realme C3 RMX2020 – fully-featured mass-market phone

realme C3

The realme C3 is the latest in its entry-level C-series including the $199 C2′ Value King’.

We were impressed with realme’s phones when launched late last year. OPPO makes the realme C3 so you know it is good quality.

Unfortunately, the realme C3 is launching in a time of world chaos. It is not just that COVID-19 has for want of a better word neutered Chinese production facilities but that the uncertain component supply chain smashed any certainty that it can get the bits to make it.

Regardless the realme C3 will launch in limited quantities on 9 April and be available online only from realme e-store Australia, JB Hi-Fi online, Make It Mine, 5GWorld, Essential Appliance Rentals, Amazon realme store, eBay realme store, and Catch.com.au.

realme C3

Note that the review unit is a pre-production model and specifications may vary slightly.

  • Australian website
  • Warranty: 2-years
  • Price: $269

Caution: The Australian model differs from international ones in that it has a different processor (MT6769), NFC, macro lens, and certification for Australian LTE Bands.

Do not buy it online from any other store that promises ‘Australian stock’ unless it specifically has the much-needed LTE band 28, comes with an Australian charger and has the Australian C-tick symbol on its regulatory page.

First impression

I know that realme was aiming for the $199 price point. The Aussie dollar has tanked so new stock is at the new price. This comes in at $269 (The existing C2 is $199), but realme have tried to pack as much into the C3 to compensate.

It certainly does not look like a cheap phone. Sure it has micro-USB charging and that ever-elusive 3.5mm combo audio port but the screen, fit and finish belie its price.

The review unit is Frozen Blue which is a vibrant, textured metallic-like finish (the other option is Blazing Red) with a huge colourful 6.52″ display, a MediaTek MT6769 processor, triple rear camera, BT 5.0, NFC, dual sim, a whopping 5000mAh battery and Android 10.

That is a terrific package even if the Aussie dollar has knocked it around a little.

realme C3

We use the terms FAIL, PASS and EXCEED against test paradigms relevant to this mass-market device.

The Screen – EXCEED

It is 6.52″, 1600 x 720, 269ppi, 20:9 ratio, 89.8% STBR, centre teardrop protected by Gorilla Glass 3 PLUS.

GG3 Plus is a new variant of the highly scratch-resistant GG3 adding improved drop protection surviving a .8m (waist height) drop onto a hard or rough surface.

It claims 480 nits, 800:1 contrast and almost 100% of sRGB (sorry our test equipment in COVID lockup). So, it is web-colour accurate. It has a screen colour temperature slider and supports Android 10  Dark Mode interface that I kind of like. It is moderately daylight readable.

It comes with a pre-fitted plastic screen protector.

Processor/GPU/RAM/Storage – PASS

The Aussie version comes with the Helio G70 MT6769 SoC with 2×2.0Ghz A75 and 6×1.7Ghz A55 cores. The international version uses MT6768. The G stands for games!

Performance-wise it achieves 388/1242 (single/multi-core) on GeekBench 5. That puts it on par with Samsung Galaxy Note 8 – not too shoddy.

 The Mail G52 MC2 GPU supports video encoding up to H.265 and decoding of VP-9 (YouTube). Geekbench Compute score is 1010, so it will play most typical mobile games.

RAM is 3GB LPDDR4. This is the new fast RAM, but we consider 3GB the bare minimum for full Android. Still, it does not lag at all in loading apps.

Storage is 32GB (17GB free) of eMMC 5.1 so its fast. We believe the retail model has 64GB, but in any case, there is a dedicated microSD slot to 256GB, and it supports OTG to 2TB.

CPU Throttling – EXCEED

The SoC hardly throttled, meaning it can handle sustained loads like games. It peaked at 125,965GIPS and averaged 120,170 over a 15-minute test. Rear heat was 32° – excellent.

LTE – PASS

It is dual SIM supporting bands 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28, 38, 40, 41 so it covers all Australian Telcos. Importantly it has Band 28 for improved in-building and small cell coverage – otherwise, the phone would default to the snail’s pace 3G.

Signal strength is -104dBm (reasonable), but it also found the next nearest two towers (good) showing the antenna setup is fine for city and town use. It supports VoLTE and VoWi-Fi on all Telco networks.

The SoC supports Cat 7 DL (300Mbps) and Cat13 UL (150Mbps). We achieved 70/45Mbps in a three-bar test area (good).

Comms – PASS

It is Wi-Fi 4 N reaching a maximum rate of 86Mbps  with a good strong signal strength of -34dBm.

BT 5.0 is a nice touch, and it supports SBC and AAC codecs.

The Australian model has NFC.

The Goodix fingerprint reader is consistently accurate. It also has face unlock – stick to the fingerprint sensor!

Sound – PASS

It has an earpiece speaker and a bottom-firing mono speaker. We don’t expect any fidelity from a mono speaker, so it is not a test paradigm.

Ringer volume is 72dB (average), and hands-free is 72dB (average), but the single mic means you need to hold it close and ‘cup’ your voice as it has no noise cancellation.

No buds are supplied – you need a pair for the aerial for the FM radio. But it appears you can redeem a free set of wireless buds if you register.

The BT SBC and AAC codecs gave clear and loud sound to the Sony WH-1000xM3 test headphones.

Build – PASS

Yes, we know its plastic (well polycarbonate), but realme have such a great way with vacuum-deposited metallised paint that you would swear it is metal. We like the ‘Sunrise ‘design.

realme C3

Paint, however, will wear faster than metal. There is no bumper case.

Size: 164.34 x 75 x 8.95mm x 195g.

Android 10 – EXCEED

It runs Android 10 and the new realme UI V1.0 user interface. realme were using the OPPO ColorOS, and you can see a familial resemblance.

Google apps and its versions of calendar, mail, camera, clone phone (very effective) and more are preloaded. The only bloatware is Facebook.

Now at this price, you can’t expect OS upgrades, but realme is pretty good with rolling out security patches.

Battery – EXCEED, but USB-C would have been nice

5000mAh is enough to get you through two to three days – more if you remember to power down at night or use aeroplane mode. Amperage draw when idle is <200mA so the battery should stretch to a month on standby.

The 5V/2A (10W) charger supplied will go from 0-100% in about three hours (if switched off) and five hours when left on. It will also charge from a 5V/.9A USB port and that can take several hours. But it means you can get a top-up charge almost anywhere.

Tests

  • 720p video loop in aeroplane mode 50% screen brightness – 10 hours
  • T-Rex 100% load – 8 hours

Camera – EXCEED

This outperforms most cheap smartphone cameras in spades.

The rear tri-camera is

  • 12MP, main 1.25um, F/1.8, 75° FOV, OV12A10 sensor, PDAF, 4X digital zoom, [email protected]
  • 2MP portrait (depth sensor) 1.75um, F/2.4, 88° FOV, OV02A1B sensor, FF
  • 2MP Macro, 1.75um, F/2.4, Galaxycore CD2375H sensor, FF at approx. 4cm

There is a single auto flash (good to about 3 metres) and auto HDR. It does not have OIS or EIS.

The lenses are optical plastic under a glass protector to save costs.

There is a ChromaBoost setting that stacks images and saturates the colours – they may not be technically accurate, but that is what most of us want.

Daylight

1X – great colours and detail
2X zoom – excellent detail
4X zoom – still very good – a little background noise

Office Light

Accurate colours and good detail

Low-light

Standard shot – reasonable detail
Same shot with ChromaBoost enabled – excellent

The front camera is

  • 5MP, 1.12um, F/2.4, 76° FOV, FF, Galaxycore 5035 sensor, FF.

We give you the specs because they tell us what the hardware is capable of. But realme puts a lot of work into the camera, and the MediaTek SoC has some AI capability. That produces a camera that has object recognition (Google Lens), smart photo album, scene detection and segmentation with background removal, and depth of field capture enhancements.

Overall, it is one of the better mass-market cameras producing surprisingly good images in daylight to low light, although it does not have a dedicated Nightscape mode.

GadgetGuy’s take – realme C3 is a mass-market marvel

It is hard to get excited over mass-market phones, but this one did interest me. The tri-camera is way better than it should be, a powerful class processor, a massive battery and overall, the quality you expect from an OPPO built phone.

It is not a replacement for the C2 value king – its very different and adds considerable value and a little cost to that.

After I reviewed this, I read a few international reviews – hence my warning to buy the genuine model. We get a better processor, tri-camera and 64GB at launch.

Features
Value for money
Performance
Ease of Use
Design
Reader Rating2 Votes
Great value for a 5000mAh battery and tri-camera
Good looks, well-made and well-supported
Passes or exceeds every parameter for a mass-market phone
Micro-USB but that is not a deal-breaker
4.5