Realme C21Y First Impressions: Budget Phone Done Right?

Realme C21Y_1

Amidst all the hype and excitement surrounding the Realme GT series, the company has also launched a new entry-level smartphone, or maybe we can say that the company has refreshed one of its popular entry-level smartphones. I am talking about the Realme C21Y, which is the company’s latest entrant in the sub-Rs. 10,000 price-segment.

By the time this article gets published, I have already been using the Realme C21Y for about 5 days, and here are my initial impressions! 

Realme C21Y_2

Spoiler alert! The Realme C21Y is a well-designed, well-built smartphone. Now, many believe, making a flagship phone is the toughest task; I beg to differ here. In my opinion, the most difficult task for a phone manufacturing company is to make an entry-level smartphone, because, one — the budget segment is a cut-throat market, and if you get the pricing wrong by even a few hundred rupees, your product is done! And second — even if you price the product right, there are always people’s expectations. We Indians always expect more, instead, we always love to have more for less. This brings me to the Realme C21Y, which according to me, is a decent package overall. Let’s get to the details. 

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Starting off with the design, and what you see on the rear panel of the C21Y, Realme calls this a geometric design, which honestly speaking looks good. On to the sides, the frame feels solid and good to see Realme has paid attention to detail by adding a line in between on both sides; looks good! The buttons are situated on the right and offer amazing tactile feedback. On the left are the triple slots, which means yes, there’s a dedicated microSD card for storage expansion to up to 256GB.

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The textured back not only makes the phone grippy but also does a good job of preventing scratches and smudges. The rear camera is placed in a square module, there’s a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor (a very fast one indeed), a Realme logo in the bottom-left corner and below it is a weirdly placed speaker.

Don’t get me wrong, in terms of audio quality, it sounds loud and clear for its price, and I also didn’t find any kind of audio distortion even at higher volumes. The thing is its placement, which easily blocks the sound when you place this phone on a flat surface, and even at times, I accidentally ended up covering it up with my index finger. 

Realme C21Y_4

So, the speaker placement is one little drawback, depending on how you look at it. Otherwise, one more drawback, if I’d point is the presence of a micro-USB which doesn’t allow for faster charging, and more importantly, for me, now I have to carry around one extra cable.

Apart from this, the Realme C21Y is being offered in two colour options — Cross Black and Cross Blue. I have the latter, and this shade looks more of something between teal and sea green, but anyway, I dig the shade! The phone’s weight distribution is also balanced, as this phone is about 8.9mm thick, and around 191g in weight, making it reasonably manageable. 

On to the front, there’s a 6.5” HD+ LCD display with a dewdrop notch, and overall it’s a good panel; a little contrasty but as I said, a good panel overall. I also found the brightness levels to be adequate, and the viewing angles were also fine. By the way, I am not sure of the glass protection on the phone’s screen, but what I am sure of, that the screen protector which comes pre-applied is of very high quality, or maybe this is a thin tempered glass?! Whatever it is, be rest assured, this one is a tough screen protector, and I am hopeful that it’ll do a good job of preventing the screen from nick and scratches! 

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Realme has also said that this is the first phone to obtain the TÜV Rheinland High-Reliability Certification, which basically means that this phone has gone through 23 rigorous tests, and most of these tests are based on the three-year life cycle of the smartphone. 

In terms of software, there’s R Edition, a watered-down version of Realme UI, based on Android 11. In terms of looks, there are a few visual differences between R Edition and the regular Realme UI, and even many features such as a native screen recorder, various gestures and motions, personalizations etc, that you find on Realme UI are not present in R Edtion. That said, the software experience up until now has been stable and the overall UI looks clean apart from the few bloatware apps that come pre-installed. And as I just mentioned about the stable software, in my opinion, R Edition is very responsive, and being a budget phone, I was actually expecting it to perform sluggishly! Thank god, it doesn’t. 

Although, how does the software hold up in the long run, that remains to be seen, and we’ll be covering that bit in our full review. 

Realme C21Y_8

Running at its core, the Realme C21Y features a Unisoc T610 SoC, an octa-core chipset, and this is paired with a Mali-G52 GPU. As for the variants, you get two of them — 3GB RAM + 32GB storage, priced at Rs. 8,999 and 4GB RAM + 64GB storage, priced at Rs. 9,999. 

In the few days that I have used this phone, I haven’t come across any major performance drops. In fact, as I was saying, the software performance has been very stable; which means while the optimisation is there, the processor is also partly responsible for this stable performance. One other good thing about the Unisoc chipset is that it is much better in terms of thermal management as well when compared to MediaTek’s Helio G35. Apart from this, I was easily able to run casual games, while major titles such as Call of Duty: Mobile, or BGMI; I would say you keep your expectations low in that regard. 

Battery life has also been solid up until now. I have only charged the 5,000mAh battery twice in this initial testing period, and currently, as I am writing this copy, the phone is on charging. So, as I was saying, in these two charge cycles, the C21Y managed to easily last me 2 days. And my typical usage involved calling, using Instagram, watching a lot of YouTube, checking emails and teams, and playing some casual games. It was actually good to catch up on some angry birds after such a long time! 

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In terms of optics, three lenses at the rear — a 13MP main camera, a 2MP B&W camera and a 2MP depth camera. At the front is a 5MP snapper situated in the notch. 

Of course, we’ll be testing this phone’s camera in detail, so if you don’t want to miss that, definitely stay tuned with us. But otherwise speaking, while there are no groundbreaking changes in the Realme C21Y in comparison with the regular C21; the most significant change is the Unisoc T610 SoC, which initially is shaping up to provide a better user experience than its Helio G35 counterpart. Although, how much of a difference does the Unisoc chip bring in the camera performance or endurance in the long run? That remains to be explored. 

Thank you so much for taking out the time to read my first impressions. Stay tuned for the full review where we’ll be intensively testing this phone’s performance, battery life, cameras and so much more! 

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Aman Rashid
aman.rashid@u2opiamobile.com

Aman is the Video-Head for Mr Phone's YouTube channel, based out of New Delhi. He's a true blue sneakerhead, is an avid WWE follower, loves all things tech, and is a huge DragonBall fanboy. He follows a simple mantra in life — Live, Laugh, Love! 💛