Nubia Red Magic 3 gaming smartphone launches

Image credit: Nubia (Image credit: Nubia)

The ZTE Nubia Red Magic 3 is coming, and it’s a marked improvement on its predecessor, the midrange Red Magic Mars. The new model is a powerful smartphone with even more features to appeal to gamers – and it’s coming to China on April 28 followed by a US, UK, EU and Canada release sometime in May.

We got our hands on the Red Magic Mars at CES 2019 and loved its high specs and gaming features, especially at less than half the retail price of costly flagships like the Razer Phone 2 and Asus ROG Phone. But it seemed a bit underpowered with last year’s Snapdragon 845 and middling 16MP rear/8MP front camera.

The Red Magic 3 is juicier in nearly every way. It packs the leading Snapdragon 855 chip, upgrades the battery to a colossal 5,000mAh (up from 3,800mAh) with up to 30W quick charging – enough to get an hour of gameplay on a 10-minute charge, per Nubia’s press release. The (still single-lens) rear camera now lets you shoot 48MP, while the front-facing shooter is 16MP.

The remaining specs are just short of standout, with several tiers of memory and storage, starting at 6GB of RAM and 128GB of space. That can be upgraded to 8GB RAM/128GB storage or 12GB/256GB, which is hefty enough for all your gaming needs.

Even better gaming features

Of course, you’re looking at the Red Magic 3 to play games. The standout features from the Red Magic Mars return – mainly the touchpad “shoulder” buttons on the phone’s side, a switch that turns on a specialized gaming mode, and RGB lighting. 

But aside from the huge battery, the Red Magic 3 has another upgrade on its predecessor: instead of a copper cooling tube to vent heat (also present in the Asus and Razer gaming phones), Nubia’s new phone has liquid cooling and an internal fan, which the company claims increases heat transfer “by 500%.” We’ll have to test that claim, but it’s still a serious commitment to keeping the gaming phone cool while you’re in an intense gaming session.

The AMOLED display’s resolution hasn’t been improved from the FHD+ of its predecessor, which is lower-rez than the Razer Phone 2’s QHD screen, but it’s now an impressive 6.5 inches (up from the Red Magic Mars’ 6-inch display). More screen real estate is good for gamers, as less will be taken up by their thumbs. Plus, the display has a 90hz refresh rate for more fluid gameplay, on par with the Asus ROG Phone but under the 120hz of the Razer Phone 2. 

That's a long way of saying that the Red Magic 3 is, on paper, a big upgrade that should make the phone competitive with leading (if not flagship) phones. Unfortunately, we still don’t know how much the phone will cost, so it’s unclear if the new phone will be as good of value as the Red Magic Mars – but either way, it’s shaping up to be a strong gaming phone for 2019.

David Lumb

David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.