Realme 10 Pro Plus review: Almost a masterpiece

It’s screen time.

Realme 10 Pro Plus review
Generally speaking, this phone is all about comfort. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

We quite liked the Realme 9 Pro Plus. But as good as it was— especially in the camera department— its display left us wanting for more. We called it boring. It seems folks at Realme took FE’s review pretty seriously and they’ve –seemingly—come back with all guns blazing making display the top priority on its successor, the Realme 10 Pro Plus.

The display of the Realme 10 Pro Plus is its marquee feature, and even though there are other niceties, everything revolves around that screen. Realme wants you to believe that it has made the most affordable smartphone with a 120Hz “curved” AMOLED display. We haven’t checked but even if it were not the first, the Realme 10 Pro Plus surely belongs to an extremely elite group. A screen setup like this at Rs 25,000 is by no means common. If there’s an off chance that curved screens (think Samsung Galaxy S9-like) are your thing, and you –also— want it for cheap, there is no other option in the market today quite like the Realme 10 Pro Plus.

Also Read | Realme 10 Pro Plus launched in India: The 10-point rough cut

The real thing to discuss is, are there are any major trade-offs. Well, yes and no. But before we get into those nitty-gritties, can we all take a moment to appreciate Realme’s persistence to keep taking the roads less travelled –or in this case, those that were forgotten along the way— to get us something new, something extraordinary almost on a daily basis. In a smartphone world that’s becoming repetitive and boring each day, that’s something of a rare accomplishment.

Realme 10 Pro Plus’s biggest USP is its curved AMOLED screen. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Next to the Realme 9 Pro Plus, the difference is ginormous. Aside from the visual— and technical— superiority, the Realme 10 Pro Plus’s screen is bigger (6.7-inch versus 6.4-inch), faster (120Hz versus 90Hz), brighter (800nits versus 600nits), and can playback HDR10+ content natively (a step-up over HDR10 in the 9 Pro Plus), though it still can’t do HDR on Netfllix, a limitation that most Realme phones suffer from.

The 10-bit panel outputs lively colours and while we would have liked it to be a bit brighter, we’ll take the improvement over last gen any day. The spec is competitive but not class leading. And yet in some areas, Realme is punching above its weight.

The 10 Pro’s panel is certified by TÜV Rheinland for flicker-free and low blue light emission parametres. There is 2160Hz PWM dimming available as well. We won’t go into the technicalities, but the panel works wonderfully for when you’re pulling off an almost-all-nighter scrolling through Instagram, browsing the web, or watching a movie cosied up in bed under dim, or sometimes no lighting at all. You –probably—know the drill. Not that we encourage it or anything, but you’re less likely to strain your eyes with this phone.

The phone has virtually non-existent side (1.41mm) and bottom (2.3mm) bezels. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The bigger reason to get this phone would (and should) be its near uninterrupted giant canvas –of a screen— that literally spills into the sides. We’ve seen screens like this before and the effect –we believe— would be as polarising. You will either love it for what it is: a technological marvel (screen bending tech still gives us goosebumps even in the time of foldables). Or, you will not care. Not that there’s anything wrong with you. It’s just not your type (Realme is also offering a flat-screen option called Realme 10 Pro that you might want to look at). But it will move you.

Curved screens are tricky. You don’t want to have to deal with constant accidental touches— or rather mistouches— while holding the phone. That would be a buzzkill. We’re happy to report that Realme has taken measures, in hardware as well as in software, to minimise those occurrences. Generally speaking, too, this phone is all about comfort. The build quality is nice and solid. The ergonomics, very pro-user.

You can get the 10 Pro Plus in both mirror-like glossy and matte finishes. Realme is using plastic through and through here and not glass like on its predecessor. A bummer. There’s also no fancy glass protection on the front (the 9 Pro Plus had Corning Gorilla Glass 5) so “handle with care” becomes a no-brainer advise.

The back is made of plastic. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The cameras are neatly tucked away inside two vertically aligned circles. You get three of those not so unlike the 9 Pro Plus and while the setup is largely similar, too, there are two big differences. Realme has swapped the 50MP Sony IMX766 primary sensor for an on-paper higher-resolution (but relatively smaller 1/1.67-inch, 0.64µm versus 1/1.56-inch, 1.0µm) 108MP Samsung ISOCELL HM6. And the lens is no longer optically stabilised. Low-light photography on the 10 Pro Plus is, as a result, not as effortless as it was on the 9 Pro Plus. That phone can still give this new phone a run for its money.

But what for it’s worth, day-time shots are pretty decent with ample detail, rich— if a little warm— colours, and fairly wide dynamic range. Portraits have a little bit more natural depth and subject isolation and 3x “lossless” zoom is quite dependable for when you’d need it.

The 8MP ultrawide and 2MP macro are same as on the 9 Pro Plus. The results, much like before, are nothing to write home about. The 16MP selfie camera, too, is mediocre at best.

Biometrics are handled by an in-display fingerprint reader, that works well 9 out of 10 times. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The core hardware has received a subtle upgrade in this generation which is nice. The 10 Pro Plus gets MediaTek’s new Dimensity 1080 chip. Next to the Dimensity 920 (seen inside the 9 Pro Plus), the improvements here are minor though there is—still— some extra juice which makes MediaTek’s point of launching yet another chip somewhat believable after the Dimensity 1300/1200 hogwash.

The D1080 (6nm, 2x 2.6GHz Cortex-A78, 6x 2.0GHz Cortex-A55, Mali-G68 MC4) is basically a rebadged D920 (6nm, 2x 2.5 GHz Cortex-A78, 6x 2.0GHz Cortex-A55, Mali-G68 MC4) with a slightly bumped up core speed. Performance is comparable to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G. This is paired with up to 8GB of RAM and 128GB of UFS2.2 storage in the 10 Pro Plus. This is not expandable.

Realme phones, generally, tend to squeeze more out the available hardware. The 10 Pro Plus doesn’t disappoint either. And like most Realme phones, it does not throttle, at all, giving consistently good “sustained” performance as was evident in our multiple CPU throttling tests. The phone never got uncomfortably hot during our testing.

For average users, this means that the phone can pull everything from basic tasks to even demanding games at medium graphics (Realme still doesn’t allow high refresh rate gaming on this phone, though), without any issues.

Battery life is much better than its predecessor. The 5,000mAh battery inside the 10 Pro Plus lasted for 18 hours and 13 minutes in our video loop test which is great. Most users will be able to get over a day’s— even two— worth of use. The phone supports 67W SuperVOOC –a term used by Oppo— charging and the bundled charger (which is 80W for some reason) can top it up from 0-100% in about 40 minutes. Eagle-eyed readers will be quick to notice the missing “SuperDart” which was present in the previous generation.

Realme 10 Pro Plus is the first Realme phone to boot Realme UI 4.0. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The overlap doesn’t end there. It extends in to the phone’s software as well. The Realme 10 Pro Plus is the first Realme phone to boot Realme UI 4.0 out-of-the-box. This is based on Android 13. The more interesting bit is that Realme UI 4.0 is virtually indistinguishable from ColorOS 13 right from how it looks to how things work on the phone at the base level, at least. This includes tie-ups with third-party apps like Spotify to give them their own presence on the phone’s always-on lock screen to Oppo’s app market coming pre-loaded on the phone. This is not new or surprising considering the brand’s origins and code sharing shenanigans but this may also be a sign of things to come. One of the biggest changes, perhaps, aside from feature and styling, is the amount of bloat that Realme is pre-loading in this generation— it’s quite a lot. It has also started showing banner ads to nudge you in the direction of new apps— ranging from useful to downright cringy— every time you install an app from the Google Play Store.

Ad-based monetisation isn’t unheard of. It’s one of the ways brands subsidise their phones to get you unbelievable specs at rock-bottom prices. Xiaomi was not the first brand to do it, but it surely got everyone talking about the potential downsides of such a strategy and going by how it’s marketing the upcoming Redmi Note 12 series, it has put its cards on the table. There is a lesson in there, which is that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Good specs come at a certain price. And while there’s nothing wrong with Realme taking the same route— now— you can’t help but reminisce about the time it used to mock Xiaomi for it. But we digress.

Realme 10 Pro Plus price in India starts at Rs 24,999. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Credit where it’s due, Realme has taken cognizance of the whole issue and promised that it would at least monitor and cease unsuitable app recommendations to users in the future.  

“Our team has identified a batch of applications through keyword searches and blacklisted them. So far, we have blacklisted more than 95% of the ill-suited recommendations on our smartphones,” Realme told FE, adding that “the team is also working to come up with a permanent solution to moderate app recommendations on all our devices. There will also be an automatic warning mechanism for our backend team for any such apps for immediate redressal.”

Realme 10 Pro Plus | Should you buy it?

The Realme 9 Pro Plus was great. It is still great value, if you ask us. Clearly, the Realme 10 Pro Plus would have some big shoes to fill if Realme was positioning it as a replacement or a direct successor. That however doesn’t appear to be the case since you can still buy it in India. The 9 Pro Plus is a whole different beast with low-light camera capabilities like no other. The 10 Pro Plus, on the other hand, vouches for something even greater— to try and fit as many premium goodies inside one heck of an affordable package to usher in the New Year.

The 6GB/128GB version costs Rs 24,999 while the top-shelf 8GB/128GB option has been launched at Rs 26,999. There’s just no beating around the bush. The Realme 10 Pro Plus has its quirks but it is also one of the few phones that can give you an experience which is usually reserved for phones that cost at least 2x, or even 3x more. That’s rare and even though phones like the Poco F4 can give you more bang for your buck, none can match the level of polish and finesse that Realme has been able to produce, for now.   

Pros Cons
Curved AMOLED 120Hz screen on a budget Glass protection missing
Fast, throttle-free performance No ingress protection
Android 13, smooth UI Cameras could be better
Loud stereo speakers, nice haptics Bloat, ads in UI
Great battery life, fast charging

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First published on: 18-12-2022 at 17:59 IST
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