There is more to a handheld console than a smartphone
ZTE’s Nubia tends to offer sophisticated hardware at surprisingly affordable prices, but in India, the company is trying to establish itself as a gaming brand. Since the launch of Red Magic 3 earlier this year, Nubia has quickly refreshed it with Red Magic 3s to keep pace with recent flagships coming with Qualcomm, a specially designed processor to enhance mobile gaming. For example, the Red Magic 3s bears a striking resemblance to the previous Red Magic 3. Almost everything is the same in terms of design, display, battery power and camera. The only major upgrade is the presence of Snapdragon 855+ and UFS 3.0 storage. These two components would ideally go a long way to improving usability, but is that really the case here? Find out –
This is probably the only place where we can see some changes from the previous Red Magic 3. The Snapdragon 855+ plays at a high speed and an overclocked GPU. Furthermore, UFS 3.0 storage promises a 2x increase in read / write speed compared to UFS 2.1 previously used in Red Magic 3. We’ve run our Benchmark app suite to see if it makes a significant difference in performance. Results here –
Red Magic 3s is definitely faster than the previous Red Magic 3 on all benchmarks. The Snapdragon 855+ makes a difference, at least in synthetic testing. But unlike other Snapdragon 855 + powered smartphones, the Red Magic 3s is not always the best. It did well in the Geekbench single-core and multi-core CPU tests, but lagged behind the OnePlus 7T, Asus ROG Phone II and Realme X2 Pro in AnTuTu and 3DMark Slingshot. The difference, however, is minimal enough that it will not be considered significant. Clearly, the Red Magic 3s performs on par with some of the fastest smartphones available today.
Acting benchmark scores should be the lowest for a gaming smartphone. And the Red Magic 3s easily passed that test. We also tried a few resource-intensive games on the phone and clocked frame rate and stability using Gamebench. We run games in Nubia’s gaming mode that comes with the flick of a switch located at the top left. Game mode turns on the fan inside, and lets you pair CPU and GPU clocks (but not as deeply as ROG Phone II) and a gamepad and preferences. Game mode kills all apps in the background and blocks notifications for uninterrupted gaming.
Games run just as well as other SD855 + smartphones For example, most games hit the maximum frame rate, but there is a difference in stability. Asphalt 9, PUBG Mobile both run at maximum frame rate providing an immersive experience. Frame rate stability was also high enough, with two games clocking at 94% and 96% stability, respectively. Call of Duty: Mobile, however, runs at 59 fps but much less 53 percent stability, which can be a very good bug in the recording software because I didn’t experience any frame drop while playing my game.
Part of what enhances the gaming experience is the pressure-sensitive trigger on the edge of the phone. These are basically two extra buttons that let you play with four fingers instead of two. However, if you are planning to get the phone for Air Trigger only, then ROG Phone II is a better option to go for, as the air triggers in ROG Phone II are more intuitive. You can rest your fingers on the triggers and then press them if necessary In Red Magic 3s, just touching the trigger will trigger the action and you can’t rest your finger on it. So for long time gaming, this will become a problem and you will soon find yourself tired while gaming.
Tasks other than games are plagued by bugs. Although Nubia has worked in gaming mode to allow games to run without interruption, other apps like Facebook, Instagram and Messenger are not fully optimized. Facebook Messenger chat bubbles tend to close in the background and crash frequently. More than that, the phone seems too big to carry for everyday use.
Red Magic 3s relies on a custom skin made by Nubia. Like the previous offer, the Red Magic 3s also looks pretty dated. Icon Design Android seems to be back in 4 days and lacks the smoothness of UI that we expect from high quality smartphones. Despite the 90Hz refresh rate, the animation and transitions don’t seem so smooth.
The good news is that the Red Magic 3s doesn’t come with lots of bloatware. Save for a user manual and an app to adjust the RGB Lite effect, all other pre-installed apps are useful and not a duplicate of another Google app. This helps the phone maintain a lot of free resources, so much so that the 8GB RAM variant of the Red Magic 3s was able to compete head-to-neck with the likes of the OnePlus 7T Pro.
The Red Magic 3s comes with a large 5,000mAh battery. This is another perfect choice for a gaming phone but it adds a lot more weight to the body. There is also support for 18W fast charging which comes in handy to quickly top up the battery. Now, Nubia claims that you can play PUBG mobile for about eight hours on a single charge, and that claim will only be true if you play in auto mode. Tweaking the GPU and CPU frequencies to run at maximum speed will drain the battery much faster and, frankly, it doesn’t add much to make a big difference. When the fan is turned on, the battery drains quickly. Overall, keeping everything at maximum speed, playing 15 minutes of PUBG mobile reduces Red Magic 3s by about 6 percent, while Netflix’s 30 minutes of battery life is reduced by 8 percent. These are by no means conservative, as we have seen small batteries run very slowly during this operation. But if you keep things in their default settings, the battery drain can be controlled to be slower.
It is rare to find a single-lens camera in a phone priced at 30k and above, but Red Magic offers 3s. A good one though. The single 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor is well-optimized and ready to enhance sharpness and detail in well-lit conditions. And if you’re shooting under normal conditions, it can also be quite good at getting the color right. The camera should ideally be remembered when creating the concept of a gaming phone, and it’s nice to see Nubia take that extra step to offer a better camera in addition to high-performance gaming.
If you are coming from another OEM, you need to get used to the camera app. Initially feature name. At first I struggled to find out why there are features called ‘Camera Family’ and ‘Pretty’ and quickly realized that it was translated directly from the Chinese app. But if you manage to overcome it, there are some interesting features to check out. 8K video recording on that subject, a sample of which can be found below. Let us know what it looks like on an 8K display because honestly we don’t have one in our lab right now Other than that, there are some AR filters that work depending on what you are trying to do.
As for my own photos, I was quite impressed with the 48MP sensor. The pictures taken outside have become bright and vivid with the right amount of sharpness. There is no ultraviolet or portrait mode. The best you have is an electronic aperture mode that mimics the depth of field using software. Although it is not very helpful. Also, the camera boosts the ISO whenever you take a bound picture at 12MP resolution, so your highlights may get 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 notches, cuts and sharp edges that define the look of a gaming-smartphone in 2019. There is also an RGB strip in the middle of the back and a single 48MP camera size has been given to add symmetry to the overall design. Nubia has matched the phone from a single block of aluminum. It’s not the rear glass, which makes it more durable. It has a stereo speaker setup that produces loud audio output which is good enough for fast gaming sessions while on the go, and also a 3.5mm headphone jack. Overall, the Red Magic 3s seem to have been carefully crafted. If only the inside software looked as good.
Coming to the display, the Red Magic 3s has a 6.65-inch AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate. The display is exactly the same as in the Red Magic 3, and just like before, the panel can’t hold a candle next to the OnePlus 7T Pro or ROG Phone II. The Red Magic 3s’ panel looks dull and only manages to hit a maximum brightness of 476 lux during the day outside our test. As a result, gaming on the phone can be smooth, but it will not give you the best visuals. Nubia also claims 100 percent DCI-P3 coverage, but without HDR certification, you are less likely to use it.
The last row
With SoC and storage just getting an upgrade, most things stay the same, the Red Magic 3s is definitely faster but the experience is pretty much the same. As far as gaming smartphones go, the experience is a bit worse than the ROG Phone II. Yes, the price is a bit lower, but a little higher and you’ll get a lot more features, more accessories and a lot more powerful hardware-software integration. That being said, the Red Magic 3s runs almost all the games we’ve thrown at the highest frame rate. Outside of gaming, the Red Magic 3s struggles a bit to get daily tasks right and as a result, it may not be the perfect daily driver despite being a good gaming device.