Nubia Red Magic 6R Review: Affordable, Powerful Gaming Phone

RedMagic 6R Review: The Hardware Is Hot, But The Software Is Not


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Gaming phones have really matured in recent years, with ASUS’ ROG, Lenovo’s Legion, Xiaomi’s Black Shark, and Nubia’s RedMagic all offering compelling performance-packed handsets for gamers. Oppo’s even rumored to be joining the party soon. Here in the US, RedMagic is the gaming phone value champ, and this year’s $599 RedMagic 6 is no exception. It basically updates last year’s $579 RedMagic 5G with a 165Hz display and a Snapdragon 888.

That’s all well and good, but what got our attention recently is the $499 RedMagic 6R -- a super-affordable Snapdragon 888 handset with a 144Hz screen and capacitive shoulder buttons that looks and feels more like a standard flagship than a phone targeting gamers. While it loses some of that hard-core gaming pedigree, it gains a more accessible design and better cameras. At $499, it’s also the cheapest Snapdragon 888 handset officially available in the US.

So, what’s the RedMagic 6R like as a gaming phone? What’s it like as an affordable flagship? Is it the best of both worlds or is it just full of compromises? Read our full review to find out.

RedMagic 6R Hardware And Design

Design-wise, the RedMagic 6R is kind of a hybrid between a modern flagship and a gaming handset. The general look and feel of our Mercury Silver review unit combines elements of the Morning Mist (silver) OnePlus 9 Pro (in back), and the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (in front), complete with a flat OLED display and top-centered, silver-ringed punch hole for the selfie camera (16MP). Other colors include Cosmos Black and Light Blue.

It’s a large phone (6.67-inch screen, 163 x 75.3 x 7.8mm, 186g), but it’s not remotely as massive as the RedMagic 6 (6.8-inch display, 169.9 x 77.2 x 9.7mm, 220g). Then again, the RedMagic 6R lacks its bigger sibling’s built-in fan, uninterrupted screen, stereo speakers, and headphone jack. Plus, it swaps the RedMagic 6’s 165Hz display for a 144Hz panel, and its 5050mAh battery for a 4200mAh cell.

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RedMagic 6 (L) vs. RedMagic 6R (R)

Since it’s trying to pass for a regular flagship, the RedMagic 6R drops its sibling’s louder “made-for-gamers” aesthetic, rear RGB light strip and light-up logo, and oversized top and bottom screen bezels. We realize this is subjective, but we think those improvements are very welcome. The RedMagic 6’s 400Hz capacitive trigger buttons remain, however, along with the high quality glass and aluminum build.

That being said, the RedMagic 6R doesn’t blend into the flagship landscape completely. Reflective accents in the rear glass (similar to circuit board traces), and a unique camera pod shape (reminiscent of a tabbed folder) help it stand out a little, without being over the top. Overall, we like this design a lot. It looks unique yet familiar, and feels good in hand. The refined materials are just the icing on the cake.

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As for the controls and ports, you’ll find the volume rocker and power/lock key on the right side, flanked by the two black capacitive shoulder buttons at each end. The mono speaker, primary mic, USB Type-C port (USB 3.0), and dual-SIM tray are all located along the bottom edge. A secondary mic lives on the top edge, and there’s nothing on the left side but antenna bands. Both the top and bottom edges are concave, which is a nice detail.

The RedMagic 6R boasts four rear shooters (64MP main, 8MP ultrawide, 5MP macro, and 2MP depth) which are arranged into an inverted “L” alongside a dual-LED flash inside the camera bump. For those keeping count, that’s one more shooter than its sibling. While this handset doesn’t have an IP rating, it also doesn’t have openings for a fan, and there’s a gasket around the SIM tray, so we figure it‘s at least splash resistant.

Watch our unboxing video before we continue to the specs...
 

RedMagic 6R
Specifications & Features
Processing And 5G Platform Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, Integrated Snapdragon X60 5G Modem
Display 6.67" FHD+ AMOLED, 2400x1080 resolution, 144Hz
Memory 8/12GB LPDDR5
Storage 128/256GB UFS 3.1, No microSD
Rear-Facing Cameras 64MP f/1.8 Main PDAF - 8MP f/2.2 120º Ultra-Wide - 5MP f/2.4 Macro - 2MP f/2.4 Depth
Front-Facing Cameras 16MP f/2.5
Video Recording Up to 8K @ 30fps, 4K @ 60fps, 1080p @ 60fps, 1080p slow-mo
Battery 4200 mAh, 30W wired charging, No wireless charging
OS Android 11 With RedMagic OS v4.0
Dimensions 163 x 75.3 x 7.8mm
Weight 186 grams
Connectivity 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6e, Bluetooth 5.2+LE, NFC, USB-C, LTE, sub-6GHz 5G
Colors Mercury Silver, Cosmos Black, Light Blue
Pricing Find the RedMagic 6R @ Amazon, Starting at $499

RedMagic 6R Display Quality

Want a 144Hz display for just $499? The RedMagic 6R is your ticket. It packs a beautiful 6.67-inch FHD+ (2400 x 1080 pixels, 395ppi) 10-bit AMOLED screen with a 20:9 aspect ratio and small bezels all around. And while the 144Hz refresh rate is the star of the show, there are also options for 120, 90, and 60Hz. The top-centered, silver-ringed punch hole isn’t ideal for gaming, but we prefer this over wider top and bottom bezels.

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As you’d expect from a modern AMOLED panel, this screen delivers punchy colors, deep blacks, and solid viewing angles. While it’s not quite as bright as today’s best displays (770 nits peak), it’s still easy to read in direct sunlight. In addition, the 360Hz touch sampling rate makes it well suited for gaming. Overall, this is an excellent screen, especially at this price point.

RedMagic 6R Camera Performance And Image Quality

To date, imaging hasn’t been RedMagic’s focus. Its gaming phones have always offered decent camera hardware, but poor image processing and lackluster software. And the mediocre results speak for themselves. The RedMagic 6R attempts to remedy this with the company’s best camera system yet, which includes Sony’s very capable 64MP IMX 682 Quad Bayer main sensor, plus updated macro and selfie cameras.

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As such, you’ll find that 64MP f/1.8 0.8-micron main shooter (without OIS), a 8MP f/2.2 1.12-micron 120-degree ultrawide, 5MP f/2.4 macro lens (without AF), and 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor, plus a 16MP f/2.5 1.0-micron selfie camera. Contrast this with the RedMagic 6, which lacks the depth sensor, and settles on more basic 2MP macro and 8MP selfie cameras. So it’s a better setup, but what about the results?

Before we jump into that, let’s briefly discuss the interface and various shooting modes. Unfortunately, the RedMagic 6R inherits the company’s existing camera app, which doesn’t appear to have changed since last year’s RedMagic 5G, and is pretty much identical to the RedMagic 6’s. We find it unintuitive and somewhat disorganized. For example, you have to select pro (manual) mode to use the ultrawide -- it’s simply not available in auto mode. And there are other strange nuances to deal with as well.

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RedMagic 6R main camera

While there’s a plethora of modes available, it’s hard to make sense of them all. Some (like the macro) are buried in the “Camera Family” menu. Others (like the 64MP mode) are hiding in the settings. There are two manual modes, pro and DNG; the latter outputs RAW images and only supports the main shooter. In addition, help is available for some modes, but not others, so you’re left guessing how to use some of them.

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RedMagic 6R ultrawide

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RedMagic 6R main camera (2x zoom)

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RedMagic 6R main camera (5x zoom)

Shooting modes include portrait, night, pro (manual), panorama, macro, time lapse (1080p 30fps), and slow motion (1080p 240fps, 720p 480/960/1920fps) to name the most significant. The RedMagic 6R captures video (with stereo audio) at up to 8k 30fps (unstabilized) or 4k 60fps (stabilized) with the main shooter, and tops out at 1080p 30fps (unstabilized) with the selfie camera. Video recording isn’t available with the ultrawide or macro.

Pictures taken with the RedMagic 6R are certainly better than anything we’ve shot with past RedMagic gaming handsets, but that’s a pretty low bar. It also slightly edges out its similarly equipped sibling, the RedMagic 6. Basically, the resulting photos remind us of images we’ve captured with Moto phones at the same price point -- they're serviceable, but not spectacular. In other words, there’s still room for improvement.

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RedMagic 6R main camera (auto)

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RedMagic 6R main camera (night mode)

Daytime shots are decent overall, though colors are somewhat muted and contrast is limited. Exposure and white balance are mostly accurate, dynamic range is acceptable, and detail is generally plentiful. Since the main lens lacks OIS, low light and zoomed images are often softer than expected. Night mode obviously helps, but it’s only available on the main shooter, which is disappointing for a $499 handset.

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RedMagic 6R macro

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RedMagic 6R selfie camera (portrait mode)

And really, most of these issues come down to RedMagic’s deficient image processing. We already know that Sony’s 64MP IMX 682, which outputs 16MP images by binning (combining) clusters of four pixels into one, isn’t the limiting factor here. In fact, you can fix most of these shortcomings by installing one of the many unofficial Google Camera APKs available for non-Pixel phones. But that’s not a user-friendly solution.

Finally, the ultrawide and selfie cameras deliver passable results, but the lack of AF makes the macro difficult to use. As for video recording, it’s fine -- just avoid the 8k 30fps mode since it’s unstabilized. In all, the RedMagic 6R’s shooters perform more like those in a mid-range handset than an affordable flagship.

Next up: audio, performance, and battery life...


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