About a year ago, Xiaomi was pretty much ruling the budget segment of the smartphone industry. Multiple brands were present in the price bracket but no company was really able to shake the Xiaomi tree’s roots, which were set pretty deep into this price soil. Then about a year ago, realme stepped into the field and to everybody’s surprise, it now seems to have a significant space of its own in the budget phone category. To carry this streak forward, realme has now launched another device, the realme 3i. It is the lighter version of the Realme 3 that was launched a few months ago, and in terms of price slots right between realme’s budget duo of realme 3 and Realme C2.

Head turning-ly good looking

Smartphone designs have become a little predictable of late with similar tall displays and shiny glass-like backs. When we opened the realme 3i’s box, the front of the device had us believing that it was another “smartphone next door”, especially because we do not often see smartphone manufacturers actually thinking outside the traditional box when it comes to the design of budget smartphones. But to our pleasant surprise, the realme 3i comes with an upped design game.

The front has no design surprises as such. There is a 6.2-inch tall HD+ display with thin bezels on three sides accompanied by a thicker chin. The display is protected by Gorilla Glass 3. There is a dew-drop notch on the bezel on top that is home to the front camera of the phone and above that sits the earpiece.

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But all of these are routine design details that we see on most mainstream smartphones these days. The real(me) surprise is actually the back of the phone. realme 3i comes with a textured, gradient finish back. The brand has added what it calls “the diamond cutting texture” which is basically lines and patterns that create different shapes on the 3i’s back, making the smooth, plain back of the 3i appear very 3D. We received the Diamond Red color variant of the device, where the top of the back was very pinkishly red which transitioned into an electric blue shade as it moved down.

The back holds the dual primary camera setup and the LED on the top left side while a circular, slightly recessed fingerprint scanner is placed to its right, while the lower part carries the realme branding. The back of the 3i curves out to the sides, meeting the front of the phone. The left side of the phone carries the dual SIM card and microSD card tray along with volume buttons while the right side carries the power/lock button. The top of the phone is plain while the base holds the speaker grille, the micro-USB port and the 3.5 mm audio jack.

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The realme 3i measures 156.1 x 75.6 x 8.3mm and weighs 175 grams, and will sit comfortably in most hands. Because there are no shiny, glossy backs, the phone does not catch smudges and scratches easily, which means there is no compulsive need to keep wiping your phone’s back. The texture of the back also gives the device a very nice grip, making it a little less prone to accidental slips. The phone also looks very solid and sturdy. With glass backs becoming mainstream, shiny, glossy backs have lost their charm and ability to turn heads and this is where the realme 3i builds its design score, thanks to a very (good) different looking back.

Driving the dailies well

The realme 3i is powered by the MediaTek Helio P60 processor and our unit came coupled with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage. The phone is also available in a 3 GB/ 32 GB variant. The storage on the phone can be expanded up to 256 GB via microSD card and because there is a dedicated slot for it, you will not have to compromise on one of your networks to do so.

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The realme 3i can go through your daily tasks with ease. We switched from social media apps, to the camera app, to texting to web browsing and the phone handled all of it well. We also were not surprised at how the device performed in the gaming zone. We expected it to handle casual games like Subway Surfer, Hang Line and Temple Run 2 with ease and so it did. But we also pegged the device to struggle in the high-end gaming zone, and trying games like PUBG, Asphalt Xtreme proved that the phone is not really meant for heavy-duty gaming. The apps not only took a lot of time to launch but the games also kept lagging and crashing every now and then.

What also took away from the gaming experience was the display of the phone. The 6.2-inch display may be tall but it is HD+ and comes with a screen resolution of 1520 x 720 pixels. It responds well to touch but looks a little dull and washed out (a complaint we had with the display of the Realme 3 as well). It can be used in a bright room with ease but you will have to squint your eyes while looking at it under the harsh sun.

In terms of security, you get a physical fingerprint scanner on the back of the realme 3i which works efficiently. It is fast and recognizes the fingerprint almost all the time. The phone also has face unlock feature but it is not as secure as it often unlocks the phone even with eyes closed.

Call connectivity is also pretty good on the 3i and we did not face any call drop issues. The loudspeaker on the phone is decent. It is not very loud but the audio does not break or get grainy when maxed out on volume.

Slays in good light. Slayed in dim light

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realme has a good camera performance track record, even in low-end phone models and the 3i stays in the same lane and carries this record forward. The phone comes with a dual-camera setup on the back consisting of a 13-megapixel main sensor with f/1.8 aperture and PDAF along with a 2-megapixel secondary sensor.

The camera captures both detail and color well, especially in good light conditions. We were impressed with how it handled macro and landscape shots, as well as everything in between. It was easy to focus on the subject while taking a macro shot and the phone did not struggle too much with the distance between the camera and the subject, something we have seen many other phones struggle with. We just had to point, tap to focus and click. And the results turned out great in most cases. In close-ups, the camera created deep bokeh which added a lot of depth to the shots. The colors reproduced were very close to reality. Yes, it sometimes went a little overboard with warm colors, but that happened very rarely.

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The camera app has most of the modes hidden a three-bar tab right next to the main modes above the shutter button. There is Nightscape, Pano, Slo-mo amongst others. It also comes with a portrait mode which is present right up front along with Photo and Video mode. We were expecting the portrait mode to be a little hit and miss (well, that’s how it is in most phones in this segment), but it surprisingly was not. It not only did great in color and detail department but also produced deep bokeh. Yes, it struggled with the edges of the subject but apart from that, portrait shots from the 3i turned out very well, which is a rarity, especially in smartphones under Rs. 10,000.

But the camera story of the realme 3i is not all pink and rosy. There were dark moments too. Quite literally. The phone struggled in low light, notwithstanding the much talked of Nightscape mode. The detail and the color all really went to the bin when the lights dimmed down – subjects became hazy and grainy while colors went dull. The phone also did not handle glare very well.

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Moving on to the front camera, the realme 3i has a 13-megapixel front-facing camera which sounds really good on paper, but it does not do as well as its brother on the back. The selfies mostly turned out to be super smooth and detail-less, even when the beauty mode was off. We often found the camera “fairing up” our skin tone, a fair bit (pun intended). There is also an extensive beauty mode which allows you to do all this more with your selfies. It makes you look very fair (literally), but if you are looking for natural selfies, the 3i might not be the phone for you.

Clean UI, efficient battery

In the UI department, the realme 3i runs on Android 9 (Pie) out of the box and is topped with ColorOS 6.0 which is realme’s in-house UI. The interface of the 3i is pretty clean and uncluttered. That said, the phone does come with a number of third-party apps pre-installed on the phone like Facebook, Dailyhunt, Amazon Shopping and Paytm.

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The phone also does not overwhelm you with options and even in places where there are options, they are not exactly in your face and are nestled away quite nicely like in the camera app where the modes are under a separate tab. The realme 3i’s UI is perfect for someone who is perhaps switching from a sub Rs. 5,000 (smart)phone, as it will not intimidate you and will still allow you to do a lot with the phone.

Running all of this is a 4,230 mAh battery. The battery can easily last for more than a day even when you push it. The phone is not meant for heavy-duty tasks and comes with an HD+ display, all of which mean lower battery drain. Incidentally, it is a good thing that the battery can last you a while simply because it takes a fair bit of time to charge the device back as there is no fast charging support. Connectivity options on the phone include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, and Dual VoLTE.

The most complete smartphone for the price…real(me)ly

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Priced at Rs. 7,999 for the base variant, there is no doubt that the Realme 3i, is one of the best options present in the market right now at its price point. Yes, there are a few negatives like the slightly dull display and a not so great front-facing camera, but other than that, the phone actually delivers a very good performance for the price, and well, we cannot stop talking of the difference that design makes. Yes, there is competition from Xiaomi and Nokia with Xiaomi Redmi 7 and Nokia 2.2, respectively, but the Realme 3i is able to hold its own against these. Comfortably. And look a darn sight better besides. If that does not tell you how good it is, nothing will. The realme 3i is hands down one of the most complete smartphones at its price tag.

Buy Realme 3i

  • Eye-catching design
  • Decent performance
  • Big battery
  • Dull display
  • Low light camera performance
  • Not the loudest loudspeakers
Review Overview
Design and Build

The realme X might have grabbed most of the headlines, but there is a fair chance that the realme 3i could end up grabbing as much if not more, market share, given its combination of design and performance. We take a closer look at the latest budget effort from realme.

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