Realme 8s 5G review: No-brainer budget 5G phone that works as advertised

Real question is, do you feel the need for 5G.

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The Realme 8s 5G starts at Rs 17,999 (6GB/128GB) and goes all the way to Rs 19,999 (8GB/128GB). (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The only plausible explanation as to why a phone like the Realme 8s 5G even exists today is that its predecessor, the Realme 8 5G—must have—sold out like hot cakes.

The new phone builds on top of that formula, adds a bit of spit and polish to it and presents itself as, yet another potentially viable option from a brand whose sole purpose at this point seems to be making 5G a household name, even though there’s no way one can make use of all those next-gen antennas in India right now. Just so you know, the Realme 8s supports five 5G bands.

Regardless, it helps Realme tick a box. For the average user it means, they’re getting some extra peace of mind knowing they’re buying something that could serve them for a long(er) time given everything else is also as future-proof that is.

Also Read | Realme GT 2 Pro confirmed, will be Realme’s ‘most premium’ flagship phone

As is customary with ‘all 5G budget phones’ in the market today, the Realme 8s will also require you to be stationed inside a parallel universe, one where other 4G phones—those that offer more value at around the same price—don’t exist.

Basically, you’d really, really must feel the need for 5G if you’re even considering the Realme 8s. If not, Realme itself has an eclectic mix of options like the Realme 8 and Realme 8 Pro, that you’ll be better off with.

Realme 8s 5G vs Realme 8 5G

The Realme 8s 5G shares many specs with the Realme 8 5G. So, let’s just start with that before diving into the nitty-gritties. The core design is mostly a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” affair to begin with. It has the same display, and the same front camera. The triple camera setup on the back is the same except for the primary sensor. The battery is also of the same capacity.

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The Realme 8s is the first phone to launch with MediaTek’s 6nm Dimensity 810 chip. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The major difference lies in the core hardware—the Realme 8s has a slightly more powerful and theoretically more efficient MediaTek Dimensity 810 chip. The Realme 8 5G has a Dimensity 700. The Realme 8s in addition will get you faster 33W charging even as the Realme 8 5G tops out at 18W. Lastly, the Realme 8s has a different primary camera, which is 64MP. This is 48MP in the Realme 8 5G.

Now, the nitty-gritties

Realme has mastered the art of making good-looking budget phones. It may get carried away with overzealous branding from time to time, but there’s no denying Realme’s got a great design team with a knack for conjuring unique colours and textures, as if out of thin air and then mixing it all up in just the right amount to come out with something whacky, yet tasteful. The Realme 8s is a good example.

The ID and materials are same as before, but the design has been spruced up with elements taken from some of Realme’s other phones, like the Realme 8 Pro. Those elements add both a distinct flavour and depth to the Realme 8s, so much so that even though the core design is a rehash, the whole thing still looks and feels fresh.

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The Realme 8s is a good-looking budget phone. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The phone is compact, easy to hold and maneuver and most definitely doesn’t feel cheap or plasticky. The power button on the right serves double duty as a fingerprint reader. It is fast and accurate. The volume rocker on the left, too, offers good tactile feedback. It’s hard to beat the benchmark set by the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max, but that’s not to say the Realme 8s won’t find takers.

Also Read | Realme Book Slim review: This MacBook clone is better than you think

The display is untouched which would invariably lead many to get into the AMOLED versus LCD debate and basically, write off the Realme 8s on the grounds that it has LCD—more specifically, 6.5-inch LCD with a 1080p resolution, 90Hz refresh rate and hole punch cut-out. The only con that we could find with this display is the peak brightness, which is again connected to the fact that it is, after all, LCD. When compared with other LCDs, it is fine. But yes, there are surely brighter, more colourful screens at around similar prices, so that’s something you should keep in mind. Some are faster too, including Realme’s own Narzo 30 Pro 5G that comes with a 120Hz refresh rate.

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Realme UI 2.0 is fast and fluid but there are a lot of unwanted apps. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Core hardware is where things really start to get interesting. The Realme 8s is powered by MediaTek’s 6nm Dimensity 810 chip—it is in fact, the first phone to launch with it.

While surely a step up from the Dimensity 700 inside the Realme 8 5G, the real-world differences have more to do with efficiency and CPU speed in that order, and absolutely nothing to do with graphics. In layman’s terms, you can expect slightly faster—and possibly sustained—performance and improved battery life over the Realme 8 5G. The GPU is the same in both cases and isn’t cut out for graphically intensive gaming.

Also Read | Redmi Note 11T 5G launched; new Xiaomi phone will take on Lava Agni 5G, Realme 8s at starting price of Rs 16,999

The Realme 8s works on very expected lines which is to say, it can breeze through basic tasks like a champ without breaking a sweat. It does not get warm unless it is stressed. The Mali-G57 MC2 GPU can handle basic games just fine, but high-end games, not so much. For context, PUBG: New State defaults to Medium and Lite and even at these low settings, the phone can pull only 24-25fps with lags and stutters being a common-place.

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The phone has a 64MP main camera. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

But then, that’s the case with most phones in this price range anyway except a few exceptions like the Narzo 30 Pro 5G that packs a Dimensity 800U with a faster Mali-G57 MC3 GPU.

That said, it’s surprising how MediaTek went to great lengths to equip the Dimensity 810 with so many modern-day features and left the GPU, well, asking for more.

Also Read | The Realme GT 5G jumpstarts the flagship killer, a category that OnePlus abandoned years ago

In Realme’s defence, it’s done everything to ensure the Realme 8s doesn’t appear short-changed in hardware which is always nice to see in a budget phone like this. You get up to 8GB RAM and 128GB storage which is also expandable via a dedicated slot. There is also a dynamic RAM expansion feature in the phone. Software is Realme UI 2.0 based on Android 11 which is fast, fluid, full of granular customisation but it could have done with less bloatware.

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There is 33W fast charging support. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Battery life expectedly is stellar. The Realme 8s 5G will easily last a day and then some for even the most discernible user. The bundled 33W charger can top the phone from 0-100 percent in roughly around one hour and fifteen minutes.

The primary camera has got an update in the Realme 8s while rest of the specs remain the same. It has a 64MP main sensor that sits behind an f/18 lens. It takes good, contrasty, and nicely detailed photos in good light. Low light photos are also surprisingly good—an upgrade over what’s possible with the Realme 8 5G. It’s the lack of a dedicated ultra-wide-angle camera, that’s the bigger surprise though—that could have really helped Realme kick things up a notch even more so because the two 2MP depth and macro shooters are mere spec-fillers and nothing to write home about.

The 16MP front camera captures good-quality selfies across lighting scenarios if at the cost of resolved detail.

Video recording tops out at 1080p@30fps in the Realme 8s 5G. Recorded footage is nice, crisp, and well-stabilised for the most part.

Realme 8s 5G | Should you buy

The Realme 8s is probably one of the very few budget phones in the market today that works as advertised—no more, no less. For all intents and purposes, it is a nicer, slightly more powerful, and efficient Realme 8 5G with an improved main camera, just like what its spec sheet would tell you.

If affordable 5G is at the top of your bucket list, the Realme 8s is a no-brainer. Unless of course you can somehow grab the Narzo 30 Pro 5G, which despite growing competition, remains unbeatable to this day. It is not available on Realme India website at the time of writing this review.

Pros: Good design and in-hand feel, Stable performance, Realme UI 2.0 offers loads of customisation, Good primary camera, Stellar battery life

Cons: Display could be brighter, Bloatware, No ultra-wide-angle camera, No stereo speakers, 5G tax

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