With great power comes great responsibility.
On its official website, Realme calls buyers to experience the future with the Realme X7 Pro. With the Realme X7 Max, it promises it will get you there at full speed. It will also cost you less money. This future, presumably driven by 5G, is a long way to go but brands like Realme — especially Realme — are working overtime to ensure there is no shortage of devices when the network arrives eventually.
Like the devices themselves, hardware powering them is also getting mature each day. Over the last few months, both Qualcomm and MediaTek have released a swarm of 5G-ready mobile processors, each more capable than the other though. The big focus seems to be on making technology more and more accessible which is why we are seeing a lot of action happening in the mid-range segment lately. Qualcomm has a long list of Snapdragon 800- and 700-series system-on-chips while MediaTek is churning out equivalents under its Dimensity lineup by the dozen.
This brings us to the subject of this review–the Realme X7 Max 5G–and why Realme believes it could bring you up to speed with 5G. This phone is powered by MediaTek’s most powerful current gen SoC, the Dimensity 1200. In theory, this makes it the most powerful phone in the Realme X7-series. Even more powerful than the Realme X7 Pro, which is technically, the “real” flagship. A phone that was launched barely three months ago.
Something like this does not happen very often. This makes the Realme X7 Max kind of exciting (that is if you haven’t invested in the Realme X7 Pro already). But on the flip side, it also makes you wonder, if there’s a catch.
Expect the unexpected
The X7 Max is a mighty giant that’s surprisingly light on its feet. On any given day, a phone like this would seem like a recipe for disaster. Realme has tamed the beast but more than anything, the X7 Max is a home run for MediaTek. After spending years playing second fiddle to Qualcomm, it is finally starting to catch up. And if the Dimensity 1200 is any indication, the future seems promising.
Dimensity 1200 is MediaTek’s first 6nm chip. It is also the first MediaTek chip to use the Cortex-A78 core. It has a tri-cluster CPU with a “prime” A78 core running at 3.0GHz, three other A78 cores at 2.6GHz, and four A55 “efficiency” cores at 2.0GHz. The Snapdragon 870 that it’s built to compete with—though it has a CPU that clocks higher at 3.2GHz—is based on the older A77 core(s) giving MediaTek a slight edge in benchmarks. There are of course other factors that weigh in, where Qualcomm cruises ahead, but the bottomline is, both chips are matched evenly.
Next to the Dimensity 1000 Plus – seen inside the Realme X7 Pro – we’re looking at 22 percent faster performance. And it can do this while consuming up to 25 percent less power. Both chips pack the same Mali-G77 GPU. Realme is using fast UFS 3.1 storage (up to 256GB) in the X7 Max, an improvement over UFS 2.2 inside the X7 Pro. There is no expandable storage.
There is an upgraded stainless steel vapour cooling system inside the X7 Max which is said to be an improvement over the copper-based system seen in the X7 Pro. This is one of the very few phones under 20k to include a dedicated thermal solution, or at least one that’s being advertised. But even more importantly, it works.
This has two immediate benefits. For the most discerning user, the X7 Max does not get very hot when stressed. For more specific use cases, like gaming, this phone can play graphically demanding games with consistently stable frame rates without any visible throttling. Except for Genshin Impact which for some reason has a chip-level cap, most games including Call of Duty: Mobile play at maxed-out settings on the X7 Max and the experience is satisfying. As a frame of reference, the Snapdragon 870-powered Xiaomi Mi 11X’s gaming performance leaves a lot to be desired.
It’s commendable because Realme has been able to achieve all this keeping the dimensions of the phone so compact, it doesn’t even feel like a performance-oriented device, the first time you see it. It has used copious amounts of plastic—while the Mi 11X is all glass—to be able to do this, sure, but regardless of the build materials, this phone weighs just 180 gram and measures only 8.4mm. At a time when most phones including the X7 Pro are 6.5-inch and above, the X7 Max takes the road less taken. This is a 6.43-inch phone. Call it a pocket rocket if you will.
Despite that, the phone does not compromise on battery capacity. Like the X7 Pro, the X7 Max also comes with a sizeable 4,500mAh battery. Battery life is good. This is easily a one-day phone for even the most demanding users. Charging, even though it tops out at 50W (this is 65W in the X7 Pro), is still one of the quickest in this price range. For some context, the Mi 11X which also has more or less similar battery life supports only 33W fast charging.
The same no-compromise approach extends to audio. The phone comes with dual speakers with Dolby Atmos and Hi-Res support. Quality of these speakers isn’t that great—relative to say the Mi 11X which has an “actual” stereo setup—but it gets the job done while also retaining the headphone jack.
This is the first Realme phone in its class to have an official IP rating — this is IPX4. This means it is splash resistant. The Mi 11X with its IP53-rating is also resistant to dust.
Jack of all trades
Rest of the package is basically Realme trying to juggle many hats. Winning at some, failing at others. Design is perhaps its weakest link. It’s becoming repetitive and, in that process, it is also losing out on its premium appeal. The X7 Max seems to be a cross between the X7 Pro and the 8 Pro with a combination of matte and glossy elements. There is a sizeable holographic “Dare to Leap” slogan thrown into the mix and while it’s not as massive as the one on the 8 Pro, you can’t just not see it and then when you do, you can’t unsee it. Realme phones have seen better days. Remember the Realme 7 Pro? Or any of the Realme X Master Editions?
The 1080p Super AMOLED display on the X7 Max shows punchy colours and viewing angles are quite good. But it does not get very bright. Even by Realme’s own standards, the panel is a step below the X7 Pro’s with brightness topping out at 1000 nits (the X7 Pro can go all the way to 1200 nits). There is no HDR support either. The in-display fingerprint reader isn’t the most accurate and there is no screen protection (X7 Pro comes with Corning Gorilla Glass 5).
A silver lining is the faster response rate. The 120Hz refresh rate in the X7 Max is paired with 360Hz touch sampling (240Hz in the X7 Pro) making it ideal for competitive gaming – though the difference would be visible to only the most eagle-eyed.
The most noticeable downgrade is coming in the camera department. The X7 Max has only three cameras on the rear and only one of them—the primary—is usable. Realme is using a 64MP IMX682 main sensor in the X7 Max (the X7 Pro uses the IMX686) which clicks above average photos in good light and good-enough photos in artificial and low light. Colours are often saturated and turn out looking pleasing on the phone’s colourful screen though a blown-out version seen on a bigger screen, say a laptop, shows these photos usually miss out on resolved detail. Dynamic range is average at best. Realme’s night mode implementation is better than some of its rivals, so that’s a plus. The other two cameras – 8MP ultra-wide-angle and 2MP macro – are barely serviceable.
As for video recording, the phone does well at 1080p@30fps. Gyro-based stabilisation helps take clear shots.
The 16MP front camera (this is 32MP in the X7 Pro) captures good-quality selfies across lighting conditions if at the cost of resolved detail.
Realme software—this is Android 11-based Realme UI 2.0 in the X7 Max—has both positive and negative aspects. It looks better than MIUI, it’s a lot cleaner too – though this can change as MIUI 12.5 becomes more broadly available – and the fact that it gives you so many customisation chops including the ability to change icons is well appreciated. Everything works cohesively. But the update rollout and long-term support is just way too messed up and uneven. My X7 Max review unit is still on the March security patch, while a much cheaper Realme phone, the 8 Pro, got the April patch on schedule (in the month of April itself). Realme is on the right track, if only it can fix this disparity, things would be even better.
What you see is what you get
The X7 Max “works as advertised” and that is its main USP. Straight off the bat, this is a high-performance device. 5G may seem like an icing on the cake but make no mistake, Realme is really serious about the whole democratisation of the technology thing it keeps talking about in its marketing campaigns. As opposed to many rival phones, including those from sister brand OnePlus, 5G is not just an afterthought here. The X7 Max supports as many as seven bands (5G NR N1/N28A/N40/N41/N77/N78/N79) and while you may not be able to use them just yet, it surely helps with the peace of mind. Paired with NFC and Wi-Fi 6, this is truly a future-ready device. Hopefully, things on the software front would get better with time.
As for the rest of the package, Realme doesn’t really make a lot of tall claims. It is what it is. If you’re looking for a bigger and brighter screen, better cameras, and faster charging, you should probably be looking at the X7 Pro. Or better yet, you should be looking at the iQOO 7. The Mi 11X is also a viable option if you’re not particularly looking for class-leading cameras.
Pros: Compact form factor, Fast 120Hz display, Fast performance, Does not heat up when stressed, Good battery life
Cons: Derivative design, No HDR support, Cameras could be better, Slow Android update rollout