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Nubia Redmagic 6R review: A decent gaming phone with mainstream appeal

Nubia Redmagic 6R review: A decent gaming phone with mainstream appeal

Nubia Redmagic 6R review: A decent gaming phone with mainstream appeal

The Nubia Redmagic 6R is a gaming phone for those with an avid mobile gaming side, who also prefer a degree of everyday practicality and a measure of understatement. It’s also for those who want to gain a gaming edge without paying big money.

The Redmagic 6R might not be as fully featured, powerful, or indeed gamer-friendly as our current pick for the best pound-for-pound gaming phone on the market, the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro (from £519). However, it is a little easier on the eye, the wallet, and the pocket.

There’s a valid argument to be made that the Nubia Redmagic 6R falls in between two stools, neither wholly satisfying as a handheld gamer nor as a day-to-day all-rounder. But it’s just as easy to make the case that it fills an underserved niche.

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Nubia Redmagic 6R review: What you need to know

The Nubia Redmagic 6R turns heads in terms of its performance-per-pound ratio. There aren’t many phones out there that pack the flagship Snapdragon 888 chip for this little.

There are fewer phones still that pair that top-level performance with a 144Hz AMOLED display. Most flagship phones selling for double or even triple the money will only extend to 120Hz. Add in a set of touch-sensitive trigger ‘buttons’ that can be mapped to your favourite games, and you have a phone that’s very much out to appeal to the gaming crowd.

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Nubia Redmagic 6R review: Price and competition

As with the other Nubia devices we’ve covered, the Nubia Redmagic 6R prompts a double take with its pricing. It starts from just £429 for the Cosmos Black model with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

Alternatively, you can move up to £519 for the Mercury Silver model, which boosts RAM and storage to 12GB of RAM and 256GB respectively. It’s the latter that I’ve been testing.

As I mentioned earlier, the new Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro has applied plenty of pressure to a lot of phones operating in this space, and that includes the slightly older Nubia Redmagic 6R. Perhaps that’s why, at the time of writing, the top-end 6R has dropped to £479 over on the official Nubia website.

With the Xiaomi Black Shark 4 proving elusive at the time of writing (it’s even out of stock on the official website), there’s really no serious competition in the affordable gaming phone space right now.

Elsewhere, however, your £400 will buy you a OnePlus Nord 2 (£398), a Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G (£399), or even the ageing – but still very popular – iPhone SE (2020) (£389).

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Nubia Redmagic 6R review: Design and key features

One of the key identifying marks of a modern gaming phone seems to be an ugly, downright juvenile design. Think oversized frames, gaudy RGB lighting, and tacky symbols to name a few.

The Nubia Redmagic 6R doesn’t completely leave this aesthetic behind, but it does represent a decent-sized step in the right direction. It still wears its ‘gamer’ credentials on its sleeve, as seen by its shiny rear panel (in this Mercury Silver model at least) and industrial sci-fi symbols.

But there isn’t so much as a hint of RGB lighting to be found, nor are there any pronounced ridges – aside from a fairly prominent camera module, which comes with its own distinctive kink.

The phone measures 163 x 75.3 x 7.8mm and weighs 186g, which are the kind of specs you find on normal non-gaming phones of this price. Together with a subtly rounded plastic rear and an unadorned matte metallic frame, the Redmagic 6R is pleasant to hold.

Even those shoulder buttons, which tell you you’re dealing with a serious gaming phone, are implemented without fuss or ceremony. You could almost mistake them for Google Assistant or camera shutter buttons, or even additional antennae, if you didn’t know any better.

There are a couple of downsides to this stripped back design from a hardcore gamer’s perspective. Those bulky bodies aren’t purely there for show, after all. They tend to facilitate meaty cooling systems and hefty stereo speakers, although sadly neither of which can be found here.

More specifically, there’s no fan system, only a liquid cooling arrangement combined with a graphene composite material for heat dissipation. The handset definitely gets a little toasty under sustained gaming load, such as when playing CoD mobile on the Ultra graphics setting.

There are also no stereo speakers whatsoever, just a single downward firing output. That’s particularly disappointing, especially when you consider that the £200 Poco X3 NFC gives you stereo sound. Committed gamers will be playing with headphones, of course, but even then there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack for a latency-free audio hook up.

One other design-based compromise here is the inclusion of a hole punch notch. Top gaming phones will tend to provide larger bezels for an unimpeded view of the screen, but not here. Even worse, the selfie camera has that distractingly shiny surround that cheaper phones often have, too.

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Nubia Redmagic 6R review: Display

The Nubia Redmagic 6R’s 6.67in display feels like a decent size, and it’s also reasonably sharp at HD+ (2,400 x 1,080). You really don’t want or need QHD on a proper gaming phone, where frame rate is king.

To that end the Redmagic 6R provides a fluid 144Hz maximum refresh rate, which is a notch above the 120Hz cap of most regular flagship phones. True, the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro gets you up to 165Hz, but that’s just showing off. Most games won’t even stretch to 120Hz, which is perhaps how Nubia justifies setting the refresh rate to 90Hz by default.

Nubia claims that its phone uses an adaptive refresh rate adjustment feature that cycles between 30Hz, 60Hz, 90Hz, 120Hz, or 144Hz depending on the game or function. But don’t mistake this for the nuanced, smoothly scaling LTPO panel technology that can be found in the likes of the iPhone 13 Pro and the OnePlus 9 Pro.

Of equal interest to gamers will be the Nubia Redmagic 6R’s 360Hz touch sampling rate. This is actually half the speed of the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro and the Lenovo Legion Duel 2, but equal to the Asus ROG Phone 5.

As for the quality of the display, it’s a vibrant and largely colour-accurate AMOLED. In my own colorimeter tests, it hit 99.8% sRGB coverage in its default Vivid mode and while that’s pretty good on the whole, more acute eyeballs might notice a few inconsistencies with saturation.

Nubia claims a maximum brightness of up to 770cd/m², which would relate to the phone in auto brightness mode in extremely bright conditions. With auto off and the screen brightness cranked to max, I recorded it at 368cd/m². That’s not hitting flagship phone levels of brightness, but it’s still plenty bright enough for most outdoor scenarios.

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Nubia Redmagic 6R review: Gaming, performance and battery life

Driving the Nubia Redmagic 6R is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor. This is an unusually capable chip for a phone that starts at £420. It’s the same chip that powers the more expensive Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 (£699), not to mention virtually every non-gaming Android flagship released in 2021.

If you do want the ultimate in Android gaming power, then the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro packs the Snapdragon 888 Plus. But the advantage is fairly negligible, with a slight bump to the cortex-X1 performance core clock speed being all there is separating the two.

Indeed, a Geekbench 5 single-core score of 1,121 and 3,659 in multi-core is on a par with the Redmagic 6S Pro, not to mention the Lenovo Legion Duel 2 and the Asus ROG Phone 5.

In GPU terms, the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro pulls out a lead of around 10fps in our GFXBench Manhattan 3 benchmark tests, but it’s level peggings with the Asus ROG Phone 5 and the Lenovo Legion Duel 2.

It shouldn’t shock you to learn that the gaming experience is buttery smooth on the Redmagic 6R. I was able to run CoD Mobile on its 120fps Ultra frame rate setting (which automatically downgrades the graphic quality to medium) without performance issues, although the phone did get rather hot.

Talking of CoD Mobile, those shoulder buttons come in handy during fast-paced competitive multiplayer experiences. They’re sharp, responsive (to the tune of 400Hz), and are backed by haptics for tactile feedback.

This isn’t the most impressive gaming phone for stamina, however. The lighter form factor comes at cost, and that’s a mere 4,200mAh battery. All of the gaming phone rivals we’ve mentioned so far burst past the 5,000mAh mark, with the Asus ROG Phone 5 extending as far as 6,000mAh.

There’s a good reason for this. Nothing drains a phone’s battery like a bout of intensive media usage. In the standard ER battery test – a looping video with the display set to 170cd/m² brightness and maximum refresh rate, and with flight mode enabled – the Nubia 6R scored just 12hrs 44mins.

That’s a really poor showing for any phone these days. The Lenovo Legion Duel 2 lasted 16hrs 25mins, the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro lasted 21hrs 37mins, and the ROG Phone 5 lasted 23hrs 45mins.

Still, at least you get a 30W charger bundled in, which got me from 0 to 61% in 30 minutes. More consequential for gamers will be the inclusion of a Charge Separation feature, which enables you to bypass the battery altogether and simply power the phone, making it more comfortable to game while you charge.

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Nubia Redmagic 6R review: Software

Nubia’s Redmagic OS 4.0 isn’t the most elegant spin on Android 11, but it’s functional at least.

You don’t get the ugly gaming-focused home screen widgets that arrived with the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro, which is a good thing in my book. But for a slightly gaudy wallpaper and a wasteful clock widget, it could be any custom Android UI of the past couple of years.

There’s a fair amount of bloatware here though, with the downright weird and clunky NextWord Browser topping the list of pointless inclusions. It’s essentially a third-rate web browser spliced together with a translation app.

Going back to the Nubia Redmagic 6R’s gaming focus, Game Space UI is available through the drop-down notification shade, rather than through a physical button like the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro. Once activated, it takes you into a landscape interface where installed games can be accessed, with the phone’s resources cranked up for pure performance. You can also drag in from the right edge to access controls for the screen refresh rate, shoulder button mapping, gameplay recording, and the like.

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Nubia Redmagic 6R review: Cameras

The Nubia Redmagic 6R’s camera system produces images that range from the competent to the bizarrely bad. It’s led by a 64MP Sony IMX682 wide sensor, which is backed by a less capable trio consisting of an 8MP ultra-wide, a 5MP pixel macro, and a 2MP depth of field sensor.

This is downright humble hardware, with a lack of OIS contributing to low quality night shots. Still, it’s Nubia’s AI and color processing that really seems to be the culprit for some of the poor results here.

Some of the shots I took, from an autumn landscape to a food shot to a verdant country garden, took on an almost cartoonishly cranked-up tone. Grass was freakishly green, while a provençal sauce took on an almost luminous orange glow.

Mystifyingly, Nubia doesn’t give you access to the ultra-wide camera from the regular Photo mode. You have to delve into Pro mode if you want that wider angle. When you do, the results are far from satisfactory, with the tone far darker than the main snapper – albeit not so overexposed.

Even more bizarrely, Nubia has given you three zoom levels in place of that ultra-wide: 3x, 5x, and 10x. You’d think there were a couple of telephoto lenses at play here, but in practice, there isn’t a single one.

What’s more, the zoomed shots that you do capture are uniformly terrible, full to the brim of noise. Combined with that dodgy colour management, shots can start to resemble amateur watercolour paintings by the time you hit 10x.

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Nubia Redmagic 6R review: Verdict

The Nubia Redmagic 6R is a rarity among gaming phones, in that it’s been designed with at least some thought given to how you might want to use the phone when you’re not popping off headshots.

It’s borderline pleasant to wield and carry around as a normal phone, with a compact body and a relatively sober design. Thankfully, though, it still comes up with the goods when it’s time to game, with a level of performance that well exceeds the phone’s price tag.

Unfortunately, the phone ends up falling between two stools. Elements like a shiny selfie camera and a lack of stereo speakers will gall gamers, while non or casual gamers will find the phone’s terrible camera system and rubbish battery life to be instant red flags.

It’s still a contender for a certain type of occasional gamer simply thanks to that combination of top-level performance and lower mid-range price, but the Nubia Redmagic 6R isn’t quite the consummate all-rounder we hoped it might be.

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