The Realme brand was created to specifically target a younger demographic, customers that don’t always have the resources to buy the latest and greatest smartphones. More often than not, these users are willing to compromise on some things as long as they get the features that are important to them. In that context, the Realme GT Master Edition seems like the perfect compromise for such a crowd, especially with a quirky design that is meant to appeal to travel-forlorn youngsters. We take a deep dive to see how many compromises Realme had to make and if the essentials that the Realme GT Master Edition offers are enough to make up for them.
If you’ve seen our review of the Realme GT Explorer Master Edition, then you’ll probably be familiar with the emotion that this mid-range version is aiming for. According to designer Naoto Fukasawa, who also designed the previous two Realme Master Editions, the phones’ “Travel Suitcase” look and feel tries to evoke memories and hopes of traveling, something that young people may have sorely missed in the past months. If anything, the unusual design that mimics the appearance and structure of suitcases makes for a rather strong identity that users will appreciate.
It goes beyond just looks, though. The back of the Realme GT Master Edition uses what the company bills as the industry’s first “concave” vegan leather. The material alone already provides added texture and grip to the phone without marring the back with oily fingerprints and smudges. Those who often find their glossy phones slipping from their hands might appreciate the difference.
Realme is particularly proud of that “concave” part as well, giving a sort of 3D characteristic to the usual vegan leather. The company loves to talk about the manufacturing process that led to this design, and we’re bound to see more of it in future Master Edition phones.
The opposite side of that suitcase-inspired rear is less exciting but even more critical. Fortunately, Realme didn’t skimp on the display here, which almost matches the higher-end Realme GT 5G. Given the screen, not the back, is what most users will see, it’s more important to get that right.
The Realme GT Master Edition carries a 6.43-inch Super AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. Although smaller than its Explorer sibling, it does mean that the phone has a higher pixel density as well. It has a peak brightness of 1000 nits, which, taken altogether, gives this Master Edition a bright and vibrant display with sharp and accurate colors.
The screen has a conventional punch-hole cutout that hides a 32MP selfie camera. It foregoes the new under-screen camera fad with some more practical but still not as obtrusive. Unlike the Explorer, the Realme GT Master Edition’s screen is flat on all edges, a telltale sign these days of a less-than-premium phone.
The hardware inside is where Realme cuts corners the most, though it might not always be evident in normal day-to-day use. The new Snapdragon 778G 5G, the first in the series to use a 6nm process, isn’t an underdog, and the 8GB of RAM is sufficient for most tasks. The latter can even be expanded by allocating some of the internal storage, but users should be aware that there is no storage expansion for the phone.
It is unsurprising that the Realme GT Master Edition doesn’t even come close to last year’s top flagships in terms of benchmark scores. In real-world use, however, only the heaviest of multitaskers and gamers will feel the phone groaning under stress. On the software side, Realme UI 2.0 with Android 11 looks deceptively vanilla but comes with a ton of preloaded apps that you can fortunately uninstall.
Continuing with that diminishing theme, the GT Master Edition also has the smallest battery of the Realme GT siblings at 4,300 mAh. The company makes up for it with support for 65W fast charging, but that still means you’ll try to reach for that cable by the end of the day. As a bonus, however, the phone does have a 3.5mm headphone jack that you’d be hard-pressed to find in more expensive phones these days.
To some extent, the Realme GT Master Edition takes after the Realme GT 5G’s camera array, at least in terms of sensors. There are differences, of course, but they are subtle and may not even be discernible to most users. The 64MP main sensor leads the pack with a smaller 1/2-inch size, joined by an 8MP ultra-wide-angle camera with a smaller f/2.2 aperture lens.
In practice, those don’t exactly show up in photos, which look great even on overcast days. Colors are not washed out or oversaturated and are closer to real-world hues than what some phones produce. Bokeh simulation, a.k.a. portrait mode, is also decent, though with noticeable estimation errors on some edges.
More than those subtle differences in specs, the absence of a telephoto lens is actually more telling. There is a great deal of noise even at lower zoom levels, which already rely on digital zoom. In its place, Realme put a 2MP macro camera which few people have significant use for today, at least on its own.
With a starting price of around $350, the Realme GT Master Edition tries to strike a delicate balance between cost and value. It does so sufficiently with the added plus of a memorable design.
The problem, however, is that it is fighting in a rather congested mid-range smartphone market, and there are options available, depending on the market, that could give consumers pause for thought when considering where to invest their hard-earned money.