Gaming smartphones are a niche when you look at the entire smartphone market. Not so long ago, a powerful processor was considered the only important factor in gaming. Things have changed drastically now, and we have special gaming smartphones that each bring something different to the table. The Nubia Red Magic 3, for example, had an internal fan that kept the thermal at bay. We liked it as a gaming device, but it wasn't very good at everything else. Nubia, the company behind this phone, has just released an update called Nubia Red Magic 3S.
This new model is equipped with the new Snapdragon 855 Plus SoC, a 90 Hz display as well as more RAM and memory. Is this the best gaming hardware on the market right now? We tested this smartphone to find out.
Nubia Red Magic 3S design
The Red Magic 3 (Review), launched earlier this year, had a striking design. The update is not too different and the Red Magic 3S still has the same design, although there is a striking new paint job. Nubia has launched the Red Magic 3S in two colors, Mecha Silver and Cyber Shade. For this test, we had the Cyber Shade version. It has a color gradient between bright red and purple. We have had mixed opinions about this style from people around us – some liked the bright, eye-catching colors, while others hated it. Nubia only offers this for the top-end version of the Red Magic 3S.
Just like the Red Magic 3, this smartphone is bigger than usual and a bit bulky. It has a large 6.65-inch HDR AMOLED display. There are thick bezels at the top and bottom of the device, while the sides are smooth. Just like the Red Magic 3, it has a refresh rate of 90 Hz. The AMOLED display is vivid and has three color modes for you to choose from: The color mode (wide color spectrum) lets the colors pop, while the regular mode opens the control panel switches the DCI mode. P3 color space and Natural mode uses sRGB. Nubia offers stereo speakers for the Red Magic 3S, which is now expected on a gaming device. There is Corning Gorilla Glass for protection, but Nubia doesn't mention the version used.
All buttons on the device are on the right and are easy to reach. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same thing about reaching the top of the screen. This is two-hand operation or the phone must be mixed in hand. The housing is made of metal and this smartphone weighs 215 g.
The right side of the phone also has a vent to vent the air when the internal fan turns. This page also has two capacitive shoulder buttons that are easy to use when you hold the phone in landscape mode. On the left is a proprietary connector that can be used with a supported dock and various other accessories that don't appear to be available in India. Just above it is the double nano SIM compartment and a special button to switch the GameBoost mode.
The back of the smartphone is identical to that of the Red Magic 3. In the middle is a long strip of RGB light with a hexagonal fingerprint scanner above it. At the bottom is a Red Magic logo that lights up for incoming notifications. However, you can activate it at any time. There is another opening for the internal fan directly above the fingerprint sensor. Nubia still offers a single camera for the Red Magic 3S, while the competition offers more. There is a single LED flash light above the camera sensor and a second microphone with noise reduction on the side. You can see antenna cables on the top and bottom of the device. The smartphone has a 3.5 mm headphone jack at the top and a USB Type-C port at the bottom.
Nubia claims that the Red Magic 3S supports 27W fast charging, but only an 18W charger is included. You will also receive a Type C USB cable, but there is no case in the packaging.
Nubia Red Magic 3S specifications and software
The Nubia Red Magic 3S is an update of the Red Magic 3 and receives the more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus SoC. Nubia has launched the smartphone in two versions. The basic version has 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage and is available in Mecha Silver. The high-end version has 12 GB RAM and 256 GB storage. There is a big price difference between the two, with the base set at Rs. 35,999, while the latter is set at Rs. 47,999.
With the Red Magic 3S, Nubia switched to UFS 3.0 storage, while the replaced model had UFS 2.0 storage. This puts it on the same page as the latest OnePlus devices. According to the company, an active fan, a thermal gel, copper foil, multilayer graphite and a liquid cooling tube were used to keep the processor at an optimal temperature.
Connectivity options on the Red Magic 3S include dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 5, four satellite positioning systems, and dual VoLTE. The Nubia Red Magic 3S has a 5,000 mAh battery, which should help to keep the charger off for a long time.
In terms of software, the Red Magic 3S runs Android 9 Pie with a custom user interface. Our unit ran the August security patch. We had no problems navigating through the user interface. There are very few pre-installed apps, including only a few Google apps, and an LED strip editor tool that allows you to customize the RGB strip on the back.
Game Space 2.1 is the game mode of the Red Magic 3S and can be activated by pressing the physical GameBoost switch on the side of the phone. Game Space has a different launcher to which you can add games and apps. The RGB lighting, internal fan and screen refresh rate can be switched quickly. You can set the update rate to Auto, 60 Hz, or 90 Hz. The internal fan is equipped with an intelligent setting that adjusts the fan speed based on the CPU temperature, or with a rapid cooling system that keeps the fan running at all times. There are also 4D shock effects designed to improve haptic feedback in supported games like PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9: Legends.
Nubia Red Magic 3S performance and battery life
The Nubia Red Magic 3S offers the best possible hardware. Just like every other smartphone with Snapdragon 855 that we have tested, this smartphone is full of tasks. We never had stuttering or lag, and that's to be expected if you have 12 GB of RAM behind the scenes. Starting apps wasn't a problem, and the phone could easily perform multiple tasks without having to exit apps in the background.
The fingerprint scanner on the back is easy to reach and the smartphone can be unlocked quickly. There is also facial recognition that is not only practical, but also fast. We enjoyed watching content on the AMOLED display, and the stereo speakers help improve the experience. However, only Widevine L3 is supported, which limits the resolution of video streaming apps to 480p. Playing was also addicting and the shoulder triggers help make games more engaging. While playing PUBG Mobile, we found that these shoulder triggers help improve our performance.
We ran our standard benchmarks to check the performance of the Red Magic 3S against some other smartphones that we have recently tested. During the execution of AnTuTu 8, we noticed that the internal fan switches on automatically, but this was not the case with any other benchmark. This phone scored 4.89.357 points in the test, while the OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition (test) scored 4.83.351 points.
In the Geekbench 5 single-core and multi-core tests, the Nubia Red Magic scored 754 and 2,472 points, respectively. 9,800 points were achieved in PCMark Work 2.0. We achieved 6,130 points and 75,333 points in the 3DMark Slingshot Extreme OpenGL and Ice Storm Unlimited tests. We also managed to achieve 91 fps and 69 fps in GFXBench's T-Rex and Manhattan 3.1 scenes.
We played PUBG Mobile and found no gameplay issues. The smartphone uses the High settings by default, but you can use it to further increase the graphics and frame rate. We played the game with the graphics set to HD and the frame rate set to high for about 32 minutes, and the phone registered a 9 percent battery drain. It hardly felt warm, but the ventilation opening pushed warm air out. We raised the graphics to HDR and the frame rate to extremes and played the game for 15 minutes, which resulted in a 5 percent battery drain. The smartphone was a bit warmer in comparison, but still not alarming. It looks like all of the cooling hardware added by Nubia supports heat management.
The Red Magic 3S has a 5,000 mAh battery and supports 27 W quick charging. In our HD video loop test, the smartphone was able to continue working for 15 hours and 35 minutes. With our use, which consisted of an active WhatsApp account and playing PUBG Mobile, the smartphone could continue to work for about a day and a half. In our charging test, the smartphone with the standard charger reached 32 percent in 30 minutes and 65 percent in one hour. It took almost an hour and a half for the phone to be fully charged.
Nubia Red Magic 3S cameras
The Nubia Red Magic 3S has a single 48-megapixel camera on the back, which is a bit surprising when you consider that most smartphones now have multiple cameras. There is a 16 megapixel selfie shooter on the front. The camera app isn't the best we've ever seen, and it might take a while to get used to it. There is no portrait mode and the electronic iris mode does not offer the same effect. In addition to the normal photo and video modes, it also offers the modes Pro, Pretty, MultiExposure, LightDraw, Clone and Time-Lapse. The camera takes 12 megapixel pictures as standard. However, you can switch to full sensor resolution in the settings.
Photos taken during the day with the Nubia Red Magic 3S showed many details. The focus was saved quickly and the exposure was set correctly. We noticed that text was readable at some distance when zoomed in, but finer details were missing. In close-ups, we found that the smartphone was able to distinguish between subjects and backgrounds, which resulted in good depth of field. Since the device doesn't have a portrait mode, we took some pictures with the electronic aperture mode, but it didn't give us the type of output we were expecting.
Tap to see full size Nubia Red Magic 3S camera samples
Shooting in low light was also decent, but we noticed grain in the output when zooming in and the photos weren't very sharp. The Red Magic 3S has a night mode that delivers slightly better quality. We noticed that photos taken with night mode are sharper, brighter, and have better details.
Selfies taken indoors with the 16 megapixel front camera were decent, but not very detailed. By default, the embellishment is activated in the camera app, which smoothes the skin in the output.
The Red Magic 3S has an 8K 30fps video recording mode, which the company says is in beta. It also offers 4K and 1080p video recording at 30 fps and 60 fps. Nubia added slow motion video recording at 480 fps and there is a 1920 fps mode in beta too. Surprisingly, there is no stabilization at 1080p or 4K, which leads to shaky recordings.
The Nubia Red Magic 3S is fully game-focused and works well for this purpose. The 90 Hz refresh rate of the HDR AMOLED panel enables smooth gameplay. This phone offers the best possible hardware for games as well as dedicated shoulder buttons. The internal fan supports operation at lower temperatures. In other areas, however, this phone can hardly stand out from others. The camera performance is below average compared to other devices in this price range.
The Nubia Red Magic 3S competes directly with the Asus ROG Phone 2 (review). The base variant manages to slightly undercut Asus, but the difference is much bigger if you look at both high-end variants. Nevertheless, the Red Magic 3S is not easy to recommend. If you're looking for a gaming smartphone in the market, we recommend spending a little more and buying the ROG Phone 2 instead.