the graphics settings in the game. Moreover, I just didn’t feel the need to switch to high-performance mode at all. Realme’s excellent thermal optimization also stood out to me. Sure, the phone gets warm to the touch but it was never hot enough to be a deterrent. In fact, I observed that the Realme GT was markedly cooler than competing phones in its category.
Is battery life any good?
The Realme GT doesn’t really push the envelope as far as battery capacity is concerned. It has a 4,500mAh cell which is about par for the course for this price.
The company’s excellent battery optimization shines, and the Realme GT easily gets through a full day of use with battery life to spare. I used the phone set to the balanced performance profile and regularly managed over six hours of screen-on time. Just as important, the phone sips battery while gaming, and I observed a perfectly acceptable drop of about 5% over half an hour of gaming.
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Charging speeds using the included 65W charger are suitably quick. I clocked a 0% to 100% charge time of a rapid 45 minutes. Keep in mind this is proprietary charging tech, so if you use a different adapter then charging speeds will be much slower. Unfortunately, there is no wireless charging on board, but this is a rarity for more affordable phones.
Does the Realme GT have good cameras?
Making a high-performance, value-focused smartphone is all about finding the right balance. The Realme GT follows that same formula with its 64MP primary camera, matched up with an 8MP ultra-wide shooter and a ho-hum 2MP macro sensor. You won’t find any telephoto lenses here.
The primary 64MP shooter on the Realme GT is rather good. There’s a slight skew towards oversaturated colors, but images still look pleasing to the eye. In fact, the boosted reds and a hint of sharpening really make the photographs pop. I didn’t notice much noise as long as there was sufficient ambient light. This, however, changes drastically in low light — but we’ll talk about that in a second.
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Elsewhere, HDR performance is satisfactory. The phone can struggle with balancing direct sunlight and details in darker regions, but in most cases, there is ample detail to be found and highlight clipping is minimal.
The ultra-wide-angle camera has a 119-degree field of view that captures well-exposed images with accurate white balance. Distortion is mostly kept in check though you will notice some around the edges. The low-resolution 8MP sensor, however, means that there isn’t a whole lot of detail in the images, in case you were planning to crop in.
The phone also sports a rather terrible 2MP macro lens. The low resolution and iffy focusing make it a pain to get up close with the subject. In actual use, you’ll have better luck using the digital zoom to focus on small subjects.
Indoors, with more extreme swings in dynamic range, the phone can struggle a bit with highlight clipping. That ties into the Realme way of producing bright, contrasty images. That said, the Realme GT is capable of getting the shot more often than not, and that should please most buyers.
The Realme GT’s primary camera ramps up noise levels drastically in low-light, giving images an almost film-like appearance. In most cases, I’d point this out as a negative, but the phone manages to retain a good amount of detail here and I didn’t mind the natural-looking shots so much.
For those who like to illuminate the night, the dedicated Night Mode is quick to capture a low-light shot and is a drastic change from the standard low-light image. Photos are significantly brighter and reveal a lot more of the scene. Unfortunately, the final shots have a softness to them and there’s a noticeable loss in detail, especially if you crop in.
The 16MP front-facing camera on the Realme GT performs splendidly. Skin-softening is kept to a minimum, though you can bump it up if you prefer. There’s a good amount of detail but, more importantly, white balance and exposure levels are on point.
Portrait mode does an okay job at edge detection and creates an even-looking depth of field effect. That said, there is an added softness to the shots that I wasn’t a big fan of.
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Video capture goes up to 4K at 60fps, and the built-in electronic stabilization does a brilliant job of keeping handheld video stable. White balance isn’t perfect, and footage can be a bit brighter than the actual setting but the end result is more than serviceable.
You can take a look at the full resolution Realme GT camera samples at our Google Drive link.
- Software: The Realme GT runs on Android 11 with Realme UI on top. I like the changes here, for the most part. The interface is very well optimized, with slick transitions all around. You will also find ample opportunities to customize the phone to your liking. Realme’s long-standing issues with bloatware, however, continue to plague the phone. Those pre-loaded apps also tend to spam the notification shade. Finally, I reached out to Realme about promised software support, however, the company is yet to issue any formal comment on the same.
- IP rating: An IP rating is no longer considered just a nice-to-have add-on even at this price point. The lack of any water resistance is a big miss for the Realme GT.
- 5G support: The Realme GT 5G includes extensive 5G band support, but that does not include mmWave 5G. I wasn’t able to test out this feature due to the lack of network support in India. It also supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity.
- Headphone jack: The headphone jack might have gone the way of the dodo on many mainstream flagships, but Chinese smartphone manufacturers are keeping the feature alive and the Realme GT doesn’t stray away from it either. I tested out the phone with a pair of 1More Triple Driver earphones, and the audio output was crisp and clear. No complaints.
- Pre-launch gripes: It is worth keeping in mind that we noticed a few software issues with our review hardware which were quickly fixed with an update. Meanwhile, my colleague in Germany ended up with a unit that simply refused to charge when its battery became fully depleted. It is highly likely that the issues were due to early review samples, but buyers might want to quickly Google for any broader issues before finalizing their purchase. We’ll update this space in case Realme shares further information following their investigation into the phone(s).
Realme GT specs
|Realme GT 5G (Global)|
FHD+ Super AMOLED
2,400 x 1,080 resolution
|Chipset||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 (5nm)
Up to 2.84GHz clock speed
65W SuperDart charging
(65W charger in box)
64MP f/1.8 Sony IMX682
8MP f/2.3 ultra-wide
2MP f/2.4 macro
|IP Rating||N/A, splash-proof|
Bundled USB-C earbuds
|Connectivity||Dual nano-SIM slots
5G+5G Dual Mode
Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE802.11ax) 2.4/5GHz
|Sensors||Magnetic induction, light, proximity, gyro, acceleration|
|Security||In-display fingerprint sensor|
Realme UI 2.0
|Colors||Dashing Blue, Dashing Silver, Racing Yellow|
|Dimensions||VGlass: 158.5 x 73.3 x 8.4mm
Vegan leather: 158.5 x 73.3 x 9.1mm
Value and competition
Dare to Leap
There’s little doubt that the Realme GT offers significant value. The specs sheet is as competitive as anything else in the segment, but the true differentiator is the design and general refinement. That said, the unique trim is limited to just the top variant with the base model sporting a glass and aluminum design.
In India, strong competitors include the OnePlus 9R (Rs. 39,999) that is powered by a mildly slower Snapdragon 870 chipset, but makes up for it with a cleaner software build and a premium look. There’s also the Iqoo 7 Legend (Rs. 39,990) that has much the same specs but offers an equally unique design and a large vapor chamber that keeps the phone cool.
The Xiaomi Mi 11X Pro 5G (€499/Rs. 39,999), or the Mi 11i as it is known in Europe, is yet another alternative. The phone one-ups the Realme GT 5G with its 108MP camera, and adds features like an IP53 rating as well as 8K recording capabilities.
For those in Europe, the OnePlus Nord 2 (£399/€419) is a striking alternative that gets you most of the goodies from the OnePlus 9 at a budget price point. The MediaTek Dimensity 1200 AI brings plenty of power, and the camera isn’t too bad despite the inconsistent performance.
There’s also the Poco F3 (£329/€349), another Snapdragon 870 toting phone that undercuts the Realme GT in pricing. There are some concessions to be made in terms of charging speed, but the quality camera and excellent value make up for it.
Extending your budget will also get you the OnePlus 9 ($729/£629/€699/Rs. 49,999) which packs similar internals but improves on the ultra-wide shooter with its 50MP camera, as well as a much cleaner software experience.
Realme GT review: The verdict
The Realme GT doesn’t redefine the value flagship, but it doesn’t pull any punches either. The phone represents a more mature Realme that doesn’t feel the need to win through cutthroat pricing. The competitive hardware package speaks volumes, and I like that Realme has focused more on the design than gimmicks.
The Realme GT represents a more mature Realme that is focused on design and refinement over gimmicks.
All the essentials are in place. The Realme GT delivers performance in spades and doesn’t heat up while doing so. It’s got a great screen and a primary camera that captures well-exposed and detailed images. It’s not without its flaws, however. The secondary cameras aren’t that great and Realme’s software is still too bloated (not to mention the lack of an official update promise). The absence of an IP rating is particularly disappointing as it would have truly elevated the phone as a standout competitor.
Overall, the Realme GT nails the basics and is a strong alternative to the competition. However, the top-end variant with its vegan leather design is the one that truly embodies the spirit of fast, luxurious Grand Touring cars and comes across as the clear winner.