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On test: Realme 3 Pro takes on Google Pixel 3a, OnePlus 7 Pro

Can a sub £200 phone really compete against mid-range and premium models from big-name rivals? It's a closer contest than you might think

Emerging from under the wing of rising manufacturer Oppo to become its own brand, Realme aims to shake up the UK market with high-spec, affordable smartphones that will have you doing a double take at the price tag. 

While big league manufacturers Samsung, Apple and Huawei continue to push the boundaries of ‘premium’ with launches that tickle the £1,000 mark, now is the best time to measure up exactly what you’ll get if you pay more. Could Realme’s budget flagship model or Google’s mid-range offering really take on the premium OnePlus model? It’s a closer battle than you might think.

We’ve taken a look at each, along with competing models in their price range, to help you decide where your money will be best spent.

Browse all the best smartphones from our lab tests.

Realme 3 Pro vs Google Pixel 3a vs OnePlus 7 Pro: on paper

Realme 3 Pro Google Pixel 3a OnePlus 7 Pro
Screen size 6.3-inches 5.6-inches 6.67-inches
Display resolution (pixels) 1,080 x 2,340 220 x 1,080 1,440 x 3,120
Rear cameras 16Mp, 5Mp 12.2Mp 48Mp, 16Mp, 8Mp
Front cameras 25Mp 8Mp 16Mp
Battery 4,045mAh 3,000mAh 4,000mAh
Ram 4GB 4GB 6GB
Storage 64GB 64GB 128GB
Processor Snapdragon 710 Snapdragon 670 Snapdragon 855
Price £179 £399 £699
Review Realme 3 Pro Google Pixel 3a OnePlus 7 Pro

Realme 3 Pro review: redefining the budget market

The 3 Pro is Realme’s first smartphone launch in the UK, and it’s determined to make a splash. To start with, this phone has a huge 6.3-inch Full HD+ display. The dewdrop design means that the full screen is disrupted by a very small notch where the front camera is, and as well as being near full-screen, it’s almost as large as expensive flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S10+

Both the dual rear camera (16Mp and 5Mp) and impressively high spec front camera (25Mp) are packed with AI camera technology, and include functions that you wouldn’t dare to expect from a budget phone such as AI scene recognition, Ultra HD photos and 4K video resolution. 

The Realme 3 Pro packs a very respectable 4,045mAh battery, which trumps both the Google Pixel 3a and OnePlus 7 Pro. It’s powered by a Snapdragon 710 processor and the standard configuration device has 4GB of Ram with 64GB storage, but this is similar to other budget phones like the Huawei P Smart (2019)

The stakes are high for this budget contender but how did it perform when we put it to the test? Our review of the Realme 3 Pro reveals whether this budget smartphone is a dream or a dud.

To find your perfect budget match, read our guide on the best cheap mobile phones.

Google Pixel 3a: An affordable Pixel that ‘gets it done’?

Six months after the launch of its flagship Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, Google returned to the market with two mid-range alternatives: the Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL. In an effort to eliminate the conundrum of paying a high price for a Google smartphone, the Pixel 3a aims to do the same job but with a few compromises to make it affordable.

The two biggest differences between the Google Pixel 3a and the flagship are its less premium plastic casing and lower grade chipset, which is Snapdragon 670 instead of Snapdragon 845. Aside from that, the Google Pixel 3a stands on its own two feet as a good mid-range phone. Its biggest selling point is the camera, touting good ‘Night Sight’ for high quality pictures in low lighting and impressive editing functions. It gets all of this done with a single 12.2Mp rear lens and an 8Mp front camera.

The Pixel 3a is compact enough, with a 5.6-inch Full HD+ display and fairly modest resolution of 1,080 x 220 pixels. Its lowest configuration goes toe to toe with the Realme 3 Pro, which gives you 64GB of storage and 4GB of Ram. 

The mid-range phones market is on the up – our guide on the top five best mid-range mobile phones explains why.

OnePlus 7 Pro: a big-screen flagship for less

OnePlus made a big statement in 2019 with the launch of its new ‘Pro’ device, marking the start of a new range with the OnePlus 7 Pro. We’re used to two phones a year from the brand, but this addition means that die-hard fans now have more to choose from. 

The OnePlus 7 Pro doesn’t make many compromises; it has a mammoth 6.67-inch Quad HD+ display and a triple rear camera line-up comprised of a 48Mp main camera, 16Mp ultra-wide lens and 8Mp 3x zoom lens. 

On the front, you’ll find a 16Mp camera with a twist. Taking a similar approach to brands like Oppo, the front camera pops up from behind the screen, meaning the display remains completely uninterrupted. It manages to do all this while packing 6GB of Ram and 128GB of storage into the phone and undercutting the premium competition by charging £649, which is £400 cheaper than the Apple iPhone XS Max.

The OnePlus 7 Pro looks good when it’s standing on its own, but how does it compare with smartphones from the other big wigs on the market? We round up our best picks of the year in our guide on the top five best smartphones for 2019.

Do you really need to spend big on a mobile phone?

Buying a ‘budget’ smartphone would once have been a major compromise, but a number of manufacturers have decided to go against the grain to pack their noteworthy specs into affordable devices. Here are some of the sacrifices you might have to make if you’re shopping for a budget or mid-range model:

Less well-known brands

As most of the heavyweight brands are known for their premium models, it’s tempting to opt for an expensive smartphone. This is especially the case with Apple, whose iPhones are nearly always premium priced. If you’re keen on one of the big brands, there are often cheaper options, even if they’re not as widely available. Phones in Samsung’s J range, which features the Samsung Galaxy J4+ (£160) and Samsung Galaxy J6 (£147), typically retail for less than £200. Or if you want a mid-range model, the Galaxy A range is a good option if you don’t want to spend more than £400.

Cameras

Cameras on cheap phones used to be low resolution and produce sub-par photos. While low-end smartphones do tend have fewer rear cameras than premium models, there are some exceptions. Budget phones like the Realme 3 Pro (£179) and Huawei P20 Lite (£190) have a dual rear camera setup, but if you spend a little extra, you can get a mid-range phone like the Samsung Galaxy A7 with a triple camera setup.

Ultimately though, cameras is one area where flagships can rightly claim to have the ‘best of the best’.

Battery

One of the most important smartphone features, you’d think that the pricier the phone, the bigger and better the battery. Budget smartphones have definitely caught up in this department – consider the Motorola g7 power (£179) with its incredible 5,000mAh battery. Reassuringly, if battery is a priority, there’s no real need to buy premium, or even mid-range.

Build quality

One way to separate an expensive phone from a cheaper one is to look at its build quality; whether it has a plastic or glass back body, or if it feels like it might fly away with the wind or if its sturdy. Cutting corners with design is common when manufacturers offer a cheaper alternative to a flagship model, such as with the Apple iPhone XR (£749), Google Pixel 3a (£349) and Samsung Galaxy S10e (£669). While it would be a tall ask from a budget model, some mid-range phones like the Honor 8X (£200) are very well built.

Better display, faster performance

Screen size isn’t the only thing that matters when shopping around for a phone with the best display. Smartphones use different display technologies, from IPS LCD used on phones like the Apple iPhone 6s Plus (£349), to Super AMOLED displays typically found on Samsung’s. Cheaper smartphones may not have the same display clarity and colour reproduction as you’ll see in high-end devices, or the same processing power, but in truth, many people may not even notice. If you’re not too fussy about having the fastest and the best, most modern phones – from budget to high-end – perform perfectly well at the majority of tasks. 

Just looking for the latest bargain? Take a look at our round up of the best Sim-free mobile phone deals for this month.

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