realme 7 5G review: Affordable 5G with an amazing display
Quick verdict: The realme 7 5G brings a lot of features to the mid-range 5G market at an appealing price point, but it’s not quite the super-bargain it might seem.
- Dual 5G capability
- Very fast on 5G networks
- Fast battery recharging
- App performance is mediocre for its price range
- Cameras don’t live up to their promise
- Heavy 5G usage will drain the battery fast
Power, storage and battery
|Launch price (RRP)||$0|
Since its local launch, realme has primarily focused on highly affordable handsets, primarily pitched at a youth market that might not have much money, but wanted a "fun" phone with a few neat features.
The realme 7 5G represents a different step in both style and approach for the Chinese phone maker, with its first 5G capable handset matched with a style that (at least on the surface) appears a little more mature. While it's on the higher end of realme's pricing scale, at $499 outright, it's amongst the cheapest 5G phones you can buy in Australia right now.
- 6.5-inch 120Hz display
- Mist Blue or Flash Silver finishes look good
- Side mounted fingerprint sensor
- Headphone jack
The realme 7 5G's big selling point from a design perspective is that it's the cheapest phone we've seen to date to feature a 120Hz-capable display. That higher refresh rate means that you get smoother video performance, slicker web site scrolling and faster action in Android games, although you do need to be careful with some titles that use the screen refresh rate as part of the clock cycle. In that case, they'll run just a tad too fast at 120Hz.
That 120Hz display stays low-cost by using an LCD display, rather than the AMOLED that you'll typically see with other high refresh rate mobiles, so there is something of a tradeoff there between refresh rates and colour accuracy.
The front display features a left side "holepunch" side cut-out for the selfie camera, but while other realme devices have played with offering up an in-display fingerprint reader, you won't find one of those on the realme 7 5G.
Instead, it uses a side-mounted fingerprint sensor that, like so many other similar phones, also doubles as the phone's power button. While it gives you a more slender strike area to register your fingerprint, I had few issues with it compared to the cheaper sensors often used for mid-range in-display fingerprint readers.
The power and fingerprint sensor sits on the right-hand side, which frees up the left side for volume buttons and the SIM card tray, while at the bottom you'll find USB C for charging and a proper 3.5mm headphone jack.
In Australia, realme sells the realme 7 5G in two different finishes, either "Flash Silver" or "Mist Blue". As you'd expect, they're silver and blue phones, using a fairly nice two-tone rear panel with a stripe up the side to give them a point of difference.
To keep costs low, they're only plastic body phones, which does mean a little fingerprint smudging is inevitable. One real oddity here is that the Mist Blue model as tested has a tiny realme logo on the back of the phone, while the Flash Silver features the company name in comparatively huge letters. I'm not a huge fan of my phone being free advertising for the company I've already paid money to, but maybe your tolerances are different.
- Quad camera, but not all lenses are equal
- Low light shots quickly suffer
Long gone are the days when mid-range phones could get by with a single or dual camera array at the back of the phone. The realme 7 5G has a quad camera array, tethered around a primary 48MP f/1.8 sensor. That's joined by an 8MP 119º wide angle lens, 2MP Macro lens and 2MP monochrome lens. At the front, you'll shoot your Instagram selfies with a 16MP f/2.1 sensor.
It's pretty common to see those low-spec Macro lenses in mid-range phones right now. They're rarely any good in most situations, and the realme 7 5G doesn't buck that trend. You'll need a tripod and a lot of luck to get particularly good Macro shots out of this phone.
I'm a big fan of shooting in monochrome, so the inclusion of a dedicated monochrome lens got me quite excited. But it was all for naught, because while there is a monochrome lens in the realme 7 5G, it's used purely to give depth and contrast to standard photos, rather than offering options in moody portrait lighting or gothic cathedral photography or whatever. There's no way in realme's camera app to access the monochrome lens by itself, probably because of that lower resolution.
That leaves the realme 7 5G leaning pretty heavily on the primary 48MP and secondary 8MP ultrawide lenses. Which means in some senses, we really haven't moved on that much from the days of dual lens mid-range phones at all!
Here, the realme 7 5G performs reasonably well. Harder subjects, such as anything involving low light are predictably a challenge to get right, and I did notice some sluggishness when launching the camera app from time to time. Still, for a $499 handset, the realme 7 5G is perfectly fine, if not massively impressive on the camera front.
- Dual 5G can run very fast indeed
- MediaTek Dimensity 800U is an unusual chip
- realme UI is an acquired taste
In 2020, if you were buying a lower cost 5G phone in Australia, it typically ran on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G, because that was the available lower-cost silicon that came with sub-6 style 5G compatibility in the market.
This is one area where realme has bucked the trend, opting instead for MediaTek's Dimensity 800U silicon at the heart of the realme 7 5G. Indeed, the realme 7 5G couldn't really be the phone it is without the Dimensity 800U, because it's a solution with inbuilt support for features such as that 120Hz display, along with dual 5G SIM compatibility.
The realme 7 5G features a dual SIM card tray, and like so many you've got to trade off adding a microSD card or a second SIM card, but if you do go dual SIM and your connected accounts and networks support it, both can run 5G where many phones drop that second SIM down to 4G instead.
All of which is technically neat, but MediaTek's usual forte is in low-cost affordable silicon, making the Dimensity 800U one of its higher-end solutions, where the competing Snapdragon chips are mid-to-low range for Qualcomm's usual ambitions. As such, I was quite keen to see how it would compare on Australian 5G networks.
To test that, I took the realme 7 5G out to test on Telstra's 5G network at the nearest available coverage spot. Sadly, my home office isn't yet blanketed with 5G, although it does intermittently appear on phones when I'm testing there. However, a nearby shopping centre is 5G central, and using Finder's speed test I ran a group of tests to gauge whether the realme 7 5G could keep up with the Snapdragon pack.
Network speeds are always variable matters, but I had absolutely nothing to complain about when it came to raw speed, with the realme 7 5G hitting between 400Mbps to an impressive 920Mbps in my tests.
To be fair to the Snapdragon side of the fence, at that location and at that time, I could hit 920Mbps on a Snapdragon 765G phone at the same time too. If the realme 7 5G appeals to you for that 5G coverage, you won't be left wanting for speed on its behalf, although again, network conditions are more vital there.
With that 5G question answered, it was time to see how the realme 7 5G compares in more everyday app performance. That Dimensity 800U processor is joined by 8GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage, expandable via microSD card at the cost of a SIM card slot.
Here's how the realme 7 5G compared against a range of Snapdragon 765G equipped handsets, as well as its sibling realme 7 Pro using Geekbench 5's CPU test:
It's here we can see a definite performance gap between the realme 7 5G and its Snapdragon competitors, as well as the Snapdragon 720-based realme 7 pro. While it's true that some of those competing phones did cost more than the realme 7 5G when they launched, we've seen some bargains in that timeframe – and some of those handsets cost exactly the same amount.
It's a very similar story when you compare graphics performance. Here's how the realme 7 5G stacks up for polygon shifting, pitting its Mali-G57 GPU against the same handsets using 3DMark's graphics benchmarks:
Here it's a little more even, and with that 120Hz display you may even find the realme 7 5G something of a preferable gaming platform in the mid-range space.
The realme 7 5G runs on Android 10 with realme's own realme UI overlaid on top of it. Like Oppo's ColorOS – which it was built on top of, essentially – it's a colourful overlay that adds a few apps to core Android with quite a lot of explicit permission asking that always makes me feel a little nervous. Thankfully, being Android you can by and large ignore most of the pre-baked apps and use your own, although you are stuck with the other UI elements like the redesigned notification shade.
- 5,000mAh battery runs well on 4G, but 5G is a definite drain
- 120Hz screen only has minimal battery impact
- Very fast cabled charging
The realme 7 5G runs off an integrated 5,000mAh battery, which is nicely large for a phone in this price bracket, and a decent theoretical sop to the needs of that 120hz display.
To test this, I ran the realme 7 5G through our standard battery life test, streaming a Full HD YouTube video at maximum brightness and moderate volume for an hour from fully charged. What we look for here is at least 90% battery life remaining, because that's the sign of a phone that can handle at least a day's battery life.
Here's how the realme 7 5G compared:
That 120Hz figure is especially impressive because it suggests that the Dimensity 800U processor is doing some very clever power management to only drop a single percentage point. I've seen phones drop far more power for faster refresh rates than this in the past.
That is still a benchmark figure, and it's very important to note that all of those tests were performed in a 4G network area. When I was 5G network testing with the realme 7 5G, the battery capacity dropped significantly faster, pitching below 90% for less than an hour's usage. That was only with a single SIM, too; dual 5G could conceivably really drain the realme 7 5G rather too rapidly.
There's no wireless charging on board, but you do get BKK Electronic's fast charging standard – realme's branding is "Dash Charging" – for rapid battery top-ups. If you're mostly on 4G networks you probably won't need it, but if you're mostly in 5G zones, you probably will.
Should you buy the realme 7 5G?
- Buy it if you want a decent-all rounder 5G phone with dual 5G SIM compatibility.
- Don't buy it if you want great battery life on 5G all day or best performance for a mid-range 5G phone.
The realme 7 5G is a classic example of a phone that looks pretty extraordinary on paper, what with its dual 5G SIM, 120Hz display and quad camera array. However, actual testing does show where its weak points are. Like any phone, you've got to weigh up the features you want and the price you're willing to pay.
At $499 the realme 7 5G definitely has its strong points, and they're exactly what you'd expect, but you do have to weigh that against app performance that's essentially at the bottom of its class for this type of phone, and the potential issues around battery life if you're using 5G quite a lot. Given that realme has chosen to use 5G as this phone's suffix, it's not hard to imagine that a lot of potential buyers might want to do just that.
Pricing and availability
PriceRRP: From $499
Where to buy
Power, storage and battery
Images: Alex Kidman