Technophile

The Red Magic 3 weaves a spell

Mirza Mohammed Ali Khan | Updated on July 03, 2019 Published on July 03, 2019

Nubia’s gaming smartphone heralds an exciting new era and segment in India

Okay, games and mobile phones are a very old marriage. They have been around pretty much from the time mobile phones went mainstream. But back then, they were there just as an add-on, and the more serious hand-held gaming was left to the likes of the GameBoys and the PSPs. Then came the Nokia Ngage, an iconic phone in its own right, and mobile gaming suddenly saw something fresh. Sadly, the hype around it did not continue and gaming phones didn’t really take off back then.

It’s now, in the age of the smartphone, that gaming phones are well and truly back. Purists can go on and on about how mobile gaming isn’t really gaming, but the industry seems to think otherwise. More and more prominent titles are coming to phones and because of the lower entry barrier in terms of price (not everyone can afford a gaming laptop or a console), gaming smartphones are now becoming a segment all by themselves.

This week, we look at one such gaming smartphone that is easily among the best (not that there are many, but not having tested them all, I cannot say if it is actually the best) — the Nubia Red Magic 3.

I reviewed the first Red Magic last year and the phone impressed with its performance prowess. Nubia takes that base and adds embellishments that have taken its utility and performance to a whole new level.

Made-for-gaming looks

The multi-colour gaming strip, the sharp cut lines, the red accents and highlights on the back are all familiar, but there are some design tweaks. When I reviewed the first Red Magic, I felt that the loudspeaker should be front-firing and there should be two, and that’s just what Nubia has gone and done. The rest of the front is similar to the older Red Magic and gets bezels so the phone can comfortably be held horizontally without interfering with gameplay.

The Game Space hardware switch, which makes this all the more a gaming phone, is on the left, along with the contact points for a possible dock. The right side gets the volume rocker, a power button, a cooling vent, and two smooth indents on either end to rest your fingers on, when gaming. See why this is a true-blue gaming phone?

The 6.65-inch OLED display comes with a 90 Hz refresh rate, which is also seen on the likes of the One Plus 7 pro that is significantly more expensive. This makes gaming all the more better and immersive, and the screen with its big size and vibrant, bright display also makes it a pleasure to watch shows/movies on, so much so that I didn’t miss the bigger screen of my tablet, at times.

The loudspeakers are a marked improvement and being front-firing, also don’t get affected by placing the phone on a surface. I was asked to actually turn the volume down when gaming with others in the room. If you want a more immersive experience, I’d recommend headphones or a good external speaker.

Find all your games here

The Game Space, activated by a toggle of the switch, is the best software feature on the Red Magic 3. One place where you can choose between your games, keep an eye on the phone’s temperature, data, and other parameters, switch the cooling fan on (more on that in the next paragraph), it even clocks your CPU and GPU. You can use its control panel to block calls, messages, and even take a screenshot of your game. There’s also 4D shock (supported only on select games), that gives you shocks and vibrations when gaming.

The specs on the RedMagic 3 are flagship level. Snapdragon 855 processor, Adreno 640 GPU, and the review unit had 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage. Put this all together with the Game Space and the 90 Hz screen refresh rate and what you have is a gaming powerhouse. The cooling fan can be adjusted to its maximum speed if things heat up too much. This is in addition to the liquid cooling system that the phone already has. It handles all the popular gaming titles that are available for smartphones currently and it is built like it could handle more. Asphalt 9 (which I’m quite partial to) was a very immersive experience and the game also let me experience the 4D shock feature, which made it seem as close to holding a console controller as possible. I could use the Game Space panel to keep an eye on the temperature and use the fan whenever things got toasty. I gave the phone a break whenever my gaming time exceeded two hours, however.

Top performance

Given that this phone handles gaming without breaking a sweat, daily use and power use also obviously isn’t a problem. The battery is 5,000 mAh and the phone comes with a 27 W fast charger that juices the battery up real quick. The battery lasted me more than a day (close to two) without gaming and with gaming, about less than a day. A lot of the battery’s performance depends on the games’ settings and how you tweak them. I would have liked Nubia to tweak the battery’s performance slightly more to handle intensive gaming, however. Because given the hardware constraints, I’m not sure how much bigger batteries can go in phones. The large battery also makes the phone a tad heavy, so holding it for too long means your hands need some rest.

The cameras on this phone are good, given that they aren’t the focus area. The 48 MP single rear sensor (no dual camera) is good under daylight and clicked sharp outdoor images with colours that were well-reproduced. The Red Magic 3 even has 8K video capture that I couldn’t test much as there was no 8K display to play it back on. However, the battery drained quick using this feature. The 16 MP selfie camera does its job, and also has the now-omnipresent beautification features.

The phone runs on Android 9 Pie, with its own custom UI. But it is as close to stock Android as possible, which is a good thing.

At this price, the Red magic presents an interesting value proposition in that it is a top performing flagship phone, apart from being a focussed gaming beast. And it beats its competitors like the Xiaomi Black Shark 2 on pricing.

Price: ₹35,999 onwards

Pros: Game Space software is great, efficient cooling system with fan, great performance, vibrant display, immersive phone gaming experience, fast charging

Cons: Battery performance could have been managed better, no dual camera, a tad heavy to hold for too long

Published on July 03, 2019
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