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Nubia Red Magic 3s review

Red Magic 3 but with Snapdragon 855+

(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The Nubia Red Magic 3s is affordable, despite the fact it packs incredibly powerful internals and decent battery life, but it’s also very rough around the edges. Bare-bones UI, average camera experience, and a mediocre display hold it back from being an everyday phone. ROG Phone 2 is a better pick.

For

  • Affordable price
  • Loud stereo speakers
  • Decent battery life
  • Snapdragon 855+ backed powerhouse

Against

  • Disappointing imaging experience
  • Camera isn't versatile as competition
  • Mediocre display
  • Poorly optimized Android OS
  • Fan speed can be loud in Super Mode

ZTE’s sub-brand Nubia recently refreshed its gaming phone series with the Red Magic 3S. The phone joins the likes of Asus ROG Phone 2 and Black Shark 2 gaming phones that have been out there in the market for a while, providing a gaming-centric experience to users.

Nubia had launched the Red Magic 3 in June in India, and after just four months, we already have its successor. This begs the question as to what’s a major upgrade in the 3S that the company couldn’t hold its horses until the next year.

The answer to that is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ chipset which powers the 3S and is an overclocked version of the regular 855 chip, specially designed for giving users a supreme performance when it comes to gaming on phones. That's the only upgrade 3S has over the 3.

Otherwise, the phone has the biggest screen on the gaming block at 6.65 inches with a 90Hz refresh rate - the same as that of the OnePlus 7T but not as smooth as ROG Phone 2’s 120Hz screen. Under the hood, there’s up to 12GB of RAM and a giant 5,000mAh battery. Combine that with a Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset, touch-sensitive left, and right triggers, and the starting price of Rs 35,999 seems too good to be true.

Nubia Red Magic 3S price and availability

Nubia Red Magic 3S is priced starting at Rs 35,999 for the Mecha Silver color variant with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. The Cyber Shade color version with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage is priced at Rs 47,999 in India.

So, between the Red Magic 3 and 3S, the latter is probably a better deal, because of this one tiny tweak.

In comparison, the Asus ROG Phone 2 starts at Rs 37,999 while the Black Shark 2 is priced starting at Rs 39,999.

Design

(Image credit: Future)

The Red Magic 3s has a metal body construction complemented by an aggressive “gaming” design that makes it an immediate attention grabber. The phone is available in two colors-- silver with red accents called Mecha Silver and Cyber Shade, which has a red and blue gradient finish. There’s an illuminated LED strip down the back, which can be customized by users for colors and patterns, giving the phone its “gaming” vibe.

(Image credit: Future)

It has air vents on the right for the in-built fan, making it one of its kind. Two touch-sensitive trigger buttons act as shoulder buttons and can be mapped to all games, followed by volume rockers and a power button.

(Image credit: Future)

On the left, there’s a slider for enabling the Red Magic Game Space mode where players can fine-tune settings specific to each game with toggles to control fan speed, among other things, and a pogo-pin connector to pair it up with accessories. 

(Image credit: Future)

The Red Magic 3s isn’t just big for the sake of it; a lot is going on when you hold it in hand. The back proudly shows off red-accented beefy bevels, Red Magic logo, an RGB strip, and a single camera followed by a fingerprint scanner.

Those last two feature-set put the Red Magic 3s at a disadvantage in the eye of other flagship phones like the OnePlus 7T or even gaming phones like Asus ROG Phone 2 and BlackShark 2, all of which have an in-display fingerprint sensor and versatile camera setup.

(Image credit: Future)

The phone weighs around 215 grams and feels rightly balanced when using it to play games using both the hands. It doesn’t come off as a cheap rip-off even if it isn’t the epitome of tasteful luxury.

Display

(Image credit: Future)

Nubia Red Magic 3s has got the biggest screen in a gaming phone measuring at 6.65-inch and is flanked by thick bezels giving it an 80.5% screen to body ratio. It enables users to play games on a significantly bigger screen for an overall immersive experience. 

The phone’s screen uses an AMOLED panel and has a 2340 x 1080 pixels resolution with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, however, clarity falls behind most other flagships, given its pixel density of 388ppi. It has front-firing speakers while the screen is coated with Gorilla Glass 4.

The display has decent viewing angles, can get bright with vibrant colors and deep blacks. The screen is poorly calibrated and doesn’t give the kind of quality we expect from flagship phones and gaming phones like the Asus ROG Phone 2, which has a 120Hz refresh rate screen that’s significantly better tuned.

The display settings do offer users with some preset color adjustments, but that doesn’t do any good. Ultimately, we concluded that while this is indeed a relatively affordable gaming phone with a 90Hz AMOLED display, it doesn’t feature an excellent AMOLED display.