Flagship smartphones are getting more and more expensive. In 2014, $750 would have gotten you the best-of-the-best flagship of that generation. Now, you’re looking at almost twice that price for the absolute best realme x3.
It’s increasingly becoming more difficult to justify a $1,000+ purchase for a base variant unless you really need all the features a premium flagship has to offer (and since it’s the base variant, you aren’t really getting them). Luckily, premium flagships aren’t the only phones that exist. There’s a thriving mid-range device market, where you pay anything from $300 to $700 and get a less fancy, but still good, product. We’re here to talk about one such mid-range-arguably-flagship smartphone: the Realme X3 SuperZoom. Retailing at €500 for the top variant, the Realme X3 SuperZoom seems like a pretty great deal for a new smartphone on the surface.
Price isn’t everything, though. How well does the Realme X3 SuperZoom perform? Is the battery life good? How about the cameras? Here’s my review of Realme’s 2020 flagship killer.
Realme X3 SuperZoom: Specifications
|Specifications||Realme X3/X3 SuperZoom|
|Dimensions & Weight||163.8 x 75.8 x 8.9 mm202g|
|Display||6.57-inch dual-hole-punch FHD+ LCD1080 x 2400120Hz, 20:9 aspect ratioGorilla Glass 5|
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 PlusAdreno 640|
|RAM & Storage||8GB + 128GB12GB + 256GB|
|Storage Type||UFS 3.0 + Turbo Write + Host Performance Booster (HPB)|
|Battery||4,200mAh30W Dart 3.0 fast charging|
|Fingerprint Sensor||Side-mounted fingerprint|
|Rear Cameras||64MP Samsung ISOCELL GW1 primary sensor, f/1.88MP 119° wide-angle sensor, f/2.38MP 5x periscopic telephoto, f/3.42MP macro camera, f/2.4|
|Front Cameras||32MP Sony IMX616, f/2.58MP 105° wide-angle sensor, f/2.2|
|Android Version||Realme UI based on Android 10|
About this review: Realme sent us the Realme X3 SuperZoom for this review. This review is after about one month of use. Realme did not have any inputs on this review.
First up, the Realme X3 SuperZoom comes in a fairly normal-looking box, except for the fact that it’s bright yellow. Inside, we’ve got the usual components: a charging brick, a USB Type-C cable, a SIM tool, a clear soft-plastic case, and some documents. There are no included 3.5mm earbuds here, though; the Realme X3 SuperZoom does not have a headphone jack.
Anyway, onto the phone itself. The Realme X3 SuperZoom comes in two color variants: Arctic White and Glacier Blue. I was lucky (sort of) enough to see both colors in person, and they’re both gorgeous. Realme initially sent me the white variant for review, but I swapped it for the blue model because of various hardware issues with the first unit I was sent. The white color isn’t your typical boring plain-white slab. It’s a semi-matte finish, which means it simultaneously avoids attracting fingerprints and has those cool rainbow refraction effects. It’s quite a striking finish, and I’d love to see it on more phones.
Realme X3 SuperZoom in Arctic White and Glacier Blue.
The glacier blue, disappointingly, is a full-glossy finish. While that means it’s more of a fingerprint magnet, it doesn’t mean it looks worse. Just like the white variant, the blue finish has some cool refraction effects, although they’re mostly limited to various shades of blue. It’s still a great look, but my personal favorite is the white one.The white color has lots of fun refracted colors.It’s pretty striking in person, especially in sunlight.More pretty colors.
The blue is fully glossy and very reflective.It’s also a bit of a dust and fingerprint magnet.I wiped it down, it was clean. I took a picture, it was dusty.
Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that the processor on the Realme X3 SuperZoom is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+. This is a 2020 smartphone, so what gives with the year-old processor? Well, it’s a cost-saving measure, and a way to avoid having to add costly 5G components. The Snapdragon 855+ is no slouch, though, and this is a phone packing 12GB of LPDDR4X RAM and 256GB of UFS 3.0 storage for €500, so I think it gets a pass. I can honestly say the older processor doesn’t affect my daily usage whatsoever.
You may have also noticed that the display is LCD and not OLED. This means that there’s no under-display fingerprint scanner. Instead, it’s embedded in the power button on the side, just like on the Galaxy S10e. Personally, I don’t have a strong opinion on either position, but it is a departure from the current norm of packing in-display scanners even in cheaper mid-range smartphones. Back to the screen, I didn’t even notice it was LCD at first. I’ll go into more detail later, but basically, I think the screen looks pretty good.
I also want to take a moment to mention the haptics on the Realme X3 SuperZoom. Unlike the other OPPO smartphones I’ve used, the haptic feedback on this phone is amazing. Vibrations are sharp, with no spin-up or spin-down.
The Realme X3 SuperZoom isn’t exactly a light phone (it’s slightly heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Note10+), but I don’t really mind that as it’s still pretty comfortable to hold. Thanks to the rounded edges and the fairly narrow profile, one-handed use poses no problems for me.
Overall, the Realme X3 SuperZoom leaves a good first impression. It feels like a solid smartphone, and the price you pay for it means you won’t feel cheated.
The Realme X3 SuperZoom comes with Realme UI 1.0 based on Android 10. Don’t be fooled by the name, though. Realme UI is still just a lightly modified ColorOS, with most of the same annoyances and compromises. A while back, Realme had said that their aptly-named Realme UI would be close to AOSP. Flash-forward to now and that’s definitely not the case. I’ve even dug through the ColorOS system code. It seems that “Realme UI” is just ColorOS with different options enabled. All the features and changes present in Realme UI are also present in ColorOS but just disabled.
Here are a couple of examples of what Realme has changed. The most obvious one is the shape of the Quick Settings tiles. Instead of the small squares on ColorOS 7, Realme UI’s are rounded. The other one, which is definitely appreciated, is the ability to dismiss notifications by swiping in either direction. On ColorOS 7, you can select a left or right swipe to dismiss notifications, but not both.
While it’s nice that Realme is trying to make its phones feel at least a little different from OPPO’s, it’s disappointing that we didn’t get the promised near-AOSP software. Maybe it’ll happen next year.
Onto the actual software, well, it’s ColorOS. There’s your regional bloatware, like Opera and Yandex (if you’re in Russia). Since I was sent the Filipino variant, there’s an ORoaming app pre-installed for buying roaming plans when you’re outside of the Philippines.The lock screen is the same as the one on ColorOS. Here’s it showing a notification, featuring XDA Contributor Adam Conway.Here’s that same notification in the notification center. ColorOS 7/Realme UI 1.0 supports setting the number of tiles in the QS header through ADB, which is why I have so many there.The Quick Settings panel itself. No custom row/column count, but 4×3 is fine. The tiles are round instead and blue instead of OPPO’s usual square and teal.The status bar is pretty large, thanks to the camera cutout.
Here we have the Settings homepage. Pretty icons.The default launcher is actually a bit of a pleasant surprise. Usually the launchers that ship with OEM phones are pretty terrible.But this launcher’s UI is surprisingly similar to AOSP’s Launcher3. There’s the bottom-aligned search bar, a swipe-up app drawer, all that stuff.
There’s also this annoying app scanner feature that pops up every time you try to install an app. It doesn’t matter if it’s a debug app or a cloud restore through Google Play. Every single time an app gets installed, this scanner pops up. There’s no built-in way to disable it, either. I spent about 30 minutes looking through Settings before I finally resorted to the disable-user trick to get rid of it. As an app developer, this sort of scanner is incredibly annoying. Huawei does it too on EMUI 9 and 10, and so does Xiaomi, and it results in so much wasted time. For a brand that’s trying to market itself as developer-friendly, this really isn’t very developer-friendly.
If you’re considering buying the Realme X3 SuperZoom, you should be aware that there’s no Always On Display or Ambient Display. Since the display hardware is LCD, the lack of an AOD makes sense. I wish they would have included at least an Ambient Display mode, though.
On the whole, Realme UI has the same features, some of which are great, as well as the same frustrating platform changes as ColorOS. While some things are improved from versus the OPPO ColorOS variant, such as the ability to dismiss notifications in either direction, other things are worse, like the app scanner.
Performance & Battery Life
While the Realme X3 SuperZoom may come with last year’s flagship processor, that doesn’t mean it’s slow by any means. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ is still much more powerful than current mid-range processors like the Snapdragon 765G. The only disadvantages compared to the 765 are (very) slightly worse battery life and a lack of native 5G support. Likewise, the disadvantages compared to the 865 include a lack of native 5G and a slightly weaker CPU and GPU. But for most people, those aren’t really an issue. I think Realme made the right decision here.
In daily usage, performance hasn’t been a problem. Apps open quickly and multitasking is a breeze (thanks, in part, to the huge 12GB of RAM capacity). Animations are almost always smooth, and interactions are almost always instant. Scrolling is also fluid thanks to the phone’s 120Hz display refresh rate. The only time I think I’ve seen the Realme X3 SuperZoom stutter is in Chrome, which occasionally freezes.
We’ve benchmarked and gamed on devices with the Snapdragon 855+, so I won’t go into significant detail here about the chipset’s performance. I did do a few benchmarks to see how the Realme X3 SuperZoom stacks up against the Qualcomm reference devices, though.
First up, in Geekbench 5.0, the overall single-core score of 768 was barely higher than the average overall single-core score of 760 from our Snapdragon 855+ test device (the ASUS ROG Phone II). The Realme X3 SuperZoom’s Geekbench 5.0 multi-core score of 2677 is 183 points below the ASUS ROG Phone II’s average multi-core score of 2840, though. The difference in single-core scores is too small to be worth a consideration, but a breakdown of the multi-core subscores shows that top-tier Snapdragon 855+ devices are faster at integer and floating point calculations.
Next, in AnTuTu, the Realme X3 SuperZoom handily outperformed our comparison Snapdragon 855+ device. With an overall score of 475,816, the Realme X3 SuperZoom outperformed the ROG Phone II by nearly 50k points (which had an overall average score of 425963 across 3 tests). The biggest gains were in CPU, memory, and UX scores, though the GPU score of the ROG Phone II was superior. We can’t discount some of these gains to the difference of Android versions (the ROG Phone II was running Android 9 Pie when these numbers were taken while the Realme X3 SuperZoom is running Android 10). Ultimately, the AnTuTu score doesn’t really mean much for day-to-day performance, though it does show how devices with the same processors can still differ in performance in some areas like memory access speeds, image processing, and data processing.
Lastly, in PCMark’s Work 2.0 test, the Realme X3 SuperZoom scored an overall 11,709 points for performance. PCMark is a great test at quantifying real-world performance thanks to its suite of web browsing, video editing, document editing, photo editing, and data manipulation tests. The Realme’s score in this test outperformed both the ASUS ROG Phone II and the Google Pixel 4, though the latter device is powered by the standard Snapdragon 855 rather than the 855+. A comparison of the subscores reveals that the Realme X3 SuperZoom excelled at the web browsing, writing 2.0, and photo editing 2.0 tests, which spells good news for the phone’s performance in tasks you’re likely to do each day on your phone.
Again, benchmarks aren’t the end-all-be-all of performance. Most flagship (and near-flagship) smartphones these days have the best SoC, RAM, and storage combinations you can get. Sure, how OEMs tweak kernel parameters, what file systems they use, what other optimizations they add, and what they don’t change can all make a difference in performance. It’s why Google and OnePlus are consistently praised for the performance of their devices. Realme hasn’t done anything to wreck the performance of the X3 SuperZoom – it performs exactly how a phone with the Snapdragon 855+, 12GB of LPDDR4X RAM, 256GB of UFS 3 storage, and a 120Hz LCD panel should perform.
Now let’s talk about battery life. At the beginning of this section, I mentioned that the Snapdragon 855+ sacrifices some battery life for better performance versus the 765G. And that’s true, but it’s not much. The Realme X3 SuperZoom’s standby time is great. I can leave it sitting overnight and it’ll drain at most 5% after maybe 12 hours. I’ve averaged around 6 hours of screen-on-time with the phone, though since I can’t properly use the phone on T-Mobile, I can’t confirm how well the battery life fares on a mobile data connection. Screen-on usage at 60Hz is a similar story. After 2+ hours in bright sunlight, browsing Reddit, or using Discord, the battery will drain maybe 10%. Couple that with the insanely fast charging and I find this to be a winning combination.
Like most phones from 2019 and early 2020, the Realme X3 SuperZoom has a lot of cameras. There are four cameras on the back and two on the front. One of the main selling points of the Realme X3 SuperZoom is the telephoto camera, as can be guessed from the name. We’ll talk about that specifically in a bit, but first, here’s a general breakdown of camera quality.
For a €500 phone, the cameras are pretty impressive. Photos retain their detail after being shot (which is something OPPO, and by extension, Realme, hasn’t generally been good at). White balance and exposure are both excellent in full-auto mode. Pictures are also taken plenty quickly. You won’t be waiting half a second for the phone to respond.
Telephoto & “SuperZoom”
The main feature of the Realme X3 SuperZoom, though, is the telephoto lens (it’s right in the name). Realme says this camera can zoom up to 60X, with a native optical zoom of 5X. The camera viewfinder itself has shortcuts for 2X, 5X, and 10X, with up to 60X being available with the classic pinch-zoom gesture. In my testing, photos taken at 2X and 5X zoom levels are pretty great with excellent detail retention, color reproduction, and exposure. Even 10X zoom level photos turn out decently enough in the same metrics for simpler shots. I’ve used 10X to zoom in on a far away sign I couldn’t read before. As for anything above 10X, well, the quality starts to drop off considerably. Zooming past 10X also results in incredibly difficult-to-take shots, since even a vibration from a single notification can jostle the viewfinder.