A $229 Phone That’s Just Fine

Realme is one of the most prolific smartphone makers around. It was just four years ago when I reviewed the Realme 2, and now here we are with the Realme 10. Like its predecessors, this new phone is intended to appeal to the entry level market in India and Southeast Asia, with an emphasis on sleek looks and camera performance that punches above its price range.

While there is a very baffling omission that I will get to very soon, the Realme 10’s starting retail price of around $229 makes it hard to nitpick. Virtually any phone cheaper than this won’t look as good or have as impressive a main camera.

Design

The Realme 10 is a relatively small Android phone, with a 6.4-inch OLED display, a weight of 179g and coming in at 7.9mm thick.

I’m a fan of the overall shape, which takes a on a flatter profile, straying from the usual dual curved sides of Android devices. It’s a design similar to the iPhone’s blocky vibe, but much more comfortable to hold because it’s lighter, thinner, and the corner where the edges meet are slightly curved. The back plate is plasticky with this glittery coating that isn’t my cup of tea, but it does reflect light in different ways depending on angle. The front side is protected by Gorilla Glass 5.

There are a few things that keep this screen from being a flagship panel — the refresh rate is just 90Hz, and the chin bezel is noticeably thicker. Still, the screen displays vibrant colors and get bright enough.

cameras

The Realme 10 features a 50-megapixel main camera that is very good for its price range. It’s fast to focus, captures images with above-average dynamic range, and accurate colors.

However, the secondary camera on the back is a useless 2-megapixel black-and-white sensor. This is a space usually reserved for an ultra-wide camera, which this phone doesn’t offer one at all. Not having an ultra-wide camera in 2022 feels restricting, particularly since previous Realme phones in this series did in fact give us an ultra-wide.

Due to the pixel-dense main sensor, you can pull off a solid 2x to 3x zoom at digital crop and the image looks respectable without much loss of details. You can zoom up to 10x but images begin to look soft.

Internals

There’s a MediaTek Helio G99 chip inside and 8GB of RAM, both of these are fine components for this price range, and performs well, but clearly a tier or two below phones above $500.

However there’s a 5,000 mAh battery which then in turn is excellent and can power this thing all day, easily. The included 33W charging brick tops up the phone at a reasonable rate, taking about 28 minutes to top up the phone.

Software

The phone runs on Android 12 with Realme’s Android skin on top. The software version is a generation behind the Android 13 seen in Pixel phones, but compared to other third party Android phones, I suppose it’s not far off. Animations are smooth and fluid, the UI is customizable, and everything that needs to work, works well. No real gripes, but it’s a bit of a bland software skin too.

Conclusion

Ultimately, as I test the Realme 10 I keep going back to its $229 retail price, which will likely be even lower in some Asian countries like India and Malaysia, as well as include potential freebies like wireless earbuds with orders. At this price range, it’s really hard to fault a mini computer with a good screen, okay cameras, and great battery life. All my other gripes, like the plastic back and lack of ultra-wide cameras, can be forgiven, I guess.

But at the end of day, I must ask: why release so many phones if there aren’t meaningful upgrades to be made? The Realme 10 is good in a vacuum, but so was the Realme 9 or Realme 8, and those phones didn’t come out too long ago.

We know Realme is capable of creating exciting devices, like its Master Edition units, or the Realme XI tested a few years ago. There’s even rumors of a Realme 10 Ultra that will bring some eye-grabbing features. As it stands, the Realme 10 is a bit bland. But bland can still be good.

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