With the New Year on our heels, the first phone in the Realme U series- U1, was launched two days short of December this year. Enough time ain’t passed yet but it has been already established that the device is “a distinction with a difference”. It had a phenomenal run right after its launch and soon became the third largest smartphone brand within six months of arriving in India!
Giving itself a new identity before the U1 launch, with a new logo and typeface, it is certain that if not earlier, they have without a doubt now, shifted their focus on the youth. One thing that became very clear after observing was that they view the youth as a selfie and gaming obsessed crowd. Compared to the previous Realme 2 and pro marred with a lacklustre processor and low-res display, the new Realme U1 powered by Mediatek Helio P70, is more of a complete package.
Packing an AI-centric selfie-pro camera, the phone boasts of the latest and the best MediaTek SoC designed for a class apart AI octa-core processing, visuals and gameplay. Let’s know a little more about the MediaTek chip before we get right into accessing how Realme U1 works with it.
MediaTek Helio P70: A Brief Introduction
Experience core innovations like never before with MediaTek Helio P70- a class above all premium chips that surpasses gaming and AI milestones championed by its predecessors. MediaTek engineers supreme Edge-AI enhancements in their latest SoC built on TSMC’s 12nm FinFET technology, creating unparalleled gaming and photography experiences that extend way beyond your screens. Packing the best-in class hardware for improved gaming, AI shooting, facial detection, scorching multi-tasking etc., MediaTek Helio P70 is the pinnacle of brilliance and innovation that no one has ever come across before in smartphone processors.
So, what’s inside this phone powered by MediaTek Helio P70?
Driven by Mediatek’s own NeuroPilot and CorePilot 4.0 technologies, Helio P70 ensures sublime gaming and visual precision, along with uninterrupted connectivity and a battery that outperforms every time. With the advent of Helio P70, Mediatek created a heterogeneous AI-computing technology that pioneers in Realme U1 an extremely intuitive and humanistic approach towards multi- core processing.
Let’s take a more thorough look into hardware and software aspects of the phone now.
Design and Display:
The Realme U1 comes in three colour variants — Ambitious Black, Brave Blue and Fiery Gold. While Ambitious Black and Brave Blue are extremely similar to Blue Ocean and Black Sea variants of the Realme 2 Pro, the Fiery Gold is a new colour and the only way you can distinguish the two phones physically. Realme claims rotating the phone’s back under different light sources (daylight, lamplight, coloured light) reveals light pillars, which deliver a “strong sense of quality”. I second that.
The back is also made out of a transparent acrylic composite and not glass. This not only keeps the costs low, but also makes the phone more shatter and heat resistant. The phone sports a 6.3-inch IPS LCD display with a resolution of 2340x1080. The dewdrop notch helps it stretch out the screen further to the bezels, but that doesn’t necessarily help with the viewing experience.
Hardware and Performance:
As discussed earlier, under the hood of Realme U1 lies a powerful MediaTek Helio P70 processor clocked at 2.1GHz. It is paired with ARM Mali-G72 MP3 GPU clocked at 900MHz for better image processing. To let the AI flex more muscles, it also has a multi-core, multi-thread AI Processing Unit (APU) with a clock speed up to 525MHz. This basically means AI and overall performance is upped a notch from the Helio P60, which was found on the Realme 1.
The chipset is unarguably one of the best in the price and definitely punches above its weight. While it’s given that the phone can tackle light to medium processes (like scrolling through your feed and having more than 7 apps open in the background) with ease, it can even fight through heavier processes like image editing and intensive gaming.
Image and video editing apps like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC and Quik worked well, with only a few minor stutters. But can you play PUBG on it?
Oh yes, and with good frame rates. While the default setting is medium, you can yank it up to High with the help of GFX tool and it works just fine at that. Frame rates were consistently over 45FPS and there was no choppy gameplay whatsoever. The processor gets a pass from me in flying colours.
Software and Camera:
Realme has rolled out some software upgrades to get rid of the previous annoyances like app notifications and bloatware in the new phone. The phone runs Android Oreo out of the box and there are no promises from Realme about a Pie upgrade, but since Oppo was an Android 9 developer partner, we can expect it to come by the January.
Coming back to the UI, there is still no app drawer, but the UI now allows you to swipe and dismiss notifications. The bloatware can also be uninstalled, bar a few apps like ORoaming. Some apps do come in the way of the notch, but you can disable the notch on an app-by-app basis. The music app also likes to autoplay a “Rakshabandhan” compilation whenever you pair a Bluetooth audio device, which can be mildly unnerving. You can fix the lack of an app drawer with a launcher like Nova, but there isn’t really much of a fix for the drop-down notification bar.
The camera of Realme U1 is a mixed bag. It is a selfie-focused smartphone, so let’s dig into that first, even though I’m not much of a selfie person. The front camera consists of a 25MP Sony IMX576 sensor paired with Helio P70’s image processing platform. The AI capabilities allow 296 facial identification points (an overkill, but doesn’t hurt) and better noise and colour recovery. To add cherry on top of that selfie cake, it can correct backlight, just in case you click in front a bright light.
In typical Oppo fashion, the camera wants to beautify you. Realme says it “factors in the aesthetic views of local youths in tuning cameras and optimizes selfie beauty features accordingly”.
What is essentially does is make your skin appear without blemishes and smoothens everything out, makes your eyes bigger, jaw slimmer and cheeks more protruding — depending on your settings. You can also put everything on the AI to make you look pretty.
Selfies without the AI selfie mode also look good, and I personally prefer myself with my small eyes. They are well lit and thanks to the wide aperture and pixel size, you consistently get well-lit images. I wish this was the camera at the rear of the phone, but that was not the case.
The rear camera comprises a 13MP+2MP module, which is also powered with AI. Camera modes include complex AI scene recognition, multi-frame noise reduction, portrait lighting, pro mode and slo-mo. While the AI-scene recognition works well in well lit and semi-well lit scenarios, it’s a little difficult to use at night. Everything appears a bit too smooth, since high ISO and noise reduction are working hand in hand. Slo-mo is passable, but since it is shot in 720p, it is a bit too pixelated.
The pro-mode has one of the best implementations in any camera app period. It’s extremely intuitive and easy to use. No circular dials, no mumbo-jumbo, it is spot on.
Realme U1 checks nearly all the boxes required to be a good sub-Rs 15,000 smartphone. A phone with the top MediaTek processor is a good addition to the Realme line-up and so is that selfie camera. The resemblance with the Realme 2 Pro is uncanny, but once you’re past that it’s a good phone very much worthy of its price tag. The Realme U1 is priced at Rs 11,999 for its base (3GB/32GB) variant while the top (4GB/64GB) spec model is priced at Rs 14,499.