Realme 5 Pro preview: Sony's 48MP IMX586 comes to the budget segment

Realme is betting on Sony’s 48MP camera module as the differentiator on its latest budget phone.

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Realme burst onto the scene in India just 15 months ago, and it’s already releasing its twelfth device in the country. That alone should tell you about the manufacturer’s frenetic launch cycle as it tries to out-maneuver Xiaomi in India’s budget segment. The Realme 3 Pro was the brand’s first phone I used with any regularity, and I came away liking the hardware on offer. It isn’t often that a brand beats Xiaomi at the value game, and Realme seems to be making a habit of it.

Four months after the launch of the Realme 3 series, the brand is launching the Realme 5 and Realme 5 Pro. The main highlight of the Realme 5 series is the quad rear cameras — the Realme 5 Pro has a 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor as the primary shooter, and the Realme 5 has a 12MP lens.

The Realme 5 series takes over from the Realme 3 and 3 Pro, and if you’re wondering why there isn’t a Realme 4, there’s a good answer. Because the phones have five cameras in total — four at the back and one up front — and a 5000mAh battery, Realme says it decided to opt instead for the Realme 5 moniker for the series. Furthermore, the number four is considered unlucky in China, so that also likely played a part in either device’s branding.

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Right, onto the device itself. The Realme 5 Pro features a 6.3-inch FHD+ LCD display with a waterdrop cutout — the same as its predecessor — and the chin at the bottom of the display is relatively slim. The screen is backed by a layer of Gorilla Glass 3, and the phone comes with a plastic screen protector out of the box.

The back of the phone is more interesting, and not just because of that quad camera array. The Realme 5 Pro has the same jagged crystal design as earlier Realme devices, but this time the pattern sits underneath a layer of polycarbonate. You still get that mesmerizing pattern, and the device isn’t particularly heavy at 184g thanks to the plastic chassis. The color shifts between green and blue hues based on light reflecting off of the surface, and the gorgeous green color is reminiscent of the Mi Mix 3 Jade Green edition.

The Realme 5 Pro has the distinction of being the brand’s first quad camera device. The primary lens is a 48MP Sony IMX586, and it’s joined by an 8MP wide-angle module with a 119-degree field of view, a 2MP macro lens that shoots objects just 4cm away, and finally a depth sensor for creating a background blur effect when shooting in portrait mode. The main camera shoots at 12MP, but you do get the option to take images at the full 48MP resolution.

This is the first time we’re seeing the Sony IMX586 in a device at this price point, and that’s a big deal.

Aside from the 48MP sensor, the other three sensors are standard across both the Realme 5 Pro and the standard Realme 5. I’m not sure why Realme went with a macro lens in lieu of an optical zoom module, but it should be interesting to see how the macro lens fares in day-to-day usage. I’ll have more on that next week.

Overall though, it is great to see Realme using the Sony IMX586 in a device that costs just ₹13,999 ($195). The sensor is proven to be one of the best around, and the fact that it’s available in the budget segment makes the Realme 5 Pro a standout device.

Elsewhere, you get a USB-C port with 20W VOOC fast charging and a 4035mAh battery, and Realme has retained the 3.5mm jack. There’s a single speaker at the bottom next to the USB-C port, and you get a dual SIM card slot that has a dedicated slot for a MicroSD card.

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On the hardware side of things, the Realme 5 Pro is one of the first devices to run Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 712 chipset. The chipset is manufactured on a 10nm node, and has four cores based on the Cortex A75 at 2.3GHz and four A55 derivatives at 1.7GHz. Realme is making the device available with up to 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and power really isn’t an issue here. Another highlight is that the storage module is based on UFS2.1.

Realme continues to add its own tweaks to ColorOS.

Not a whole lot has changed from a software point of view, with the Realme 5 Pro running ColorOS 6.0 based on Android 9.0 Pie. The brand is slated to launch its own custom skin that’s more in line with pure Android at some point, but for now you’ll have to settle with the changes that are baked into ColorOS. Realme has changed the look of the icons for the quick toggles, making them look much more modern. The app drawer is enabled by default, and you get the option to switch to navigation gestures and there’s the usual slate of customization options on offer.

The Realme 5 Pro is going on sale from early next month, and will be available in three variants. The base model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage retails for ₹13,999 ($195), the 6GB option with 64GB of storage is ₹14,999 ($210), and the variant with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage will set you back ₹16,999 ($238). Given the minor difference in cost, you’re better off picking up the 6GB option. I’ll have much more to talk about the Realme 5 Pro in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.