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Realme C35 review: A good choice, but there are cheaper options

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
169
inc. VAT

The Realme C35 is a decent phone, but the cheaper C31 isn’t too far behind

Pros 
Great design
Excellent screen
Decent price
Cons 
Similar performance to cheaper C31
Poor video capture
Weak gaming performance
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You can get an implausible amount of phone for under £200 these days, with handsets such as the Realme C35 emphasising the point. A stylish 6.6in smartphone, Realme has somehow manufactured something that looks just as appealing as a flagship that costs two or three times the price.

But what compromises have been made on the inside to get it in under £200? Let’s find out.

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Realme C35 review: What you need to know

Rather than using a chip from Android stalwarts Qualcomm or MediaTek, Realme has struck out a different approach by using Unisoc’s T616 processor. It’s a 12nm octa-core chip with speeds of up to 2GHz with a built-in ARM Mali-G57 GPU. This is backed up by 4GB RAM, 64GB or 128GB storage and a chunky 5,000mAh battery.

But, on paper, the real star of the show is likely the triple-camera array, consisting of a 50MP (f/1.8) main snapper and a pair of additional sensors – one for macro photography, and the other for moody black and white shots.

Realme C35 review: Price and competition

Those specs sound decent enough assuming the processor is up to snuff, and the price is certainly competitive, too, coming in at £169. That’s £40 more than the Realme C31.

At that price, its competitors consist of the Motorola Moto G31 (£170), the Nokia G50 (£200) and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 (also £200). It’s a relatively busy field, so the Realme C35 really ought to pull out all the stops in order to stand apart.

Realme C35 review: Design and key features

On that front, the Realme C35 really succeeds in terms of looks. It’s a handsome handset, with a large 6.6in display dominating the front. The bezel isn’t the thinnest, especially around the chin, where the rounded corners of the screen are slightly off putting, but it’s not ugly by any means.

It’s the sides and back where the Realme C35 particularly stands out, combining rounded and flat to something that’s pleasingly distinctive. The corners are rounded on the front, but the sides and back are flat, with a sharp edge dividing the two. The rear triple camera array is raised with a transparent bit of plastic, which allows the colour scheme – “Glowing Green” in our case – to really shine through.

I said it was distinctive in the previous paragraph, and actually that should come with one big caveat: it’s distinctive when compared to Android handsets, since it’s actually not a million miles away from the iPhone 13 Pro’s design. Of course, albeit with a plastic build, a smaller teardrop notch and a rectangular camera hump rather than the square used by Apple. Still, the iPhone 13 Pro is a marvellous piece of design, and anything that offers something similar for under 20% of the price should be celebrated.

Realme has a couple of other advantages over the iPhone, too, thanks to Apple’s stubborn refusal to include consumer friendly extras like a headphone jack, USB-C charging and expandable storage – both of which are included here (with up to 1TB of internal memory supported). Pleasingly, it also supports dual SIMs and a microSD card in tandem, thanks to the three-card slot.

Realme C35 review: Display

The 6.6in screen is an IPS number, which is unsurprising given the low cost of entry. But how does it cope compared to other phones in the price bracket?

Very well, is the answer. The Realme C35’s 1080p panel covers 95% of the DCI-P3 gamut with a gamut volume of 97.4% and an average Delta E of 2.22. In other words, the screen is as colour accurate as it gets at this price, and it also reaches a decent 449cd/m2 brightness, with a contrast ratio of 1,137:1.

It’s not OLED, and it refreshes at 60Hz, but these are small concessions to make for a quality phone screen that keeps the price under £200.

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Realme C35 review: Performance and battery life

The vast majority of Android phones use processors from Qualcomm or MediaTek, but Realme has opted for the less popular (but emerging) Unisoc brand. Specifically, the Tiger T616 chipset, which offers eight cores – two at 2GHz and six at 1.8GHz. This is backed by 4GB of RAM.

In Geekbench 5, it doesn’t do too badly against the competition. But the main problem is that it’s almost a dead heat against the £40 cheaper Realme C31, which is a touch awkward.

It also is a fair way behind the £200 Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 and Nokia G50 in terms of multi-core performance, but is ever so slightly better than the Moto G31 which it matches for price at £170.

In terms of 3D performance, however, things fall apart quickly for Unisoc. Both the Realme handsets underperform here, not just against the Qualcomm processors used by Xiaomi and Nokia, but against the MediaTek Helio G85 in the Moto G31. In other words, if you want to play games at higher frame rates, you might want to look elsewhere.

With a battery life of over 15 hours in our tests, the Realme C35 should be a winner in that respect. That is, of course, if every one of its opponents weren’t even better. Personally, I think that anything over 14 hours is fine enough, but if you really want the longest gap between charging possible, then the Nokia G50 and Redmi Note 11 provide over 20 hours, and the Moto G31 almost manages a full day.

Realme C35 review: Cameras

Like the cheaper Realme C31, the C35 comes with a triple camera array including both a macro lens and a monochrome sensor. The difference is in the main lens, which jumps from a 13MP (f/2.2) number to a 50MP (f/1.8) sensor.

On paper, that sounds like quite the difference, and early impressions were indeed good. Take this shot of my local church on a nice, bright summer day – all’s good, right?

It is indeed very nice, but when zoomed in, it actually has less detail than the same image captured by the C31’s ‘inferior’ 13MP camera. Just look around the roof tiles and brickwork.

To be clear, both are decent shots for under £200. But it still leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth, since you’re getting a marginally better camera for a bit less money.

In low-light conditions, it’s less clear cut, but the fact that it’s even competitive does make you wonder why on Earth you’d spend £40 more.

The front-facing 8MP (f/2) selfie camera is good enough. It doesn’t overdo it with the beauty filters, either – or rather, it doesn’t by default. Below, from left to right, you can see it with everything disabled, the default setting and everything turned up to max.

As a video camera, the Realme C35 isn’t anything to write home about. It’s capable of shooting 1080p video at 30fps, but the content is soft and a little lacking in detail. It’d be fine to capture something in a pinch, but if you take a lot of clips, then you’ll want something a bit pricier.

Realme C35 review: Verdict

Despite rather liking the Realme C35, it’s ultimately very hard to recommend. Yes, it’s a stunning handset for the price, with an excellent screen and adequate performance, but it’s undermined by the Realme C31 which is only slightly slower and provides better photography for £40 less.

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Yes, the C35 looks nicer and undoubtedly has a more colour accurate, higher resolution screen, but if you’re shopping at the budget end of the market, are these things really worth the extra outlay? Besides, if you do have a bit more money to burn, it’s probably better to fork out an extra £30 and get a Nokia G50 or shop around for a deal on the older Poco X3 NFC or Moto G50 instead.

You won’t be disappointed by the C35, but Realme is a victim of its budget success. Why pay more when the C31 already offers so much?

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