ZTE Nubia Red Magic 3S: The Ultimate Gamer

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By Akhil Kapoor - 
Thu, 12 Mar'20
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Introduction

ZTE Nubia Red Magic 3S was launched in September 2019 as an update for Red Magic 3 with a lot of improvements in terms of specifications. The phone targets the mobile gaming niche and has specifications that will make it a beast when it comes to gaming although it doesn’t shine that much in other sectors such as the camera setup. With an internal fan, the phone will surely offer high-end gaming experience without any hassle. Of course, the device has both pros and cons that will be listed here in this extensive review after we tried the phone for a few days. Read it out to know more about the phone and whether or not you should go with it or not.

Prices, Variants, Availability

The fantastic & uber-powerful Nubia Red Magic 3S is available in India in two colour variants that are Mecha Silver and Cyber Shade. Two storage variants are 128GB + 8GB and 256GB + 12GB available in India as well.

 

 

Talking about the pricing, the phone is available via Flipkart with 128GB+8GB priced at Rs 35,999/- while the higher variant bearing 256GB+12GB storage is available at Rs 47,999/-. Flipkart is running several offers that users can club with the existing price tag such as an up to Rs 14,050/- off if someone exchanges their old phone on Flipkart although the discount varies depending upon the make and model of the phone being exchanged. Apart from that, Flipkart is also running 5% cashback on both Flipkart Axis Bank Credit Card and Axis Bank Buzz Credit Card with the former not having any upper cap on it. Finally, there are offers under No Cost EMI on Flipkart for Nubia Red Magic 3S as well so do check it out right away.

Box Contents

When it comes to the contents of a retail box of Nubia Red Magic 3S, it is safe to assume that pretty much all will be the same when compared to any other phone.

 

  • The Phone
  • 18W Power Adapter
  • Type-C USB Cable
  • Logo Sticker
  • Quickstart manuals

Specs at a glance

Talking about the key on-paper specifications of the Nubia Red Magic 3S smartphone, here is what the device packs under the hood. 

  • Display: 6.65-inch AMOLED Panel, 1080 x 2340 pixels, 388 PPI, 90Hz
  • Processor and GPU: Snapdragon 855+ (7nm), Adreno 640 GPU
  • RAM & ROM: up to 8GB, up to 256GB options 
  • Software: Android Pie 9 based on custom UI Redmagic 2.0
  • Rear cameras: Single 48MP camera
  • Selfie sensor: 16MP
  • Battery: 5000mAh capacity, 18W fast charging 
  • Weight: 215g
  • Dimensions: 171.7 mm x 78.5 mm x 9.6 mm

Design & Build

Nubia Red Magic 3S is a masterpiece when it comes to the design. The phone stands out thanks to its completely different look even when compared to gaming smartphones with Asus ROG Phone II or others. The back panel is something of an immediate attention grabber. Talking about the front, the front panel has a prominent chin and the same goes for the top bezel and the same goes for the chin as well while the bezels aren’t that hindering.

 

A lot is going on around at the back with an LED light strip running right in the middle of the back panel that can be further customized with colours and patterns. The upper section of the back panel is a masterpiece of bevels that make an angle where the rear single-camera setup is placed while the grooves of these bevels are red-accented. Below the camera sensor, there’s a vent for the internal fan which is basically camouflaged as something adding to the overall glory of this gaming-oriented smartphone. 

 

Next up, we have a hexagonal shaped fingerprint scanner that sits right in the middle of the back panel horizontally and it is placed between the air vent and the LED light strip. What’s more, is that the phone attracts the same bevels carved on the bottom of the back panel as well with the grooves painted with a red accent. Finally, a Red Magic logo lights up the bottom of the back panel and doubles as a notification light while emitting red light that can be customized to always light up. 

Moving around, the top has a 3.5mm headphone jack and a noise-cancelling microphone alongside antenna lines that can be seen passing through the edges. On the right, the device has Power Button and Volume rockers placed exactly in the reach of someone holding the phone. There are two pressure-sensitive (capacitive) buttons on top and bottom of the right side that acts as shoulder buttons that users can use to play games without needing to make a claw on the display. Finally, there’s an air vent that will aid in pushing out the air produced by the internal fan. 

Next up, we have the left side of the device which includes a dedicated button for ‘Game Space’ mode that’ll take you to the gaming mode unravelling the powerful performance we discovered while using the phone. There’s a pogo-pin connector as well that will enable connection with other accessories such as a game dock. Here, you will find the SIM card tray as well for two SIM cards and that’s all. The bottom has a USB Type-C port right in the centre along with a primary mic and a stereo speaker which is a norm now across gaming smartphones.

 

Display

Talking about the display, Nubia Red Magic 3S uses a large 6.65-inch AMOLED panel with a screen-to-body ratio of 80.5%. The display has a resolution of 1080×2340 pixels with 388 PPI density. The AMOLED panel is brilliant in terms of colour reproduction and shows bright and vibrant colours. The panel also portrays blacker blacks and brighter whites which are the characteristics of an AMOLED panel.

 

Moving further, the display is although huge in terms of size compared to any other gaming phone, it makes viewing experience immersive. Although the front has a sleek bezel on the right and left and thick bezels on top and chin, the screen is large enough to bring an immersive experience on-board although the lower pixel density of 388 PPI is a buzzkill.

 

The display features three colour modes where the Natural mode uses sRGB, a Regular mode turns on DCI-P3 colour space and finally, a Colorful mode engages wide colour gamut that lights up the display like anything popping out colours. Even though Red Magic 3S brings an AMOLED panel on-board, it isn’t on par with other gaming phones like Asus ROG Phone 2 thanks to the awful colour calibration. 

 

One of the USPs of this device is the inclusion of the said AMOLED display with a refresh rate of 90Hz which means the screen refreshes 90 times in a second. This is far better than other phones that have 60Hz refresh rate which means transitions and animations are smooth and buttery but not as what Asus ROG Phone 2 offers at 120Hz refresh. Overall, the display has received mixed responses from other critics as well. 

The device has Widevine L3 support that allows streaming HD content without any hurdle although this means the system is limiting streaming at 480p only.

Performance

Nubia Red Magic 3S from ZTE will not disappoint you when it comes to the specifications and performance because it is a flagship high-octane smartphone. It features a powerful Snapdragon 855+ chipset manufactured on a 7nm processor and in fact, this is an overclocked version of Snapdragon 855 that produces 15% more power than its standard variant which in turn is very powerful and was just recently succeeded by Snapdragon 865. 

 

The SoC offers eight cores on-board with 1×2.96GHz Kryo 485 high-performance cores plus 3×2.42GHz Kryo 485 cores and finally 4×1.8GHz Kryo 485 power-efficient cores which basically puts the device in the forefront thanks to its powerful SoC. Moreover, the device gets Adreno 640 GPU on-board with UFS 3.0 and 8GB/12GB of RAM and 128GB/256GB of internal storage that makes the phone a must-have for power users and gamers. 

 

Apart from the processor, the device is also equipped with faster UFS 3.0 while there’s no NFC. 

 

When it comes to the stats, the phone was able to pull of 11,310 points and 3,576 points on GeekBench 4.1 multi-core and single-core tests respectively. This puts Red Magic 3S which is an exception although other smartphones are scoring higher than that as well. 

Software

With that good chipset on-board, Red Magic 3S runs on Android Pie 9 based on its custom UI Redmagic 2.0. The UI is pretty fast and responsive and doesn’t have too much bloatware which is a great point to argue. The device I had was running on August security patch which means it is still an iteration late when it comes to the OS version as well. There’s no update as to when it will get its bump to Android 10 based Redmagic UI which will be great no doubt but let’s see what it unfolds.

 

The UI is a fairly near-stock version which means there are no unwanted features and apps on-board and even after that, the UI doesn’t seem to be well-optimized. The Multi-color LED Strip Editor allows users to change the colour and patterns that the strip will follow when it comes to any notifications, calls, music or any other process is going on. There’s a picture-in-picture mode that floats the window of one app over others which is similar to how YouTube videos float on other apps in some smartphones. The mode works well with WhatsApp but it is limited to this instant messaging app only. 

 

Next up, the gaming part is a lot more to handle. Nubia has a separate interface for games that are activated simply by clicking the red button on the left side and you have entered the Game Space. We tried Game Space and found that every setting for every game is available right here. There are options to kickstart the built-in fan or turn it off in the middle of the game simply by accessing the overflow menu on the left side when in landscape mode. 

 

The interface shows the CPU and GPU frequency among other details that a gamer would like to know to ensure that his/her gaming experience is optimum. The phone supports a feature called 4D shock which is a haptic engine-based feature available for a handful of games.

Cameras

When it comes to the camera assembly, the phone does have a single 48MP sensor at the back with a pixel size of 0.8mircon, the sensor size of 1/2.0”, and an aperture of f/1.7. On the front, we have a 16MP sensor with an aperture of f/2.0 and sensor size of 1/3.1”. 

If you love photography and want to use Red Magic 3S as your daily driver for capturing photos, I wouldn’t suggest you buy it because it isn’t made for photography but to perform adrenaline-filled tasks like gaming.

 

The rear camera assembly doesn’t have any telephoto or ultra-wide but just a standard 48MP wide sensor with an aperture of f/1.7 which can output really good images with a handsome amount of details even if you zoom at the text on an-board distant from your position. The daylight photos are punchy and vibrant with contrasting colours although you would observe noise that might make some parts look highlighted. Furthermore, the dynamic range isn’t something you should bet on when you have a Red Magic 3S to click pictures which means subjects or details in the shadows are underexposed. 

 

The rear camera does locks at the subject pretty quickly and manages to retail a lot of detail when using it with 12MP mode while bumping it to 48MP will make the images look a lot noisy over oversharpening halos and other distortions that might not be apparent until you zoom or something even if you aren’t an avid photographer. 

 

When it comes to low-light photography, the subjects aren’t that illuminated although the camera can retain plenty of information and produce a resonating output. The images taken with night mode enable does look a lot better with the sharpness and brightness enhanced when compared to capturing photos without the night mode enabled. 

 

At the front, we have a 16MP selfie shooter which does its job as an excellent selfie snapper although the post-processing tends to smoothen the texture on the skin so that’s a bit of a bummer at times. The photos come out with natural colours and sharp.

 

Talking about video recording, the best thing about Red Magic 3S is that it can take 8K HDR videos at 15 fps so you are getting a bump in the resolution but the videos will be slightly choppy. Other than that, the rear camera can take 2160p at 30/60fps, 1080p at 30/60fps where the latter is a bit stabilized compared to the 4K videos which means you will stick to 1080p resolution while taking videos no doubt. Everything you need from standard mode to Pro mode to highlighting the subject with flash or engaging is the night mode is available via the phone’s camera app which is clutter-free and does its job phenomenally. 

 

Also Read: Top Camera Smartphones

Battery

Indeed ZTE Nubia Red Magic 3S sports a large-sized 5,000 mAh battery that will keep it going for almost two days on light usage while even heavy users will see that the battery isn’t going to vanish even after a day of using it extensively.

 

The device arrives with an 18W fast charging speed where it receives the 18W charger in the retail box itself. However, the device supports up to 27W charging speed which is okayish when it comes to a flagship smartphone. It takes almost one and a half hours and under two hours to charge the battery in use.

 

Talking about the battery usage, on using Nubia Red Magic 3S to play 32 minutes session of popular battle royale game PUBG Mobile on High frame rate and HD graphics settings, the battery drop recorded was just at 9% while an extreme frame rate setting with graphics as HDR took away 5% of the battery life on playing PUBG Mobile for 15 minutes. In both sessions, we didn’t observe any issue with heating so that’s a major plus point when it comes to flagship devices. 

Audio & Biometrics

ZTE Nubia Red Magic 3S arrives with both Face Unlock and Fingerprint scanner. Talking about the fingerprint scanner, it is the shape of a hexagon and it is placed at the back between the single rear camera & the LED light strip that runs through the middle of the device. The rear-mounted FPS is still easy to reach and unlocks the phone pretty smoothly without recording any lag. On the other hand, the Face Unlock is competent as well and you would find it too convenient as well.

 

Talking about the audio system on-board, the front-firing loudspeakers is a DTS:X tuned stereo loudspeakers which is slowly becoming a trend with gaming smartphones. The phone was able to produce 69.5 dB of voice. On the other hand, the audio output via headphones on Red Magic 3S is identical to Red Magic 3. The audio quality is purely immersive with external amplifiers working perfectly at all times. The device some see some distortions though but overall, the audio quality is superb no doubt. 

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Built-in active cooling fan
  • Touch triggers
  • Stereo speakers

Cons:

  • Average camera
  • No NFC

Verdict

We won’t deny that Red Magic 3S is an exceptional phone for gamers thanks to its uber-powerful SD855+ and an internal cooling fan an active cooling system. The device does have a beautiful AMOLED panel with a 90Hz refresh rate but it isn’t on par with what its competitors are offering such as Asus ROG Phone 2 offers excellent AMOLED panel with 120Hz refresh rate. The phone does have long battery life and excellent stereo speakers. The internal fan keeps the phone cool in most cases and fact, even with the most intensive gaming sessions, the phone wouldn’t get overheated although it does warm up a bit that’s understandable. Next up, the fan can sound too loud. The phone has gaming-oriented high-end specs but fails in a series of aspects such as a camera where it fails in some cases. Anyways, it is still a worthy phone to buy in case you are looking for a phone that doesn’t compromise at all when you are playing games on it.

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