Launched earlier this year, the Realme 5 brought a sense of design to the sub-10,000 rupee market in India. It certainly didn’t hurt that the phone was a very good package that delivered on camera versatility, battery life too. However, the competition has been making strides and Xiaomi’s latest Redmi Note 8 is a testament to that.

Enter the Realme 5s. A mid-cycle refresh doesn’t kill off the Realme 5, but introduces a slightly more premium option for users asking for a better camera, but don’t want to spend too much to get it.

Design: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Being a minor spec bump over the Realme 5, design hasn’t changed at all over here. This is still the same phone, though you do get an all-new red colorway. The most noticeable change is that the rear camera module highlights the updated 48MP camera module. You will still find the centrally mounted fingerprint reader, and the jewel like design that Realme has made popular. The construction continues to be polycarbonate. Yes, it very prone to getting scratched and you will want to use the included TPU case.

Unfortunately, Realme didn’t take this as an opportunity to fix some of our gripes with the phone. The volume rockers are still bunched up too close to be comfortable, and the phone still charges over microUSB. The latter is particularly disappointing in a device launching right at the end of 2019.

Generally speaking, the build quality is plenty good and the buttons have great tactile feedback. The phone errs on the side of being a bit heavy, but the large 5,000mAh battery compensates for it. Charging speed is still restricted to 10W which means a long wait to top-off the device. No, the phone does not have an official IP rating.

Up front you will observe a 6.5-inch display with an HD+ resolution. It isn’t ideal, but does the job for the price band it competes in. Text rendering reveals slight blurriness. What stood out to me was the cool color profile right out of the box. It is possible to switch over to a warmer setting, but the display never looked quite natural. Peak brightness levels, however, were satisfactory and good enough to view the phone outdoors in sunlight.

How well does the Realme 5s perform?

Considering that the internals are for the most part, exactly the same, I wasn’t expecting any improvements here. The phone continues to be fluid, and performance is very good for its price tier. The Snapdragon 665 is reasonably capable, and can push through most daily use applications well. Even a bit of gaming isn’t entirely out of its league. Just like the Realme 5, the phone handles PUBG all the way up to medium settings.

While the Realme 5 started off with a lowly 3GB of RAM and just 32GB of storage. This time around, the base variant of the Realme 5s has 4GB RAM as well as 64GB storage. This makes a significant difference if you are planning to capture a lot of images or install a bunch of games. You can upgrade to a variant with 128GB of storage.

Performance is satisfactory for the price range, but the notification spam in Color OS pulls down the user experience.

I like how well Color OS is mated to the hardware. Sure, some of the animations can be a bit superfluous, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it offers umpteen customisation options, and is one of the most fluid user experiences you can get at this price point. Unfortunately, there are a fair few pre-loaded apps. Additionally, it is the notification-spam that takes the user experience down a few notches.

Let’s talk about the camera

Yes, the Realme 5s has a quad camera, but it is only the primary module that has changed. Gone is the 12MP sensor, and you now get a 48MP Samsung GW1 sensor in place. The rest of the package includes an 8MP wide-angle sensor, a macro camera as well as a depth sensor. We’ll focus on the new primary camera here since the rest of the set up is exactly the same as on the Realme 5.

Standard mode
48MP

Results were a step-up over what we saw on the Realme 5, but not drastically so. The best results were captured when using the phone’s pixel-binned mode. Full resolution shots usually turned out blurry because of an inherent shutter lag when shooting in the 48MP mode.

Standard
Chroma boost

An included chroma boost mode pumps up the saturation to unrealistic levels, though if you are fond of dabbling with filters, the social-media ready images might be right up your alley.

Standard
48MP

The 48MP mode should let you crop-in a bit to get closer to your subject, but details just weren’t that great. I noticed significant bloom around highlights when shooting high dynamic range content. Low-light images suffer at full resolution, and you will definitely benefit from the higher light sensitivity in the pixel-binned mode.

Specifications

  Realme 5
Display 6.5-inch, IPS LCD
1,600 x 720 resolution
20:9 aspect ratio
~269 ppi
Gorilla Glass 3+
Chipset Qualcomm Snapdragon 665
4 x 2.0GHz Kryo 260 Gold
4 x 1.8GHz Kryo 260 Silver
GPU Adreno 610
RAM 4GB RAM
LPDDR4X
Storage 64GB/128GB
UFS2.1
MicroSD Yes
Battery 5,000mAh
micro-USB
10W charging
Cameras Rear:
48MP Samsung GM1 at f/1.8
8MP Ultra-wide at f/2.2
2MP macro
2MP depth sensor
Nightscape
HDR
Video: 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 120fps, EIS

Front:
13MP at f/2.0
AI beauty mode
HDR

IP Rating N/A
Headphone jack Yes
Connectivity Dual nano-SIM slots
Dual SIMs dual VoLTE 4G
Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4/5Ghz
Positioning system: GPS, aGPS, GLONASS, Beidou navigation system
Supports Bluetooth 5.0 connections
Supports aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC
Security Rear-mounted fingerprint scanner
Software ColorOS 6.0, Android 9 Pie
Colors Crystal Purple, Crystal Blue
Dimensions 164.4 x 75.6 x 9.33mm
Weight 198g

Is the Realme 5s worth your money?

The Realme 5s comes out in response to the Redmi Note 8. The latter packs similar specifications, and has made a big deal of its imaging capabilities so it makes a lot of sense that Realme decided to push out a mid-cycle upgrade to ensure that its portfolio remains competitive.

Regardless, the Realme 5s continues its streak of providing a very good value proposition. Color OS might not be to everyone’s taste, but you cannot deny that it is a very well optimised piece of software that ties in the entire user experience together. The cameras are versatile in the sheer number of options you get, and the primary shooter is certainly not the worst we’ve seen in the category. Add to it competitive performance, and you’ve got a great alternative to Xiaomi’s latest and greatest affordable smartphones.

  • Realme 5s 4GB RAM, 64GB storage — Rs. 9,999 (~$141)
  • Realme 5s 4GB RAM, 128GB storage — Rs. 10,999 (~$155)

By pricing the Realme 5s the same as the base variant of the Realme 5,  the company has upped the price to value quotient. The Realme 5s is a credible alternative to the Redmi Note 8 that should definitely be on your list of phones to consider in the sub-Rs. 10,000 segment.

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Author: Dhruv Bhutani