ZTE’s Nubia has a penchant for offering cutting edge hardware at surprisingly affordable prices, but in India, the company is trying to establish itself as a gaming brand. After launching the Red Magic 3 earlier this year, Nubia has been quick to revamp it with the Red Magic 3s to keep up with the recent stream of flagships that came with the Qualcomm processor made specifically to boost mobile gaming. to give. The Red Magic 3s therefore bears an uncanny resemblance to the previous Red Magic 3. Almost everything is the same, down to the design, display, battery capacity and camera. The only major upgrade is the presence of the Snapdragon 855+ and UFS 3.0 storage. Ideally, both components should go a long way toward improving usability, but is this really the case here? Let’s figure it out –
This is perhaps the only place where we expect to see some changes from the previous Red Magic 3. The Snapdragon 855+ has a higher speed and has an overclocked GPU. In addition, UFS 3.0 storage promises a 2x faster read/write speed compared to UFS 2.1 previously used in the Red Magic 3. We ran our suite of benchmark apps to see if that makes a significant difference in performance. Here are the results –
The Red Magic 3s is definitely faster than the previous Red Magic 3 on all benchmarks. The Snapdragon 855+ does make a difference, at least in synthetic testing. But when paired with other Snapdragon 855+ powered smartphones, the Red Magic 3s isn’t always the best. It scored best on Geekbench Single Core and Multi Core CPU tests, but on AnTuTu and 3DMark Slingshot, it lagged slightly behind the OnePlus 7T, Asus ROG Phone II and the Realme X2 Pro. But the difference is minimal enough not to be considered anything significant. It’s clear that the Red Magic 3s performs on par with some of the fastest smartphones available today.
Achieving benchmark scores should be the bare minimum for a gaming smartphone. And the Red Magic 3s passes that test with ease. We also tried out a few resource-intensive games on the phone and clocked the frame rates and stability with Gamebench. We ran the games in Nubia’s game mode, which is activated with the push of a button on the top left edge. Game mode turns on the fan inside and lets you adjust the CPU and GPU clocks (not as deep as the ROG Phone II though) and pair a gamepad and the like. Game mode also kills all background apps and blocks notifications for uninterrupted gaming.
Games ran just as well as on other SD855+ smartphones. For example, most games managed to hit maximum frame rates, but the stability differed. Asphalt 9, PUBG Mobile ran both at maximum frame rates and delivered an immersive experience. The frame rate stability was also high enough with the two games reaching 94% and 96% stability respectively. However, Call of Duty: Mobile ran at 59 FPS but a much lower stability of 53 percent, which could very well be a bug in the recording software as I didn’t experience any frame drops while playing.
Part of what improves the gaming experience is the pressure-sensitive triggers on the edges of the phone. This basically becomes two extra buttons that allow you to play with four fingers instead of two. However, if you’re planning to buy the phone just for the air triggers, the ROG Phone II is the better option simply because the air triggers on the ROG Phone II are more intuitive. You can rest your fingers on the triggers and press them in if necessary. On the Red Magic 3s, the action is activated by simply touching the trigger and you cannot rest your finger on it. So for long periods of gaming this becomes a problem and you will wear yourself out faster while gaming.
However, tasks other than games are plagued with bugs. While Nubia has worked on the game mode to make games run smoothly, other apps like Facebook, Instagram and Messenger have not been optimized at all. Facebook Messenger chat bubbles kept closing in the background and there were frequent crashes. More than that, the phone feels too bulky to carry around for everyday use.
The Red Magic 3s relies on a custom skin developed by Nubia. As in the previous offering, the one on the Red Magic 3s also looks quite dated. The icon design seems to go back to Android 4 days and the user interface lacks the smoothness we expect from high-end smartphones. Animations and transitions don’t feel as smooth despite a 90Hz refresh rate.
The good thing is that the Red Magic 3s doesn’t have a lot of bloatware. Save for a user guide and an app to customize the RGB lighting effects, all other pre-installed apps are useful and no duplication of another Google app. This helps the phone retain a lot of free resources, so much so that the 8GB RAM variant of the Red Magic 3s could rival that of the OnePlus 7T Pro.
The Red Magic 3s comes with a large 5,000 mAh battery. That’s another right choice for a gaming phone, but it also adds a lot more weight to the body. There is also support for 18W fast charging, which is useful for quick battery charging. Nubia claimed that you can play PUBG Mobile for almost eight hours on a single charge, and that claim only applies if you play in automatic mode. Tweaking the GPU and CPU frequencies to run at top speeds will drain the battery much faster, and to be honest, it doesn’t really make much of a difference. Keeping the fan on will also drain the battery faster. All in all, while everything stayed at its peak, the Red Magic 3s dropped about 6 percent while playing PUBG Mobile for 15 minutes, while 30 minutes of Netflix drained the battery by 8 percent. These are certainly not conservative, as we’ve seen smaller batteries drain much more slowly during these tasks. But if you keep things at their defaults, battery drain can be controlled even more slowly.
A single-lens camera is rare to find in a phone priced at 30k and above, but that’s exactly what the Red Magic 3s offers. Though it’s a good one. The single 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor is well optimized and tuned to improve sharpness and detail in well lit conditions. And it’s also really good to get the colors just right, provided you shoot under normal conditions. The camera should ideally be the last thing on your mind when thinking about a gaming phone, and it’s good to see Nubia going the extra mile to offer a good camera alongside high-performance gaming.
However, the camera app takes some getting used to if you’re coming from other OEMs. Mainly the function names. I had a hard time figuring out why there are features called “Camera Family” and “Pretty” at first, and soon realized it was translated straight from the Chinese app. But if you manage to get past that, there are some interesting features to check out. 8K video recording by the way, an example of which can be found below. Let us know what it looks like on an 8K display as we honestly didn’t have one in our lab right now. Other than that, there are some AR filters that will work depending on what you’re trying to do.
As for the photos themselves, I was quite impressed with the 48MP sensor. The photos taken outside were bright and vibrant with just the right amount of sharpness. There’s no ultrawide or portrait mode here. The best you have is an electronic aperture mode that simulates depth of field using software. However, it is not very useful. Also, the camera tends to increase the ISO every time you take a wasted photo at 12MP resolution, so your highlights may come out a little clipped. You can check out the camera roll below –
Design and display
The Nubia Red Magic 3s looks and feels like a gaming smartphone. It has the necessary grooves, cuts and sharp edges that defined the look of a gaming smartphone in 2019. There’s also an RGB strip in the center on the back, and the single 48MP camera is shaped to add symmetry to the overall design. Nubia has machined the phone from a single block of aluminum. It’s not glass on the back, which should make it more durable. There’s a stereo speaker setup that blasts out loud audio output, which is good enough for quick gaming sessions on the commute, and also a 3.5mm headphone jack. Overall, the Red Magic 3s seems carefully crafted. If only the software looked this good.
Coming to the display, the Red Magic 3s features a 6.65-inch AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate. The display is exactly the same as what was on the Red Magic 3, and just like before, the panel can’t compete with the ones on the OnePlus 7T Pro or the ROG Phone II. The Red Magic 3s’ panel looks dull and only managed 476 lux maximum outdoor brightness during our daytime testing. As a result, gaming on the phone can run smoothly, but it won’t give you the best visuals. Nubia also touts 100 percent DCI-P3 coverage, but without an HDR certification you’ll probably never use it.
With most things staying the same and only the SoC and storage getting an upgrade, the Red Magic 3s is certainly faster, but the experience remains largely the same. As for gaming smartphones, the experience is somewhat inferior to the ROG Phone II. Yes, the price is also a little lower, but a little more and you get a lot more features, more accessories, and a much more robust hardware-software integration. That said, the Red Magic 3s runs almost all the games we threw at it at high frame rates. Outside of gaming the Red Magic 3s struggles a bit to do day-to-day tasks well and as a result it may not be the perfect daily driver despite being a good gaming device.