What even is a gaming phone?
Based on the Red Magic 6R, Nubia joins the ranks of other fellow OEMs trying to answer that question. This is a phone that cuts a few corners to focus on power, a high refresh rate display and adding additional controls like shoulder buttons.
Only a mere three months since the Red Magic 6, and we already have this Racing version (that’s what the R stands for), which maintains the same performance while shedding some weight and sporting a more elegant design, to gun for the mainstream.
Has Nubia made the right play or is it game over? Let’s find out.
Red Magic 6R price and configurations
The Red Magic 6R comes in two configurations: the model with 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage will set you back $499 (£429 GBP) or you can update to 12GB RAM and double the space for $599 (£519 GBP).
Color choices are limited to silver and black, or as Nubia calls them, Mercury and Cosmos.
Red Magic 6R design
Smack bang in the middle of the average in terms of size (6.4 x 3 x 0.3 inches, 16.3 x 7.6 x 0.8 centimeters) and weight (5.6 ounces, 186 grams), you’d be forgiven for thinking a phone at this price may be made of cheaper materials like a plastic back. However, the construction is a premium blend of glass on the front and back with an aluminum frame. It’s impressively high quality for the cost!
Comparatively, this is a little bigger than the Realme GT (6.2 x 2.9 inches, 15.8 x 7.3 centimeters), but is exactly the same thickness and weighs exactly the same. On the other end of the scale, the 6R is a little smaller than the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (6.5 x 2.9 inches) and lighter (8.1 ounces, 229g), but still a bit thicker (0.3 inches, 0.8 centimeters).
For the players, the 400Hz shoulder buttons on the side are super responsive. The frame has been sculpted for good comfort in the hand and the inclusion of a dual-SIM tray is a credit to the global accessibility of the phone.
There’s just one problem. While it’s certainly much more restrained than the Red Magic 6 in hardware design, it’s still very gamer-ish in look and feel. The space-age industrial stylings blended with some testosterone will certainly have its fans — to those, I simply ask if you’re going to finish those Doritos? I’d like some.
But to the rest of us, you’re going to want to get a case and cover that back up.
Red Magic 6R display
I’m just going to put this out there. The display is awesome. Like, really awesome.
The Red Magic 6R sports a 6.7-inch AMOLED screen with a 2400 x 1080 resolution and buttery smooth 144Hz refresh rate (boostable to 165Hz in gaming mode). Nubia also claims it has 10-bit color depth, a 100% DCI-P3 calibration and a 770 nit peak brightness.
All of this alongside a 360Hz touch sampling rate gives you a panel that is colorful, detailed, fluid and ultra responsive. All the things needed to make a phone great for gaming.
Of course, the use of AMOLED over Super AMOLED means the display is not quite as vivid as competitors like the Realme GT, but the color accuracy is impressive and the low blue light makes it ideal for long periods of use.
Red Magic 6R audio
Of course, a good screen needs good sound for immersive gameplay, but with a single mono speaker that’s a little tinny, sound seems to be the victim of Nubia’s cost cutting. It does get loud with minimal distortion, though, but the orchestral uprising section of The Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life’ just sounds like a mess.
As for headphones, the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack is made up for by including a USB-C to headphone adaptor in the box. Classy move, Nubia.
Red Magic 6R performance
Now for the bread and butter of this phone. The Red Magic 6R features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor with up to 12GB LPDDR5 RAM and 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage. This power is kept at optimal temperatures via vapor chamber liquid cooling and graphene composite heat dissipation.
The numbers show this is decisively more powerful than even Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, with the S21 Ultra achieving a single-core score of 1,123 and multi-core of 3,440, with the 6R matching the single-core and hitting a 3,652 multi-core. The only competition at this price point that came close was the Realme GT’s Snapdragon 888 with slightly weaker cooling tech (1,125 and 3,552 respectively), and the OnePlus 9 Pro’s better implementation of the same CPU managed to pip it to the post with scores of 1,126 and 3,685.
As for the graphics performance, the Red Magic outran everybody in our 3DMark testing — hitting a score of 5,886 in Wild Life and an average frame rate 35.2 FPS. The Realme GT came in a close second with 5,836, The OnePlus 9 Pro with 5,756 took the bronze and the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G at the back of the pack with 5,683.
In real-world use, it translates to a phone that doesn’t get a single hint of slowdown no matter what you throw at it. The numbers and ultra fluidity under significant CPU pressure prove you’re getting an insanely good power-to-price ratio with the cost of this phone.
Not only that, but data speeds are fast and reliable too, as the 6R comes with dual-mode 5G and WiFi 6E for 3.5 Gbps, which ensures rapid loading and streaming.
Don’t get me wrong, regardless of the 6R’s cooling, it can still get warm under intense pressure, but it doesn’t hamper speed, which pairs with the ultra responsive display and shoulder buttons for a real speed demon of a smartphone.
Red Magic 6R battery life & charging
The Red Magic 6R comes packed with a 4,200 mAh battery that is capable of 30W quick charging, which fills the battery in just under an hour in my testing.
Under general daily use, which for me includes hours of podcasts, a lot of social media and email use, some gaming and a fair bit of YouTube, I got to the end of the day with about 20-25%.
I would have appreciated the same 5,050 mAh battery in here from the Red Magic 6, given the power-intensive tasks you can put this through, but this is good enough for all-day usage.
Although, Nubia did think about the added pressure of gaming, thanks to charge separation giving you the option to power the phone solely from the mains.
Red Magic 6R cameras
Predictably, the camera is the corner Nubia has cut in favour of going in hard on performance specs. Don’t get me wrong, the pictures are good, but they’re not great.
The quad camera setup on the rear offers a 64MP Sony IMX682 sensor with an f/1.8 aperture, 8MP ultra wide at f/2.2, a 5MP macro camera and 2MP depth shooter — both with an f/2.4 aperture.
Nubia’s camera app is pretty basic with a standard feature set, including a pro mode with plenty of options to mess around with.
The results with the main snapper (auto settings) are OK, with a decent amount of crisp, clean detail to each shot, but colors can be a little over-the-top. As for the ultra wide and macro cameras, results are light on detail and noisey around the edges, leading to some spongey shots.
On the video side, it sounds good on paper with the option to shoot up to 8K 30FPS, but for all the space it consumes, you’re only getting a pretty average quality video that feels overly compressed. Usable only for shots of friends or family.
It is better news around the front, however, as the 16MP selfie lens gives you double the detail over the 8MP of the Red Magic 6 and shots are bright and crisp with a high dynamic range.
Red Magic 6R: Red Magic OS 4.0
The gamer focus is not just skin deep. It goes all the way down to the core of the UI too with the Red Magic OS 4.0 skin on top of Android 11.
Game Space gives you a new interface to access all your titles in one place, handy implementations like the ability to minimize game windows while using other apps, access to said apps via an overlay tray and customization of the components themselves. You can overclock the display to a 165Hz refresh rate, boost the CPU and GPU.
But again, the gamer-ish look and feel is great for a small audience, but others may be looking for something that just isn’t quite as cringeworthy — from the faux metal icons to the Cyberpunk-esque selection of wallpapers. You may need to do some work on removing some of these visual tweaks.
So, what is a gaming phone? That’s the wrong question to answer.
Because sure — the Red Magic 6R has a gaming-centric design that may turn people off, but makes it good for gameplay with the responsive shoulder button surfaces, alongside a fluid 144Hz display, powerful Snapdragon 888 processor and liquid cooling.
But in making these decisions, Nubia has accidentally made one of the best flagship killers out there. The build is premium, performance is fast and responsive, and the screen is gorgeous.
Provided you can look past the average cameras, and the gamer-fuelled hardware design and Android skin, this is a great device for power users that offers seriously good value for money.