With back to back launches since its debut in India earlier this year, Realme has been steadily developing a following for itself. However, the company is now looking to make a splash with the launch of a youth-centric and powerful budget device, the Realme U1.
The Realme U1 is the first smartphone to be powered by MediaTek’s flagship Helio P70 chipset, offering users a snappy and likable performance. The company has gone with a tried-and-tested design (much like its arch-nemesis Xiaomi), attractive colors, non-intrusive notch, to check all the boxes in the mid-range segment.
I’ve been using the top-end variant of the Realme U1 (priced at Rs 14,499) in Fiery Gold for the past week and I’m here to not just share my experience with the device but also give you the answer to an important question. Can the Realme U1 beat the Redmi Note series, as well as the new Honor 8C? Well, let’s find out:
Realme U1 Specifications
Instead of jumping straight in to talk about my experience, let us first take a quick look at the complete specs sheet for the Realme U1:
|Dimensions||157 x 74 x 8 mm|
|Display||6.3-inch Full-HD+ LTPS IPS, Gorilla Glass 3|
|Processor||MediaTek Helio P70|
|Storage||32GB/64GB (expandable up to 256GB)|
|Rear Camera||13 MP (f/2.2) + 2 MP (f/2.4), LED flash|
|Front Camera||25MP (f/2.0)|
|Software||Android 8.1 Oreo-based ColorOS 5.2|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, A-GPS, GLONASS, microUSB, 3.5mm headphone jack|
|Sensors||M-sensor, G-sensor, Gravity sensor, rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, proximity sensor|
|Colors||Ambitious Black, Brave Blue, Fiery Gold|
What’s in the Box
If you remember, Realme just recently unveiled its new brand identity and the packaging of the Realme U1 reflects the same with its gray and yellow box, along with a U1 imprint on top. It contains everything we expect to find in a smartphone box these days, including a pre-applied screen protector.
Here’s everything you will find inside the Realme U1 packaging:
- Realme U1 (Fiery Gold)
- 10W Power adapter
- MicroUSB data cable
- Quick Start guide
- SIM removal tool
- Screen protector
- Silicone case
Realme could’ve included a pair of cheap earphones in the box to complete its offering, but we are not one to complain at this price point.
Realme U1 Design and Build Quality
In typical fashion, let’s first talk about the build and aesthetics of the Realme U1 smartphone and right off the bat, you will notice one thing: Realme didn’t really have time to design a new smartphone in the two months since its last phone. It has picked the same design from the Realme 2 Pro, which worked in the past (straight out of Xiaomi’s playbook!).
Yeah, the design of the Realme U1 is about the same as the Realme 2 Pro and there’s no major surprise in store for you – except for maybe the more comfortable grip and in-hand feel of the new Realme device. It’s slightly thinner than the 2 Pro and that makes a considerable difference in daily use.
The Realme U1 feels handier, lighter, and its rounded edges give you more confidence in holding the device – even though the plastic feels a bit cheap. The fingerprint sensor and Face Unlock are very responsive, with the latter being a tad quicker than the OnePlus 6’s camera-based Face Unlock.
Circling back to compare the Realme 2 Pro and Realme U1, everything from the dual rear-cameras, fingerprint sensor, and Realme branding on the rear to the dewdrop notch front, these two devices are identical. There’s no difference in button or port placement as well, as you can see right here:
The newest member of the Realme family is definitely a looker and the ‘Fiery Gold’ variant with us got people drawing comparisons to the iPhone XS. The light pillars (as Realme likes to call the reflective pattern on the back) on Realme U1 set it apart and make it look stunning in different lighting conditions.
The power button (on the right edge) and volume rockers (on the left edge) of the Realme U1 are made out of plastic and may feel cheap to the touch but are quite tactile, so I have got no qualms about them. There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack and microUSB charging port at the bottom, but the secondary microphone up top is missing — which is disappointing.
Realme U1 Display
Moving along, if someone were to ask me one of the key highlights of the latest Realme smartphone, then I would say that the display on the device is gorgeous. The dewdrop notch makes the Realme U1 look a lot more bezel-less than it is, and beautiful.
The Realme U1 features a 6.3-inch Full-HD+ LTPS IPS display, with a 2340 x 1080 pixels screen resolution and 19.5:9 aspect ratio. The company boasts of a 90.8% screen-to-body ratio and the display looks pretty good in everyday use.
The color reproduction is on point, the display gets quite bright in indoor conditions and holds up quite well in direct sunlight as well. I have got no major criticism here, except for the fact that the Realme 2 Pro has a much better LCD panel that offers users more brightness and color range.
However, I love the dewdrop notch design and it feels like you are using a single slab of glass at night when the chin disappears and only the non-intrusive notch is visible to the eye.
Realme U1 ColorOS
The biggest flaw in the Realme U1, as has been said time and time again with Realme phones, is the software experience. The device runs Android 8.1 Oreo-based ColorOS 5.2 and though it’s quite feature-packed, which is something I appreciate. But the company’s skin requires a lot of work and remodeling to make the experience worthwhile for the user.
The ColorOS UI seems to have been heavily inspired by iOS. It does take some time getting used to this, but you will learn your way around it quite easily, enjoying access to some of the add-on features including the Smart Assistant and Smart Sidebar, along with Kids Space, Voice Call Effects, and many others.
In terms of usability, I constantly faced issues with the gesture-based navigation bar which stopped working for me in the camera and gallery app many times. Swiping up from the bottom does not always activate the gestures.
Realme U1 has no notification LED and it’s super frustrating!
Another major problem is with notifications. The Realme U1 is missing the notification LED and ColorOS is typically never in the mood to surface the latest notifications as they come in. The device usually just lights up the screen and vibrates when a new notification arrives and doesn’t show which app has sent it, which gets frustrating very soon.
Realme U1 Performance
As we’ve already pointed out, Realme U1 is the first device to debut with the backing of MediaTek’s latest flagship chipset – the Helio P70 and it’s mighty enough to handle almost any of the tasks thrown at it. I have been using the device for around a week and didn’t notice any lag or stutter across the user interface, even though it’s heavily skinned.
Yes, the Helio P70 chipset inside the Realme U1 powers through tasks like a champ and you wouldn’t notice any issues with the user experience, making multi-tasking a breeze. However, I did notice that ColorOS was aggressively closing apps that have been in the memory for too long and they had to reload each time I tried opening them. That’s a bit disappointing but nothing that cannot be fixed with a software update.
Turning our attention to the gaming performance, which has become a core obsession for users ever since the launch of battle royale phenomenon PUBG Mobile. Well, Realme U1 comes packed with the Realme Game Space and it comes in handy for freeing up the memory to run games smoothly, while also muting app and call notifications so as not to hinder your gaming experience.
I tried out everything from low-end games such as Temple Run, Mr. Gun, and Badminton League (my latest obsession) on the device and didn’t notice any issues, however, heavy games like PUBG Mobile (medium settings, by default) did take a bit of toll on the performance. I did notice minor stutter or frame drops during War Mode gameplays but otherwise, Asphalt 9, Shadowgun Legends, and other similar games was a fun experience with no concerns.
MediaTek Helio P70 Antutu Benchmarks
Finally, for those who love to judge and compare smartphone performance via benchmark scores, we’ve attached screenshots of our Geekbench 4 and AnTutu results of the Realme U1 (codename RMX1833) down below. These numbers amazed us when we ran the tests, well, because they are clearly better than the Redmi Note 6 Pro, running Snapdragon 636.
The numbers prove that MediaTek Helio P70 chipset is not only more powerful than the Snapdragon 636 but also closely compares to Snapdragon 660 in benchmark numbers. This means Realme U1 can offer you better performance than the Realme 2 Pro, which is something we’ll be testing out thoroughly in a couple of days.
Realme U1 Cameras
Coming to the highlight of the Realme U1, the company is pitching this device as a Selfie Pro and it goes up against the likes of Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 6 Pro and Redmi Y2. The device packs in a dual camera system, with a primary 13MP (f/2.2) sensor and a secondary 2MP (f/2.4) sensor on the rear and a 25MP (f/2.0) sensor on the front.
Now comes the moment of truth and let me assure you that the cameras on Realme U1 are quite good for the price, but could’ve been better. Let’s check out the camera samples in different lighting conditions to give you a better idea:
In broad daylight, the Realme U1 performs well but you will notice that while some of the photos look stunning with great detail, the others look oversharpened and a bit saturated (even though the Super Vivid mode was off). The device is quick to focus and manages to capture details and shadows right, but has a tendency to blow out highlights.
In low-light and artificial conditions, the Realme U1 performs pretty well and manages to capture a lot of light. The rear, as well as the front camera, does a good job in capturing details but like daylight, some of the images seem to be oversharpened. The highlights, as well as shadows, are handled with ease and the images appear good enough for the price.
Coming to the selfies and portrait, which the company touts to be the highlight of Realme U1. Well, it’s not completely wrong. The 25-MP selfie snapper on here is considerably better than the Realme 2 Pro (which you’ll see in our comparison below) and manages to capture more detail in the subject’s face and hair. But again, if there’s a light source in the background then it’s overexposed and Realme U1 find it difficult to act during such scenarios.
The device comes with a portrait mode, much like any other phone these days, and I’ve been quite satisfied with its quality. The edge detection is average, the background blur looks natural, and the photos don’t look dull like they did from the Honor 8C.
Well, the camera on the Realme U1 also comes with portrait lighting effects – similar to iPhones but certainly not as good. There are also AR face stickers, which make Akshay and Rupesh look particularly attractive, don’t they?
Realme U1 vs vs Redmi Note 6 Pro vs Realme 2 Pro Camera Shootout
Now let me also give you a brief look into how the Realme U1’s camera compares against its similarly-priced competitors, including Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 6 Pro and the Realme 2 Pro. And well, there’s no doubt about the outcome of the showdown as the Redmi Note 6 Pro still comes out on top with flying colors (quite literally), but the Realme U1 is not far behind.
Finally, speaking of the video capabilities of the Realme U1, it packs support for up to 1080p video recording at 30fps and from the looks of it, the video quality is decent enough for casual recordings. The colors seem dull and sections of the video are blown out, with the camera having issues with varying lighting, as shown in the sample attached below:
Realme U1 Connectivity
Realme U1 is carrying forward the triple-slot tray that we’ve seen on the Realme 2 Pro, which means you can use two nano-SIM cards, as well as expand the storage by up to 256GB via the dedicated microSD card slot. This will come in very handy for users who might be looking to use their device to record or download YouTube videos.
The device packs 4G dual VoLTE connectivity support and the reception was decent during my usage, with no network issues during calling or Internet surfing. You also get support for Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n/ac, which suggests Realme U1 can seamlessly connect to 5GHz networks, but I was disappointed to see my 5GHz Wi-Fi network not appear in the available network list.
Further, you’ll get the usual set of connectivity options including Bluetooth 4.2, A-GPS, GLONASS, a 3.5mm headphone jack (thankfully, it hasn’t disappeared from the budget segment just yet), and more.
Realme U1 Audio and Telephony
The Realme U1 packs in a single bottom-firing speaker, which now seems to be the norm for most smartphones, however, I despise this placement. It is easy to muffle the speaker with your hand while playing games and that can certainly get frustrating in no time.
As for the sound quality, well, the speaker gets rather loud and produces a treble-heavy sound that should be sufficient for you to give your friend a listen to that new hit track you can’t stop talking about. You get access to 16 volume steps, which is decent, and you can comfortably enjoy music at around 50-60% volume without vocals being drowned out by the instrumentals.
My telephony experience with the Realme U1 has been good. I had been using my Airtel and Jio SIMs on the device for the past week and did not notice any connection or calling woes. However, the absence of a secondary microphone affected the call quality a tad bit as callers asked me about the increased background noise – which isn’t the case with my usual daily driver, the Nokia 7 Plus.
Realme U1 Battery
Finally, the Realme U1 includes a moderate-sized 3,500mAh battery on board and it has served me quite well over the past week. I was comfortably able to milk the device’s charge for around one and a half day during regular use, carrying out daily office work, speaking to friends on call or WhatsApp, scrolling through Instagram, and watching a handful of videos on the way back home.
I also tried to squeeze in a couple games of PUBG during my lunch hours and the device still stood tall with about 10-20% charge at the end of the day. So, I’m pretty impressed with the battery on the Realme U1 but not ColorOS as you’ll not be able to see screen-on-time figures here.
As for charging, the company has provided a power brick rated at 10W and it enables you to juice up the Realme U1 from 5% to 75% in around 90 minutes, which is pretty good enough for a smartphone in its price bracket. It easily takes 2+ hours to completely charge the device but as you’ve already seen, the device would last a day without a hitch.
Realme U1: Should Xiaomi Be Worried?
Well, after everything, we have finally made it to the end of our Realme U1 review and it’s now time to tell you whether the latest device from Realme is worth buying or not. And let me start by giving you the green light for that decision as Realme U1 (Buy here from Rs 11,999) is trying to offer you the best it can in its price bracket – except for the few caveats that we found in the software department.
The Realme U1 at par with the company’s previous launch, the Realme Pro 2 (Buy from Rs 13,990), even though it is powered by a Snapdragon 660 chipset. The decision, it seems, will ultimately boil down to the cameras – especially the selfie one in this case. Realme U1 will take the cake here for its stellar front camera performance.
However, if the rear camera is a priority for you and you cannot compromise even a tad bit on that front, then Redmi Note 6 Pro (starts at Rs 13,999) should definitely be the budget phone of your choice. It also has MIUI, which is more matured than ColorOS. You will have to live with a bigger notch and bigger chin, the usual Xiaomi build, but there’s no better budget phone, with a superior camera out there in this price segment.
- Classy and lightweight
- Waterdrop notch
- Superfast face unlock
- Snappy performance
- Solid battery life
- Average cameras
- ColorOS woes persist
- Display could have been better
Realme U1 Review: Falls Just Short of Mid-Range Rivals
The Realme U1 has shaped up to be the company’s best effort to date but with its flaws in the software and camera, there might be some pause for potential buyers. We hope that Realme optimizes ColorOS for the new MediaTek SoC and also improves its image processing, which would definitely make it a worthy contender to take on rivals. The overall package of the Realme U1, given the price and the more snappy processor, could turn out up be a huge threat to Xiaomi and Honor’s dominance.
Hope this review helps you make your choice when picking a smartphone in the sub-Rs. 15,000 segment. If you have any doubts or queries, shoot them in the comments down below and we’ll answer them in no time.
Buy Realme U1 from Amazon (starts at Rs 11,999)