Realme seems to have struck the right chord with Indian audiences, having started its journey under Oppo, and soon breaking away to become an independent company. Since then, Realme has expanded its portfolio beyond phones to include audio and travel accessories as well. The company is also planning to set up exclusive retail stores in the second half of 2019, which shows its commitment to the Indian market.
Now, the company has launched the next model in its main smartphone product line, simply called the Realme 3. The phone is the successor to the Realme 2 (Review) and is priced similarly too. However, in order to stay competitive, the company has given the new model a much-needed boost in CPU power. Add to that a new design language and updated software, and we have an interesting new choice at around the Rs. 10,000 mark. Let's see if the Realme 3 should be your top pick in this price segment.
Realme 3 design and display
The big change with the Realme 3's design compared to its predecessor is the presence of the waterdrop notch, which gives you a higher screen-to-body ratio. Realme is also touting its new ‘unibody' design for the back, which curves all the way to the sides without any visible seams. The back is made of injection moulded plastic rather than glass, but it feels rigid and comfortable to hold.
The Realme 3 is not particularly light at 175g and not slim at 8.3mm, but weight distribution is good and there's ample surface on the sides for a good grip. Fingerprints are a real nightmare. The pre-applied screen guard and glossy back are impossible to keep clean. After a couple of days of usage, we also noticed some minor hairline scuff marks around the edges of the back.
We have the Radiant Blue colour trim, but the Realme 3 is also available in Black and Dynamic Black. The upper three-fourths of the phone is black, while the blue gradient (purple at times, depending on the angle you hold it) is only towards the bottom fourth.
The SIM tray can accommodate two Nano-SIM cards and a mciroSD card, all at once. 4G with Dual VoLTE is also supported. At the bottom, there's a 3.5mm headphone socket, Micro-USB port, and speaker.
The Realme 3 has a single 13-megapixel front-facing camera sitting in the notch, while the earpiece is placed just above it, with the sensors to the right. You get a fairly large 6.2-inch HD+ (720x1520 pixels) display, which also has Gorilla Glass protection, although Realme hasn't specified the version. The chin at the bottom of the phone is noticeably thicker than the ones on Realme's other recent offerings such as the Realme U1 (Review).
The resolution is a little low for this size, considering the competition has moved to full-HD panels in this segment. As a result, images and text don't look their sharpest, but it's not bad enough to be a deal-breaker either. Colours look vivid and brightness is very good, so we had no trouble reading our emails even under direct sunlight.
At the back, the Realme logo is now vertically aligned at the bottom, and up top, we have the two cameras, LED flash, and fingerprint sensor in the middle. The latter works well at authentication, but like past Realme phones, face unlock is just as fast if not quicker, and so that's what we relied on during our daily usage.
Overall, the Realme 3 is a nice visual upgrade over the Realme 2, though we would have liked to see other improvements like a glass back or maybe even a USB Type-C port.
The Realme 3 ships with a silicone case, SIM eject tool, data cable, and 10W charger. You don't get earphones in the box.
Realme 3 specifications and features
The specifications of the Realme 2 felt weird at the time of its launch, considering that the Realme 1 had a better SoC. Thankfully, the company has fixed this with the Realme 3. This new phone is powered by the MediaTek Helio P70 octa-core SoC, which incidentally made its debut in the Realme U1.
There are two version of the Realme 3 — one with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, and the other with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Our review unit is the latter version. The Realme 3 also has single-band Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2, USB-OTG, GPS, and the usual suite of sensors. FM radio is absent.
The software finally gets a much-needed overhaul with ColorOS 6.0. This new Android skin is based on Android 9 Pie, and our unit had the January 2019 security patch. ColorOS hasn't been our favourite custom Android skin, if we're being honest, but the new version fixes quite a few things.
The first thing that grabs your attention is the clean and minimalistic look of the OS. The icons look similar to what we've seen in older version of ColorOS but they are slightly smaller now, and somehow look more refined. The new version of the OS also stays true to some of Android 9 Pie's distinct features, such as the rounded, bubble-like design for menus, and the two-layer navigation system with an app drawer.
To access recent apps, you simply long-swipe up and shift your thumb right or left over the home button to cycle between them. The toggle switches for Wi-Fi, etc in the notification shade are now oversized and easier to access. Pressing either volume button brings up the volume bar right next to it, which looks similar to MIUI 10 on Xiaomi phones.
Google's Digital Wellbeing feature in Android 9 Pie is not present. Another thing that's still missing is Android's battery level graph, which offers a visual representation of your usage over time, rather than just showing you a list of apps that have been used.
Our unit had a bunch of preinstalled apps such as ShareChat, which is a content discovery app, Webnovel, and some social apps. All of these can be uninstalled if not needed. ColorOS's Game Space is present too, and gets new look. 'Riding Mode' has been added to the Smart Driving sub-menu, which when enabled, mutes all notifications except for for incoming calls.
Realme 3 performance, cameras, and battery life
The MediaTek Helio P70 delivers good CPU and GPU performance for its class, which is is reflected in benchmarks. In AnTuTu, we managed to get a score of 1,36,619 points, and we also got 46fps in GFXbench's T-Rex graphics test. Benchmark numbers are generally higher than those of, say, the competing Snapdragon 660 which is found in phones such as the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M2.
The new software and updated hardware make the Realme 3 a very nice phone to live with. We didn't encounter any unnecessary heating when using social and chat apps, which is a good sign. The phone handles multitasking very well and we didn't face any issues here. Despite the glossy back, this phone is surprisingly not too slippery without a case. However, fingerprints and smudges make it look dirty within couple of seconds of using it.
The phone fared well in gaming. We tested two of the most popular titles around — Asphalt 9: Legends and PUBG Mobile — both of which were fun to play. In Asphalt, we managed to get smooth framerates even with the graphics set to the ‘High' preset. PUBG Mobile ran well at the Medium graphics preset, with slight intermittent stutter every now and then. When gaming, the phone did get a little warm but this was nothing out of the ordinary.
The Realme 3 does a good job with media files too. Animated films have good colour saturation and look lively. Blacks tend of crush a bit in dark scenes but overall, this is not bad for a HD+ display.
The single speaker gets loud but sounds fairly average. Its position at the bottom also means it's easy to block it with your palm when holding the phone in landscape mode.
The Realme 3 retains the 13-megapixel and 2-megapixel rear camera setup of the Realme 2 (Review), however the primary sensor has been improved and the lens now has a f/1.8 aperture. The second sensor is only used for depth calculation when shooting in Portrait mode.
The camera app has also undergone a slight overhaul in the new version of ColourOS. Realme is introducing two new shooting modes for the rear camera, called Nightscape and Chroma Boost.
According to Realme, Nightscape uses AI and multi-frame exposures to give you a brighter image in low-light. In practice, this actually delivered good results in most scenarios but it wasn't very effective in extreme low-light situations. The shutter is kept open for a bit longer than the usual 1/10 or 1/15 of a second (the maximum time we recorded was 1/8 of a second) in low light, and at a lower ISO value.
There's also a bit of sharpening applied. You'll need to keep your hand steady for a couple of seconds when taking shots, but the end result is a big improvement compared to shooting in Auto mode, as details are sharper and shadows are lifted, revealing more detail.
The second new addition is Chroma Boost, which can be toggled from within the viewfinder. This is said to boost the dynamic range of an image, especially when shooting a subject against bright light. Colours and brightness did get a nice boost in our test shots. The results didn't always look natural, but the effect was definitely striking.
The quality of photos taken with the primary camera was a bit of a hit or miss when shooting landscapes. Some shots had very good detail, but the Realme 3 struggled with complex textures such as foliage. Macros were sharp and well detailed, with good colours under good light, but again, we had instances when the phone refused to focus correctly on an intended subject, despite us tapping the viewfinder.
HDR is present but colours can look a bit oversaturated. In low light, the camera produced soft and mushy shots, unless we used Nightscape mode, but this only works well if you and your subject stay still.
There's a Portrait mode for both the front and back cameras. Edge detection was handled fairly well for objects with simple geometric shapes and for people, when using the rear camera. However, there were times when it went terribly wrong. The background blur is a little aggressive, and sadly, there's no way to adjust this before or after you've taken the shot.
Edge detection in portrait mode with the front camera wasn't very good either.
The front 13-megapixel sensor has an f/2.0 aperture. It captured detailed selfies under good light but struggled under low light. There's AI beautification which lets you do things such as smoothen your skin, slim your cheekbones, etc. You can let the AI do this automatically or adjust the individual sliders yourself.
The Realme 3 can shoot video at up to 1080p at 30fps. Video quality was good when shot under good light, but there's no stabilisation, so footage is shaky if you move about too much. There's also a slow-motion video mode that captures 720p video at 90fps.
The Realme 3 packs in a 4230mAh battery, which lasted for an entire day on average with our usage, which typically involved an hour of gaming, streaming music over Bluetooth, using social and productivity apps, and taking a few calls in between. Somehow, the Realme 3 didn't fare too well in our video loop test as it only lasted for 9 hours and 52 minutes, which is below average.
There's no fast charging but the 10W charger can top up the battery to about 49 percent in an hour.
The Realme 3 is a fairly good all-round upgrade to the Realme 2 (Review). It has a more modern design, the rear camera gets some interesting new tricks, and the display is bright and vivid. Even though the battery didn't fare too well in our internal test, real-world battery usage was still good.
The biggest improvement to this phone is its processor, which gets a much-needed boost. The cameras, even though improved slightly, can still do a lot better. We also would have liked other conveniences such as a Type-C charging port, a metal or glass enclosure, and a higher resolution display.
The Realme 3's most obvious competitor is the recently launched Redmi Note 7 from Xiaomi. While we're yet to put that phone through the same tests to see how its cameras, battery, and CPU compare to those of the Realme 3, Xiaomi has a strong reputation for delivering features and performance that are tough to match.
For starters, the Redmi Note 7 has a glass back, a full-HD+ display, USB Type-C port, and Qualcomm Quick Charge 4 support at roughly the same price. Those features would seem to put it ahead of the Realme 3, but we'll have a definitive answer after we test both phones.
If you're on an absolute tight budget with no wiggle room, then the 3GB version of the Realme 3 is worth considering. However, do remember that for a Rs. 1,000 more, you can get the Redmi Note 7. The higher-end version of the Realme 3 overlaps with the 3GB version of the Realme U1.
Realme has told Gadgets 360 that there won't be any change in availability of the other Realme models, at least for next few months, but we'd recommend the Realme U1 (Review) which has the same processor but better specs such as a full-HD display, if you're choosing between these two models.
Are the affordable Realme 3 and Samsung Galaxy M30 smartphones worth buying? We discussed these things 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.