Realme has been quite the comeback story this year — rising up as one of the biggest smartphone brands in the world over a few months of stellar phone releases. Earlier this year, the company made one of the best flagships of 2021 in the Realme GT and now, the GT Master Edition seems to be its victory lap.
Confusingly, the phrase “Master Edition” does not mean “better in every way.” Realme has adopted a new design language inspired by suitcases, however, cutbacks have been made to the internals, such as a reduced battery capacity and swapping a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G processor for the GT’s Snapdragon 888.
But because of that, the Master Edition is significantly cheaper. Are these cutbacks too much, or do they make for a price-to-performance ratio just as good as the original? Let’s find out.
Realme GT Master Edition: Price and configurations
The Realme GT Master Edition is rolling out slowly across the globe. In fact, people in Britain may have noticed Realme promoting its imminent U.K. launch.
But the main news here is that unlike the Realme GT, the Master Edition is available in the U.S., with prices starting from $399 (around £290) for 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. For an extra fifty bucks, you can get 8GB RAM and double the storage.
This pricing puts it in the mid-range market with competition like the OnePlus Nord 2 and Google Pixel 5a. It’s also roughly $100 less than the original Realme GT.
Realme GT Master Edition: Design
If you’ve seen the Realme GT, the Master Edition is going to be very familiar. It’s another monolithic slab sandwich of glass and plastic with a chrome-style plastic frame around the edge.
There are some differences though. You get three new finishes: Luna White (the one I tested), Cosmos Black or for a little extra, a suitcase-inspired Voyager Grey with a vegan leather back, designed by Naoto Fukasawa. Alongside this, instead of complimentary clear cases, you get one in a nice pastel shade. I liked the vortex blue of the GT, but overall, I do prefer the visual flair and matte finish of this white model.
At 6.26 x 2.9 x 0.31 inches with a weight of 6.1 ounces, the dimensions are identical to the original in all but weight, where the GT is slightly heavier (6.56 ounces). If you pick the Voyager Grey leather model, that thickness goes up to 0.34 inches and the weight to 6.3 ounces.
Compared to the competition, this is smaller and lighter than the OnePlus Nord 2 (6.3 x 2.9 x 0.32 inches, 6.7 ounces) and comes in a little taller than the Google Pixel 5a, but still sheds some weight (6.1 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches, 6.5 ounces).
This is a lightweight phone that feels good in the hand. Sure the use of plastic materials feels cheaper than the premium glass back of the OnePlus Nord 2, but the matte finish and thinner chassis makes for a pleasant all-round experience.
Realme GT Master Edition: Display
The GT Master Edition’s display has not seen any cutbacks compared to the GT: a 6.43-inch Super AMOLED screen with a 2400 x 1080-pixel resolution and a buttery 120Hz refresh rate. That last spec is particularly compelling in this price range, the more expensive Nord 2 only offers a 90Hz refresh rate.
Realme claims it offers 100% DCI-P3 color gamut coverage and a 1,000-nit peak brightness. The end result is a beautiful display to look at and use. Navigation feels so smooth, high frame rate video looks flawless and games are fluid.
Watching the Spider Man: No Way Home trailer shows a similar observation to the Realme GT. Doctor Strange’s spells glowed on the screen, but they had a slightly cooler color temperature than when we watched on super vivid panels like the Nord 2.
Still, on a budget-friendly phone like this, that’s not a dealbreaker. The fact that you get a 120Hz AMOLED display in a device this affordable is remarkable.
Realme GT Master Edition: Audio
The Master Edition changes absolutely nothing about the audio setup when compared to the Realme GT. It’s great to see the 3.5mm headphone jack and support for hi-res audio codecs, which deliver impressive sound quality.
But the single mono speaker is a very lop-sided experience when listening without headphones. Don’t get me wrong, it’s clarity is impressive — listening to the angry ‘Resentment’ by A Day to Remember, the speaker did not distort once. I would have liked to see dual speakers on here, like the OnePlus Nord 2 or Pixel 5a.
Realme GT Master Edition: Performance
I was pleasantly surprised by the zippiness of the Realme GT Master Edition and its Snapdragon 778G 5G processor.
Putting numbers to it, the GT Master Edition scored 783 single-core and 2,822 multi-core in Geekbench 5 testing. Compared to the MediaTek Dimensity 1200-armed OnePlus Nord 2, this is slower in single-core performance (834), but trumps it in multi-core (2,697). It also annihilates the Google Pixel 5a (1,354) and eats the Samsung Galaxy A52 for breakfast too (1,903).
In real-world use, this makes for a powerful phone that rarely hits any slow down, even under heavy multitasking workloads, but you can feel it with the back heating up quite a bit. It may not be the Snapdragon 888 monster that the Realme GT is, but this is more than fast enough for normal and sometimes strenuous use.
Realme GT Master Edition: Battery life & charging
The Realme GT Master Edition comes packed with a 4,300 mAh battery and a 65W SuperDart charger. This is 200 mAh less than the Realme GT and quite a step down from the far cheaper Realme 8 5G’s 5,000 mAh battery.
Luckily, I still made it through a day of average use (a few hours of web browsing, listening to podcasts and Spotify all day, social media use, an unhealthy amount of check-ups on my crypto portfolio, and wrapping up with some gaming in the evening) with about 10% remaining.
But of course, the addition of a SuperDart charger giving you full power in around 30 minutes means low battery woes shouldn’t be a serious concern, as long as you’re never too far away from a power outlet.
Wireless charging would have been nice, but this is usually one of the things to go in budget cuts, so I’m not surprised by its absence.
Realme GT Master Edition: Cameras
The previous Realme GT’s camera system was OK, but not amazing. Does the GT Master Edition improve on this? Not at all.
You get the same triple camera array around the back, consisting of a 64MP primary camera with an f/1.8 aperture, an 8MP ultra-wide lens at f/2.3 and a 2MP macro shooter. Results are vibrant and sharp, but the color temperature is just too warm at times for someone who prefers more true-to-life tones. While out and about, for example brighter objects like the greens of bushes overwhelm the whole color composition, giving everything a fractional yellow cast.
As is customary for Realme phones, the software and AI can overstay its welcome in your photography. Most of the time, it does well. HDR is decent and low light shots are acceptable. But it can make things feel over-processed at times, as you can tell when looking at this bear figure with AI on and off. The bear is too vivid and the smoothing of surfaces gives it an artificial feeling.
Like its competition, the ultra wide camera may give you more creative flexibility, but the low megapixel count and small aperture results in noisy pictures that lack detail. And let’s be honest, you’ll use the macro camera once and be done with it. It’s a thoroughly pointless lens.
Aroundfront, the selfie camera has doubled in resolution from 16MP in the Realme GT, to 32MP in the Master Edition. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t tell the difference in picture quality between the two, but any bump in specs is nice to have on a cheaper model.
Finally, you’re not going to be shooting any epic filmic content on this phone, but with support for up to 4K 60FPS video recording and image stabilisation, you can get some decent video of friends and family.
Realme GT Master Edition: Realme UI 2.0
Just like the Realme GT the GT Master Edition features the company’s Realme UI 2.0 skin on top of Android 11. It’s baffling to see just how different it is across phones. The Realme 8 Pro was a decently clean experience, whereas the Realme 8 5G was a bloatware-laden mess.
The GT Master Edition is more on the former end of that scale with only a couple of pre-installed social media apps and some Realme clones that you can easily uninstall.
This close-to-stock cleanliness is a breath of fresh air at this price point, and I stand by my yearlong opinion that Realme has some of the best and easy-to-use customization features in any Android skin.
However, the future support is not as extensive as we would have liked: two years of security updates and one major android version. Three years seems to be the way most mid-range phone makers are going, so this definitely hurts the value proposition.
All-in-all, the Realme GT Master Edition is a watered down alternative to the GT, both in specs and price, which works in its favour and makes this one of the best value phones you can buy today.
Sure, some of the budget phone tropes make a return in this cost-cutting exercise: no wireless charging, no waterproofing and a design that can feel a little cheap to the touch.
If you can look past these issues, you’re in for a treat. The high quality screen, fast charging, decent performance and a decent main camera make for a great mid-range phone at an even better price.