Realme U1 review: Premium glass finish, small notch & fantastic selfie camera
The camera takes selfies with good amount of details and natural colours.
Specifications: 6.3-inch IPS dewdrop display, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 2340 x 1080 pixels, octa-core Helio P70, 3/4GB RAM, 32/64GB storage, dedicated microSD slot, 13MP + 2MP dual rear camera, 25MP front camera, rear fingerprint scanner, 4G with VoLTE, Android 8.1, Face unlock, 3,500mAh, 168 grams
Pros: Premium glass finish, large screen with small notch, great daily and gaming performance, excellent battery life, fantastic selfie camera, fast face unlock
Cons: Quick to pick up smudges, low light camera performance, portrait mode is iffy with spectacles, no notification LED, L3 DRM means no HD streaming
Realme launched their first phone in May 2018. This was quickly followed up by three more phones: Realme 2, Realme 2 Pro and Realme C1. Now, the company has launched another device aimed at selfie enthusiasts.
The Realme U1 is currently the cheapest phone to offer a 25MP front camera for selfies. The camera sensor is a Sony IMX576 — the same is used on the Oppo F7 which is almost double the price of the U1. Realme calls it their Selfie Pro camera and it has a f2.0 aperture, AI beauty, HDR, bokeh effect and super vivid effect in the interface. The camera takes selfies with good amount of details and natural colours outdoors as well as indoors. In low light, there is lack of detail, but we found the selfies to be good enough for sharing on social media. The bokeh effect is good and the edge detection is also good compared to the competition. However, we noticed that the edge detection does not work very well if you wear spectacles — it often blurs out the edges of the spectacles while taking a photo. Hopefully, Realme can fix this with software updates.
This is also the cheapest smartphone to offer a dewdrop style small notch on the display. You get a bright 6.3-inch screen with full HD resolution, sleek bezels and vibrant colours. You can control which apps work in full screen display and even force non-compatible apps to run full screen from the settings. It is a disappointment that the Realme U1 lacks the capability of streaming videos in HD resolution with such a nice display. Also, since the phone has a dewdrop style small notch, there is no option to disable the notch. The rear of the phone has a glass-like finish just like the Realme 2 Pro. Keep in mind that it’s a plastic body with a glossy finish — it makes the phone look premium but also picks up smudges quickly. Even though we like the overall design of the phone, the Realme 2, C1, 2 Pro and now the U1 all seem alike from the back in terms of the finish. To avoid being repetitive, we hope Realme introduces fresh designs on other devices.
Another first on the Realme U1 is its processor — Helio P70. This is Mediatek’s new mid-range processor and it boasts of a dedicated AI processor. In our testing, we faced no issues with day-to-day performance and even managed to play games like PUBG and Asphalt 9 at medium graphics settings. If you close all background apps and enable the built-in Game mode, you can run the same games at high settings too. This performance is fantastic in our opinion for a phone at this price. The 3,500mAh battery regularly lasted a full day with 10-15% battery to spare.
Around the back, the U1 has a dual camera: 13MP f2.2 + 2MP f2.4 depth sensor. On paper, this is the same as the Realme 2. Camera performance is average. As long as there is ample light around, the camera manages to take images with good details. However, in evening shots as well as indoors we noticed that the details became soft and the camera had trouble in locking focus. In low light, noise becomes visible in photos along with soft details. Portrait mode is the highlight of the U1 — it comes with AI Beauty+ which Realme says is a beauty mode tuned for Indian users. There is also portrait lighting effect which works great in adding unique edits to portrait photos. There is a good amount of visible bokeh in portrait shots but like the front camera, edge detection is a bit iffy with spectacles.
A few other things we liked on the Realme U1 include the quick fingerprint scanner, fast face unlock, handy sidebar in the UI and the loud speaker. What we did not like was the lack of a notification LED light, no support for WiFi ac and that Realme still does not allow app notification icons on the top bar. All said and done, the U1 has a number of firsts at this asking price. At Rs 11,999 onwards, the Realme U1 is a good option for selfie lovers who want a modern looking device. However, it has a few issues with camera performance that need to be fixed soon. At a lower price (Rs 9,999), you can consider the Redmi Y2, Honor 9N and the Infinix Note 5 — all three offer a 16MP front camera with good performance.