People looking for a new budget smartphone have many options to choose from today. The sub-Rs. 20,000 and sub-Rs. 15,000 smartphone segments have been seeing incredible developments lately, with companies launching more devices with 5G capability, bigger batteries, AMOLED displays, and more. However, the sub-Rs. 10,000 price segment should not be overlooked as it has gotten some decent additions in recent months.
One of the recent launches is from Realme's C series, called the Realme C31. It features an attractive and slim design, a 5,000mAh battery, and a triple-camera setup at the rear. The Realme C31 is part of the same series as the Realme C35 (Review), but is priced lower in order to appeal to buyers with a budget of under Rs. 10,000. Is the Realme C31 worth the asking price, and is there more to this smartphone than just the looks? Find out in this review.
The Realme C31 is available in India in two variants. The base variant launched at Rs. 8,999 in March 2022 but as of this review, its price has increased slightly to Rs. 9,299. This variant comes with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, while the higher variant comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage and is priced at Rs. 9,999. The phone is available in Light Silver and Dark Green colours. I received the model with 4GB of RAM for this review.
The Realme C31 looks and feels good in the hand for a device that is priced at under Rs.10,000. The Light Silver colour gives the phone a very subtle look. Right off the bat, I noticed that the phone is quite tall when I first held it. The back panel of the C31 sports a triple-camera setup which protrudes a little, making the phone wobble when placed on a desk. The polycarbonate back looks quite minimalistic, with an interesting texture for the entire panel, except for the camera module. The textured back does not easily attract fingerprints, and does not pick up scratches very easily either.
The power button on the Realme C31 is on the right side, and it also has a fingerprint sensor embedded in it. I did not have any issues comfortably reaching the fingerprint sensor since the power button is placed well and sits in a little groove. The left side of the phone has the SIM card slot and volume buttons. The back panel houses the speaker grille. Personally, I am not a big fan of this speaker placement since it hinders the sound output whenever the device is placed on a flat surface.
The bottom portion of the Realme C31 houses a 3.5mm headphone jack, primary microphone, and a micro-USB port. Realme should have provided a USB-Type C port instead, considering that older phones such as the Micromax In 2B (Review) offered it in the same price range. You get a 10W charger in the box, but no protective case.
The Realme C31 has a 6.5-inch HD+ LCD display with a waterdrop-style notch on the top that houses the front camera. The display has relatively thin bezels, but the bottom chin is a bit chunky. The display has a standard 60Hz refresh rate. The C31 weighs 197g which is a bit on the heavier side, although I did not feel any discomfort while using it with one hand as the weight seems to be distributed well.
The Realme C31 is powered by a Unisoc T612 SoC, which is based on the 12nm fabrication process. It is an octa-core processor with a clock speed of up to 1.82GHz. The in-built storage is of the UFS 2.2 standard, which we don't see too often in this price segment and it's good that Realme went with this. The C31 can support two nano-SIM cards and a microSD card for extra storage, simultaneously. The storage is expandable by up to 1TB.
As for connectivity, the Realme C31 supports 4G/LTE, Bluetooth 5.0, and only 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. I faced some issues with Wi-Fi on my unit, as the C31 kept disconnecting from my router multiple times even when I was in the same room.
The Realme C31 runs on Realme UI R edition, which is a more basic version of the regular Realme UI. This lightweight version is geared to optimise performance on lower-end devices. Ironically, Realme still ships the device with multiple bloatware apps such as Facebook, Josh, Paytm, Sharechat, and others, although you can uninstall these apps if needed.
My unit was running Android 11 with a security patch from March 2022 when I first began using it a month ago. However, I did receive an OTA update with the April security patch recently. The UI looks and feels a lot like the vanilla version of Realme UI, but with minor adjustments here and there and not a lot of room for customisations. For instance, Realme UI R edition did not allow me to customise icons, transitions or even layouts for the apps on the home screen.
I found the UI easy and straightforward to use. All the necessary settings and quick actions were easy to reach. The C31 also comes with ‘Smart Controls' which incorporates some nifty features such as Smart wake, Smart motion, Pocket mode, and more. The device does not come with a dedicated gallery app, so you'll have to either use the preinstalled Google Photos app or download a third-party one.
The Realme C31 did not give me any trouble in my day-to-day usage. However, I noticed some minor stutter in the animations while opening the notification bar when apps such as WhatsApp and Instagram were pushing out multiple alerts. Scrolling through the UI and switching between apps was not an issue for the device. The Realme C31 offers two biometric authentication options, fingerprint unlock and face recognition. The former was decently quick, while the latter was a tad slower than expected.
As for performance, the Realme C31 managed to score 197,830 in AnTuTu and produced a score of 339 and 1279 in Geekbench's single-core and multi-core tests, respectively. It also scored 7,348 in the PCMark Work 3.0 test. These numbers were not particularly great and some of them were a bit lower than Realme's own C25 (Review) which launched a year ago with the MediaTek Helio G70 SoC.
In my experience, Call of Duty: Mobile ran decently well with low graphics settings and low frame rates. Bumping up the graphics to medium and high frame rates pushed the device to a point where gameplay was choppy during shootouts, rendering the game somewhat unplayable. This also resulted in certain portions of the back panel getting quite warm after playing continuously for 15 minutes. Asphalt 9: Legends ran well on the high-quality settings with minor stutters when using shockwave boosts, but it was nothing that would hinder the gaming experience.
The Realme C31 allowed me to play BGMI on 'Smooth' graphics and 'High' frame rate settings without any lag or stutter. Switching things up to 'HD' graphics caused a couple of hiccups during squad fights and while roaming around in vehicles since parts of the map took a bit too long to load. The gyroscope also worked fine and I was able to control my recoil during gunfights.
Temple Run and Subway Surfers ran well without any problems. The phone lets you enable ‘Auto Resolution' in the Settings app which lowers the screen resolution in games to conserve battery and reduce heating. However, I did not notice any difference in performance or usability after enabling it.
The display of the Realme C31 has decent viewing angles and it lets you choose between Standard, Warm and Cool colour tone presets, depending on your preference. I preferred keeping the preset on the ‘Standard' mode since it had the most balanced look. The HD+ resolution is not the sharpest for such a large screen size, but viewing content on it is a decent experience. The screen has a brightness of 400 nits and I had no issues reading content outdoors, even under direct sunlight.
Colours on the Realme C31's display looked good for the most part. Whites popped well and the videos viewed on this screen had good contrast. Unfortunately, the C31 does not support the Widevine L1 standard, so you'll have to make do with standard definition quality playback from OTT apps such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The speaker quality is decent and it gets loud enough if you are holding the device in your hand. As for the earpiece, it worked fine and I was able to hear voices properly on phone calls.
The Realme C31 allows you to enable video display enhancement, which is a feature that is supposed to make colours brighter and more vivid when watching videos. However, I preferred leaving it disabled since this made videos look a bit too artificial.
The Realme C31 has a 5,000mAh battery which lasted for 13 hours and 53 minutes in our HD video loop test, which was a bit lower than expected. On average, the phone was able to last for an entire day's worth of usage, which included a little bit of gaming and media consumption in addition to regular usage, on a single charge. With lighter use, I was able to use it for a little more than one full day. The supplied 10W charger was able to charge the Realme C31 to 23 percent in 30 minutes, and took 2 hours, 30 minutes to charge the battery completely.
The Realme C31 sports a triple-camera setup at the rear, consisting of a 13-megapixel primary camera with an f/2.2 aperture, a 2-megapixel macro camera with an f/2.4 aperture, and a black-and-white camera with an f/2.8 aperture. On the front, there is a single 5-megapixel camera with an f/2.2 aperture. The camera interface is also a simplified version of the regular Realme camera app, and I noticed some frame drops in the viewfinder while trying to capture some shots.
The camera app is easy to use and navigate between the given options. However, actual camera performance of the Realme C31 was average at best. Photos taken in daylight were decent, but lacked good details which were quite evident upon zooming in. The 13-megapixel primary camera managed to keep the colours fairly realistic but the dynamic range was all over the place. Switching to ‘Auto HDR' mode oversharpened the image and also oversaturated some of the colours. The C31 has digital zoom up to 4X, and as you might have already guessed, images captured with the maximum magnification had a lot of grain and were not very good.
Macro images were below average, with pictures having a pink tint to them. Capturing a successful macro photo needed a couple of attempts as it wasn't easy to get the right focus. The images also lacked good detail. Portrait mode only works with the rear camera and for some reason, only worked on people and not on objects. Edge detection was decent and somewhat consistent, although at times it did blur some parts of the subject which it didn't have to. The camera UI allows you to set the blur level before clicking each shot.
Pictures taken with the front camera against the light on the Realme C31 appeared overexposed and looked very ordinary. The 5-megapixel sensor struggled to capture good details on the face and in the surroundings. Images also seemed to have noise in them, which wasn't ideal.
Low-light photos were not good as images had a fair bit of noise even in well-lit environments. Photos looked soft and lacked good details. The camera also struggled to lock focus in dimly-lit conditions. Bright light sources were often blown out in low light shots. After switching to Night Pro mode, low-light photos looked a bit brighter. It also managed to balance the overblown lights from the light source but tended to saturate the images, as you can see in the samples.
The Realme C31 can record videos at up to 1080p resolution at 30fps. Videos shot in daylight were ordinary with average details, and footage appeared shaky due to the lack of any stabilisation. Footage shot in low light had plenty of visible noise. That said, an advantage of not having electronic stabilisation meant there wasn't any shimmer effect even while walking during recording, which was good.
The Realme C31 performed well as my daily driver. Switching between apps and multitasking on the Realme UI R edition was a decent experience, although I wouldn't suggest playing graphics-heavy games on such a phone as it's not designed to handle such activity. The phone looks modern and stylish and at first glance, it's tough to tell that it's actually a budget device. The 5,000mAh battery was also sufficient to deliver good battery life.
The cameras on the C31 could've been better and ideally, Portrait mode should not have been restricted to just human subjects. If you plan on getting the Realme C31, I would suggest buying the higher RAM and storage variant since that price difference is not much and it should offer better performance in the long run. If you are looking for alternatives in the same price bracket, the recently launched Moto E32s (First look) might be an enticing option to consider.