With the advent of hyper-casual, cross-platform, multiplayer online battle arena games (MOBAs) and live stream culture, a gaming phone is more relevant than ever before. But from the Nokia N-gage days to recent past, this has been a stumbling pursuit and brushed off as pointless. However, that hasn’t stopped a few brands like Nubia, who are steadfast in their resolve. Accordingly, we have come across “truly” gaming smartphones, like the one in this review, that claim a competitive advantage over their mainstream counterparts. (Nubia Red Magic 3s Review हिंदी में पढ़िए)

The Nubia Red Magic 3S was launched in India in the latter half of the year. It might have flown under your radar, partly since 2019 witnessed a glut of quality smartphones. Secondly, this ZTE associate is a fairly lesser-known brand in the country. Nonetheless, when the device came across my hands, I decided to give it a try. In fact, I’ve been putting it to the test since then.

So, if it piques the gamer gene in you to know whether this should be a part of your gaming setup, read along. I’ll be sharing my experience over the course of this review. 

But before we delve into details, let’s get the specs out of our way.

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Nubia Red Magic 3S Price and Specifications

Model Nubia Red Magic 3S
Display 6.65-inches, 1080 x 2340 pixels, 18:9 aspect ratio, AMOLED, 90Hz refresh rate, and HDR support
Processor 2.96 GHz Octa-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ processor with Adreno 640 GPU
RAM + Internal Storage 8GB RAM + 128GB internal storage12GB RAM + 256GB internal storage
Expandable Memory No
Software Android 9 Pie
Selfie Camera 16MP (f/2.0 aperture)
Rear Camera 48MP (f/1.7 aperture)
Battery 5000mAh with 27W fast charging support
SIM Dual SIM (Nano + Nano-SIM)
Connectivity Dual VoLTE support, Bluetooth v5.0, WiFi 802.11ac, a 3.5mm audio jack, USB-C port, and USB OTG
Sensors Proximity, Accelerometer, Compass, Gyroscope, Fingerprint sensor
Colors Mecha Silver and Cyber Shade
India Price Rs. 35,999/ Rs. 47,999

Nubia Red Magic 3S: Unboxing

Nubia Red Magic 3S ships in a somber yet stylish square box. Inside it, you get a –

  • The Phone
  • Charging brick
  • USB Type-C cable
  • User Manual
  • Sim Ejector tool

Nubia Red Magic 3S Review: Design and Build

It’s like the Nubia designers let their imagination run wild and came up with this polarizing look. The design resembles something inspired by the Transformers, the movie franchise. Build-wise, it’s a metallic stout that weighs around 215 grams, which is slippery and a bit unwieldy.

But the make is mused over and it’s more than what meets the eye. The choice of metal over glass means better heat dissipation. Although the convex-shaped base acts as a rocking chair when placed on a surface, it offers a nice hold. Rest, everything from the slightly jutting diamond-shaped rear camera to the air intake grill, fingerprint scanner, RBG strip to the logo feels sauce!

To the right, you get two touch-sensitive triggers, an exhaust vent, volume rockers, and the power button. While the left side has the Game Space switch, SIM-card tray, and the connector for the dock station. Nubia has given both a USB-C socket and a 3.5mm audio jack – things we no longer take for granted. 

Now, the fancy elements of the Nubia design DNA might very well throw off a casual user. But, Nubia’s aesthetic choices, for all intents and purposes, do stand out from the crowd.

Nubia Red Magic 3S Review: Display & Audio

Nubia Red Magic display keeps up with the times. The FHD+ AMOLED panel supports the 90Hz refresh rate. The panel measure 6.65-inches diagonally with an 18:9 aspect ratio. There’s HDR support too.

Needless to say, the display is smooth but the higher refresh rate does cut back on the battery life. Now, if you try to bring it down to 60Hz, you wouldn’t find the option right away. Dig deeper into the Game Space settings, there’s an option to toggle between 60 and 90 hertz. But mind you, this is not applied system-wide, which defeats the point.

The screen legibility is fine at 480 nits under both sun and shade. However, while kept in comparison to some of its peers, we felt it could’ve been a wee bit brighter and sharper. Then there were times when the touch wasn’t as responsive as I wanted it to be. The long presses on the home screen or app drawer to open the menu or drag and drop items went undetected. Call it a one-off thing or even a software bug, but it was weird what so ever. Also, it only has support for Widevine L3 which means you can stream Netflix and Prime in 480p resolution only. Oof!

As for the sound, Red Magic sports dual front-firing speakers. The audio output is alright in terms of loudness and texture. The same is true for headphone sound staging. While I was testing the Skullcandy Sesh (review), the output was clearly finer on the OnePlus 7T (review).

Nubia Red Magic 3S Review: Camera

While the industry is pacing to place more and more cameras on their phones, Nubia has stuck to two shooters, one on either side. There’s a 16-megapixel shooter on the front and a 48-megapixel sensor at the back. The camera app is pretty straight forward with an easy to use interface. It comes with a dedicated macro mode, night mode, 48MP mode, and video recording up to 8K (although limited to 15fps), amongst other features.

However, when it comes to real-world performance, the camera pales grossly. The photos lack the texture and life you would expect. In a similar vein, the selfies are gloomy, especially while taken indoors. The faces look overly softened. Lack of OIS means the videos come out jittery. Although it boasts 1920 fps, the result from Slomo is also choppy. Even missing basics like native portrait mode is not appreciated in 2019-20. The included Night mode is its only saving grace. The said mode does a fine job in processing better color science for the poorly-lit ambiance.

Here are some camera samples for your reference. Have a look –

 

Nubia Red Magic 3S Review: Gaming & Battery Life

Performance is the strongest suit of Red Magic 3S. After all, it’s a gaming phone. It is engined by a Snapdragon 855+ chipset, coupled with up to 12GB RAM and 256GB ROM. Nubia has slapped stock-ish Android on top. This means a bloat-free and smooth experience. But, on the other hand, some of you might not like the baseline AOSP and find it a lil too bland.

But if you ask me, it was right up my alley. The skin is bloat-free, smooth and responsive. Two things that really irked me were – the persistent ‘SIM1 is HD capable‘ notification and every time I tap mobile data QS tile, it took a moment to respond. Oo Yes, gesture navigation and system-wide dark mode are also heavily missed here. For some weird reason, the given Dark Theme failed to work. Plus, Android 9 feels dated when its peers like Asus ROG Phone 2 (review) are already enqueued for the latest Android 10.

The software also plays a big part in the gaming experience. For instance, the Game Space lets you manage your games in one place. It can be toggled on or off using the hardware switch on the top left corner. You can control the fan cooling speed and other game settings, track the performance, block calls and notifications for a focussed gaming session. You even get an option to customize the RGB LED strip at the back.

Here’s a quick rundown its special gaming features –

  • 4D customizable vibrations, the shoulder triggers, action button, and even the fingerprint reader enhances the control and command over the games.
  • The light strip (which is BTW customizable) might appeal to anyone who’s a sucker for the RGB light.
  • A second-generation ICE liquid cooling coupled with an actual fan does a good job in heat dissipation.

ALSO READ: Vivo S1 Pro Review 

Red Magic 3S’s impressive performance is reflected in the run of the mill benchmark scores as well –

Benchmark  Score
AnTuTu 4,95,238
Geekbench Compute OpenCL score 2750
Geekbench Score Single-core 788
Geekbench 5 multi-core 2455
3D Mark Sling Shot Extreme OpenGL ES 6233
3D Mark Sligh Shot Extreme Vulkan 5417
    While we are discussing benchmarks, let me interject the storage read and write speeds that have significantly improved on the 3S over its predecessor. Thank Nubia for adopting UFS 3.0 standard and hence the phone manages to hit following R/W speeds –
  • Sequential Read: 1470.59 MB/s
  • Sequential Write: 221.84 MB/s
  • Random Read: 162.31 MB/s
  • Random Write: 132.46 MB/s

It can handle prolonged heavy loads with no throttling or hiccups. The active cooling via a fan and liquid cooling via the vapor chamber does make a difference. The great replay value it offers is courtesy of that capacious 5K mAh battery. It’s capable of squeezing out two-day worth juice on normal use. And even with long game hours, you are less likely to feel range-anxiety. I just wished it had supported a faster charging. An 18W adapter feels a mismatch for the big battery. Moreover, the bundled power brick feels a little cheap too.

ALSO READ: Skullcandy Sesh Review

Nubia Red Magic 3S Review: Verdict

Reviewing a gaming phone is a tad different than judging conventional phones. A gamer values and nitpicks on things that would hardly bother the mainstream audience. I state my case with Nubia’s design philosophy. Although the phone is a safe bet on the performance front, you can’t blame one for wishing a less garish look and better ergonomics. Similarly, Nubia could’ve cooked a polished software experience and given versatile and dependable cameras.

The magic it conjures up whilst gaming is appealing for sure. But if that doesn’t excite you, there is hardly anything worth aspiring. At the starting price of Rs. 35,999, one does have more than “good enough” flagship killers. If you can shell out a bit more, there you have the ROG Phone 2.

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