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Realme X3 SuperZoom review: a winning formula

Realme made its debut in India’s flagship segment last year with the Realme X2 Pro (review), which brought in features like a Snapdragon 855+ processor, 50W fast charging and a 90Hz display at an affordable price. It followed with a more premium phone, the Realme X50 Pro (review), which features the Snapdragon 865 SoC, 5G support and 65W fast charging as its highlights.

While Realme’s best-selling phones have been in the budget and mid-range segments, the brand is now looking to diversify its flagship portfolio with more affordable options. Enter the Realme X3 and X3 SuperZoom. The new phones bring in upgrades in the cameras and display, but compromise on other aspects to keep the price down. I’ve been reviewing the Realme X3 SuperZoom over the last week, which as the name suggests, features a periscope-style zoom lens. Read on to find out if this affordable flagship is worth the asking price.

Design and display

Realme has used the same vertical strip camera design on far too many of its phones, and unfortunately, it didn’t stop with the X3 SuperZoom. The brand really needs to rethink the camera module, or at least use different designs for its flagships, which could easily be mistaken for one of its mid-range phones from the rear.

The boring camera module aside, the Realme X3 SuperZoom is quite an attractive phone. It comes in a choice of Arctic White and Glacier Blue colours, and my unit was the former. Just like the Realme X50 Pro, the X3 SuperZoom’s glass back panel features a soothing matte finish that feels smooth to the touch, but not too slippery. There’s a nice ripple like gradient effect below the glass too. Thanks to the pale colour, fingerprints and smudges aren’t really noticeable on this variant. The frame looks like metal, but is actually plastic. It can easily pass off as metal though, and the chamfered edges give it a premium feel.

There’s a fingerprint sensor integrated into the power button, but it isn’t as accurate as I would have liked. It worked well only with the thumb on my right hand, with other fingerprints taking a couple of tries to unlock. The bottom edge of the phone houses the USB Type-C port and a mono speaker. Unfortunately, there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack, which seems like an unnecessary omission.

While the X3 SuperZoom doesn’t feature an IP rating, Realme says it is splash resistant, which means it should survive accidental spills. The splash resistance also extends to the ports for additional protection.

The display measures 6.6-inches and features full HD+ resolution,  You also get a 120Hz refresh rate, which is a first for this price segment. The high refresh rate makes scrolling and swiping through the interface and apps very snappy, and of course, comes in handy when you’re playing compatible games. There’s an option in settings to change the refresh rate to 60Hz if you want to conserve battery life, or let the phone automatically select the best refresh rate based on which app you’re using.

Unfortunately, Realme has used an LCD panel on the X3 series instead of AMOLED to keep the prices down. It’s still a great display – it gets bright and colours are punchy, but lacks the richness and deep blacks of an AMOLED screen. It features a tall 20:9 aspect ratio and gets a layer of Gorilla Glass 5 for protection. There’s also a screen protector pre-applied on the phone, which is a useful addition.

The screen features an oval shaped dual punch-hole cutout for the two selfie cameras on the front. The cutout is actually pretty unobtrusive, and I didn’t notice it after using the phone for a couple of days. There’s a neat lighting effect that surrounds the module when you’re using face unlock or switch to the selfie camera.

Cameras

The Realme X3 SuperZoom’s claim to fame is its camera setup. The primary camera is a 64MP Samsung GW1 sensor with f/1.8 aperture, which takes pixel-binned 16MP photos by default. Then there’s an 8MP ultra-wide f/2.3 camera, 8MP f/3.4 periscope style lens with OIS and lastly, a 2MP f/2.4 macro camera. The periscope telephoto lens supports 5x optical zoom and up to 60x hybrid zoom by working in tandem with the primary and wide-angle cameras.

The primary 64MP camera takes good photos, but can be inconsistent. I noticed this particularly when shooting against a green background, where the camera tends to oversaturate colours and the white balance leans towards the warmer side. Apart from this, the primary camera is a versatile everyday shooter, taking photos with plenty of detail, natural looking colours and good dynamic range. It does an admirable job with close ups, creating a nice depth of field effect.

The camera surprisingly holds up well in dim indoor lighting too, without compromising on colours and noise. For outdoor night shots, there’s an integrated night mode that considerably improves sharpness, removes light flares and reduces noise, without making the image seem artificially brightened.

The ultra-wide camera doesn’t fare so well, with the edges of the images looking fuzzy. It also tends to artifically oversaturate colours, particularly the blue in the sky. The macro camera can get pretty close to a subject, but the sensor’s low resolution means that images end up looking pixelated.

As for the periscope lens, it can take good shots at 5x optical zoom, without sacrificing detail in the process. Photos with up to 10x zoom are usable, but anything beyond that isn’t worth it. As expected, the 60x hybrid zoom feature is just a marketing gimmick. It’s almost impossible to focus on anything by handholding the camera at that zoom level, and the resulting image is very grainy.

The X3 SuperZoom also has a ‘Starry mode’ to help you capture stars and constellations. The mode is supported both on the 64MP primary camera and the periscope lens, and needless to say, you’ll need to use a tripod for this one. Unfortunately, you need clear skies to test the starry night mode, and the weather in Bangalore didn’t hold up the past week. I am keen to try this mode though, and will update this review when I do.

The primary selfie camera is a 32MP Sony IMX 616 sensor, accompanied by an 8MP ultra-wide lens. The selfie cameras feature a ton of beautification effects which I turned off. Despite the impressive specs, the selfie camera artificially softens skin, and doesn’t fare well in dim lighting. The portrait mode looks artificial, with the bokeh effect even blurring hair.

Software

The Realme X3 SuperZoom runs Realme UI based on Android 10. Right out of the box, there was an update to enable the Android security patch for May, as well as optimize the cameras and enable the Starry mode. This was followed by another update a couple of days ago with the June security patch, and other fixes and optimizations. Realme says it will continue to provide updates for two years, and judging by the brand’s track record, you can definitely expect an upgrade to Android 11.

The X3 SuperZoom uses the default Android apps for the dialer and messages. There are several of Realme’s own apps on the device, but apart from the browser, I didn’t get any annoying notifications. There are about 8 third party apps on the phone, but all of these can be installed if you want.

As for the interface, you get an app drawer, system-wide dark mode, Google’s Digital Wellbeing controls and several UI customization options. The magazine-style lockscreen is enabled by default, which displays dynamic wallpapers that are refreshed over mobile data or Wi-Fi. This can also be turned off from settings.

Performance

The Realme X3 SuperZoom is powered by the Snapdragon 855+ chipset instead of the latest Snapdragon 865, but in day to day usage, you won’t find a major difference in performance. The Snapdragon 855+ is still a powerful and relevant chipset, which is found on phones like OnePlus 7T. The phone is being offered in two variants – 8GB + 128GB and 12GB + 256GB, both with LPDDR4 RAM and UFS 3.0 storage. I had the top-end variant for review, which offers about 234GB out of the box.

Apps open quickly, and multi-tasking is effortless too. There weren’t any lags or freezes during my usage, and the phone played games like PUBG without any hiccups. By default, PUBG runs on HD graphics and a high frame rate. Gameplay is smooth without any visible frame drops. The phone stayed cool with 30 minutes of gameplay, which is pretty impressive.

The battery is a 4,200mAh unit, which is large enough to last an entire day if you’re a heavy user. I got over 6 hours of screen on time over a day and a half of use. The X3 SuperZoom comes with support for 30W Dart charging, and in my tests, the phone charged from 0 to 100 percent in just about an hour, which is very impressive considering its huge battery.

The competition

The Realme X3 SuperZoom is priced at Rs 27,999 for the 8GB + 128GB variant, and Rs 32,999 for the top-end 12GB + 256GB option. That’s pretty affordable, both for the specs as well as the overall performance. The only other phone that offers a 120Hz refresh rate in the sub-Rs 30k price band is the POCO X2 (first impressions), but it comes with the mid-range Snapdragon 730G chipset.

As for the competition, the most obvious device is the OnePlus 7T (review). While it actually falls behind compared to the Realme X3 SuperZoom in terms of specs (90Hz display, triple cameras, 8GB RAM), it’s a reliable flagship and currently one of the best buys under Rs 35,000. The X3 SuperZoom has the price advantage as well, but OnePlus is a more trusted brand in the premium segment.

Realme’s own X2 Pro is also in contention, with the same Snapdragon 855+ processor, a super AMOLED display and 50W fast charging. It doesn’t really make sense for Realme to have the X3 SuperZoom on sale alongside the X2 Pro, which offers better features at a marginally higher price.

Bottomline

Realme’s made some smart choices with the X3 SuperZoom. By opting for the Snapdragon 855+, it’s managed to cut down on costs significantly. It has good battery life, excellent performance and a 120Hz display, the last being a feature you won’t find at this price. The X3 SuperZoom is far from perfect though – the cameras can be inconsistent, there’s no headphone jack and the fingerprint sensor isn’t the best. Nevertheless, it offers good value for its asking price. And if you still can’t afford it, you can always consider the Realme X3, which offers nearly the same features (except for the cameras and variants) for a sub-Rs 25,000 price.

Pricebaba’s rating: 8 / 10

What works:

  • Smooth performance
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Splash resistance
  • 120Hz display

What doesn’t:

  • Cameras can be inconsistent
  • No 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Fingerprint sensor isn’t very accurate
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Ketaki Bhojnagarwala

Ketaki has over 10 years experience writing on tech, having worked at the Hindu Business Line and 91mobiles earlier. When she's not editing copies or reviewing the latest gadgets, she spends her time binge-watching Netflix and reading fantasy fiction.