With the Realme C11, Realme is trying to pull a Samsung, in the entry-level segment. We review.
Realme C11 is technically a successor to the Realme C3. Now usually when a smartphone brand takes such a huge leap forward, it justifies it through hardware (even software) to make its case. Take Samsung for instance. The South Korean major jumped from the S10 to S20 this year, letting its brand-new camera tech (and a couple of other cool things) do much of the talking. With the Realme C11, Realme is trying to pull a Samsung, in the entry-level segment. Though without a method or any USP feature, which is definitely not what you expected.
Every brand has its own go-to market strategy. For Realme, which happens to take a lot of cues from Xiaomi (sometimes the vice versa also happens), it is launching phones by the dozen, one after the other in quick succession. There are many reasons why Realme does that, and it’s totally fine, but that strategy also has an obvious loophole. Every now and then, the brand is going to run out of ideas and there’s only so much hardware available to experiment with in the price range Realme likes to play in, things are bound to get repetitive. As and when the brand is faced with this dilemma, it must chalk out a plan B. In this case, jumping from C3 to C11 in naming.
Realme’s C-series focuses on offering entry-level smartphone experiences to first time users, or users looking to make a switch from a feature phone. Needless to say, it’s a lineup that’s expected to attract a lot of traction simply because that audience is pretty substantial in India even today. An interesting thing to note about the Realme C11 is that Realme has priced it lower than the Realme C3. It has tweaked the hardware accordingly too, to cut cost, but the thing about an entry-level phone of its class is that you’re already aware that it’s going to have some limitations. The Realme C3 had those limitations. The Realme C11 also has those limitations. I’ll talk about them later, but what I am trying to say here is that, the Realme C11 despite its weird positioning (and even existence) has a potential buyer too. Or at least, that is what Realme would have you believe.
But here’s the thing. I feel that buyer, the buyer that Realme is looking to target with the Realme C11, deserves something better.
Design, build quality and display
Realme says the design is the Realme C11’s standout feature and there’s no doubt that the phone looks very, very nice, but it’s also very subjective. All the changes that Realme has made are limited to the phone’s back. Most of these changes are for good measure.
The back panel uses textured plastic. This serves two purposes. One is that it enhances grip, the other is that it makes the phone somewhat resistant to smudge and fingerprints (speaking of which, the Realme C11 does not have a fingerprint scanner). Realme has also managed to retain the Realme C3’s “sunrise” colour shifting pattern in the Realme C11. But the biggest change comes in the form of an off-centre vertical stripe that extends from the top all the way to the bottom. It is interrupted by a square-shaped camera module (with no bump whatsoever) at one end which I really like. What I don’t like, and this is something entirely subjective, is the sizable Realme logo that sits at the opposite end. It’s not as massive as the branding on the Narzo 10A, but it is something.
The Realme C11 does stand out in a crowd, but at the same time, it’s a very familiar phone especially for existing Realme users. Be that as it may, I will definitely pick the Realme C11 over the Realme C3 as far as all-round design is concerned (though that Realme logo does bother me quite a bit). This also has something to do with Realme’s colour choices. Available in green and grey, the Realme C11 is a lot more subdued and sophisticated, something you rarely see in entry-level phones. The Realme C11 doesn’t look (or even feel) like an entry-level phone.
The front is all-familiar territory. There’s a 6.5-inch tall 20:9 IPS LCD display with a 720p+ resolution and water drop-style notch. The panel is nice and vibrant with good colour reproduction and adequate viewing angles though it’s also a little glossy or reflective so glare is quite evident especially under direct sunlight. Unlike the Realme C3, the Realme C11 does not have any Corning Gorilla Glass protection.
Performance and battery life
Under the hood, the Realme C11 has an 8-core MediaTek Helio G35 processor which is a step down from the Helio G70 inside the Realme C3. The Helio G35, though it’s a brand new chipset from MediaTek, has been marred by a lot of controversy and confusion because it’s not all that different from its existing Helio P35 (which is a year old chipset).
The Helio G35 is basically the Helio P35 with MediaTek’s HyperEngine technology. That’s it. And if you’re thinking that MediaTek’s HyperEngine technology ought to be something special, it is not. Or wait, it’s designed to “optimise” the available resources for a more sustained performance, especially while gaming (without any other upgrade to what’s already inside the Helio P35), so I’ll leave you to decide what to make of it.
You shouldn’t spend a lot of time trying to decode Realme’s hardware choices with the Realme C11 though because it’s really pointless. Remember how I said all entry-level phones have limitations? Well core hardware is one of them. While it’s nice that Realme chose to go with a seemingly new processor, it doesn’t change the fact that the Realme C11 is an entry-level phone which is to say it’s meant for the basics. This includes making calls, browsing the web and social media, texting, WhatsApp-ing, even playing a few games (basic games) like Candy Crush and Subway Surfers. For some context, the Moto G8 Power Lite has a Helio P35 and it works just fine. The Realme C11 with a more optimised version of the same processor, should work fine too. And it does, where it can.
The bigger problem with the Realme C11 is that it has only 2GB of RAM and 32GB of on-board storage. We’re still to cover a lot of areas but let me skip ahead and tell you that the Realme C11 does not skip a lot of features (for a budget phone) and yet somehow, Realme messed up with the most basic thing. On top of all this, it decided to literally jam-pack the phone with so many unwanted apps, it leaves you with only 17GB of available storage. Yes, there is a dedicated micro-SD card slot and yes, you can uninstall many of these apps, but 17GB of available storage (out-of-the-box), are you kidding me?
That Helio G35 is also said to deliver “superb” power efficiency and it does. Like the Realme C3, the Realme C11 also has a gigantic 5,000mAh battery and will easily last one and a half (to even two) days with a combination of heavy and moderate usage. The phone supports 10W standard charging and charges via micro-USB.
For photography, the Realme C11 comes with dual rear cameras, consisting of a 13MP main and another 2MP depth camera. On the front, the phone has a 5MP camera. The quality of photos is quite good for the price especially in ideal lighting. Indoor photos are serviceable. Low light photos are disappointing which is again typical for a phone in this price range.
Should you buy the Realme C11?
The Realme C11 is an entry-level phone that gets the job done and also looks good while at it, but it could have done a whole lot better if Realme had also focused on the basics, particularly on the RAM side. Realme’s software is clean and minimal but 2GB RAM (and a truckload of bloatware) just takes away so much from a phone that could have had a lot of potential. Rather it ends up looking like a poor cousin of the Realme C3 (which was launched not very long ago by the way).
It’s best to avoid the Realme C11 and instead go with the Realme C3 (if you’re planning to get a Realme phone that is) that makes a lot of sense in all the departments. By paying Rs 1,500 more, you’re getting a battery display, a faster processor, and more RAM. It’s just more value for money. I know every Rupee counts in the entry-level segment, which is why I said in the beginning that buyers deserve something better even at low prices. And the reason why I say this is because Realme made a perfectly fine entry-level smartphone otherwise. It could have added some more RAM too while at it.
- Good design
- Excellent battery life
- 2GB RAM
- Truckload of unwanted apps