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Nubia Red Magic review: Unorthodox design, remarkable performance
The term gaming smartphone is usually referred to a device, which packs in the flagship chipset with a better cooling system to prevent performance bottleneck in the long gaming jam. Many smartphone OEMs have started to push-in "gaming-smartphones" to offer unparallel gaming experience and the Nubia Red Magic is the latest gaming smartphone available in India.
- RGB LED Strip
- Lacks dual VoLTE
- No microSD card slot
The Nubia Red Magic is, again, one of the first smartphones from Nubia/ZTE, which is being marketed as a gaming phone. In fact, the Nubia Red Magic is also the most affordable "official" gaming smartphone in India. Here is the comprehensive review of the Nubia Red Magic.
The design of the Nubia Red Magic makes it even more evident that the device is a gaming smartphone. It has a strip of LED light (RGB) on the back, which also works as notification light and users can programme it to showcase different colors depending on the requirements.
The entire smartphone is made from a single block of aluminum, which makes it solid and sturdy. Unlike most of the smartphone, the back of the Nubia Red Magic is not flat, which makes it difficult to keep it stable on a flat surface. The smartphone has a dedicated slider button, which can be triggered to enable performance mode, which will free up the RAM, storage, and processor power to offer a better gaming experience.
The back case of the Nubia Red Magic serves two purposes. The metal unibody offers structural rigidity and also helps in the heat dissipation (Air Convetion Cooling System), which will help the device to offer maximum performance for an extended period.
As the smartphone has a non-flat back panel, it is difficult to find a case for the Nubia Red Magic, and the device is also a bit slippery compared to the some of the full metal unibody design smartphones. Overall, the Nubia Red Magic has an interesting choice of design, which will attract the gaming community.
The Nubia Red Magic has a 5.99-inch IPS LCD screen with a resolution of 2160 x 1080p with 2.5D curved tempered glass protection with 60Hz refresh rate. At any given point in time, we prefer a notch-less display on a gaming smartphone, and the Nubia Red is in line with our requirement.
The LCD screen on the phone offers good viewing angle with a balanced amount of saturation. However, the sunlight legibility is not great even at the maximum brightness. If you are using the smartphone mostly, in indoor conditions, then you will not feel any trouble what so ever.
To sum it up, the display is not a bad one in any way. Similarly, it does not have any extraordinary as well.
The Nubia Red Magic has a single 24 MP primary camera on the back with an f/1.7 aperture and an 8 MP selfie camera with an f/2.0 aperture. The smartphone is capable of recording 4K videos @30fps with support for portrait mode and manual mode.
In the day-light and well-lit conditions, the photos taken on the Nubia Red Magic looks good with lots of details especially with HDR mode turned on. The device does take a second or two to process an image while the HDR mode turned on. We did not face any lag in image processing while the HDR mode is turned off. We felt that the images taken on the non-HDR mode looks washed out and lacks details.
There is no OIS or EIS, so the video taken on the primary camera lacks any sort of stebilisation. If you dont have a steady hand, then you will not get stable footage at 1080p and 4K resolution.
The Nubia Red Magic has an 8 MP front-facing camera with an f/2.0 aperture with support for 1080p video recording capability @ 30fps. The photos taken on the selfie camera looks good and the features like Beauty mode will help to smooth out the skin to offer the perfect selfie that you are looking for.
Lastly, the camera app is one of the actual pain points. It looks unpolished and Nubia should offer better camera UI to improve the overall camera using experience on the Nubia Red Magic.
As the Nubia Red Magic is a gaming smartphone, the company emphasize mainly on the performance of the device. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 is the chipset that powers the smartphone with an Octa-core CPU and Adreno 540 GPU with 128 GB of internal storage (UFS 2.1) and 8 GB of LPDDR4x RAM. The phone does not support storage expansion via microSD card slot, and we might not think that as a con, as 128 GB (around 110 GB is available for users) should be sufficient to most of the users.
With respect to synthetic benchmarks, the device scores are on point with the other smartphones with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC.
The device scores 195923 points on AnTuTu with 71204 points from CPU and 66739 points from GPU. On Geekbench, the device scores 1917 points on the single core and 6494 points on the multi-core performance.
We played a bunch of newly launched graphics-intensive games on the Nubia Red Magic, including the Asphalt 9, PUBG, and Dead Trigger 2 and we have no issues with respect to the gaming performance.
PUBG is one of the most power-demanding game in the Android ecosystem, and the device did handle the game in HD settings with higher frame rates without any issue.
We did notice that the back of the smartphone does get hot while gaming continuously, which is expected to happen with a smartphone that has a metal unibody design, which helps to dissipate the heat quickly.
There is no second thought on the fact that the Nubia Red Magic can handle any sort of game without any issues. Qualcomm recently announced the Snapdragon 855 SoC, which makes the Snapdragon 835 a two-year-old chipset, which might not be able to handle upcoming graphics intensive games.
The Nubia Red Magic runs on stock Android OS based on Android 8.1 Oreo. The phone comes with a clean version of OS with no third-party apps what so ever. Having stock Android OS will help the device to offer better overall user experience with faster operations.
Users will also get a lot of options to customize the smartphone according to one's need. We did notice some random app crashes, which could be fixed with a software update.
The device does not support HD streaming on premium video streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon, as the device misses out on the Widevine L1 certification from Google.
Calling and connectivity
The device has a dual nano-SIM card slot with support for 4G LTE and VoLTE on both the slots. However, the device does not support active dual VoLTE, so one cannot use two 4G only SIM cards at the same time.
The phone does offer Bluetooth 5.0 with dual channel Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz), and we had no problems with the connectivity what so ever.
Coming to the call quality and cellular reception, the device managed to offer a good amount of cellular network at all the time, and we faced no issue with respect to voice reception via standard call and WhatsApp call.
The smartphone has a 3800 mAh Li-ion battery with support for fast charging via USB type C port with a dedicated 3.5 mm headphone jack.
The Nubia Red Magic can easily last up to a complete working day on a single charge with 6 to 7 hours of screen on time. If you are an avid gamer, then you might have to charge the device twice a day.
The Nubia Red Magic is a well-balanced gaming smartphone. Like every other smartphone, the Nubia Red Magic does lack some of the features, which might be necessary for some users who are spending around Rs 30,000. Here are the things that Nubia should fix with the next generation of Nubia Red Magic.
- Better display with a higher refresh rate
- Dual stereo speaker setup (phone has a single back firing speaker)
- Camera improvement (probably a dual camera setup)
- Dual VoLTE
- microSD card slot
- Latest chipset
The Nubia Red Magic turns out to be a good smartphone, especially with a striking RGB strip and a state of the art cooling system. However, at a price around Rs 30,000, the device has to compete against the Asus ZenFone 5z and the Poco F1, which are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC.
This smartphone is for those, who want to flaunt their interest for smartphone gaming or for those who are looking for a smartphone, which looks a lot different from the standard smartphones with a rectangular design.
The Nubia Red Magic is a first generation gaming smartphone from Nubia/ZTE, which is a great gaming device for sure. Compared to the Asus ROG Phone or a Razer Phone, the company should offer the gaming-centric feature like high-refresh rate display, stereo speaker setup for the next generation device.