Realme introduced its third-generation Realme 3 smartphone about a month ago in a bid to take on Xiaomi's Redmi Note 7. At the launch event, the company also teased the imminent arrival of a performance-oriented version of the phone, called the Realme 3 Pro. Unsurprisingly, this new model is pitted against the Redmi Note 7 Pro. Xiaomi has long been dominating the mainstream smartphone segment in India, which makes it the biggest competitor to Realme.
The Realme 3 Pro has some pretty big shoes to fill, considering its predecessor, the Realme 2 Pro was and continues to be a solid option in its price segment. Going up against the Redmi Note 7 Pro won't be a cakewalk either, as Xiaomi has already set the bar pretty high with this phone by offering a 48-megapixel rear camera, glass body, and powerful internals starting at just Rs. 14,000.
The Realme 3 Pro does have a few aces up its sleeve, and it's now time to find out if can triumph over its biggest rival. Let's get started.
Realme 3 Pro design
At first glance, one could mistake the new Realme 3 Pro for the Realme 2 Pro as they both share a similar design as far as the display and button layout are concerned. Upon closer inspection though, certain differences become apparent. The most obvious one is the curved back panel, which tapers towards the sides, blending in with the phone's polycarbonate frame.
The back panel on the Realme 3 Pro has slightly curved sides, which blends with the phone's side frame. The back panel is still made from injection-moulded plastic, but we do get some new colours along with a subtle pattern that's said to be inspired by a racetrack. The colour option we have for review is Nitro Blue, which has a dual-tone blue and purple finish, but you can also buy this phone in a more sober Carbon Grey, or another gradient finish called Lightning Purple.
The Realme 3 Pro isn't too wide, which makes it comfortable to grip, but it is quite tall, so reaching the notification shade is usually a two-handed affair. At 172g, it doesn't feel too heavy, and at 8.3mm in thickness, it's easy to carry around in a pocket.
The buttons are thoughtfully placed so they lined up with our fingers nicely, and there's a 3.5mm headphone socket, Micro-USB port, and a single speaker placed at the bottom. The Realme 3 Pro has slots for two Nano-SIM cards and a microSD card all at once, so there's no need to sacrifice a second SIM if you need to expand the storage.
The 6.3-inch display has fairly slim bezels on all sides, except for the comparatively fat chin at the bottom. Realme uses an IPS panel here with a full-HD+ (1080x2340) resolution and Gorilla Glass 5. The display produces vivid colours, has good viewing angles, and sufficient brightness for legibility under sunlight. Just like the Realme 2 Pro, there's a notch on the top which houses the front camera, while the earpiece sits just above it. You also get a screen guard pre-applied.
At the back, the Realme 3 Pro has a vertically stacked dual-camera module and a capacitive fingerprint sensor. The camera module does protrude slightly, but thankfully we didn't notice any of the chrome lining chipping off during our review. We deliberately used the phone without the bundled plastic case to see how the body would hold up against the wear and tear of everyday use. In over a week, it held up well but we did notice mild scuff marks along one of the bottom corners of the phone.
The fingerprint sensor works well and there's face recognition too, which works fast just like on most other Realme devices. You don't get headphones in the box, but the Realme 3 Pro does ship with a fast charger, which is something Xiaomi still refuses to include with its Redmi offerings. This phone supports Oppo's VOOC 3.0 fast charging standard (20W) which is handy especially when you have a big 4045mAh battery.
Realme 3 Pro specifications and software
Realme's theme for the 3 Pro is ‘speed', and the company has been super aggressive with its choice of SoC. The is the first phone in this price segment to sport the Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 SoC. In terms of brute strength, the Snapdragon 675 in the Redmi Note 7 Pro still has slightly superior CPU power, but the 710 has an advantage with its better integrated graphics capabilities and its more power-efficient 10nm fabrication. In theory, it should allow for better battery life when using heavy apps such as the camera and when gaming.
Realme is offering two variants of the phone. You get 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage with the base variant and 6GB of RAM with 128GB of storage at the top-end, which is the variant we're reviewing. While the amount of storage you get should be plenty for most, you have the option of expanding it by up to 256GB by using a microSD card. The phone also supports dual 4G VoLTE, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5, FM radio, USB-OTG, GPS, and the standard suite of sensors.
The Realme 3 Pro runs on ColorOS 6, which is based on Android 9 Pie. It even comes with the March 2019 Android security patch. ColorOS 6 has a new look, and we saw it recently when we tested the Realme 3. You can change the navigation keys to a Google Pixel 3-style swipable button, or get rid of them altogether in favour of gestures.
A quick swipe up from the home screen lets you access your app drawer, and like previous iterations of ColorOS, you get plenty of motion and screen gestures to play around with. Realme continues to preinstall quite a few third-party apps such as a Webnovel, NewsPoint, ShareChat, etc, but all of them can in uninstalled if needed.
Realme Share is the company's answer to Apple's AirDrop. It lets you quickly share files between compatible Realme devices. You'll see this option when you try and share any file from the gallery. We tried it between the Realme 3 Pro and the Realme 3, and it worked well.
Realme 3 Pro performance, cameras, and battery life
We used the Realme 3 Profor a little over a week, and found general performance to be solid. The interface is speedy, and multitasking is handled well. Realme did point out that the firmware (RMX1851EX_11_A.1.0) on our review unit was still a pre-release version, and that retail units will have updated software with a few fixes and features added.
One of the promised fixes is Widevine L1 DRM certification (our unit currently only has L3 certification) which will allow you to stream videos from apps such as Netflix, etc, at resolutions higher than HD. We were also promised a 960fps slow-motion video recording mode (which we later received via an update) and improved bokeh in the camera app in the final firmware.
Media playback is handled well, and videos are rendered with punchy colours. Black levels are acceptable. The single speaker gets loud enough for media playback although we would have liked a second speaker for a proper stereo effect. The area to either side of the notch is generally hidden when watching videos but you can force apps to fill up all available space from within the Settings. Being a ‘Pro' model, we were expecting Realme to go with USB Type-C, but sadly we're still stuck with Micro-USB port.
Heavy games run just fine too. PUBG Mobile defaulted to the High graphics preset and gameplay was smooth without any stuttering or lag. Other titles such as F1 Mobile and Asphalt 9: Legends also ran smoothly. The phone doesn't heat too much even after prolonged sessions, which is nice.
The Realme 3 Pro might lack the large sensor of the Redmi Note 7 Pro but it still packs in a decently sized 16-megapixel Sony IMX519 sensor with an f/1.7 aperture. This is the same sensor used in some premium phones such as the OnePlus 6T (Review). There's also a secondary 5-megapixel depth sensor for the phone's Portrait mode.
The Realme 3 Pro captured very good details in landscape shots taken in daylight. Colours were slightly boosted, but this gives pictures a bit more ‘pop' especially when shooting in overcast conditions. We found the sharpness to be lacking a bit, even in some portions of a subject that was in focus, but this is only noticeable if you zoom in all the way. Macros were sharp and well detailed too, and the phone's AI scene recognition was quick to recognise most common objects such as flowers.
In low light, the camera reduces its shutter speed considerably, all the way down to 1/10th of a second at times, due to which it's not easy to capture moving subjects such as pets. When your subject does stay still though, details are good. Landscapes on the other hand didn't look all that great when shooting in Auto mode. In very low light, focus was generally soft too.
However, the phone's Nightscape mode comes in handy here. It takes a second or two longer than usual to capture your shot, but the end result is a sharper image with much better detail. Zooming in still reveals slightly blurry edges and washed-out textures, but as long as you're not cropping your image too much, the images are generally very usable. The depth sensor does a very good job with edge detection, and even in low light, we got a very pleasing bokeh effect.
The Realme 3 Pro has a 25-megapixel selfie camera with an f/2.0 aperture. Under good light, we managed to get some good shots, and HDR works well too if you're shooting against the light. However, in low light, images generally looked flat and a bit grainy. The phone does a pretty poor job applying bokeh effects for selfies, making them come across as artificial.
The Realme 3 Pro can shoot video at up to 4K resolution but there's no stabilisation. In daylight, image quality is good, with decent colour reproduction. At night, the quality drops a bit but noise is still handled well. At 1080p resolution though, video is stabilised. The camera app has a simple design and is easy to use. The additional shooting modes that are available include Timelapse, Expert, Pano and Slo-mo. The phone also has a Chroma Boost mode, which bumps up the colours and brightness when shooting a backlit subject.
The Realme 3 Pro received another firmware update just was we were wrapping up the review. There wasn't any changelog but the camera app did get the 960fps shooting mode. When you switch to Slow-mo from within the camera app, you can now choose between 120fps or 960fps. The former is shot at 1080p resolution while the latter is captured at 720p resolution.
However, videos shot at 960fps don't scale to fit the screen when played back, even in landscape mode, leaving you with black bars on all sides of the video. You'll also have to time your shots well as there's no auto-capture feature and a few seconds worth of footage is stretched to a 10 second clip. Overall, quality is decent when shot under ample light.
Battery life is solid. The 4045mAh battery lasted for 14 hours and 13 minutes in our HD video loop test, which is very good. With normal usage, which typically involved a bit of gaming, watching videos, using chat apps and surfing the Web, we easily managed to go beyond a full day on one charge. In fact, even gaming or using the camera didn't make a big dent in battery life, which was good to see.
The VOOC fast charger can top up the battery from zero all the way to 90 percent in about an hour, which is impressive. One thing worth noting is that VOOC charging requires the bundled Micro-USB cable, and regular ones won't work.
The Realme 3 Pro is a good iterative update over the Realme 2 Pro (Review), and for a similar launch price as the last model, you get a bigger battery, slightly improved cameras, new colour options, and a more efficient SoC. Existing owners of the Realme 2 Pro shouldn't feel any need to upgrade, as the gains are not that significant.
While the improvements we saw are welcome, Realme could have done a bit more to truly crush the Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review). We would have liked to see a USB Type-C port, a glass back, and maybe even an AMOLED display. Low-light camera performance for both the front and rear cameras could have been better too.
If you're looking for a smartphone that's great for gaming for less than Rs. 20,000 then the Realme 3 Pro is a good place to start. You also get a good set of cameras, solid battery life, and a feature-packed OS, making it a good option to consider. In some respects, the Realme 3 Pro is better than the Redmi Note 7 Pro as the UI isn't spammy and there isn't any heating issues. On the other hand, the Redmi Note 7 Pro does feel a lot more premium thanks to the glass back.
We're in the process of doing a detailed comparison of both the phones, so stay tuned for that as well, if you want help deciding between the two smartphones.
Realme 3 Pro vs Redmi Note 7 Pro: Which one is the winner? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.