The under-10k segment is slowly becoming a stronghold for MediaTek with their G-series gaming chipsets aimed squarely at gamers with tight budgets.
How good is the experience of gaming in the under-10k segment?
So we took the Redmi 9 Prime, Narzo 10A and the Realme C12 to test their gaming performance.
India is one of the largest markets for mobile gaming, and interestingly enough, most of the gaming happen on budget smartphones. So while there are attempts to enable 90 FPS gaming for the popular titles like PUBG Mobile, masses simply want the best experience at the lowest possible price. It’s no wonder then, that the under-10k segment is slowly becoming a stronghold for MediaTek with their G-series gaming chipsets aimed squarely at gamers with tight budgets.
The G-series, that starts with the MediaTek Helio G35 and goes up to the Helio G90T, has become a sprawling family of gaming chipsets with the sole aim to put the G in Gaming, with the help of “an array of technologies that boost the mobile gaming experience”. And it has found takers among the most popular smartphone brands in India, including the most popular, and the fastest growing — Realme and Redmi, both of which have been battling it out neck-to-neck, in the under-10k segment for the past few quarters. Realme’s C-series is wildly popular, and so is the classic Redmi Number series (Redmi 9, Redmi 8, etc.). Then there’s the new ‘performance-oriented’ Narzo series. So we thought pitting the latest offerings from each, would be a good idea. Little did we know it would be such a close affair —
Xiaomi Redmi 9 Prime vs Realme C12 vs Realme Narzo 10A: The similarities and differences
The Redmi 9 Prime is the more expensive of the three, and also has a more powerful chipset. The 9 Prime runs on the MediaTek Helio G80, the Narzo 10A on the Helio G70, while the Realme C12 sticks to the basic Helio G35. There isn’t much in between the G80 and the G70, except that the lower cores are clocked higher on the G80. The Helio G35 powering the Realme C12, however, only has power-efficient Cortex-A53 cores for company.
The 9 Prime also has 1GB more RAM as compared to the Realme C12 and the Narzo 10A, and supports faster 18W charging, even though the capacity of battery is larger on the C12. One more thing that should make the Redmi 9 Prime a better smartphone for gaming is the support for dual-band Wi-Fi, offering faster speeds and lower latencies. The Realme C12 and the Narzo 10A only supports 2.5GHz Wi-Fi.
Lastly, all thee of them rely on a 6.5-inch IPS LCD, but the Redmi 9 Prime is a FHD+ panel while the Realme C12 and Narzo 10A only go up to HD+.
Clearly, the more expensive Redmi 9 Prime has more features to show, while the Realme C12 seems to scrape through with the basics.
Gaming Modes to the rescue
While the processors have nothing much to show for being ‘gaming worthy’, both Redmi and Realme has a bunch of optimisations in place which can push these devices to perform better than they ideally would. And most of these optimisations kick in when you turn on the Gaming Mode. It’s called Game Turbo on the Redmi 9 Prime, and Game Space on the Narzo 10A and the Realme C12. And here, you can enable a ‘performance mode’ that frees up the resources, prioritises network bandwidth and increases touch response. This becomes essential, especially for a budget smartphone with low RAM and slower processors.
15 minutes of PUBG Mobile
Thankfully, the Redmi 9 Prime, the Narzo 10A and the Realme C15 support the full version of PUBG Mobile and not just the Lite version. However, none of them offer the best graphics. You can only go up to HD graphics on the Redmi 9 Prime and Narzo 10A, and ‘Balanced’ graphics on the Realme C12.
At HD graphics, the grass, buildings and characters appear barebones, but has some discernible shades. The Balanced graphics of Realme C12 looks more retro, with just basic shapes for objects and characters have very little realism to them. The draw distance is also more on the Redmi 9 Prime and the Narzo 10A. Objects form faster when jumping from the plane, or when driving.
The gameplay itself, however, is decent enough. The lower graphics allow the Realme C12 to perform with very little stutter, even during intense shootouts. The CPU cores are all maxed out during the session and it’s good that the phone can sustain a 15-minute-long load without a hitch.
The Redmi 9 Prime and the Narzo 10A also run the game smoothly, slightly more than the Realme C12, and hit the peak frame rate for low-end smartphones with 99% and 98% stability respectively. The Realme C12 however can only go up to 25 FPS with 98% stability. This can be increased by lowering the graphics further to ‘Smooth’.
Essentially, you can run the intensive battle royale game, and join in on the multiplayer fun with friends, completing missions and raining bullets on enemies using any of these smartphones. But the experience of playing the game is better on the Redmi 9 Prime and the Narzo 10A. Better graphics, draw distance, higher frame rates. But, dare we say it, it’s easier to vanquish enemies on PUBG Mobile with the Redmi 9 Prime thanks to a higher touch response rate as compared to the Narzo 10A and the Realme C12.
A Multiplayer match on COD: Mobile
Call of Duty: Mobile has always been more versatile, supporting a wider range of devices with high FPS gameplay. That’s evident with the Narzo 10A and the Redmi 9 Prime, both of which hits close to the peak FPS mark. But the Redmi 9 Prime is seemingly more stable among the two. Having said that, the game only runs at low graphics.
The Realme C12, interestingly shows it can go up to High FPS under Low graphics, but our recorded metrics show otherwise. The C12 only hits 50 FPS with 95% stability. But the quality of graphics, the character animations, and maps look really watered down, especially for someone who has had a taste of what the graphics can look like in this game, it was hard to play. Someone just starting out with mobile gaming may see it differently, and then, just the fact that the game runs will be good enough.
The good news is, even with smartphones now being offered with watered-down hardware under Rs 10,000, it’s still possible for people to enjoy playing the most popular hard-core games at this budget. But if we have to pick the best for gaming, it would be the Redmi 9 Prime for a better experience among the three, followed by the Narzo 10A and lastly the Realme C12. The Redmi 9 Prime performs slightly better than the other two in our metrics, and the FullHD+ display makes games look far more immersive than the 720p panels on the other two.
The MediaTek G-series is certainly keeping its word of giving you smooth gameplay. But the fine print reads poor graphics. There are incremental gains as you move up the hierarchy, but the overall experience will never breach above the bare basics. That’s the constraint the buyer should keep in mind when picking a smartphone under Rs 10,000 for gaming.