When you’re buying a mid-range phone in 2023, you generally know what you’re getting – a passable set of specs for everyday use, plus one little extra feature that makes the phone stand out from the rest of the smartphone market.
For the realme 11 Pro Plus, that extra feature is style, thanks to a faux leather back that looks and feels great and is more comfortable in the hand than most metal phones. It’s a statement piece, and it needs to be, because while realme does try to use some software features to help the phone punch above its weight, it doesn’t impress in terms of performance. That’s not to say it can’t be a good daily driver, though, and it certainly has the battery power to carry you through more than a day of use. We’ll break all that down in detail in our realme 11 Pro Plus review below!
The vegan leather back panel is the highlight here – large phones can be cumbersome to hold, and metal or a thick case doesn’t usually help matters. The soft-back is much more comfortable to hold for longer periods of time, especially if you’re gaming or watching videos on a long trip.
It has an air of luxury to it (realme collaborated with former Gucci print designer Matteo Menotto on it), so if you’re going to buy it, you’re probably going to be in the precarious position of wanting to take especially good care of it without hiding the design behind a case. Then again, there isn’t going to be much available in terms of cases anyway, thanks to the giant camera module on the back that we’ll break down later.
The phone comes in astral black, sunset beige, and oasis green – we reviewed the oasis green model, which looks terrific. The sunset beige option also looks nice, but the astral black doesn’t convey the luxury look as well as the other options.
It’s a bit of a style-over-substance situation, though. While it looks great, the phone lacks a lot of key durability features – there is no Corning Gorilla Glass protecting the curved display, and no IP rating for water and dust ingress protection. Then again, with the luxury angle, you’re probably taking care to keep this phone out of potentially harmful situations more than a usual phone anyway, so for the right person, this might not be that much of a sacrifice.
The lightest configuration (256GB/8GB RAM) is 8.2 mm thick and weighs 183 grams, which is pretty competitive for a 6.7-inch device. The razor-thin bezels help to keep the phone’s footprint as small as possible. I still think phones of this size end up being a little tiresome to hold for longer periods by their nature, but at least it’s good for its size.
Despite the thin frame, realme has managed to include stereo speakers, with a speaker grille at the top edge and bottom edge of the device. You’ll also find a mic, the volume and power buttons, a USB Type-C port, and the SIM slot around the edges, but no headphone jack or microSD card slot.
While the luxury feel is what sets the realme 11 Pro Plus apart, realme can’t be said to have skimped on the display. The 6.7-inch 1080p curved AMOLED display looks terrific, especially with brightness cranked to the max (up to 950 nits) while gaming or watching videos.
The addition of HDR10+ really helps to make details stand out while watching videos, maximizing that AMOLED display and the solid brightness levels for an impressive viewing experience. Like usual with AMOLED displays, maxing out brightness helps to accentuate contrast, with the deeper blacks making details stand out in darker scenes.
The brightness also helps the phone perform well in direct sunlight. It might not go toe-to-toe with the current crop of flagship smartphones, but once I started watching videos, the difference was small enough that I didn’t pay it much mind. The slight curve at the edges of the display didn’t affect the viewing experience much.
Getting a 120Hz refresh rate on the display is great for gaming in theory, but as we’ll touch on later in the performance section, the hardware capabilities of the phone don’t quite allow for the kind of gaming the realme 11 Pro Plus aspires to.
The realme 11 Pro Plus has a 5,000 mAh battery, which is standard stuff for a mid-range smartphone of this size. Thanks to the processor and excellent efficiency while idle, the phone lasts a long time, even when the AMOLED display gets put to full work.
At idle, the phone only used 1% of its charge over a whole 24-hour period, which is as impressive as it gets – after a whole week of being idle, it was still well over half charged. Watching videos on the device for two hours at peak brightness while using the stereo speakers burned through 14% of the battery, and an hour-long gaming session playing Genshin Impact under the same conditions spent about 25% of the battery life. Results are always going to vary depending on game, what you’re watching, and a ton of other variables, but based on what I usually see in comparable mid-range smartphones, I liked what I saw here.
The realme 11 Pro Plus comes with a 100w (not their super-fast premium 240w offering, sadly) charger, which is on the higher side compared to comparable smartphones – if you take full advantage of the faster charging, you can get back up to full in no more than an hour, and can get enough juice to get you home in a matter of minutes (just be sure to have that 100w charger with you!). That speed somewhat makes up for the lack of wireless charging, but if you’ve invested in wireless charging gear, the lack of it in this phone should be noted.
A mid-range smartphone is a mid-range smartphone because of its chipset, so performance is always going to be something of a sacrifice. The realme 11 Pro Plus runs on an octa-core Mediatek Dimensity 7050 chipset, which doesn’t end up performing too badly. I’ve had mid-rangers struggle with basic games and web browsing before, and that’s not the case here – for what falls under daily use, I never noticed any hitches or slowdowns that were distracting. It’s a solid daily driver!
For gaming, it’s less great, which normally wouldn’t be a knock on a mid-range phone – tackling intensive gaming performance isn’t what I expect from this part of the smartphone market. But, it’s worth noting that the realme 11 Pro Plus sort of sets high expectations with its gaming feature set. There’s a gaming optimization feature that makes it easy to toggle between battery-saving, balanced, and performance-maximizing modes – you can even get as granular as optimizing for ping if you’re playing online multiplayer. It’s even got a voice changer for online chat!
It’s got all the trappings of a gaming powerhouse, but the phone can’t exceed what its processing power allows – Genshin Impact nearly crashed during the opening cinematic, and ran choppy when in performance mode (it was OK, but not great, in balanced mode). The phone also got as many as 10 degrees C warmer when gaming, going from 31 degrees C to 41 degrees C at max (credit the phone itself – giving you a quick glance at operating temps is yet another gaming feature). That makes the phone noticeably warm during gameplay. Even for simpler games like Word Blitz, sluggishness was noticeable compared to more powerful devices.
Long story short – despite having a feature set that would fit in well on a gaming powerhouse, the realme 11 Pro Plus doesn’t have the power to make very many of those features worth having or using. I think they’d have been better off leaving those features out and setting more reasonable expectations from the start. You can play games on it alright, but it’s not a selling point.
Also worth a quick note – there is an in-display fingerprint sensor that I had no issues with. The sensor consistently worked quickly, and I rarely had to try to unlock the phone with it more than once.
There’s a pretty impressive camera setup on the realme 11 Pro Plus – it’s a three-sensor setup comprising a 200MP main camera with optical image stabilization (f/1.7, 23mm), an 8MP ultrawide camera (f/2.2, 16mm), and a 2MP macro camera (f/2.4). 200 is a big number, and while we know that doesn’t guarantee quality, what it does in this case is guarantee better-than-average zoom performance. Rather than using optical zoom, the impressive 200MP main camera simply crops a larger image to achieve 2x and 4x zoom.
I found the 2x zoom results to be much better than average, even in low light – 4x was still too pixelated to be worth trying. In fact, the camera performs well in low light in general, with good amounts of detail and color and not too much noise, even at 2x zoom. I liked what I got for this price range.
The realme camera app has some basic camera features, including an easy swipe to reach night mode, video mode, portrait mode, street mode (more options to quickly change focal length), a hi-res mode that fully takes advantage of the 200MP sensor, and other modes, like pro, panorama, slo-mo, long exposure, and time-lapse. Pretty standard stuff, but the camera app was uncluttered and straightforward, which isn’t always the case, especially with a heavily forked version of Android like realme UI 4.0.
I generally liked taking macro shots, and while I didn’t always get the auto-focus to work the way I wanted, I thought it fared better than a lot of other mid-range smartphones I’ve tried this year, like the Moto G Power 5G 2023.
On the front of the device, there’s a single 32MP selfie camera, which I found worked OK for video chats and the like. It didn’t seem particularly great or terrible for taking photos.
The realme 11 Pro Plus runs Android 13 with realme UI 4.0 on top, which is one of the heavier forks of Android I’ve used recently. You can use and customize a number of gestures to make the phone more iOS-like, setting an upward swipe from the very bottom to bring up recently used apps, and an upward swipe anywhere to bring up all apps.
There aren’t many ways to take advantage of the curved display when it comes to gestures, though – add in the few times when I accidentally palm-swiped because of the curve, and you get a phone that probably didn’t need a curved display at all. There is a floating sidebar you can pull out from the right side for quick access to certain features or apps, but I never found it more useful than just having the apps I usually need on my main home screen.
There are a lot of extras to sort through, too, like split screen, floating windows, lock screen quick launch and gesture features (like opening the camera from the lock screen by drawing an O), and a kids’ mode. Most of it is off by default, but can come in handy for the right person or use case. The realme UI 4.0 is a little aggressive when displaying system notifications, like for battery options or quick searches and launches, so if a busy notification bar sets you off, you might be better off looking at other smartphones that hew closer to pure Android.
Here’s something that sets almost everyone off – there are a lot of preinstalled apps and suggested app icons (not yet installed, but the icons are there more or less ads). It’d be a lot for a phone sold from a carrier, and it’s a ton for an unlocked phone. To an extent, it’s understandable – it’s a revenue stream for these lower-cost phones, and it (in theory, anyway) helps to keep the price down. Still, there’s only so much that can be borne, and when the app drawer and home screen comes out of the box this cluttered, it’s not a good user experience. I never want my first hour with a phone to mostly involve cleaning up my home screen and deleting things I don’t want!
There’s not much to say here. realme isn’t advertising much in the way of the use of sustainable materials here, and it doesn’t look like they’ve gotten on board with using more paper and cutting out plastic in their packaging. These days, if anything remotely qualifies as a sustainability initiative, brands will trip over themselves to tell everyone about it. Can’t say that’s the case here, and there’s nothing positive in this department that I noted during my review. The phone is only guaranteed two years of Android updates and three years of security updates, which falls short of what several competing smartphone makers are promising right now.
Price and availability
The realme 11 Pro Plus 5G is available now in India, and may come to other countries later this year. The phone retails in India starting at ₹27,999, or about $340, for the 256GB/8GB RAM configuration – a configuration with 12GB of RAM is also available. You can also find the phone floating around Amazon for around $500. The realme 11 Pro Plus 5G can be purchased in sunrise beige, oasis green, or astral black, which are all available on both configurations.
Should the realme 11 Pro Plus 5G be your next mid-range smartphone?
If you want a fashion statement as a phone, yes – and that’s not a knock! Smartphones are standard fare these days, and almost every device that hits the market is at least passable. If you’re happy with a phone that works on a basic level for web browsing, talking and texting, and maybe some light gaming, it’s fine. If you want that phone to look a little more beautiful than the average metal slab, then the realme 11 Pro Plus is what you want! The vegan leather is beautiful and comfortable to hold, even if the giant camera ring on the back maybe takes a little away from the elegance.
It also helps that you get a bonus premium feature in the excellent curved AMOLED panel, in addition to a quality camera array headlined by an impressive 200MP primary camera and excellent battery life and charging speeds.
Given the luxury look and feel, I don’t think anyone’s going to look to this phone to be a rugged device. All the same, the complete lack of an IP rating for dust and water is rare, and no Corning Gorilla Glass protecting the display means you’ll want to avoid drops at all costs. The enormous amount of bloatware and advertised apps is a bigger problem, and while you can clear most of the clutter out, it’s not a fun way to kick off your relationship with a new phone.
We’ve never been ones to knock a gadget for its commitment to good looks, and we won’t start now. If you want an OK phone that looks a little fancier than it is inside, go out and find yourself a realme 11 Pro Plus! As long as you set your expectations right – that this is just a mid-range phone on the inside, you won’t be disappointed.