nubia Red Magic 6S Pro review

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Introduction

Click here for our full and extensive review of the vanilla Red Magic 6, which the Red magic 6S Pro is based on.

For a gaming device like the ZTE Nubia Red Magic 6, keeping up with the latest silicon releases comes with the territory. Gaming phones have to offer buyers the latest and greatest hardware since if they don’t, the competition definitely will.

This is the same rat race that spawned the latest ROG Phone 5s pair into existence and the very same one that is behind nubia’s decision to create the Red Magic 6S Pro, which we have for review today.

nubia Red Magic 6S Pro review

The Nubia Red Magic 6S Pro is essentially a Red Magic 6, with an upgraded Snapdragon 888+ chipset and souped-up display touch sampling. Just like the ROG Phone 5s is, to the vanilla ROG Phone 5. ZTE does also claim the new revision includes internal cooling improvements, which could actually turn out to be the most important part of the update, at least going by our impressions from the ROG Phone 5s Pro.

The thing is that the Snapdragon 888 already got a bad rep for running quite hot and siphoning plenty of power. The Snapdragon 888+ takes all of that and, among other things, bumps up the maximum frequency of the Prime Kryo 680 CPU core from 2.84 GHz up to 2.95 GHz. With that, inevitably, introducing more heat and more battery drain. Not exactly ideal in your typical smartphone – essentially a thermally-isolated and closed system, with a fixed power and heat envelope, as well as limited battery capacity.

nubia Red Magic 6S Pro review

That being said, the Nubia Red Magic 6S Pro is not exactly your typical smartphone. An active, built-in cooling fan has been a staple of the Red Magic line for some time now, and it is also present here. The built-in fan means the Red Magic 6S Pro has active cooling, and it is not a closed, passively-cooled system. So we might see the heat part of this equation having less weight here.

nubia Red Magic 6S Pro review

That’s arguably the most important task the Red Magic 6S Pro has to pull off – keep the Snapdragon 888+ well-cooled, with as little thermal-throttling as possible. The Snapdragon 888+ is mostly a “flex” on paper rather than a source of actual, better in-game performance over the Snapdragon 888 but it does run hotter. This is evident from specs alone but also became really clear after we tested the ROG Phone 5s Pro after its upgrade to the same Snapdragon 888+ chip.

In that sense, the Red Magic 6S Pro has its work cut out for it – tame the Snapdragon 888+ and its heat output to the best of its abilities and for extra points, do it better than the ROG Phone 5s Pro.

We have our work cut out for us as well – since the Red Magic 6S Pro is essentially the same as the Red Magic 6 in terms of design, exterior, as well as most of its other specs, aside from the chipset, we need to focus on performance – burst and sustained, thermal-throttling behavior and battery endurance on the new model. Since there are some upgrades to the 6.8-inch display, we also need to test its performance.

For every other aspect of the Red Magic 6S Pro, head over to our full and extensive review of the vanilla Red Magic 6.

What’s different on the Red Magic 6S Pro and hardware overview

The current Red Magic 6 lineup is a bit confusing. There is the vanilla Red Magic 6, as well as a Red Magic 6 Pro. The obvious difference between the duo is the memory configurations: 128GB/12GB and 256GB/12GB are available for both models, while vanilla also has a 128GB/8GB tier, and the Pro has two higher ones – 256GB/16GB and 512GB/18GB.

The real kicker, however, is with the Chinese version of the Pro, which has a smaller 4,500 mAh battery, compared to the 5,050 mAh on every other model and also advertises 120W charging, compared to the 66W max on all other Red Magic 6 models. That’s a pretty weird difference already, and things get weirder still, since some models seem to be offered as Tencent exclusives, which often have extra Tencent logos and sometimes have different LED lighting setups.

nubia Red Magic 6S Pro review
Left: Red Magic 6S Pro; Right: Red Magic 6

Enter the Red Magic 6S Pro, which we currently have for review at the office. Nubia wasn’t particularly clear about its new lineup and different variants that might be available, as well as potential differences between global and Chinese models. In any case, all of the new models will be rocking the new Snapdragon 888+ chipset. That much is certain.

The unit we have is designated as a “Pro”, yet it does not have RGB lighting on the back panel, just the red logo on the bottom. It has 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage, which makes it the lowest available tier. That explains the lack of RGB lights.

Turns out that the Red Magic 6S Pro is available in a standard Black color, which we have, in either the 12GB/128GB tier or a 16GB/256GB one.

Then there is also a transparent variant, which, besides a color change, also has RGB lights on its internal fan and is only available in the higher 16GB/256GB tier. It also has a new touch control area on the back panel, above the red logo, which is referred to as M key.

nubia Red Magic 6S Pro review

Beyond this, all Red Magic 6S models are a bit lighter at 215 grams, compared to their vanilla siblings at 220 grams and do technically have a slightly different sized body, measuring 169.9 x 77.19 x 9.5 mm – a minor change, not even enough to break compatibility with existing cases, but still a noteworthy one.

nubia Red Magic 6S Pro review
Left: Red Magic 6S Pro; Right: Red Magic 6

Despite the different proportions and weight, the Red Magic 6S Pro unit we got still has a 5,050 mAh battery, capable of charging at up to 66W. However, the provided charger in the box caps out at 30W, just like on the vanilla Red Magic 6.

ZTE nubia Red Magic 6S Pro specs at a glance:

  • Body: 169×77.19×9.5mm, 215g; Glass front, glass back, aluminum frame; Pressure sensitive zones (450Hz touch-sensing), Built-in cooling fan (with RGB lights on transparent edition); Colors: Black, Transparent.
  • Display: 6.80″ AMOLED, 1B colors, 165Hz, 630 nits (typ), 1080x2400px resolution, 20:9 aspect ratio, 387ppi; 720Hz multi-touch sampling rate.
  • Chipset: Qualcomm SM8350-AC Snapdragon 888+ 5G (5 nm): Octa-core (1×2.95 GHz Kryo 680 & 3×2.42 GHz Kryo 680 & 4×1.80 GHz Kryo 680); Adreno 660.
  • Memory: 128GB 12GB RAM, 256GB 16GB RAM; UFS 3.1.
  • OS/Software: Android 11, Red Magic 4.5.
  • Rear camera: Wide (main): 64 MP, f/1.8, 26mm, 1/1.72″, 0.8µm, PDAF; Ultra wide angle: 8 MP, f/2.0, 120-degree, 13mm, 1/4.0″, 1.12µm; Macro: 2 MP.
  • Front camera: 8 MP, f/2.0, (wide), 1/4.0″, 1.12µm.
  • Video capture: Rear camera: 8K@30fps, 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/120/240fps; Front camera: 1080p@30fps.
  • Battery: 5050mAh; Fast charging 66W – International model, Power Delivery 3.0, Quick Charge 4.
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader (under display, optical, Gen. 7); NFC; 3.5mm jack; Stereo speakers.

All of the new Red Magic 6S models also get an upgraded, speedier 720 MHz multi-finger touch sampling rate on their 6.8-inch, 165Hz, FHD+ AMOLED display. The change seems to be to the actual touch controller rather than the display panel itself, which could be the same.

Speaking of latency improvements, Nubia claims that its two Cypress shoulder triggers now sample at 450Hz, instead of the previous 400Hz, thanks to dual, independent controllers. Again, this should apply to all Red Magic 6S models.

nubia Red Magic 6S Pro review

All new models should also be getting an upgraded 7th generation under-display fingerprint reader. It claims to monitor for a pulse, on top of verifying the print itself, which should make it more secure as it can’t be fooled easily with a fake fingerprint. We didn’t notice any reduction in its performance due to this. It is still snappy and very accurate.

nubia Red Magic 6S Pro review

Last, but not least, Nubia is boasting a redesigned internal cooling solution, meant to handle the extra heat from the Snapdragon 888+. Rumors hinted at a graphene sheet of some sort, and there is at least one layer of that material present in the phone. However, it doesn’t seem to be the new addition to the cooling setup. That would be mysterious “aerospace-grade phase change materials”, which apparently can store a lot of heat and release it gradually to improve surface temperature and hand comfort.

nubia Red Magic 6S Pro review

Honestly, the advertising message here confuses us a bit, since Nubia seemingly can’t decide if the improvements were made to keep the internals cooled better or for the sake of user comfort. The press materials we have also don’t make it abundantly clear if all versions of the Red Magic 6S get this new special extra material or not. Here is a table that should sum up the changes going from the Red Magic 6 to the 6S, as best we can work them out.

nubia Red Magic 6 nubia Red Magic 6 Pro nubia Red Magic 6S Pro nubia Red Magic 6S Pro Transparent edition
169.9 x 77.2 x 9.7 mm – 220 grams 169.9 x 77.2 x 9.7 mm – 220 grams 169.9 x 77.19 x 9.5 mm – 215 grams 169.9 x 77.19 x 9.5 mm – 215 grams
Display touch sampling: 500Hz – single touch, 360Hz multi-touch Display touch sampling: 500Hz – single touch, 360Hz multi-touch Display touch sampling: 720Hz multi-touch Display touch sampling: 720Hz multi-touch
Shoulder trigger sampling: 400Hz Shoulder trigger sampling: 400Hz Shoulder trigger sampling: 450Hz (dual ic) Shoulder trigger sampling: 450Hz (dual ic)
VC cooling + Graphite + Thermal Gel + Copper Foil + Cooling Aluminum + Cooling Air Duct VC cooling + Graphite + Thermal Gel + Copper Foil + Cooling Aluminum + Cooling Air Duct VC cooling + Graphite + Thermal Gel + Copper Foil + Cooling Aluminum + Cooling Air Duct + Phase change material VC cooling + Graphite + Thermal Gel + Copper Foil + Cooling Aluminum + Cooling Air Duct + Phase change material
Logo light + RGB side light Logo light + RGB side light Logo light Logo light + internal fan RGB lights
6th gen under-display optical fingerprint reader 6th gen under-display optical fingerprint reader 7th gen under-display optical fingerprint reader with pulse detection 7th gen under-display optical fingerprint reader with pulse detection
5,050 mAh battery + 66W charging 5050 mAh battery + 66W charging or 4,500 mAh battery + 120W charging (China) 5,050 mAh battery + 66W charging or 4,500 mAh battery + 120W charging (China) 5,050 mAh battery + 66W charging or 4,500 mAh battery +120W charging (China)
128GB 8GB RAM, 128GB 12GB RAM, 256GB 12GB RAM 128GB 12GB RAM, 256GB 12GB RAM, 256GB 16GB RAM, 512GB 18GB RAM 128GB 12GB RAM, 256GB 16GB RAM 256GB 16GB RAM
M key touch area on the back

Clearly, there is an unfortunate amount of guesswork involved with the Red Magic 6S lineup, even down to the unit we received. In fact, we aren’t exactly sure if we got a Chinese or a global one, since the particular software it is running is full of funky translations, plenty of Chinese text, and some menus and options are clearly mismatched, compared to our international vanilla Red Magic 6 unit and others are clearly misplaced, like a full-featured RGB control menu that does nothing and some other options that straight up crash on us when we atempt to use them.

nubia Red Magic 6S Pro review
Left: Red Magic 6S Pro; Right: Red Magic 6R

For the sake of thoroughness, at least we can say with absolute certainty that the Red Magic 6S Pro has little to do with the Red Magic 6R, which has a totally different display, along other things.

Unboxing

Since we already touched on the accessory package briefly, we should take a quick look at the retail box of our Red Magic 6S Pro unit. The box itself differs quite a bit from the one the vanilla Red Magic 6 shipped in. It is a smaller and simpler two-piece one.

nubia Red Magic 6S Pro review

Inside it – a 30W charger and a nifty, braided, red Type-C to Type-C cable. Like we already mentioned, the Red Magic 6S Pro supports up to 66W of charging, but you need to get the needed charger separately. Even so, the one provided in the box is actually a versatile, compact unit great for travel since it not only does 30W of PD with PPS support, but can also do Qualcomm Quick Charge.

There is also a nice and thick, transparent TPU case in the box. A nifty addition, even if most of the back of the case is actually missing, presumably to accommodate better heat dissipation on a phone that does tend to get toasty since it prioritizes cooler internals, overhand comfort.

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