It has become harder and harder to define what constitutes a flagship phone these days. Technically speaking, any phone that becomes the brand’s foremost product is considered its flagship. On a practical level, however, those are often the phones boasting high-end features that usually come with a matching price tag. It’s in that latter context that Realme is bringing out its own flagship killer with a slightly different formula than those flagships. But does the Realme GT Neo 2 really have what it takes to take on those high-end smartphones, or is it just marketing-speak? We give it a good shake to find out.
Design and Display
After the rather outlandish designs of the Realme GT Master and GT Explorer Master Editions, the Realme GT Neo 2 feels almost like a breath of familiar air. Actually, the phone still bears the hallmark characteristics of the Realme GT line, just without the “exotic” surfaces and materials of the Master Editions. In a world with gigantic camera bumps, fake leather, and alien-looking rears, the Realme GT Neo 2 is perhaps a welcome reminder of how smartphones normally look without looking unattractive.
That’s not to say the Realme GT Neo 2 doesn’t have its fair share of artistic liberties. The NEO Green color, in particular, is a verdant shade you rarely see in smartphones, especially the more expensive ones that often bear more somber hues. It has a black vertical strip going down its back but, unlike the first Realme GT Neo or even the Realme GT 5G, it is on the opposite side of the camera bump, delivering a more visually balanced aesthetic. Next to this wide strip is a narrower one that commits the Realme GT’s “Dare to Leap” slogan to memory through repetition.
The face of the GT Neo 2 is spectacular but is no less impressive. Utilizing a Samsung E4 AMOLED display, the 6.62-inch 2400×1080 FHD+ screen delivers a bright, colorful, and vibrant viewing experience, no matter the content. A 120Hz refresh rate is a staple on flagships these days, and the GT Neo 2 naturally supports it, leveling up the gaming experience, especially when it comes to more action-packed titles.
Performance and Battery
There will definitely be some debate about a self-proclaimed flagship killer running on a Snapdragon 870. This year has been particularly messy for smartphone manufacturers, with not one but three high-end SoC’s (systems-on-chip) to choose from. There is, of course, the titleholder, the Snapdragon 888, and its beefed-up twin, the Snapdragon 888+. And then there’s the Snapdragon 870, which offers a slight improvement over the Snapdragon 865+, which, in turn, is an incremental “upgrade” over last year’s Snapdragon 865.
While there are differences in numbers, most consumers probably won’t feel that the Snapdragon 870 lags behind the higher processors in practice. In fact, Realme’s decision might actually have a beneficial side effect, intentional or otherwise. The Snapdragon 888 is known for running hot under heavy use, a bit hotter than normal, which is OnePlus’ justification for its CPU throttling strategy. Fortunately, the Realme GT Neo 2 doesn’t exhibit those problems.
With hours of gaming, the phone didn’t get too warm for comfort and was well within normal ranges. Even when charging the phone while gaming, it only got marginally warmer as expected, but not enough to make us stop and wait to let it cool down. Of course, gaming phones have more sophisticated cooling systems, but the GT Neo 2 isn’t such a phone, so its combination of thermal management and the Snapdragon 870 definitely works in its favor.
The phone has a massive 5,000 mAh battery that puts many more expensive flagship phones to shame, and, of course, it’s paired with Realme’s 65W SuperDart Smart Flash Charging technology. We were able to get up to 100% from 12% in around 33 minutes, which is pretty close to Realme’s advertised 36 minutes from zero to full. Of course, you’ll need to use first-party chargers for that, and fortunately, one does come with the phone inside the box.
As for the rest of the specs, the Realme GT Neo 2 gets 128 or 256GB of UFS 3.1 internal storage that doesn’t have room for expansion. RAM options include 8GB and 12GB that can be augmented by the Dynamic RAM feature we’ll see later. It also has your typical connectivity options, including 5G, of course, but leaves out the 3.5mm headphone jack to no one’s surprise.
With most phone brands obsessing on mobile photography these days, it’s almost a relief that the GT Neo 2 doesn’t. Make no mistake, it still comprises an important part of the experience, but it doesn’t take up the majority of the company’s spiel. If anything, Realme is putting more emphasis on the phone’s performance, especially for gaming, with the cameras as something that’s nice to have when you need it.
As a result, the Realme GT Neo 2’s photography performance is decent but not exactly noteworthy. The main 64MP camera does a decent job of capturing details, but some noise is evident in cropped close-ups. The 8MP ultra-wide-angle camera, unfortunately, isn’t that impressive, and the absence of a dedicated telephoto camera can be strongly felt in zoomed-in shots like those below (taken at wide, 1x, 2x, 5x). Instead, Realme put a 2MP macro camera, which does an OK job in a pinch, but nothing more.
The GT Neo 2 runs Realme UI 2.0, which is based on Android 11. It is admittedly one of the cleanest custom Android experiences we’ve come across, which is pretty impressive for a brand associated with a Chinese company. At least our review unit didn’t come with a ton of pre-installed apps (bloatware), and we’re hoping the international version stays that way.
That’s not to say there are no custom features available, but they are not as in your face as other Android OEM skins. There are actually quite a few interesting ones, like Dynamic RAM that added 3GB more memory to our 12GB RAM review unit. Of course, that extra RAM was taken from the phone’s internal storage, which is slower than any LPDDR technology. Joining the trend of other smartphone makers, Realme UI 2.0 also has a “Lab” section for experimental features and settings.
OnePlus started the idea of a flagship killer that offered flagship specs at lower than flagship prices. While that company has moved on to raise its prices to flagship levels, Realme’s GT Neo 2 is more than ready to take its place. Sure, it does have some compromises in the camera department, but this phone’s target demographic might not be too interested in taking photos and videos anyway. For that, Realme offers the GT 5G and GT Master Editions instead, but you have to be ready to pay the literal price for those.
It all boils down to pricing and availability, and the GT Neo 2 definitely checks all the boxes. Ranging from 2,499 RMB ($388) to 2,699 RMB ($420), it’s hard to believe that the phone packs quite a punch at those prices. Of course, international SRPs will vary widely, and the phone won’t even be available in all markets, particularly the US. For those that can easily get the phone, though, the Realme GT Neo 2 definitely dares to leap into the flagship arena with a very convincing promise.