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Realme XT hands-on preview: Kicking off the 64MP wars

Realme is on a roll. The brand has launched twelve phones in the last fifteen months, managing to steal market share away from Xiaomi. The BBK-owned brand shares a lot of the same values as Xiaomi, and it has paid off: Realme now has a market share of 9% in India, and it has all the momentum in the budget space.

Realme unveiled its quad camera-toting Realme 5 series last week, with the Realme 5 Pro bringing Sony's stellar 48MP IMX586 imaging module to the budget category. It's now following up with the Realme XT, the first phone to feature a 64MP camera.

There's a reason why the Realme XT is launching right on the heels of the Realme 5 series: Xiaomi is set to unveil its Redmi Note 8 series in China later this week, and by launching ahead of its Chinese rival, Realme can stake claim to the first 64MP phone. Xiaomi did the same earlier this month when it pre-empted Realme's announcement of the 64MP module by a day, so Realme sees the XT as retaliation.

Realme XT hands-on

As for the device itself, the Realme XT is being touted as a variant of the Realme X with a high-res camera. The brand says it will continue to sell the Realme X alongside the XT, and it's easy to see why: the Realme X debuted just a month ago, and it offers incredible value for ₹16,999 ($240).

The Realme XT has a glass back, with Gorilla Glass 5 covering both front and back panels.

The Realme XT is also going to offer the same great value, and while there's no confirmation around how much it costs, it's likely the device will retail at under ₹20,000 ($285). The 64MP camera is obviously the highlight of the phone, but there's a lot to like in other areas as well. The Realme XT features a 6.4-inch AMOLED panel with an FHD+ resolution, and unlike the Realme X — which has a retractable camera — there's a waterdrop cutout for the front camera module.

But the significant change on the design side of things is the glass back. The Realme XT has a glass back that has a gradient pattern not unlike that of the P30 Pro. The phone is sold in two color options — Pearl White and Pearl Blue — and it has a layer of Gorilla Glass 5 covering both the front and back glass panels. The switch to a glass back immediately makes the Realme XT stand out from its predecessor, and it gives the device a more upmarket look. The gradient effect doesn't hurt either.

The phone charges over USB-C, and you get a 3.5mm jack. The power button is on the right and has a yellow accent, with the volume rocker on the right. The SIM card tray sits above the volume rocker, and it lets you slot two SIM cards in addition to a MicroSD card.

The AMOLED panel itself is unchanged from the Realme X, and that means you're getting one of the best screens in the sub-$300 segment. The phone has LPDDR4X RAM and a UFS 2.1 storage module, and will be sold in three configurations: a base variant with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, a model with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and a high-end option with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage.

Four cameras at the back, with a 64MP camera making its debut on a phone.

Under the hood, the Realme XT is powered by a Snapdragon 712, which is a modest refresh of the Snapdragon 710 in the Realme X. The Snapdragon 712 has two Cortex A75-derived cores at 2.3GHz and six A55-based cores at 1.7GHz.

The Realme XT has four cameras at the back: aside from the 64MP shooter, the rest of the sensors are the same as the Realme 5 Pro. There's an 8MP wide-angle lens with a 119-degree field of view, 2MP macro lens, and a 2MP shooter for portrait shots. Realme says user feedback motivated the switch from a zoom lens to a macro sensor, but the the 2MP module just doesn't feel up to the mark. At the front there's a 16MP Sony IMX471 sensor. Both the front and rear shooters have EIS, but there's no OIS.

Just from a first glance, it's easy to tell that Samsung's GW1 sensor has a lot of potential. Just like how the Sony IMX586 is ubiquitous in this space, we'll see brands switch to the GW1 sensor over the coming months.

Elsewhere, the Realme XT has a 4000mAH battery with VOOC 3.0 fast charging that goes up to 20W. The phone runs ColorOS 6 based on Android 9 Pie, and Realme's own customizations make the interface more modern.

Right now, that's all there is to the Realme XT. The phone is slated to debut in India sometime next month, but there's no mention of a launch date or how much it'll end up costing. The 64MP sensor is a welcome addition, but Realme is starting to crowd this segment with phones that are too similar in the features they offer. I'll have much more to share about the Realme XT once we're closer to launch, but in the meantime, share your thoughts about the phone in the comments below.

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.