The premium Android smartphone camp has become more crowded since Huawei’s fall. OEMs including OPPO, vivo, Xiaomi and HONOR have been upgrading product lines to strengthen their positions in the premium market. The latest entrant is realme and its GT2 Pro model.
realme traces its origins to OPPO. The OEM started its business in 2018 with India, launching budget smartphones there before entering its home market China in the following year.
realme has been described as the fastest growing smartphone OEM. It has registered triple-digit growth in some months and has stayed at a relatively high level through quarters.
The brand is also diversifying its product portfolio, shifting focus from the mass market to becoming a full-fledged smartphone brand covering all price bands. Coming into Q1 2022, the share of the <$200 price band in realme’s global sales decreased to 75% from 80% in Q1 2021, while the share of the $200-$400 price band grew to 24%, up from 20% in Q1 2021.
After more than three years of global expansion, realme has launched its first premium smartphone. This is the most profitable segment, and thus selling more premium smartphones can help companies reap higher profit to navigate through the market downturn as well as win mind share of customers with deeper pockets and in more developed markets.
Meanwhile, by adding a premium product, realme now appears more like a full-fledged OEM rather than a second-tier niche brand that focuses on the online and budget segments. realme’s young and energetic brand image can also woo different kinds of premium customers.
Now, let us look at realme’s premium offer GT2 Pro. GT is short for Grand Tourer, a term that refers to a kind of fancy sports car that can travel long distances at a high speed. This is the equivalent of what users will expect from a premium smartphone, which is top performance with long durability.
Key Specs Overview
realme has retained its value-for-money strategy for the premium segment. The product has been priced relatively low. This will appeal to realme’s fan base, which is labeled as tech-savvy and cool.
Premium Design and Racing Inspired CMF
- Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
- Paper biopolymer back, matte finish
- 189/199g (6.67 oz)
At the very first glance, the GT2 Pro’s striking back cover grabs the attention. Different from conventional back cover choices such as glass and ceramics, the GT2 Pro’s back cover adopts biopolymer, and the texture with light grooves evokes a feeling of a piece of paper. It also echoes the GT2 Pro weight, which is 189g. We were amazed by the sense of lightness, and it did not feel brittle.
The iconic signature of Japanese designer Naoto Fukusawa can also be found on realme’s Master Edition products. This again evokes a sense of a premium product.
Looking at the front, the GT2 Pro uses the latest LTPO 2.0 screen, enabling it to adjust the refresh rate from 1 Hz to 120 Hz based on what the user is viewing. This means the refresh rate can be as low as 1 Hz when the user is reading a webpage and can be as high as 120 Hz when the user is playing a game.
The display capabilities put the GT2 Pro right among the top premium flagship smartphones launched in 2022. realme claims about 50% lower power consumption compared to other OLED solutions. We will put this to gaming tests later on.
The front cover uses Gorilla Glass Victus and the screen has discreet curves around the edges rather than curved screens. This makes it stand out from many premium smartphones. Our opinion is that the flat screen is more suitable for gaming, a core function realme has prioritized since the brand started.
Top-of-the-range camera settings with broadly premium performance
- Triple-rear-camera settings
- 50 MP, f/1.8, 24mm (wide), 1/1.56″, 1.0µm, multi-directional PDAF, OIS
- 50 MP, f/2.2, 15mm, 150˚ (ultrawide), 1/2.76″, 0.64µm
- 3 MP, f/3.3, 20mm (microscope), AF, 40x magnification
- Selfie camera settings
- 32 MP, f/2.4, 26mm (wide), 1/2.74″, 0.8µm
In the era of computational photography, premium smartphones tend to have more than one primary-level camera. The GT2 Pro is a perfect example. Its triple-rear-camera setup includes a 50MP main camera and a 50MP ultra-wide camera. The third camera is a microscope at 3MP.
Camera performance is an important element for a premium smartphone because it puts the device’s hardware and software capabilities in an even match, and only ones with the right balance come on top. We believe the GT2 Pro’s photography is premium grade. The primary camera uses Sony’s IMX766 50MP, 1/1.56″ in size with 1.0µm pixels. It also has OIS and supports multi-directional PDAF with a wide f/1.8 aperture.
Under daylight conditions, realme delivers a good camera experience. The sharpness of the photos is up to the level of established industry players and details are properly retained. The dynamic range looks good too.
The ultrawide camera does click good photos. When compared to the main camera, the photo shot by the ultrawide camera looks uncompromised with recognizable color reproduction. Though the ultrawide photo is a little bit sharper than expected, the blemishes are within the range of error and will only be identified by the most sharp-eyed observer.
The GT2 Pro doesn’t have a telephoto camera, which is contrary to most competitors in the premium range and is a disappointment. We suspect this is due to cost constraints as the GT2 Pro is priced a notch below the other premium products. However, the zoomed-in photos, handled by the digital zoom of the main camera, do have high quality and are more than qualified for a good social media post.
The GT2 Pro’s ultrawide camera has a 150-degree field view, unlike the usual 120 degrees used by many smartphones. The 150-degree ultrawide camera can shoot fisheye photos, a function rare in most smartphones.
The GT2 Pro also has a ‘Microscope’ feature, which allows for a 20-fold optical magnification and 40-times digital magnification. With a short focusing distance, the GT 2 Pro can take a photo from a distance of 1-3 mm. While we see limited day-to-day practicality of this feature, we did have fun discovering a new dimension of random objects. We believe this feature will attract children.
The low-light pictures are also very impressive. Photos are generally sharp with plenty of detail, especially in the treatment of shadows. Even though there is some noise in the picture, the overall performance is more than qualified for most social media uses.
Looking at the GT2 Pro’s front camera, it is 32 MP with f/2.4. When it is in portrait mode, the faux bokeh effect is satisfactory and users are allowed to adjust the strength of the effect by using the slider.
Supreme display on paper and in practice, with top entertainment experience
- 7 inches LTPO2 AMOLED, 120 Hz refresh rate, HDR10+, 1400 nits (peak)
- 1440 x 3216 pixels, 20:9 ratio (~526 ppi density)
The GT2 Pro’s display is probably the best selling point of the device. It is arguably one of the best screens one can buy on a smartphone today. With a flat screen of 6.7 inches and a screen-to-body ratio of 92.6%, the phone’s front is huge, which immensely boosts its gaming experience. With LTPO 2.0 technology, the 2K AMOLED panel is capable of a variable refresh rate from 1 Hz to 120 Hz, making the device power efficient. We did feel we could squeeze a little bit more out of its battery in daily use (more on this below). With an incredible touch sampling rate of 1000 Hz and an impressive peak brightness of 1400 nits, the phone is extremely responsive when playing technically sophisticated games.
We put the GT2 Pro to the test by playing League of Legends: Wild Rift and Call of Duty: Mobile at the top gaming enhanced setting (you can see the video samples below). Overall, the experience was immaculate. In both play-throughs, the standout feature was the smoothness of character movements. In the case of Call of Duty, the lag was negligible when moving the character’s view around. This of course is attributed to the high touch sampling rate. Furthermore, we noted that the graphics performance was very consistent, as the FPS rate rarely dipped below 60. This is especially impressive in the Call of Duty’s case as the objects in the near and far field views were equally realistic. In all our tests, the phone’s temperature never increased to above 38°C, which helps the stability of gameplay immensely.
As expected of flagship smartphones these days, the GT2 Pro comes with gaming enhanced features (named Game Turbo mode). We are overall satisfied with this feature – the device is capable of automatically switching on the GT mode when it detects gaming activity. But it also allows the option to not be in the GT mode if the user wishes to save battery.
There is a range of customization options in the GT mode. What we found particularly useful was the option to edit the apps on the mini-app list. For hardcore gamers, there are some interesting customization options that can really impact gameplay.
The only blemish of the GT2 Pro’s GT mode is the typing interface. We found it very difficult to type on the keyboard. Sending out a message is also a chore.
Decent battery and impressive charging performance
- 5000 mAh battery
- Fast charging 65W, 100% in 33 min (marketed)
- No wireless charging support
The GT2 Pro has a 5000mAh battery, which is above the average for premium smartphones that usually have top-notch screens and cutting-edge chipsets consuming more power than lower-tier smartphones. However, the GT2 Pro, with a good screen and the Snapdragon 8 Gen1 SoC, is impressive in terms of endurance. As my main phone for months, the GT2 Pro can survive the day with about 30% of battery after being used for sending text messages, playing games for about an hour, listening to music for 2.5 hours and browsing social media for 3 hours. For those who do test the limits with heavy-duty use, there are many features that help in extending battery life a little more.
The charging speed is amazing too. In the first 30 minutes, about 90% of the battery can be charged, which means a 10-minute emergency charge can always save you from low-battery anxiety. Perhaps the only drawback is the lack of wireless charging support, which tends to be mainstream among other flagship smartphones this year.
Satisfactory OS customization that brings out the best of Android 12
The GT2 Pro runs on Android 12 with the realme UI 3.0. In general, we were satisfied with the balance of customizations and the feasibility of additional features.
Visually speaking, the UI elements have been improved a lot as compared to previous realme UI versions. The Settings menu and iconography of app logos have been fairly well designed. There are also lots of different gestures which we felt were easy to set up and more than meet our day-to-day needs.
In terms of Android features that we liked the most, the Digital Wellbeing dashboard came on top. The data is extremely granular but equally intuitive to look at, with straightforward options that are easy to set up. The Privacy Dashboard has a similar feel and is extremely useful to understand when and where information was accessed by different apps.
Also, when an app is accessing information via the mic or camera, a green dot appears on the top right of the screen (see below).
We were also very impressed with the accuracy and speed of the fingerprint reader. It worked well for us even in less-than-ideal scenarios, such as sweaty fingers after a run. Furthermore, hidden under ‘realme labs’, there is a heart rate monitor feature. It is fairly accurate at resting state. Though an interesting feature, we feel its actual use case may be fairly limited.
The realme GT2 Pro is the OEM’s first premium smartphone. With its top-notch screen, uncompromising camera experience and cutting-edge Snapdragon chipset, the smartphone is truly qualified to be called premium. The GT2 Pro exemplifies realme’s ambition to expand its position in the ever-competitive smartphone market.
As its first premium product, realme turns in a satisfactory result. It can be expected that realme will deliver more premium options to charm customers who are longing for a smartphone with more fashion elements.