Realme X3 SuperZoom Review: Good Photography With Some Weird Quirks

Realme X3 SuperZoom Review: Good Photography With Some Weird Quirks

Realme has been making very good mid-range phones for the last few years, but it wasn’t until late 2019 that Australia got its first taste of the brand. In a market dominated by huge figures like Samsung and Apple, Realme’s offerings can go overlooked, but the X3 SuperZoom is definitely worthy of attention.

When Gizmodo Australia reviewed the $499 Realme XT in November last year, we were impressed by the robust camera, sleek design and battery capabilities of the phone. These features are still great standouts for the X3 SuperZoom, but a whopping $200 price increase does reduce the phone’s budget appeal.

Still, there’s plenty noteworthy about Realme’s latest offering.

Realme X3 SuperZoom

WHAT IS IT?

Realme's latest flagship phone

PRICE

$699 (8GB RAM | 128GB), $799 (12GB RAM | 256GB)

LIKE

Great battery life, excellent camera, fast charging and sleek design.

DON'T LIKE

SuperZoom feature, no headphone jack, pricing has taken a leap up.

Specifications

The Realme X3 SuperZoom comes in two versions — a $699 version with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage and a $799 version with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage. Here’s the specs for the $799 version I reviewed. The only difference between the two is storage capacity and RAM.

  • RAM: 12GB
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+
  • Storage: 256GB
  • Display: 6.6-inch 120Hz 2400×1080 FHD+ w/ Corning Gorilla Glass 5
  • Camera: 64MP Quad Camera (32MP Dual Selfie Cam)
  • 60X Periscope Lens
  • Universal Flash Storage 3.0 for quick-charging

No matter which version you get, there’s plenty to like about the Realme X3 SuperZoom.

What’s good about the Realme X3 SuperZoom?

Battery Life and Fast-Charging

In regular use, the Realme X3 SuperZoom will last you between three and four days in battery saver mode. This accounts for active screentime of about 3-4 hours per day including use for checking messages, browsing the internet, watching Netflix and briefly logging in for a few rounds of Pokémon Go.

Using the phone without eco mode will take the battery life closer to two days when using it for 3-4 hours (and mostly for everyday use like browsing the web and watching videos).

If you’re on your phone even more regularly or utilise things like  like maximum brightness during Netflix watching, the expected battery life closer to the single day mark.

There isn’t a noticeable performance drop when using battery saver so you shouldn’t hesitate to switch it over. It will reduce the brightness maximum of your display (normally it can get up to 480 nits brightness) but this isn’t a critical flaw. The highest brightness on battery saver remains ultra-crisp and bright in normal daylight.

Users who largely use their phone as a communication device or less frequently than the average user will be able to stretch the phone’s battery for several days thanks to great battery retention — but your mileage will vary based on your daily phone activities.

Luckily if you run out of battery, the Realme X3 SuperZoom is supported by UFS 3.0 fast charging. It means you’ll be able to snap up a full battery in under an hour. During testing, the Realme X3 SuperZoom averaged 58 minutes for a full charge and 22 minutes for a half charge. If you’re on the go, this fast charging is an excellent tool in your arsenal.

Design and UI

Please ignore my grubby finger marks.

The Realme X3 SuperZoom is a hot looking phone. It features a shiny white chrome back that flashes rainbow under light and a very pleasing frontage that’s supported by streamlined UI design. The phone runs Realme UI, an offshoot of ColorOS based on Android 10. While it looks different to other Android systems, it contains the same functionality. Also, importantly, it has access to the Google Play Store.

In my Realme XT review I was disappointed by the inclusion of Realme’s own UI, but it’s really grown on me the last few months. It’s simplistic and intuitive in a way that makes it both aesthetically pleasing and easy to use.

Also great with the X3 SuperZoom’s design is its clever hiding of the two selfie cams. The notch has moved away from the centre towards the upper left corner. Both cameras fit neatly into the notification bar so you’ll scarcely notice them in regular use. When you’re viewing pages full size, they become a neat, oval indent that doesn’t get in the way of reading.

The camera module at the back is also very neat. It does stick out less than a millimetre from the phone’s body, but the provided case protects the bump well.

Overall, the Realme X3 SuperZoom’s design manages to take the sleek look of modern phones and jazz it up with some great personality-filled touches.

Performance

The Realme X3 SuperZoom’s Snapdragon 855+ processor is a robust little engine. In my time with the phone, I had zero issues with latency when gaming, browsing or watching videos. Every swipe and click is smooth, snappy and responsive. The phone takes only a few seconds to start up.

I never missed a Pokémon or lost a match in Mario Kart Tour (okay, maybe one or two — but it had nothing to do with the phone’s responsiveness and everything to do with my skills). Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, which tends to chew up data, was equally smooth with zero latency. Loading was quick and easy as was interactive input.

It’s a great processor and one that serves the phone well. With smooth loading, gameplay and everyday functionality, I had no trouble with the Realme X3 SuperZoom’s performance.

Camera Quality

The Realme X3 SuperZoom prides itself on being a camera phone. With six lenses in total (four at the back, two selfie cams) it certainly lives up to its ambitions. The X3 SuperZoom’s photography is an improvement from the Realme XT, which already rocked an impressive array of cameras. It’s also learned a lesson from the XT’s hyper-contrasted images by toning down the colour for a more realistic look.

Left: Realme XT camera, Right: Realme X3 SuperZoom camera

While the Realme XT’s camera is technically more stunning and features brighter colours, the Realme X3 SuperZoom’s shot is far more realistic and better represents the colours on show during my trip to La Perouse.

Reds and oranges in particular are better accounted for with the new set of lenses. The whites of images are also more balanced and overall, look a lot better.

Left: Realme XT camera, Right: Realme X3 SuperZoom camera

In other shots, this difference was more subtle, but you’ll notice the right image of Bare Island above features more muted orange tones and an overall crisper, more detailed picture. The ocean waves, for example, are far more textured and clear.

Another change is that the X3 SuperZoom deals with light bleeding a lot better than the XT. While it’s still prone to lens flare, colours are clearer and more defined when an alternative light source (like the sun) enters the picture.

Left: Realme XT camera, Right: Realme X3 SuperZoom camera

Extraneous reds are also toned down here and the lens flare is far less dramatic than with the XT.

Beyond comparison shots, the camera on the X3 SuperZoom is genuinely impressive. It’s got well balanced colours and tones, doesn’t over-saturate images and features a range of modes you can swap between. This oncludes macro, portrait, zoom and night mode.

I killed this plant. RIP. (Image: Macro Mode)
My mother’s prized orchids.
Mr. Gnome asleep in his garden.

The two lens selfie cam is also a leap up from the Realme XT. It has a subtle, fresh tone that’s extremely crisp and natural. It’s great for taking the odd WFH selfie!

In my natural habitat.

As with other Realme phones, it also offers a beauty mode to enhance your features — but this often leads to uncanny valley-style smoothing of your facial features.

In addition to these modes, the X3 SuperZoom also contains a 60X zoom feature and a night mode feature, which I’ll talk about further down.

Overall, the Realme X3 SuperZoom’s camera array really is its standout feature. Photography is consistently crisp, balanced and extremely high quality.

It’s a step up from the Realme XT and also a real competitor on the market. There’s a range of useful modes for any application here so if photography is your prime interest in mobile phones, you should definitely consider this one.

Beyond the excellent camera, it’s not all sunshine and roses for the Realme X3 SuperZoom.

 

What’s not so good about the Realme X3 SuperZoom?

Pricing

As mentioned, the Realme X3 SuperZoom is significantly more pricey than earlier Realme phones. Even the earlier realme 6 is a more reasonable $469, and it has many of the same great features as the X3 SuperZoom such as a 64MP quad camera array and FHD+ screen.

Turning to competitors, the OPPO Reno2 Z features a similarly robust camera array and performance capabilities at a reduced cost of $549. Samsung’s Galaxy A51 also features a solid quad camera set-up as well as a Full HD+ Super AMOLED display for $100 less.

While improvements have been made to the processor (leaping from a Snapdragon 712 to a Snapdragon 855+) and the camera since the XT, there isn’t a huge leap between the two models.

At $699, the X3 SuperZoom is starting to inch out of the mid-range category, but it doesn’t add enough features to justify this change. In some cases, it even takes features away.

The Realme X3 SuperZoom sports a 6.6-inch 2400×1080 FHD+ LCD 120Hz display. It’s a step down from the Super AMOLED which graced the Realme XT and features marginally less brightness. While it’ll be unnoticeable to most people, it’s still disappointing to see this change in addition to the subsequent price hike.

With a $200 price difference, you’d be more justified purchasing a last season XT or similar phones from OPPO and Samsung. They represent greater value for money and equally good features to the X3 SuperZoom.

SuperZoom Feature

One of the SuperZoom’s flagship features is its camera’s capability to use 60x zoom. While the SuperZoom’s camera is a great step up from that of the XT, its 60x zoom is a baffling feature (and weirder still that they’ve named the entire phone after it).

To put it simply, it feels like a useless gimmick.

Here’s a 60X photograph of a couple sitting on a hill. (This is a photograph and not a Monet.)

Image: Leah Williams / Gizmodo Australia

This photograph was taken around 30 metres away using the Realme’s SuperZoom feature at 60X zoom. While impressionists might like the artistic touch here, the definition here is decidedly lacking. Features are smoothed over to preserve cleanness and outlines are made darker to define shape, but the final results looks blotchy and misshapen.

Several more attempts returned similar, muddy results.

A motorbike at 20 metres away. (Image: Leah Williams/Gizmodo Australia)
La Perouse’s famous coastline at 50 metres away. (Image: Leah Williams/Gizmodo Australia)

While it might seem like a cool feature, it’s not worth the effort or price jump. It’s also very difficult to stabilise 60X zoom shots because every tiny movement shoots your subject matter off centre.

The feature feels very unnecessary and shouldn’t be the flagship gimmick of what is an otherwise a very good phone.

Night Mode

The Realme X3 SuperZoom offers a night mode that includes ‘Ultra Nightscape’ vision for taking photos of the sky. Neither work particularly well and produce muddy, poorly lit images no matter how much light is present in a scene.

You’ll need a steady hand or a gimbal to take decently focused night time shots and even then, they’ll likely be ruined by the camera’s tendency to flood night mode photos with artificial light.

None of these shots are particularly impressive and it’s disappointing to see a phone with such a focus on photography neglect the art of the night time shoot.

Phone Size

The Realme X3 SuperZoom is 16.3 centimetres long. (Image: Leah Williams/Gizmodo Australia)

The Realme X3 SuperZoom is 16.3 centimetres long, slightly longer than the XT. In the image above, you can see how far my fingers can reach around the phone at a stretch.

I don’t have the biggest hands in the world but I think most people will have trouble handling the X3 SuperZoom with a single grip. It’s far too long for most people.

The overall design is great, but the phone is very tall and can be unwieldy for people with small hands.

No headphone jack

This is the future of phones. It’s unavoidable, but it’s still disappointing.

While the Realme XT contained a headphone jack, the X3 SuperZoom goes without, likely signalling a new direction for future Realme phones.

As someone who still uses corded headphones where possible, this was a sad discovery — but again, not a major surprise and a minor disappointment overall.

 

Should you buy the Realme X3 SuperZoom?

The Realme X3 SuperZoom comes at a significantly higher cost than the excellent mid-range XT. For an additional $200 (at minimum), you lose the headphone jack, gain a smidge of processing power and battery life, and receive a slight camera upgrade.

For the uninitiated, there won’t be a noticeable difference between the two phones — and at $499 or less, the Realme XT is much better value for money.

$699 for the base X3 SuperZoom model means Realme is starting to inch towards the upper end of the phone market. It’s not quite in the realm of Samsung and Apple’s $1,000+ flagships, but it’s mighty close and it makes Realme’s latest offering slightly less appealing.

Beyond the unfortunate price tag, it is still a very robust phone with excellent battery life, a solid camera and smooth processing power. While I’d recommend the perfectly good XT over the X3 SuperZoom, Realme’s latest offering is still a great everyday phone with plenty of handy features to love.