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Realme 5i Review - Budget all-rounder

OPPO
Known as the more affordable sibling of the realme 5, the realme 5i recently arrived in the Philippines armed with the specs to thrill those in need of an affordable all-around smartphone. 
Realme 5i as another budget contender

For PHP 6,990, this phone is equipped with the following: 6.5-inch big display, Snapdragon 665 octa-core processor with Adreno 610 GPU, 12MP quad-camera setup, and a massive 5,000mAh battery capacity. 

Now, let's see if this device is great as it sounds on paper. Here's our full review, read on!

For our review part 1: Realme 5i Unboxing and First Impressions

Multimedia Experience

Tall and vivid display
Tall and vivid display

The realme 5 and 5i sports almost the same design, with the dewdrop notch design on the front, and thicker chin. Realme 5i features a large 6.5-inch 2.5D curved IPS display with HD+ resolution that amounts to 269 ppi.

Thin bezels are surrounding this display, except for the chin. On the top, there's a tiny notch housing the front camera. Still, it has a good screen-to-body ratio of 89 percent, maximized enough in viewing images or videos.

Since this only has an HD resolution, take note that it won't have the same level of sharpness as with those with FHD. You can see that small details like texts are not that crisp.

However, the color reproduction of the screen seems precise with a saturation that is quite satisfying. It leads toward warmer tones, but this can be altered through the "Display & Brightness" in the phone's display settings.

A pleasant viewing experience on a budget!

Speaking of brightness, the screen emits enough light which makes it viewable even during outdoors or direct sunlight. I find the viewing angle respectable too.

For reading the dark, I appreciate that it has the Night Shield option which cuts down the blue light, allowing you to rest your eyes during night time.

As expected, it is responsive enough and has 10 points of touch for convenient typing and swiping.

In terms of audio quality, the downward-firing speaker gave an average performance. When the volume is set to the highest, you can notice the distortion but considered minimal. The mids and lows have flaws, but the performance is still decent for a budget device.

I like the fact that this sports a 3.5mm headphone jack since I have an option to use my wired earphones whenever I want. Moreover, it gives a loud output even I set the volume only around 60 to 70 percent.

For calls, there was no problem encountered, the earpiece is also loud and clear. During testing, the person I called was able to hear my voice properly.

The device also did a good job in audio recordings, as there is little noise indoor. For outdoor recordings, wind noise is apparent but that is acceptable.

Cameras

Four cameras on its rear
Four cameras on its rear


Realme 5i has a total of five cameras, four in its back while one for the selfie. The quad-camera setup consists of the following:  a 12MP main, 8MP ultrawide, 2MP macro and 2MP depth sensor.

This may have the cheapest to have a quad-camera set-up. With that in mind, realme 5i may not excel in terms of image quality, but it gave an admirable performance for the price.
Realme 5i's camera UI
Realme 5i's camera UI

Its primary camera, a 12MP shooter was able to capture decent pictures with colors that look accurate.

Additionally, it is packed with different camera modes that can be useful depending on what kind of photo you want to attain.

First is the primary camera for detailed images. Second is the ultra-wide suitable for taking pictures of landscapes, skylines, or groups of people. The third is the macro lens for close-up images and the fourth is the depth sensor for artistic bokeh shots using the Portrait mode.

A flexible shooter for less!

It also has the Nightscape mode for up to 7s handheld long exposure shots. It's a realme 5i's camera feature that creates a big difference in dim or poorly-lit surroundings. This works on both the main and ultra-wide lenses.

Realme also equipped this device with an expert mode so the user can experiment by setting the ISO, shutter speed, white balance, focus, and EV manually.

If you're in a rush to take a good photo to post on social media, there's an option to activate the Chroma Boost. It optimizes the shots utilizing an AI, making the colors more vivid than they are actually are.

Here's what we think about how this entry-level smartphone performed as tested in different scenarios.

Rear Camera Samples

As quite expected from newly-released phones, the 5i has a quick shutter and saving speed. Focus speed is not the fastest, but that's quite understandable.
Normal daylight shot
Normal daylight shot

For daylight shots, the outputs are pretty great in terms of detail and colors. In addition to that, the dynamic range is also excellent so you can clearly see the contrast between the infrastructures and the blue color of the sky. 

Exposure is not that bright, but with a tap on the Chroma Boost, you'll get a slightly brighter image with punchier colors.
Daylight shot with Chroma Boost
Daylight shot with Chroma Boost

The Chroma Boost works most of the time, but there are situations where it'll make the image look unnatural and even cartoonish.
Normal shot using the primary camera
Normal shot using the primary camera

Testing the ultra-wide lens, the device was still able to retain clarity with just a bit of distortion and softness in detail.
The ultra-wide lens in action
The ultra-wide lens in action

The 2MP shooter for super macro mode is useable for situations with ample lighting. It can take decent shots at times.
Super macro mode showing the water droplets on a leaf
Super macro mode showing the water droplets on a leaf

Lighting really plays an important role in this device's Super macro mode.
Close up shots comparison between normal and macro mode
Close up shots comparison between normal and macro mode

Like all budget phones, realme 5i lacks a telephoto lens. But it has up to 2x lossless digital zoom. You can also zoom up to 5x and 10x digitally.
Normal 1x zoom
Normal 1x zoom

And yes, the 2x zoom mode provided us with acceptable results.
2x zoom
2x zoom

On the plus side, the portrait mode has respectable edge detection that effectively isolates the subject from the background.

Since the background blur is quite strong, it fails to appear to be natural-looking. But, that's understandable for the price.
Not bad bokeh shot using portrait mode
Not bad bokeh shot using portrait mode

Indoor shots in well-lit environments are pretty admirable, with plenty of details and accurate colors.
Indoor dim shot
Indoor dim shot

In dim lighting, the 5i was still able to produce photos with realistic colors and contrast.
Natural-looking photo of the subject
Natural-looking photo of the subject

In low light, realme 5i can deliver decent shots for the price. Although there were times that the photos are a bit grainy.
Nightscape mode is handy during low lit scenarios
Nightscape mode is handy during low lit scenarios

Using the Nightscape mode, you'll get better results. This feature brings out images with sharper details, enhanced dynamic range, and nicer exposure control. The shots it delivered are mostly not fake-looking as well. It did a fine job for the price.
Normal versus Nightscape mode
Normal versus Nightscape mode

Overall, I appreciate the four cameras of realme 5i, with its strong points in portrait and ultra-wide angle as a personal opinion. This just probably means that even you can still achieve a variety of shots even with a tight budget.

Just to summarize quickly, the realme 5i's primary camera had remarkable shots at daylight and indoor settings but had struggled a bit in low-lit environments and macro shots.

The ultra-wide lens did a good job also even with the slight noise in the background. The portrait mode was impressive in terms of edge detection, given that you are in bright conditions.
8MP front camera
8MP front camera

In front, the device has an 8MP front camera. Coming from the realme 5, it is step down. But, that's forgivable for the price.

As expected, its selfie cam comes with built-in beauty mode and filters if you want to enhance your facial features. Additionally, it has portrait mode and auto HDR.

Selfie Camera Samples

In daylight, it was able to quickly detect our faces, the photo-saving time is snappy as well.
Selfie bokeh
Selfie bokeh

Realme 5i takes photos with crisp details and the skin tone seems realistic when the beauty mode is turned off. Apart from that, it was able to provide shots with great exposure with superb contrast as well.
AI-beautified selfie
AI-beautified selfie

Decent even with face beauty
Decent even with face beauty

However, sometimes the AI produces too much beautification that the subject's skin tone appears white. Facial details are still there so I guess this is just a small issue.

Furthermore, I'm impressed with indoor selfies, since the details and colors are decent. There's minimal noise, of course.
Blur effect of the front camera
Blur effect of the front camera

The portrait mode also gave a strong performance, considering that the 5i has no separate depth sensor in front. In well-lit places, you can achieve a selfie with an acceptable blur effect.
Low light selfie
Low light selfie

Selfies in low-lit environments are just okay, it struggled pretty much that the photos are soft and grainy.

For videos, the realme 5i can capture up to 4K 30fps without image stabilization. If you want to reduce shakiness, you can set it to 1080 30fps since it has EIS stabilization.

Notably, this is a rare feature for a phone within this budget. As a result, the device gave an above-average performance and arguably superior at this price point. It can take highly-detailed images, pretty sharp and you can do a bit of zooming up to 10x.

Another great thing about the 5i is that it can shoot 1080p 30fps wide-angle videos with respectable quality. Even though it is not comparable to the output of high-end devices, the detail, color accuracy, and dynamic range are fairly satisfactory. Moreover, it can also perform time-lapse and slo-mo video recording.

The selfie camera can also shoot videos up to 1080 at 30fps. Quality is fairly decent, video samples are detailed and have great dynamic range. As for the stabilization, I can say it's on the average since there's a bit of jello.

Overall, I appreciate it's video capabilities since the crop is not that huge. With that in mind, there's no need to overstretch your arms just to get a decent selfie video.

Video Samples


Performance

AnTuTu, Geekbench
AnTuTu, Geekbench

Under the hood, 5i is powered by the 11nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 octa-core processor with Adreno 610 GPU. This chipset is said to perform better than Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400 series and the Helio P22 and P35 chipsets from MediaTek.
PCMark, 3DMark

This results in benchmark scores of 171,871 in AnTuTu and 314 and 1385 single-core and multi-core scores in Geekbench.

It was also able to achieve 7,774 points in PCMark whereas overall scores of 1,074 and 1,044 for Slingshot Extreme and Slingshot Extreme Vulkan respectively.

Under PHP 10K, only the gaming-focused realme C3 had slightly better numbers. This suggests that the realme 5i is one of the best performing phones for the price.

Even though it's 1GB less than Realme 5 4GB version I had no noticeable lagging experience all throughout my testing. It did quite well, as I navigated through apps, streamed on YouTube, and enjoyed casual games.

One of the speediest phones for the price!

Most of the games I tried were able to run smoothly, like PUBG, NBA 2K20, and Call of Duty: Mobile. The loading times were also fairly acceptable.

I also like the fact that its 64GB memory storage is expandable up to 256GB with a dedicated microSD slot. Other similarly priced devices only have 32GB storage.

For connectivity, the 5i comes with WiFi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 5.0, and 4G LTE with support for 10 FDD-LTE and TD-LTE bands. WiFi and Bluetooth connection are both stable as tested, and the GSM signal seems strong enough even during indoor use.

Other features that are included are the 3.5mm headphone jack and OTG support. Sensors that are typically found in modern devices are also present.

The face unlock feature and the fingerprint scanner are both easy and quick to set-up. Face unlock is fast in detecting my facial structure even I have my eyeglasses or not.

However, I had some minor difficulty in using this in a bit dark room. It still worked just fine with the help of the light coming from the screen.

Inside, the realme 5i runs by a massive 5,000mAh battery and that is commendable for its price. Thanks to its display with not super high resolution and power-efficient 11nm processor, the handset lasted for more than a day on a single charge.

In our actual test with moderate to heavy usage, the battery lasted for more than a day. By the afternoon of the second day, the phone still has 30 percent left of its juice. This after we used it for streaming, casual gaming, Waze, and browsing through some online stores.

Heavy gamers might enjoy using 5i for a long time, but they might have to charge it within a day.

Realme 5i lacks fast charging support. There's just a 5V/2A charger in the box that charges the device via micro USB. It approximately takes 180 minutes to 240 minutes to power up this smartphone to zero percent to full.
The UI

The user interface of ColorOS 6 is clean-looking and optimized, similar to what realme 5 has. However, it has a lot of pre-installed bloatware. So, we removed them after the set-up is finished.
Phone Manager and Theme Store
Phone Manager and Theme Store

I also noticed that it has a separate App Market app store and a Game Center, specifically made for games. Maybe it will be better if it only has one extra app store apart from the Google Play Store. This is to avoid confusion and having too many app marketplaces.

Casual gamers can focus on their games without popping notifications!

But, I like that it has a pre-installed Game Space app. This can be handy in blocking calls, notifications from Facebook messenger and other apps so the user won't be distracted.
Game Space optimizes to lessen latency while gaming
Game Space optimizes to lessen latency while gaming

Another good thing about Color OS 6 is that is a system-wide dark mode, making the interface easier on the eyes and less power consumption. Additionally, you can also turn on or off the dark mode of the apps individually.

It also has gesture controls for easy navigation through swiping.

Realme also promised that this handset will receive the realme UI update based on Android 10 this May.

Pros - Huge display with Gorilla Glass 3, Snapdragon 665, 5,000mAh battery, versatile quad-camera, stabilized 1080p videos, an affordable price tag
Cons - Still on micro USB, long hours to fully charge, gimmicky macro cam

Realme 5i Specs

Display: 6.5-inch 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass 3+ protected IPS screen w/ HD+ 1600 x 720 resolution at 269 ppi
CPU: 2.0GHz 11nm Snapdragon 665 AIE octa-core processor
GPU: Adreno 610
RAM: 3GB
ROM: 64GB expandable via microSD card slot up to 256GB
Back Camera: 12MP f/1.8 with PDAF + 8MP f/2.25 119-degree ultra-wide-angle + 2MP f/2.4 4cm macro + 2MP f/2.4 depth + LED flash
Selfie Camera: 8MP f/2.0 w/ AI Portrait
Battery: 5,000mAh w/ 10W charger
OS: Android 9.0 Pie w/ ColorOS 6.0
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 5, OTG, FM Radio, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, dual SIM
Sensors: Accelerometer, light, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, magnetic
Others: Fingerprint sensor, face unlock, splash resistance, Dirac HD Sound, Colors: blue, green
Dimensions: 164.4 x 75.6 x 9.3 mm
Weight: 198 g
Price: PHP 6,990

Verdict

At PHP 6,990, the realme 5i is a solid contender. Unlike most entry-level devices with lower specs, this handset gives you an 11nm Snapdragon 665, immersive 6.5-inch 720p IPS display, 5,000mAh battery, and versatile quad cameras.

Whether you want a phone for browsing, gaming or mobile photography, the 5i can give you more than you're paying for.

If you can spend a bit more, the realme 5 is a bit better. If you want a speedier device for gaming, opt for the realme C3 a slightly lower price tag. But, if you only have PHP 7K in your pocket and you want an all-around device, the realme 5i is a must consider.

Build/Design - 4.25
Multimedia Experience - 4
Cameras - 4.25
Performance 4.5
Average - 4.25/5

What do you guys think?
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