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Chinese handset maker Realme hasn't been active in the UK for long, but it has made a real splash. The first Realme handset I reviewed, the X50 Pro 5G was a real head-turner -- a well specified phone at a good price. Now we have the company's take on extreme zooming in the shape of the 6.6-inch Realme X3 SuperZoom. Despite the obvious emphasis on camera capability, there's a lot more on offer here, including a high-end processor, plenty of memory and storage, and impressive battery life, all for £469 (inc. VAT).
The X3 SuperZoom has a neat and tidy industrial design. At its website, Realme emphasises the glass that's used both front and back. But look carefully and you'll see that the sides of this phone are made from plastic. It does a good job of looking like metal, and is not in any way a deal-breaker, but it's notable because plastic use is one of the ways Realme has saved on production costs.
My review handset was the Arctic White variant -- a sort of creamy white that's variously rippled with shades of blue, green, orange, mauve and pink as it reflects light. It's eye-catching and different, but if you prefer, there's also a Glacier Blue option.
The soft-touch finish is commendably resistant to fingerprints, and also means that the phone feels comfortable in the hand -- although it was still rather slippery on soft furnishings.
The quad camera array sits in a vertical lozenge that protrudes significantly from the back of the handset. This had the unfortunate effect of causing the phone to move around -- rather noisily -- on a desktop when I prodded at the screen.
The fingerprint sensor is built into the power button on the right side of the phone. I'm not the greatest fan of this location, although I've grown used to it through various reviews. Positioning aside, the X3 SuperZoom's fingerprint reader works well.
The left edge of the handset houses a pair of volume buttons, and on the bottom is the speaker grille, SIM caddy (which accommodates two SIMs), and USB-C charge slot. There's no 3.5mm headset jack, and no official IP rating for dust and water resistance.
The display is flat, made from Gorilla Glass 5 and has a pre-fitted screen protector. There's a sizeable bezel at the bottom edge, and the other three bezels are hardly minimal. Still, the 6.6-inch screen fits into a neat chassis that's 75.8mm wide by 163.8mm deep by 8.9mm thick and weighs 202g. Realme claims a screen-to-body ratio of 90.5%, although we calculate it at 84.8%.
The top left of the screen has a lozenge-shaped punch-hole for the dual front cameras. This is somewhat distracting at first, but I soon got used to visually blanking them, and the screen itself has some nice plus points.
SEE: 5G smartphones: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
The 6.6-inch screen is IPS LCD rather than AMOLED, but the colours are still pretty strong. The resolution of 2,400 by 1,080 pixels (399ppi) is perfectly good enough for video viewing, email, web browsing and ebook reading. The screen has a flagship-class 120Hz refresh rate, which you can manually scale back to 60Hz; alternatively, you can allow the handset to select the refresh rate automatically.
It's a shame the mono speaker is a bit of a let-down, given the quality of the screen. There's plenty of volume -- more, in fact, than many handsets manage -- but it's short on bass tones and is somewhat distorted at the highest level. It's good enough for radio listening, but when holding the phone in landscape mode to watch video I had to take care not to cover the speaker with my palm.
The X3 SuperZoom has six cameras, two at the front and a quad-camera array at the back. The front cameras are 32MP f/2.5 wide-angle (80.4°) and 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide angle (105°). It might sound like overkill to have dual front cameras, but the ultra-wide angle option is actually pretty useful for group shots, or when you want to frame one or more people against a backdrop.
The quad-camera array at the back is as follows: 64MP f/1.8 wide angle (78.6°); 8MP f/2.3 ultra-wide angle ( 119°); 2MP f/2.4 macro (4cm focus distance); and 8MP f/3.4 periscope telephoto (5x optical zoom).
This is an excellent specification, but there are limitations. The macro lens takes a reasonably good-quality shot, but the optimum focal distance of 4cm is limiting. There's no zoom on the macro, so you're left with moving the handset towards and away from the subject. Every little bug I tried to photograph in my locked-down garden flew away as I approached it. Fortunately my cat was more docile. In the real world, I'd get pretty frustrated, pretty quickly.
On the zooming front, 5x and 10x shots were of reasonable quality, but once you get past the incremental screen taps that take you to 10x it's a question of pinching at the screen to zoom further, and frankly the benefits are not worth the hassle. What did impress me was the colour fidelity: those flowers are a bright, shocking pink, and the X3 SuperZoom gets as close as any phone camera I've tried.
I've already noted that the SIM caddy supports two SIMs. There's no facility to boost the internal storage via MicroSD, but that's not really needed. There's 256GB installed, of which 18GB is used out of the box, leaving 238GB free. That storage is UFS 3.0, and it's fast. This, along with 12GB of RAM and a Snapdragon 855+ chipset, means the Realme X3 SuperZoom really zips along.
The Geekbench 5 CPU test reported very respectable average scores of 786 (single core) and 2440 (multi core). Set it against the OnePlus 8 Pro with its top-end Snapdragon 865 chipset, which achieved 907 and 3375 respectively, and you can see the difference. However, the OnePlus handset costs £899 for the same RAM/storage combination, and I didn't find that the £469 X3 SuperZoom 's performance held me back in any way.
Battery life is impressive too, with the 4,200mAh battery lasting for 17.5 hours under the PC Mark Work 2.0 benchmark. More anecdotally, my mainstream usage pattern typically saw me finish the day with between 70% and 55% of a full charge remaining. Getting to a full charge isn't too much of a hassle, either, as the 30W 'Dart' charger should take you from zero to full in 55 minutes.
Android 10 comes with a few added features courtesy of the Realme UI overlay. The Smart Sidebar, which is a staple of Realme handsets, offers a customisable shortcuts bar you can pop out by sliding inwards from the screen's right edge; this feature is also on Oppo handsets, where it's called Quick Tools. Realme apps include a music player, photo viewer, weather app, compass, file manager, and various other extras. Third-party offerings, which include Facebook and Opera, can be removed if you don't want them.
Realme has delivered an impressive set of specifications in a sub-£500 handset, with compromises made in all the right places. A high-quality screen with a fast refresh rate, plenty of RAM and internal storage, good battery life, and a design that looks distinctive are all plus points.
In fact, it's a shame that Realme puts so much store on the camera's 60x zoom capability, because this simply doesn't live up to the promise. SuperZooming aside, though, this is still a very capable smartphone for the money.
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