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Realme GT review: A true flagship killer — except for a couple of snags

The Realme GT gives you the features you want for much less than you'd think

Realme GT review
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

Buy a Realme GT, and you'll get performance and visuals worth of phones well beyond its price. Just be ready to live with a disappointing camera.

For

  • Flagship-class power
  • 120Hz display
  • 65W charging
  • Unique design

Against

  • Poor cameras
  • No U.S. availability
Realme GT review: specs

Starting price: €449
Display: 6.4-inch FHD AMOLED (2400 x 1080)
Refresh rate: 60Hz/120Hz (adaptive)
Rear cameras: 64MP main (f/1.8), 8MP ultrawide (f/2.3), 2MP macro (f/2.4)
Front camera: 16MP selfie (f/2.5)
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8GB/12GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB
Battery: 4,500 mAh
Charging: 65W wired
Operating system: Android 11 with Realme UI 2.0
Size: 6.2 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches (158.5 x 73.3 x 9.1 mm)
Weight: 6.6 ounces (186 grams)
Water/dust resistance: Water-resistant (no IP rating)

You could easily mistake the Realme GT for a flagship phone if you just looked at the phone’s specs list. It mirrors the chipset, charging speed, and display components found in far more expensive phones like a Samsung Galaxy S21 or OnePlus 9, but the GT costs far less than what you’d pay for those high-end handsets. All that’s bundled together into a compact body with a bold design.

The Realme GT has some flaws, most notably lackluster cameras. But our Realme GT review finds a device that makes a claim for a spot on the best cheap phones or best gaming phones lists.

Realme GT review: Price and availability 

The Realme GT goes on sale from June 16 in the U.K., via the Realme website and Amazon UK; and also on AliExpress from June 21. There aren't GBP prices available yet, but Realme says it costs €449 (around £390 or $543) for the basic 8GB RAM/128GB storage version. The 12GB RAM/256GB model costs €599 (around £520 or $724).

Buying either version from AliExpress on June 21 gets you an early bird discount. The 8GB/128GB model will be reduced to €369  and the 12GB/256GB model to €499). UK prices are likely to be different as phone makers rarely do straight currency conversions.

For comparison, the Google Pixel 4a 5G costs £499, while the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G costs £399, but those budget phones have less powerful chipsets inside. The next cheapest phone with the same Snapdragon 888 chipset I could find is the RedMagic 6, which sells for £509/$599. In other words, considering some of the prices on Snapdragon 888-powered phones, the Realme GT seems like a genuine bargain.

Realme doesn't currently sell in the U.S. market, and it’s unlikely to anytime soon, given the barrier to entry facing many Chinese phone makers.

Realme GT review: Design

The GT follows the common design formula for Android phones this year of placing a selfie camera in the left corner of a flat-edged display. The screen protrudes quite far up from the side rails, which makes me worried about how much damage even a small drop would cause. Moving to the sides, there's a power button on the right, volume buttons on the left, and a 3.5mm headphone jack, a rare thing to find on phones these days, next to the USB-C port on the bottom.

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The Realme GT’s Racing Yellow back is what makes the phone stand out, as does the choice of vegan leather material. The black stripe through the middle, which contains a subtle carbon-fiber-esque chevron pattern, is made of plastic however. That means it contrasts both in feel and how fingerprint-prone it is. If the yellow is too loud for you, you also have Sonic Silver and Speed Blue options, both with glass backs.

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Measuring 6.4 inches, the Realme GT's display isn’t as large as many of the phablets you’ll find dominating the best Android phones. I think the smaller size makes the phone more usable, but I can see where some people might hope for more screen real estate. At least the Realme GT is lightweight at just 184g (6.5 ounces). The Galaxy A52 5G, which is roughly the same size, weighs slightly more.

Realme GT review: Display

Even if the Realme GT's display is a bit smaller than other flagships, you can't fault its other specs. The GT uses an AMOLED panel with an FHD resolution and a 120Hz max refresh rate. You can also set the refresh rate to 60Hz to save battery, or to a dynamic mode that lets the phone save battery by using 120Hz mode only when it'll benefit what's on screen.

Watching Bo Burnham's "Welcome to the Internet", the darkness of his room looked blacker on the Realme GT but bluer on the Pixel 4a 5G’s OLED panel. Watching the more colorful Rick and Morty Season 5 trailer 3, it was harder to spot a color difference in the two phones' interpretation of the show's exaggerated and vivid art style. However the Realme GT does offer a higher maximum brightness, which was handy when I took the phone outside to continue watching video during a sunny lunch break.

Realme GT review: Cameras

The rear camera array at the top of the Realme GT's black racing stripe contains three sensors. The main camera uses a 64MP sensor, while the ultrawide and macro lenses offer 8MP and 2MP, respectively.

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I compared the GT to the Google Pixel 4a 5G, which doesn’t attempt to challenge flagship phones, though it does have the same camera array as Google’s Pixel 5. And that device is among the best camera phones we tested.

Our first photo face-off used the main cameras to take a photo of the old Keeper's Lodge in Highgate Wood. We can see a typical brighter, less saturated shot from the Realme GT's 64MP camera, which by default produces 16MP shots with the aid of pixel binning. Considering how bright the sun was on the day, the GT's shot is probably more accurate. The Pixel 4a 5G's saturated image is much more striking though.

Enabling Super Nightscape mode for a low-light shot of the rose window of St. Joseph's Church, Highgate, we see how far behind Realme's night mode is compared to Google's Night Sight. The Pixel 4a 5G has captured the color and detail of the brickwork and glass far more effectively. At least the GT's image is still passable when taken on its own merits.

For the ultrawide cameras, I pointed the phones at this tree stump in Highgate Wood, roughly carved into the form of a chair. Again, the Realme GT's image is a touch too bright, failing to account for how bright the sun was and losing detail because of it. That detail can be found in the Pixel's shot, though.

To test the macro sensor, I swapped to the Xiaomi Mi 11, as the Pixel 4a 5G doesn’t bother with this oft superfluous sensor. Xiaomi’s phone has one of the best macro lenses we’ve tested, though, and unsurprisingly it does much better in this shot of my souvenir rivet from the Golden Gate Bridge. The macro camera on the GT requires you to get very close to focus the shot, which in turn reduces the light that you need to take an attractive shot. The telemacro sensor on the Xiaomi works from further away, meaning you get a lot more light, while the larger sensor captures more detail of the patterns within the metal and paint.

Our final test is a selfie, comparing the Realme GT and the Pixel 4a 5G again. Since I'm standing in a sunny park, the Realme's shot is a bit too bright. Even though I don't always like the high level of saturation on the Pixel's image, it's the better one of the pair.

Realme GT review: Performance

It looks like the Realme GT will be the cheapest phone with a Snapdragon 888 that you can buy right now in the U.K. There's no telling how long Realme will retain this title, since there are a bevy of cheap phones on offer in India and China that could easily follow its lead, but it’s still impressive to have a phone this cheap use Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line silicon. 

On the Geekbench 5 app, which measures overall performance, the GT's single core score was 1,136 while its multi-core score was 3,592. That single core score actually beats the OnePlus 9 Pro, which managed 1,126 despite having 12GB RAM instead of the 8GB on our Realme test unit. The OnePlus still achieved a higher multi-core result of 3,685 however, while the category leader, the iPhone 12 Pro Max, got 1,603 and 4,111 from its best-in-class A14 Bionic chip.

The GT continued strongly when tested on 3DMark’s Wild Life Unlimited graphics test, it managed 5,847 points and 35 frames per second, which are flagship-beating results. That includes the OnePlus 9 Pro (5,755 and 34.5 fps) and the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (5,739 and 34.4fps). It still can't capture the Android holy grail of beating the iPhone 12 Pro Max, as Apple's mighty phone scored 9,113 and 54fps in this test.

Playing Marvel Contest of Champions on the Realme GT was a real treat. There was only minimal artifacting around the characters, and the high refresh rate made watching Iron Fist mercilessly beat up Spider-Man very enjoyable. I had a try at the more graphically intensive Real Racing 3 too, and while it didn't look quite as sharp as Contest of Champions did on the GT, it still ran smoothly, with the 360Hz touch sampling rate providing rapid feedback to my taps and swipes.

Realme GT review

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The GT did get quite warm while playing these games and running the tests. However thanks to the low conductivity of the vegan leather back, plus Realme's stainless steel internal cooling system, it wasn't uncomfortable to keep using.

Realme GT review: 5G

The Realme GT offers decent 5G coverage by merit of its 5G-ready chipset and a generous number of compatible bands.

It only works with sub6GHz 5G, rather than the mmWave 5G on offer in some U.S. locations; that means no ultra fast 5G downloads from this phone. While there are 5G bands that match with AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Cricket,  it's not enough to make the GT worth importing over any of the other best cheap phones you can buy in the U.S. already.

Realme GT review: Battery and charging

The Realme GT's 4,450 mAh battery is a little small for a flagship, but makes sense given the more compact frame of the phone. However it still lasted for about four and a half hours when I left it playing a 1080p YouTube video non-stop from 30% battery capacity. This strong result is likely to be thanks to its energy-efficient AMOLED panel and the dynamic refresh rate switching down to preserve power.

Realme GT review

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Because it uses an identical two-part battery and wattage to the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro, I hoped the GT would match these much more expensive phones when it came to charging speed. It took just 34 minutes to fill the phone from 0% to 100%, which is nearly identical to the OnePlus 9 Pro. However unlike premium phones, the GT doesn't offer wireless charging, let alone something as fast as the 50W wireless charging that the OnePlus offers.

Compared to other phones in its price bracket though, the GT leads the pack by a mile. The Pixel 4a 5G charges at a maximum of 18W, and the Galaxy A52 5G at 25W.

Realme GT review: Software

Realme has kept things simple with realme UI 2.0, its take on Android 11. Much of the basic experience is just stock Android, although there is some unique app icon art to give the interface a unique identity. The whole UI's colors, app icons and the optional always-on display can be adjusted in terms of style and size too, if you want to make things even more your own.

There are a few pre-installed apps included, such as Realme's own video, music, theme store and game space apps, and popular services like LinkedIn, Booking.com, Facebook and Netflix. It means there's a bit of tidying up to do if you want a blank canvas to organize your own apps across.

Realme GT review: Verdict

I'd be happy to shortlist the Realme GT for almost any user looking for a mid-priced Android phone. The headlining features — the fast-refreshing display, the powerful chipset, and the battery system all work beautifully, while the software, 5G compatibility and looks are all suitable enough for most users. Especially if you go for a color other than bright yellow model I tested.

The only people who definitely shouldn't look at the GT are camera buffs, as you will only end up disappointed by the Realme's photography. Fortunately, there's the Pixel 4a series for those users, and we’re expecting the Pixel 5a later this summer.

While you lose out on high quality cameras with the Realme GT, this is otherwise a great phone for power-hungry mobile gamers, or any user who wishes they could afford the performance, display or charging speeds of our favorite Android phones. Of course, U.S. users will have to look to other devices, but if you can buy the GT, you're unlikely to regret doing so.

Richard Priday

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. He's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.