realme gt master edition
Review

Hands-on review: Realme GT Master Edition smartphone

Image credit: realme

Realme, a spin-off of Chinese smartphone giant Oppo, has been stepping up its game with recent smartphones, and the GT Master Explorer Edition is no exception.

Previous devices have typically featured good specs – especially for their price range – but have suffered in build quality, with chunky bodies and cheap, plasticky builds.

The GT Master Edition feels like Realme’s first attempt at a smartphone that can compete with the big boys – albeit at a mid-range price point.

It touts a 6.43-inch Samsung AMOLED panel display which is vibrant and responsive and features a 120Hz refresh mode. This last spec is something that often separates the mid-range from pricier devices, but its inclusion here is nice if not earth-shattering.

While only noticeable when switching between 60Hz and 120Hz modes, it makes the device feel snappier, especially paired with Qualcomm’s capable 778G chip. Multi-tasking and app switching is also smooth and lag-free – the device comes with 8GB RAM and 3GB of what Realme calls “Dynamic RAM Expansion Technology”.

This system basically uses some of the storage to act as virtual RAM. The effectiveness of such a technique is somewhat dubious, as the internal UFS storage will be drastically slower than the RAM itself. But as 8GB is already plenty for a mobile device, the virtual RAM probably sees limited usage for most users.

The display also houses an under-screen fingerprint scanner that performs nothing less than admirably. It uses a larger sensor than many smartphones that incorporated earlier versions of the tech, which means the user can be a lot less precise about where they place their finger, and it can also recognise fingerprints at lightning speeds. Considering it uses a Qualcomm chip, this might suggest that the device comes with Qualcomm’s 3D Sonic Sensor Gen 2, which was announced earlier this year. Realme hasn’t officially confirmed this, however.

Facial recognition is also an option through the device’s front-facing security cam. There is no laser mapping or other fancier techniques the likes of which are used on the iPhone. Still, it efficiently recognises the user’s face, albeit in a less secure way than Apple’s device.

The GT Master Edition has a notably more refined build quality than other Realme devices, clearly an attempt to woo flagship enthusiasts. The buttons feel solid, not too clicky, and the device has a slim build that feels great in the hand.

Unfortunately, battery life seems to suffer due to these efforts to keep the device thin. It has a relatively mediocre 4300mAh battery that will easily last you a day of heavy usage, but you can forget getting a second day out of it before needing to put it on the charger. It also lacks wireless charging, a standard typically supported on higher-end phones.

Realme has tended to neglect its cameras in the past. While it bandies around terms like AI photography and high megapixel sensors, the results are often much less impressive than the raw specs might lead you to believe.

But the GT Master Edition largely bucks the trend by producing nicely balanced photographs using its 64MP main snapper that feature impressive amounts of detail and vibrant colours without the garish over-saturation that some Chinese-produced smartphones can be guilty of. Numerous shades of green can be distinguished on the tree above for example without it turning into a muddy, ill-defined mess.

Less good are its night shots. The direct comparison with a Pixel 4a (top image below), which is a similarly priced device, shows how lacking the GT Master Edition’s camera (lower image) is when confronted with less than ideal lighting situations. Much of the Pixel’s success here may be due to Google’s impressive photography AI that consistently produces decent shots even using middling hardware.

The GT Master Edition is a worthy device for a mid-ranger. An excellent fingerprint reader coupled with solid build quality makes it a worthy contender when compared with other devices in its price range. Realme has finally done a good job on the camera too, although the night pictures clearly show that Google’s Pixel 4a will have the edge here alongside more long-lived software support. A modern Qualcomm chip backed up by an excellent screen that operates at 120Hz makes for a snappy device, albeit one that is let down by slightly underwhelming battery life.

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