Nubia is the gaming-focused branch of Chinese smartphone manufacturer ZTE, and their latest offering – the Red Magic 3S, is one hell of a beast. The phone is an improved version of their recently-launched Red Magic 3, and it brings even more horsepower for a very competitive price. Whether you’re in the market for a gaming phone or not, most smartphones tend to be a premium device, in cost at least. Most companies tend to mark up gaming-focused smartphones to be priced similarly to non-gaming phones, but Nubia has really focused on giving mobile gamers more bang for their buck. How does the Red Magic 3S stand up to its competitors, and as an all-around device? Read our full review and breakdown to find out!
The Red Magic 3S looks and feels somewhat like the smartphone a space marine would use. It’s big, metal, and has lots of sci-fi like corners, angles, and edges. The entire middle along the back of the phone is emblazoned with an LED strip that lets you flaunt its RGB lighting.
I’d have to say the only thing I don’t like about the Red Magic 3S physically is that the fingerprint sensor is on the middle of the back as well. This is an awkward position to unlock with your finger, and I found myself constantly accidentally triggering it, which makes it vibrate.
It’s a very thin phone with a very great overall feel when you’re gaming or just doing day to day tasks. I tend to throw my phone in my pocket and use it with no headset when doing calls, and the screen protector it had applied already when shipped is great.
One smaller gripe I have with the Red Magic 3S is that its sheer size makes it hard to safely keep in your pocket. I tend to be in and out of the office, so I was often afraid the phone would pop out of my back pocket. The bigger screen is a really nice display, though.
The 6.65-inch screen is buttery smooth at 90Hz, and fits very nicely with the rounded corners, even with Corning Gorilla Glass. If you’re playing legit high-end games on the Red Magic 3S, they tend to look fantastic on this display.
A curious snapping button on the side activates the phone’s custom Game Space launcher, which is dedicated purely to games and customizing profiles for each game. You can control the fan (yes, this phone has a built-in fan), the shoulder buttons, and the RGB.
The shoulder buttons are actually a really nice addition – you can map virtually any on-screen button to them, and save the settings on a game by game basis through the Game Space launcher. This gives you a real, tactile feel via actual buttons, on a phone. You can’t control the fan outside the Game Space launcher unfortunately.
I love that the Red Magic 3S comes with a very bare-bones, stock version of Android 9 Pie, and only has the minimal yet standard Google apps like the Play Store, Gmail, and YouTube. The UI is also seemingly stock as well, thankfully everything is where it should be.
The phone has two front-facing speakers, as well as a standard headphone jack – something I wish more phones would include. The speakers do sound good, but I’d usually prefer headphones myself for both regular media and gaming.
There’s a big connector on the side of the phone that lets you connect the Pro Handle, a mini-controller that attaches to the left side of the phone with a protective case. There’s also the Magic Adapter, a crazy dock that supports 100MB ethernet, another headphone port, and a USB-C port for extra charging.
In terms of sheer performance, after several benchmarks between the Red Magic 3S and the slightly older Razer Phone 2, the Red Magic 3S definitely comes out on top. It’s worth mentioning the Red Magic 3S sports the newer Snapdragon 855+ with its improved clock speeds.
With AnTuTu benchmarks the Red Magic 3S came in at an average 499,000 overall score, while the Razer Phone 2 came in at an average 340,000 overall score. AnTuTu ranks the also recently launched ROG Phone 2 just below the Red Magic 3S, at 496,000.
After several raw 3D processes benchmarks the Red Magic 3S would average 5,400 on 3D Mark’s Sling Shot Extreme tests, and the Razer Phone 2 averaged 3,100. The ROG Phone 2 is ranked at 6,178, so it clocks in just a bit better with overall performance.
Raw CPU benchmark tests for the Red Magic 3S would average around a 750 score on single-core and 2,390 on multi-core with Geekbench, while the Razer Phone 2 averages 518 on single-core and 2272 on multi-core.
The massive 5000mAh battery provides a very long battery life expectancy, whether you’re consuming regular media or playing high-end mobile games. In my tests I could play 3D games for 5 to 6 hours, and consume regular media for over 10 hours.
Editor’s Note: Red Magic 3S on the left, Razer Phone 2 on the right. Both photos were taken with stock/default camera settings, the same lighting, etc.
The only other disappointment with the Red Magic 3S is the camera, which is good but not as fantastic as some of its competitors. The 48MP Sony IMX586 camera does produce some good shots, but only has one sensor. The single sensor provides for great zooming though.
The photos produced by the camera are definitely nice, and while they might feel a bit flat in color, the built-in night mode is really great for those dinner shots you want to put on Instagram. Complex features like HDR were somewhat of a downer, but are decent enough.
The camera is readily able to produce 1080p and even 4K video, both at 60FPS, but if you for some reason want to record at an even higher resolution than that – you can record in 8K. The 8K recording is limited to 15FPS, but it’s still another way to experiment with video.
While most phones with similar specs and performance are priced at $800 or more, Nubia has provided an excellent piece of kit with an equally impressive bit of specs that make it somehow even better than its predecessor.
With an upgraded Snapdragon 855+ processor, a large 6.65-inch 90Hz screen, a decent camera with really high-resolution video recording, a huge 5000mAh battery, tactile gaming buttons, a gaming launcher, and even a built-in fan – the Red Magic 3S is a wonderful phone.
With a very aggressive price point at $479 (€479/£419), all the aforementioned hardware specs, and a very nice metallic feel to the entire phone, you really can’t go wrong with the Red Magic 3S, whether you’re looking for a gaming phone or not. If you’re looking to pick one up, make sure to check out Nubia’s official website.
The Red Magic 3S was reviewed using a retail unit provided by Nubia. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.