Looking at the smartphone market in Kenya today, one cannot help but marvel at the wide variety that is available from about Kshs 10,000 all the way to Kshs 40,000. We are truly spoilt for choice.
Narrowing down that focus to just smartphones that cost about Kshs 30,000 puts one in a dilemma. This is especially so given the 3 most recent introductions in the local market: the realme 6, which is the subject of this review, the Infinix Zero 8 and the Tecno Camon 16 Premier.
While I am still in various stages of interacting with the latter two devices, I have had with me the realme 6 for much longer, since just before its local release and there is no doubt in my mind where it really stands out. realme might be out there shouting from the rooftops about the prowess of the realme 6’s 5 cameras and the high-refresh-rate display but, as we will see shortly, the device stands and towers above the competition in one very key area, especially for people who read Android Kenya: the software.
As far as looks go, there are no surprises. You have your solo selfie camera punched into the upper-left corner of the 6.5-inch “Pro” display and 4 cameras at the back arranged vertically. That arrangement and subsequent protrusion means that the realme 6, placed on a flat surface on its bareback, will wobble. The wobbling doesn’t completely stop when you slap the plastic case that comes in the box of the device but it helps. It also helps with the grip even though that isn’t much of an issue with the device.
The realme 6’s superpower, however, is managing to feel compact even though it’s a rather large device – with a width of about 7.5 centimetres.
The fingerprint sensor embedded in the power button and the USB Type-C port at the bottom are the other reminders of why, if you didn’t know what it was, you shouldn’t brush aside the realme 6.
The back, which features what realme is calling the “comet design” is a balance between glamour and minor annoyances like the fingerprint magnet that it becomes. It’s just a good thing that the said paw prints aren’t as visible as they would on a device with a glossy plastic back.
Compared to the vivo V19 I was using before it, the realme 6 also came across as feeling much lighter.
While the design of the device is such that the realme 6 doesn’t feel unwieldy, even for average-size hands, the smooth motion offered by the display goes a long way in helping the little monolithic structure shine. It blends nicely with the slim borders (bezels, you say?) and is easily one of the best ways to experience a 90Hz display.
A lot can be said about the hit and miss full visibility in the midday sun but, unless you’ll be using the device in such conditions all the time, spear the momentary disappointment for the few times when you really have to use the device like that. Else, you have a good set.
Right out of the box, I was most impressed by the realme 6’s selfie camera. It’s not the dual selfie craze that is all the hype right now on competing devices but it manages to hold up its end of the bargain. There are still the same shortcomings when using the camera’s portrait mode but that is mostly hits and misses. See what I was able to do below within the first moments of unboxing the realme 6 (click to view the photos up close – as usual, the resolution has been lowered to 1,000px to save on space):
At the back, where there is the quad-camera arrangement, things are a bit different. For a start, should you want to take full advantage of the 64-megapixel sensor then you’ll have to toggle it on separately as that is not what is used automatically – you get 16-megapixel snaps otherwise. That arrangement, while inconveniencing, is not unique to realme. It’s what you get on pretty much every other device.
The quality of those snaps is okay in sufficient lighting but, as you can see below, things take a different turn for in low lighting. The images are soft and there is noticeable noise.
I am very impressed with the realme 6’s performance. The device is well optimized to handle just about anything one throws at it. The MediaTek gaming-focused processor and the ample memory pair up to deliver very good performance across the board. Whether you have the device pushing 90Hz or the standard 60Hz, it doesn’t matter.
While I have lots of good things to say about realme UI, in my very first interaction with it, there are still some few areas of improvement. For instance, the constant nudges to switch to realme’s own app store to update existing apps and install new ones can be bothersome in the long term. In the short term, there’s the many pre-installed applications that one finds when they set up their realme 6 for the first time. Lazada? Webnovel? I was able to get rid of as much as I didn’t like so there’s that.
The rest of the stuff? Too good. Realme UI takes a very minimalist approach to the “Google Android” (notice I am not referring to stock Android?) way of doing things. There are all the additions made but there’s still everything else you may love or are used to about Android in the same place. The additions, as I observed, can mostly be safely ignored or disabled.
The upgrades made to some must-have applications are where I really liked realme UI. As was the case with my love of the gallery (called “Albums”) app on the vivo V19 which goes for Kshs 10,000 more than the realme 6, I liked the added functionality of realme’s calculator app. Wait, is it even a calculator app? In the same app one finds a currency converter ready to handle all their forex needs. In the same same app there’s also a unit converter for when one reads content from countries that have stuck with the imperial system and quickly needs to find out the metric system equivalents. Handy.
Compared to other devices in the same price point and with near-similar specifications, like the Transsion duo of Tecno Camon 16 Premier and the Infinix Zero 8, the realme 6 towers over them with the minimal alterations to its core software and less bloat.
While good battery life at this price point for most devices is almost given – unless the device has some Nokia branding on it – the one thing I absolutely liked was the realme 6’s fast-charging capabilities. It’s up there with other rapid charging solutions we have seen in the devices we have reviewed recently and, once you get used to it, there is no going back.
The sound is average, at best. There is no stereo setup so you are stuck with the bottom-firing speaker. Not bad but also not exceptional either.
Network connectivity for both calls and data, is at par with most, if not all, of the smartphones we have reviewed in the recent past.
The side-mounted fingerprint sensor is fast and is a good complement to the face unlock feature, which I found to be much faster. That is the exact opposite of my experience on other devices.
Here’s another thing that may not apply to most people but could draw those drawn to the increasingly capable midrange smartphones making them rethink going for devices that cost twice as much for just about the same feature set: if, like yours truly, you have a smartwatch from another brand, in my case the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, you don’t have to worry about compatibility issues. It will pair just fine on the realme 6 and perform as expected. Sure, these kinds of accessories are supposed to be compatible with most Android devices and not just those from their specific makers, but that is easier said than done. Mostly applicable on paper and less practical in the real world, as I have found while testing the same on the realme 6’s competition.
- The design, which makes a 6.5-inch display feel unwieldy on average-sized hands, rises to the occasion and, as far as I am concerned, is one of the things I like about this device.
- I may not be on board with the performance of the cameras in low-light but, overall, I found them fine.
- The 30W fast-charging is excellent.
- The software, while still laden with bits of unnecessary stuff, still manages to stand out.
- The performance is good.
- The high-refresh-rate display is fantastic. It may not be in action every time, since the amount of supported apps and games is still on the lower side, but you definitely appreciate the silky smoothness that comes with running things at 90 frames per second most of the time. Better yet, thanks to the device’s better battery economy, you don’t have to worry with the increased battery drain that comes with the high-refresh-rate display.
- The device would’ve been almost complete with a stereo sound setup. For Kshs 30,000, this is not asking for too much. We have previously gotten this on a Nokia mid-ranger so, we are still within the boundaries of reason.
- Reduce the bloat and you have an unbeatable smartphone offering at this price point. The realme 6 is already a good choice in the market but it would be an absolute no-brainer if realme toned down the pre-installed apps and the alerts from custom functions.
The realme 6, as things stand, provides one of the best value for money in the local smartphone market and, as such, should be high up on your priority list if you are considering a smartphone with sufficient storage space, memory, fast-charging and a high-refresh-rate display for your various needs. You also get a handy tool for your video calls and photography needs.