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Smartphones from Realme have not had much of a look-in here at ZDNet, but we're putting that right with the Realme X50 Pro 5G, a flagship-class 5G handset with a price tag that belies what's under the hood. For £699 (inc. VAT), you get a Snapdragon 865 chipset with 12GB of RAM, 256GB of internal storage, a 6.44-inch 90Hz screen and 65W fast charging. There's an 8GB/128GB alternative for £569, too. So where's the catch?
Realme is a brand of the Chinese company BBK Electronics, and as such is a stablemate of Oppo, Vivo and OnePlus. Several Realme phones are available in the UK, but the X50 Pro 5G leads the line. Unfortunately I wasn't able to test the 5G aspect due to lockdown and a lack of coverage in my part of South London, so all we can do is note that this handset has a degree of future-proofing.
Any 6.44-inch handset is going to be large, but the X50 Pro 5G doesn't try any nifty tricks to disguise its bulk: it's on the thick side at 8.9mm, and also rather heavy at 205g. By way of comparison, the OnePlus 8 Pro is 8.5mm thick and weighs 199g. But the OnePlus handset has a 6.78-inch screen and is taller (165.3mm vs 158.96mm), although the widths are similar (74.3mm vs 74.24). The OnePlus 8 Pro looks neater thanks to the curvature of its long edges and curved screen, while the x50 Pro 5G's screen is flat. Overall, the OnePlus 8 Pro looks smarter and feels more comfortable in the hand, but is more expensive (£799/$899 for 8GB/128GB, £899/$999 for 12GB/256GB).
Flip the X50 Pro 5G over and you'll see either a Rust Red or a Moss Green backplate. My review unit had the latter, and it's a pleasingly demure colour for a phone. The finish is matte and admirably resistant to fingerprints, although it is rather slippery.
The chunky long edges are populated by a pair of volume buttons on the left edge and a power button on the right, the latter adorned with a gold swatch along its centre. There is further metallic highlighting on the back, this time in silver, to frame the camera lozenge and for the branding and other text. Either silver or gold would have worked well; using both is overkill, in my opinion.
The screen has a lozenge in the top left corner housing a pair of front cameras, of which more later. The design isn't bezel free, particularly at the bottom: Realme claims a 92% screen-to-body ratio, although our calculations put it at 84.8%.
The 6.44-inch AMOLED panel has a resolution of 2,400 by 1,080 pixels (409ppi), which brightens up the experience of browsing web pages, looking at video and reading ebooks. Video consumption is enhanced by a good dual speaker array that pushes out sound from both ends of the chassis. Audio is quite loud, and fairly bassy. The handset also features a 90Hz screen refresh rate -- a top-end feature that will matter most to gamers and video viewers.
Considering the mid-range price, the X50 Pro 5G's key specifications are remarkable. For £699 you get Qualcomm's top-of-the-range Snapdragon 865 chipset with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage, while £569 gets you the same chipset, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. I had the top-end model, and right out of the box 18GB of storage was used leaving 238GB free.
Benchmark performance was suitably impressive, with Geekbench 5 reporting scores of 915 (single core) and 3235 (multi core) -- very similar to the 12GB OnePlus 8 Pro, which scored 907 and 3375 respectively. Snapdragon 856 handsets currently head up the Geekbench rankings for Android handsets.
As far as battery life is concerned, the X50 Pro 5G's 4,200mAh battery lasted for 9 hours 2 minutes under the PC Mark rundown test. That's very similar to the OnePlus 8 Pro, whose 4,510mAh battery managed 9 hours 19 minutes. During testing I had no trouble getting through a full day, and charging is fast and easy thanks to 65W SuperDart Charge technology, which Realme says will fully charge a depleted battery in 35 minutes. I found that 10- to 15-minute bursts of charge when the battery got to 40% or lower was enough to keep the handset ticking over.
If you plan to work the X50 Pro 5G hard (most likely through pushing the processor in gaming sessions), the Vapor Cooling System -- a vapor chamber, silica and copper foil sandwiched between triple-layer graphite -- provides a comprehensive heat dissipation system. Although I didn't game for hours on end, I didn't notice the handset get even vaguely warm at any time.
Other key specifications include support for two SIMs, a snappy in-screen fingerprint sensor and Wi-Fi 6. If you're looking for faults, there's no IP rating for dust and water resistance, and those who like a 3.5mm headset jack will be disappointed.
The Realme X50 Pro 5G runs on Android 10 with the Realme UI sitting on top. The general appearance is pretty clean, with the bespoke UI offering a range of tweaks and extras. For example, during setup you can make a selection between different icon styles to help to personalise the handset's look. A Smart Sidebar can be popped up with a slide inwards from the right edge of the screen, offering a range of configurable shortcuts to applications and settings. This is different only in name from the Quick Tools popout found on Oppo handsets like the Find X2 Pro.
As noted earlier, there are two cameras at the front -- 32MP f/2.5 wide angle and 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide angle (105°). If you're into creative selfies, the X50 Pro 5G gives you more scope than most handsets. There are four more cameras at the back: 64MP f/1.8 wide angle, 12MP f/2.5 telephoto (2x optical, 20x digital zoom), 8MP f/2.3 ultra-wide angle (119°) and macro (3cm focus), and a 2MP f/2.4 monochrome depth sensor.
It's tricky in the current circumstances, with restrictions on outdoor activity, to test the cameras fully. However, initial impressions suggest reasonably good point-and-shoot capability, although image quality suffers in low light conditions. The quoted 20x digital zoom was disappointing: images were blurred and unusable even for social media. Steer clear.
The Realme X50 Pro 5G is an impressively well specified handset, given its mid-range price. The design might not be at the leading edge, and the cameras leave a bit to be desired if you want to do more than point-and-shoot, but there's a lot to like here: a top-end chipset, plenty of RAM and storage, a good 6.44-inch screen, good battery life and fast charging, Wi-Fi 6 and 5G. If top-notch cameras and an IP rating are not on your 'must have' list, then the Realme X50 Pro 5G could be a bargain buy.