Anton D. Nagy contributed to this Red Magic 6 rating.
Gaming phones are here to stay, and some of the newest plants have done high levels of performance without breaking the bank. Here we have one from Red Magic – a gamer-styled smartphone that’s quite literally a pretty cool operator. This is our Red Magic 6 test, in both video and text format.
View Red Magic 6 on Amazon
Still a smartphone
I’m actually going to do something different this time – usually I start from the outside, looking in, and close with the camera as this is usually one of the most important parts of a smartphone. The thing is, Red Magic 6 has a specific focus and it’s not about being a creative tool. So I’m going to flip the script a little and talk through the camera first.
The Red Magic 6 comes with a triple camera setup. But it’s a combination you might expect from a phone that doesn’t prioritize imaging. The main sensor is a 64-megapixel shooter with two backups – the wide-angle camera marks a significant drop to 8 MP, while the 2 MP-megapixel depth sensor is used to support portraits. Maybe it’s for those times when you want a good looking picture of the person you just defeated in a mobile game. Or you want a victory selfie with the front camera, which is also 8 MP and hits the top at 1080p video recordings. It’s a camera package that we saw on the previous model; Thanks to Red Magic, however, not too many other phones have the same performance specs and extras. I was really impressed with how many modes and settings there were in the camera app, but if camera quality is what you’re looking for, the Red Magic 6 is somewhere between passable and reasonably decent.
There’s a lot more that makes up the entire smartphone experience, and that brings us to general software – before we flip the gaming switch and set things to 11. Red Magic’s Android operating system, like the camera, is a part of the phone that doesn’t exist – it’s not completely polished, nor is it the culmination of the experience. Functionally, it is a smartphone surface suitable for everyday use, but a few kinks in the localization and design make it clear that Red Magic is still quite young in the Android game. Certain features are expected, such as gesture control, split-screen multitasking, and robust options for the always-on display.
Speaking of customizations, LED-activated areas on the back can add some visual flair in addition to the already aggressive stylings – by the way, as you can see here on the back, Red Magic sent us this phone with a global ROM but installed this software on it a Tencent Games Edition unit, only available in China. LED strips above and below the brand logos pulsate under certain conditions, including while gaming, while charging, and when notifications are received. And the Red Magic logo on the underside, which only glows in the characteristic red color, can light up permanently or inhale and exhale. If you’re into that RGB all-life, that extra bit of flash and flair might just be for you – but I applaud Red Magic for adding some extra use.
When talking on the phone, we have a few surprises. The power button is located opposite the volume rocker, but flanks the power button on the side by the touch-sensitive air triggers. I just applauded Red Magic for putting extra thought into the LED additions, but the triggers are only used for gaming. I can understand this for the most part because they are touch sensitive and accidental presses would likely be common in the normal software interface. The USB-C charging port in the south supports charging the 5050mAh 66W battery – both specs that are good for long gaming or media consumption sessions. Gaming phones also tend not to neglect some of the practical effects, such as:
You can probably tell that I am highlighting the high specs that bring us to the display. This 6.8-inch AMOLED display is a real head-turner, one that I mentioned earlier has an always-on display. An in-display fingerprint reader is available for biometric security, but face unlock is also an option. As expected, the viewing experience of the screen is good as the resolution is in line with the general standard of Full HD +. True to the trends in gaming phones and displays, this screen delivers an impressive refresh rate of 165 Hz. Despite the obvious game of one-upmanship, Red Magic comes out with praise that overtakes the previous top smartphone display refresh rate of 144 Hz. Much like in the world of gaming monitors, the refresh rate is something special – a lot of the media you could display from video streaming services doesn’t even exceed 60 frames per second, and very few games actually come anywhere near that 165 App and game developers also have to specifically support the super-high refresh rate, which remains a mixed bag even at more conventional levels of around 90fps. This is all to keep in mind when paying special attention to the update rate as a dealmaker.
Flip the switch
Because where that comes from there is a lot more, and everything starts up as soon as you flick the switch in the corner. That’s right, the phone is completely transforming from a smartphone that simply ticks all the usual boxes to a mobile gaming powerhouse that offers many unique features and experiences. Pressing the switch turns off most general day-to-day features like banner notifications, and you can turn on the performance modes to really get the Snapdragon 888 going, even in overdrive. You also get access to features like the shoulder triggers and the turbofan. If you want access to some applications there are shortcuts to them and they are rendered as a floating window overlay on top. But in every way, you’re in a carousel or selection screen that mimics the home screens of game consoles. You’ve even seen that there is a boot-up animation when the switch is triggered.
Quick note – this is where you would also set up one of the various Red Magic accessories, but I don’t have any to introduce during this review. One that I would have liked to try is the side controller, here called E-Sports Handle. There are also coolers, but they are only there if I want to get super extra with my performance gains. After all, the Red Magic 6 continues the company’s success story of being one of the few phones that has a built-in fan and ventilation system. You can hear it right away if you enter gaming mode and cover one of the two ventilation openings. This hum is noticeable, but obviously not a problem if you are playing with headphones. And you can turn it off in the slide-out menu for less intense games like Slay the Spire, and turn it on for more demanding games like Genshin Impact.
So what’s it like to play on this phone? For the most part, it’s the same as any other Snapdragon 888 powered device, with up to 256GB to store all your games and up to 12GB of RAM to keep a game in the background while you do other things. Certain games simply benefit from the additional cooling, so that there are no drops in performance or frame rate, while gaming sessions can last a long time thanks to the large battery. Touchscreen games like Slay the Spire and Shin Megami Tensei Dx2 work as always as there aren’t really practical use cases for the shoulder triggers. For the most part, those extra buttons are best for shooter games like Call of Duty Mobile and PUBG Mobile, which is obvious given the Tencent partnership. It’s a benefit that might help the competitive gamer in those particular games, but it’s just a more enjoyable experience for everyone else. And that may be enough for some of you. It has certainly made me want to go back to COD Mobile since the last time I played, which was like a phone with the same extra inputs.
I have tried applying the triggers to Genshin Impact with mostly positive results. I was just happy to be able to play consistently well at maximum settings, a feat that most flagship devices from other companies sometimes struggle with. And of course there’s League of Legends Wild Rift, another example of a game that doesn’t quite benefit from additional inputs. It’s a game that requires fast input, so the 500Hz touch sampling rate is definitely welcome. But this is another game that has yet to be specifically tuned for the higher refresh rate screen – unfortunately my games hit 90 fps.
More than most phones, it’s easy to get into gaming in such a way that hours and hours go by without my realizing it – that’s partly true of battery life, as I tended to have the phone plugged in while gaming while the main thing is I never noticed the phone getting uncomfortably warm like it does with others. Now, I’m nowhere near an esports player level, but those are still tangible and significant benefits for a product like this that could be considered a niche.
After all, this is a question that many ponder: what is the point of gaming phones? Now that we are now (technically) at iteration 6 of the Red Magic line, I think it’s clear that the category is only going forward. And I’m all for it.
While there have always been games on the Play Store that I think deserve our full attention, I have often said this about classic titles being adapted for mobile devices. Games like KOTOR or GTA San Andreas. Of course there are emulators for classic consoles and game streaming for current console and PC titles. But games like Call of Duty Mobile, Genshin Impact, Wild Rift, and My Hero Academia: The Strongest Hero make it clear that custom graphics settings and scalable experiences can be part of the mobile world. And as the market for these great games continues to grow, so will this category of smartphones continue to grow. Case in point are gaming phones that use all the premium features hard and have high prices, and then you get the Red Magics of the world prioritizing performance and turning the rest down just enough to make mobile gaming easier to access. I actually think Red Magic is to gaming smartphones what MSI is to gaming computers – overall, the gamer can get the kind of experience they’re looking for; Just be aware that while putting the games away, there may be some hiccups, random design cues, and misspellings of events along the way of good general everyday use. And that red switch will be there when you get the itch to get back into the fray.
View Red Magic 6 on Amazon