Smartphones are running out of differentiators. The current line of premium smartphones is piggybacking on the assumption that their most innovative — and impractical — design language speaks to everyone alike. A metallic chassis sandwiched between glass panels on both sides has become too common to be called innovative.
This is why every once in a while, when a phone tries to break this stereotype, it catches my attention. The recently launched gaming phone from Nubia, the Red Magic 3S, has spent more than a few days in my hands as an entertainment device, also fiddling with coins and keys in my pocket and capturing the sun and the seas in a new country. Here’s what it can do.
The Red Magic 3S is a performance upgrade of its predecessor. So it gets the same 6.65-inch HDR AMOLED display with a tall 19:5:9 aspect ratio in a similar design. The phone is almost as long as my face so I find my eyes running up and down on the screen far too often, unless I hold it at a distance. But turn it horizontally and the ultra-wide screen is near-perfect for gaming and streaming videos. The phone weighs about 215 gm, making it heavier than the iPhone 11 (194 gm), the OnePlus 7T (206 gm) but lighter than its gaming rival ASUS ROG Phone II (240 gm). It’s an important consideration if you spend many hours in bed holding the phone above your face. The phone gets an even top and bottom notch (border), which does not interfere with full-screen videos and gaming.
The Red Magic 3S, just like the Red Magic 3, has a metallic unibody that does not need a back cover to protect it. The predominantly red back fading into purple towards the bottom, the LED light strip in the centre, a hexagonal camera and a hard-to-miss illuminating Red Magic logo are, in fact, meant to be flaunted.
A gaming phone is naturally good at multitasking. The Snapdragon 855+ System-on-Chip that powers the Red Magic 3S is the best Android processor in the market today. The 12GB RAM, Adreno 640 graphics and 256GB Universal Flash Storage 3.0 and a cooling fan (yes, just like the one in your computers) make the phone perform faster without accumulating excess heat.
In terms of speed, the Red Magic 3S is at par with ROG II and the OnePlus 7T. However, its stock Android 9 (Pie) interface with minor upgrades is unimaginative. OnePlus and ASUS deliver a more premium user experience.
The 3S has a massive 5,000mAh battery in comparison to the ROG Phone II’s even bigger 6,000mAh pack. Both phones easily accomplish a day’s heavy lifting with at least two hours of gaming. The 3S comes with a loud, clean dual-speaker and two shoulder triggers (touch-sensitive buttons) for gamers. But when not engaged in gaming, the 3S easily lasts two days on a single charge.
The 48-megapixel primary camera on the 3S has finally got an essential AI upgrade. The pictures look more natural with a good reproduction of colours, which begs the question: why didn’t Nubia include a wide-angle lens to make it a package. At a time when phones are the new DSLRs for a whole generation, this, and the lack of a portrait mode, are two big misses.
The 16-megapixel selfie camera that tends to artificially brighten up subjects fades before the likes of iPhone 8, OnePlus 6, the Google Pixel 3 and their upgrades.
Nubia Red Magic 3S is delightfully designed and immensely powerful. The Red Magic 3S, at Rs 35,999, needs nothing more than some UI and camera upgrades to find a place among the best mid-level premium devices. But the gamer in you might not want to think so much.