Even a few years ago, the entry-level Indian smartphone space was dominated by Xiaomi, until Oppo’s sub-brand Realme introduced its first smartphone in India. Now in 2020, it’s finally starting to feel like Realme has successfully aced the entry-level segment with its affordable lineup of devices, similar to what Xiaomi achieved in its early years.
Ever since the global pandemic hit the shores of India’s economy, Realme has been coming up with a wide variety of wallet-friendly smartphones for different types of users. They include features that actually matter to entry-level users and think outside the box in terms of design. While many people consider Realme spamming smartphone releases every month to stay relevant, it’s all about giving the consumers more choice in the market.
This time around, Realme is refreshing its C series budget lineup with newer options: C12 and C15. The smartphones sit closely to Realme’s Narzo series, but its main focus is to dethrone the Redmi 8 and Redmi 8A from its position.
However, is it really worth the ₹8,999 price tag? For the answer, continue reading this detailed review of the Realme C12, the newest budget offering from Realme.
Realme C12: Decent Design & Build Quality
- Dimensions: 164.5 x 75.9 x 9.8 mm
- Weight: 209 g
- Construction: Polycarbonate
Realme has done some outstanding work on its smartphones in terms of the design, but it mostly is the same all around on its entry-level offerings. With the C12, Realme is finally refreshing its design aesthetics in the budget spectrum. Some things have stayed the same, such as the curved square camera module from the Realme C11. However, there’s now an extra sensor in the array. The rear capacitive fingerprint scanner has also made its way to the C12, which offers reliable biometric verification in the times of masks and face shields.
The rear panel of the device consists of a grippy, matte texture all around. Realme always adds a two-toned pattern finish on the back of its smartphones, and the Realme C12 is no exception. Due to its matte texture and balanced weight, the device feels comfortable in hand, and it also shows fewer smudges than glass backs. However, the matte finish doesn’t extend to the sides of the phone, which would have given it a slightly better in-hand grip and comfort. The C12 feels quite hefty as well, primarily because of the enormous 6000mAh battery inside. More on that later.
On the front of the device, we find a 6.5-inch display with a waterdrop notch at the top and narrow bezels around it, except the fairly large chin at the bottom. The power button and volume rockers on the right side of the C12 offer tactile clicks, and they are easy to reach when using the device single-handed.
We have said it many times before, and we will say it once again to all the smartphone companies out there, please stop using micro-USB port on your devices. In times when you can pick up a Redmi with a USB-C charging port at a similar price, Realme’s poor decision to include a dated micro-USB port on their latest C series smartphone is an inexcusable offense. USB-C isn’t the future anymore, but a widely accepted standard in today’s world of gadgets. The inclusion of a Type-C port probably wouldn’t have affected the price of Realme C12. At least, the device does include a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Except for the charging port, we don’t have much to say about the Realme C12’s design. The polycarbonate body feels premium, and we didn’t notice any flex or creaks when applied pressure from both sides of the device. Gorilla Glass also protects the display. Realme claims to deliver a “splash-resistant design” with the C12. Although it can survive raindrops, we strongly advise you to keep it away from large bodies of water.
Considering that the C12 is sub-₹10000 smartphone, Realme has taken the correct cost-cutting measures in the design and build department.
Realme C12: Average Display
- Screen Size: 6.5” (~81% screen-to-body ratio)
- Resolution: 720 x 1560 (HD+) with ~270 PPI density
- Aspect Ratio: 20:9
- Panel Type: IPS
The Realme C12 features a large 6.5-inch display, which was unheard of even a few years ago on entry-level smartphones. The screen size is one of the most critical factors for consumers on a budget, and Realme has planned to take advantage of it with the Realme C12.
However, not everything’s good news here. The HD+ resolution offers pixel density below 300 PPI, resulting in a loss of sharpness. It’s more noticeable when you look closely at the fonts, but overall it will do the job when watching YouTube, scrolling through Twitter or Facebook timeline, and playing some casual games.
The display gets adequately bright in the day and significantly dim at night. The default color temperature is on the warmer side, but you can change it to your preference from the device settings. The display also tends to oversaturate the colors, and the viewing angles aren’t as great as you would expect from an IPS panel. Furthermore, the maximum brightness doesn’t hold up in direct sunlight, which is a real bummer.
Note that the Realme C12 doesn’t come with a Widevine L1 certification, meaning you won’t be able to watch HD content on streaming services like Netflix, Prime Video, etc.
Realme C12: Subpar Performance & Software
- Chipset: MediaTek Helio G35 (12nm)
- CPU: 8 x Cortex-A53 at up to 2.3 GHz
- GPU: PowerVR GE8320 clocked to 680 MHz
- RAM / Storage: 3GB LPDDR4X RAM / 32GB of eMMC 5.1 Storage
As mentioned above, the Realme C12 is powered by the MediaTek Helio G35 chipset, just like the older C11. It’s also paired with only 3GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage. You can at least expand the storage with up to 256GB microSD card, which gets its dedicated slot on the device instead of using a hybrid SIM slot.
In theory, the spec sheet should provide adequate performance for day-to-day usage, but it doesn’t translate quite well in real-world usage. The memory barely hits the requirements for running Android 10 smoothly, but it seems like Realme has put some efforts to optimize its Realme UI skin on top. It glides through the user interface without apps running in the background, but chugs down quite a lot when you launch two or three apps and switch between them all the time. This is where the Helio G35 chipset limits the user experience on the Realme C12.
During our multitasking test, it lagged behind almost every time we tried opening regular apps, accompanied by massive stutters and occasional freezes when scrolling through social media and YouTube feed. This is a surprisingly bad performance, even for an entry-level chipset. The real culprit here is the limited memory. About 1.8GB of RAM is used just to run the operating system and background services, leaving around only 1GB of free memory for basic apps to run simultaneously. Realme has a long way to go in terms of software optimization.
With that said, you can at least do some casual gaming on the C12. Games like Alto’s Adventure, Oddmar, Apple Knight, Red Ball 4, Candy Crush, Angry Birds Friends, and Subway Surfers ran without hiccups. We also tested PUBG Mobile Lite, and it performed nicely on the device.
Although Realme UI is a significant improvement from ColorOS, it still comes with some bloatware. Some of the preloaded apps often push advertisements, but you can uninstall them from the device and get rid of the annoying ads. The best quality-of-life update to Realme’s software experience is the addition of stock Google apps, including the dialer, contacts, and messaging apps. In addition, you will also the Google Calendar, Keep, Files, Podcasts, News, Pay, and many more useful stock apps in the app drawer.
In terms of connectivity options, 5GHz Wi-Fi on Realme C12 isn’t available, so you will be limited to 2.4GHz Wi-Fi speeds. It does support VoWiFi, and it works with both Jio and Airtel LTE networks. You do get Bluetooth 5.0, as well as USB OTG support.
Realme C12: Good Camera Performance For The Price
- Rear Camera #1: 13MP sensor (f/2.2) with PDAF
- Rear Camera #2: 2MP macro sensor (f/2.4)
- Rear Camera #3: 2MP monochrome sensor (f/2.4) for depth detection
- Front Camera: 5MP lens (f/2.0)
Realme’s camera tuning is well-balanced compared to other smartphone manufacturers. Following the market trend, Realme has added three rear cameras to the C12. The primary rear camera has a resolution of 13MP and an f/2/2 aperture. The secondary 2MP “Ultra Macro” camera has a 4cm focal length, which lets you capture macro close-ups of your subjects. The third one is a 2MP monochrome sensor, with the only purpose of detecting depth and adding the portrait mode effect in photos. You also get a 5MP selfie camera at the front.
The 13MP primary camera takes decent photos in adequate daylight conditions. The results come out contrasty, but it seems to overprocess small details and make it softer than what you see in the camera viewfinder. For some weird reasons, the Chroma Boost feature was enabled by default on our unit, which intentionally oversaturates the colors. If you like to take natural photos, then make sure that you disable the option. The camera app also offers 4x digital zoom capabilities, as well as a dedicated night mode that helps in low light conditions.
The 2MP monochrome sensor produces accurate bokeh shots most of the time, but there’s room for improvement to the edge detection. Don’t even bother using the macro sensor, as its fixed 4cm focal length and absence of auto-focus mostly results in crappy macro shots.
The 5MP camera at the front is good enough for selfies, but the excessive skin smoothing is something you should be aware of. It also uses AI to take portrait selfies, and it produces believable background depth. For video calls, it does the job well.
Realme C12: A Portable Power Bank
- Battery Capacity: 6000mAh
- Additional Features: 10W charging, Super Power Saving Mode
Realme C12 is all about big numbers, and it doesn’t disappoint in the battery department. It packs a massive 6000mAh cell, giving you a guaranteed two days of battery life even with heavy usage.
According to Realme, the C12 can withstand 57 days of standby time and 46 hours of voice calls. You can also watch 28 hours of YouTube and listen to Spotify for 60 hours on a single charge. You can turn on the Super Power Saving Mode to get an additional 2 hours of YouTube and WhatsApp on only 5% battery charge.
To confirm Realme’s claims, we tested it ourselves on 100% full charge, and the results are very promising. Given that the Realme C12 only has an HD+ display and uses the 12nm power-efficient Helio G35 chipset, it’s not unexpected to see such battery life.
The C12 takes almost three hours to charge fully with the 10W charger shipped in the box. You can also use the device to charge other phones, thanks to its support for reverse charging.
Realme C12: Is It Worth The Price Tag?
In the grand scheme of things, the Realme C12 pretendedly relies on three big promises: a large display, a triple-camera setup, and a big battery. While the C12 checks almost all the boxes in these departments, it leaves a lot to be desired in the performance side of things.
In the same price segment as the Redmi 8 (3GB+32GB) and Samsung M01 (3GB+32GB), the Realme C12 stands out with better hardware and software features overall. However, at the same ₹8,999 price tag, you can get a Realme Narzo 10A (3GB+32GB), which has the Helio G70 chipset inside and a better camera system, along with a respectable 5000mAh battery. If you want a superior battery life, then the Realme C12 is the better option for you.
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