Review | Realme 3 mid-range smartphone

Launched in the first quarter of 2019, the Realme 3 is barely seven months old. Though Realme themselves have recently released the budget-oriented C2, and the Realme 5, given the generous price drops, is the Realme 3 still worth considering? 

Design and Ergonomics

The Realme 3 is available in four colors: Black, Dynamic Black, Radiant Blue, and Diamond Red. The design is fairly simple, and an evolutionary step-up from the previous Realme C1. The screen is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 3, and the plastic rear has a gradient particle finish.

Good ergonomics overall, with the device feeling sufficiently heavy and high-end. It’s thin enough to carry with ease, and button placement is the same as other Realme devices:

  • Volume Up and Down buttons on the left
  • SIM tray above that, which can house dual SIM’s and a Micro SD card
  • Micro-USB slot, a single speaker, and a 3.5mm audio jack at the bottom
  • On the rear is a fingerprint scanner, which is within reach of the index finger
  • The power button on the right

The fingerprint scanner seemed quite sensitive, activating on touching any skin surface and locking.

The 6.22-inch screen has a resolution of 720 x 1520; so it’s not full HD/1080p. The panel used is an IPS LCD, with deep blacks and decent colors, a big plus considering this is a budget phone. The single speaker can get decently loud, but note that there are no headphones included in the box.

Specs and Performance

The SoC at the heart of the Realme 3 is the Mediatek MT6771 Helio P60, an octa-core CPU coupled with a Mali-G71 MP3 GPU. It’s available in three variants: 3GB/32GB, 3GB/64GB, and 4GB/64GB. The test unit was the latter, which would also be my recommendation given the need for storage space, and the competitive pricing for the hardware.

In everyday use scenarios, the unit remained lag-free and handled multi-tasking competently. Did some minor gaming and it was okay, though there were likely some minor frame drops. Nothing alarming unless you are used to the most fluid gaming experience, in which case more potent hardware would serve you better.

Battery and Charging

The Realme 3 packs a pretty impressive 4230 mAh battery; sadly there is no fast-charging here. Battery life was good, easily lasting a day with moderate use. Connected to just Wi-Fi, it often lasted two days.

Below is the charge matrix, starting from fully drained, or 0%.

Charge Matrix:

  • 15 mins – 13%
  • 30 mins – 25%
  • 60 mins – 48%
  • 90 mins – 72%
  • 120 mins – 91%
  • 156 mins – 100%

Charging from 0 to 100% took a whopping two hours and 36 minutes. The big battery coupled with the slow rate of charge results in a sluggish pace of charging. In contrast, the Realme 3 Pro with its fast-charging took a mere 75 minutes for a full charge.

Software and User Experience

Out of the box, the Realme 3 Pro runs Android 9 Pie, with a planned upgrade to 10.  As always, atop Android is the Color OS 6 UI, which translates to a light, simple to use experience, with niceties like the assistive ball and side tray for favorites. Some Google apps can be uninstalled, which is great for recovering precious storage space. The unit being tested comes with 64GB of internal storage.

On my first attempt at trying to connect it via USB to the PC, I could not access the device. I tried it again after updating to the latest Realme software, and still no luck. Finally needed to turn off the USB Debugging in Developer Mode, which finally made the device appear on My Computer. 

During my use, I also experienced a major security flaw during the initial power-up of the device, wherein face-unlock and the fingerprint scanner allowed for anyone to unlock the device. This flaw lasted for some time until the device was fully up and running, post which only the registered user could gain access. Not sure if this has been fixed with a subsequent software update. 

Camera and Optics

The optical hardware includes a 13-megapixel camera at the rear, with a 2-megapixel depth sensor, and a 13-megapixel front camera for selfies. We took it for a spin in Vietnam, and below are the results:

With good lighting, especially outdoors, the photos are quite decent, with nice colors and acceptable detail. Night shots are difficult, needing a very steady hand and no moving subjects to get a good result. Multiple tries are likely required too. Even with moderate indoor lighting, blurry images are common due to subject movement. The auto-focus wasn’t always correct. 

Capturing accurate shadows and highlights are the camera’s weakness, with detail on light sources like say a big chandelier usually being weak. Edge detection for Portrait Mode or Bokeh effects is often not very accurate. Video results were also lackluster, with loss of focus.

For those who regularly take Panorama shots, or use the Timer Mode, those options are deeper in the camera software menu and need a few additional clicks. 

In keeping with lower-end Realme devices like the C1, the camera is just about adequate but lags behind what midrange devices carry nowadays, including the Realme 3 Pro, which is quite a bit stronger.

That said, in keeping with Oppo’s selfie capability prowess, the front camera and resulting shots are pretty good. Selfies are sharp and clear, and with beauty mode resulting in some great selfies. Even the front cam allows for Portrait Mode and Bokeh Effects but isn’t always accurate with depth sensing and object edge detection. 

Value and Competition

At P6,490, the Realme 3 is quite budget-friendly, especially given that it’s a low-end midrange phone, and not a budget phone. It is just about P2,000 more than their new C2 budget offering. With more RAM and slightly better specs overall, for the minimal bump-up in price, it offers good hardware.

Conclusion

If you’re in the market for a budget phone and need a decent all-rounder, you can’t go wrong with the Realme 3. With the price drops, it makes the already cheap device even cheaper, and great value for everyday use. Needless to say, you need to have modest camera expectations, but that aside with Android 9, and a big 4230 mAh battery, consider yourself well set with the Realme 3.

Model: RMX1821

Price: P6,490

Verdict: A value proposition like no other!

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