Realme might be the newest and least well known of the BBK Electronics family that includes Oppo, Vivo, and OnePlus, but it’s certainly no less ambitious. After starting out as an Oppo sub-brand it was given license to operate more independently in 2017, and since then Realme has sold so many devices that it’s now the fastest-growing smartphone maker in the world. Its foray into the European market only really began in earnest this year, but aggressive pricing looks to be to paying dividends as it goes after more established Chinese rivals such as Xiaomi and Honor/Huawei.

The X2 Pro is the company’s first proper flagship, and it quickly grabbed our attention when it was introduced to the European market in October due to the insane spec to price ratio. For just €399, it’s equipped with a Snapdragon 855+, a 90Hz display, 50W charging and a 64MP primary lens as part of a quad camera setup. Take a look at the full spec list below and you’ll wonder how it costs so little, especially in view of the rising costs of smartphones over the last few years. Being cheap is not the same as offering great value, however, but I’m glad to say the X2 Pro does both. It’s not perfect, by any means, but it’s rare to get this much for your money nowadays.

Specs

SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+
RAM 6/8/12GB (As reviewed: 12GB)
Storage 64 (UFS 2.1), 128/256GB (UFS 3.0) (As reviewed: 256GB)
Display 6.5-inch Super AMOLED (2400x1080p), 90Hz refresh rate
Rear cameras 64MP primary (f/.18), 13MP telephoto (5x optical zoom, 20x hybrid, f/2.5), 8MP wide angle (115° FoV, f/2.2), 2MP portrait (f/2.4), video up to 4K at 60fps and slow motion up to 960fps
Front camera 16MP
Battery 4,000mAh with 50W SuperVOOC fast charging
Software Color OS 6.1 (Android 9 Pie)
Headphone jack Yes
Other NFC, Dual-frequency GPS, in-display fingerprint scanner, Dual nano-SIM, Dolby Atmos stereo speakers, Hi-Res Sound certified
Dimensions 161 x 75.7 x 8.7mm
Weight 199g
Colors Neptune Blue and Lunar White
In the box 50W charger, USB A-C cable, and clear TPU case
Price 6/64GB - €399
8/128GB - €449
12/256GB - €499

The Good

Display The 90Hz refresh rate makes this bright FHD+ display look fantastic.
Battery life Better than average, easily lasting a day plus change, and then there’s the insanely fast 50W charging for when you do need a little top-up.
Performance With the Snapdragon 855+ and UFS 3.0 storage (12GB model), this thing is blisteringly fast.
Speakers Surprisingly great sound from the Dolby Atmos stereo speakers, which get pretty damn loud to boot.

The Not So Good

Design The waterdrop notch is looking a little dated these days, but while the plain design isn’t to my taste exactly, it’s certainly not an ugly phone.
Cameras Fine in good conditions, but let down by inconsistent wide-angle lens and poor low-light performance.
Software Color OS still has some way to go, but it’s definitely improving. Realme UI/Android 10 coming, but not till March.

Realme's recent handsets (X2, X2 Pro, and 5 Pro) all have quad-camera setups that are impressive, at least on paper.

Hardware, design, what’s in the box

There’s nothing special about the external hardware of the Realme X2 Pro — it’s a familiar Gorilla Glass 5 and metal sandwich — but the cameras are pleasingly centered on the back and the build quality is nice enough. The waterdrop notch has been done to death at this point, but it’s a functional choice and there’s very little bezel around the screen. If you’ve handled any OnePlus phone since the 6T, you’ll have a good idea of what this feels like in the hand, with a little extra weight maybe (the X2 Pro is hefty at 199g). The display is the first thing that really stands out. You can fit lots of content onto the 6.5-inch OLED panel, which is bright (getting up to 1000 nits), sharp (FHD+), and supports HDR+. It’s not quite as well touch calibrated as a OnePlus display, and the colors aren’t quite as vivid, but at €400, that can be forgiven. The default temperature is also pretty warm, but you can customize it in the settings. DC dimming is a helpful addition.

Fire up a video or some music and you’ll notice how good the speakers are. They’re Dolby Atmos stereo speakers — one in the earpiece and one bottom-firing — and they are both loud and clear. This is usually a good place to cut costs, so it’s a pleasant surprise. Another impressive component is the in-display fingerprint scanner, which is as fast and accurate as likely identical optical hardware on recent OnePlus phones. I was skeptical about under-display sensors for some time, but this one is practically perfect. Many people still care about headphone jacks, and the X2 Pro has one on the bottom edge next to the USB-C port.

It’s not all good news, unfortunately, as you might expect given the price point. The button placement is frustrating because the power and volume buttons are exactly opposite one another, leading to numerous accidental screenshots. The vibration motor is another downside, making for an unsatisfactory typing experience. Other examples of cost-cutting can be found in the absence of an IP rating or wireless charging, but phones costing far more don’t offer those either, so it’s understandable. The pre-applied screen protector and included TPU case are nice touches, and the box also contains a 50W SuperVOOC charging brick and a USB Type-A to C cable.

The BBK family resemblance is plain to see when you place the X2 Pro between a OnePlus 7T Pro and 7T.

Performance, software, battery life

Where the X2 Pro really excels is performance. That’s unsurprising given the internals comprise a Snapdragon 855+ chip, 6/8/12GB of RAM, and at least 64GB of storage (which is UFS 3.0 on the 128 and 256GB models). You’ll be hard pushed to find a faster phone out there. It chugs through even the most intense applications and games without complaint, although it does sometimes get a little toasty. The config I’ve been using is maxed out at 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, but that’s overkill, so I’d expect even the cheapest base model (6GB) to have no memory management issues. Depending on how you use your phone, 64GB of storage might be more of an issue, but it’s only €50 extra to upgrade to the 8/128GB variant, which is also UFS 3.0 — that’s a really good deal if you can afford it.

On the software side, Realme phones use a slightly customized version of the Color OS Android skin you’ll see on an Oppo phone. And it’s not half bad, despite suffering from some of the same issues many other Chinese skins do (Apple-inspired design, only displays the most recent notifications on the lock screen, persistent NFC icon in the status bar etc). One of the key complaints many reviewers have about the otherwise excellent software on OnePlus phones is the lack of an always-on display function, and while Color OS also doesn’t include one, per se, it does have an always-on clock. This shows the time, date, and battery level, and that’s good enough for me. If you want to be alerted for incoming notifications you can have the screen wake for each one, but there’s no LED.

There are some nice design touches in the software, such as different colors for different quick settings tiles to make them easier to distinguish, and the settings are better organized than in some versions of EMUI and MIUI. I’ve gotten really used to switching between the two most recent apps by holding the back gesture, although I can’t see this being adopted by Google, and there’s a well-implemented dark mode in the Realme Lab section with its own quick settings shortcut. You also get some of the features of OxygenOS, like screen-off gestures, for better or worse. The X2 Pro is currently on Color OS 6.1 — based on Android 9 Pie — but an update to Android 10 will be coming in March and the skin will be renamed Realme UI. It’ll still be based on Oppo’s skin, but with further customization and branding. Here’s hoping it’s still relatively bloatware-free and some of the other bugs are smoothed out a bit, like the one that messes up Bluetooth audio volume occasionally or the one that changes the color temperature at night even when night shield is disabled.

Thanks to a 4,000mAh cell, battery life is what I would deem a little above average, getting to the end of most days with 20-30% left after more than 4 hours of screen on time. That might not sound outstanding, but just consider how crazy fast the 50W Super Vooc charger is — I can get a full charge in about half an hour, which means I basically never had to worry. If I thought I’d be out super late one evening, I’d just plug it in for 5 or 10 mins and I’d be sorted.

Cameras

Given that it boasts the world’s first 64MP smartphone camera sensor, there was a lot of hype about the imaging capability of the X2 Pro, but sadly it doesn’t deliver on all of its promise. Images taken with that main sensor in daylight are pretty good, albeit binned down to 16MP by default. The color temperature is a little on the warm side, but there’s lots of detail and contrast and HDR kicks in when needed. Low-light is a problem, however, with blurriness, halo effects, and unrealistic-looking photos. The Nightscape mode does little to improve the situation adds more noise, with over-aggressive processing and a lack of OIS to blame.

There are three other cameras on the back, with the telephoto (2x optical or up to 20x hybrid) being the most impressive. It’s very true to life and captures great detail despite lacking any stabilization. The depth sensor handles bokeh shots with relative assurance, but the wide-angle lens is the least consistent of all. Focusing is often problematic and if you have HDR on automatic it can lead to images that are blurred in some sections but not others along the same focal line — this likely arises from some sort of HDR stacking issue the processing isn’t able to figure out, and it ruins tons of shots. The wide-angle lens can also be used for macro photography, and it doesn’t do too badly here at least.

The wide-angle lens simply can't compete with the primary camera.

Another persistent annoyance when taking photos can be blamed on the camera app itself. Swiping left or right (portrait) changes the camera mode, which I often accidentally triggered when tapping to focus. The X2 Pro can do video in 4K at 60fps and slow-mo in 720p at 960fps, but EIS alone means it can’t compete with other phones in this area. In summary: it is possible to take attractive photos with this phone, but it’s often more work than it should be and the versatility of four rear lenses isn’t backed up by consistent end results.

Should you buy it?

Realme X2 Pro
7/10

Only if photography isn’t everything to you. Having the camera section right before the conclusion probably does this phone a disservice, since it’s very accomplished in almost every other way. For most people who only take photos in a casual manner, and maybe upload the odd one to Instagram, this won’t be a huge concern, but discerning photographers would be better off spending €400 on a Pixel 3a, even though it’s less versatile. The Realme X2 Pro performs like a beast and charges at an almost impossibly fast rate, while the 90Hz display looks fantastic.

The base model’s 64GB of storage might not be enough, but it's not that much more to upgrade to the 128GB (UFS 3.0) option, and there aren’t many other phones out there that offer the same value proposition, all things considered. Perhaps this is one flagship phone too early to be a true breakout star for Realme, but I can’t wait to see what the company is able to achieve with the next one — the future looks to be pretty bright for the world’s fastest-growing smartphone brand.