RealMe C3 review: Fumbled fundamentals

realme C3
  • realme C3
  • realme C3
  • Expert Rating

    2.00 / 5

Pros

  • Feature-rich
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Limited on-board storage
  • Iffy camera

Bottom Line

The RealMe C3 cuts one too many corners for its own good.

Would you buy this?

  • Price

    $ 269.00 (AUD)

Should You Buy The RealMe C3?

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.

For more about our smartphone review process, click here.

Price when reviewed

In Australia, the RealMe C3 is priced at a recommended retail price of AU$269. You can buy it through the RealMe website here. It's also available on Amazon.

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.

Credit: Fergus Halliday

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 64GB 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.

Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday

Performance - Specs, Software, Benchmarks and Battery Life

Specs

  • Processor: MediaTek Helio G70

  • Operating System:  Android 10 + RealMe UI 1.0

  • RAM:  3GB

  • Storage: 64GB

  • MicroSD slot: Yes

  • Headphone Jack: Yes 

  • Fingerprint sensor: Yes

  • SIM: Dual

  • Battery: 5000mAh

  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, 4G , NFC

  • 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

  • Weight: 195g

Editor's Note - RealMe originally sent us a review sample of the RealMe C3 that didn't have NFC connectivity and only included 32GB of on-board storage. We've since received a second sample with the correct specs and have amended this review to reflect that.

Software 

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. 

Credit: RealMe

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. If you expect more, you're gonna be disappointed.

Performance

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. 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. 

Benchmarks

Credit: Fergus Halliday
  • 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

Battery Life

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 lasted 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. That's not uncommon for phones this cheap but it is a difference worth noting if you're considering the compromises of dropping from the mid-tier into budget handsets.

The Bottom Line

The RealMe C3 is almost a phone that you can get away with having and it’s a decent enough Android handset for the price. However, if you're splurge that little bit more for something with a little more RAM, a little more storage or a slightly sharper display, you're unlikely to be disappointed.

Credit: RealMe

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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