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Realme X50 5G review: A real rival to the OnePlus Nord

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
299
inc. VAT

The Realme X50 5G is an excellent smartphone that undercuts the OnePlus Nord by £70

Pros 
Great price
5G enabled
Stylish looking
Fabulous 120Hz screen
Cons 
Heavy
No expandable storage or headphone jack
The extra camera lenses aren’t hugely interesting
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You may not have heard of Realme, but that’s with pretty good reason: the company is just over two years old. In the 26 months between the Oppo offshoot opening in Shenzhen and me starting this review, it has managed to put out 18 smartphones. The one you’re reading about now, the Realme X50 5G, unsurprisingly supports the 5G network.

Not only does it have 5G, but it also manages to include a 48-megapixel quad-camera array and a 120Hz screen. Premium features, all things considered, and yet the Realme X50 5G manages to do all that for under £300, and it's cheaper than the recently-released OnePlus Nord.

Realme X50 5G review: What you need to know

The 5G connectivity and low cost of entry is possible thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G 5G processor that powers things. That means that, while it’s unquestionably fast, it’s not quite up there with top-end 5G flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S20 and iPhone 11 series of phones.

Still, the X50 5G does manage to pack in some enviable specs. The Snapdragon 765G is backed by 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage, and there are a few extra features that make it even more appealing. For starters, the 6.57in screen boasts a 120Hz refresh rate to make things feel buttery smooth in use. For seconds, there are no fewer than four camera lenses on the back: a 48-megapixel main lens, an 8-megapixel ultrawide camera, a black & white portrait lens and a macro snapper for close-up shots.

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Realme X50 5G review: Price and competition

All of this will only set you back £299 which, on paper at least, is nothing short of brilliant for a 5G-capable handset with specifications like this.

There are two other 5G phones we’ve seen recently that use the Snapdragon 765G processor, and only one is the same price. The Motorola Moto G 5G Plus also costs £300, but the brand-new OnePlus Nord is more expensive, and will set you back £379 at the time of writing.

Realme X50 5G review: Design

One of the positives of all phones looking broadly the same is that if you’re superficial enough to care about branding, then you’d have to get very close to tell that this wasn’t a handset from a better-known manufacturer.

Still, while it may be from a relatively unknown company, the Realme X50 5G looks just as stylish as any other manufacturer you’d care to name, with the shimmery colour scheme being the only giveaway that this isn’t the product of a less ‘fun’ company. The review model you’re looking at in these pictures is “Ice Silver” but it comes in an even jauntier “Jungle Green” which looks pretty stylish from the pictures. There’s no black or white option which may rule it out for some people, but personally I’m a fan of the colours on offer here.

At 202g, the Realme X50 5G is undeniably chunky, though. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it feels far more substantial than phones I’ve used recently, with the exception of the Oppo A5 which was 7g lighter. Still, given the Motorola Moto G 5G is 207g, maybe this is just something we’re going to have to live with if we want big screens, multiple cameras and a large battery to match.

For that weight, though, you get a substantial 6.57in screen, and a very limited bezel around the top which doubles in size around the ‘chin’ of the phone. There’s no notch, with Realme instead opting for a dual-camera embedded in a cut-out oval in the top left-hand corner of the screen.

Flip it over, and you’ll see the four cameras arranged vertically in the top left-hand corner, and very little else to speak of, barring the word “realme” written vertically at the bottom. It’s written in such a way that anyone you’re photographing in landscape mode will be able to read the words clearly. Clever move, Realme.

The fingerprint reader is mounted onto the power button, and I have to say it’s one of the fastest ones I’ve used, recognising my thumb instantly and unlocking accordingly. The only reason it might not unlock instantly is if the face unlocking feature beats it to the punch. Either way, you’re not going to spend a long time waiting for your phone to unlock.

There are a handful of disappointing drawbacks, mind. First off, there’s no expandable storage in the UK version, with Realme preferring to include a second SIM slot instead, so the 128GB capacity is all you’re getting here. That’s not a bad amount, but it is a shame when the UK doesn’t get access to larger capacity versions.

Secondly, there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack, and no USB-C earbuds in the box, so you’ll have to get some wireless ones if you want to listen to Spotify without annoying your fellow commuters (if you're catching the train these days). Finally, you’re not getting wireless charging at this price, though you do get a 30W Dart Charger in the box, which will give you a full charge in under an hour.

Realme X50 5G review: Screen

The Realme X50 5G’s 6.57in screen is a 2,400 x 1,080 IPS display. Some will be disappointed that it’s not AMOLED or a higher resolution, but for the price, it does a fine job – especially when you factor in that the company’s panel of choice has an optional 120Hz refresh rate.

But more on that in a moment. First off: does it get the basics right? Unquestionably, yes: this is a damned good screen. Using our colorimeter, we found that the X50 5G’s panel covered 93.5% of the sRGB gamut with a volume of 95.3%. That is very good indeed, right up there with the panel on the Motorola Moto G 5G Plus. It is, however, a fair bit less bright, only maxing out at 338cd/m2 – which will be fine in most cases, but may make it a bit trickier to read in direct sunlight. The contrast of 1,268:1 is, however, ample, and everything looks sharp and well defined.

The Realme X50 5G’s big party trick is that the screen is capable of displaying things at a 120Hz refresh rate, of course. I say ‘capable of’ because most apps don’t actually refresh at this rate, and the phone compensates for this. In the settings, it’s defaulted to “automatic” which switches to 120Hz when it detects an app that supports it. Forcing the 120Hz display prompts a warning from the phone telling you that it’ll get warmer, and battery life will suffer.

Switching between 60Hz and 120Hz in the settings does make for a noticeable difference in scrolling and navigating your way around Android. But to my eyes, it’s a fairly minor effect, and for day-to-day use, I’d probably rather have the extra battery life. Still, it’s nice to have the option, especially at this price point.

Realme X50 5G review: Performance

As I mentioned earlier, the Realme X50 5G is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor. It’s a 7nm octa-core chip clocked at 2.3GHz, and it’s no slouch – even if it is some distance behind the Snapdragon 865 which powers the top Android handsets around. In the UK, the Realme X50 5G gets 6GB of RAM, but for some reason I was sent the international version that has an extra 2GB included. In practical terms, that makes next to no difference, but it's worth keeping in mind when it comes to performance comparisons.

Actually, it’s a moot point, as I couldn’t get our usual benchmarking tools to work on the handset. This is usually thanks to manufacturers wanting to stop leaks before handsets are available, but it often gets forgotten when review units go out – which is presumably what has happened here. A simple software update should get things working again, however.

Still, it’s not hard to guess the Realme's performance. Both the Motorola Moto G 5G Plus and OnePlus Nord have the same processor, but with differing amounts of RAM: 4GB for the former and 12GB (!) for the latter. You can presumably stick the Realme X50 5G slap bang in the middle of these two:

As you can see, despite having three times’ as much RAM, the difference between the two is pretty much negligible. With that in mind, it won’t make much difference whether you buy the Realme X50 5G from a UK seller (6GB) or from an international seller (8GB), which is reassuring I guess.

The main point is that it feels slick and capable in day to day use and should be capable of playing any game the Google Play Store throws at it. That’s more than enough for the £300 cost of entry.

Battery life is worth highlighting here, both because the Realme X50 5G’s 4,200mAh cell offers excellent stamina, going 17 hours and five minutes in our standard test, and because there's a super-fast 30W Dart Charger in the box. Said charger is capable of topping up the battery from zero to 70% in half an hour, and will get you all the way to 100% in under an hour.

While the overall battery drain is faster than its two 5G-toting rivals – the OnePlus Nord and Motorola Moto G 5G Plus – it’ll still get you through a day’s heavy use easily. And that’s really all that is required of a modern smartphone battery, frankly.

Realme X50 5G review: Camera

In total, the Realme X50 5G has six lenses – two on the front and four on the back. The rear cameras are, as ever, far more important and sadly there’s no telephoto lens in the mix. Instead, you get a 48-megapixel f/1.8 main lens, supported by an eight-megapixel ultrawide camera, a black & white portrait snapper and a macro lens for close-up photography.

And in daylight, it works pretty well, as you can see above. Unfortunately, coronavirus being what it is, doing direct comparisons to phones in the Expert Reviews labs is a bit tricky at the moment. Still, for comparison’s sake, we have my own Samsung Galaxy S10e – which isn’t exactly fair on either, given it retailed for £669 back at launch, but said launch was nearly two years ago.

There’s not much in it, although you’d probably give the S10e the win here, as the X50 oversaturates the colours a little bit, and provides a little less detail on the brickwork. Still: it’s not a bad performance at all.

In low light, both phones suffer as you might expect, but I think the Realme X50 5G has a very slight edge here. While both cameras struggle to take in Brando the Cat’s lustrous furry locks, the brickwork on the house behind is markedly more clear on the Realme X50 5G.

Here’s another one, where it’s a bit closer. In the garden with night falling, it looks like the Galaxy S10e generates fewer compression artefacts and has the slight edge:

But it’s a close call, and again remember the Realme X50 5G is going for less than half the price that the Samsung Galaxy S10e launched at. So through that lens (arf) I think we can call this a win for Realme.

The other cameras are a bit less appealing to me. I’d give up the ultrawide, macro and black & white lens in favour of a telephoto one, personally. Still, the macro one is at least a little bit fun. Here’s a 20p coin zoomed up close:

On the front, there are two cameras: a 16-megapixel primary camera, and a 2-megapixel portrait lens. Results are solid enough, and even the beautification features are on the subtle side compared to the monstrosities we’ve seen elsewhere.

The Realme X50 5G is capable of shooting 720p, 1080p or 4K video – the former two in either 30 or 60fps, while the latter is locked to 30fps. That said, the footage I captured wasn’t the best I’ve seen: although the stabilisation was excellent, it didn’t cope too well with sharp turns, and tended to get overwhelmed by the sudden appearance of new light sources, with the whole shot taking a moment to recover and display things normally.

Realme X50 5G review: Verdict

All in all, it’s very hard to raise any legitimate criticisms of the Realme X50 5G. There are some improvements that would definitely be nice – if it were a bit lighter, or had a telephoto lens, expandable storage and a 3.5mm headphone jack, say – but these quibbles feel a bit hollow when you look at the price. Paying £300 for a 5G-enabled phone is a bargain, and it would be churlish to moan about what might have been if it were more expensive.

If you don’t feel like you need 5G for the foreseeable future – a perfectly legitimate position given the limited coverage – then you might be better off looking to one of last year’s flagship phones as they’ve dropped in price. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with the Realme X50 5G for £300.

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