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RealMe C3 review: Fumbled fundamentals
- Long battery life
- Tiny on-board storage
- Iffy camera
The RealMe C3 cuts one too many corners for its own good.
Price$ 269.00 (AUD)
Should You Buy The RealMe C3?
Not unless you can live with 32GB of on-board storage.
For more about our smartphone review process, click here.
Price when reviewed
Design - Look, Feel, Features and Camera
Presented on the clean but cluttered webpage of your “local” online reseller, the RealMe C3 looks like most modern smartphones. It’s got a decently large 6.5-inch IPS LCD screen on the front, a fingerprint scanner on the back and a triple-lens rear camera when it comes to optics.
However, once you get your hands on the phone, no amount of grooves texturing can hide the plasticky feel gives away the game. Even if it packs in plenty of the perks found in more expensive devices, the RealMe can’t help but feel compromised.
The short version: it doesn’t take for the corner-cutting to make itself known and while the C3 comes with a lot of extras, I found these strengths were quickly overshadowed by the ways in which the device fumbles the fundamentals.
To begin with, there’s the screen. What little the C3 gains in usability through the size of its screen it loses in the quality of that screen. Likewise, the grill-style speaker at the bottom of the unit is surprisingly loud in action but all-too-easily muffled by your grip on the device.
There’s a Micro USB port (used for charging) on the bottom of the RealMe C3. There’s a headphone jack (used for the obvious) on the top. On the inside, there’s 3GB of RAM and 32GB of on-board storage.
RealMe don’t exactly have a pedigree for design aesthetics and the C3 suffers for it. Even at its best, the RealMe C3 struggles to feel like anything but a cheaper take on the essentials. It’s not that bad is the best it gets.
The bright color scheme aside, you’re unlikely to mistake this for an iPhone, something from Samsung’s Galaxy lineup or even an Oppo or Huawei device. As far as these things go, RealMe are giving LG a run for their money when it comes to looking generic.
As for the camera, the C3 provides a more than adequate example of why it isn’t just enough to have more lenses. The back of the device houses a 12-megapixel primary lens and a 2-megapixel depth sensor.
Somewhat predictably, that dual-camera setup doesn’t get you very far. Most of the time, shots I took with the C3 were either too blurry or incorrectly exposed to use for anything. I quickly gave up on this aspect of the device but here are some samples of that it can do.
Performance - Specs, Software, Benchmarks and Battery Life
Processor: MediaTek Helio G70
Operating System: Android 10 + RealMe UI 1.0
MicroSD slot: Yes
Headphone Jack: Yes
Fingerprint sensor: Yes
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, 4G
Rear Camera: 12-megapixel (f/1.8) + 2-megapixel (f/2.4)
Front-Facing Camera: 5-megapixel (f/2.4)
Dimensions: 164 mm x 75 mm x 9 mm
Editor's Note - RealMe have since reached out to clarify that the review unit I was sent was a production sample with slightly different specs to the Australian version of the device. The latter has 64GB of on-board storage and NFC connectivity. Given that a big part of my ire with this device is a result of the on-board storage being so small, that's probably good news but, as my review was based on the other model, that's just speculation on my part.
As opposed to last year’s RealMe devices, which recycled Oppo’s ColorOS Android skin, the RealMe C3 adopts the company’s own RealUI take on the mobile operating system.
In action though, this change feels more like a rebrand than a rebuild. Icons are a little more rounded and the color green is empathised a little more prominently. Otherwise, the two have more in common than they do apart.
If you’re looking for a strain of ColorOS that gets a little bit closer to stock Android, this isn’t it. It’s not all that burdened by bloatware but it really does feel like a version of ColorOS with less Oppo branding.
Even at its best, it doesn’t bring much of its own to the table beyond the basics. As an inclusion, it’s as essentialist as it is uninspired.
Regardless of how slim the skin is here, the reality of relying on the RealMe C3 as a daily-driver left a lot to be desired.
Apps often hitched and loaded slowly. Half the time, I’d be sent to a boot-loader screen everytime I reset the C3. There were enough problems here that I found myself wanting to use the C3 as little as possible.
However, of all the regular issues that made using the C3 particularly troublesome, the limited storage was the most vexing. Yes, you can expand it using a MicroSD card but that’s really beside the point.
Pretty much from the moment I cloned my apps over to the C3, I was out of storage space. 32GB just doesn’t feel like an appropriate amount for a smartphone - even a budget one like the C3 - to offer in 2020. Having so little space meant I couldn’t take as many photos as I wanted to. It meant I had to uninstall most of my usual apps. It meant I had to play any games I had on the low texture settings. It means I couldn’t backup my music for offline playback.
Of all the little details that cut about using this phone, this one hurts the most because the fix isn’t that arduous. Bumping the on-board storage on the RealMe C3 up to 64GB seems like it probably wouldn’t have added that much to the manufacturing cost.
PCMark (Work 2.0): 8499
3DMark SlingShot Extreme (OpenGL): 1181
3DMark SlingShot Extreme (Vulkan): 1138
GeekBench (Single-Core): 385
GeekBench (Multi-Core): 1277
GeekBench (Compute): 1017
As noted in our recent review of the Huawei P40 Pro. Real world events have made it a little trickier to track battery life in the way that we usually do. Nevertheless, the C3’s 5000mAh battery went as long as you’d expect.
We’d usually get multiple days of usage out of a single charge and it took the C3 a solid ten hours and 50 minutes of streaming video to burn out from 100% to nil.
The RealMe C3 does not support wireless charging.
The Bottom Line
The RealMe C3 is almost a phone that you can get away with having. It’s a decent enough Android handset for the price.
Unfortunately, the 32GB of on-board storage really cripples anything but the most basic of possibilities and the plastic feel-factor doesn’t endow it with any particular sort of appeal.
The RealMe C3 is a budget phone trying its best to be a budget phone and, even if it’s pretty good at it, it cuts one too many corners for its own good.
If you're not sold on the RealMe C3, you can find a number of alternatives over in our guide to the best smartphones you can buy for under $300.
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