“Our take on Realme’s latest affordable smartphone, the Realme 3 Pro”
You might’ve heard the saying – better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all. Well, I’m sure folks at Realme are glad they did because as it stands, the company’s short stint in India has been successful beyond measure. In fact, Realme is the single biggest threat to Xiaomi’s dominance in the budget and affordable segment as month after month, the brand has launched one compelling smartphone after another.
Can then, Realme’s latest smartphone, the Realme 3 Pro, stop the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro (review) from hogging up all the limelight in the affordable segment? To find out, I spent a week with the device in my pocket and after extensive testing, here’s what I concluded.
Design and Display
The Realme 3 Pro is many things – a fantastic camera phone, a good performer, an all-day handset thanks to its impressive battery life but, a good-looking device it is not. Now, from a distance, the smartphone looks fine. You might even like it, quite honestly. But up close and in the hand, the device’s plastic chassis leaves a lot to be desired. Making matters worse, the Redmi Note 7 Pro’s all-glass frame makes the Realme 3 Pro feel cheap and tacky in comparison. Suffice it to say, the handset’s build will be a constant reminder that it is in fact, not a premium, high-end device.
If you can look past the handset’s sub-par build quality, then you’ll find plenty to like about the Realme 3 Pro’s design. First and foremost, despite its gigantic size, the Realme 3 Pro offers excellent ergonomics, thanks in no small part to its curvy back which nestled perfectly in the palm of my hands. Furthermore, the power button and the volume rockers have been positioned at the middle of the device’s frame, making them easily accessible too. The capacitive fingerprint sensor, which can be found towards the back of the device, aligned perfectly with my index finger and it worked superbly as well. The sensor is extremely accurate and shockingly sensitive to the touch, which meant I could get inside my home screen in the blink of an eye.
Having said that, the positioning of the headphone jack isn’t ideal for playing games or watching movies in landscape mode. You see, I constantly had to readjust my grip or flip the phone upside down whilst gaming as the earphone’s connector kept biting my palms. To that extent, I much prefer the positioning of the jack on the Redmi Note 7 Pro, which allowed me to game without any fuss. Moreover, the Realme 3 Pro ships with a micro-USB port for charging, which at first, irked me. But, seeing how the device charges faster than competing offerings with a USB Type-C port, I’m willing to give Realme a pass this time around.
The only real drawback of the handset’s archaic micro-USB connector is that the data transfer speeds were noticeably slower as compared to a smartphone which shipped with a USB Type-C port. So, you might have to sit on your hands if you’re shifting big files to or from the phone’s storage.
The Realme 3 Pro’s window to the world is a 6.3-inch FHD+ panel which is plenty big and plenty sharp for enjoying movies on the fly. What’s more, unlike other devices in the same segment, the Realme 3 Pro’s display doesn’t exhibit a bluish tint when viewed at an angle. Moreover, the display gets adequately bright too and therefore, the content on the screen was legible enough even when I was using the smartphone outdoors.
It’s worth noting that the final retail units of the Realme 3 Pro will be coming with the Widevine L1 support. However, my review unit didn’t come with the same and hence I wasn’t able to stream licensed HD content from services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Brands like Huawei and Google have taken smartphone photography to the next level, which is why, there’s a lot riding on a smartphone’s camera nowadays. To that extent, the Realme 3 Pro doesn’t disappoint. The handset ships with a dual-camera setup at the back, comprising 16MP and 5MP sensors with f/1.7 and f/2.4 apertures respectively. For selfies, the device features a 25MP selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture.
If the specs weren’t impressive enough already, you’d be glad to know that the 16MP shooter at the back makes use of Sony’s IMX 519 sensor which is present on the pricier OnePlus 6T (review). Moreover, while the handset doesn’t make use of a Quad Bayer array to output photos in 48MP resolution akin to the Redmi Note 7 Pro, it allows buyers to stitch four 16MP photos together. Consequently, you can click a 64MP shot with the handset in expert mode, which is mind-baffling, to say the least.
Coming to the smartphone’s overall performance in the imaging department, I feel that it’s one of the best camera phones you can buy in this price segment. Don’t get me wrong, the Redmi Note 7 Pro is a fantastic shooter too, and everything said and done, both the devices are neck and neck when it comes to details in the photos. But, Realme’s punchier colour science won the day for me. I’ll break down my experience of using the smartphone’s camera so take a gander –
1 – The Realme 3 Pro’s 16MP primary shooter clicks excellent photos during the day which are flush with vibrant colours and details. Moreover, I quite liked the enhancements brought about by the device’s AI engine and consequently, I didn’t turn it off during my time with the phone. As can be seen from the shots I’ve attached, the Realme 3 Pro clicks beautiful landscapes, and the device’s cameras rarely ever made me want to shoot a scene again.
2 – The handset boasts excellent dynamic range too, which is evident in two shots specifically – the wide landscape scene just outside my office where you can clearly see the details in the sky. The sensor also managed to bring out the details in the trees lurking in the background in the same picture beautifully. Moving on, in the corridor shot, you’ll notice that my focus point was the bright scene just outside the main door. Now, this is an extremely tricky shot to expose correctly and most smartphone cameras often darken the rest of the scene. However, the Realme 3 Pro managed to squeeze out every bit of detail from the shadows and kept both, the bright subject as well as the dark corridor appealing to the eyes.
3 – The 64MP shot is no gimmick either, mind you. I noticed that by stitching four shots together, the Realme 3 Pro could achieve a more balanced and evenly exposed image. As can be seen from the samples, the 16MP shot looks good albeit doesn’t bring out the details from the shadows all that much. However, with four shots stitched together, the image appears fuller and more complete. That said, if the source of light is behind you, then you’ll be hard-pressed to tell between a 64MP and a 16MP snap.
4- The 5MP depth sensor does a great job of differentiating the subject from the background too. As you can tell from the portrait shot, the Realme 3 Pro’s edge detection is on par with the competition and it only falters when the background is of the same colour as the subject. Case in point, my hair, which are blurry in the picture as they matched the black coloured background. That said, the company stated that the review units are running pre-released software and therefore, you can expect better bokeh photos when the finalised version of the firmware hits the device.
5 – I click an awful lot of selfies every day and therefore, I never compromise on the quality of a smartphone’s front-facing camera. Thankfully, the Realme 3 Pro’s 25MP selfie shooter is downright excellent and it never failed to impress me with its shots. With all the beautification features turned off, the selfies outputted by the handset’s camera exhibited natural skin tones and showcased a ton of details. As for portrait selfies, the handset struggled to create a convincing blur effect around unruly edges, so you might want to comb your hair before you take that particular shot.
6 – The lowlight performance of both, the front as well as the rear facing cameras is also good for the price. The smartphone even features a ‘nightscape’ mode, the likes of which you might’ve seen on OnePlus’ and Google’s offerings. Therefore, even when it’s pitch dark outside, you will be able to get away with a serviceable image.
7 – If you’re a fan of shooting slow-mo videos, then you’ll be glad to know that with the latest software update, you’ll be able to record videos at 960fps on the phone. As it stands, the Realme 3 Pro is the cheapest smartphone in the country to ship with that feature and if used correctly, you could get away with some impressive slow-mo footage with the phone.
Performance and Software
When it comes to sheer performance, the Realme 3 Pro has the Redmi Note 7 Pro and other similarly-priced smartphones beat. Underneath its plastic chassis, the Realme 3 Pro is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 710 processor which – in the case of my review unit – worked alongside 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. That said, buyers on a budget can also opt for a 4GB/64GB or a 6GB/64GB variant of the smartphone.
Going by the handset’s spec-sheet, you’d be wise to assume that the Realme 3 Pro performs admirably. During my testing, I could comfortably play intensive titles like Asphalt 9 and PUBG on medium to high settings. In fact, unlike the Redmi Note 7 Pro, the Realme 3 Pro defaults PUBG at high settings, which is unheard of in this price segment. What’s more bizarre is that the in-game frame rates remained consistent through and through. Suffice it to say, you won’t be able to blame the phone for your shoddy gaming performance.
The handset’s stellar performance was evident in day to day usage too. Applications opened swiftly and thanks to the smartphone’s 6 gigs of memory, I could jump in and out of apps quickly without having to wait for them to load again and again. That’s despite running a custom skin on top of Android, mind you.
Speaking of which, the Realme 3 Pro boots the company’s ColorOS v6.0 on top of Android Pie. The skin is fairly minimalistic, though you’ll struggle to navigate your way around the menus if you’re coming from a device running stock Android. That being said, you do get a ton of nifty features with ColorOS, which you can use to enhance your overall user experience. Utilities like Private Safe let you hide your personal data, including photos and videos away from prying eyes. You can even clone certain applications and thereby run two instances of the same app simultaneously, which is extremely useful for buyers who have two different numbers on messaging apps like WhatsApp.
Lastly, you can either use the virtual keys or opt for gesture-based navigation on the device. Realme has even bundled some other quick-action shortcuts with the phone, including a ‘three finger swipe down’ gesture to capture a screenshot and an assistive ball, the likes of which you might’ve seen on Apple’s iPhones and Xiaomi’s MIUI. Unfortunately, you don’t get a system-wide dark theme bundled with the device, so if you’re into that, you’ll have to slap a custom launcher on the phone.
Thankfully, you’ll be able to enjoy the Realme 3 Pro’s speedy performance an entire day before you have to charge the phone. The handset is fuelled by a 4,045mAh battery which unsurprisingly, lasted me a full day off a single charge. What’s more, unlike some other devices in the market, the Realme 3 Pro didn’t force quit background applications to conserve battery life either. To give you a better picture, the Realme 3 Pro lasted a whopping 17 hours in our battery drain test, which is an amazing result.
The Realme 3 Pro starts at Rs 13,999 (the 6GB RAM variant costs Rs 16,999) and for the price, it directly competes with Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 7 Pro. Now, pound for pound, the Realme 3 Pro is a better smartphone as it offers a speedier CPU and a more vibrant display. Moreover, I suspect most buyers will probably slap a case on the phone to protect it from accidental damage, making the Realme 3 Pro’s plastic build a non-issue too.
As for cameras, both, the Realme 3 Pro as well as the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro are brilliant shooters and you can’t go wrong with either one in your pockets. The battery life of the two contenders is more or less the same too, so ultimately, it all boils down to the price. Considering you’ll end up paying the same for both the smartphones, I don’t see why you’d want to opt for one which offers slower performance to boot.
While the Redmi Note 7 Pro is a fantastic smartphone, Realme’s latest offering has undoubtedly won this bout. The ball’s in Xiaomi’s court now and I’m excited to see what the company comes up with next.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Excellent performance
- Great display
- Capable cameras
- Build quality leaves a lot to be desired
- Ships with dated micro-USB port