realme 8i review: Don’t judge a phone by its spec sheet

It was May 2019 when the 90Hz refresh rate screen first hit the mainstream smartphone market. Just when we thought phones had plateaued in bringing blistering speed, this feature suddenly arrived. At the moment, it felt like a game-changer.

Fast forward to December 2021 and we’ve quickly transitioned to 120Hz refresh rate screens as the new norm for flagship smartphones.

It has become a requirement for the best-of-the-best to have a blazing fast refresh rate. Anything less would feel like a disappointment. It’s that very reason that makes the realme 8i such an intriguing smartphone choice.

Priced at PhP 9,990 for the 4GB/64GB option, and PhP 11,990 for the 6GB/128GB option, the realme 8i promises an #InfinitelySmooth experience that’s accessible for the everyday Filipino.

The spec sheet is promising, but does the actual experience with the device hold up?

Impressive hardware hindered by an inconsistent screen

Out of the box, the realme 8i is an impressive-looking device. Sporting a 6.6-inch screen with small bezels, you wouldn’t blame people for thinking that the phone cost more than its asking price. If you chose to rock this phone without a case, I wouldn’t blame you; it’s gorgeous and it feels very good in the hand.

It’s a shame then that the LCD screen in the 8i is marred by poor brightness. Indoors, it’s a very good display; so good in fact I’d argue it competes against the AMOLED screens of the smartphone world. The phone offers good contrast and colors pop out well. Consuming media with this screen is a delight when paired with its impressive set of speakers.

The problem is, the experience isn’t as good outdoors and in less than ideal lighting situations. Browsing through social media when outside can be a struggle, even on max brightness. While realme did promise that, “Even at night, your eyes can stay comfortable while you use your phone,” I can’t give it the same amount of praise when using the 8i during the morning.

B+ main sensor dragged down by a C selfie shooter

The realme 8i offers a triple-camera setup, but don’t be fooled. Its macro lens and B&W lenses don’t move the needle that much when it comes to the experience of this phone.

This is a reminder that when doing multi-camera setups, it’s best to pair the main sensor with a wide-angle and telephoto lens. At this point though, that feels like nitpicking. For the price of the 8i, you are getting a great main camera.

Although, realme’s 50-megapixel primary lens consistently came out with great shots no matter the lighting condition. Indoor shots were never grainy and provided adequate detail on images.

Outdoor shots were great and showcased realme’s quality image processing. Pictures got that pop most users expect out of modern smartphone cameras, but they weren’t oversaturated to the point of looking unnatural.

The same can’t be said of the 8i’s selfie shooter. While you expect outdoor shots to showcase a camera’s capabilities, that wasn’t the case for this device. Shots done outdoors in good lighting conditions came out with unnatural results, which is the opposite of what you’d expect from modern shooters.

I ended up looking too light in plenty of shots. The lens had a tendency of taking in too much light to a fault.

Surprisingly, shots done in less than ideal lighting conditions came out with better results. For instance, this selfie done inside my car, with dark skies outside, came out with a decent shot. Accurate colors were provided paired with respectable contrast and saturation.

This selfie with my life partner came out nicely as well, even though skies were starting to get dark while we were driving in the car.

Take note: there’s always the possibility of software updates cleaning up the processing of realme’s selfie stills. The camera taking quality selfie shots in less than lighting conditions speaks of the potential of its hardware. It’s now up to its software to keep up. For now, considering what I was given during the review period, the realme 8i’s selfie camera is inconsistent at best.

Patience is key with this battery

My first few days with the device were far from ideal. The battery life was quite poor, even with the screen refresh rate set to Automatic.

Don’t lose hope. Give the device’s battery management some time to break in. After a while, even on heavy use, the realme 8i becomes an all-day phone that’s capable of handling a variety of tasks.

Quality hardware that’s paired with a promising camera and strong battery life. Now, it’s time for the main event; performance. Does it deliver on its promise of #InfinitelySmooth performance?

#InconsistentlySmooth

High refresh rate screens have been the talk of the smartphone town for the last two years. It’s a feature that’s been given plenty of praise. Having it in a device that’s priced as competitively as the realme 8i makes for an intriguing offer for consumers.

But here’s something that needs to be discussed more in the discourse of high refresh rate screens: A screen’s refresh rate is only as good as its corresponding processing power. That’s where the realme 8i struggles.

For everyday use, the 8i handles itself respectfully, but it still isn’t a perfect experience. Some stutters can be felt, especially when multiple apps were left open.

The same could be said of its gaming performance. I tried out the graphics-intensive Asphalt 9 on the 8i and what I got was mixed. Visuals looked crisp and the smoothness expected out of a 120 Hz screen was felt when I was on open roads. But in frames when multiple cars started bumping against me, stutters were clearly seen.

It’s important to note: the review device given to me was the 4GB RAM variant of the realme 8i. It’s highly possible that its 6GB RAM sibling performs a lot better, especially with multitasking and gaming. Plus, the higher-tier model has realme’s Virtual RAM feature that uses the phone’s internal storage as makeshift RAM.

Is this your Gadgetmatch?

An #InfinitelySmooth experience is a big proposition, especially to a Philippine market that always has high expectations no matter what a device’s price offering is. The realme 8i didn’t always deliver on this promise.

This was quite fitting since inconsistency was the theme for all of the device’s aspects during the review period. Its processor struggled when forced to lift heavier tasks, which is a shame considering realme’s software is one of the smoothest in the market.

Even its camera got bit by this inconsistency bug, especially with its selfie shooter. This won’t sit well with Pinoy social media addicts given that they won’t settle with inconsistent shots.

While its 120 Hz screen provided moments of smoothness, it couldn’t provide this on a consistent basis, largely due to realme’s choice of hardware. The phone is priced quite generously and sadly, this was the trade-off we got.

For an optimal experience, I’d suggest purchasing the 6GB RAM model. Maybe then, you could get an experience that’s closer to being #InfinitelySmooth.

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realme 8i review: Don’t judge a phone by its spec sheet realme 8i review: Don’t judge a phone by its spec sheet Reviewed by Telenor Editorial on December 11, 2021 Rating: 5

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