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Monday, September 20, 2021

Jack of all, Master of none

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What’s in a name, they say. For Realme’s fresh-off-the-oven GT series, there’s a lot at stake. The company wants up its ante in the midrange segment and for that, it has delivered the GT Master Edition. Instead of sorely focusing on performance, the GT Master Edition is meant to appeal to those who seek an overall “nice” phone, not just a compromised gaming phone; something more akin to the OnePlus Nord formula. Also Read – More Realme GT series smartphones, new fitness bands coming to India this year

It sounds great but all of Realme’s rivals are playing the same game. In fact, in the sub-Rs 30,000 space, there are phones that do the Realme formula way better than Realme does, at least on paper; look at the OnePlus Nord 2, Poco F3 GT, and Xiaomi’s Mi 11X. The GT ME is essentially no different than these performance-oriented midrange phones, and that’s where the problem lies. Also Read – Realme GT 5G now up for sale in India: Check price, offers and more

After living with the GT Master Edition for over 10 days, I started wondering whether Realme has done enough to justify this phone’s existence amongst its rivals. Also Read – Realme 8 is the latest one to get extended RAM, 8 Pro to get it soon

Design

Part of the GT Master Edition’s appeal comes from its suitcase-inspired design on the Voyager Grey colour variant. Employing Naoto Fukasawa’s masterful design insight for a mid-range Android phone is a great idea to enhance the appeal of an otherwise dull design. Even if you aren’t into the suitcase ethos, the regular black and white colour variants go for neat aesthetics that give the GT ME a distinct identity.

*cough “what about the Oppo Reno series’ design, OnePlus 9 series design, etc” *cough *cough!

Alright, not a highly distinctive design but the vanilla variants do have a pleasant appeal. The Vegan Leather-wrapped version I have looks handsome although I wish Realme did some lighter colours for this particular finish. Whichever version you choose, the fit and finish is top-notch; this justifies a part of paying the premium over a Realme X7. In fact, it is built so well that some of my plastic-hating colleagues couldn’t figure out what it was made of (psst, Vegan Leather is made of plastic).

It was satisfying to see the phone happily resisting smudges and dirt in our hot & humid Indian conditions. Sadly, the glossy front cannot help but smudge itself, or smear dust from dusty surfaces. At least Realme pre-applies a screen protector on the phone, which maintains the pristine scratch-resistant and scratch-free glass.

Realme GT Master Edition

While the slim bezels around the display are a love affair for the eyes, all the buttons cannot replicate the same for the fingers. The keys are mushy and I wonder how long will these hold their “click” before you have to visit the service centre. Since we are on the subject of disappointments, the presence of a single loudspeaker is irksome, given that cheaper phones feature a stereo setup. The loudspeaker isn’t loud enough while taking calls (irony, isn’t it?)

Display

Ain’t no party if its AMOLED, right? I would like to see Nicky Minaj doing a fine composition on this someday for the geeks on blogs. Realme, however, wants it to be a party for its consumers and it has chosen a fine display for that. There’s a Samsung AMOLED panel that measures 6.4-inches and supports a refresh rate of 120Hz. Similar to most phones at this price range, the GT Master Edition’s display looks vivid and feels smoother to scroll.

Realme GT Master Edition

Sunlight legibility is fine as the brightness levels go high enough to keep everything visible under the noon sun. I haven’t noticed any disturbing colour shifts while viewing it from an extreme angle. There is an in-display fingerprint scanner that is highly responsive and accurate. Since this is an optical sensor, wet fingers have to lose their moisture.

Performance

All Realme phones are all about speed and performance; nobody makes it as evident as Realme’s marketing people. For the GT Master Edition, the company has turned to its old faithful buddy Qualcomm for sourcing the Snapdragon 778G chip. This chip is intended for midrange phones and offers the same levels of performance as the Snapdragon 860, if you know what an 860 is.

In its price segment though, the Snapdragon 778G does not have the same levels of raw performance as the MediaTek Dimensity 1200. Hence, the Realme GT Master Edition will theoretically be inferior to the OnePlus Nord 2, Poco F3 GT, Xiaomi’s Mi 11X and Realme’s own X7 Max. Seems like a bad idea for gamers, right?

Realme GT Master Edition

Not exactly. Qualcomm may have a reduced presence in the affordable phone space this year but it knows how to tune its chips well. The Snapdragon 778G coupled with Realme’s smart software tuning makes the most out of the GT Master Edition. Hence, when I threw games like Call of Duty: Mobile, Shadow Fight 4: Legend, Battlegrounds Mobile India, and a few indie titles, the GT Master Edition handled them all like a, well, master.

I was able to game on the phone without losing frames or disturbing RAM management issues on my unit. However, do note that Call of Duty: Mobile cannot be played in the highest of graphics settings; you have to go for “High” with “Ultra” frame rates. Those seeking to push higher frame rates and better textures need to consider the Snapdragon 870-powered phones.

That said, you aren’t going to buy a GT Master Edition for gaming (primarily). As a regular smartphone, the Realme GT Master Edition is a refined and pleasant phone to use. Realme’s Realme UI 2.0 based on Android 11 offers a visually pleasing interface with hundreds of features to tweak and carve a unique experience for yourself. From the fonts to the icon packs to the accent colours, and free themes via the Theme Store, there’s a lot to play with.

Realme GT Master Edition

The core user experience is pleasant, with no logical interface layouts and smart performance tweaks. So far, I did not see the phone getting exhausted even after an hour of Instagram browsing. Helping out the interface is the great haptic feedback system, which makes the interactions feel lively. The subtle and well-controlled vibrations offer a true flagship-like experience.

Realme also deserves applause for managing the ad situation well. Unlike Samsung and Xiaomi phones, Realme UI 2.0 does not bother with ads in notifications, or the lockscreen. You will find ads within the Browser app and Theme Store, but that’s limited within these apps. Realme also pre-loads a bunch of third-party apps out of the box, most of which can be removed at will. You still have to put up with some of Oppo’s/Realme’s first-party apps alongside the usual Google apps.

Realme promises two Android OS updates and three years of security patches on the GT Master Edition, which is a great step to ensure the longevity of its products. It’s still behind Samsung’s promise of three OS updates, but hey, if that guarantees a fine user experience, I am up for it.

Realme GT Master Edition

Network connectivity is strong on the Realme GT Master Edition, with both of Jio connections on either slot holding on to the network like a newborn baby clutching its mother’s arms. Call quality via the earpiece is good, although still a notch behind those Motorola phones. The loudspeaker is weak for hosting handsfree calls and I wish Realme stuffed a louder unit.

And of course, there’s support for 5G networks, with multiple 5G bands present. I still wonder how many GT Master Edition buyers will hold on to their handsets when 5G practically arrives in at least over 4-5 years, but it is good to know that there’s support.

Cameras

If you are coming from a year-old, or cheaper phone, the cameras on the Realme GT Master Edition seem fine at first glance. Photos from the main camera seem fairly vibrant and bright, while the ultra-wide camera tends to brighten up the shots. Some of you might even find the macro camera good for extreme close-up photos.

However, as someone who has used a couple of other phones in the same price point, I should inform you that these cameras are far from fine. In fact, compared to a Samsung Galaxy A52, the Realme GT Master Edition’s camera output looks bad.

realme gt master

The primary 64-megapixel camera struggles to maintain a consistent colour profile. Photos either have washed out colours, or bumped up saturation. The colours are far from what the eyes see. There are issues with exposure management, which is highly evident while clicking landscape photos: it’s either too bright, or low brightness. Most of the time, I wondered which combination of these issues will creep up on my photos.

Night mode photos are good and I recommend users hitting that mode as soon as the sun starts setting. Even here, the photos are inconsistent and any rival phone from Samsung or OnePlus can do a better job. Portrait mode photos are fine, with decent subject separation.

The wide-angle photos from the 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera showcase a different colour science. The sensor does a decent job with the exposure but you never know whether the sky will appear light blue or white. And, let’s not speak about the macro camera: you will be better off doing a digital zoom on your macro subject than using this; macro camera outputs are a blurry mess with off colours and poor exposures.

Realme GT Master Edition

I game the new Street Photography mode a whirl and it became the only favourite within the camera. The street mode emphasises faster shutter speeds and it does make for sharper images, although at the cost of occasional grains. The Street mode filter tones down the exposure for style, while the Cyberpunk and Flamingo filters caught my fancy.

Thankfully, the front camera saves the phone from a complete embarrassment. Selfies taken in broad daylight have capture loads of facial details, fine colours, and manage the exposure well. The portrait mode algorithms work fine, especially with the blur effect and the background separation around irregular outlines.

If someone from Realme is reading this, you need to fix this inconsistency with a future software update.

Battery

realme gt master

A 4300mAh battery does not sound enough for today’s Android phones but when paired with power-efficient Snapdragon 778G and a cleverly tweaked OS, it makes for an all-day phone. On the busiest of office days, the GT Master Edition with a full charge ended the day with almost 30 per cent of juice to spare. Add 30 minutes of gaming and you will see the low battery prompts, with 5 per cent left. With basic activities like taking calls, texting on WhatsApp, and light browsing of social media, the 5-6 hours of screen-on-time.

Having the 65W supplied charger around, however, helps. It takes less than 30 minutes for the phone to fully refill the battery. This is a massive convenience, especially on days when you have been taking a lot of calls, or got distracted by a few TDM matches in Call of Duty Mobile. Realme’s “SuperDART” charging animation is cool too, although those seeking an understated design may find it gaudy.

Verdict

Leaving apart the cameras, the Realme GT Master Edition feels like the best midrange phone the company has ever sold so far, wherein the focus is on delivering a qualitative user experience. It’s built well, has a fine display, a fluid and fast user experience, and a convenient fast charging solution. Whether you go for the unique suitcase-inspired version or the standard ones, the GT Master Edition feels like a high-end phone to flaunt.

Realme GT Master Edition

However, as I iterated right at the beginning, the competition has equally well designed and well-rounded phones to sell. The Realme GT Master Edition struggles to carve a distinct space for itself, especially against the popular ones like the OnePlus Nord 2, Oppo Reno 6, Poco F3 GT, Samsung Galaxy A52, and Realme’s own X7 Max. In fact, the X7 Max has better cameras and superior performance to offer despite being the older “gaming-focused” model.

If you seek good camera phones, the Samsung Galaxy A52 and Oppo Reno 6 are better options. Those looking for a gaming phone can go for the Poco F3 GT, Xiaomi’s Mi 11X, and the Realme X7 Max. You can also get better battery life out of the Mi 11X, Galaxy A52, and the Poco F3 GT.

It seems that the only standout feature for the Realme GT Master Edition is its suitcase design. Make no mistake, it is actually the nice smartphone that Realme intended it to be, and it doesn’t disappoint. The performance is stable, the display is nice and the charging is uber-fast. However, you can buy other phones for almost Rs 28,000 that are way better at doing everything that is expected of a 2021 midrange smartphone.

The GT series promises to amp up Realme’s game in the premium smartphone space but as of now, the GT Master Edition isn’t that phone: it still shows the same old Realme obsessed with speed over everything else. Unless you are fixated on using the fancy “suitcase phone”, we recommend the Realme X7 Max and the OnePlus Nord 2 over the Realme GT Master Edition.





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