Realme has been absolutely killing it lately with the phone launches. This year alone has seen the 6 and 6 Pro, then the 6i, then the X50 Pro 5G, and now the X3 SuperZoom. They’re making the best of the situation in the UK Regarding the power vacuum left by a competitor, and it shows. How is the X3 SuperZoom, and is it worthy of that name?
- 120Hz Screen is silky smooth
- 5x Periscope camera is great
- Astrophotography mode is insane
- Snapdragon 855+ still a beast
- Android 10 out of box.
- 30w Charger very useful
- IPS LCD is just okay
- 5x zoom is often times too much zoom
- Battery Life is underwhelming
- Lots of competition in this price bracket
- 6.6” IPS LCD
- 120Hz Refresh rate
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+
- 1x Kryo 485 Gold (Cortex A76) @2.96Ghz
- 3x Kryo 485 Gold (Cortex A76) @2.42Ghz
- 4x Kryo 485 Silver (Cortex A55) @1.78Ghz
- Adreno 640 GPU @700Mhz
- TSMC 7nm
- 8GB/12GB LPDDR4X RAM
- 128/256GB UFS 3.0 internal storage.
- 4200mAh internal Battery
- 30w VOOC Flash Charge.
- USB-C 2.0
- 64MP Main Camera
- 8MP 5x Optical periscope zoom
- 8MP 119° Ultrawide camera
- 2MP Macro Camera
- 32MP Main Selfie camera
- 8MP Ultrawide Selfie camera.
For a more complete Spec sheet, head on over to GSMArena.
I have to start this off the same way I started the X50 Pro 5G review, this thing is a chunk, a tank, a “THICC BOI”. At 8.9mm and 202g it is basically tied with the X50 Pro 5G in those dimensions, whilst being taller and wider. The phone also feels thicker due to the curvature of the rear glass panel. This is made even harder by the gorgeous soft-touch matte glass panel.
Otherwise, depending on what angle you’re looking at it’s very easy to confuse it with other Realme phones. From the front, because of the Dual selfie camera, you could mistake it for the X50 Pro 5G or the 6 Pro. Looking at it from the right-hand side, the 6 or 6 Pro comes into focus with the side-mounted fingerprint scanner and the plastic chassis. From the rear, it could honestly be any of them. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It looks like a Realme phone, and if you like that, then you’ll like this. It is a very well-constructed phone with no creaks or cracks anywhere despite the plastic frame.
Taking a hardware tour, upfront is the masterpiece. The 6.6” 1080p 120Hz LCD, and whilst it’s a good panel, and 120Hz is absolutely lovely to look at, but it is still just a normal LCD screen, and when comparing to the OLED in the X50 Pro 5G it looks even less appealing. What is even worse is that for £50 less you can get the Realme X2 Pro from last year, with a 90Hz OLED screen, which I would personally take over this. It’s certainly not bad, and there are people who can tell the difference between 90 and 120Hz and would rather have the more accurate colours of the LCD and the higher refresh rate, I’m just not one of them.
In the top left of the screen is where we have the dual selfie cameras, and as with the others, I need to mention that due to the way LCD panels work, the “dead zone” around the camera portion is larger to block any errant light from the backlight, and with to cameras, this is a pretty thick pill that I’m not sure is totally worth it The bezels around the screen are quite well done. The left and right are very close in thickness with the top, and the chin is a little larger, but once again, LCD needs a larger driver board than on an OLED and it is got to go somewhere.
On the right-hand edge, we have the combo power button and fingerprint reader, this is in a recess, so it is easier to find by feel. Flipping around to the left has the two separate volume buttons, these are a bit looser than on the other Realme phones, but they don’t rattle and aren’t too easy or too hard to press. Up top, the curved edge has been sliced to have a flat spot, quite a nice feature if you ask me, and on the top right is the secondary microphone for noise cancellation in voice calls and recording video. Lastly, we look at the bottom, with the speaker grille, a USB-C Port, the main microphone, and the NanoSIM tray, this is a dual SIM dual Standby, so one either side of the tray, sadly no MicroSD slot. But with 256GB of internal UFS 3.0 storage, I’m struggling to find a time when you’d need it.
Finally, we look at the rear. With this absolutely stunning pearlescent matte finish on the back, I am in love. I have the “Arctic White” colour here to review, but it also comes in a “Glacier Blue”. I do think this soft pearly colour is the one to go for here. As is typical for Realme, the camera setup is in the top left, but this one is slightly different. With SuperZoom in the name, one of these lenses is a telephoto, and like other, more expensive devices, this has an optical 5x periscope zoom. It performs this trickery with a camera sensor positioned 90 degrees and a light prism and some mirrors to redirect light. This increases the distance between the lens and the sensor without radically increasing the thickness.
Hardware-wise, as always, I’m pretty impressed with the X3 SuperZoom, not a creak or crack in sight, and most of the choices are safe, but that’s, not a bad thing. If it worked in another device it’ll likely work here, and I truly have to bring up this rear panel again, it is really that nice.
This is another section I almost feel like I can copy from the other Realme phones, because it’s Android 10, with Realme UI V1.0, which is a light reskinning of ColorOS 7.0, and it is great. It’s an up to date version of Android, with the May 5th Security patch. They didn’t get lazy and use the base version of Android 10 either, this is the newer version which supports gestures on third-party launchers, which as a third party launcher user who likes gestures, I’m very happy about it.
There aren’t any changes between the 4 RealmeUI devices I’ve tried, which also means there is practically nothing extra for the 120Hz mode other than “force 120Hz” and “let the content decide”, it’s important and annoying to note that there is no 90Hz mode as a middle ground, you either run it at 60Hz, or at 120Hz, we’ve seen others do this, but it doesn’t become any less annoying here, we know it can be done, Razer did it 2 years ago.
But this is still a nice User interface. Much like newer versions of EMUI, Realme UI does add some very useful features to Android, like Realme Share, which is just a straight clone of AirDrop, and just as useful. Have another Realme phone owner around? Need to send a photo or video or file? Just hit share, and they’ll pop up above the regular share sheet. I believe it initialises the connection over Bluetooth LE, then uses Wi-Fi Direct for the actual transfer so it goes fast. Sadly, this only works between Realme phones, much like AirDrop only works on Apple devices and Huawei Share only works on Huawei devices, but Google is meant to be working on basically this same feature for Android 11, so hopefully, this gets it soon.
The only weird software bug I’ve had with the X3 that I’ve not had with other phones is with Instagram when watching Instagram Stories if I progressed and skipped more than 2 the audio would play but the image would be stuck on the last one, to unstick it I had to press and hold to pause the story, then when I would release the next story would play properly. There have been multiple Instagram updates during my review period, and a single software OTA for the phone itself, nothing has changed, hopefully, it gets fixed, as it is bloody annoying.
For the most part, the camera setup here is similar to the X50 Pro 5G and the 6 Pro, there is a 64MP Samsung GW1 main camera, there is an 8MP Ultrawide Camera, and a 2MP Macro camera, but where it changes is that It swaps out the 12MP 2x telephoto camera for an 8MP 5x periscope camera.
This is once again going to get a bit repetitive, but the cameras here are very similar to the other two. The main differences come from the different ISPs (Image Signal Processors) in the Snapdragon 720G, Snapdragon 855+ and the Snapdragon 865. But the sensors are for the most part the same, and the images are going to look quite often, the same. The Samsung GW1 is a large sensor which uses a quad-bayer filter for hardware pixel binning, taking really god 16MP shots instead of 64MP photos. You can still choose to take 64MP photos if you really want, but the time and effort went in to use pixel binning at the sensor level for a reason, it works and is good.
The main sensor is still an ISOCELL sensor regardless of the ISP. Greens look straight out of Chernobyl, and the reds aren’t much better. But the amount of detail and the general sharpness is really nice. I’m glad we’re starting to see more use of ISOCELL sensors in cameras.
I won’t talk much about the Wide-angle, it’s here it produces the same results as the X50 Pro 5G, and it is a really nice lens to have. But the important one here is the 5x telephoto lens. Much like Huawei and Samsung, Realme is using a 90-degree periscope setup to get a 5x magnification and it is just lovely, it is a true optical zoom so you don’t get the distortion and lack of detail that you do with a digital zoom/crop.
Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
But just like with the recent Huawei and Oppo devices, these high levels of magnification are often too much zoom. 5x magnification is a lot. Even with the best stabilisation, every small shake in your hand is exaggerated. At 5x using a tripod almost mandatory. The benefit of the large resolution main sensor though is that a 2x digital crop is still acceptable. In fact, the Zoom settings are Wide, Main, 2x, 5x and 10x, which is a hybrid of the 5x optical and AI upsampling. This SuperZoom lens is honestly great. Yes, it is often too much zoom, but when it is right and it works, it is awesome, just like it is on the P30 Pro.
The other cool feature of the X3 SuperZoom, is the astrophotography mode. With a combination of 5-minute exposure and AI trickery, you can get some stunning shots. Due to the 5-minute exposure, a tripod is mandatory here. Even with a tripod you still can get a blurry image if the wind blows a tree branch as seen in the image below. Even then, look at it! This is an awesome photo and I wish I knew how to take a photo this good on my main camera.
Lastly, we move on to the video tests. Interesting – would you look at that? The result is close to the X50 Pro 5G, and a bit better than the Realme 6 Pro. Who would have guessed? The ISP in the Snapdragon 855+ is a known quantity and Realme uses it well here. Focusing is fast, exposure is snappy, and H.265 encoding is utilised from the off. The only issue I have is that the 5X telephoto lens is not being used all the time. I do expect this to be fixed in future software updates. I understand it not being used at 4K; there just isn’t the resolution there (4K is 8.3MP). But 1080p60 also doee not use the 5X lens. Only 1080p30 and below does. This means when you hit the 5x Zoom button in the viewfinder you will often get a blurry, pixelated 5x crop from the main 64MP sensor.
The Snapdragon 855+ might not be the newest chip but it is far from ancient. The 855+ is one of the few AMR SoCs that clocks basically at 3Ghz on their performance core. It’s still a 7nm SoC, with Cortex A76 large cores and A55 smaller cores. Qualcomm still has the lead on GPUs outside of Apple in mobile, so as expected, the X3 SuperZoom just flew.
In my new video render test on mobile using PowerDirector, I have video sample graciously provided by my friend Juan Carlos Bagnell of SomeGadgetGuy fame. I do two exports, one at 1080p and one at 4K. They are at the highest bitrate (just called better quality in the app) and at 30fps. At 1080p the prep time for export took 7.61 seconds, whereas the actual render and export took another 46.74 seconds. At 4K we’re looking at a 40.15 second prep time and a 1 minute 47-second render and export. Whilst the device did get warm during this, it did not get uncomfortably hot, and it did finish it in a reasonable time.
Below are the screenshots of the benchmarking apps that people till seem to care about, so peruse to your heart’s content.
Admittedly, with a 4200mAh battery, I was expecting better endurance from the X3 SuperZoom. I guess this screen takes more of a hit than I was expecting. Refreshing at 120 times per second is going to suck more juice. It could also be a particularly inefficient panel. I have to admit this does get reasonably bright and perhaps this is draining the battery quicker. I do find it emptying quicker than the X50 Pro 5G or the Realme 6 Pro. It definitely empties faster than my 16-month-old P30 Pro.
Charging wise, it’s a BBK family phone, so it’s got VOOC, or rather a variant of VOOC. I believe Realme call it Dart Charge. It is a high amperage 30w charging solution, in this case, up to 5v 6a. This requires a special cable and brick. You cannot just use any Type-C cable as it won’t have the correct enable pins. The brains are in the charger itself and very little goes on in the phone. This is great because it removes a lot of the heat-generating components out of the phone. The X3 SuperZoom can then keep charging at this higher rate for longer. At 30w you’re charged in under an hour from dead. Whilst it is not as fast as the 65w which tops you up to full in under 40-minutes, this is still great.
My only gripe is that the phone only supports 18w USB-PD instead of the 27w/30w that USB-PD supports. That said, USB-PD favours higher voltage whereas VOOC favours higher amperages.
For those that are new to my reviews, the miscellaneous sections at the end are for things that need speaking about but do not necessarily need their own section dedicated to them. On the X3 SuperZoom, that is the networking, specifically mobile data, and the fingerprint scanner.
The mobile reception received on the X3 SuperZoom has been weaker than practically every other phone in recent memory. I would be kicked off of 4G in places I’d be getting LTE-A/4G+ on other phones and speeds would be significantly slower. This could have just been an overloaded mast near where I am in the 10 days I was testing. However, it seems to not just be me having this issue. Next up is the fingerprint scanner. I’m not a fan of side-mounted fingerprint scanners in general. Being left-handed often feels like they aren’t made for me, but this one is just bad. It often fails even when I’m using my right hand. It will take two or more tries to register, and sometimes I need to use the pin on the screen or the face unlock instead. Please fix this Realme. Moving from an optical fingerprint scanner on the X2, to this, is a significant downgrade. The X2 Pro had a great fingerprint scanner but this is most certainly not.
The Realme X3 SuperZoom is a weird one for me. It’s not a bad phone. The 120Hz screen is nice. The Snapdragon 855+ is blazing fast. 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage is a great combination and the cameras are pretty great too. However, at £469, it has some close competition, and not just from others. Their own X2 Pro is £50 less, with a 90Hz OLED screen, in-display fingerprint scanner and mostly the same specs. The Samsung Galaxy A71 is £380. That comes with a better screen, an optical fingerprint reader and the Samsung brand. How much is the periscope Zoom worth to you?
This is where my dilemma occurs. I can happily recommend someone use the X3 SuperZoom. I think a lot of people would be very happy with it, but I’m not sure it is priced right. If it was closer to the £400 mark I think that would be more compelling. Aside from the X3 SuperZoom, Realme has nothing between the £300 6 Pro and the £569 X50 Pro 5G. I think £400-£420 would have been a better, more manageable, price.