The Realme 8 5G, as you would expect, focuses on its 5G support above all else. But does this budget smartphone rely too much on this perk at the sacrifice of key features?
We only ask because our mixed Realme 8 Pro review reveals how the non-5G model suffers from the tunnel vision of wanting to be a good cheap camera phone at the expense of updates to the hardware.
And on paper, this 5G-equipped version seems to be a mixed bag, with the camera being downgraded, while the display makes the jump to a 90Hz refresh rate. Has Realme focused its attention in the right places to make the compromises easier to swallow?
Realme 8 5G: Price and configurations
The Realme 8 5G is available starting May 20 in two configurations. The base model offers 4GB RAM and 64GB of on-board storage for £199 (you can get 20 quid off in an early-bird sale right now), and the full-fat version gives you 6GB of RAM and doubles the storage to 128GB for an RRP of £249 (£229 early bird).
Realme 8 5G: Design
Sturdy and generic. Two words that sum up the Realme 8 5G nicely.
Reminding me of the OnePlus 7T Pro with the shiny back and matte band, the Realme is an ordinary monolithic slab of screen with a camera bump at the left corner of the back panel. It is constructed of a plastic that has a cheap-ish feel to it, but it isn’t a deal breaker at this price.
The frame itself measures 6.5 inches (165.2 millimeters) tall by 2.9 inches (74.8mm) wide, which is fine but will require two-handed usage for most operations. In other dimensions, this phone is 0.3 inches (8.5mm) thin with a weight of 6.5 ounces (185 grams) which is right in the comfort zone for hand feel without causing fatigue.
Realme used a high-gloss indium plating process on the back to give the supersonic blue extra depth and reflectivity. But with the gloss comes a fingerprint magnet of a surface and once you’ve left a mark, it’s hard to get rid of.
To protect the finish from your greasy mitts, the Realme 8 5G comes with a case. But given the durability of the frame, which Realme 8 emphasises in the materials it sent us (the phone survived many stringent tests), you don’t have that anxiety of leaving it naked.It’s a breath of fresh air to not worry about a phone as much as those flagship jewels you’re quick to put in a case.
As for usability, Realme covered the bases with a well-placed power button/fingerprint reader on the right side, dual SIM support and expandable storage via microSD card. These pair with strong haptics for a convenient and tactile experience.
Realme 8 5G: Display
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: budget phones typically focus on key areas while compromising elsewhere. It can even come down to the slightest spec changes in individual components, as you see in the Realme 8 5G’s 6.4-inch FHD+ IPS display.
Answering one of my criticisms of the Realme 8 Pro, the screen sports a buttery 90Hz refresh rate. This is a step down from the 120Hz display of the Realme 7 5G, but the difference in smoothness is night and day from 60Hz, especially while scrolling through content or playing games that support it.
But as they give with one hand, they take away with the other. The colours on the screen are drained compared to the AMOLED panel you’ll find on the 8 Pro and viewing angles are somewhat restricted — with the panel quickly becoming illegible as you twist the phone away from you.
Don’t get me wrong, a 90Hz panel in a £200 phone is welcome, but is the refresh rate worth giving up a vivid picture for? I’m not so sure.
Realme 8 5G: Audio
The Realme 8 5G’s mono speakers sound very tinny.
Including a 3.5mm headphone jack is great, especially for showing my old Sennheiser cans some love, and the call receiver is loud and clear. But while that single speaker gets loud for shared listening, it distorts easily and doesn’t sound good.
This can be heard in particular when put to the test with particularly heavy songs such as Beartooth’s Devastation, which starts to crack at anything over 50% volume. Alongside that, even more nuanced compositions like Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto (my Spotify is as confused at my music taste as you are) distort easily.
Realme 8 5G: Performance
Inside the Realme 8 5G, you will find a MediaTek Dimensity 700 5G SoC with an octa-core processor clocked at 2.2 GHz. It is a small step back from the 800U 5G chipset in the Realme 7 5G, but it doesn’t feel much slower. Alongside this chip, you’ll be getting an ARM Mali G57 GPU, up to 8GB of RAM and 128GB of UFS storage.
This is a standard array of specs that are fine for casual use, as you can see from the average Geekbench 5 479 single- and 1776 multi-core scores. The day-to-day load is no problem, but anything requiring more GPU intensive or that involves lots of multitasking will slow down the system.
Don’t expect to play Call of Duty Mobile at its best on this thing, but it can hold its own for the lighter stuff and some general admin across social media, email and other apps.
Realme 8 5G: Battery life and charging
In a sea of mediocrity, this is one of the shining stars of the Realme 8 5G, as it features a 5,000mAh battery.
Using this as my daily driver included plenty of social media use and emails, listening to podcasts, a spot of photography, and watching YouTube videos before going to sleep at night. Thanks to the massive battery, I made it through the day with 30% life remaining — which is impressive even with that 90Hz refresh rate display and 5G radio.
This is achieved with some nifty 5G power-saving features, which measures network strength around the phone to intelligently switch between 5G and 4G, amounting to a 30% reduction on power draw.
The 18W charger included in the box brings the phone back to a full charge in around 4 hours, which isn’t as quick as we’d like, but more than acceptable for overnight charging.
Realme 8 5G: Cameras
For those who are snap happy, you may not be pleased with what you get on the Realme 8 5G.
Let’s start with the good. Up front is a 16MP selfie camera capable of capturing a decent amount of detail; it works well with the software to provide colourful shots and a good portrait mode.
Meanwhile, around the back is a triple camera array featuring a 48MP main shooter with f 1.8 aperture, 2MP macro lens and 2MP monochrome lens, both with f 2.4 apertures.
Using a macro and monochrome lens over the obvious telephoto and ultra wide lenses is a weird choice at first glance, but it demonstrates the cost-cutting exercises of a budget smartphone.
And the results speak for themselves. The detail is adequate, but photos don’t quite have the same personality of the impressive 108MP camera on the back of the Realme 8 Pro, and shots are overly saturated with AI photography turned on. The lack of OIS means your shots are subject to artifacts around your shaky hands. In daylight, the results may be dull, but inoffensive. It does the job.
At night, however, that high aperture of the main lens (f 1.8) leads to plenty of noise in shots that, unless you have a tripod around, will be victim to blur.
Video is passable for casually snapping birthday cake celebrations and family videos, but with a max of 1080p, 30 frames per second, the results are average. This is again another step back from the Realme 7 5G, which is capable of 4K video and has a 8MP ultra wide sensor.
Realme 8 5G: Realme UI 2.0
When choosing a budget phone, there needs to be a limit to the bloatware. Normally, to balance some of the production costs, you will find a few pre-installed apps that the manufacturer added as a deal with developers.
That’s the same with the Realme 8 and 8 Pro, but unfortunately, the team went overboard by stuffing the 8 5G phone full of more than 20 pieces of bloatware.
This includes (but not limited to) Realme’s own web browser, an Instagram rip-off named 92, a travel price comparison service named Agoda, something called iQIYI (the name sounded too much like a virus that I didn’t tap on it), and two folders of “hot apps” and “hot games” that look like folders with notifications, but are actually their own apps.
It’s not the inclusion of these apps that are the main problem. Rather, it’s the sense of sheer deception with some of them and the vast amount of privacy policies you have to accept. These overshadow the convenience features of Realme’s UI 2.0 skin over Android 11, like some of the best and easy-to-use customisation features I’ve seen, and the close-to-stock look and feel of much of it.
It’s difficult to sum up a phone like the Realme 8 5G.
On the face of it, this is a fine phone. The 5G supports adds a welcome increase of data speeds, the 90Hz display is nice (bar the dull colours), and the 5,000 mAh battery makes getting through the day a worry-free experience.
But most people are not looking for a phone to be really good at a few key tasks, and that is where this phone falters. It has a cheap design, a naff camera system and a UI that is filled to the brim with bloatware.Not only that, but if you can spring the extra £80 on the last generation hardware, the Realme 7 5G looks better on the specs sheet.
That makes the 8 5G a good phone for a small selection of people who desperately need a 5G phone for under £200, no matter what cut backs there are. But take it from us, it’s definitely worth waiting for the much-rumoured Realme 8 Pro 5G. Too many compromises make this particular device hard to recommend.