While the Realme GT Master Edition launched £329, and is now £279 in the UK, and $370 in the States. For a phone with a nippy 5G Qualcomm chipset, not to mention incredibly speedy charging as well as a very well specced Super AMOLED display, Realme clearly isn’t playing games – it wants your cash and is willing to undercut the competition on specs to get it.
In its price bracket, the Realme GT Master Edition goes up against the OnePlus Nord CE and OPPO Reno 4 Z, out speccing both in certain respects, while still delivering much of what makes each phone stand out – high refresh rate displays and high-resolution imaging. For photo fans, $80/£20 extra will get you a Google Pixel 4a, which really lays down the gauntlet for low-cost high-quality photography.
So while Realme’s specs are solid and overall value is beyond reproach, does the Master Edition suffer the same fate as the pricier Realme GT and drop the ball when it comes to its camera?
Design and screen
With its solid in-hand feel, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Realme GT Master Edition was made of pricier materials than the all-plastic Google Pixel 4a, but no, it’s also all-plastic. The high-polish chrome effect around the frame is slick to the touch, while the matte, almost pearlesque finish around the back makes for a pleasing contrast.
Available in a novel ‘Suitcase Design’ in its Voyager Grey version, the Realme GT Master Edition can be as thick as 8.7mm, or if you pick it up in a more traditional Cosmos Black or Luna White, it’s 8mm. That’s not much thicker than an iPhone 13 or Samsung Galaxy S21.
Unlike many phones today, the GT Master Edition has a 3.5mm headphone jack. This sits alongside the USB-C port at the bottom of the phone, as well as the loudspeaker.
As for the display, it’s a 6.43-inch Samsung-made Super AMOLED panel with a nippy 120Hz refresh rate. This spec alone is as good as it gets in this price range, and when you consider the fact it supports 100 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut and climbs up to 1000 nits brightness, the specs are standout.
In the flesh, the display is also competition-beating, and so photos, videos, and games look incredible when you remember what this phone costs – perfect when matched with apps like Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, or Netflix.
The main camera on the Realme GT Master Edition is a 64MP sensor with a 25.3mm focal length (an 80.5° field of view), and a half-inch sensor. The lens is comprised of six elements, and the main camera shoots at up to 4K resolution with 60fps frame rates. It uses an OmniVision sensor, as found in the OnePlus Nord CE, which historically hasn’t performed well when compared to Samsung and Sony sensors, however, its lower price is why Realme can likely hit such punchy price points with its new Master Edition.
Meanwhile, the 8MP sensor on the ultra-wide camera is made by SK Hynix, a Korean semiconductor business, and is matched with a 15.8mm focal length (a 119° field of view), with an f/2.3 aperture, and a five-element lens.
The final camera on the back of the device is a 2MP OmniVision macro camera, and like many we’ve seen from Realme and Poco in the past, it’s a poor performer that barely bears referencing.
As for the front camera, this is a 32MP Sony sensor with an 85° field of view lens. It features an f/2.5 aperture and is matched with Realme’s fun if over-the-top beauty modes.
Shooting modes are pretty extensive, and exactly what we’ve come to expect from Realme (and OPPO – the two brands share many UI traits). These include 64MP Mode, Super Nightscape, Panoramic, Expert, Timelapse, Portrait Mode, HDR, Ultra Wide, Ultra Macro, AI Scene Recognition, AI Beauty, Filter, Super Text, Face Distortion Correction, Tilt-shift, Street, Slo-Mo, and Starry Mode. There’s also a manual video mode which is a highlight, giving users control over ISO, focus, white balance, and shutter speed.
We didn’t have high expectations of the Realme GT Master Edition’s camera when we found out it was powered by an Omnivision 64MP primary camera. That said, Realme has done a good job of eking out a usable camera from the phone thanks to some smart software.
If you’re big on detail, don’t let the phone’s big pixel count fool you. Even in bright scenes, you can’t punch in on pictures and get as much clarity as you might from 12MP competition with better camera hardware. While the detail is there, and cropping in can be done with some confidence, when you get close, the camera’s processing becomes visible making the Master Edition feel like a slightly blunt tool. This is especially when compared to some of the competition with 48MP Sony sensors, or the incredibly good 108MP Redmi Note 10 Pro.
Apart from Redmi’s budget camera phone champ though, the Realme GT Master Edition holds its own in its price bracket, which is impressive given the phone’s other specs. It does flood images with saturation, and that’s Realme’s look. The brand opts for a zingy, pop of color at every turn, so if you pick up a Realme phone, you should expect nothing less. This vibrant gleam is also matched with boosted contrast for an Insta-ready shot, even if it isn’t necessarily the best starting point with which to edit.
We appreciate the Expert mode, which gives users full control over their photo (and video) taking, and the ability to shoot RAW, which is a great way to bring back more natural tones to the camera. Focus was also reliable for the most part, though where the phone drops the ball is low light capture in auto mode.
What’s frustrating about using the Realme GT Master Edition is that the Night mode does the best job of getting good results from an Omnivision sensor we’ve seen to date. However, this doesn’t fire up automatically. Realme’s saving grace is that the feature hasn’t trickled down to many of its budget competition, but it would have really helped the user experience. That said, remember to activate night mode and even in more challenging daylight scenes, you will likely get a better shot than you might in auto mode.
The phone’s portrait mode also delivers mixed results, struggling with creating a natural-looking bokeh, though skin tones were generally on-point. As for the ultra-wide camera, it’s nice to have, however, does bump contrast and saturation up to the point of no return, even in bright environments. Thankfully, RAW capture is supported across both the primary and ultra-wide cameras, so it’s easy enough to dial things back.
With video capture, noise is a definite issue in all but the brightest scenes, though the phone stabilizes video very well, and if you are more of a day shooter, then the GT Master Edition performs respectably.
Thanks to its capable Snapdragon 778G chipset, the Realme GT Master Edition delivers as much power as it needs to. Swipes and taps are smooth and nippy, and its interface, Realme UI 2.0, which is based on OPPO’s ColorOS is clean and intuitive.
There’s an in-display fingerprint scanner that is responsive, quickly unlocking the phone, and you can also activate face unlock too. While not the 3D scanning, hi-tech affair you get with Apple’s Face ID, it works well even in dim scenes and adds to the premium feel of this affordable phone.
Matched with a staggeringly large storage capacity – 256GB, in addition to an ample 8GB RAM (which can be boosted by 5GB using storage), multi-tasking is well handled and the phone’s lack of an microSD card isn’t an issue.
The battery performance of the Realme GT Master Edition is good given the modest battery capacity. At 4300mAh, while definitely not tiny, the phone is put through its paces powering a 120Hz display that climbs up to 1000 nits in brightness. Thankfully, it made it through a whole day in our use, though little more.
What’s exceptional at the price is the fact the Realme GT Master Edition charges at 65W, powering up from empty in just over half an hour – incredibly fast even by flagship standards.
Realme GT Master Edition: Verdict
The Realme GT Master Edition is a great phone and well worth the asking price.
Realme is starting to develop its very distinctive look when it comes to imaging. While Sony’s is more natural, Google boosts tonal range, Apple creates a sharpened balance and Xiaomi tends to lean towards cooler white balance, Realme is all about that zing, pop, and punch.
As a photography enthusiast, it can be hard to appreciate this bold move, but Realme is sticking to its guns, and its processing actually helps the GT Master Edition perform more consistently even with a lesser sensor than some of the competition.
What’s also handy is that this look can be overridden if the mood for realism strikes, either with the night mode or by shooting in Expert mode.
Given everything else about the phone is also very competitive for the price, you could do much worse than buy the Realme GT Master Edition. It outperforms the Redmi Note 10 Pro in terms of power, OnePlus’s Nord CE when it comes to imaging, and OPPO’s Reno 4 Z with its screen quality, storage capacity and performance. So despite not making it onto our best budget camera phone list of 2021, it’s still one of the best budget smartphones you can buy right now.
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