realme is one of the fastest-growing smartphone brands. Its success is in focusing on the youth market. The realme C21 (Optus locked) is a $199 4G smartphone offering terrific features for the price. It is even better with the $30 credit when you sign up with Optus.
For starters, the realme C21 has a 5000mAh battery (big), a 6.5” colourful screen, a 13MP triple camera, and even has NFC. Not to get too techy, but most phones at this price sacrifice memory (this has 4GB) and storage (64GB), a dedicated microSD slot (to 256GB), and runs the full 64-bit Android 10. We will do a mini-review as at $199; all you are focusing on is a good reliable phone, decent social media class camera and two-day battery life.
Summary: It is a low cost, more so with the Optus $30 incentive, well-made phone with everything you can expect plus NFC and a 5000mAh battery. Add to that realme’s build quality, and it’s a <$200 winner.
It is a micro-USB 2.0 480Mbps half-duplex. OTG data transfer tops out at 30/30MBps.
Its closed competitor is an entry-level Qualcomm SD429.
Screen – 1600×720, 20:9, IPS – great colour
It has 400nit (tested to 425), so it is bright enough. Tempered glass resists scratches.
Comms – NFC is a huge bonus
Wi-Fi 4 N maximum speed -37dBm/86Mbps half-duplex (not great but gets the job done)
BT 5.0 with SBC codec and connects to headphones and as a handsfree device
NFC – yes
GPS – single antenna <6m accuracy
FM radio needs 3.5mm buds to act as aerial
Rear fingerprint reader
Battery 5000mAh – good for two days
GFX Bench Manhattan: 883.6minutes (14.73 hours) and 668 frames
GFX Bench T-Rex: 889.2min (14.82 hours) and 1599 frames
PC Mark 2.0 battery test: 14hour and 47 minutes
Battery charge – 5V/2A/10W micro-USB is slow over four hours (off) and five hours (on).
It uses the outdated micro-USB cable to save cost as it does not need USB-C PD charging circuitry.
Sound – mono
It has a mono earpiece and a rear-firing speaker. It has a 3.5mm combo audio jack. Sound is mid-centric for clear voice. It has BT 5.0 and only supports the SBC codec. The feed was loud and clean to our reference headphones.
Build – Polycarbonate with a nice cross-hatch non-slip back
It is 165.2 x 76.4 x 8.9 mm x 190g and uses a polycarbonate back and frame. Interestingly it has been TUV tested and has a 3-year life cycle rating.
Colours are Cross Black, Cross Blue
Android 10 – as good as you will get
It is unlikely that you will get Android 11. It is overlaid with realme 1.0 UI (previously used OPPO ColorOS) that is easy to use and youth-focused.
realme C21 Camera
It is a capable camera remembering that the bigger 48/64MP cameras ‘bin’ to 12/16MP anyway. What it lacks is the AI Power to turn poor shots into good ones.
The realme C21 fills the niche for a well-made, reasonable performance, budget phone. It is locked to Optus, and you get a $30 bonus when you activate the supplied SIM. I expect you can also use Optus MVNO’s as well, and you can unlock the phone later for a fee.
realme C21 is rated as a $199 4G smartphone with a $30 credit
It meets or exceeds all specifications for this price, so we start at 8/10. Add points for the two-year warranty, realme build quality, NFC, 3.5mm combo audio, 64-bit Android, 5000mAh battery, great camera – it is very good. Take points off for USB-C and carrier locking. 9/10
The realme C21 fills the niche for a well-made, reasonable performance, budget phone.
Value for money
Ease of use
You won't find better value
micro-USB means slow charging