Back in in November 2018, Sky Li went to the Philippines to launch what would be the first of many launches for realme, who had just become its own brand a few months ago in a departure from its parent company, OPPO.
I can clearly recall that event like it was yesterday: it was a sunny afternoon at the Maybank Performing Arts theater. Eason de Guzman who was the PR Manager in his (yellow-colored?) socks introduced me to Sky Li. They were wearing gray with the old realme “r” icon.
Later on, they took the stage to introduce to introduce the realme C1: it wasn’t the best-looking phone, but the hardware was solid and most of all, the pricing was very agressive. We knew realme was going places.
Today four years later, history is repeating itself. realme made its rapid ascent to become the Philippines’ #1 smartphone brand. However, competition is stiff for the highly lucrative Southeast Asian market, and the top brass at Runto Technology Inc., its local entity in the Philippines, decided it was time for narzo to stand on its own.
realme narzo was no more and from its ashes, “narzo”, now an independent brand, has risen.
To make its mark, narzo decides to go after the entry-level market with the narzo 50i Prime at a jaw-dropping price of only P3,999 for the 3+32GB variant. Not to be confused with the P6,290 narzo 50i which we reviewed last year, the 50i Prime offers a taste of what narzo has to offer without risking too much.
For the price, we at least get the basics: its 6.5-inch IPS LCD screen is big and bright, although the HD panel noticeably lacks contrast and uniformity.
There’s a dewdrop notch to hold the 5MP selfie camera in which isn’t too bad. The chin is a little too thick for my liking which I’m willing to forgive, however, the phone also follows the flat-edged trend that’s popular among smartphones released this year. As a result, the entire package itself feels thicker than it actually is.
The flat aesthetic works for premium devices the iPhone 14, but it only ends up making the narzo 50i Prime look cheap and dated. Let’s not forget the fact that the sharp edges make it uncomfortable to hold for a extended period of time.
While we’re not too fond of the blocky construction, we are quite happy with the phone’s overall aesthetic. We are particularly fond of the polycarbonate rear panel. It features a textured finish that makes it both scratch-resistant and elegant, hitting both form and function at the same time.
To add visual interest, the top quarter features a smooth, rectangular cutout with the narzo branding. It’s so tastefully done we don’t mind that it only features a single 8MP rear camera. We say “only” because having a camera island with two or more sensors has been the norm for a while now.
It has gotten to the point where some phones make the LED flash bigger to look like an extra sensor, but the narzo 50i Prime keeps things real, and we respect that a lot.
Another thing that we respect is that triple card tray which takes in two nano SIM cards and a microSDXC expansion card that supports capacities of up to 1TB. The latter part is an absolute necessity given the limited amount of storage on our 3+32GB review unit.
Limited storage is our biggest issue on this phone: The system already takes up 18GB out of 32GB internal storage – over half, and that’s out of the box. It only took us two days to max out the remaining space, and we weren’t even doing anything cazy. We installed benchmarking and social media apps, shot around 15 minutes of video for our camera test and that was it.
We were in the middle of uploading a TikTok video when we received a system notification that we were out of storage space. Our apps started crashing and that was it. Thankfully, the system stayed up long enough for us to clean it up. That was when we realized: boy, this phone comes with a ton of pre-loaded bloatware like Shopee, Lazada, ShareIt, GCash, Spotify, Grab, Bigo, and a bunch of games.
Upon closer inspection, we realized that we missed it because 1) the default homescreen did not show all apps and there werer more hiding when you swiped up and 2) realme UI Go is so clean and close to stock Android.
Anyone who appreciates the stock Android experience is going to love the narzo 50i Prime. Don’t get me wrong: we love, love, love realme UI, but compromises had to be made with the phone’s limited processing power. As a result the user experience stays smooth and snappy on the Go edition.
Its core operating system is still Android 11, and we highly doubt narzo has any immediate plans to upgrade it to Android 12, but we can always hope.
We were honestly amazed: we did not expect for the phone to perform this well with such modest specs. We attribute the speed to its powerful CPU and UFS 2.2 storage.
The HD panel makes it good for watching videos and thankfully, 1080P 60FPS full HD playback supported and runs smooth on YouTube. On Netflix though, playback resolution only goes up to SD (standard definition) which left us wanting more.
Bummer, right? That’s as far as the phone’s Widevine L3 certification can get us, which means we can only play DRM-restricted content below HD resolution.
We always thought that narzo as a brand does well in appealing to the mobile gaming market. Let’s count the ways: 1) the cyberpunk-ish character 2) having Alodia Gosiengfiao as an endorser and 3) the “Game Changer” tagline. That’s three reasons why anyone who sees narzo would immediately think “gaming”.
The phone came with Mobile Legends pre-installed, which we took as a signal that its engineers are confident enough that it will run smoothly, and it did. It only goes to High, but we had High Frame Rate turned on and it played smooth as butter.
One thing though: We were unable to download all the extra assets because of the limited amount of space.
Benchmark scores were within the ballpark of what we expected from an entry-level smartphone with modest hardware. The official product page boasts benchmark scores of 209k in AnTuTu, and we’re guessing that’s on the 4+64GB variant.
On our 3+32GB review unit, we scored 198k points in AnTuTu and 5988 points in PassMark.
Surprisingly, these results place the narzo 50i Prime above supposedly mid-range phones with more memory and storage such as the HUAWEI nova 8i, TECNO Camon 17P, SAMSUNG Galaxy A03, SAMSUNG Galaxy Tab A8, and even the OPPO A95.
Check out these benchmark results and see the narzo 50i Prime stacks up:
|Nokia C20 (2+32)||1834||854||3686||14935||7986||2812|
|HUAWEI nova 8i (8+128)||4789||2185||13118||31884||12579||13942|
|TECNO Camon 17P (6+128)||4979||2257||12984||28961||18380||17455|
|SAMSUNG Galaxy A03 (3+32)||5469||2681||12174||14245||21653||9240|
|SAMSUNG Galaxy Tab A8 (4+128)||5304||2451||13448||19360||23247||20039|
|OPPO A95 (8+128)||5943||2809||12634||34595||13606||14591|
|narzo 50i Prime (3+32)||5988||2781||13362||35186||23706||11145|
Camera, content creation
Packed with an 8MP main camera and a 5MP selfie camera, the narzo 50i Prime has – well – the most basic camera hardware needed to take acceptable photos and videos. Like the webcam on your laptop, you’re not going to be using it to take award-winning shots, but it’s there when you need it.
Despite this, we managed to take some really nice shots with good lighting. It falls apart quickly with low light though, and forget about taking sharp photos in Night Mode.
Check out these samples uploaded to @TechKuya on Instagram and tell us what you think in the comments!
Videos were also surprisingly decent given its hardware limitations. Our natural light samples were grainy, and the highlights tend to be blown out. The rear camera sample was noticeably overprocessed, while the selfie camera test really lacked contrast.
Still, surprisingly decent considering the hardware that we’re taking them on. Check out the sample videos by hitting the play button – head over to the TechKuya tech review channel on YouTube and subscribe while you’re at it!
narzo 50i Prime camera test (selfie) 720P30
narzo 50i Prime camera test (rear) 1080P30:
Battery life, fast charging
We do not normally get fast charging on entry-level budget phones, and the narzo 50i Prime is no different. Although it only charges at the standard 10W, we were bummed out to find that it does not come with a charger out of the box. It does come with a micro USB cable though.
It’s okay – if we were to cut corners to bring the price down to a certain level, we would gladly give up the charger and throw the micro USB cable along with it.
We are happy with the fact that it comes with a 5,000 mAh battery, and with such a low-powered device, we expected to get above average battery life on this phone.
So, did we get good results? We got great results.
We managed to get as high as 13 hours and 35 minutes with PCMark Battery Life Benchmark, and that’s just the baseline. Conservative use cases can easily translate to two days or more, and that’s what makes the narzo 50i Prime an excellent secondary phone or a backup device to fill the gap when your primary driver runs out of juice.
Without looking at the price tag, the narzo 50i Prime is clearly a budget phone. However, its performance and design delivers more value than what you would expect for a phone within the P4,000 price range.
It’s a gutsy move, but not an unexpected one coming from the same people behind its parent brand’s success. realme penetrated the market by delivering value, and what we have here is as real as value phones can get: good hardware backed by realme’s support network in the Philippines backed by the intellectual properties owned by the BBK group can only mean good things.
With so many brands under their umbrella: OPPO, OnePlus, vivo, realme, and now narzo, it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish what market each of them is trying to cater.
For now it’s clear that the narzo 50i Prime is a budget device, and it will surely compete with options coming from Cherry Mobile and Xiaomi’s own budget brand, Redmi. So we’re off to a good start it seems.
Competition is always great for consumers, and it’s nice to see that realme refuses to be complacent after achieving market dominance.
While the price may be enough to turn heads, we know from realme’s history that it’s going to take more than that to win the Philippine market.
narzo 50i prime specs (Philippines)
- Display: 6.5 inches; 720 x 1600 pixels; IPS LCD
- SIM: Dual SIM (nano-SIM, dedicated slots)
- OS Android 11; realme UI Go
- Chipset (SoC): Unisoc Tiger T612
- CPU: Octa-core (2×1.8 GHz Cortex-A75 & 6×1.8 GHz Cortex-A55)
- GPU: Mali-G57
- Memory (RAM) + storage: 3 GB + 32 GB
- Expansion: microSDXC (dedicated slot)
- Main camera (rear): 8MP f/2.0 (wide)
- Selfie camera (front): 5MP f/2.2
- Connectivity: 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n; Bluetooth 5.0
- I/O: microUSB 2.0; 3.5mm audio jack
- Battery: 5,000 mAh
- Colors: Dark Blue, Mint Green
- Price (Philippines): P3,999 (~68 USD)