The Realme 9 5G offers great performance for the price, and boasts decent battery life, too. You can get better cameras or faster charging elsewhere, but it’s still a nice package all in all.
- Great performance for the price
- Reliable battery life
- Decent main camera
- Camera system isn’t versatile
- LCD screen, rather than OLED
- UKRRP: £249
- 5G connectivityThis phone is capable of supporting the latest generation of mobile data speeds
- 50-megapixel main cameraThe lead camera sensor has a high resolution
- Big batteryThis device’s battery capacity is a generous 5000mAh
Do you want to gain the benefits of 5G connectivity without paying a premium price? That’s the deal that Realme is offering with this phone.
However, beyond this potential point of attraction, there are plenty of other features likely to catch your eye, from the 50-megapixel main camera sensor and the 5000mAh battery, to the 6.6-inch screen.
Does this phone boast a good balance of features for the price, or does it offer little beyond the titular 5G? This is what we made of it when we put it to the test.
Design and Screen
- Shiny pearl panel on the rear
- No IP rating
- LCD panel, with 120Hz refresh rate
The Realme 9 5G’s design would be fairly unremarkable, were it not for the dazzling pearlescent shimmer on the rear panel. Some people might like it for its pizzazz, while others will undoubtedly be put off by its gaudiness (and I count myself among these). Our review handset is in Stargaze White, but there’s also a Meteor Black version available if you’re looking for something a tad more subtle.
If you find large phones difficult to manage one-handed then you’ll likely struggle with this one too, since it’s fairly long at 164.3mm. However, for those used to big devices, it shouldn’t pose any particular problems.
Enthusiasts will be pleased to see that a microSD slot and a 3.5mm headphone jack are both present, providing the options of adding expandable storage and using wired headphones respectively. However, there’s no stated IP rating, so we don’t know how well this device can cope with being exposed to water or dust.
The screen here is LCD rather than OLED, so contrast isn’t as good as you’ll get from the latter. This is a tad disappointing, because the deep blacks of an OLED make for a display that’s far more realistic and immersive. Fortunately, though, this one is still bright and relatively sharp thanks to its 1080p resolution.
What’s more, it has a 120Hz refresh rate. A feature often reserved for top-end devices, rather than those at this price point, it means that the Realme 9 5G’s display automatically refreshes 120 times per second, making supported content look smoother than ever.
Screen performance here doesn’t translate to the gorgeously engrossing flagship experience of watching video content or games, but I found that it was fine for watching a few short YouTube videos or reliving old sitcom episodes to pass the time. If you frequently use your phone to watch videos then you might want to look for a device with a stronger screen; the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro could potentially be a better option.
- Capable of some attractive shots
- Struggles in challenging lighting
- Auxiliary 2-megapixel sensors aren’t up to much
- Underwhelming selfie camera
The Realme 9 5G has a 50-megapixel main camera sensor, and while that might not sound as impressive as the 108-megapixel sensor on the Realme 9, I still managed to capture some attractive snaps with it.
Detail isn’t as sharp as some of the best cameras around, but colours are accurate and shots could still look fairly pleasing. Around this price you’re unlikely to find excellent options as far as camera quality is concerned, but the unit here does the job and can churn out some appealing snaps.
However, the camera lacks versatility. The two auxiliary sensors (one macro camera and a depth sensor) don’t add much to its arsenal, so you’re more or less stuck using the main sensor. It has a 2x digital zoom capability, and you can compare shots taken on its normal settings (above) and with 2x digital zoom applied (below).
As you can see, there is a noticeable loss of detail when this is applied, but the 2x shots are still usable.
When trying to shoot in darker conditions without Night mode applied, you’re likely to be disappointed by the results. As you can see in the above picture, there’s a huge loss of detail, with the image looking blurry and indistinct, while bright lights were blown out.
With Night mode applied, there’s an appreciable difference in quality that’s noticeable straight away. Plenty of detail is restored to the image, as are colours; but it’s still a far cry from the best camera phones when shooting in low light – especially the Pixel 4a, for example, which isn’t too far from the Realme 9 5G’s price point.
Selfies are a step down in quality, too, with shots lacking detail compared to the best shots from the main camera.
Even with Portrait mode applied to the front-facing camera, the results aren’t great; there’s just a vague, fuzzy halo around my face rather than an accurate bokeh effect, which should make your face stand out of the image in a striking and impressive way.
Overall I’d say that the main camera quality is decent enough for the price, but it does struggle under more difficult lighting conditions. The secondary sensors don’t add much to the package, so the camera here certainly isn’t versatile, with the selfie camera not improving matters either.
- Decent performance
- 5G connectivity
One of this phone’s biggest selling points is in its name: 5G. In fact, as part of getting the latest mobile data speeds for the price, you’re accepting a couple of compromises to other areas of the handset, such as the camera. It’s nice to have 5G, and to make the most of faster loading times, but at this stage I’m still not convinced that it should be a priority when you’re buying a phone at this price.
The network still isn’t as extensive as we’d like, and there aren’t yet many areas where that qualitative difference between 4G and 5G becomes apparent to make this feature a must-buy.
Beyond boasting a 5G modem, the mid-range Snapdragon 695 chip also offers decent all-round performance, as you can see from the benchmarking scores displayed below:
Benchmark performance tests
When using the Realme 9 5G on a day-to-day basis, or even when playing more demanding games on the phone, it held up well, without any lag or crashing. Evidently, the Realme 9 5G has a solid chipset on board that should safely see you through the majority of the mobile processing tasks you take on.
The software here is Realme UI 3.0, which is based on Android 12. It’s not a particularly elegant skin, unlike other examples such as MIUI, and packs in relatively little over the standard Android software. While it doesn’t add many tips or tricks to the usual experience, it’s simple and easy to use.
- Good battery life
- Promises speedy charging
The Realme 9 5G includes a battery with a 5000mAh capacity, which is the size of cell we’ve become used to seeing in mid-range smartphones and above. However, no matter the capacity, endurance continues to differ from one phone to the next. So, how does the Realme 9 5G’s battery perform – especially given its 120Hz refresh rate and 5G connectivity?
Fortunately, fairly well. I found myself reaching the end of the day of regular use with around 20% of power remaining, and I wasn’t ever concerned that the device would die before I could get to a charging port. To give specific examples of the battery’s performance, it lost 6% of its charge with one hour of video streaming; 2% after one hour of music streaming; and 4% after an hour of intensive mobile gaming. What’s more, it also held its charge well when it wasn’t in use, unlike rivals such as the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G.
This battery supports 18W fast-charging, which is slower than the 33W available on the 4G edition of the phone, although still speedy enough to see the capacity fully topped up in just over an hour.
Should you buy it?
If you’re looking for decent battery life, 5G connectivity, and a standout appearance. The Realme 9 5G offers lengthy battery life and fantastic value for money.
If you’re looking for a great camera then there are better alternatives. If this is what you’re after check out the Pixel 6 or iPhone 13 line of phones.
The Realme 9 5G is a good handset overall available for a tempting price. The performance standards are particularly high for such a cheap phone, the battery comfortably lasts you through the day, and the screen is pretty decent, too – albeit LCD, rather than OLED. However, while the camera is decent, it isn’t the best around for the price.
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.
Used as our main handset during test period
Camera tested in variety of situations with all modes
Tested with synthetic benchmarks and real world use
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No, there is no stated IP rating for the Realme 9 5G so we;re not sure it would react if exposed to dust or water
It’s available in Meteor Black and Stargaze White
Yes, it has a side-mounted fingerprint scanner
Trusted Reviews test data
You can see all the test data we collected reviewing the Realme 9 5G and how it compares to key rivals.
You can see the Realme 9 5G’s full specs and how they compare to its direct Pixel and iPhone rivals in the table below.
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