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Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro review: A mobile gaming bargain

Jon Mundy
5 Oct 2021
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
519
inc VAT

Nubia’s Redmagic 6S Pro is powerful, responsive and well priced, making it the most impressive all-round gaming phone yet

Pros 
As fast as Android phones get
Extraordinarily fluid 165Hz display
Extremely competitive price
Cons 
Cluttered, confusing software
No dual front-facing speakers
Mediocre camera setup
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Modern flagship smartphones such as the OnePlus 9 Pro and the iPhone 13 Pro can play games very well indeed, but that doesn’t make them gaming phones. Handsets such as the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro are a great example of where the crucial differences lie – for better and for worse.

Not only is the Nubia one of the most powerful smartphones on the market at launch, but it also features a love-it-or-hate-it “gamer” aesthetic, advanced cooling, an uncommonly rapid display and several dedicated gaming controls. If you’re seeking a competitive edge on CoD Mobile, League of Legends: Wild Rift or any other high-end competitive game, then this could be it.

Not only that, but it’s surprisingly cheap, too. If you’re an Android gamer looking for the very best polygon-pushing bang for your buck, there’s nothing out there to match the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro right now. Of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t have to live with a whole bunch of annoyances and rough edges in day-to-day usage. Subtle and refined it ain’t.

Buy now from Redmagic


Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro review: What you need to know

On the specs front, no stone is left unturned in the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro’s bid for mobile gaming supremacy.

That includes the very latest Qualcomm processor, the Snapdragon 888+, which hasn’t yet found its way into many traditional flagship phones at the time of writing. You also get a healthy 12 or 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, depending on your budget.

Another headline spec is a 165Hz display, which trumps the Asus ROG Phone 5 and its 144Hz screen, let alone the raft of 120Hz flagship phones out there currently. Combine that with a 720Hz touch sampling rate, and you can’t really do much better.

Of course, a fast processor and a fluid display only say so much about a phone’s gaming credentials. Where the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro really earns its gaming stripes is with its advanced Turbo Fan cooling system, dedicated gaming controls and bespoke gaming-focused software.

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Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro review: Price and competition

The Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro is aggressively priced, which is surprising given some of the high-end components it contains. The 12GB of RAM model with 128GB of storage in Cyborg Black will set you back a mere £519, while bumping that spec up to 16GB/256GB costs just £609. The model we’re testing offers that same higher level of memory, but in a fancier semi-transparent shell, for £629.

When you consider that we were quite accepting of the Asus ROG Phone 5 costing £799 back in March, you’ll hopefully appreciate what a tantalising deal the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro is proposing. The £699 Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 is a little cheaper than the Asus, but it’s still more expensive than the Nubia.

Outside of the niche gaming phone world, spending between £500 and £600 will get you a Xiaomi 11T or a Xiaomi 11T Pro. These might lack the same processing power and super-fluid display of the Nubia, but they give you a more refined design and superior cameras in return.

Buy now from Redmagic


Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro review: Design and key features

As an adult who likes video games, it’s rather depressing that the widely accepted gaming phone aesthetic resembles a 12-year-old boy’s idea of what looks cool. By these standards, the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro is almost subtle.

At 77 x 169 x 9.5mm (WHD), it’s not what you’d call a small phone, and nor is it light at 215g. However, compare it to gaming peers such as the Asus ROG Phone 5 (172.8 x 77.3 x 10.3 mm and 238g) or the Legion Phone Duel 2 (176 x 78.5 x 9.9mm and 259g) and it seems positively demure.

The Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro’s unusual height is a deliberate design choice, and once again it all comes down to the games. With the selfie camera stashed within an extended forehead, there’s no bothersome notch to get in the way of the action.

There’s a correspondingly large chin too, and it feels like a missed opportunity that Nubia didn’t provide the Redmagic 6S Pro with proper dual front-facing speakers, as you get with the Legion Phone Duel 2. You only get the one here, with the other firing from the bottom edge of the handset.

The Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro’s frame is constructed from aluminium, and its rear panel is topped with a layer of glass. Both come in stealthy black, though the flashy Ghost variant I was sent to review adds a partially transparent rear cover.

The way you can see the various components and one or two buzz phrases rendered in gold lettering is really rather neat, if not exactly tasteful. The centrepiece here is the Turbo Fan, which can be seen in all its spinning RGB-lit glory as it revs up for games.

According to Nubia, the use of aerospace-grade Phase Change Materials (PCM) in the phone’s frame means that heat is dissipated more gradually through the Nubi’s body, and in my experience it does get a little less toasty during gaming sessions.

Cooling really is a key thread through the Redmagic 6S Pro’s design, with large vents on its flat left and right edges. This gaming focus is also reinforced with a dedicated red sliding switch on the top left edge, which forces the phone into a landscape UI where all of the phone’s various gaming features can be readily accessed.

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Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro review: Display

At 6.8in and with a FHD+ (2,400 x 1,080) resolution, the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro’s AMOLED display is big and sufficiently sharp.

It’s also remarkably colour accurate. In my preferred P3 Color Gamut profile (one of five available presets), I recorded a 96.9% DCI P3 gamut coverage. Nubia claims that the screen’s brightness goes up to 700cd/m² in auto mode, but with auto off and the screen brightness cranked to the maximum setting, I only noted a measured luminance of 413cd/m².

What really stands out, however, is the sheer fluidity and responsiveness of this display. While most flagship phones max out at 120Hz, and the best gaming phones will crank things up to 144Hz, the Redmagic 6S Pro boosts the refresh rate to 165Hz. I could detect this extra level of smoothness in general navigation immediately, though sadly no high-end mobile games really make full use of it.

What they do benefit from is the display’s 720Hz touch sampling rate. Simply put, this is the rate at which the display registers your touch inputs, so theoretically the faster the touch sampling rate, the more responsive a display is.

It’s easy to get lost in figures, so we’ll just point out that the likes of the Asus ROG Phone 5 and the OnePlus 9 Pro both support a touch sampling rate of 360Hz, and are considered rapid. The Redmagic 6S Pro is literally twice as responsive. The Legion Phone Duel 2 also packs this specification, but it’s quite a bit more expensive.

Buy now from Redmagic


Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro review: Gaming, performance and battery life

Powering the Redmagic 6S Pro is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888+ processor, which is the fastest chip any Android manufacturer can reach for in late 2021. Architecturally, it’s essentially the same as the Snapdragon 888 that powers the Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 and the Asus ROG Phone 5, but with the main cortex-X1 performance core clocked to 3GHz rather than 2.84GHz.

My initial Geekbench 5 benchmark tests didn’t reveal any real advantage for the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro. An average single-core score of 1,157 and a multicore score of 3,689 more or less matches every Snapdragon 888-equipped device we’ve ever tested.

This is a gaming phone, of course, so the benchmarks we really want to check out are the GPU tests. On this front, there’s a clear advantage for the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro over other gaming phones we’ve reviewed, including a 9fps advantage over the Asus ROG Phone 5 in the GFXBench Manhattan tests (both on and offscreen).

Sure enough, the gaming experience is nigh on faultless. Genshin Impact defaulted to Medium graphical settings by default, rather oddly, but I was able to push it up to Highest on the 60fps setting and maintained a fairly consistent 50fps+ frame rate while wandering around the game’s lush fields.

CoD Mobile ran at an almost constant 60fps on maxed-out settings and it really showed off the advantages of that faster touch response and those shoulder buttons. Once I’d mapped ADS and shoot to the left and right triggers respectively, it almost felt like I was cheating.

A special word for those shoulder buttons. They feature a snappy 450Hz touch response rate, but what I really liked was their fine-tuned haptics, which responded almost like physical buttons when they were in use. The extra “M” button on the back of the phone was less useful, lacking the easy-to-locate consistency necessary in the middle of a virtual firefight.

The phone’s stamina is very good indeed, courtesy of a meaty 5,050mAh battery and top-notch cooling. In our video rundown test, with the display set to 170cd/m² brightness, the display locked to its maximum refresh rate and flight mode enabled, the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro lasted 21hrs 37mins on a single charge. That’s several hours longer than any regular Android flagship, but also a whole two hours less than the ROG Phone 5.

On the recharging front, 66W fast charging is supported, but you only get a 30W charger in the box and there’s no wireless charging, either.

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Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro review: Software

Nubia’s software is a somewhat chaotic take on Android 11. It’s filled with gratuitous custom widgets, mystifying app choices and outbreaks of random Chinese text.

On the widget front, the default home screen contains a huge custom button just for showing off the Redmagic 6S Pro’s RGB fan. There’s also one for your heart rate (yes, this phone can take your heart rate through its excellent fingerprint sensor), and one that tells you how much game time you’ve logged today.

When it comes to baffling app inclusions, NextWord is the perfect example. It’s part web browser, part translation app and part news feed. It’s not particularly accomplished at any of those things.

Again, though, this is all about the games, and on that front the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro is certainly comprehensive. The Game Space UI, accessed via a dedicated physical button, gives you access to everything from GPU clock modes to onscreen frame rates and game launch shortcuts.

Buy now from Redmagic


Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro review: Cameras

With all these impressive specs crammed into at a mid-market price, something had to give. And that something is, inevitably, the camera.

You’re ostensibly getting a triple-camera system here that consists of a 64MP wide sensor, an 8MP ultra-wide and a 2MP macro. As always, the latter is borderline useless, because while it can get sufficiently close to a smaller subject, it can’t render it with an acceptable level of sharpness.

The 8MP ultra-wide takes blurry, tonally flat shots with limited dynamic range. It gets nowhere near the main sensor on any metric you care to mention.

On the positive side, that 64MP main sensor just about holds its own. With Smart AI activated it can capture reasonably sharp shots with acceptable levels of contrast. But it’s still nowhere near the level of the £400 OnePlus Nord 2 for all-round quality.

Don’t come to rely on the Nubia’s camera when the light drops, either. Night mode shots, even in less than pitch-black conditions (such as a cityscape), were packed full of murky noise.

There’s no telephoto lens provision here. You can zoom in to 1x or 5x, but these are simply crude digital crops from the main sensor. 1x shots are passable within a “sharing on social media” context, but 5x shots look borderline impressionistic.

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Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro review: Verdict

The Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro is the most impressive all-round gaming phone we’ve reviewed to date. It’s certainly the most powerful, thanks to its timely use of the Snapdragon 888+ chip, and its 165Hz display provides the most fluid refresh rates yet.

Gaming-focused features such as the dedicated cooling fan and super-responsive shoulder buttons work well to enhance the gaming experience, making this a real contender at the very top of the gaming phone tree.

Add in a design that’s relatively easy to live with and a price tag that’s hundreds of pounds less than some of its key rivals, and you have an easy recommendation for dedicated mobile gamers – despite a few compromises to the camera and some overbearing software.

Buy now from Redmagic


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