Excellent build quality
Impressive battery life
Good performance while gaming
Lots of bang for your buck
Still comes with a microUSB port
Color OS isn't for everybody
Realme has been gunning for Xiaomi after it entered the Indian market and hasn’t taken its foot off the pedal since. Realme is a little more than a year old, but has already launched nine smartphones. Joining its affordable brethren is the Realme 3i, which is another device vying for a spot among the best phones under 10,000 rupees. Does it do enough?
Realme 3i review: The big picture
Two variants of the Realme 3 were launched back in March. While the global version was powered by the Helio P60, the Indian variant came with the Helio P70. The Realme 3i is basically the global Realme 3 in a fancy new body. Essentially, everything but the processor remains the same when comparing the two.
The Realme 3i will be taking on competitors Xiaomi and Samsung in this price range, as well as its own namesake in this category. Will the Realme 3i be able to distinguish itself not only from its rivals, but from Realme’s other devices? We find out in our Realme 3i review.
What’s in the box
- Realme 3i
- 10W fast charger
- MicroUSB cable
- Transparent TPU case
- SIM ejector tool
The attractive yellow and grey box tells you that design is going to be a big selling point for the phone. The TPU case is a useful addition that will help keep the phone safe in a pinch. If you’re looking for more protection though, you’re better off picking up a third-party Realme 3i case.
- Polycarbonate body
- Waterdrop notch
- 156.1 x 75.6 x 8.3mm
Looking at the front, it would be almost impossible to distinguish between the Realme 3i and nearly every other smartphone in this price range. The generic look comes with a waterdrop notch, thin sides, and a thick chin, which all contribute to its impressive screen-to-body ratio. It doesn’t look bad by any means, but it’s just more of the same. It’s certainly a well-built phone that feels far more premium than what it’s price point suggests.
Realme makes up for it in spades when you flip the phone over. If distinctive is what you’re after, it doesn’t get more so than with the Diamond Red colorway. The red fades into blue, with shades of pink and purple throughout. Realme’s signature diamond pattern on the plastic back returns and, combined with the gradient scheme, ensures you’re looking at a different color and pattern at every angle.
The Realme 3i didn’t fail to turn heads. I didn’t expect so many double-takes and questions from people, and almost everybody who saw it favored the design. That said, I’ll admit that it took me some time to get used to this color. (This is probably because the most ambitious I’ve ever been with my smartphone color choices was “this time I’ll get the white version.”) If you’re hoping for more muted options, Realme has you covered with the Diamond Black and Diamond Blue versions.
The beautiful design of the Realme 3i is bound to turn heads.
Everything else is pretty standard fare. The volume rocker and power button are on the left and right sides respectively. The buttons are clicky and tactile, and don’t feel cheap. At the bottom, you’ll find the single speaker, the headphone jack, and the microUSB port. There’s also a fingerprint scanner on the back that works really well.
The quickest way to unlock the phone is via the Face Unlock feature. This is one of the fastest I’ve seen, and it seems to be even faster than the fingerprint scanner. There are questions about how secure this method is in general, but it definitely works fast.
- 6.2-in. HD+ LCD
- 1520 x 720, 271ppi
- Teardrop notch
The display of the Realme 3i isn’t going to win any awards, but it more than gets the job done. The color reproduction is fairly accurate and it gets bright enough to allow for comfortable viewing, even in harsh daylight. There’s no issue with viewing angles either, with no noticeable color shift at wide angles.
Overall, this display is one of the better options in this price range and you’ll have a good time watching videos and playing games on this screen. Sadly, the phone lacks Widevine L1 support, meaning you won’t be able to stream HD video from Netflix or Amazon Prime.
- MediaTek Helio P60
- Mali-G72 MP3 GPU
- 3GB/4GB RAM
- 32GB/64GB storage, expandable
The Realme 3i handles day-to-day tasks quite well, despite being powered by a processor that is starting to show its age. The Helio P60 was also under the hood of the Realme 1, which was released more than a year ago, so it’s a touch surprising to see here. That said, the performance is impressive for this price range.
This is particularly evident when playing games, especially since a high-performance mode kicks in. Games may take a bit to load and there will be some lag initially. However, after a second or two, everything runs as smoothly as can be expected. There’s some stuttering when playing games like Asphalt 9 and PUBG (which defaults to the medium frame rate and balanced setting), but these instances were actually quite rare.
I ran the Realme 3i through a gamut of benchmark tests and you can check out the results below.
- 10W fast charging
The standout design is a big plus, but what is likely to be more attractive to customers is the Realme 3i’s fantastic battery life.
Most days ended with around 50 percent battery under moderate use. I had to really push it to test the battery, but even with heavy usage I only managed to get the phone down to below 20 percent by the next morning. With light to moderate use, you should comfortably get through a day and a half or even two full days.
One of the highlights of this phone is its fantastic battery life.
- Android 9 Pie
- Color OS 6
Color OS seems like a mishmash of design elements and features from a variety of first and third-party Android launchers, with iOS-like elements thrown into the mix.
There’s a lot of granular control over aspects of the UI that most people won’t need. And of course, row after row of pre-installed apps will greet you when you first set up the phone. Worse, not all of them can be uninstalled.
It’s obviously not all doom and gloom. One of the more useful software additions here is Game Space. It primarily activates a high-performance mode to ensure smooth gameplay. You can also disable notifications and even block calls while gaming. The Realme 3i isn’t going to be most people’s gaming phone of choice, but it’s nice to see something like Game Space included at this price point.
There some other useful additions that seem to be made for an Indian audience. Clone Apps lets you sign up for and use two Facebook and Whatsapp accounts (you’ll need two SIM cards), call recording is enabled by default, and you can set up folder- and app-level passcodes as well. You can enable an internet speed booster than utilizes both Wi-Fi and mobile data to improve the connection speed.
Color OS takes some getting used to and isn’t going to be for everybody. There are some really useful features though, and there’s nothing that’s going to be a complete deal-breaker in terms of the software package.
- 13MP standard at f/1.7
- 2MP depth sensor
The Realme 3i camera is an average shooter. It isn’t terrible, and some shots do come out looking quite good, but there’s a definite lack of detail and poor exposure on occasion. Backgrounds, landscape shots, and even some close-ups appear fuzzy and washed out. A poor camera is considered part and parcel of an entry-level smartphone, but devices like the Xiaomi Redmi 7 are helping change the perception. The Realme 3i is not.
The Realme 3i delivers a few camera features and modes, including an expert mode, time-lapse, slow-motion, panorama, beauty for selfies, chroma boost, and nightscape. The camera app is simple enough to use. You can swipe through the shooting modes like video, photo, and portrait. Tapping on the menu icon brings up the additional features, while chroma boost and HDR are tucked away at the top (in portrait orientation).
The nightscape mode is impressive. Sort of. It takes a while to capture each shot, but nightscape significantly improves clarity in the dark. However, what this mode basically does is bring what would otherwise be abysmal low-light photography up to par with what you’d expect from a better phone. Without this mode, highlights are blown, there’s little detail, and there’s a lot of noise.
You can find the full resolution camera samples here.
The front-facing camera is better. It still isn’t an outstanding shooter, but its 13MP resolution means it is just as detailed as the primary lens. It takes good-looking selfies, and the beauty mode isn’t too aggressive, at least with the default setting (you can increase it.)
There are some interesting options here, like thinner face, smaller face, bigger eyes, smaller nose, and more. None, except for the smoothing feature, seem to make any noticeable difference in the shot though. The portrait mode works well enough. It’s not perfect, but the end result looks more like a touch up than a missed section.
- 3.5mm headphone jack
Audio output from the speaker is plenty loud, but that’s the only nice thing to say about it. The single speaker lacks depth and sounds tinny. Since it’s a bottom-firing speaker, it is also easy to accidentally cover when playing games or watching a video.
A good pair of earbuds or headphones is necessary for the best audio experience from the Realme 3i.
The good news is that the Realme 3i comes with a headphone jack, and the audio quality is far better through headphones. Various audio profiles are built-in to the software via the Real Original Sound Technology found in the settings menu. To get the best audio experience from this phone, a good pair of earphones or headphones will go a long way.
|Display||6.2-inch IPS LCD|
1520 x 720, 271 ppi
MediaTek Helio P60
Mali-G72 MP3 GPU
expandable via microSD up to 256GB
13MP standard at f/1.8
2MP depth sensor
|Software||Android 9.0 Pie|
|Dimensions||156.1 x 75.6 x 8.3mm|
Value for money
- 3GB RAM/32GB storage: 7,999 rupees (~$115)
- 4GB RAM/64GB storage: 9,999 rupees (~$145)
Providing a lot of bang for your buck is something that Realme continues to get right. There’s a lot of competition in this segment, however, with phones like the Redmi 7 and the Samsung Galaxy M10 also battling for the top spot.
The Realme 3i also falls smack dab in the middle of the Realme C2 and the Realme 3, with overlapping prices to boot. The Realme 3i is definitely good value for money and is worth considering in this price range. Unfortunately, its biggest competition is Realme’s own smartphones.
Realme 3i review: The verdict
The Realme 3i is a good phone, but so is the Realme 3. Unless Realme plans to discontinue the Realme 3, the 3i seems a little out of place. Both are practically identical, and the 3i comes with an older, slightly slower processor. The diamond-patterned back and the unique colors are the selling point here, and it’s slightly cheaper, too, at least as far as the lower-end model is concerned.
But as much as I like the design, even I’m not sure if that’s enough to justify picking the Realme 3i over the 3.