Are Gaming Smartphones Actually Worth It?
This my friends is the new Nubia Red Magic 3, the latest gaming smartphone on the market. Let’s take a look.
Hello, good people, so I really have not played this many hours of Android games until the new Nubia Red Magic 3 came into my life, and exploring the ecosystem of games is both rewarding when you find something actually good because the Play Store is filled with garbage games and pay-to-win games. However, when you do find those occasional times when you actually do enjoy something on a gaming phone the experience is actually pretty good.
Now the thing is the specifications on this phone are really impressive for the price point – around $500 USD – for a Snapdragon 855, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a 5,000mAh battery, and a 48 megapixel camera. Given that this a gaming phone, the gaming features like the Gaming Center are actually pretty impressive. However, I want to really explore the question: Our gaming smartphones worth?
So first of all, how would you even classify a gaming smartphone? Because I feel like gaming smartphones right now are just performance machines for performance users in a gaming disguise. And it’s relevant because Razer has a gaming smartphone, so does ASUS, and I feel like this whole gaming category is actually quite important to push certain features forward like massive batteries, powerful SOCs, lots of RAM and storage, and most importantly high refresh rate screens, and push all those features into the mainstream and basically create an ecosystem that makes it comfortable to game on a mobile device. And I feel like Nubia’s execution here is pretty fantastic.
So I guess design wise a gaming smartphone must look the part. It is very different versus the sleek glass backs or simple aluminum shells, RGB lighting though seems to be quite common in the gaming sector.
RGB LED & A FAN
So the light strip on the Nubia is both expected and very pointless. Razer and ASUS did the same thing with the illuminated logos at the back, so I guess this is a trend. Even the fingerprint sensor is this weird shape that unfortunately is kind of slow for the hardware.
We also have a cooling fan installed inside the frame that you will not find on your regular Android smartphone. It is slightly audible when you put your ear to it, but with speakers blasting above 40% it is not really an issue. Interestingly it doesn’t in fact keep the SOC slightly cooler versus my similarly spec’ed out Zenfone 6.
Comparable To Other Phones
Here’s the deal and the Snapdragon 855 and Adreno 640 is a fantastic combo. That is also found on the new Samsung Note 10 models, which are much higher priced. And this hardware is actually pretty awesome for demanding titles like PUBG, Asphalt, nine world and Tanks and others. And the interestingly when they compare the benchmarking scores between the Zenfone 6 that also has the Snapdragon 855 and Adreno 640, the Zenfone 6 six is faster in the physics test, but all the other benchmark tests are pretty on par with the Nubia. But these are just benchmarking scores, you know whatever. And in terms of real world scenarios, I have not noticed any difference even between my OnePlus 6, which is slightly older using older hardware as well. In the majority of games there is no difference between the Nubia or the OnePlus 6 outside of like PUBG and maybe Asphalt 9. Like there’s a little bit extra performance in terms of framerate on the Nubia, but it doesn’t really matter. And that’s the thing from the majority of games on the Play Store, they’re designed to work with wherever Android smartphone you have regardless of the specifications, except for really demanding titles like PUBG. So with the Nubia, because of the powerful hardware you get a visual advantage and you also get the performance advantage by having better FPS so you can aim better and that is the only incentive to go towards like a gaming smartphone or a phone that has better specs.
Big Screen & Plenty of Ports
It is a good thing that the phone is absolutely massive within an almost 6.7-inch display, because when you hold it is kind of slippery because of the aluminum shell. I would love to have a little bit different texture, especially on the sides to really give you a little “gription” over here.
The phone charges via Type-C, there is a headphone jack up top, and we also have this red toggle on the side that activates Game Mode and this is something that is actually kind of cool.
So enabling it gives us access to the full library of games and this puts the phone in like Game Mode-only. You can disable incoming phone calls, incoming messages, incoming notifications and all that, so you will not be disturbed as you game. So swiping from the right, you can see we have that full command center reveal. So you can enable your fan, you can disable the LED strip since it’s completely pointless. You can also toggle between those notification options. You can also change between different performance modes, but in my benchmark testing they don’t really make any difference.
A Lot of Cool Features
And the really cool 4D shock feature. So for example while playing Asphalt 9 the phone literally gives you that haptic feedback about the music and the bass, which is actually kind of cool. The vibrations are pretty strong and it feels like you’re almost holding a little controller in your hand instead of a smartphone.
I also love the temperature modification plus any network activity and both the CPU and GPU frequency. And it’s actually kind of cool because as I game, I can swipe from the right to see the temperature of the SOC, and GPU and CPU clock speeds, which I guess makes sense to see on a gaming smartphone. It’s not like you can overclock the CPU or GPU independently anyway, but it’s still kind of cool. And you use the same red toggle to get back into your desktop away from that command center.
And probably the most useful feature are the touch buttons, and that’s because we have two capacitive triggers on top for left and right. So inside the game you can map exactly what left and right does on screen. So for example in PUBG you can map the right trigger to aim down sight, which is super useful, you don’t have to navigate your thumb away from shooting. You can simply tap the trigger on the right. This is especially cool for games that have a lot happening on screen and if you have a lot of touch controls so you can free up that real estate from your thumbs onto your point fingers via the triggers.
The 90Hz screen is absolutely incredible for this price point, given that not many high-end flagship phones even have higher refresh rate displays. The catch however is that not many games support 90Hz refresh rate because they have to be running at that FPS as well, so if I’m running anything demanding like the Asphalt 9, World of Tanks, PUBG, I am 100% not getting 90FPS on the mobile phone. It feels like I’m at 60Hz and below in the majority of the really demanding titles. But in terms of gaming with something really demanding, I don’t feel a difference between this and my Zenfone 6 that has a 60Hz display. However, I think that the majority of people will just enjoy the 90Hz display outside of the gaming arena because while not many games support it the fluidity you get with just basic day-to-day operations is absolutely amazing. Scrolling through something or touching something is awesome.
A Few Shortcomings
I do have a few complaints about the screen though. Like the rounded corners, I feel like they’re way too rounded. They cut off some of the UI, like the battery percentage and the clock. For some reason when I open the folder with all my games in it the animation is super laggy despite having a 90Hz display and a really powerful SOC too. There’s no way to change the refresh rate of the screen to anything lower than 90Hz, which I find odd. It’d be nice to have the option to do so. And weirdly there’s no way to disable the capacitive trigger buttons when you’re outside of gaming mode, so if I’m watching a YouTube video and I accidentally brush against one of those trigger buttons, the menu will show up because YouTube thinks that I just touched the screen.
Given the size of your phone you can go into landscape mode directly on your home screen. I feel like the size of the phone is absolutely perfect for precise aim. So in PUBG when you need to land those headshots it’s easily achievable on this phone. The same thing with World of Tanks when you need to penetrate those pieces where the tanks don’t have armor, because the phone is massive and your thumbs or your trigger fingers are not blocking anything on the screen. We do have a set of stereo speakers which is nice, but the bottom one on my unit is much louder so when I’m gaming the right channel is just blasting audio at me while the left one is a bit muted and it kind of removes the whole stereo effect.
As for using this on a daily basis outside of gaming, it’s too big for my pocket, but it’s Android. You could customize it to however you like to use your phone. The only few issues I have with the software is the camera app. It’s both laggy, there is shutter delay, and it takes way too long to actually process the images once you take them. The actual detail of the image with a 48 megapixel sensor is pretty good, the dynamic range is there, sometimes it likes to underexpose a bit, but in terms of having a really nice sharp image it’s great. The selfie mode has impressed me a lot. It has nice detail as long as you disable the whole pretty effect. So the cameras are good but they take kind of forever to process and the camera app is kind of laggy.
So in the end I would say the Nubia Red Magic 3 is a pretty complete gaming package for the price point, especially with the Snapdragon 855 that is found on the Zenfone 6 and the new Note 10 models. It is really impressive what this thing can do in terms of battery life, at 5,000mAh I’ve played for an hour at full performance mode and I only lost 20% of battery. So that gives you five hours of non-interrupted gaming like Asphalt 9, PUBG or World of Tanks which are super demanding on a smartphone. It’s pretty darn good. And to come back to the question of whether or not gaming smartphones are worth it, in my opinion yes they need to exist to push certain features into the mainstream. The priority for me would be the higher refresh rate screens. Razor did it, ASUS did it, OnePlus did it with the 7 Pro, Nubia as doing it. It would be great if more companies did it too.