The Realme X50 5G became available in the summer of 2020 and the company sent one over for us to look at in error as we had in fact asked for the X50 Pro, a more highly specified mobile phone. Consequently we sat and waited for that to arrive and to swap them over. But it never did. So we didn't! Some way down the line then, I thought I'd fire it up and see what the X50 5G (non-Pro) has to offer.
The bright yellow box contains a 30W charger, pokey-hole tool for the SIM Card tray, USB-A to USB-C cable, the usual papers, a 'smoked' TPU and the phone itself. In this case it's Ice Silver but the global version (which this is) is also available in Jungle Green. The RRP for this unit last summer was £279 but it can now, in spring 2021 be snagged for certainly less than that with various deals to look out for regularly.
First impressions physically are that it's very similar in size to many phones these days (big!), in most dimensions, including those I have to hand here, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, Nokia 9 PureView and Moto G Pro. It feels solid in the hand and quite heavy/robust. It comes with a plastic on the screen (that didn't last long in my hands!) and is incredibly slippery. The front of the phone is flat glass with two top-left (portrait) selfie-holes and the back, surprisingly at this price-point, is glass too. Very smooth it is of course and the Ice Silver has that now-common 'shimmering' look to it which catches the light at every turn. Even more surprisingly, the frame is made from aluminium, making this a really very well constructed phone.
There are two separate volume buttons on the left which do have a little bit of sideways 'play' when moved and on the right is a slim capacitive fingerprint scanner and power button combined. Up the top there's a microphone and at the bottom, USB-C port, SIM Card tray and loudspeaker. The curved back of the phone meets the aluminium frame nicely and camera cluster laid out nicely in landscape. The island sticks out a millimetre but is completely protected with the TPU in place, having its own 'ridge'. The TPU fits like a (very tight) glove and is quite hard to get on and off. Good and bad!
First things first and the SIM Card tray has a trough each side of it for two nanoSIM cards and is very small, like a Pixel tray. The setup procedure got confused at the point of choosing default Search Engine, but I've seen this elsewhere to be fair, so not unique to Realme, sending the user back in a loop to an earlier point in the setup procedure. Would confuse many. Furthermore, I told it to copy from my Pixel and it started to do that - signed in and all, then it all seemed to fall apart and started me from scratch anyway, not signed into anything Google on the Realme. It seemed to be the sign-in process that fell over as when I manually signed in via the Google App on the Realme it started copying from my Pixel. Needs work by someone!
No Gesture Navigation on by default and the usual hunt was needed in a disorganised Settings to find it and turn on. The fingerprint and face ID were quick to register and appear to work well on both counts. Settings allow for options to lift-to-wake via face or touch fingerprint scanner, pattern or PIN unlock - all the usual suspects. The face unlock can be set to bypass the lock-screen, which is great if less secure. I suppose.
Let's get the bloat discussion out of the way next! Ready? Deep breath. Included against my will are Calculator, Clock, Clone Phone, Compass, FaceBook, File Manager, Game Space, Phone, Photos, WPS Office and Weather. Of those, only FaceBook and WPS Office can be uninstalled. I give a pass to Music and Videos for playing local media content. Actually, it could have been a lot worse. Many are! On a positive note, Google's Messages and Contacts are the default applications. So a few minutes to get organised with that and we're onto the Home Screen.
Thankfully Realme have allowed the Google Feed to the left (hurrah!) and an option of an App Drawer - even removable At A Glance and Search widgets from the home screen (one up on Pixel)! Long-press the home screen for a bunch of options including wallpaper, scrolling effects and Widgets (which are unhelpfully only on a carousel along the bottom of the screen, though perfectly functional). The notifications panel certainly has nods to iOS, but it's perfectly usable and clear, so no complaints. Edit which toggles you want to see in the usual way and get access to the brightness slider etc. The Status Bar's icons are a little small for my liking, but otherwise fine - apart from all being shuffled right to make room for the two Selfie cameras.
I'll come to Settings in a minute but just to mention that this phone is running Realme UI 1.0 and there's a promise to push 2.0 based on Android 11 to it sometime in 2021, but no specific date. According to 91mobiles, Realme UI 2.0 brings a whole bunch of stuff including Dual Mode Music Share, customisable notification bar colours, and three styles of Dark Mode, global Theme colour function, Always-on-Display, new fonts and icons, Sleep Capsule, Floating Windows, Deep-Sea Privacy Plan to ensure that the user’s data and information are safe and secure and many more! Sounds like it's worth the wait - especially for the AoD! Settings, then, remains a complicated mess in my view, compared to the 'standard' Google configuration. Once again, fine for someone to spend two years with but coming from a 'clean' Android version such as a Pixel, Moto, Nokia or Sony, it's just a case of there being stuff everywhere. Once found, make a note of it! Hopefully in UI 2.0 they will also improve the search engine and some of the terms used in order to find various settings. Don't get me wrong - there's oodles of good stuff in there - all sorts of 'extras' available, many of them well thought out and often enhancing the Android experience. My complaint is just that I can't find anything I am looking for without a treasure map! Drilling down into all that stuff is much like it was for the Realme X3 SuperZoom which I reviewed back last year, so do check that out to save repetition here.
The front panel is, as I say, flat and an IPS LCD with a refresh-rate of 120Hz, which was unexpected. It's a 6.57" 1080p 20:9 screen returning 401ppi. For those who can tell the difference, the 120Hz must be excellent. I can - just. But I seem to be alone! It is certainly rapidly becoming standard (also among mid-tier devices) to up the screen refresh-rate (and even into the low-end as we go forward). I have just switched it to 120 from 60 and really can't tell - I don't think! There's an auto-switch too, so presumably 120 means forced 120 without resorting to developer settings.
The overall brightness looks great to me but the auto-setting is a bit aggressive towards too dim. Presumably it will learn in time. As I usually say at this stage, this is no 'deep-blacks' OLED but it's perfectly usable and for me at least, bright enough even outdoors. The colour can be changed from Vivid to Gentle but it really needs to stay on Vivid! Gentle is just dour! You can also warm up or cool down the colour temperature for small changes. Looking at my photos, they look bright, colourful and as saturated as they were when I took them! In general I think the screen is great and perfectly usable for most people.
Currently the phone is running under Android 10 (Realme UI 1.0) and when I turned it on it jumped to January 2021 Google Security, so not too bad at all. It is sporting the SnapDragon 765G which is the same as used on the 2019 Pixel range. My usual tests copying data to and from a PC, a microSD Card (via adapter here) and an SSD via USB-C (UFS2.1) demonstrated that it's not the fastest read/write arrangement in the world (slower than the Pixel 5 for example) but gets the job done. Who's in a hurry!
The chipset performs perfectly well for everyday use. I had a car racing game going to test this and it seemed to run perfectly well to me - maybe not so much a more demanding game. There's 6GB RAM on this unit, which, again, seems to slide through all the tasks needed for everyday use without clouting apps from yesterday on the head! There's an 8GB RAM option available in some markets.
Yes, there's no microSD Card slot here sadly, which is kind of unusual at this price-point really but becoming a bit more popular with these Chinese phones. To be fair, with 128GB storage here, plugging in media to the USB-C when needed does the job for more (unless you need to charge too - adapter time)! The phone reads and writes to/from my 512GB card (via that adapter) and also the 2TB SSD. Almost needless to say there's no HDMI-Out here, so my attempt to play media on my telly using a cable was once again, an act of purest optimism!
The X50 5G has a single mono speaker firing out of the bottom of the phone. Initially testing with the supplied Music app, the output is certainly loud enough for the average user and for personal use, not a party! Sadly, the quality is not great. A tinny top-end is cringeworthy, bass almost non-existent and the always-on (for speaker) Dolby with four pre-sets (Smart, Movie, Gaming and Music) really don't help much at all until you get down to about 50% volume. So to a Music player in which equalisation is possible and yes, where the equalisation sliders can be adjusted, a reasonable tone can be achieved - but as always, with the volume pay-off. Less loud! For personal use on a desk whilst working this is fine, of course.
The supplied Video app doesn't even let you get to the Dolby controls during play which makes it a bit peck-and-hunt to try and tell if it makes any difference! But it doesn't, so I'll save you the bother. Same is true in YouTube and any other media playing app of the ilk. Fire up something like VLC and you can get to some control of course and for casual viewing alone, it's fine. Just not great. Or even good! Perhaps headphones will help.
Oh no, there's no 3.5mm audio-out socket. Never mind, I have a dongle - and can try Bluetooth of course. The audio output is supposed to be 24-bit here so it should be decent enough but I don't have a pair of USB-C earphones here to try it on a basic level. Oh well, enhanced Razer Phone dongle it is! Guess what? It sounds fabulous. Which is what you might expect with 24-bit and 32-bit gear being used in tandem. You can also then drill down further into the Dolby settings and play around with more pre-sets and adjustments. Good stuff.
What's not so good is that you still can't get to the Dolby settings while video is running in the background in their own Video app! You can (well, I can) in YouTube and using the Music App of course but this renders it not really system-wide Dolby. Update: I've now laid hands on a simple USB-C to 3.5mm dongle for a couple of quid from Amazon and as we might expect, it's nothing like using the Razer unit but it's really not half bad. The output into my reference headphones is clean, a little lacking in bass compared to the Razer's dongle and certainly not as loud, but really quite good enough and loud enough for most users.
Bluetooth 5.0 works perfectly well either hooking up to a speaker or earphones and produces an excellent sound as we have come to expect, depending, of course as always with connected equipment. The pairing process was very quick and straight-forward and the phone held onto the signal for a reasonable distance. It's getting quite hard to fault Bluetooth performance these days on any phone.
Connectivity seems solid with 4G for cellular on both calls and data in my tests. I'm unable to test 5G I'm afraid, but presumably it works too! Apparently you can put a 5G SIM Card in both slots and expect data on either. As I said earlier, bluetooth seems great and NFC tested here works well for communication between devices - presumably if I was allowed out it would work with Google Pay! GPS has been tested here with mapping and various weather apps - all seems in order and getting/holding a fix and WiFi has been tested with two routers and a MiFi. Apart from that wonky setup procedure above, the WiFi seems strong and good.
The battery is a 4,200mAh unit, so pretty big but certainly passed by these days as more towards 5,000mAh seems to be more the norm. Having said that, this battery seems to be performing well enough. 30W Fast Charging will get about three quarters of the battery charged from flat in half an hour, so that's good for emergencies. There's no wireless charging of course at this price, though as I have said before - what would it cost? Another couple of quid? Don't know - seems like nobody is bothered much about it anyway.
In my tests here, the pattern is becoming familiar with these phones with batteries around this size - during my testing period I was easily able to get through one day and without charging again, a good way through Day 2. With frugal use it could certainly make it to the end of that too. As for my 10% reading test, I've done this a few times now and the fairly clear result is about 1hr 30min which is far from the best but also from the worst. Batteries with this kind of performance make day to day use perfectly good enough for the vast majority of people.
Lastly, to the camera and the array offers a 48MP f/1.8 (normal viewpoint) main shooter, a secondary 8MP f/2.3 (wide-angle), 2MP f/2.4 (macro) and another 2MP f/2.4 (for depth). The last two are often the 'fillers' to get the marketing specs offering a 'quad' arrangement but actually the Ultra Macro mode ain't half bad with close-ups. There's a whole bunch of modes to play with including the smart Google Lens, a Text Scanner, Pro Expert mode with the usual range of manual controls and for switching to RAW. No optical zoom here but a slider for up to 10x digital which is a bit fuzzy hand-held, but certainly useful enough at 2 or 3 times. But then it's only a framing tool, so the user might really as well crop later. Night Mode seems to do a reasonable job with 'hold still' then computing the best shot from the AI gathering as much light as it can etc. Portrait mode seems to deal well enough with limiting depth of field, throwing backgrounds out of focus pleasingly enough and if the user wants to force the unit to shoot at the full 48MP (instead of the quad-bayer at 12) they can do that too. There's an AI engine running for scene recognition if wanted (which seems to do quite well) and unstabilised video shooting at up to 4K@30fps. Dual Selfies at 16MP f/2 (normal) and 2MP f/2.4 (depth) offer a reasonable Portrait facility with some blurring of background. The cameras on offer here are pretty ordinary, even to me. There's loads of phones out there that will do pretty much the same job - more than good enough for the masses, but anyone with greater ambitions or pixel-peepers need to move along. It would have been great to at least see a 2x optical zoom here, but I do wonder if the target audience would value it. Maybe more useful would be OIS. Let's go back to where I started then and Phones Show Chat awaiting the Pro model to compare this with (which never arrived). The near-double price of the Pro version would want us to be looking for much more. Certainly there's an AMOLED screen, but not with the 120Hz refresh-rate offered here, only 90. A SnapDragon 865 instead of 765G. Doubt if most of us would have been able to tell the difference outside of heavy gaming. More storage options and RAM, but the price difference then goes up even more. I would personally value the better sound output via stereo speakers, but I'd have to hear that to know as it could still be tinny and poor like this one - only double - and I would actually rather have the side-mounted capacity fingerprint scanner than the Pro's under-glass, however good it is.
The Pro does have a 2x optical zoom and I have already acknowledged how useful that can be for some but the rest is insignificant in terms of better features. Alright, faster charging capability - but there's really not much here to justify doubling the price and this one remains much better value for money. However, this phone is now a year old nearly and other contenders have come along which frankly offer more. Xiaomi and Redmi spring to mind as they offer better and better features, constantly driving prices down. I shall look forward to the update of the UI to v2 especially for that AoD option.
But don't get me wrong, this is a very capable 5G phone indeed, very well made, with a large battery and a 120Hz refresh screen. If it were seen at the right price it would be worth grabbing, but not the price it is when those around it offer more for less. I might have recommended it last summer but at RRP it's not going to be a contender any longer. I reckon the right price now should be about £150 or so. How quickly things move on - there's nothing wrong much with this phone - it would serve the user well, but there's more out there. Better.