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Realme 8i Review

Verdict

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The Realme 8i is another competent addition to a somewhat crowded budget smartphone series. Its large, fluid display and large battery are stand-out components, though a lack of 5G and slow charging means you should carefully consider your priorities.

Pros

  • Strong display for the money
  • Competent main camera
  • Two day battery potential

Cons

  • No 5G
  • Only 18W charging
  • No ultrawide camera

Availability

  • UKRRP: £299

Key Features

  • 5000mAh batteryThe Realme 8i packs a large battery that lasted us through two days of use
  • 120Hz refresh rateThis phone packs a super smooth LCD display, with a rapid refresh rate we’re more used to seeing on premium handsets.
  • 50-megapixel main cameraThe lead sensor on this smartphone has a notably high resolution

Introduction

The Realme 8i is the third phone in the Realme 8 series I’ve used in the past year, and the fourth to have been released overall.

As the latest phone in this jam-packed range, it aims to supply a budget phone experience that gets close to the Realme 8 and Realme 8 5G in certain places and exceeds them in others, all for similar money.

While you can’t buy the Realme 8i in the UK at the time of writing, it’s available across Europe at €199 (around £168) for 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. Meanwhile, €219 (roughly £185) will secure you double the storage.

The question is, do we really need another competent budget phone option? And does the Realme 8i do anything to stand out in such a saturated market?

Design and Screen

  • Fairly drab design by Realme’s standards
  • Quite big and heavy
  • Large, fluid, and accurate display

One area where the Realme 8i most certainly doesn’t stand out is its design. It looks an awful lot like the rest of the Realme 8 range, minus the “Dare To Leap” slogan emblazoned on the rear cover.

Realme 8i glossy rear panel held aloft

That latter move is an improvement in my book, though it does serve to remove the one real point of difference between Realme phones and so many other budget handsets. Realme isn’t averse to a bold design gesture (witness the Realme GT), so it’s a shame it didn’t cut loose a little more here.

Even the tone of my model is a little drab. Realme calls it Galaxy Black, but its true colour is tough to pin down. At times it looks like a freshly poured pint of Guinness, while at others it looks like a kind of muddy off-purple. There’s a Space Purple option out there if you want something a little brighter.

Otherwise, this is another glossy plastic phone with a particularly finger-print-hungry finish. Within moments of handling the phone for the first time I felt impelled to wipe it down and talc my palms.

Realme 8i glossy rear panel stood upright

At 194g it’s comfortably the heaviest in the range, but not to a bothersome extent. In the same way, its footprint isn’t excessive at 164.1 x 75.5mm, while a thickness of 8.5mm just about stays on the right side of hefty.

You can’t argue with the build quality, and the metal-effect rim maintains the sense of understated quality. There’s a fingerprint sensor stashed within the power button on the right-hand edge, which I found to be quite reliable when hit square-on, but a little flaky from any kind of angle.

There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom edge, right alongside the USB-C port and a somewhat gutless mono speaker.

Realme 8i screen held aloft

The Realme 8i’s display is pretty decent. It’s an IPS LCD rather than an AMOLED, so it lacks the punchy colours and contrast of the Realme 8 and Realme 8 Pro. But it’s the largest display in the series at 6.6-inches, and it doesn’t lack anything for sharpness at 1080 x 2412 (FHD+).

This is the only Realme 8-series phone with the 120Hz refresh rate, too. Only the Realme 8 5G gets anywhere close at 90Hz. Sure enough, it feels nice and zippy, even if there isn’t quite that seamlessly fluid feel of a flagship phone.

It’s pretty colour-accurate as LCDs go. I measured a gamut coverage of 99.6% sRGB, 83.8% Adobe RGB, and 99% DCI P3 using a colorimeter, which is decent.

Realme claims a peak brightness of 600 nits, which understandably isn’t as extreme as the 1000 nits of the Realme 8 Pro. I measured closer to 400 nits, but that was with auto brightness turned off, so it probably has an extra level for when things get very bright.

Camera

  • Capable 50-megapixel main sensor
  • No ultrawide or telephoto
  • Competent 16-megapixel selfie camera

The Realme 8i’s camera offering combines the decent with the disappointing. Which is just about all you can hope for in a budget phone. 

It’s a triple-camera set-up led by a 50MP wide sensor, which sounds like a strong package. However, there’s no ultra-wide and no telephoto sensor, with the two secondaries taking the form of measly 2MP depth and macro sensors.

With the ultra-wide in particular, budget phone makers are in something of a “damned if you do; damned if you don’t” situation. We tend to lament the lack of such a provision, as in this case, but also criticise the sub-optimal results when it is provided, as with the Realme 8 Pro.

The answer is as simple as it is unhelpful – provide us with a decent budget ultra-wide sensor. Until that happens, we’ll just have to continue pointing out the failings of both approaches. Sorry guys.

Realme 8i shot of food

The Realme 8i’s main 50MP sensor seems like a decent budget provision, though it comes in at a fairly small 1/2.76″. Like the Realme 8 and the Realme 8 5G before it, the Realme 8i is capable of capturing decent shots in good lighting, though I should emphasise that the three phones use different sensors. 

Realme 8i flowers in a garden centre

That common quality is largely down to Realme’s natural-looking colour science, which doesn’t make anything look too garish. However, I did pick up on some instances of overexposure, such as when shooting some white flowers in a well-lit farm shop.

Realme 8i night shot

There’s a serviceable Night mode that makes low light shots look a lot more respectable than when simply pointing and shooting in auto mode. However, Realme’s algorithmic efforts can’t wholly cover for the lack of OIS and that small main sensor, with plenty of grain and a general lack of definition in challenging conditions.

Realme 8i 2x digital zoom shot of boats

While there’s no telephoto lens, Realme does insist on fitting its budget phone with both a 2x and a 5x zoom option. The former is just about usable given the surfeit of pixels on offer, meaning that the cropping technique doesn’t exact too much punishment as long as you don’t look too closely.

Realme 8i 5x digital zoom shot of boats

That said, the 5x option (above) is a total blur-o-vision write-off.

Realme 8i selfie portrait mode of Jon Mundy

The 16MP selfie camera hits competent status, and I was even reasonably impressed by the selfie portrait mode, which successfully isolated me from my blurred background without chopping my ear off or creating a creepy halo effect. Perhaps that 2MP depth camera isn’t a total waste of space after all.

Performance

  • MediaTek G96 Helio offers fairly ordinary performance
  • Realme UI 2.0 is a middling Android user interface
  • No 5G

Realme promises an “Ultra Smooth Experience in the price segment” with the Realme 8i, and it largely delivers. That 120Hz display, paired with a strong and up-to-date budget processor in the Mediatek Helio G96 processor, makes for fluid navigation.

This is the European debut for the Helio G96, which only launched in July 2021. In performance terms, it’s a slight but notable step up from the Realme 8 with its previous-gen Helio G95 chip, as well as the Realme 8 5G with its Mediatek Dimensity 700, and even the Realme 8 Pro with its Snapdragon 720G.

In my benchmark testing the Realme 8i scored an average Geekbench 5 multi-core score of 1900, while the Realme scored 1692 and the Realme 8 5G scored 1749. Outside of the Realme bubble, the highly regarded Poco X3 NFC scored 1769. It’s a strong result.

While it’s a capable chip in CPU terms, however, the Mediatek Helio G96 isn’t quite so impressive when it comes to the GPU. I recorded an average 3D mark Wild Life score of 1093, which falls way short of the Realme 8 on 1467, even though that uses the older Helio G95. 

It’s about equal to the Realme 8 5G’s 1095.  The gap is similar in the more intensive Slingshot Extreme test.

In gaming terms, CoD Mobile defaults to Low Graphical Quality and Medium Frame Rate, while PUBG Mobile defaults to HD with a High frame rate. Both run perfectly competently for a budget phone.

Just about the biggest weakness of the Helio G96 is that it doesn’t support 5G connectivity. If that’s a big issue for you, then the Realme 8 5G is the natural choice. For most people shopping at this end of the market, however, I seriously doubt that zippier download speeds in certain areas of towns and cities will be a massive draw.

As with the rest of the Realme 8 family, the Realme 8i runs on Android 11 with Realme UI 2.0 layered on top. This particular take differs from my Realme 8 and Realme 8 5G experience in that it swaps out Google Feed for Realme’s Smart Assistant. This makes it worse, replacing Google’s excellent aggregation service for useless Quick Functions (frequently used functions) and a step tracker.

Otherwise this is a reasonably clean and intuitive take on Android, neither particularly sharp and stylish nor overly fussy. My test model seemed to be bound for the Russia region, judging from the Russian-language apps that were pre-installed, so it’s probably not fair to complain too much of bloatware.

However, there are constants like Soloop (a video editing app), Realme Link (a smart device manager), a Realme Community app, and other superfluous preinstalled apps. You also get a smattering of preinstalled third party efforts like Booking.com, TikTok, WhatsApp, and WPS Office.

Suffice to say, if you prefer your preinstalled apps and services to be minimal, you’re probably better off with a budget phone from Nokia or Motorola.

Battery Life

  • 5000mAh battery good for two days of light use
  • 18W charger is one of the lowliest in the range

Just like the Realme 8 and Realme 8 5G, the Realme 8i, the Realme 8i packs in a meaty 5000mAh battery. Unlike that latter phone, it doesn’t have to worry about 5G connectivity, but unlike both phones it does have to worry about a 120Hz display refresh rate.

Not that this makes a huge difference to stamina. Playing 30 minutes of PUBG sapped 7% of a charge, just like it did with the Realme 8.

One hour of video streaming also drained 7% on the Realme 8i, which is significantly worse than the Realme 8 (3%), and just a tad better than the Realme 8 5G (8%) and the Oppo A54 5G (9%).

The standard Trusted Reviews battery test, which involves running 3D Mark’s Wild Life Stress Test for a solid hour, sapped 11% of a charge, which falls a little shy of the Realme 8 5G’s 9%.

Ultimately, in general mixed usage, this is a phone with genuine two day potential. In that respect it’s very much in keeping with the aforementioned Realme 8 siblings. 

One way in which the Realme 8i falls somewhat short is its charging speeds. Realme supplies an 18W charger in the box, which doesn’t get close to the 30W chargers of the Realme 8, let alone the 50W charger of the Realme 8 Pro.

In practical terms, I recorded it charging from 0 to 50% in 47 minutes. That’s not far off double the time it took the Realme 8 (26 minutes) to do the same for me. It’s a little quicker than the Realme 8 5G (52 minutes), which also comes supplied with an 18W charger.

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Should you buy it?

You want a good screen at a great price. The Realme 8i’s display is big, sharp, fluid, and colour accurate, which hasn’t always been a common combination in a budget phone.

You want two days’ worth of charge. The Realme 8i’s 5000mAh battery will get you through two days of solid usage, provided you don’t push the media side too hard.

You want 5G. The Realme 8i doesn’t support 5G connectivity. Get the Realme 8 5G if that matters to you.

You like to shoot wide-angle shots. There’s no ultra-wide camera provision whatsoever here.

Final Thoughts

From a certain angle the Realme 8i feels like a somewhat unnecessary addition to the four-strong Realme 8 range, which perhaps explains its limited availability. 

It’s a competent phone all the same, with the largest and most fluid display in the family, though it’s not quite up there with the best cheap phones around. Meanwhile, its large battery comfortably lives up to the Realme 8 and Realme 8 5G in terms of two-day potential. It’s a shame the charging speeds fall so far short of the best in the series, however.

Otherwise, it’s an exercise in priorities. Performance is adequate, but you’ll have to make do without 5G. Similarly, you’ll get a reasonable 50MP main camera, but no ultra-wide.

If display clarity is everything to you, then the Realme 8i is worthy of serious consideration. Otherwise, it’s another budget phone also-ran.

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How we test

We test every mobile phone we review thoroughly. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly and we use the phone as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.

Camera tested in variety of situations with all modes

Tested with synthetic benchmarks and real world use

FAQs

How good is the battery life?

The 5000mAh battery is good for two days.

Is this phone 5G?

There is no 5G support for this phone

What software does it run?

Android 11 with Realme UI 2.0

Trusted Reviews test data

Geekbench 5 single core
Geekbench 5 multi core
sRGB
Adobe RGB
DCI-P3
Max brightness
1 hour video playback (Netflix, HDR)
30 minute gaming (intensive)
Time from 0-100% charge
Time from 0-50% charge
3D Mark – Wild Life
3D Mark – Sling Shot Extreme

Full specs

UK RRP
Manufacturer
Screen Size
Storage Capacity
Rear Camera
Front Camera
Video Recording
IP rating
Battery
Size (Dimensions)
Weight
ASIN
Operating System
Release Date
Resolution
Refresh Rate
Ports
Chipset
RAM
Colours

Jargon buster

mAh

An abbreviation for milliampere-hour and a way to express the capacity of batteries, especially smaller ones in phones. In most cases the higher the mAh, the longer the battery will last but this isn’t always the case.

5G

Offering faster download and upload speeds when compared to 4G. Great for game streaming and HDR video playback. Not supported everywhere yet and speeds vary wildly.

LCD

The type of display usually used on cheaper and mid-range devices. Lacks the punch on an OLED panel.

Qi Wireless Charging

 

The most common format for wireless charging and the one supported by the majority of devices. Charge speeds vary a lot by the phone. 

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