Realme Narzo 20 Review: Excellent Battery, Good Camera and Middling Performance at Rs 10,499
Realme’s Narzo series, introduced earlier this year, was seemingly geared for the young and impatient. In its latest series under the Narzo banner, Realme has a Narzo 20 Pro, which tends to offer the sub-premium gaming experience without users splurging way too much money. If you’re not crazy about gaming, though, the spectrum of priorities while buying a phone would typically include getting a device that looks good, has a sturdy build, offers excellent battery life and hopefully throws in a good camera into the balance, too. It is this that Realme appears to have gone for, with the Realme Narzo 20.
The Narzo 20, which sits in between the Narzo 20 Pro and Narzo 20A, is priced at Rs 10,499 and Rs 11,499 across two variants. Both the variants offer 4GB RAM, but include 64GB and 128GB internal storage, respectively. It is powered by MediaTek’s Helio G85 SoC, which is a follow-up to its previous mid-range SoC, the Helio G80. It features a 6.5-inch HD+ display with 20:9 aspect ratio and a claimed screen to body ratio of 88.7 percent. To the rear, the triple camera is housed in a square housing, of which I’m not a major fan of. It offers 48MP primary, 8MP ultra-wide and 2MP macro units with the camera. The notch in the front houses an 8MP selfie camera, and all of this is powered by a 6,000mAh battery with 18W fast charging. Naturally, there’s some bulk to the phone, which measures 208 grams.
So, at this price and configuration, the Realme Narzo 20 essentially rivals Motorola’s Moto G9, Vivo U10 and a barrage of offerings from Xiaomi, such as the Redmi Note 9 on one hand and the Redmi 9 Prime on the other. How does it stack up against the competition?
Design and ergonomics: Bulky but sturdy
The Narzo 20’s design is actually pretty impressive for a budget smartphone. Instead of attempting to emulate glass, the Narzo 20 offers a matte, textured plastic finish on the rear, which makes it pleasant to hold. I also really like the Victory Blue colour, which makes the phone look even more premium. I’m personally not a big fan of square camera modules, but Realme has maintained symmetry with the triple camera unit by bundling the flash into it, although the physical fingerprint sensor is a touch too high up the rear – those with smaller palms may struggle to reach it.
At 208 grams, the Narzo 20 is not a light phone. However, I somewhat like its heft, and the nicely bevelled edges add to the grip of the phone. On overall terms, I quite like the overall design of the Realme Narzo 20 – it looks like a device that costs more than Rs 10,000, which is always a good thing. It could have done a better job in fingerprint and power/volume button placement to aid the ergonomics, but what it offers is still acceptable enough.
Performance and display: Passable, but with hiccups
It is here that the Narzo 20 is a bit of a mixed bag. The Helio G85 SoC that is in charge of performance offers a somewhat consistent gaming experience. While gaming, the Helio G85, paired with Realme’s gaming mode optimisations, offer a fairly streamlined gaming experience. However, there is screen tearing at times, and the lack of faster frame rates in games such as Call of Duty: Mobile ends up making your movement look stuttered. Games such as Asphalt 8 are still more than playable, but the screen tears and the rendering of lower frames per second mean that the graphics experience is still somewhat basic.
Beyond gaming, upon startup, the Narzo 20 takes some time to load all processes, during which all operations on the phone tend to remain sluggish for a bit too long. Multitasking is not beastly with the Narzo 20, although you can actively switch between your emails and your messages without feeling frustrated. In comparative terms going by Geekbench’s CPU benchmark, the Narzo 20 is about 40 percent slower than the Narzo 20 Pro, which explains the overall performance scale of this phone. Most general tasks load smoothly enough. However, scrolling fast through menus will show a slight lag. It isn’t something that you cannot live without, but is definitely something that you will notice in the long run.
The 6.5-inch, HD+ display also does a fair job of things. That said, it misses out on a full HD panel that some of Realme’s competitors have already started offering, and the slight issue of colour shift and low contrast on default setting remains. We had pointed out this issue with the full HD+ panel of the Realme Narzo 20 Pro, and the Narzo 20 also seems to have similar characteristics. The overall display produces soft colours in default configuration, and comes with a host of visual effects and eye protection modes, as well as manual configuration to help you get the right display setting. For the most part, you can watch videos in darkness and not feel that the display quality is not great. However, if you are watching with two other friends, those around you may not enjoy the visuals as much as you.
Battery life: This is why you buy this phone for
While the overall performance has things to be criticised for, the battery life is what defines the Narzo 20 and underlines its strength. The 6,000mAh battery is a beast, and if you are not all that into gaming, you can last a comfortable two days without even thinking of charging the phone. If you wish to use the Narzo 20 as a backup phone, and the number of notifications that you get on it are comparatively limited than on a primary phone, it can practically last you for five days – the standby battery life of the Narzo 20 is absolutely excellent.
Even with gaming for a couple of hours every day and getting a constant stream of emails, messages and work notifications, the Narzo 20 lasted me for close to two days without breaking a sweat. If you are a power user, you can certainly tire this battery out in less than two days. However, you would have to really wring its neck – extensive hours of gaming, endless video streaming, a heady stream of calls, messages and emails, music streaming in the background and some good GPS usage too would consume this battery in just more than a day. For most other phones, such usage would mean a compulsory mid-day charge, and this really brings out the Narzo 20’s real strength, in bold letters.
The only thing that I wish Realme included in the Narzo 20 is a faster charging standard. While a 6,000mAh cell takes understandably longer to juice up, the Narzo 20 takes over two hours to charge fully. The charging speed slows down as you cross the 70 percent battery level, and Realme has its own set of battery algorithms to preserve battery life, so the slower charging speed might just keep the battery alive for more years. However, what’s good to note is that the Narzo 20 took 17 minutes to charge up to 12 percent, at which point I could take it out for about four hours. The slow battery drop means that even lesser amounts of charge last longer than on other phones, and the Narzo 20 is a clear winner when it comes to battery life.
Camera: It actually takes good photos
Another pleasantly surprising strength of the Narzo 20 is its camera performance. While the Narzo 20 Pro’s 8MP ultra-wide unit failed to take good photos, the Narzo 20 does the exact opposite. The overall camera operations are smooth and uncluttered, and both the 48MP primary and 8MP ultra-wide units take pretty good photographs. There is a decent amount of detail, albeit a shade of pixelation persists in anything beyond brightly lit frames.
The ultra-wide camera is particularly fun to play around with. Given that it does not entirely wash out contrast levels and colours, you can actually use it for landscape and monument shots. The 2MP macro unit also does a decent job at photography, and videography performance is not bad, either. It even gets a 60fps videography mode at 1080p and 720p HD resolutions, which is a more sensible feature than stuttered 4K videos.
Software and security: Fairly optimised
The Realme Narzo 20’s fingerprint sensor at the rear is accurate and snappy, and would have actually been the primary biometric medium to use had it been easier to access. Even those with larger palms would find it difficult to reach. Beyond that, though, the face recognition works pretty well, although it does feel a bit sluggish. It also tends to recognise your face even when the phone is not pointed at you, or when your eyes are closed, which is a security loophole.
Realme UI, as we noted in our review of the Narzo 20 Pro yesterday, has matured over time, and it is fairly well organised right now. Most settings are where they should be, and the sidebar shortcuts make things a touch easier to access. It largely offers you everything conveniently at their right places, so overall usage ergonomics are fairly good.
Verdict: One for the battery
Put simply, you should consider the Realme Narzo 20 if battery life is one of the areas that you just don’t want to compromise on. The Narzo 20 also offers a good camera, and that should also put this phone in your shortlist of budget devices priced around Rs 10,000. The overall performance is not great, and even the display could have been better. But, the display does not break your back, and unless you are an avid gamer and mostly have light usage of communication services, you can still make do with it. At Rs 10,499 for the 4/64GB variant and Rs 11,499 for the 4/128GB variant, the Realme Narzo 20 rivals Xiaomi’s Redmi 9/9 Prime, Motorola’s Moto G9, Vivo U10 and more. Should those be your considerations for a budget smartphone over the Narzo 20? If performance is key, certainly. If battery life is what you want more than anything else, the Narzo 20 is worth a shot.