The realme 7i has been available in the Kenyan market for about 2 weeks now. I have had it with me for a little longer than that – a few days shy of a month.
In that period, I have come face to face with realme’s worst kept secret: there’s another more superior member of the realme 7 series that isn’t the one I have been using. Two, actually. The Asia-only realme 7 and the realme 7 Pro that can be found in multiple markets. A realme 7 5G variant launch was underway as I penned this review, expanding the device family and, more importantly, bringing 5G to the masses (democratizing 5G, as others would say).
That observation is important because I was coming to the realme 7i fresh from reviewing a realme C series device and, save for those, the only other smartphone that isn’t from that entry-level lineup is the realme 6, a hero realme device of sorts as far as the brand is concerned locally, at least on an official basis.
The realme 6 has been the best realme smartphone in the market since its unveiling locally back in August.
Given that the realme 7i has a higher number in its name (7, duh), it is easy for many to easily think that it is the immediate heir to the realme 6’s throne. It isn’t.
This is because the realme 7i is a stepped-down version of its more superior siblings that aren’t available in our market officially (and may never be). That is so, likely, for a good reason: price.
See, with the adjustments made to the realme 7 series that result in us getting the 7i, the costs also get to go down.
The end result is a 720p display which, as I realized, shouldn’t be much of a bother to anyone considering this device. Sure, it is not as bright as other devices we have reviewed here and brings to fore the same dull vibe you get on the other realme devices we have looked at but it’s just fine. You won’t be bothered by anything pixelated – heck, I can’t recall when we last had such an experience on a HD(+) display here since everyone seems to have upped their game – and, if anything, you’ll appreciate the higher (90Hz) refresh rate that some pricier devices still lack.
The realme 7i is just as thick and heavy as its siblings, maybe even less than them. The stylish mirror design, which is clearly visible on the Aurora Green model I have, does everything in its power to keep all your fingerprints visible. You will definitely need the included clear case if you plan to keep it clean always.
Still, given its size and profile, it is pleasant to hold and use.
As has been the case on realme devices we have used before, realme’s superpower is keeping everything minimal. The realme UI is basic and devoid of any of the bells and whistles that would easily overwhelm you elsewhere. No unnecessary colour, no bothersome pop-ups every few minutes, no ads in the notification dropdown and app drawer. Just a few added applications that realme thinks would be of some use to you and which, in the event they aren’t, you can easily rid your device off. Good job!
With Google pulling the plug on our biggest incentive to recommend and use Photos, it’s actually nice to see that realme still offers a good old school gallery application also called, well, Photos.
It acts just like the gallery apps of old: through it you can access your snaps, screenshots and other images like downloaded ones (hello meme hoarders), for instance. It also has some of the features that have made Google Photos a must-have over the past half-decade like automatically sorting photos one takes by category (architecture, food, etc), people and location, among others, and keeping you abreast of memories for all your throwback content.
The AI focus doesn’t end there as it also extends to the device’s 5 cameras (1 on the front, 4 at the back). Especially when one is using the back cameras. Toggling on the AI mode on the viewfinder – easily accessible at the top and not enabled by default – automatically makes everything snapped a little more vivid, maybe even saturated (that Chroma Boost realme talks about in its marketing material is real). It automatically detects one’s surroundings and the objects or people being captured and adjusts everything.
I found it to be just fine in that regard, save for the overdoing of some of those things as I have stated above. For those that need granular control, an “Expert” pro mode is available by scrolling to the very end and clicking “More”. I still find it ridiculous that realme UI does this instead of an easy way like, say, a flicker from the bottom of the viewfinder as is the case elsewhere. This is also the same way to access the 64-megapixel shooter directly and take snaps in full resolution. Not the best way but, hey, it’s there.
The AI bit is particularly impressive when what you’re snapping is text or some work of text. It figures that and fires up the text scanner and takes better snaps, the kind that you’d get when you use any of the many scanner apps out there. A direct scanner built into your phone that doesn’t require an extra app to bring to life? Cool! I mean, this is not the first time that I am encountering this kind of thing but it is the first time I have seen the integration and working mechanism done so well. Oh, and for those wondering, yes, there’s still Google Lens built-in if you need to do more with the text you’re snapping.
Photos taken in sufficient lighting are great, you’ll have no bones to chew there. At night in little to no lighting though? “Hard small”. Not even switching to the dedicated mode, which cranks up the ISO, yields different results. See for yourself:
For some reason or the other, there were occasional stutters when navigating the user interface from time to time. This is likely something that realme can fix with a software update any time since the included chipset (Snapdragon 662) and memory (8GB) should be sufficient to handle the kinds of demands and pressure you put the device through.
Where the realme 7i shines unabated, through and through, is when it comes to the endurance. That 5,000mAh unit and the fewer pixels to push thanks to the 720p display, is no pushover. It delivers. Beyond expectation. There’s the bit where I had the display set to automatically switch the refresh rates, meaning that it was mostly capped at the standard 60Hz since there isn’t much to justify having it running at 90Hz all the time but I doubt that will be the concern of many ordinary folks that grab the device. Even then, when you are getting at least 2 and a half days of battery life, what impact would such a change have? Shave off a few hours?
The only subjectivity you should entertain is my usage pattern which encompassed more social media and casual browsing with lengthy phone calls in between and less of demanding tasks like constant video calls and gaming, things it should also handle fine performance-wise but with a noticeable hit to the impressive battery life I am going on and on about.
The USB Type-C charging is worth noting since we are still not yet out of the woods with microUSB (it was included in the last entry-level realme smartphone we reviewed) but, don’t expect some rapid fire topping up of that mammoth battery. Something north of 2.5 hours is to be expected. The touted 18W fast-charging only comes in handy for the quick top-up one would need when they are about to step out but then they realize they are running low on juice. It takes a while to completely fill it up because of the safeguards put in place.
For Kshs 25,000, one is getting “more phone” for the money when they go for the realme 7i than when they spend their money on something else. That pricing makes it a proper alternative to anyone looking to sidestep the Kshs 30,000 ceiling where the realme 6 and the devices we compared it to at launch, the Infinix Zero 8 and the Tecno Camon 16 Premier play at. It’s a fantastic mid-range smartphone.