Realme has made a concerted effort in the past 12 months to bring some of its more impressive devices to Australia. With the success they have had overseas it is no surprise that their affordable range of entry and mid-level smartphones are making a splash here in Australia.
Their latest smartphone to land Down-under is the photography-centric smartphone, the X3 SuperZoom. It was only announced that it was coming here this morning, with availability this Thursday, however we have been having a look at it for the past week or so to see just how this phone stacks up.
It was just a couple of months ago that we took a look at the realme 6, a phone that sat in the cheaper section of the mid-range at $469. The X3 Superzoom arrives with better specs and a better quality build and sits at the higher end of the mid-range at $699 and $799 depending on the version you opt for.
So what is a mid-range flagship?
The X3 Superzoom is designed to be a “flagship” mid-range phone that caters to not just the snap-happy but also those who want some high end specs for a mid-level price. By flagship let’s call it realme’s best phone in their fleet but its specs (and price) place it at the upper end of the mid-range.
The design itself is very solid in the hand with the curvature sitting nicely in the hand. The most striking feature when looking at the phone is the colour. We had the Arctic White version and boy is it amazing — it’s a matte white finish with a mother of pearl glow to it and is impossible to leave a fingerprint on. We can only imagine what the Glacier Blue looks like but given the colours of the other realme devices we have tried it will be gorgeous. Our thoughts though are: go the white — it’s an amazing colour.
The rear camera module does stick out a bit but let’s face it, which smartphone with decent lenses doesn’t these days? At the top of the module is the periscope lens, easily noticeable with its square shape. Turn the phone over and you can see a dual front-facing camera.
Last year’s ultra-premium hardware in this year’s mid-range?
Inside is some decent specs. Although not a 2020 chipset the Snapdragon 855+ is no slouch and in a mid-range smartphone it compares very favourably to the 6- and 7- series Snapdragons we are seeing in the better mid-range devices.
The SD855+ is paired with either 8GB RAM and 128GB storage or 12GB RAM and 256GB of storage with a difference of $100 between the two levels. Our review device arrived with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage and sped through every task we asked of it. There were no slow downs with the usual very small amount of time for redrawing of the third party homes screen occurring — something we have seen in some premium flagships this year already.
Gaming was fast and smooth with the only limitation being my slow reflexes. I was able to play a Galaga-type game, driving games and FPS games without any issues. The Snapdragon 855+ showed its impressive gaming chops in other flagship devices late last year (most notably the OnePlus 7T) so it is no surprise that 6 months later it is still up to scratch.
As for viewing the games and apps on the smartphone it was a bit of a disappointment — but then coming from the Samsung S20 Ultra, followed by the OnePlus 8 Pro and the OPPO Find X2 Pro that is no surprise. The 6.6-inch 1080P display is not an AMOLED display and instead is an LCD display although it does offer 120Hz refresh rate support — which of course I chose as default!
The display was smooth and although not up to par with the devices mentioned above was still decent — this is a mid-range device, something’s got to give if it’s to make it into the mid-range. I would have preferred a 2K display but that would bump that price up substantially.
Once again realme have opted for a fingerprint sensor within the power button which is their only option with an LCD display unless they stick it on the rear (at this stage) but that now seems resigned to entry-level devices. Once again the sensor was surprisingly fast although it does result in many accidental wakes and unlocks due to its location. It was also relatively reliable (ie. consistent) but I still think the in-display fingerprint sensors seen in OPPO and OnePlus smartphones are much more accurate.
Realme has included its facial recognition again and, just like their sister companies OPPO and OnePlus, it is super fast and super accurate. Add in a lift to wake and the ability to go past the lock screen and into the OS without touching the lockscreen upon a successful facial recognition it was easy to unlock any and every time — possibly too easy.
The minor things that you sometimes see in the mid-range but expect in premium flagships are also present, including dual SIM support, Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n/a/ac, all the usual GPS antennae and some superfast charging.
realme UI is still basically just ColorOS
realme UI 1.0 that is on this device is/was based on OPPO’s ColorOS 7. While the new UI from realme which they plan to use to distinguish themselves from their previous parent and now sister company OPPO will hopefully in time be better, at the moment it is extremely similar.
All of the best features of ColorOS are included in realme UI but unfortunately most of the quirks of ColorOS are included as well. ColorOS has improved dramatically with versions 7.1 and 7.2 so hopefully realme can roll out the same changes to their UI soon.
We reviewed the realme 6 a couple of months ago and the UI looks the same as it did then with many of the same issues and the same features. If you want more information go and check it out. There are some improvements though with many of the basic setup bugs removed. This time realme have also thrown much better specs at the UI and it shows in its operation. The transitions are faster and smoother.
We did not have any issues setting up work emails/profiles this time (they said last time it was a known bug and were fixing it — that has obviously been fixed now). The UI is a lot cleaner now with only a single placement for the fingerprint settings and the setup of the phone is more streamlined as well giving you the option to go with either the OPPO/realme Clone Phone (yes they are interchangeable it seems) or the more traditional Android restore/transfer options. All in all it was pleasant but not blow-me-away awesome — and certainly not offensive.
Does the camera-centric phone live up to its lofty goals?
Every manufacturer likes to market their phones as camera-centric because that is the bulk of what people do with their phone these days (aside from the usual social media nonsense — although that usually involves a lot of camera use too). So does the realme X3 SuperZoom pass the test when it comes to a decent camera. With it positioned at the upper echelon of the mid-range field it has some decent smartphones to match when it comes to camera abilities.
We put the X3 SuperZoom to the test in a variety of conditions, although most photos were taking during the day, some were at low light and some of a fast moving creature.
The dual lens selfie camera system performed quite well as you can see below. I’m not one to take a heap of selfies but the dual lenses allowed for decent bokeh effect without the requirement of any overly complicated AI calculations such as those the Pixel uses.
With Google umming and ahhing over the release of the Pixel 4a there is a big hole in the mid-range with everyone looking for a standout. A standout you would expect to have an amazing camera, high end specs, great display and software that is smooth and devoid of bugs and idiosyncrasies. Unfortunately that is asking a bit much because phones such as this creep into the premium range.
The best you could hope for is a phone with last year’s premium specs with a decent camera and anything else is a bonus. The realme X3 SuperZoom is certainly a contender for the standout of the mid-range — it’s camera is definitely good, the hardware is really good but it is let down by having an LCD display and software with quirks. In saying that though it is still one of the best mid-range devices I have come across.
There are very few corners cut for it to make the mid-range, with basically the display being the only one. The display is still good, don’t get me wrong and it does support a high refresh rate but it lacks the vibrancy of an AMOLED display. By itself though it is difficult to discern the differences though and for that reason I can recommend it.
I am unsure if the extra 4GB of RAM is required but if I was to buy it I would definitely look at the 12GB RAM model just for piece of mind. The software is known for being resource hungry — they have thrown a great chipset at it so why not give it the best chance to be great by getting the extra RAM. At $799 from JB Hi-Fi it is still nothing to sneeze at. The 8GB/128GB version will set you back $699 from the realme e-store, Officeworks, Bing Lee, Make it Mine, mobileciti, 5GWORLD, Essential Appliance Rentals, Amazon, Kogan, eBay and Catch.com.
I hear many people buy last year’s flagships and there is a good reason to do this– to save a lot of money and yet you still get a decent phone. This phone is basically that — last year’s premium flagship. Is it the best mid-range device around? Unlikely but it is certainly a contender.