The $440 Realme X2 Pro has what it takes to be one of 2019’s best phones

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I’ve had the pleasure of using the vast majority of new smartphones released this year, including ones that cost about $100 and go all the way up to $2,000. The Realme X2 Pro starts at 400 euros, 330 British pounds, or about $440, and it’s not the absolute smartphone bargain of 2019, but it may be one of the best smartphones you can buy right now.

“Who?” you’re thinking. Realme is an emerging brand from China, born from the same parent company as OnePlus, Oppo, and Vivo. I wrote about it as a company to watch around this time last year, and although its first few releases were mediocre, the X2 Pro is lightyears beyond them, and surpasses several big-name phones released this year.

Prepare for some heavy praise; I’ve used the Realme X2 Pro for a week or so, and in an unusual turn of events for someone who reviews, owns, or has access to pretty much every other phone on sale today, I’ve not once felt the urge to swap to another phone.

Value makes the X2 Pro so enticing

Before getting into what makes it so good, it’s important to point out one of the main reasons I like it — the price. It’s absolutely astonishing a phone this technically impressive and visually enticing can cost so little. Remember all the fuss over the Pocophone F1? It performed well, looked decent, and cost comparatively little. The Realme X2 Pro is that, only much, much better. While the Pocophone F1 had an air of cheapness about it, the X2 Pro feels quite expensive, despite the fact it’s not.

High performance, high value

Looking at the spec sheet, it’s similar to the OnePlus 7T, a phone that’s already a great value; Realme charges about half the price for the same thing. Inside you’ll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus processor (used in Asus’ mega gaming phone the ROG Phone 2), with up to 12GB of RAM, a 6.5-inch AMOLED screen with a 90Hz refresh rate, a 4,000mAh battery, and a triple-lens camera with a 64-megapixel main lens.

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Topping it all off is the addition of Super VOOC charging (see where the Oppo lineage helps?), a 3.5mm headphone socket, a sleek glass and aluminum body, stereo speakers, and an in-display fingerprint sensor.

Read all that again. I’ll wait. You’re back? Now remind yourself that this phone costs 400 euros, or $440. Barely believable, isn’t it?

Polished, and remarkably usable

Spec lists are one thing, but what’s it like to use? The X2 Pro elevates itself above most bargain basement phones; it’s quite good. This was a big surprise to me, as it uses Oppo’s Color OS software running over Android 9 Pie, which is my least favorite user interface out there. Yet somehow, the X2 Pro’s immense ability, tiny software tweaks, and 90Hz screen make it much more manageable.

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Unfortunately, the notifications aren’t always completely reliable, and the gesture controls are a little finicky — the swipe up to access the recent apps view is unstable, and usually just flicks to another open app, whether it’s the one I want or not — but I was able to live with it. With a 90Hz screen and impressive brightness, scrolling is smooth and switching on the screen first thing in the morning a dangerous move. I have done this, and now need new retinas.

The 4,000mAh battery lasts me all day even with heavy use. There’s always a little bit left to keep the charging anxiety at bay and the 50W Super VOOC charger takes it from zero to 80% in just 30 minutes. It’s difficult to find fault with this, or the performance of the Snapdragon 855 Plus. Even with 8GB of RAM it’s more than fast enough for any task. Plus, it’s the best you can get at the moment, so it will last you for a couple of years without a problem.

The camera is a winner

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64 megapixels? That’s quite an attention-grabber, especially when paired with a 13-megapixel telephoto lens, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide lens, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. Beat that, OnePlus. High-specs don’t always mean good photos, but the Realme X2 Pro delivers on most fronts.

There’s plenty of versatility, as you have the ability to shoot standard and wide-angle photos, as well as images with 2x and 5x optical zoom. There are few situations where the X2 Pro won’t be able to take the photo you want.

There’s also a Night mode for low light, and a full 64-megapixel mode for taking high-resolution photos that can be cropped down without losing detail.

The HDR mode is good, but the Night mode does introduce quite a lot of noise, and the wide-angle mode does miss out on some detail. Most of this is down to software tuning, and hopefully Realme will continue tweaking the camera.

While the Realme X2 Pro can’t match the camera performance of the iPhone 11 Pro, Pixel 4, or the Huawei P30 Pro, it holds its own with bright, high-contrast pictures with beautiful colors.

Conclusion

Cheaper than the OnePlus 7TPixel 3a XL, and Asus Zenfone 6, but around the same price as the similarly well-equipped Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro, the Realme X2 Pro is not just a winner on paper, it delivers in real life too. What are you compromising on? The name isn’t well-known, the design isn’t outstanding, and it’s definitely a chunky thing at 199 grams and 8.7mm thick — hardly the end of the world, and forgivable given the performance it offers.

The Realme X2 Pro is a flagship killer armed with a bazooka, unlimited ammunition, and near-perfect aim. If you are on a tight budget but want flagship-grade power, this is the phone to buy. It’s a shame it’s not available in the U.S.

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