Over the last few months, OPPO’s subsidiary smartphone brand Realme has quickly established itself as a formidable rival to Xiaomi in India. The company’s first phone – the Realme 1 (review), was a notable competitor to the Redmi Note 5 Pro (review), while the affordable C1 (review) took on the likes of the Redmi 6A (review). Realme, which has since distanced itself from OPPO to become a standalone brand, has now launched the U1, a selfie-focussed offering in the mid-range. I’ve been testing Realme U1 for the last week, and here’s what you need to know.
Specs at a glance
|Resolution||1080 x 2340 pixels|
|CPU||Quad core, 2.1 GHz + Quad core, 2 GHz, MediaTek|
|Internal memory||32 GB|
|External memory||Up to 256 GB|
|Capacity||3500 mAH, Li-ion, Non removable|
|Primary camera||13 MP|
|Secondary camera||25 MP|
|Network support||Dual SIM 4G|
|Other options||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS|
|Operating system||Android 8.1 Oreo|
The Realme U1 is among the most stylish smartphones you’ll currently find in this price band. You might be fooled into thinking the back panel is glass (I was), but it’s actually made of a transparent acrylic composite, which Realme says is more durable and scratch-resistant. My review unit was black, but you can also get the phone in blue and gold colour options. The back panel features a ‘light pillar’ effect that creates vertical patterns when held up against a light source. This, coupled with the waterdrop notch on the display, makes the Realme U1 quite the stunner. It even makes the recently-launched Redmi Note 6 Pro (review) look clunky in comparison. The Realme U1 features rounded edges, which make it comfortable to hold despite the slab-like form factor. At the rear, you’ll find the dual primary cameras and LED flash in a horizontal setup, with a fingerprint sensor below.
The Realme U1 features a 6.3-inch display with full HD+ resolution. The display is sharp with good viewing angles and punchy colours, but visibility falters under sunlight. With an aspect ratio of 19:5:9, and the absence of bezels barring a slim chin at the bottom, the U1’s screen delivers an immersive viewing experience. A layer of Gorilla Glass 3 protects the screen, and Realme has also installed a screen protector out of the box. Another goodie you’ll find in the box is a clear case. The case is of good quality, but has an annoying flap over the micro-USB port that gets in the way when you want to quickly plug in the charger.
The Realme U1 is a selfie-focussed smartphone, and to that end, is fitted with a 25MP front camera with f/2.0 aperture. There’s no front-facing LED, but you do get a screen flash for illumination. The front camera can also create a software-generated depth effect. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of photos from the selfie camera, which turned out well even in low light or when there was harsh backlighting. Images are clear with natural skin tones, and while I disabled the AI beauty mode, you can enable it if you prefer. The depth effect doesn’t over-blur the background either, so images look realistic.
The rear cameras come in a 13MP+2MP configuration, with the latter being a depth sensor. Unlike the front camera, the rear camera offers a dedicated Portrait mode, with several iPhone-inspired studio lighting options like Natural, Film, Mono, etc. The Portrait mode works well, both for humans as well as objects, and like the front camera, doesn’t artificially blur the background. Daylight shots turned out vibrant and detailed, although I did notice that some images look over-sharpened and over-saturated. Low light shots are grainy, but usable nonetheless. My only qualm with the rear cameras were that they struggle with locking focus for macro shots, particularly if the background is busy. Take a look at some image samples below.
Even though Realme has positioned itself as an independent brand, it still borrows its software from OPPO. As a result, the Realme U1 runs ColorOS 5.2 atop Android 8.1 Oreo. If you’ve used an OPPO phone in the past, you’ll be familiar with the interface, which has tons of added features. Many of these are useful and let you fine-tune settings to your liking, but some are redundant. For example, the Smart Assistant that is displayed on the left of the homescreen is basically OPPO’s version of Google Assistant. ColorOS also comes with a ton of bloatware – I counted eight third-party apps. Thankfully, these can be uninstalled.
Powering the Realme U1 is an octa-core MediaTek Helio P70 chipset clocked at 2.1GHz. My unit came with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage (48GB out of the box), but there’s also a lower-specced variant with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage. The storage is expandable up to 256GB via a dedicated microSD card slot, which is always a welcome feature. While I didn’t notice any glaring issues with day-to-day performance, navigating the interface, multi-tasking and opening apps seemed sluggish. The heavy nature of ColorOS is more likely to blame for this than the processor though. Gaming is a breeze on the device, with graphics-heavy titles like Asphalt 8 running smoothly with no frame drops. The phone heats up during extended gaming sessions, but doesn’t get uncomfortably hot.
The Realme U1 offers both a fingerprint sensor and face unlock for security. The fingerprint sensor is fast and accurate, and was my preferred unlock method. The face unlock feature is also fast, but requires you to swipe up on the lockscreen to unlock the phone, which is an extra step. Since the U1 lacks an infrared sensor, face unlock doesn’t work in the dark, so I’d advise setting up the fingerprint sensor alongside as well.
The battery on the Realme U1 is one of its best features. The 3,500mAh pack is capable of lasting more than a day with heavy use, even with hotspot enabled for a couple of hours. In our battery drain test, the device performed admirably, clocking 16 hours before running out of juice. Recharging the phone with the included charger took 2.5 hours.
The Realme U1 is one of the most well-rounded smartphones you can buy at its asking price. It ticks most boxes for me, and doesn’t have any serious downsides, barring ColorOS, which I’m not a fan of. Predictably, Realme is positioning the U1 as a competitor to Xiaomi’s Redmi Y2 (review). Other notable rivals include the Honor 8C (first impressions), ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 (review) and Xiaomi Redmi 6 Pro (review). While you might opt for a different phone based purely on brand preference, if it’s a good selfie camera you’re after, the Realme U1 is your best bet.
Editor’s Rating: 4 / 5
- Premium design
- Good cameras
- Excellent battery life
- Screen struggles in sunlight
- ColorOS is packed with bloatware
- Face unlock doesn’t work in the dark
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