There is a lot of different Minecraft terminology that can be confusing for newcomers, Minecraft Realms is definitely on the list. But what is a Minecraft Realm, and should you purchase one?
A realm in its core is nothing more than a multiplayer server, it's where you connect to be able to play with other players, so it's very similar to your regular Minecraft server hosted on your computer, or a free managed server.
Although Minecraft Realms and regular servers can be similar, there are differences between them, limitations and complexity being the biggest ones.
Realms are limited
When compared to hosting a server on your own, realms are more limited to what you're able to achieve, a regular server with software like Paper/Bukkit for example can handle plugins and give you total freedom on the configuration, realms are more basic in this aspect, giving a managed and restricted server administration.
- The maximum amount of players
- No mods or plugins allowed
- No configuration
- Minigames and such aren't possible
The ability to support plugins is a big deal for servers because it allows you to introduce the quality of life features, anti-cheating, gameplay changes, admin commands, and so on. Administration commands are vital if your server has a lot of players.
These limitations have a weaker impact if you play with a few friends, and in this situation, Minecraft Realms can be a quick way to set up a server without any trouble.
Is a realm cheaper?
Not really! As of this writing, the subscription for a realm is USD 7.99 per month, while you can make a server run for around $5 with other hosts, for example, DigitalOcean has a droplet for $5, and while it is a machine with 1GB RAM it already will allow you to handle your configuration and try to manage the server in your hands.
Amazon AWS also has something called Lightsail and they even have a tutorial on how to set a Minecraft server on it, the monthly price for Lightsail is $3,50, which is around 56% cheaper than a Minecraft Realm!
For reference, the $3,50 machine has only 512MB RAM, and their next plan has 1GB RAM for $5, which is the same price as the DigitalOcean one.
If you're going for the server route, starting with 512MB or 1GB RAM can be good, and then you increase it along with the demand if your server starts to slow down.
Is a Minecraft Realm better for the Bedrock Edition?
The Bedrock Edition doesn't have server software like Paper/Bukkit, and it appears that there is no plan for that to happen, as it is related on Bukkit Forums that a complete server rewrite would need to be done to support it.
For the Bedrock Edition, the ease of use of Minecraft Realms makes it more appealing than a dedicated server, although one can become required depending on the number of players.
Sometimes less is more
Realms can look inferior to the Java Edition servers, but the truth is that it all depends on your needs, the quick server creation and support that you get from Realms is definitely of big value and shouldn't be ignored.
If you don't have experience with servers, consider that it will take some time to learn how it works, if you are hosting on your computer it can also give you some trouble as some Internet Service Providers around the world don't like when users open router ports.
Still... don't be afraid of running your server, it can be a fun experience although you need the time for it, and if you have a Minecraft Realm and all your friends are have fun, don't feel forced to change to a server, unless your realm is restricting you on something you need.