GadgetsSmartphonesrealme C21Y review: Decent budget phone with NFC and 5000 mAh

realme C21Y review: Decent budget phone with NFC and 5000 mAh

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The launch event of the realme C21Y took place at the end of June, and now the smartphone is on sale now. The device is interesting in that even with a rather modest price tag it has a decent battery (5000 mAh), an NFC module and a fingerprint scanner. Our editorial staff managed to get acquainted with the new product before its appearance on the market and we are ready to share our impressions.

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Full specifications of the realme C21Y

  • Display: 6.5″, IPS, 720×1600 pixels, 20:9 aspect ratio, 269 ppi, usable screen area 88.7%, maximum brightness 400 nits
  • Chipset: Unisoc T610, 8-core, 2× Cortex-A75 (1.8 GHz) + 6× Cortex-A55 (1.8 GHz)
  • Graphics Accelerator: Mali-G52
  • RAM: 4 GB, LPDDR4X
  • Storage: 64 GB
  • Support for microSD memory cards: up to 256 GB
  • Wireless networks: Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS, A-GPS, Beidou, GLONASS
  • Main camera: master module – 13 Mp (f/2.2), PDAF, macro camera – 2 Mp (f/2.4), black and white sensor – 2 Mp (f/2.4)
  • Front-facing camera: 5 MP (f/2.2)
  • Battery: 5000mAh
  • OS: Android 11 with shell realme UI R Edition
  • Dimensions: 164.5 x 76.0 x 9.1 mm
  • Weight: 200 g

Positioning and price

C-series realme is a line of budget smartphones, which offers a pretty good set of features for its money. Not without compromise, but in the segment of entry-level mobile devices (and not just entry-level), compromises are indispensable. Good battery life is the main feature here. This phone has a 5000 mAh battery, and some devices even more.

The realme C21Y  costs about $140. If you order from the official realme store on AliExpress, the smartphone will cost a little less – about $130.

What’s in the box

realme C21Y

The realme C21Y comes in a laconic yellow box, which has already become the company’s trademark. Inside, everything is pretty standard – a smartphone, a 10W charger, a charging cable, a SIM eject tool, and accompanying documentation. Nothing extra.

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Design, materials and build quality

realme C21Y

The realme C21Y case is made of matte plastic, and the back plate has a laser radial engraving, which divides the lid into four unequal sectors. Due to the matte texture and pattern, fingerprints are not noticeable on it, which is undoubtedly a plus. Although there are no color accents in the smartphone, the color of the device itself is quite interesting. The C21Y is available in two colors – dark gray and gray-blue. We have the second option on the review and, I tell you, it looks very good. The black model is more practical, but also somewhat boring.

realme C21Y

On the back cover, in the upper left corner, there is a triple camera module with a flash, which literally rises a millimeter above the body. The back plate has small rounding on the sides to make the smartphone more comfortable in the hand. Slightly lower in the center is the fingerprint scanner. In the lower left corner, under the company logo, there is an external speaker, which is rather unusual for modern smartphones. Bringing the speaker to the bottom edge of the device is common, so seeing the speaker on the back is weird to say the least.

realme C21Y

Thanks to a small “leg” under the speaker, the smartphone does not fall on top of it if it lies on a rigid horizontal surface, and you can hear it normally, though quieter. But if you put the device on a soft surface, on a sofa, for example, or even just a soft mouse pad, the sound is practically inaudible. You can completely miss the call at medium volume. This design is rather controversial, but what can you do.

realme C21Y

The front panel is 88.7% display. The bezels around the screen are neat, but with a prominent bottom edge. The notch for the front camera is classic, in the form of a drop, and at the junction of the top end and the glass of the screen there is a speaker grill. What kind of glass is used in the realme C21Y is unspecified, but a protective film is provided on the screen right out of the box.

On the left side of the display, there is a triple slot for two nano-SIM and microSD. On the opposite side, everything is standard – the volume and power buttons.

The upper edge remains empty, while the bottom houses a charging connector (good old microUSB), a 3.5 mm headphone jack and microphone holes.

At first acquaintance, if we ignore the atypical location of the main speaker, the realme C21Y makes a good impression. The smartphone has a practical design with an interesting and pleasant texture. The smartphone fits comfortably in the hand and does not try to slip out, as is often the case with glossy smartphones. All the elements fit perfectly, the materials feel reliable, everything is fine in this regard.

The realme C21Y display

realme C21Y

The C21Y screen is a 6.5-inch IPS-matrix with a resolution of 720×1600 pixels, an aspect ratio of 20:9 and 269 ppi. The maximum brightness is 420 nits, while on a sunny day the screen does not fade and remains readable. Of course, this does not apply to direct sunlight. At certain angles, you can notice color distortion and a decrease in contrast, viewing angles aren’t great either. However, during standard work with the device, everything is quite fine and there are no issues.

realme C21Y

In the screen settings, you can switch to a dark theme, adaptive brightness, select the image scale and font size, set the screen saver and display notifications on the locked display. You can also set the conditions under which the screen will turn on – for example, when you pick up your smartphone or when you receive notifications. In addition, there are settings for contrast (automatic contrast based on ambient lighting, high or standard contrast mode) and temperature (standard, warm or cold). There is also a “warm” night mode, which can work either according to a specified schedule or automatically, which will require access to your location.

Despite the low resolution and pixel density, the graininess is minimal and noticeable mostly with certain icons. Text and graphic information are very legible. Not always perfect, but quite good.

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Performance

The realme C21Y is powered by an 8-core Unisoc T610 processor. The chip is made using 12 nm process technology and consists of a pair of Cortex-A75 cores at 1.8 GHz and six Cortex-A55 cores with a similar clock frequency. The Mali-G52 accelerator is responsible for the graphics. Even though the chipset was released back in June 2019, it is still used in smartphones. For example, last year the ultra-budget ZTE Blade L210 was released on the T610, and in 2021 the Motorola E7i Power got it as well. Among entry-level smartphones, it is quite normal to use 2-year-old hardware, and considering the production crisis and processors shortage it makes even more sense.

The smartphone received 4 GB of RAM (LPDDR4X) and 64 GB of storage, as well as expandable microSD up to 256 GB. If we talk about performance, then in normal use, the realme C21Y is quite nimble and perfectly copes with daily tasks – messengers, mail, web surfing, social networks, videos, etc. As for games, given the characteristics, you should not expect anything spectacular. Although Asphalt 9 does run quite well, albeit at medium graphics settings, but without friezes and any problems.

Software

realme C21Y

The realme C21Y is based on Android 11 with proprietary realme UI R Edition shell. Since the smartphone is still budget and the storage is limited, there is a minimum of pre-installed apps. Here you can find the realme community and realme Link for connecting wireless brand devices, PhoneClone for transferring information from one device to another, and SoLoop for video processing.

The C21Y has support for Android Auto, you can set up navigation using touch buttons or gestures, activate the virtual assistant and set up quick access to popular applications, as well as set up various gestures – for example, answer a call by holding your smartphone to your ear, turn off the call when you flip the device screen down, shake the smartphone to switch to another track while playing music, etc.

I can’t say that realme UI has something special or unique, it has a lot in common with other shells. The realme interface won me over with its simplicity and lack of clutter (at least when it comes to the C21Y)

Unlocking

realme C21Y

The realme C21Y can be unlocked in two traditional ways – using a face scanner and a fingerprint sensor located on the back. The capacitive sensor works perfectly and almost flawlessly – the smartphone is unlocked with lightning speed and in most cases even a partial touch is enough. By the way, the location of the fingerprint scanner is very good – when you take the device in your hands, the sensor falls under the index finger.

The face scanner is also quite capable. In normal light, it responds fairly quickly, albeit a little slower than the fingerprint scanner. Freezes  occur only in low light – in this case, it may take a couple of seconds, but in most cases the unlocking is successful. It’s another matter when you unlock your smartphone in the dark. The settings do not provide for a short-term increase in brightness to recognize the owner, so if the screen brightness is low and you intend to unlock your smartphone in the dark, the scanner may not work.

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Cameras

realme C21Y

The rear camera consists of three modules: a 13MP main camera with an f/2.2 aperture and PDAF, a 2MP (f/2.4) macro camera and a monochrome sensor with a similar aperture and resolution. The 13-megapixel module allows you to shoot videos at 1080p, and the standard Video, Time Lapse and Slow Motion (720p) modes are provided for shooting. The range of photo modes consists of Auto, Portrait, Burst and Macro, Pro (Standard and Night), and Panorama. There is Google Lens, HDR, photo filters and beautification mode for both the main and front-facing cameras.

With the help of the main sensor, you can get quite good shots, provided there is good lighting. In this case, the images are quite detailed, clear and contrasting. I think this is the merit not only of the hardware, but also of the subsequent software processing, but sometimes the contrast is overkill. In some cases, this is appropriate and even for the benefit of the picture, but sometimes the result is too much.

Night mode does a better job with low-light shots. It creates a series of photos and merges them into one; the result is hardly ideal, but there is more detail that way, and there is still less noise compared to the automatic mode. Below you can see some examples of night shots in automatic mode (left) and in night mode (right).

Photos on the main sensor in full resolution

A 2-megapixel macro sensor is, of course, not the most necessary module in a smartphone. You can’t use it without good lighting, and with sufficient light you need to tinker with it. And even so, the result is extremely mediocre. Perhaps the camera is suitable for periodically shooting small details at close range, but overall it does not make much sense.

Photos on macrosensor in full resolution

The front-facing camera is represented by a 5-megapixel module with f/2.2 aperture. The selfie camera, as well as the macro sensor, is very demanding on light, so decent selfies can only be obtained with perfect lighting. If you use it for video communication, then it is tolerable, but in order to get good pictures for social networks you will have to try pretty hard.

realme C21Y

Battery life

The battery is rated at 5000 mAh, which is very nice for an inexpensive device. 2 days on a single charge is not a problem for it, although if you want to and have free time, you can use up the battery in a day. However, charging a smartphone every day, in my opinion, has become commonplace.

The charger here is simple, 10 watt. From the native charger, the smartphone charges from 30% to 100% in 2 hours, so it will take about 2.5 hours for a full charge. By the way, the realme C21Y can also be used as a powerbank – you can charge other devices from your smartphone. By wire, of course.

Sound and communication

realme C21Y

As mentioned above, the main speaker is located on the back, but thanks to a small protrusion the speaker does not get blocked when lying on a horizontal surface. The main thing is not to leave it on something soft. The sound itself is simple, monophonic, fine for watching videos, but listening to music through it is a dubious pleasure. Better use headphones or portable speakers. At least the sound is very loud, which is useful for calls.

The realme C21Y has almost a complete set of wireless interfaces – Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz), Bluetooth 5.0, which is important, NFC, GPS, A-GPS, Beidou and GLONASS. Sadly, no Wi-Fi 5 GHz.

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Verdict

The realme C21Y is a decent entry-level smartphone for those looking for a basic device. The C21Y has a pleasant design and good ergonomics, a fingerprint scanner, an NFC module, excellent battery life, quite good performance and a competitive price tag. Yes, the cameras are mediocre, the speaker’s location is not the best, and I would like a slightly better screen, but for an ultra-budget device, all these issues are forgivable. For this price, the realme C21Y is a good choice.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW

Design
8
Materials
8
Build quality
10
Ergonomics
8
Display
7
Performance
8
Cameras
7
Sound
7
Battery life
10
Software
8
The realme C21Y is a decent entry-level smartphone for those looking for a basic device. The C21Y has a pleasant design and good ergonomics, a fingerprint scanner, an NFC module, excellent battery life, quite good performance for its segment and a competitive price tag. Yes, the cameras are mediocre, the speaker's location is not the best, and I would like a slightly better screen, but for an ultra-budget device, all these issues are forgivable. For this price, the realme C21Y is a good choice.
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