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

Realme hits it out of the ball park with its first laptop.

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Realme Book Slim starts at Rs 46,999. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The easiest way to sum up the Realme Book Slim—Realme’s first laptop—is to say that it exceeds all expectations. To pull something off like this in the first attempt itself is not just mind-blowing, but it also raises a lot of hopes and expectations about where the company can—and will—go from here.

Many would point out the “many” MacBook influences in this laptop but that’s a good foundation to build on. Realme isn’t the first company to borrow from Apple. It certainly won’t be the last. As is true for any product, it’s what it’s done above and beyond those influences that really matters.

Also Read | Realme Book Slim laptop first look: Design, specs, features, and everything to know

The TL; DR version of this is, Realme has stuck to the basics, and while the idea of “not taking risks” is generally frowned upon in the tech industry, a smartphone company—that was founded just three years ago—making a laptop, is a statement in its own right. That it was able to it so smartly just goes to show the depth of talent and skill its R&D team possesses.

Realme Book Slim design, hardware

Realme has built quite a reputation for making good-looking hardware and then selling it at disruptively aggressive prices. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree in the case of its first laptop as well.

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The design is beautiful, if not the most original. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The Realme Book Slim is being offered in two versions. The base model starts at just under Rs 50,000—Rs 46,999 to be more specific—and even though there’s another, more powerful and future-ready configuration available for Rs 59,999, that entry-level option, that’s the one that really lights up the segment. Like the Mi Notebook Ultra, the Realme Book Slim also makes virtually every other laptop around its price, seem ridiculously more expensive.

The design is beautiful, if not the most original. Realme has tried to make the fit and finish as good as some of the other premium competition which given its price point, is impressive. Looking at it, there’s no telling that this is the company’s first laptop. The same feeling extends—seamlessly—into the user experience. The Realme Book Slim is possibly the best piece of hardware that Realme has ever made.

This is a thin and light laptop made almost entirely out of metal. It’s easy to lug around, easy to maneuverer. At its thickest point, the laptop measures 15.5mm. It weighs only 1.38kg.

Portability is the Realme Book Slim’s biggest USP. It’s versatile too with a hinge that gives you a lot of freedom and flexibility to prop it up at multiple angles—all the way up to almost a 180-degree—and use it effortlessly, say for instance, in your lap.

Regardless of its paper-thin dimensions and budget price tag, Realme hasn’t cut back on durability and polish. It feels like Realme has been making laptops since forever.

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It has a butterfly keyboard. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

There are also two different colourways—blue and gray—to choose from. The blue variant we have for review looks stunning. Another thing that stands out is the minimal branding. The lid has the Realme logo, but its positioning is aesthetically pleasing. The keyboard deck—also—is completely clean.

That keyboard deck is a mixed bag though. It’s brimming to the core with features, which is great. There’s a backlit keyboard with three levels of illumination and the trackpad supports Windows Precision Drivers. For biometrics, there is a physical fingerprint scanner which supports Windows Hello.

While the trackpad is amazingly solid and reassuringly large, the keys are average at best. The individual ‘butterfly’ keys—which are made of plastic—have 1.3 mm travel. They’re loud and clicky but they’re completely flat—which is of course by design—something which doesn’t bode well for extended typing. We can’t comment on their longevity aspect either.

Also Read | Mi Notebook Ultra review: Sleeper hit value laptop of 2021

It would have been better had Realme not copied this feature of the MacBook. Even Apple has brought back the ‘scissor switch’ keyword after widespread criticism. Anyhow, that’s the only red flag we were able to find but because the keyboard is the glue that holds everything together in a laptop, it’s important to understand—and keep in mind—what you’re getting into even if the rest of the package seems—and is—too good to be true.

For what it’s worth, we’ve been using the Realme Book Slim for almost three months now and it’s held up surprisingly well. That’s a good sign.

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The i3 version packs Intel UHD graphics. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Realme Book Slim display

At the outset, this is a productivity-focused machine with a tall 3:2 14-inch screen with 2160×1440 pixel or 2K resolution. The panel is IPS LCD, supports 100% sRGB and can theoretically peak 400nits. We won’t go too much into the nitty-gritties here because it’s not needed.

The Realme Book Slim’s display is easily among the best, not just in its own segment, but it’s better than many more expensive machines in the market today. The only other laptop that gives you a more eye-popping display at this price is the Asus VivoBook K15 OLED.

Realme claims its laptop has a 90% screen-to-body ratio but numbers aside, the Realme Book Slim has a very immersive near edge-to-edge screen that’s right up there with the best in the business. Contrary to many other productivity laptops, it has a glossy display which impacts viewing angles sometimes depending on the kind of content you have on the screen. Matte would have been nicer but again, this is totally subjective. The screen is great for content consumption, so it would all narrow down to use case.

But whatever be the case, there’s no denying that the Realme Book Slim’s display sets a benchmark for how budget laptop screens can—and should—be and hopefully, we’ll see more of this trickle down to other laptops. The Redmibook Pro that’s priced roughly around the same ball park figure, has a more powerful spec-sheet but what can only be described as a horrendous display which kind of defeats the whole purpose of a product like this.

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The base variant of the Realme Book Slim has an 11th Gen Intel Core i3-1115G4 processor. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Realme Book Slim performance, battery life

The Realme Book Slim packs Intel’s 11-gen Core i3 and Core i5 processors paired with 8GB of LPDDR4x RAM and up to 512GB PCIe SSD storage.

The base variant of the Realme Book Slim has an 11th Gen Intel Core i3-1115G4 processor (2 cores, 4 threads) with a clock speed of 3.0GHz (Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz). The top-end variant has an 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor (4 cores, 8 threads) with a clock speed of 2.4GHz (Turbo Boost up to 4.2GHz). There are a few other differences.

The i5 version packs Intel Iris Xe graphics. The i3 version packs Intel UHD graphics. The i5 version uses faster 4266MHz RAM (the i3 version caps at 3733MHz).

The i5 version has a Thunderbolt 4/ USB 4, USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, USB-A 3.1 Gen 1, 3.5mm headphone and microphone jack. The i3 version has 2 USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, USB-A 3.1 Gen 1, 3.5mm headphone and microphone jack. The i5 version supports Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi 6. The i3 version supports Bluetooth 5.1 and Wi-Fi 5.

Those are not small differences by any means, and you should totally be looking at the higher-end model if you’re looking for a.) more power, and b.) future-proofing. But that option also has a.) more competition including one from Xiaomi—the Mi Notebook Ultra—that we believe offers more value, and b.) isn’t as readily available for buying—it is out of stock on Realme India website at the time of writing this review.

The i3 version makes more sense for the kind of budget-conscious audience that Realme is targeting anyway and at its price, it has no direct competition—none whatsoever.

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The 54Wh battery inside this laptop will easily last a full work-day. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Let’s start with performance. This model packs an 11th Generation Intel Core i3-1115G4 (Tiger Lake-UP3) processor with integrated Intel UHD graphics. This is paired with 8GB DDR4x-3733 RAM and 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD. The i3-1115G4 is a 2 core, 4 thread processor built on a 10nm process node with a base clock speed of 3GHz and boost speeds of up to 4.1GHz. The chip consumes up to 28W of TDP.

Single-core performance is ‘expectedly’ good which is to say this laptop can handle basic tasks including web browsing, mails, some light photo and video editing, and video calls—it has a decent 720p webcam—well. You can also play a few casual games here and there but, be sure that this is not a gaming laptop. Not unless you’re stress-testing it, the system does not heat up/throttle and runs largely cool and quiet.

The 54Wh battery inside this laptop will easily last a full work-day for moderate users which is again, fantastic. Unlike most laptops in this segment which come with barrel chargers, the Realme Book Slim comes with a 65W USB Type-C charger in the box and can be topped using standard chargers as well, say for instance Realme’s 30W Dart Charge available with some of its phones.

Right out of the gate, the Realme Book Slim runs Windows 10. Except for a handy PC connect tool, there is no other bloatware inside the laptop. It is Windows 11-ready with the update expected to arrive soon.

Rounding off the package are a pair of loud stereo speakers tuned by Harman Kardon.

Realme Book Slim | Should you buy?

As you can tell after reading this review, Realme has basically hit it out of the ball park with its first laptop. The Realme Book Slim gets so many things right, those ‘MacBook’ looks just end up being icing on the cake. But yes of course, we hope—and expect—that the next version is a little more original.

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The i3 version makes more sense for the kind of budget-conscious audience. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The only other laptop that comes close to the Realme Book Slim’s terrific value proposition is the Asus VivoBook K15 OLED but, the competition isn’t exactly neck-to-neck. Both laptops are intended for different people which makes choosing one—over the other—little easier.

Also Read | Asus VivoBook K15 OLED review: Lights up the budget laptop segment, just in time for festive season

For most people, the Realme Book Slim should be a better pick. It’s a laptop that gives you all the bells and whistles of a premium, more expensive laptop at half the cost.

This is easily Realme’s best product this year.

Pros: Premium build, Good display, Good all-round performance, Good battery life, Great value

Cons: Derivative design, Butterfly keyboard, No SD card reader

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First published on: 18-11-2021 at 21:16 IST