Chinese manufacturers are currently causing quite a stir across the smartphone market spectrum with a wide array of devices and their corresponding accessories. Take the BBK Group, for example. They are really gaining a foothold with its rising brands such as OnePlus, Oppo, Vivo, and Realme. The latter is one that targets those who want plenty of value for their money. Hence, it is no surprise that the new Realme Buds Q True Wireless headphones are available at a knock-down price that will surprise many. But at that extremely low price point, is there quality performance to follow up with the amazing price point? This Realme Buds Q review blew me out of my socks.
- Incredibly low price
- Good sound with lots of bass and clear treble
- Good battery life for the money
- Customizable touch operation
- Very light and compact
- Insecure fitting
- Low noise isolation
- No wear detection
- App requires a cloud account
- Obsolete MicroUSB connector
Realme Buds Q release date and price
The Realme Buds Q true wireless headphones have been available in Germany since June 2020. The recommended retail price slapped by the manufacturer stands at an extremely affordable £29.99. Although the model is available in white and yellow in some regions, only the black version is available in Europe at the time of publication.
Realme Buds Q design and build quality
Wow, these are surprisingly light. I've never seen nor used such lightweight earbuds before. Each earbud tips the scales at a mere 3.6 grams. Together with the bundled charger, the entire shebang weighs just 37 grams.
For those who spend plenty of time traveling around the urban jungle, the compact dimensions may be a pleasant point to take note of, but the miniaturized form factor of the Realme Buds Q is not necessarily conducive to wearing comfort. In my review, the earbuds are not securely fitted each time I wear them - which adds to the stress of accidentally losing one (or both!) of them since they're so light and hardly noticeable. The tapered end is not flat enough to be wedged firmly in the auricle and remain there. This causes the earbuds to loosen after several steps or even simple chewing movements, hence I have to correct the fit over and over again. Thankfully, the relative looseness of the Realme Buds Q never quite managed to have it fall out during the entire duration of this review.
The small earbuds and the charging case are shaped like a pebble that have been smoothened over by millennia of waves washing over it, that it looks almost fragile. However in reality, that is not the case. They are made out of light but strong PC+ABS special polymer composite material. In addition, Realme did not skimp on the sealing despite the small speaker compartments and the low price point. The Buds Q have IPX4 certification rating, which offers protection against both water splashes and sweat, which means you are more than capable of wearing a pair of these bad boys out for a long run in the rain without missing a beat.
Setup and operation
The built-in R1Q chip is equipped with Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity and can therefore be connected to a smartphone very quickly. As soon as you open the charging case and remove the earphones, they will appear directly in the pairing screen or are immediately connected should it have been paired to your device earlier on.
The manufacturer recommends the Realme Link app in order to maximize its operational capability, for which this app is available only on Android and not for iOS. To make matters worse by potentially eliminating a segment of potential users (perhaps Realme figured out that iPhone users simply would bypass such a cheap thing), this app annoys with the requirement of a cloud account registration before you can use it. Where else on earth is there such a modus operandi when it comes to earbuds? So far, I've scoured high and low and not found anything like it. The only advantage to having this cloud account would be the ability to manage other Realme devices via the app - but over here in Germany, only their smartphones are available to take advantage of this app. When it comes to headphone usage, the app offers all but one exclusive function: you are able to assign different commands to the touch controls on the sides of the earphones according to your own preference.
By default, whenever you double tap, triple tap, or touch and hold it for two seconds, you can begin audio playback, pause playback, skip to the next track, or answer, reject or end a call. Touching and holding down both touch surfaces simultaneously will see the headphones enter gaming mode. In this mode, the latency supposedly reduces itself to 119 milliseconds, which is minimal at best in offering an improved gaming audio experience.
A simple touch will not be registered, ensuring that you do not activate a command by accident when you adjust the earbuds into a comfortable position. Realme also eliminated the wear detection sensors, so the headphones will not stop working unless you command them to do so with your finger or place them in the charging case.
By default, you are unable to go back to the previous track. But this can be easily remedied via the app, in addition to enabling Google Assistant. If you agree with the factory default functions instead, your Realme cloud account is not required. This is especially reassuring for iOS users, as the app is not available for the iPhone. Nevertheless, you can still listen to music using the earbuds on smartphones from both sides of the mobile operating system divide.
Realme Buds Q audio
How should earbuds that retail for a mere £30 sound, you ask? I sure had that question swimming in my head before I began the review. The answer is: Amazingly good! The Realme Buds Q are far more powerful and dynamic than the price suggests. This is probably due to the built-in speakers. With a diameter of ten millimeters, they are relatively large and therefore capable of stashing good hardware underneath the hood. On the other hand, Realme has also tweaked the drivers on the software side. Thus, the headphones make an impression with strong levels of bass and treble. This might scare off Hi-Fi purists, but it's a lot of fun with electronic music.
Upon more careful listening, however, it becomes apparent that there are shortcomings in this pair of earbuds. The Realme Buds Q are unable to resolve all aural details of very complex compositions. In the middle frequencies, some of the tracks sound contourless. But that is criticism on a very high level in view of the price. More relevant in reality is that the small Realme Buds Q only shield outside noise on a moderate scale. You can't expect any help from noise-cancellation technology such as ANC at this price point. As expected, Realme has refrained from installing it in a budget model.
Realme Buds Q battery
There is nothing wrong with the battery life. According to the manufacturer, the headphones' 40-mAh battery capacity allows up to 4.5 hours of music playback time at 50% volume on a single charge. In total, Realme promises a maximum of 20 hours of playback time, which means that the 400-mAh battery of the charger delivers 15.5 hours of reserve juice. It's astonishing that such high-capacity batteries were able to be implemented in such a small case. The Realme Buds Q are more durable than many a model that is twice or three times more expensive.
You can see how much power is left in the True Wireless headphones in Realme's app or in the Bluetooth menu of your smartphone. There is no display for the remaining charge on the charging case. There is also no function for fast charging. And it can not be juiced up via USB-C, but with a reconditioned micro-USB plug. But these are compromises one must make to cater to the low price. Surely everyone has a legacy micro-USB cable lying around somewhere!
With Realme Buds Q, the newcomer has pieced together a convincing true wireless headphones package within the budget segment. At this price point, this pair of true wireless headphones offer very good sound and battery performance. Even higher-end features such as an IP rating and customizable touch operation are part of the package. This is made possible as the manufacturer decided to cut corners wisely - by dispensing with the motion-detecting sensors and USB-C connectivity, all in the effort to make every dollar count. The somewhat insecure fit can be annoying though, but even more expensive headphones are not immune to this. That is why this shortcoming does not diminish the formidable overall impression of this bargain offer.
It's hard to believe that the recommended retail price of £30 allows them to turn a profit. Perhaps the young brand is simply prepared to forego a reasonable profit margin in order to gain market share and attention first with such a tempting offer. In any case, the bait is indeed very attractive, and in my opinion, has no catch.
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