Rating:
8/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $499-599

The Red Magic 6R propped up against some books on a desk
Cameron Summerson

I have a confession. Every time I read the words “gaming phone,” I cringe. The whole concept seems silly to me. But part of this job is setting aside personal feelings to objectively review products. So, that’s what I did for the Nubia Red Magic 6R. And I’m (mostly) glad I did because it’s a banger of a phone.

Here’s What We Like

  • Killer performance
  • Big, beautiful, fast display
  • Great specs for the money
  • Sleek, minimal design (for a gaming phone)
  • Haptic triggers have a meaningful impact on gaming

And What We Don’t

  • Subpar cameras
  • No IP Rating
  • No wireless charging
  • Spammy, bloated software

Most of the time, I think gaming phones look stupid. They’re over-the-top and goofy. I don’t think gamers really like this aesthetic most of the time, but companies keep pushing it. That’s the nice thing about the Red Magic 6R (or 6 Racing as it’s sometimes called): it doesn’t really look like a gaming phone. It almost looks like a normal phone that any regular-ass human being would use. As a self-proclaimed regular-ass human being, I like that.

As soon as you fire this thing up, though, you know it’s a gaming phone. The software is designed to focus on gaming, though it’s not as overbearing as that may sound. It works pretty well as a real phone, too. And with a top end price tag of just $600, that makes it a pretty compelling option whether you game or not.

Big Fat Beefy Boi Specs

The Reg Magic Logo on the back of the phone
Cameron Summerson

We can’t really get into a review without starting with specs, right? If big numbers and top-end hardware are your things when it comes to specs, then the 6R is a phone that’s sure to make you at least a little bit tingly. Here’s what we’re working with:

  • Display: 6.67-inch 144Hz AMOLED
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G
  • RAM: 8GB / 12GB (reviewed)
  • Storage: 128GB / 256GB (reviewed)
  • Rear Cameras: 64MP main camera, 8MP Ultrawide, 5MP macro, 2MP depth of field sensor
  • Front camera: 16MP
  • Ports: USB-C
  • Headphone Jack: No
  • Battery: 4200mAh with 30w quick charge (no wireless charging)
  • Biometrics: In-display fingerprint sensor
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E, 2×2 MiMO, Bluetooth 5.2, GPS, GLONASS, NFC
  • Ingress Protection: None
  • Android Version: RedMagic OS 4.0 based on Android 11
  • Price as Reviewed: $599

I’m reviewing the top end model with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, but you can save $100 by going with the 8GB/128GB model. I imagine it performs basically as well, though if you run several apps simultaneously, you might feel the “lack” of RAM.

Of course, it’s also worth mentioning that this is Red Magic’s entry level phone. The 6 and 6 Pro are similar in spec but pack even more punch. The 6R is the company’s push to attract users who want gaming performance without the gaming aesthetic. I think it works, especially because it still has lots of gaming appeal. It even has capacitive shoulder triggers!

While the specs are pretty impressive, it’s not all perfect. I was disappointed to see a lack of wireless charging and IP Rating on an otherwise flagship-level phone, but these are the types of corners that often get cut to keep the cost down. And considering this phone is nearly half the cost of similar handsets, it makes sense. It’s not a bad decision, just a disappointing one.

There’s also the potential (and likely) issue with carrier compatibility. The 6R has very limited 5G support in the United States—it only supports the N41 band. Interestingly, the story is very similar for 4G LTE coverage, as the 6R only supports B4, B5, B12, B17, B20, and B41 bands. That’s around a third of the available bands in the United States, which could cause compatibility issues for some users.

When I dropped a Cricket Wireless SIM in this phone, it was detected as “3G only,” despite supporting two of Cricket’s available LTE bands (B4, B17). This, in turn, caused my line to get locked because Cricket dropped support for 3G-only devices. This is also confirmed on Cricket’s website after running the IMEI through its compatibility checker. As a result, I had no choice but to test the phone on Wi-Fi only.

Because Cricket runs on AT&T towers, AT&T compatibility is likely a no-go for this phone. It does, however, work with T-Mobile. Verizon is definitely out, but that’s generally the case for unlocked phone like this in the first place.

Hardware and Build Quality: Big Fat Beefy Boi Build

The back of the Red Magic 6R propped up against some books
Cameron Summerson

With a 6.67-inch display, this is a big phone. Though at 186 grams, it’s not the heaviest on the market. It strikes a good balance of size and weight, making it not just nice to carry but great to use. The aluminum casing is all sorts of shiny on my review unit, and it has a few small touches along the right edge (when looking at the back of the phone) that give it a bit of additional aesthetic appeal.

I think the overall look is pretty classy here—it doesn’t look like a plain slab of a phone, but it’s not so over the top that it just screams, “lol bro you should play Call of Duty on me” (though you should totally play Call of Duty on it). It’s pretty refreshing to see a phone with some pizazz but isn’t offputting.

All that said, it sure is a slippery boi. I have a strong dislike for aluminum phones for this reason (among others), and it applies here, too. The thing is just hard to hold without feeling like you’re going to drop it. Fortunately, there’s a thin, clear TPU case in the box, so you can address this right out of the gate. I recommend tossing that joker on there as soon as you can and leave it. You’ll be glad you did.

While the overall aesthetic isn’t that offensive, the big ol’ camera bump might be for some users. This phone has four cameras and a flash, all stuffed into the upper-left corner, which leads to a fatty daddy of a camera hump . It’s not the sexiest camera array I’ve ever seen (there are only so many ways to dress this stuff up), but it’s not the worst either. It’s mostly fine—just expect a bit of wobble when you lay this guy on its back, even with the phone in a case.

The outside edge of the phone is where things get a little more interesting, as the right side (when looking at the display in portrait mode) is where you’ll find the capacitive triggers. These are on the top corners of the phone in landscape mode, which makes the use pretty obvious: these are for games. I’ll get into more detail on how that works out down below, but the TL;DR is that they’re pretty awesome.

You’ll find the volume rocker and power button between the triggers, which never makes sense to me. There’s nothing on the left side of the phone, so instead of cramming everything on one side, why not put either the volume rocker or power button over there? Alas, this is the layout so many modern phones use. I don’t get it.

Back in portrait mode, the bottom is where you’ll find the USB-C port and the phone’s only speaker. This is a stupid placement for the speaker because your hand will completely cover it when using the phone in landscape mode. So, when you’re watching videos or playing games—two times you’ll almost certainly want to hear what’s going on—it’ll be either muffled or completely silent. Plus, why wouldn’t you put stereo speakers on a gaming phone? No good.

Outside of some questionable design decisions, though, this phone feels great. The fit and finish are both on point, making it a pleasure to hold, use, and even look at—me gusta.

There’s just one real complaint about the hardware: the haptic engine. It’s awful. I would expect sharp, tight haptics on a gaming phone, but the vibration here is not good. It’s flubby and just feels bad—especially when typing. Yuck.

Display: Big, Beautiful, and Smooth

the phone's display
Cameron Summerson

I’m really not sure what to say about the Red Magic 6R’s display that I haven’t said about dozen other big, beautiful AMOLED displays before; it’s big, beautiful, and AMOLED. What more do you want?

Oh, I know. You want high refresh and sampling rates, right? Good news: this has both. It’s packing a 144Hz refresh rate (it can be adjusted to 60, 90, or 120), along with a 360Hz touch rate. So, what is that really going to give you? A smoother overall experience and better gaming. It’s a gaming phone, after all.

I don’t see a huge difference between 120Hz and 144Hz, but maybe you will. Even then, however, I’m not really convinced it’s worth the extra battery hit? If the absolute smoothest experience possible is important to you, then 144Hz is the way to go. Otherwise, 120Hz is pretty much as good. 90Hz and 60Hz are both also fine for everyday use, but given the option, I’ll go for 120Hz over either every time.

Under that big, beautiful, fast display, you’ll find the fingerprint (thumbprint?) reader. I’m admittedly not a fan of under-display fingerprint sensors, but so far, this has been one of the most reliable ones I’ve ever used. It’s consistently fast and accurate, so I have no complaints. That might be a first!

Performance and Software: Beastly Fast but Quirky

The capacitive triggers on the Red Magic 6R
The capacitive triggers are awesome. Cameron Summerson

Look, the Snapdragon 888 paired with 12GB of RAM is no slouch. It’s really the opposite of a slouch. “But Cam,” I can hear you say, “what even is the opposite of a slouch?” Hell if I know, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s the Snapdragon 888 paired with 12GB of RAM.

Of course, I could probably say that about pretty much any phone with the 888 and 12GB of RAM. And I probably would. Unless, of course, it has poorly optimized, crummy software. See, that’s half of the equation here. So, I guess RedMagic OS 4.0 plays a role in this, too. And yeah, it’s fast, but it’s also different.

I don’t hate it, but I sure don’t love it.

This is one of those “let’s change stuff just for the sake of changing it” situations. For example, the Settings menu is rearranged compared to stock Android, and many of these changes make no sense. There’s an entry for Display, but also one for Always-on Display. Why not just nest the latter into the former?

There are lots of little things like that. Night Light is called “EyeCare Mode” in the Quick Settings panel. It took me longer than I care to admit to figure that out because it’s called Night Light in the Settings menu. That feature doesn’t work right in the first place—it turns on automatically but rarely disables like it should. That’s why I had to find it in Quick Settings in the first place.

The Red Magic 6R's notification panel, cluttered with icons
This is a disaster. Cameron Summerson

The notification area is also a hot mess. First of all, it’s loaded with icons. To make it worse, some are pinned to the left side, like NFC and Bluetooth, while others are on the right, like Wi-Fi and the battery. There is absolutely no organization here. There’s no way to disable most of these without turning the feature off to make matters worse. It’s shocking how stupid that is.

I could list a bunch of other little nuances like this, but that would make this review longer than it already is (read: way too long). Just know that this isn’t an uncommon thing on this phone. Changes for no reason are all over the place.

But it’s not all bad. Because this is a gaming phone, there are lots of gaming features baked in. Most of these are housed in Game Space—an alternate sort of interface that can be launched from the Quick Settings panel. It’s basically an alternate launcher for your games.

That’s not all it does, though. It also has a nifty little pull out tray when you’re in game that allows you to tweak all sorts of stuff like the frame rate, trigger buttons, enable aim assist, record videos, set macros, block notifications, and even tweak the level of performance. And most of this stuff surprisingly isn’t just fluff—it’s actually useful.

Take the trigger tweaks, for example. As mentioned earlier, this phone has capacitive touch triggers on the top (when in landscape mode). You can map the buttons to activate on-screen elements, effectively giving you an extra pair of fingers in many games. These settings are also game-specific, so your settings in Call of Duty aren’t the same as the ones in Asphalt 9 and so on.

The trigger settings in Game Space

I’m here to tell you that this makes a meaningful impact on how you game. In Call of Duty Mobile I have the right trigger set to fire my weapon and left to reload, which may seem minor, but it definitely offers a competitive advantage. This frees up my right thumb to solely control the player, thus making aiming easier and faster. It’s a marked difference over playing without the triggers.

The same can be said about the touch response and frame rate. Again using Call of Duty Mobile as my reference game, I played several rounds on the 6R, then several on the Pixel 5, and several more on the iPad. (I’m FunnelWeaver in game if you play.) The difference in response time and latency is immediately noticeable. The 6R is primed for gaming, and it shows. If you play games, this phone will give you an advantage. No question.

Also, I want to address the hole punch camera when gaming. I read that some users find this to be annoying and in the way, but I never noticed it while playing. Sure, it would be nice to have a different sort of camera here, but I don’t think this is a big deal.

Finally, I want to touch on the bloatware. Because there is some, and it’s annoying. The worst offender is the NextWord Browser, which pushes full-sized notifications with images for “news” all the time. It’s incredibly obtrusive and highly annoying. Fortunately, you can turn these off—you just shouldn’t have to.

So yeah, while the software itself isn’t in the best place overall, the overall performance and gaming tweaks basically offset it. It’s a beast.

Cameras: You Don’t Buy a Gaming Phone for Photography

A close up of the 6R's camera array
Cameron Summerson

There are four cameras stuffed onto the back of the Red Magic 6R. And unsurprisingly, they’re not great. They’ll get the job done, sure—just don’t expect Apple, Samsung, or Google-quality images here.

Like most phones in this price range, you can grab some pretty solid images in good lighting. They’re sharp and clear but can also sometimes end up oversaturated. In low lighting, performance suffers a lot more. Again, this is all par for the course.

A camera sample with the Red Magic 6R. Closeup of a flower. A camera sample with the Red Magic 6R. Bright purple flowers. A camera sample with the Red Magic 6R. A closeup of purple flowers A camera sample with the Red Magic 6R. A birthbath with flowers A camera sample with the Red Magic 6R. A colorful metal butterfly. A camera sample with the Red Magic 6R. A colorful, decorative glass ballA camera sample with the Red Magic 6R. An indoor sample with guitar headstocks. A camera sample with the Red Magic 6R. An indoor sample with Pops and other collectible.

The front camera is good enough for the intended use (selfies), though portrait mode isn’t great here. Like I’ve seen so many times before, it has a hard time defining edges, which leads to a weird “glow” around the subject.

A sample shot from the front camera, portrait mode enabled
What’s that ring around my head?

If you’re buying a phone for the camera, this isn’t the phone for you. But you probably already knew that. This is the phone you buy for all the other stuff. But also, to be fair, it has better photography prowess than other Red Magic phones. So if you want a gaming phone with better cameras than other gaming phones, this isn’t an awful choice.

Conclusion: A Good Gaming Phone, but Also a Good Phone

The Red Magic 6R is a good phone. Like, a generally good phone! Sure, it has its quirks (like all phones), and the cameras aren’t great, but for the money, it’s a rock solid piece of hardware to toss in your pocket. Even if you don’t play many games, it’s fast and buttery smooth in everyday use.

Of course, gaming is where this phone really shines. The haptic triggers are an especially nice touch, as they really offer a competitive advantage compared to phones that don’t have this feature. So if you’re into gaming and don’t want to drop an arm and a leg on a new phone, this is a great one to add to your shortlist of potential purchases—assuming, of course, it’s compatible with your carrier.

Rating: 8/10

Price: $499-599

Here’s What We Like

  • Killer performance
  • Big, beautiful, fast display
  • Great specs for the money
  • Sleek, minimal design (for a gaming phone)
  • Haptic triggers have a meaningful impact on gaming

And What We Don’t

  • Subpar cameras
  • No IP Rating
  • No wireless charging
  • Spammy, bloated software