If you're interested in gaming on your phone, you can do one of two things. Your first option: pick up the Galaxy S21 Ultra and play the best Android games with relative ease. The phone has incredible hardware in the form of the Snapdragon 888 chipset, and it features a large 6.8-inch AMOLED panel with a 120Hz refresh rate, 12GB of RAM, and a 5000mAh battery.
Or, you could buy a phone designed for gaming, like the RedMagic 6R. The phone is a derivative of the RedMagic 6 Pro that launched earlier in 2021, but this variant is aimed at a more mainstream audience. The design is much more subdued; there's no fan for active cooling, and thanks to a smaller 4200mAh battery and other design tweaks, the 6R is lighter than the 6 Pro by 34g.
That said, it has the features that make the best gaming phones stand out; there are pressure-sensitive triggers that let you assign in-game actions, the software has a lot of customizability and the phone doesn't slow down under intense load. Essentially, the RedMagic 6R democratizes high-end hardware. So let's see if it should be worthy of your consideration.
Bottom line: The RedMagic 6R has the distinction of being the most affordable phone in North America to feature Qualcomm's Snapdragon 888 chipset. The device delivers outstanding gaming performance and doesn't throttle under sustained load. The gaming triggers are also a nifty addition, and the 144Hz AMOLED panel is a delight to use. That said, the cameras aren't great, and the phone misses out in many key areas, making it a poor choice in this category.
- Cleaner design
- Latest internal hardware
- 144Hz AMOLED panel has a lot to offer
- Better cameras than the RedMagic 6 Pro
- Good value for the hardware
- Software lacks refinement
- No stereo sound or 3.5mm jack
- Misses out on water resistance and wireless charging
- Cameras still not on par with rivals
RedMagic 6R: Price and availability
The RedMagic 6R made its debut in global markets in June. The phone is available in North America for $449 for the 8GB/128GB model, and there's also a 12GB/256GB variant that retails for $549. Over in the UK, the phone is available for £389 ($535) for the 8GB model and £479 ($660) for the 12GB version. You'll be able to pick up the RedMagic 6R in black and silver variants.
RedMagic 6R: What you'll like
The last RedMagic phone I used was the RedMagic 3S in 2019. That phone stood out for the hardware on offer for under $500, and that hasn't changed with the 6R. RedMagic continues to do a great job delivering the latest internal hardware for half the price of traditional flagships. With the 6R now available for just $449, you are getting a great overall value in terms of hardware.
Unlike its predecessors, the RedMagic 6R doesn't have aggressive styling — and that's a good thing.
I'll talk more about the hardware shortly, but the first thing you'll notice about the RedMagic 6R is the design. Earlier phones in this series have featured aggressive styling that immediately branded them as gaming phones, but with the 6R, Nubia toned down the design to make it more palatable to a mainstream audience. The result is a device that looks clean and modern. There are still a few gaming motifs at the back, but the design works in favor of the phone, and it ends up looking rather elegant.
There's a new camera housing at the back, and the rectangular design with the beveled edge on one side gives the phone added character. The 6R has thinner bezels up front, which means there's a cutout in the middle to house the front camera module. The cutout itself is barely noticeable, and even though the 6R has a 6.67-inch screen, it isn't too tall at 163mm — just 1.5mm more than the Galaxy S21+.
The most significant change to the design is just how lightweight the 6R is against the regular variants in the 6 series. Coming in at 186g, the phone is a full 34g lighter and 2.1mm thinner. That makes the 6R significantly easier to hold and use, and the weight reduction is largely due to the smaller battery and lack of active cooling. The RedMagic 6 Pro has a minuscule fan at the back that kicks in under load, ensuring the phone doesn't overheat. With the 6R, RedMagic is relying on passive cooling to manage the thermals.
The chassis is made out of metal, and it's sandwiched by a glass front and back that feature Gorilla Glass 3 protection. The phone has an in-screen fingerprint sensor that works reliably, the power button is located where your thumb rests on the right, the SIM card slot is at the bottom, and it holds two SIM cards.
Switching over to the screen, the RedMagic 6R comes with a 6.67-inch AMOLED display with a 144Hz refresh rate. That's less than the 165Hz you get on the 6 Pro, but still more than adequate, considering most games are still limited to 60Hz. A few titles are optimized for 120Hz and 144Hz, and these run incredibly well on the RedMagic 6R.
The panel has HDR10+, but most streaming services don't actually use the feature. YouTube runs fine at 1080p, but the same video on the Mi 11 has more vibrant colors and gets brighter. The phone itself can go up to 550nits in outdoor use, and there are zero issues with visibility under sunlight.
Colors are decent out of the box, but they tend to be a bit on the cooler side. There are three modes to choose from — Normal, Vivid, and Natural — and you don't get the ability to tweak color balance manually. Thankfully, you can adjust the color temperature, and doing so makes a big difference.
The biggest reason for picking up the RedMagic 6R is the internal hardware. The phone is the most affordable way to get your hands on the Snapdragon 888 chipset in North America, and there's 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage as standard. You also get Wi-Fi 6E connectivity, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, and two Sub-6 5G bands: N41 and N78.
The RedMagic 6R is the fastest sub-$500 phone currently available in North America.
As you can imagine, the RedMagic 6R delivers incredible performance — whether that's gaming or any other demanding task. There's no power shortage here; the chipset ensures there's no slowdown, even during extended gaming sessions. Sure, it is missing an active cooling solution, but it has a similar passive cooling system as the best Android phones, and I didn't see any lag or slowdown in the time I used the phone.
The gaming triggers on the side are easy to access, and you can assign in-game actions without too much hassle. They poll at 400Hz and come in handy when playing shooters like PUBG. The 6R has a nifty game space mode that allows you to customize settings for individual titles, like turning off background notifications, locking the refresh rate, starting a recording, and more. While the phone gets warm during extended sessions, it isn't worse than the Mi 11, Galaxy S21, or other flagships. The cooling system works effectively enough, and it is enjoyable to play demanding games on the 6R.
As for the cameras, the RedMagic 6R has a quad-camera array with a 64MP primary module, 8MP wide-angle lens, 5MP macro, and 2MP portrait shooter. Like all phones with high-res sensors, the RedMagic 6R uses pixel binning to deliver 16MP shots. The camera interface itself should be familiar; the modes are laid out in a grid, and you can access the various zoom factors — going from 3x, 5x, and 10x via dedicated toggles in addition to the standard 1x lens.
The primary lens takes much better photos than previous RedMagic phones; you get shots with great dynamic range and vibrant colors in most daylight conditions. The phone doesn't take long to dial in on a subject, and there's no lag when saving the resultant shots to the gallery.
Even in low-light scenarios, the 6R managed to do a decent enough job. It struggles with maintaining focus, and there's visible noise around the edges, but it is a better showing than in the past. As with most auxiliary modules, the 5MP macro and 2MP portrait sensors aren't actually of much use. The ultra-wide lens is also limited in its usability, as it misses out on video recording and dedicated Night mode.
The camera isn't an area of focus with the 6R, which Nubia's choice in lenses and software makes clear. That said, the primary lens itself is decent enough in its own right, even though it doesn't measure up to the likes of the Pixel 5a or the Galaxy A52 5G.
The RedMagic 6R runs Red Magic OS 4.0 based on Android 11, and the interface isn't cluttered. The default Whirlwind theme is decent, and barring a few garish icons, it largely gets out of the way. Of course, if you want a more gamer-focused look, there are three other themes that you can use.
There isn't much in the way of personalization, but the phone mirrors Google's defaults when it comes to the overview menu and the notification pane. It includes Android Messages as the default texting client, but the dialer is from Nubia. You'll find floating windows and the ability to configure AOD, and you can easily schedule dark mode.
With a 4200mAh battery, the RedMagic 6R doesn't deliver quite the same battery figures as its predecessors, but it manages to last a day, and you get 30W fast charging. It takes just over an hour to fully charge the battery, and you can go up to 60% in 30 minutes.
RedMagic 6R: What needs work
While the RedMagic 6R gets a lot right with its internal hardware, it misses out in other areas. For starters, the phone doesn't have stereo sound — a hallmark of gaming phones — and there's no 3.5mm jack either. Now, I know RedMagic was trying to emulate a mainstream phone with the 6R, but in this regard, it went too far. The lack of an easy way to plug in a wired headset and missing stereo sound put the phone at a distinct disadvantage.
The RedMagic 6R has its share of shortcomings, but it's the software that makes this a poor choice.
There's no water resistance or wireless charging either. The latter isn't a feature that most gaming phones have anyway, but with more and more manufacturers adding water resistance, Nubia is behind the curve in this area. It wasn't feasible to protect the RedMagic 6 Pro against water ingress because of the fan, but it should have been easier to seal the 6R, considering it has passive cooling and no 3.5mm jack.
Then there's the software. Many of the issues stem from the launcher; it is too limited in its features, and the worst part is that you can't switch launchers; you are locked to Nubia's default. It is inconsistent with notification dots, there are issues with push notifications, and you'll find weird translation quirks in the settings. The software clearly lacks polish, and while it won't take a lot to fix these problems, I doubt that's a priority for Nubia.
Those issues extend to the camera as well. There's no toggle to switch to the ultra-wide lens in the standard Photo mode. The only way to use the 8MP sensor is to switch to the Pro mode and toggle the mode from there. This is a glaring oversight considering most users won't bother using the Pro mode, and I don't think I used another phone that lacked the ability to use the wide-angle lens from the standard Photo viewfinder.
Another letdown is in terms of software updates. The 6R should get two platform updates, but Nubia has dragged its feet in this area over the years, so there will be a lengthy wait before you can switch to Android 12.
RedMagic 6R: Competition
If you want a phone with high-end hardware and don't want to spend too much money, you should take a look at the OnePlus 9. The phone is now selling for $649, $200 more than the RedMagic 6R. You get a much more elegant design, the same Snapdragon 888 chipset, a sublime 120Hz AMOLED panel, all-day battery life with 65W fast charging and 15W wireless charging, and standout cameras.
The software is also clean and devoid of any bloatware, and you get three Android updates. The phone is tuned to deliver the best possible performance, and the result is that the OnePlus 9 tackles even the most demanding of games without breaking a sweat.
If you're looking for a device in the $500 category, the Galaxy A52 5G immediately comes to mind. The phone doesn't have the same caliber of hardware as the 6R, but it still holds up just fine for gaming. You also get a 120Hz AMOLED screen, great cameras, three Android updates, all-day battery, and software that's packed with useful features.
If you don't mind picking up a slightly older phone, the OnePlus 8T is now selling for $549 in North America, and that's a fabulous deal when you consider the hardware on offer. The Snapdragon 865 delivers amazing gaming performance, the 120Hz AMOLED screen is identical to this year's flagships, and its standard 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage matches the upgraded RedMagic 6R. The phone launched with Android 11 and won't lag much behind the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro for speedy updates Android updates. Plus, its cameras are a significant improvement.
RedMagic 6R: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You want to get your hands on a Snapdragon 888-powered phone for under $500
- You're interested in a phone with a 144Hz screen
- You want a gaming phone with an elegant design
- You need an affordable phone with ultrasonic gaming triggers
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You want a phone with software that feels cohesive
- You need stereo sound or a 3.5mm jack
- You're looking for water resistance or wireless charging
- You want a phone with a good camera
The RedMagic 6R is a decent enough option in that it lowers the barrier to entry for the Snapdragon 888. You'll find devices like the Realme GT and iQOO 7 Legend that offer Qualcomm's flagship chipset for less, but they are not sold in North America. So if you're looking to get your hands on the latest hardware and don't want to shell out more than $500, the RedMagic 6R has a lot to offer.
That said, you will have to put up with a lot of annoyances. The RedMagic 6R misses out on a lot of table stakes features — there's no 3.5mm jack or stereo sound, no water resistance or wireless charging, and the camera isn't as good as regular $500 phones. Then there's the software; it feels unfinished and has plenty of bugs. While the hardware itself is enticing, some phones deliver a much better overall package, like the OnePlus 9 or Galaxy A52 5G.
Bottom line: The RedMagic 6R has the distinction of being the most affordable phone in North America to feature Qualcomm's Snapdragon 888 chipset. The device delivers outstanding gaming performance and doesn't throttle under sustained load. The gaming triggers are also a nifty addition, and the 144Hz AMOLED panel is a delight to use. That said, the cameras aren't great, and the phone misses out in several critical areas, making it a poor choice in this category.
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