Packing five cameras and a 90Hz 6.5in display, the Realme 6 is a strong contender for budget phone of the year
- Lovely 90Hz display
- Good all-around performance
- No water resistance
- Battery life could be better
Budget phones keep getting better year after year, and we’re at the point now where flagship handsets are looking woefully overpriced. The Realme 6 is a typical example. On paper, it looks like the perfect phone; the price, however, is a very reasonable £269.
Excellent as the Realme 6 is, though, it does have a couple of serious rivals in its price bracket. In recent months, Samsung has unleashed a slew of phenomenal budget handsets, while Motorola has succeeded in making 5G more accessible than any other manufacturer, also at low prices. Does the Realme 6 have what it takes to beat these more established brands?
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Realme 6 review: What you need to know
Running Android 10, the Realme 6 has a gorgeous 6.5in FHD+ 90Hz display and is powered by a MediaTek Helio G90T processor. Depending on the model you go for, you’ll get either 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage or 8GB RAM and a 128GB SDD. We’re testing the latter version here.
Besides the high-powered internals and snazzy high-refresh screen, the Realme 6 also packs in a quadruple-camera led by a 64MP primary sensor, plus a 16MP selfie snapper. As you can see, it has an awful lot going for it.
Realme 6 review: Price and competition
Nobody can say the Realme 6 isn’t great value for money. The base model, which has 4GB RAM and a 64GB SSD, costs a mere £219 and our 8GB/128GB review unit goes for only £269. It’s admittedly at the higher end of the budget category but, at this price, few phones can rival its performance and camera quality.
One phone that can, however, is the Samsung Galaxy M31. At just £245, it’s slightly cheaper than the Realme 6, although not quite as powerful. But that doesn’t matter because it has a stunning quadruple rear camera and the longest battery life of any phone we’ve ever tested.
If you can afford a tiny bit extra, you could also pick up the Motorola Moto G 5G Plus for around £280. Like the Realme 6, it features a large 90Hz display and stonking all-around performance but it has the added bonus of 5G support. If you’re after next-gen connectivity, the Moto G 5G Plus is the cheapest way to get it.
Realme 6 review: Design
The Realme 6 is a nice-looking phone, although there’s not a whole lot to mark it out as special; remove the Realme logo at the back and you’d probably struggle to tell you who’d made it.
My review unit is finished in a fetching Comet White colour that catches the light in an attractive way and does a pretty good job of hiding grubby fingerprints, as does the Gorilla Glass 3 covering the display. Realme says the phone is splash resistant but there’s no IP rating so this is probably best viewed as emergency protection rather than a license to regularly whip it out when it’s raining.
The 6.5in display is surrounded by relatively slim borders, although the chin bezel is slightly thicker than the rest and, since the 16MP front-facing camera is embedded in the top-left corner of the screen, the panel is blissfully notch-free.
At the rear, the phone’s four cameras are aligned in a column in the top left corner, with the LED flash nestled to the right. Because the camera unit juts out slightly the phone doesn’t lie down flush on flat surfaces, although if you slap on the bundled clear plastic case this becomes less noticeable.
The power button, which doubles as a thumbprint reader, is on the right edge and the volume rockers are situated on the left-hand side, beneath a triple card slot that can hold two nano-SIMs and a microSD card up to 256GB. Down at the bottom, you’ll find a 3.5mm audio jack, a USB-C charging port and two sets of speaker grilles. As is often the case with cheaper handsets, there’s actually only one speaker – no sound comes out of the left grille.
For watching YouTube, the audio quality is perfectly fine. Dialogue comes across clearly and crisply and the volume level is more than high enough. Unsurprisingly, the bass is completely non-existent, though.
Realme 6 review: Display
One of the phone’s biggest draws is its 90Hz screen. Measuring 6.5in across the diagonal, it has a resolution of 1,800 x 2,400 (FHD+), giving it a pixel density of 405ppi. The fluidity, brightness and vibrancy of the display really do stand out and, on a technical level, it’s not too shabby either.
In our colour calibration tests, the Realme 6’s panel covered 94.5% of the sRGB gamut and produced a gamut volume of 114.9%. That isn’t class-leading and some colours – greens and blues especially – are oversaturated but an overall Delta E accuracy of 3.03 is not bad for a handset at this price. If you’re a stickler for natural colours, however, the Moto G 5G Plus and Samsung Galaxy M31 both offer superior colours and better accuracy.
The screen’s 1,247:1 contrast ratio is what I’d expect of a phone at this price; while not eye-popping, colours and objects do still look pretty vibrant. And with a maximum brightness of 438cd/m², the Realme 6’s panel is adequately suited for indoor and outdoor use. Even under the glare of direct sunlight, it’s extremely easy to read texts and make out Google Maps directions. Visibility does drop off quite sharply when the viewing angle is off-centre, though.
Realme 6 review: Performance and battery life
In day-to-day use, the Realme 6 is a pleasure to use. It zips around Android 10 at breakneck speed, launching apps instantaneously and not even blinking when you open up a couple of dozen tabs on Chrome. Based on my experience with the phone, its benchmark results came as no surprise.
The Realme 6 on test here runs an octa-core MediaTek G90T processor supported by 8GB RAM, a combination that led to an exceptional score in the GeekBench 5 CPU tests. With a single-core result of 487 and a multi-core score of 1,583, the Realme 6 cruises past its two Samsung rivals, the Galaxy M31 and Galaxy A51, and almost reaches the heights achieved by the pricier Moto G 5G Plus.
It’s a great choice for gaming, too, delivering an on-screen average of 45fps and an off-screen average of 50fps in the GFXBench Manhattan 3 test and it’s a superb handset for playing competitive shooting games such as Fortnite and PUBG Mobile as well. The large, vibrant screen makes it easy to spot and take aim at opponents and that 90Hz refresh rate makes games look super smooth.
The Realme 6’s 4,300mAh battery kept it going for 17hrs 30mins in our standardised video rundown test. That’s not a poor result on its own, as the phone will last well over a day with moderate use but, comparatively speaking, it’s below average. The Moto G 5G Plus went for nearly 23hrs while the Samsung Galaxy M31 managed to last for an Odyssean 30hrs 20mins, longer than any other phone we’ve tested. And we’ve tested a lot.
Realme 6 review: Camera
Like the key rivals I’ve just mentioned, the Realme 6 is equipped with a quadruple-camera setup at the rear. This is headed up by a 64MP, f/1.8 primary sensor and it’s accompanied by an 8MP, f/2.3 ultrawide camera, a 2MP, f/2.4 depth sensor and a 2MP, f/2.4 macro lens. At the front, there’s a punch-hole 16MP, f/2.0 selfie camera. The main camera captures video in 4K at 30fps (stabilised) while the front shoots non-stabilised footage in 1080p at 30fps.
The camera’s software is pretty standard fare. Its regular Photo mode shoots in HDR by default, capturing photos in 3,456 x 4,608, while its 64MP mode saves shots at 6,944 x 9,280. To jump between those and other modes such as Night, Video and Portrait, you simply swipe left and right on the screen.
Each mode has its own specific fine-tuning settings and these appear at the top of the screen. Most also include a selection of pretty terrifying AI-assisted ‘beautifying’ features, accessed at the bottom-right corner of the viewfinder.
Image quality is fantastic. The Realme 6’s camera does a brilliant job of picking up detail on a variety of subjects, from the fine grain in a plank of wood to the petals of a flower and the thin white whiskers of a cat. Wide scenic shots look especially great; I didn’t come across any issues with overexposure and most of my shots looked well-balanced lighting-wise.
I will say that the HDR mode can be overzealous, churning out heavily saturated shots that look like they’ve been run through a watercolour filter. Zoomed photos are nothing special either, as the Realme 6 doesn’t have a telephoto lens; everything between 1.1x and 10x is done digitally.
Stacked alongside photos taken by the iPhone SE (2020), you can see that the Realme 6 has a pretty formidable camera for such an affordable phone. In low-light and regular conditions, it captures plenty of detail with a minimal amount of noise.
But it isn’t so good at producing natural-looking colours or brightening up darker areas in the background, as shown in the comparison shots above.
In most situations, I’d probably choose to take photos in the 64MP mode, provided the lighting conditions are right. The 64MP shots almost always have more natural-looking colours and fewer exposure issues than shots taken in standard Photo mode. Frustratingly, however, the 64MP option would occasionally disappear from the camera’s central menu, returning only once I’d restarted the phone.
Realme 6 review: Verdict
For the price, however, it’s really tough to find fault with the Realme 6; it’s one of the finest smartphones in its price range, and the cheapest phone we’ve ever tested to have a 90Hz screen. Performance and battery life are decent and even the cameras are fine – if not quite up to the standard of the iPhone SE (2020).
The only thing is, you can buy the Samsung Galaxy M31 for £24 less. True, the M31 doesn’t have as much raw power but it more than makes up for this with astonishing levels of battery life that could potentially last you two days or more.
Add fantastic cameras and an impeccable 6.4in AMOLED display into the mix and it’s obviously the better buy. Having said all that, if you do end up buying the Realme 6, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.
|Realme 6 specifications
(2 x 2.05 GHz, 6 x 2.0 GHz)
|4GB or 8GB
|2,400 x 1,800
|64MP, f/1.8; 8MP, f/2.3;
2MP, f/2,4; 2MP, f/2.4
|Dust and water resistance
|3.5mm headphone jack
|USB connection type
|64GB or 128GB
|Memory card slot
|MicroSD up to 256GB
|162 x 75 x 8.9mm