Saturday, December 4, 2021

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realme X3 SuperZoom Review: Nightscape Camera Works Well

[Watch our latest video where we test out the 4K UHD video quality of the realme X3 SuperZoom. View it on YouTube here]

When realme introduced their 2019 flagship the realme X2 Pro in the final quarter of last year, it had such a good response for its flagship-level hardware and overall performance versus its official price at only RM2499. It certainly did impress me save for a few things especially for not having an official water resistance rating – which would dissolve much of my worries for being an avid pool junkie. While the X2 Pro had left a very good impression on me and the team, realme continued to roll out some impressive mid-rangers up until their latest semi-flagship, the X3 SuperZoom. Before you continue on this review, check out our previous review of the realme X2 Pro as the X3 SuperZoom features some important similarities to the brand’s 2019 flagship.

Design

Putting them side-by-side and in the virtue of them being released consecutively, the realme X3 SuperZoom and the realme 6 Pro feature almost the same body structure in terms of buttons placement, camera placement, display size (including the bezel size) and general thickness. It’s likely that realme used the same master mold for manufacturing these two devices.

However, aside from these, that’s where the similarities end. While the X3 SuperZoom does look and feel like the realme 6 Pro – but as the more expensive smartphone, its built is noticeably more premium. It also loses a 3.5mm audio jack when compared to the 6 Pro. 

The unlock button doubles as a side-mounted fingerprint sensor, similar to the 6 Pro, which means it won’t have an under-display one. The frame is plastic, possibly to keep the cost under control and the rear panel (of the unit we have on hand) is made of glass that features a kind of smooth frosted, matte finish. 

The built quality overall is quite nice on the hands personally. Our unit’s color is the Arctic White version and I like the reflective pearlescence under light, which gives it a subtle personality. 

120Hz Display

Something that I truly appreciate from realme is the company’s progressiveness and timeliness in rolling out products that are equipped with the industry’s latest components. As such and in terms of smartphones, realme managed to pull off a 90Hz refresh rate display with their X2 Pro in 2019 and then similarly on their mid-range 6-series just recently. 

But in just a couple of weeks after that, the X3 SuperZoom comes not only with a 90Hz display, but a 120Hz one, which makes it such a delight to use. As a mobile gamer myself, it is one of the best things I could ask for from a smartphone. 

It’s difficult to translate visual finesse in words but just imagine that all visuals and animations on screen are rendered as though they are flowing in real life. Does that make sense? Having 90Hz on both the X2 Pro and the 6-series was enough to make me not go back to the standard 60Hz and upping the ante with X3 SuperZoom seals the deal.

Under settings, users are also given an option to “tone down” the display’s refresh rate so you can toggle between 120Hz or 60Hz – you will definitely see a difference. As the 120Hz performance drains the battery much more than operating at a lower refresh rate, I think that’s quite apt for realme UI to include the setting option for users to conserve power on their X3 SuperZoom.

When compared to the X2 Pro, the realme X3 SuperZoom has an IPS LCD display. While it is not a Super AMOLED like the X2 Pro, it suffices as a good quality display nonetheless.  

Performance

Our unit is configured at the highest at 256GB ROM and 12GB RAM. And it is worth mentioning that the X3 SuperZoom uses the same chipset as the X2 Pro, which is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ (7 nm) featuring an octa-core CPU and Adreno 640 GPU.

Performance generally feels quite snappy and is quite reminiscent of the X2 Pro in virtue of the same chipset. It is also able to perform graphically at max settings on Marvel: Super War, making the MOBA gaming experience quite fluid (also thanks to the 120Hz display).

Anyway, the best way to present its capabilities is still via benchmarking tests, and here are the results from AnTuTu for Android:

Additional scores via 3DMark and Geekbench

Camera

 

Possibly the segment that everyone is waiting for. The realme X3 SuperZoom has a camera configuration that is equally as good as the X2 Pro with a few stark differences. But without comparing, the realme X3 SuperZoom’s rear has a 64MP main camera, an 8MP periscope telephoto lens, an 8MP ultrawide angle lens, and a 2MP macro lens. This configuration practically covers all aspects of photography from macro to extended zoom. 

Additionally, there are two front cameras where the main is a 32MP shooter and the secondary is an 8MP ultrawide angle. 

Here is the gallery to show you the unedited quality of the photos taken by the X3 SuperZoom’s via the different cameras:

While the X3 SuperZoom has a periscope telephoto lens, I do find that the 10X zoom photos are somewhat grainy, even though it allows for a closer shot. The front ultrawide angle camera also has a different picture quality but works well at covering a wider angle.

I do find that the X3 SuperZoom’s camera at default settings don’t exactly capture the colors as seen in real life, resulting in cooler hues. Hence, you would need to adjust the White Balance yourself to capture the exact colors you are looking for. This is referring to the photo above captioned “Main camera V1” as the wall behind the bamboo poles are actually more green than blue, but it appears “turquoise” when captured.

Nightscape

Now, realme has been promoting the X3 SuperZoom’s nightscape capabilities. They had even equipped the smartphone with a “starry mode”, which can capture the photos of stars in the sky by way of long exposure. 

Of course, I was excited by the prospect of taking such photos at night but while MCO in Malaysia is still in effect, it’s not very wise to travel all the way to remote areas where there is little to no light pollution. The reason for considering light pollution is because it is a factor that truly makes or breaks long-exposure photography at night. To avoid rambling about this, you can read up on tips and tricks on night sky photography here.

But what I decided to do myself was to test out the X3 SuperZoom’s nightscape capabilities and its practicality in a suburban setting.

Here are some unedited shots to show you the differences between capturing photos using the main camera versus the ones via nightscape. I utilize the Pro mode, which allows you to set the ISO, White Balance, shutter speed, and focus distance just like you would manually do so in a DSLR camera:

I was curious if the night sky itself would look anything like day time, and so I experimented and the results are:

You can already see the stark differences between the nightscape shots against the normal ones. The several-minutes-long exposure truly allowed more light to be captured, which then created a much brighter and more detailed photo. 

I’ve tried to capture the moon, which was in its crescent shape but alas, I could only manage a semblance of it. I wasn’t all that disappointed with the results but then again, I also wasn’t in a completely light-free zone as there were street lights and vehicle headlamps potentially creating “light pollution” to the long exposure.

On this other photo, while you can discern a slightly crescent-shaped moon and a planet is also somewhat visible. It’s not the greatest photo but I definitely can’t see the planet with my naked eye at the point of performing this test.

With that, the nightscape capabilities of the realme X3 SuperZoom does have its merits and I would hold on to it until a better opportunity to take proper night sky shots comes after this MCO period.

Battery Life

The battery life on the X3 SuperZoom is quite fantastic if I do say so myself. On standby alone, the device lasted for over a week and a half before requiring a recharge. 

Under normal use, I have lasted with the X2 SuperZoom for about two days continuously without recharging. My personal rendition of normal smartphone use includes texting, calls, web browsing, no more than 1 hour of mobile gaming per day, and watching YouTube videos. 

Conclusion – Is it worth it?

Considering that it is retailing at RM1999 for the 128GB version and RM2299 for the 256GB one, the realme X3 SuperZoom performs as expected. It straddles in between being a mid-range and flagship model. 

The realme X3 SuperZoom easily outperforms a lot of smartphones for its price for having the same chipset as the X2 Pro. However, it still doesn’t have premium features namely an official water resistance rating, Super AMOLED screen, and wireless charging. 

The heavily promoted camera capabilities are at best subjective but I for one am happy with the camera performance. Having tested many smartphones, it’s easily one of the better ones out there but not quite when you have it go against say the iPhone 11 Pro or the Google Pixel 4 XL (they are on another price range anyway). 

The realme X3 SuperZoom is still a pretty good device for everyday use with a buffed up camera for both day and night time photography. The chipset’s performance is on the high side and the battery life won’t disappoint. Just make sure not to drop in water and you’ll have yet another “almost flagship” phone to play with.

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