There has been a marketing burgeoning right before our eyes — the gaming phone. For so long we have had dedicated gaming computers so it makes sense that as gaming becomes more mobile that we will be seeing mobile gaming computers — ie. Gaming smartphones.
ZTE are not the latest company to enter the gaming smartphone market and given the Red Magic 6 Pro is their latest iteration they’ve had a while to get it right. We were sent one to test out and put through its paces, read on to find out how it went.
Hardware and design
The Red Magic 6 Pro is packed full of all the best specs available and then some — which is why it is so big. It is comfortably bigger than even the OPPO Find X3 Pro. In saying that it is not as tall nor as thick as the ASUS ROG Phone 5 that Dan reviewed a few months ago.
It houses a top of the range Snapdragon 888 5G chipset coupled with 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 256GB of storage — enough to keep that phone running snappily and happily all day long. This combination gives the phone an incredibly fast and snappy feel with navigation of the OS as fast as you’ve ever seen.
The rear of the device houses the camera island which, like other gaming phones before it, is a lot smaller than other high-end phones we see these days. The focus is not on smartphone photography though but instead on smartphone gaming. Part of that includes the rear LED RGB lights — a strip on each side and the Nubia logo which lights up to whatever colour and style of flashing you select. You can also have them light up when a notification is received as well as when gaming. I love the addition of these lights and the ability to customise them allows for a unique experience — quite different from nearly every other smartphone on the market here in Australia.
The Red Magic 6 Pro comes with two cases — the gaming case which the controller attaches to and a clear case as well which is more of a bumper case. Neither of these cases hide the lights and are shaped such that they do not. Without the case the phone looks very gamey — with sleek lines and patterns on the rear of the device. The gaming case is extremely tight fitting and seems very fragile so you must be incredibly careful removing it from the phone otherwise you will snap it.
One look at the Red Magic 6 Pro and you’ll see ports and buttons galore. USB-C charging port on the bottom of the phone, and of course volume rocker and power button are present but there is also a large speaker grill down the bottom of the phone for the downward firing speaker and another speaker in the earpiece at the top. The dual speakers support DTS Ultra X surround sound and no matter whether playing a game, watching a movie, or listening to music the sound experience is not just loud but a decent quality sound.
Look closer and you’ll see the “Pro Shoulder Triggers” — trigger buttons on the shoulders of the device — that have a touch sampling rate of 400Hz, ideal for gaming. There is also a headphone jack for low latency sound to complement the display. More on all these gaming specific features later.
A huge, gorgeous display
The display itself is a massive 6.8-inch 1080P AMOLED display with a 20:9 aspect ratio along with 10-bit and DCI-P3 colour support. Peak brightness goes all the way up to 630 nits. The best part of the display though is the refresh rate — up to 165Hz with a single touch sampling rate of 500Hz and 360Hz multitouch sampling rate.
The refresh rate does not always need to be set at 165Hz as using that all the time would kill the battery far too quickly and ZTE have included an Adaptive Refresh Rate to adjust the rate to match whatever is supported by the app/game you are using/playing. Even using the display at 90 or 120Hz makes for a wonderful experience — you really need to see to believe the difference it makes to a user experience.
Under that huge, gorgeous display is the optical fingerprint sensor and it is fast and accurate at all times. This far into the in-display fingerprint sensors there is no excuse for it not to be all that. ZTE has included a heap of customisations for the fingerprint icon and it’s great fun setting up that to match the rest of the phone customisations you can perform.
Battery and charging
When you pack a phone full of specs such as ZTE have done with the Red Magic 6 Pro you need to pack in a decent battery to get some halfway decent battery life. The Red Magic 6 Pro houses a 5050mAh battery which is large compared to other premium smartphones but don’t expect to get more than a day if you use the phone to its full extent.
Using the phone with the display at 120Hz maximum refresh rate results in a battery life that will barely last a day. Drop that maximum refresh rate to 90Hz and you should have no issues getting through a full day easily. At 90Hz I was able to get over 5.5 hours of screen on time from a single charge — and that was using it quite a bit with some Kayo streaming, some tethering to a PC and another phone and some YouTube.
Charging the device could be great but is just good. The phone does not have wireless charging of any sort but that is no surprise given the internal cooling systems and RGB lighting included. Not sure how they’d include wireless charging coils as well as all of those. The phone has fast wired charging and is capable of charging at 66W charging using ZTEs Neo Quick Charge.
Unfortunately, the charger included in the box is a 30W charger which is still damn good but when the phone is capable of 66W it would have been nice to have a charger that can charge it at the full speed — I love the 65W charging included in my OPPO Find X3 Pro and find it one of the best features of the phone. The Red Magic 6 Pro is capable of also charging via PD 3.0 and Qualcomm Quick Charge 5 which is handy if you have other chargers on hand.
I was able to charge the phone from 5% to 50% using the included 30W charger in just on 30 minutes, so not spectacular — it could be so much better if they’d included the appropriate charging brick.
Like most gaming phones we are seeing being released, the camera island is relatively small and the specs not as high-end as the rest of the device. The camera sensors included in the island are:
- 64MP sensor with wide angled lens
- 8MP sensor with ultrawide lens
- 2MP with macro lens
On the surface they seem ok and that’s about it unfortunately. These are the specs you’d expect to see in a mid-range smartphone and as you’d expect, they perform as well as a mid-range smartphone. In the end though people buying this phone are buying it because of its gaming chops and not its camera capabilities.
As you can see in the images below, on the surface the images in decent light are good but lose detail when zoomed, as all mid range smartphones do. Low light images are the same with decent quality but zoom up and they look over-processed, over-sharpened and over-saturated at times.
All in all, the camera is capable without being stunning — about par for the course for a gaming smartphone.
The selfie camera is just average with just an 8MP lens but I have never been one to understand why anyone would need, nor want, more than 8MP in a selfie camera. As so many phones do these days a “beauty” filter is on all selfie images by default so make sure you turn that off unless you want that plastic, unnatural look to your selfies.
Gaming chops and then some
I’ve never installed so many games as what I installed on this smartphone. The controller combined with the customised RGB lighting made for the perfect gaming experience. Add in the pro-shoulder triggers for times you don’t have the controller with you, the fan which switches on automatically when you enter gaming mode. Did I mention that there is a simple red switch on the side that, when switched on, forces the phone into the Game Space where you can find so many more game-related settings?
In the Game Space you can edit the display refresh rate, screen brightness, map the game controls, record the game play and also create your own macros. These settings are what sets it apart from premium smartphones which occasionally plays games.
Not only is there a loud (and effective) fan inside but ZTE have also included an internal liquid and graphite cooling setup. These do a good job keeping the phone cool — I tested out a few games without the phone on and there is a noticeable difference in the heat of the phone compared with the fan on.
The speakers are also pretty decent when it comes to smartphone speakers but I dare say you are going to want to use headphones to get the full immersive experience. There is a headphone jack present but it sits behind the gaming case so if you have that case on there is no way to attach wired headphones — Bluetooth is your only option here.
The gaming experience, with all these extra features was amazing. The games were snappy, responsive and the ability to map the controller to anywhere on the game display was handy.
ZTE have never been one to wow me with their software. This device is different. We do have a pre-release version so there are a few bugs in it — which ZTE have told me will be fixed via another OTA update in a couple of weeks. There was some bugs a week or so ago that have already been fixed with an update so I have no doubt that the new update to fix the current issues will arrive as promised.
The main, and pretty much only issue, I am now seeing is regarding the home launcher. ZTE have their launcher set as the default launcher and even if you change the default launcher in the settings to a third party launcher it will continue to default to the ZTE nubia launcher when you use the “Recents” gesture. In the “Breakdown” I gave usability 70% due to this — once the launcher fix arrives I’m happy to change this up to 90% without a doubt.
The rest of the operating system though is well done. The theme is as much or as little as you want it to be — it IS a gaming phone so I left it on the Red Magic theme — or you can customise it to be however you like. The included live wallpapers and ambient display videos and GIFs were a nice addition too.
So how well does it function? Amazingly. The transitions are snappy and there is no lag anywhere in the system and the additions by ZTE to the stock standard Android are extremely useful. Their neo AI software promises to provide smart enhancements and alterations to the system based on what you are doing.
Should you buy it?
If you do not love your gaming, then no — buy a similarly priced phone with a better camera. If you absolutely love your gaming, especially mobile gaming then yes, you should definitely be having a very close look at it.
The ZTE Red Magic 6 Pro is one of the best gaming phones I have used. Most gaming phones will all of these enhancements but the Red Magic 6 Pro puts them all together in a nice package that performs very well when not gaming but when gaming it switches to a whole new level.
The hardware is high end, the software is excellent — with a small bug that will be fixed in a couple of weeks via an OTA and the huge AMOLED display is a joy to view. Oh and the phone supports all Australian 5G bands currently in commercial use.
The internal cooling fan, the shoulder pro triggers, and the controller are but a few of the enhancements that make it a compelling purchase. If you are in the market for a gaming phone you should seriously consider purchasing this gaming phone.
The ZTE Red Magic 6 Pro is available for pre-order from JB Hi-Fi for $1,499 with both the gaming case and controller included in the package. Those who order before the release date of 13th July will receive a Redmagic Cyberpod wireless headset via a redemption on the ZTE website. For more information head on over to the Red Magic 6 Pro web page.