This year’s Holiday season is slowly turning into the gaming phone season. It is as if Christmas is arriving early and bringing gift of smartphone gaming for those who like to put their thumbs to work in a virtual battle on their handsets. It was not too long ago when Asus introduced a high-end gaming smartphone in the country: the Asus ROG smartphone and following in its footsteps is Nubia that has just brought in its own version of a gaming-centric smartphone in India, called Red Magic. Like Asus ROG which came to India after being launched in other countries, the Red Magic also made its first appearance back in April 2018. But is this wait worth the gaming muscle that the Red Magic brings along?
We believe in all that Red Magic!
We recently did an article appreciating the looks of the Asus ROG smartphone and how the device screamed power and gaming on top its lungs as soon as it stepped out of its box. The Nubia Red Magic definitely shouts gaming out loud, although it does not scream it as aggressively as the Asus ROG when it comes to design. Steering away from modern mainstream premium smartphone design which is mostly made up of glass backs, bezel-less, notch-y displays and multiple camera setups on the back, the Nubia Red Magic looks like it does not belong to this age. But in a very good way.
The smartphone comes with a 6-inch full HD+ 18:9 display with screen resolution of 1080 x 2160 pixels. This may be what nightmares of all the edge-to-edge-display-hungry pundits and bezel-hating-cult groups are made of, but surrounding this tall display are two very thick bezels on the top and on the chin of the smartphone. We do not mind these as gaming phones kinda do well with bezels, as all screen smartphones are not really ideal for gaming – accidental touches can, after all, lead to major virtual war loses, if you know what we mean. Them bezels give you something to hold on to without activating anything accidentally.
But the front is not where Nubia has really changed the design game. It is when you flip the phone around that you realize that the Chinese brand has taken the phone design game up several notches. Firstly, it is kind of refreshing to see a smartphone with a metal back that still emits premiumness as well as the Nubia Red Magic does. The matte black back of the device with hints of bright red make the smartphone stand out from the usual attention-hungry (and smudgy) reflective glass backs.
Secondly, we also kind of dig the shape of the back of the device. We have seen backs that curve out on the edges, the good-old flat ones, the ones that are slightly curvy on the center, but this one is nothing like anything we have seen before. A combination of what looks like two trapeziums on the sides and triangles on the top and base, the back of the Nubia Red Magic peaks in the middle where the edges of these geometrical figures meet. And it is beautiful. The first triangle carries two red speaker grilles on two sides while the hexagonal flash and single primary sensor which is accented with a red outline sit comfortably inside it.
Below the camera are two more hexagonal features which unlike the camera and the flash are more on the irregular side of geometry, the fingerprint scanner and the multi-colored LED light panel, a single bright ray of light which lights up beautifully once you turn the smartphone on. It may drain some battery but definitely makes the smartphone a looker. Then comes the lower triangle which carries two more red speaker grilles on its two sides facing each other and the smartphone’s logo.
While it looks very good and stands out from the regular design-line, we are yet to figure out how practical this design of the Nubia Red Magic is. The device measures 158.1 x 74.9 x 9.5 mm and weighs 185 grams. And it sits beautifully in hand. We do not have to worry about smudges and it feels robust and very solid. And because there is no glass on the back, it also makes it a little less slippery.
Nubia has also placed a textured red toggle on the right side of the smartphone along with the volume rocker and the power/lock button, which when pushed turns on Game Boost Mode, which as its name indicates, results in better gaming performance. It is a lovely little touch and adds a welcome bit of color to the side.
Numbers that NEED magic
If the Red Magic managed to woo us with its design, the same cannot be said about its spec sheet. The 6-inch full HD+ display smartphone runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, which is now almost two years old, and comes packed with 8 GB RAM and 128 GB UFS 2.1 storage. The dual SIM card smartphone does not come with a hybrid SIM card slot, which means it does not doubles up as micro SD card slot. So, you can kiss those expandable memory dreams goodbye.
With this processor, it seems like Nubia came a bit later to the gaming party – after all, high-performance phones today are looking at using the Snapdragon 845 and even the Snapdragon 855 chips. That said, it was not a bad chip in its time – it did get its share of performance stars under its belt and is known to be a powerful enough \processor. Moving on, the device comes with a single 24-megapixel primary sensor at the back (yes, you read it right – a single primary camera, no dual cameras!) with f/1.7 aperture and LED flash. There is an 8-megapixel sensor on the front for selfies and video calls with f/2.0 aperture. We have seen some very good camera performance from Nubia devices in the past so will not pass judgment on these, but we can see some people being disappointed by the absence of a dual camera on the device.
Powering all these numbers is a 3800 mAh battery which is bundled with a Type C port and support for fast charging. And well, there is one more sign of age in the device – the Nubia Red Magic runs on Android 8.0.1 out of the box, which is not that impressive in the age of Pie (although not too many phones have got slices of it yet), and is topped with Nubia’s Red Magic OS – Nubia’s skins have been elaborate and feature-rich in the past, so maybe this one too will compensate for the aged Android that lies underneath it.
Red Magic needs performance magic to beat all the 845s and above in sight
Priced at Rs. 29,999, the new Nubia (in India) faces some tough competition from smartphones that are already flaunting dual camera power and Snapdragon 845 muscle (we are not even talking of the next Qualcomm flagship). Smartphones like the Poco F1, Zenfone 5Z and Honor View 10 already offer comparable or better general hardware at that price point (and the OnePlus 6 and 6T are not too distantly priced either), so a lot is actually going to depend on how much magic the Red Magic can deliver in the gaming department. The challenge is even greater when one factors in the fact that the company has pretty much been invisible from the Indian tech scenario for the better part of a year. It has done the design Abracadabra. Now the Nubia Red Magic needs to do the same in gaming as well. Will it cast a compelling spell? Stay tuned for our detailed review to find out!