Realme X3 SuperZoom review: Zooming into contention
Realme’s been doing a bang-up job at keeping pace with the competition in the budget segment, turning out crowd favorites like the Realme 5/6 Series and the Realme XT. With the X3 SuperZoom, Realme has moved its sights higher into the segment that OnePlus once dominated but has since vacated to make way for its premium flagship ambitions. This is a well thought through device, one that opts for a top-shelf 4G chip from last year but amps up its firepower with a snappy 120Hz high refresh rate display and a 5x-optical-60x-hybrid zoom periscope-style camera that’s so far been seen only on flagships thrice its price. Is this a winner in the ‘sub-OnePlus’ segment, or are there compromises made that take the shine off? Let’s find out.
Let’s get to the reason why this phone generated quite the flurry at launch – the SuperZoom bit – which is also the key difference between this and the regular X3 model. You get an 8MP periscope-style camera with a claimed 5x optical zoom, alongside the regular portfolio of a 64MP primary Samsung GW1 sensor, an 8MP wide-angle and a 2MP macro. Love selfies? There are two cameras – a 32MP primary and an 8MP wide-angle – just for you.
Pushing the zoom dial past the familiar 2x-3x territories, the X3 SuperZoom does really well, particularly when you realize the other phones it compares against for zoom capabilities are the Samsung S20 Ultra or the Oppo Find X2 Pro – one many likely can’t afford and the other one simply can’t buy in India. At 5x zoom, the quality is impressive, and it holds its own all the way up to 30x, managing to produce a clean image in good light. Colors are vibrant and images, particularly from the 64MP sensor are packed with detail. Low light images are noisy and muddy…and inconsistent, though you can use one of the night shooting modes to improve results – Pro Nightscape, Starry (for starry nightscapes) or Tripod (propped up against an object or on a tripod). Selfies are shot at the full 32MP resolution, but the results are quite…average.
Possibly the most understated bit about the X3 SuperZoom is its looks. The Arctic White variant I tested had this subtle gradient which comes alive in the right light, and the soft matte frosted finish coupled with the curved edges make the phone feel great in the hand and comfortable to use. The side-mounted fingerprint sensor works well to quickly unlock the device, but the plastic mid-frame running between the glass front and back is about the only sign of cost-cutting. No fancy aluminum or steel mid-frame, and no official IP-rated water resistance, though the phone has enough ingress protection to survive being caught outside in a light shower.
Under the hood, the X3 SuperZoom packs in a solid set of internals, from last year’s top-shelf Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ to 12GB of memory and 256GB of fast UFS 3.0 storage. The Snapdragon 855+ is a competent chip that was used in the best flagships last year, and choosing this platform allows Realme to keep the price in check without a big hit on performance. Its primary competition is the OnePlus 7T, which uses the same chip, but the fact that Realme is using a chip from last year in a phone launched in 2020 may concern some spec nerds. To be fair, if you don’t need 8K video recording or 5G, the 855+ will serve you just fine for performance. Realme UI runs snappily on the X3 SuperZoom, and performance, even on demanding games like PUBG Mobile and Asphalt is excellent.
Aside from the core specs, a big factor in the phone feeling extremely responsive and speedy in everyday use is the use of the high refresh rate 120Hz LCD display. That’s right, instead of picking a less snappy 90Hz AMOLED display, you get a 6.6-inch full HD+ LCD that goes all out on refresh rate. You can, of course, dial down the refresh rate to 60Hz or set it to stay at 120Hz at all times, but the variable refresh rate setting that the phone defaults to is best to use the fast refresh rate without draining out the battery unnecessarily. The LCD panel is vibrant and contrast rich, among the best LCD panels I’ve seen, but the limitations of the display technology means it can’t produce the inky blacks and the vibrant colors that a competing AMOLED panel can (albeit one that runs at 60Hz or 90Hz). The use of LCD also restricts the use of an in-display fingerprint scanner, so you’re left to use the one on the side.
Then there's the battery. With a rated capacity of 4,200mAh, the X3 SuperZoom lasts handily till the end of a long day with display options set to maximum, and I regularly saw about 20 percent charge left (on auto refresh rate settings) across the week that I used this phone as my primary phone. Plus, to keep your battery worries at bay, the X3 SuperZoom ships with a 30W Dart Charge charger in the box, which juices up the phone in just under an hour. Granted, it’s no 50W/65W fast charging we’ve seen reserved for higher-end models from Realme/Oppo earlier, but it’s still plenty fast to get a splash and dash when you’re in a rush.
So, is the Realme X3 SuperZoom good value? For the most part, yes. The LCD is a good, speedy panel, but it’s no AMOLED. Performance is solid, as is battery life, but audio is sub-par and the camera, while all kitted out, delivers good results when the lighting is good, and inconsistent at other times. It’s a good all-rounder, but unless you’re inclined towards the longer zoom, the Realme X2 Pro or the OnePlus 7T are excellent alternatives.
Realme X3 SuperZoom
Pros: Good zoom in good light, fast LCD panel, solid battery life, great performance
Cons: Single bottom firing speaker, low light results are inconsistent, plastic frame
Price: Rs. 27,999 (8GB/128GB) / Rs. 32,999 (12GB/256GB) in Arctic White and Glacier Blue variants
Tushar Kanwar is a tech columnist and commentator, and tweets @2shar