- 90Hz display
- Fast performance
- Attractive design
- Average camera
- Realme UI isn’t my favourite
- Only 4GB RAM in base model
The Realme 7 isn’t the best budget phone around right now, but it’s pretty damn close. It looks great, runs fast, and packs a 90Hz display for just £179.
Price When Reviewed
From £179.99 (around $230)
Best Prices Today: Realme 7
Realme hasn’t been in the UK market for long, but it’s moved aggressively in that time. The Realme 6 series only launched in spring 2020, but the company is back already with its successor: the Realme 7.
The Realme 6 quickly became our favourite budget phone, but since then it’s been usurped by Xiaomi’s Poco X3, which packs in almost absurd specs for just £199.
Starting from £179, the Realme 7 undercuts the Poco X3, and while it can’t quite compete on pure performance or camera chops, with a more attractive design and simpler software the Realme will appeal more to some. And if you need a bit more power, there’s always the Realme 7 Pro, launched alongside it.
Design and build
Considering the price, the Realme 7 is an unexpectedly attractive bit of kit. It has a 6.5in display, which is big but not uncomfortably so – I can still use it one-handed, though smaller hands may struggle.
Gorilla Glass 3 coats the display – far from the latest version, but still protective enough – while the back is plastic, which is typical at this price. That has the benefit of a softer, grippier finish than glass, and Realme has made the most of the material visually too.
The Realme 7’s rear is split by a line that runs down behind the corner-mounted camera module, creating contrasting light reflections on either side of the line – an effect the company says was inspired by mirrors. That explains the naming at least – with Mirror White (pictured) and Mirror Blue finishes both available in the UK.
At 9.4mm the 7 is a little thick – curiously partly thanks to a raised black border around the edges of the display, which slightly ruins the feel of the curves – but it weighs just under 200g, which still feels lightweight and comfortable.
The speakers are only mono, but you do at least get a headphone jack. That’s joined by a USB-C port for charging and a side-mounted fingerprint scanner built into the power button, which has proved quick and impressively reliable so far.
I’m a big fan of the Realme 7’s design, considering the price. It’s smaller, lighter, and subtler than its main rival, the Poco X3, with a finish that feels a little flash without ever crossing the line into garish.
I’ve already mentioned that at 6.5in the display is fairly big, and it has a Full HD resolution of 2400×1080. It’s fast too though, with a 90Hz refresh rate – which basically means it looks and feels smoother to use and is capable of hitting higher framerates if you’re big on gaming. It’s an effect that’s hard to put into words until you’ve used it, but trust me: using a 90Hz phone feels better, even if you can’t quite put your finger on it, and that alone will make this an upgrade for many.
It’s an IPS LCD rather than the OLED you’ll find in more expensive phones (including the 7 Pro), which means the viewing angles and contrast aren’t up there with the best displays on the market. I imagine most people will find that the colours are punchy enough, though it’s not the brightest LCD I’ve used, which means it will struggle a little in bright, direct sunlight.
There’s a 90% screen-to-body ratio, which basically means slim borders around the display’s edges – admittedly with a bit of a chunky chin right at the bottom. There’s also a punch-hole selfie camera in the top-left corner – my preferred spot, as it keeps it nicely out of the way.
Specs and performance
If you happen to care about phone processors, the Realme 7 is actually an interesting phone, as it’s the first to be powered by the MediaTek Helio G95, a new 12nm chip that’s designed to bring high-level performance to budget devices, especially for gaming.
I was a little sceptical, but the results speak for themselves. Performance is broadly on a par with the Realme 6 – so there’s no great leap forward here – but it also keeps up with the 7 Pro, which uses the more expensive Snapdragon 720G, and isn’t far behind the Poco X3 and its Snapdragon 732G.
Benchmarks are only one side of the story of course, and in usage I found the Realme 7 perfectly snappy and responsive. I didn’t put it through its paces in any intense mobile gaming, but it handled everything else I threw at it very capably.
It’s worth noting though that I’ve been testing the phone’s top spec, with 8GB of RAM and 128GB storage. That costs £239, and the entry-level £179 model has half the RAM and storage, while a mid-tier setup offers 6GB RAM.
The storage might be a frustration, but is easily resolved with a microSD card – especially since this comes with a triple card slot, allowing for two SIM cards and a microSD card simultaneously. The RAM is the real issue – I would expect the 4GB version of the phone to be noticeably slower, and would recommend anyone grab the 6GB model at a minimum.
There’s no 5G support to be found here, or Wi-Fi 6, but you do get regular Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0. The phone also includes NFC support for contactless payments – not always guaranteed in budget phones.
So far things have all been pretty good, but if there’s a weak link to the Realme 7 it’s really the camera. On paper it looks promising enough: a 48MP, f/1.8 main lens, backed up by an 8Mp ultrawide and portrait and macro sensors.
In practice, things are slightly less encouraging. Thanks to the 48Mp sensor detail is decent so long as the lighting is good, and most of my shots have been crisp and sharp. Colour reproduction is less impressive though, with consistently warm tones that never quite feel true-to-life, with the effect getting more pronounced in lower light.
The portrait mode is worse, with slightly ropey edge detection – you can see in the sample shots below that it kept the table behind me in focus, rather than blurring it with the rest of the background.
Night mode is better though. There’s a touch of image softening thanks to the long focus, but nothing too bad, and colour reproduction is actually good here. Importantly, the photos still look like they were taken at night – something many other phones get wrong, brightening dark photos until they look like daylight.
The other lenses have less to offer. The ultrawide is distinctly fuzzy and undetailed, so will only do in a pinch. As for the macro, like on most budget phones this lens is really only there to pad the numbers – even up close you’ll get better shots out of the main camera than the macro lens.
The 16Mp selfie camera isn’t bad at all though. Colours are still a little warm, but selfies are sharp, and in my test shots it handled the portrait mode better than the rear camera setup, even without a dedicated portrait photography lens.
As for video, you can film up to 4K at 30fps or 1080p at 60fps from the rear cameras, with electronic image stabilisation to keep footage steady. You can also shoot slo-mo at up to 240fps if you fancy.
Overall the Realme 7’s camera isn’t awful, and honestly for this price it’s pretty good, but you can feel the limits of the hardware here. It’s especially frustrating coming just after the Poco X3, which delivers a much stronger camera setup for the same price – if I hadn’t just come off using that phone, I’d likely be more impressed with what the Realme offers.
Battery and charging
Realme has included a large 5000mAh battery in this phone, which in my experience has basically translated to two days of use on a single charge, though heavy users may find it doesn’t last quite that long. Either way it should comfortably make it through a day with plenty of power to spare.
If you want to save battery further you can always drop the display down to 60Hz, which should eke out a few extra hours. It’s also worth flagging that the phone seemed to under-perform in our battery benchmarks, but in real-world usage it’s more impressive. Curiously the Realme 6 did the same thing, so don’t put too much stock in the battery benchmark score above.
When it’s time to top up, the included 30W charger recovered 58% of the battery capacity in just half an hour in my test. That’s basically enough power to last the day from just half an hour on the charger, which isn’t bad at all.
The Realme 7 runs on Realme UI, which itself sits on top of Android 10. I’d be lying if I said Realme’s was my favourite take on Android, but it’s also far from the worst out there, and these days is pretty middle of the road.
I find the design language a little colourful and cutesy to my taste, but it’s more restrained than it used to be – and unlike some rivals there’s minimal unwanted software pre-installed.
There are small annoyances dotted about – a recurring visual glitch in Instagram messages; the fact that tapping a grouped notification (such as for all my emails in the morning) simply ungroups them rather than opening the app; or that setting notifications to wake the screen interacts in some weird way with Spotify that leaves my screen turning on and off incessantly.
Buying a phone from Motorola or Nokia would avoid many of these small irritations, but neither can compete with Realme on hardware at this price. As for that big rival, the Poco X3? Well, Xiaomi’s MIUI is even worse, so I’d take the Realme software any day.
Price and availability
The Realme 7 is available in the UK from the Realme site or Amazon. As I’ve already mentioned, it starts from £179, but there are actually three versions available in the UK:
- 4GB RAM + 64GB storage – £179
- 6GB RAM + 64GB storage – £199
- 8GB RAM + 128GB storage – £239
That 4GB of RAM worries me a little, so I’d recommend that if you are tempted you go for the £199 model, as 6GB should be sufficient. If you’re worried about storage you can always go for the £239 option, but I’d recommend just buying a microSD card instead, as it’ll almost certainly be cheaper.
The £199 model is conveniently the exact same price as the starting model of the Poco X3, which also comes with 6GB RAM and 64GB storage. I’ve tested both phones, and while I marginally prefer the Poco, they suit different audiences.
The Poco X3 packs in a faster processor, a higher refresh rate display, and a superior camera. On the other hand it’s bigger, uglier, and runs on more frustrating software. If you care about specs and photos above all else the Poco edges it, but I think many people will prefer the experience of the Realme 7 day-to-day.
Then there’s the Realme 7 Pro, which starts from £279 for 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. It’s actually not a clear cut upgrade from the 7, but the priorities are different: the display is only 60Hz, but OLED; the battery is smaller but power efficiency is improved; the charging is much faster at 65W. It’s mostly an improvement if you can afford it, but some will prefer the regular 7.
For more options check out our full ranking of the best budget phones on the market right now, or our pick of the best Realme phones if you’ve already narrowed it down.
The competition is too fierce for the Realme 7 to claim the best budget phone crown that its predecessor wore for so long. But don’t hold that against it too much.
This still offers phenomenal value for money, with strong performance and all-round specs packed into an attractive design at an affordable price.
I’m a little disappointed by the camera, and wouldn’t recommend anyone buy the base model with 4GB RAM, but beyond that there’s not much to complain about here.
Related stories for further reading
- Best budget phone deals
- Best SIM-only deals
- Best phone network
- All smartphone reviews
- Best budget phones
- Best Chinese phones
- Best budget Chinese phones
- Best dual-SIM phones
- Best Realme phones
- How we test smartphones
- Best new phones coming soon
Realme 7: Specs
- Android 10 with Realme UI
- 6.5in Full HD+ (1080×2400) 20:9 IPS LCD, 90Hz
- Mediatek Helio G95 octa-core processor
- 4/6/8GB RAM
- 64/128GB internal storage
- microSD card slot
- 48Mp main, f/1.8, PDAF
- 8Mp ultrawide, f/2.3
- 2Mp macro
- 2Mp portrait
- 16Mp, f/2, selfie camera
- Video up to 4K @30fps
- Fingerprint scanner (in power button)
- 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 5.0
- 4G LTE
- Dual-nano SIM
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- 5000mAh non-removable battery
- Fast charging 30W
- 162.3 x 75.4 x 9.4mm