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Hands-on with the Nubia Red Magic 3: immense potential, but...

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At the end of April, Nubia unveiled its Nubia Red Magic 3. Like its first two Red Magic devices, it is a smartphone dedicated to gaming with a wide range of special features. We explain everything to you in our first hands on experience.

Nubia Red Magic 3
Nubia Red Magic 3: All deals

Nubia Red Magic 3 release date and price

The Red Magic 3 is available for sale today (May 27). You can choose between two models, the first one has 8GB of RAM / 128GB of memory, costs $479 or £419 and is available in black or red. The second model is even stronger with 12 GB of RAM and 256 GB of internal memory, sold for $599/£529 but with a "camouflage" color that gives a slightly "military" look to the phone.

For comparison, the Black Shark 2 costs £479 for version 8/128, the model 12/256 costs £559. In other words, the Red Magic is much more accessible.

Nubia Red Magic 3 design and build quality

We often hear that "all smartphones look alike" and, to some extent, that's quite true, but gaming smartphones are very easy to distinguish visually. There is little doubt about it: the smartphone is huge (but still handy) with its dimensions of 171.7 x 78.5 x 9.65 and its look is clearly eccentric with its shapes at the back, and its 215g weight will be heavy in your pockets. For comparison, it is 14 grams heavier than Galaxy Note 9.

While "classic" smartphones focus on a uniform design with beautiful light reflections, our model has an elegant black color.. It follows the main lines of the style of the first Red Magic, i. e. a combination of dominant black and red and rounded borders. The fingerprint reader is located on the back, however, there is now a grid between the fingerprint reader and the camera's single lens.

androidpit nubia redmagic 3 camera
You can see the ventilation grid under the camera. AndroidPIT

Under the camera, we find the "strip" that displays colors when you play. From a purely pragmatic perspective it is useless but it is pretty and you can customize it. Finally, underneath, the Red Magic logo, which is this time in red. It is interesting to note the presence of glass around the logo but also in the photographic department.

As for the gaming characteristics, we therefore have a grid at the rear, as explained above, which is associated with the fan and the liquid cooling system. The fan is certainly relatively discreet but you can still hear it slightly. On the side edge, there is the "gaming port" that will allow you to connect the device to a gamepad. Like the previous Nubia, a button is available on the side to switch the device to gaming mode, we will come back to this later. Finally, on the edge you will find two buttons (shoulder triggers) to put your index fingers on when you play (i.e. when you hold it horizontally).

For the rest, USB 3.0 and Dual SIM are present.

Nubia Red Magic 3 display

A smartphone that wants to be optimized for gaming needs to have a quality display. Nubia has opted here for a 19.5:9 screen with a 1080p (1080 x 2340) resolution of 6.65 inches and a density of 383.5 dpi. The display also features Gorilla Glass 2.5D protection. The use of an AMOLED panel allows you to obtain deep blacks and correct colors, and this of course also influences the battery life. Overall the screen is particularly satisfying, the reflections are sometimes a little disturbing in bright sunlight but this is a common concern for the vast majority of smartphones.

androidpit nubia redmagic 3 display
The AMOLED screen allows you to obtain deep blacks. AndroidPIT

A dedicated gaming smartphone needs to have a high refresh rate for action games and Nubia has understood this well: this Red Magic offers refresh at 60 and 90 Hz . You can of course choose what you prefer, also note that not all games offer to go up to 90 but it is starting to happen. The tactile response rate is 240 Hz.

Nubia Red Magic 3 software

The device runs on Android 9 Pie and uses Android Stock, however we can see some (very) slight aesthetic differences . Thus, all the icons on this Red Magic are completely square. Apart from the classic Google applications there are no pre-installed applications. The last security patch is dated March 5 but in any case an update should arrive very soon because the system needs it very much.

androidpit nubia redmagic 3 hero
The Nubia Red Magic 3 runs on Android 9 Pie and uses Android Stock © NextPit

This is not a final version, and it shows. On several occasions, the device was unusable, sometimes the screen refused to turn on, sometimes the fingerprint reader was disabled and the manual code was refused. In the latter case, a restart solved the problem. When the device decided to sulk, it happened that some applications did not work properly (for example France Info refused to open articles). Anyway, these problems should be fixed with the final version of the software, but for the moment we are not convinced.

Nubia Red Magic 3 performance

A gaming smartphone means top-of-the-range components, and the Red Magic doesn't do things halfway. The smartphone uses the classic high-end combination of Snapdragon 855 and Adreno 640 GPUs . On our model, it is associated with 8 GB of LPDDR4X RAM and 128 GB of UFS 2.1 memory. On paper, it is excellent and in practice it is too. Everything is fluid, it's a real treat.

androidpit red magic 3 gaming
The menu is accessible directly from the game for quick access. / © ANDROIDPIT

Let's take a closer look at all the gaming potential. Let's first take a look at the new Game Space, named Game Space 2.0 without too much originality. When you activate this mode (with a key on the edge), your smartphone somehow switches to console mode and focuses only on games and game settings. Among these, you can turn the fan on or off and force it to run at maximum speed, useful when you want to make long game sessions, or turn off the color effects at the back, choose the refresh rate (60 fps or 90 fps) or choose whether to turn on the automatic brightness. You can find your games in the main menu of the mode and launch it in one tap, and of course decide to block notifications to fully immerse yourself in the game atmosphere. Not surprisingly, it also allows you to capture your games to share the best moments with your friends.

androidpit red magic 3 game
You can configure the fan. / © ANDROIDPIT

Also note that there is a vibration system in the device, this has obvious advantages but this engine is far too noisy for my taste for conventional notification vibrations. Finally, a few words on the liquid cooling system: according to Red Magic, it is the "most efficient smartphone cooling system ever designed". The CPU temperature thus reaches -16°, heat transfer increases by 500% and performance increases by 900%.

For the rest, note that band 28 is not supported.

Nubia Red Magic 3 audio

The smartphone has stereo sound: one speaker is located on the lower edge, next to the C-type USB port, the other speaker is located at the top, just before the chassis. If you prefer to use headphones, you can use the mini-jack jack at the bottom.

We find the DTS:X format and the DTS:7.1 format to ensure a particularly immersive surround sound.

Nubia Red Magic 3 camera

Nubia resists the trend of double, triple or even quadruple cameras: it offers only one sensor at the back. That said, he didn't choose just any one, it's Sony's 48 megapixel IMX 586 sensor, which we already know from several cameras (Xiaomi Mi 9 and Realme X, to name just two) but this time it's not coupled with another camera. At the front, we have a 16MP sensor.

Sometimes the device may encounter problems with brightness management, both at the rear and in selfies, but this can of course be improved by updates. We will focus more on the photo potential when we have the final software version.

androidpit nubia red magic 3
This is a picture taken in automatic mode. / © ANDROIDPIT

Nubia Red Magic 3 battery

The smartphone has a large 5000 mAh battery. Is it its great capacity that ensures its immense autonomy? Of course it's all a question of use but I managed without any problem to last two whole days while using it regularly, a few videos here and there, a few games there. If you have a very moderate use, you may be able to hold more but if you are interested in a smartphone gaming it is certainly not to want to hold back.

The loading is fast, it is done in 18W. You can get an idea of the loading speed by looking at the table below.

Loading the Red Magic 3

Time of day Charging level
8h43 0%
9h09 27%
9h32 54%
9h56 82%
10h14 95%
10h31 100%

Early Verdict

The smartphone seems to have everything it takes to convince: great hardware, great range and good stereo sound quality. Unfortunately, it's just not ready yet. It will be necessary to wait for the final update to really get an idea of its potential because it has happened several times that the device becomes unusable, which prevents us from giving it a rating. In addition, the update (confirmed by the manufacturer) could change its performance, improve its photo potential or affect its battery. A case to be continued, then.

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Benoit Pepicq

Benoit Pepicq

Benoit is passionate about new technologies and everything related to computers. A big Android fan since 2011, he joined the AndroidPIT team to satisfy his passion and to share his knowledge on Android with readers.

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