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Realme Book hands-on review: The Windows MacBook Air that you can’t buy

Realme’s MacBook Air for Windows is a great first laptop from the company

Realme Book hands-on review
(Image: © Laptop Mag)

Our Verdict

The Realme Book is a MacBook Air for Windows — pure and simple. For the company’s first laptop, that’s not bad at all. It’s just a shame that most of you can’t buy it.

For

  • Premium, lightweight design
  • 11th Gen Intel CPU
  • Vivid display
  • Comfortable, tactile keyboard
  • Thunderbolt 4
  • Decent value for money

Against

  • Only up to 512GB storage
  • Below-average webcam
  • MacBook Air copycat

Laptop Mag Verdict

The Realme Book is a MacBook Air for Windows — pure and simple. For the company’s first laptop, that’s not bad at all. It’s just a shame that most of you can’t buy it.

Pros

  • + Premium, lightweight design
  • + 11th Gen Intel CPU
  • + Vivid display
  • + Comfortable, tactile keyboard
  • + Thunderbolt 4
  • + Decent value for money

Cons

  • - Only up to 512GB storage
  • - Below-average webcam
  • - MacBook Air copycat

Realme is broadening its horizons beyond smartphones by adding laptops to its portfolio, and the Realme Book is the first foray.

If you’re getting serious Macbook Air vibes about this metallic wedge, you’re not alone. Even the simple white packaging is all very Apple-inspired. This laptop, however, comes with 11th Gen Intel processors, Windows 10, and a Realme logo slapped on the front instead.

There’s just one problem, though. Realme, citing a “change in the product roadmap,” will no longer be launching in the UK or Europe.

That means I’m holding a piece of history here — a laptop that you can’t buy in the form of an EU Realme Book. I’d be daft to not at least tell you about my experience with it, right?

UPDATE

We have received a response from Realme about why this laptop isn't launching in Europe.

"Due to the current global situation, a combination of manufacturing and market forces have combined, meaning that despite the dedicated work from our team, this time we aren’t able to launch the Realme book in Europe as initially planned. We continue to work hard to bring the best products to our users and we can confirm that future versions of the products are very much in our plans for Europe. We’re excited to share what’s to come in the future for Realme and our fans."

Realme Book: Price and compatibility

The first generation Realme Book is available in two variants in India: one with an 11th Gen Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD for Rs 44,999 (around $600), and the other with double the SSD storage capacity, a Thunderbolt 4 port and Bluetooth 5.2 at Rs 56,999 ($760).

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

However, the UK and Europe version was set to get a new configuration with 16GB RAM. No pricing was announced for this one before it was suspended, but it’s fair to say these are significantly cheaper than the M1 MacBook Air.

Realme Book: Design

Let’s get the numbers out the way first. At 12.1 x 9 x 0.6 inches (tapering down to 0.5 at its thinnest point), this wedge is extremely similar in size to Apple’s MacBook Air, bar a slight increase in the height and width because of the 3:2 display. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

It is slightly heavier than the Air (2.8 pounds), coming in at 3.3 pounds. However, this is still a lightweight, portable chassis.

I have seen other reviews talking about the premium design of the Realme Book, such as the one by our sister site TechRadar. However, I clearly wasn’t ready for how surprisingly upmarket a laptop at this price point caould feel. The aluminum-alloy body feels great in the hand and I absolutely love the dark blue color used here. It’s a real difference maker that helps it to stand out from the metallic greys used by the competition.

And much like the MacBook Air, this is a unibody construction in all but the display bezel, which gives it extra rigidity and fuels your confidence in its durability. One upgrade it makes is that the hinge is more flexible, giving you the option to open it to practically flat on any surface. Doing so reveals the generously sized touchpad and keyboard (more on those later) and the subtle Realme branding on the bottom of the slim screen bezels, alongside a power button that doubles as a fingerprint reader. Speaker grills can be found in the front corners on the underside of the chassis.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Speaking of which, vents and fans are on the bottom panel near feet to raise it off any surface and provide efficient cooling. Realme couldn’t resist subtly emblazoning the rear bar with its Pinterest-esque “Dare to Leap” slogan. Of course, the M1 MacBook Air ditches the fan thanks to the efficiency of the M1 chip. But as far as hiding your thermal management goes, Realme did a decent job here.

All-in-all, the Realme Book’s design has premium stylings, practicality and security —not bad for the company’s first time out.

Realme Book: Ports

If there is one thing I’d love to see Realme improve upon, it’s the limited port selection. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Granted, it offers more versatility than the MacBook Air with a Thunderbolt 4 and USB-C 3.2 port on the left, and a USB-A and 3.5mm audio jack on the right. But would it kill you to give us two Thunderbolt 4 ports?

Realme Book: Display and audio

This configuration of the Realme Book sports a 14-inch IPS LCD display with a 2160 × 1440-pixel resolution and a 3:2 aspect ratio. Not only is this slightly bigger than what you get on the MacBook Air (Apple’s machine sports an 82% screen ratio, whereas realme hits 90% in a similar-sized body), but it’s better for productivity.

Sure, the Air offers a slightly sharper resolution compared to Realme, but don’t underestimate the difference between a 16:10 and 3:2 aspect ratio. That means more vertical content due to the taller canvas. Sure, the black bars on video content are bigger, but for getting stuff done, the difference is night and day.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Furthermore, Realme claims the display sports a 100% sRGB color gamut and 400 nits of brightness. In real world use, this translates to a vivid picture that is just as striking as the one on the MacBook Air. You can even use this outdoors, thoughthat glossy finish of the Gorilla Glass screen can get hard to see with reflections.

Watching The Matrix Resurrections trailer highlighted the impressive luminosity and contrast of this panel, as the darkest scenes remain inky without any backlight glow, as the brighter moments of combat shone off the screen with deep color.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Complementing this is a pair of Harman speakers that support DTS HD stereo sound. They deliver balanced mids and highs and I never heard any distortion. Even when put through the test of Four Year Strong’s angry cover of “Bittersweet Symphony,” the quieter moments gave the small, subtle instrumental touches room to shine, while the full-on chorus was handled well by the tiny tweeters.

Realme Book: Keyboard and touchpad

There is another benefit to this tall boy aspect ratio: the additional length to the base, which  creates more room for the keyboard and touchpad.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

From the big keys with ever-so-slight arches to the 1.3mm key travel, this is a satisfying keyboard to type on. The tactile response is satisfying, switch noise is minimal and the layout feels nice and spacious to work on.

In my 10fastfingers.com test, I hit 82 words per minute with a 96% accuracy rate.  This is one of the best scores I’ve achieved on a laptop keyboard, second only to my personal MacBook Pro.

One learning curve was the use of the function keys as computer control keys. In Windows 10, all of the function key shortcuts you’ve learnt need to have the function key pressed to activate. The F4 key deactivates the touchpad so imagine my frustration when my app didn’t close, then I tried to use my mouse to close it and that wasn’t not working either.

You can change this in the settings, but maybe we need an additional row of control buttons for brightness and volume above the standard keys.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Turning our attention to the touchpad, it’s bloody massive! At 5 x 3.2 inches, it’s actually a little wider than what you get on the MacBook Air (4.7 x 3.2 inches), and the control area feels good to the touch. 

Multi-touch gestures are speedy and responsive on this surface, and while you get a physical integrated Iris Xe graphics, 8GB RAM and click that presses the touchpad, the switch provides good feedback and moving your finger over these areas doesn’t lead to a distracting amount of wobble.

Realme Book: Performance

This configuration of the Realme Book features an Intel Core i5-1135G7 CPU, 8GB RAM and a 512GB SSD. We haven’t done any of our lab testing on this machine, but I can confirm it performs exactly as you’d expect. It’s fast, though more RAM would’ve been nice for multitasking.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Under semi-intensive workloads like Chrome with 20 tabs and Photoshop in the background, there was a little stuttering when processing bigger edits, but for casual work and entertainment, this setup is fine.

The Iris Xe graphics are never going to be good enough for serious gaming, but casual titles like Two Point Hospital perform great. 

When compared to the M1 MacBook Air, the Realme Book falls behind. But for this machine’s more affordable price, you’re getting decent performance.

Realme Book: Battery life

Now, for something this slim, battery life is a critical point. Is there sufficient capacity and is the power efficiency good enough to make this last long? 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Because, don’t forget, I’ve been comparing this to the MacBook Air. With the M1 Chip, stamina has been Apple’s bread and butter. With the Realme Book, the promised longevity of the 54Wh battery is “up to 11 hours of local video playback” and “up to 8.5 hours of simulated office.”

Of course, companies run tests that give their laptops the best possible numbers to show off, and while we haven’t put this through the rigorous Laptop Mag battery test, I can give you some insight into my daily usage and the results.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

My standard day involves eight hours of many chrome tabs, a couple hours on Google Meet and occasional Photoshop use, along with a 30-minute lunch break of video streaming (usually Parks and Recreation). Starting on a 100% charge, I got through to the end of the day with about 5% left. For something this skinny, that’s not bad!

Under more intense usage, the Realme Book adapts its components for performance and you can kill this laptop quickly, but for most common use cases, this is decent. It doesn’t come close to the M1 Air, but this is good enough for getting stuff done on-the-go without too much worry.

Realme Book: Webcam

Over my first year at Laptop Mag, I’ve become desensitized to bad webcams on laptops, but in the times we live in, you’d have hoped OEMs read the room and realized we need a good picture for family calls with the family.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The 720p camera on-board is not the worst I’ve ever seen, but don’t get me wrong, it’s still a potato. It handles light better than some, but the picture still lacks detail and has a certain spongy quality that makes it suitable only for casual calls. If you want something better, pick from our best webcams list.

Bottom line

The Realme Book has some issues, but those are easily forgiven in the face of what is a great notebook — not just for Realme’s first laptop, but for this category in general.

When it comes to direct MacBook Air competitors, the obvious thought always hangs over me: you could just put up a little more cash and get a MacBook Air, which will be more powerful and have a better battery life. But that isn’t always an option for folks.

So for what the Realme Book is, you get a good ultra portable at an impressively affordable price. If you need something small and lightweight for conquering the daily workload and enjoying casual entertainment on the go, Realme has made a seriously tempting option — so it’s a shame that most of us can’t buy it.I’ll leave it on this note: If this launched, I’d give the Realme Book an Editor’s Choice award.

Jason England

 Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag. He specializes in finding the best deals to make sure you never pay more than you should for gadgets! Jason takes a particular interest in writing and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.