Red Magic 6R Performance and Gaming Review: Impressive specs, middling experience
Smartphone gaming is growing in popularity, particularly as high-end gaming PCs become more unattainable thanks to the ongoing global chip shortage, though it’s likely to affect smartphones too. Even still, demand for gaming smartphones has risen and given way to lots of different attempts by companies that have never even tried before. Red Magic has been in the game for a while though, and the Red Magic 6R is a toned-down version of the company’s flagship Redmagic 6 that launched earlier this year.
The “R” starts for racing apparently (I don’t know why) and the phone’s focus has entirely shifted from the original Red Magic 6. The super-fast 120W charging has been removed in favor of 30W charging, there’s “only” 144Hz, and there’s no built-in active cooling fan. None of these are really huge downgrades (well, maybe except the charging), but it’s enough to make this 6R a noticeable step-down from the original Red Magic 6.
Red Magic 6R specifications
Red Magic 6R: Specifications
|Specification||Red Magic 6R|
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About this review: We received the Red Magic 6R from Red Magic for review on June 15th, 2021. Red Magic had no input in the contents of this review.
Red Magic 6R Design: A cleaner, non-gamer aesthetic
The Red Magic 6R is the most “non-gamer” gaming phone I’ve ever seen from Red Magic. So far, all of the company’s phones have had that gamer design, but the Red Magic 6R is different. It’s indistinguishable from most phones on the market in the sense that it blends in and doesn’t try to do something too crazy. It doesn’t draw attention to itself as it’s not a super flashy design. Gaming phones tend to be way edgy in their design, which I personally do not prefer. This is something that you can pick up and take to a meeting as much as you can take it to a PUBG competition.
There’s no built-in fan here like on the Red Magic 6, though there are a pair of shoulder triggers that can be mapped to any location on the display when in gaming mode. The shoulder buttons are great for binding in emulators and in games like Call of Duty. There’s also a 144Hz mode which is nice for navigating the UI, though I didn’t notice any games that actually support it. 144Hz is a step up above 120Hz (and something I generally notice and am sensitive to, as both of my monitors on my computer are 144Hz). But it’s a subtle difference and, in my opinion, not worth shelling out extra money for over 120Hz.
There’s one design complaint I have, and it makes absolutely no sense for a gaming phone. Due to the location of the gaming triggers on the phone, you need to use the phone in one orientation to access them. The problem is when you use the phone in that orientation, the palm of your hand covers the single bottom-firing mono speaker on the device, entirely muting the audio that’s playing. Most other phones have their bottom speakers on the other side, usually. You can work around this by using a USB C headphone, but then the phone is also not the most comfortable for holding when using the included USB-C adapter for headphones, so I don’t really understand why this design decision was made. It hurts after a while, and I can’t help but feel this is exactly why companies like ASUS moved their USB-C ports to the side of the phone rather than at the bottom like on most conventional devices.
Red Magic 6R: Performance
The Red Magic 6R packs the latest and greatest Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, which we would expect to see in a gaming phone. It has all the generational leaps over its predecessors and a 5nm node size for better performance without a substantial increase in power draw. The Snapdragon 888 retains the 1+3+4 configuration which Qualcomm has been running for a while, with the single Prime core being based on ARM’s new Cortex-X1.
There are also three performance cores based on the Cortex-A78, and four “efficiency” cores based on the Cortex-A55. The Snapdragon 888 is equipped with an Adreno 660 GPU which is claimed to be 35% faster than its predecessor. It’s the best mobile chipset on the market in terms of raw performance, and we’d expect nothing less from a gaming phone, even if phones with the Snapdragon 888+ are just around the corner.
We’ve devised a series of benchmarks that test the real-world performance of Android phones. The first test is a real-world test of app launch speeds that launches twelve popular apps we use each day in succession for 30 iterations. These apps are all “cold” launched on the device, meaning the app isn’t cached in memory before it’s launched. Timing is stopped when the app’s main activity first begins to draw, so there’s no waiting on content to load from the network. Thus, this test can determine how quickly a device can load an app from storage into memory, with the caveat being this test is sensitive to changes in the app and OS version.
All apps launch exceptionally quickly, getting around the same results as the OnePlus 9 Pro. The Red Magic 6R falls to the ASUS ROG Phone 5 Ultimate which is a direct competitor for this device, though it’s still a top performer in this regard when compared against other flagship smartphones.
UI Stutter/Jank Test
The XDA UI Stutter and Jank Test uses a modified version of Google’s open-source JankBench benchmark. The benchmark determines the performance of a smartphone by emulating a variety of tasks that are commonly seen in different apps. These tasks include scrolling through a ListView with text, scrolling through a ListView with images, scrolling through a grid view with a shadow effect, scrolling through a low-hitrate text render view, scrolling through a high-hitrate text render view, inputting and editing text with the keyboard, repeating overdraws with cards, and uploading bitmaps.
The time taken to draw and present every frame during each of these tests is recorded and plotted against the threshold values represent by colored horizontal lines. These threshold values — in ms — correspond to the time taken to present a frame on a display for different refresh rate values.
For instance, a 60Hz refresh rate means a new frame is displayed 60 times per second, which means once in 16.67ms. Likewise, 11.11ms represents 90Hz refresh rate, 8.33ms represents 120Hz refresh rate, and 6.94ms represents 144Hz. Meanwhile, the vertical bars represent the time taken to display each frame, and any vertical bar that surpasses the aforementioned horizontal lines indicates stutter or jank.
The Red Magic 6R supports a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz. We ran the test twice and got different results both times.
Red Magic 6R JankBench test 1
Red Magic 6R JankBench test 2
I’m unsure why both of these tests are so terrible, though it’s clear the Red Magic 6R does appear to struggle to attain 144 frames per second drawn to the screen consistently. I’ve never noticed severe frame drops when using the device and navigating through the UI, but it seems there’s something adaptive going on here, as at times it clearly aims to drop to less than 144Hz. I’m not sure it’s a stuttering or jank thing, as it’s more so some kind of adaptive refresh rate switching. I disabled that option in developer settings, but it may potentially be the case that it’s enabled anyway.
Sustained performance is one of the most important metrics to pay attention to when using a gaming smartphone. If the sustained performance is poor, then you’ll have greatly reduced performance after what could potentially be a short period of time. I used the CPU Throttling Test app on the Google Play Store for half an hour to test the thermal throttling on the Red Magic 6R, and I was impressed by the results. I ran the test twice.
Both results were pretty good, and it notably took longer to throttle than other devices that I’ve used. You can get around 15 minutes of basically completely sustained performance before it starts to slow, and I found the phone became nearly too hot to touch towards the end of the test. That’s probably not what you want from a gaming phone, and was quite alarming even when thinking of what could potentially be the long-term health of the phone’s internals, particularly the battery. It lasts nearly three times as long at more or less full speed than the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, so that’s a win for sure.
We tested games using the pro version of Gamebench, and data was collected over an extended period of time. All games were launched using the Red Magic Game Space.
Call of Duty: Mobile
I ran Call of Duty: Mobile at full graphics and ultra frame rate, which seemed to unlock the frame rate. The phone seemed to handle it fine, as the dips were only when entering menus which limited the FPS to 30 and 40. It shows a pretty consistent performance on this device, and the temperature of the phone didn’t rise to uncomfortable levels either.
Minecraft is one of the most popular games on Android and has more or less been somewhere near the top of the game charts on the Google Play Store for the past couple of years. Its performance is excellent on the Red Magic 6R, and the FPS only seemed to really dip when the land was being generated. Particularly at the end, when I was running across the map and generating new terrain. I was playing on a 16-chunk render distance with high settings for all of the graphics.
PUBG Mobile is one of the most revered games on Android, and the Red Magic 6R handles it without a hitch. It drives out a full 40 frames per second while barely even breaking a sweat, even with Ultra HD graphics enabled. The highest frame rate PUBG Mobile could get was 40 FPS, which is a shame as the other games tested could push the Red Magic 6R to its limits. No matter what though, PUBG Mobile will work perfectly.
Mario Kart 7 with Citra for Android
In my opinion, the best way to push any flagship chipset is with emulation. Most games on the Google Play Store will run just fine on a flagship-grade chip as it’s the best that a smartphone can offer, but emulation can always be improved. I played Mario Kart 7 at 1x internal resolution, and while I couldn’t record data with GameBench, it was more or less flawless.
You can check out a video I recorded below to see what the performance is like.
Thanks to GameBench for providing us with a journalist license. GameBench is a suite of tools for developers to analyze the fluidity, power consumption, and memory usage of games. GameBench is available as an app on the Google Play Store (unlisted) and as a desktop application. For more information, visit GameBench.net.
In case you’re unable to download the Gamebench app from the Google Play Store, you can download it using their desktop app.
The Red Magic 6R is in an interesting spot. It starts at €499 for the 8GB of RAM 128GB of storage option, and at that price, it is good value. However, as a gaming phone, it lacks key features that put it behind the competition. A lack of dual speakers and poor design means it’s uncomfortable to use the shoulder triggers with a USB-C adapter in the device and even starts to hurt after a while. You also cover the speakers with the palm of your hand extremely easily while using the phone, and it can get extraordinarily hot after a long time of sustained performance. The software itself also leaves a lot to be desired. Poor translations throughout the operating system make it an interesting experience at times, and a lot of the design is very “gamery”.
Even then, I don’t mind a lot of the design of RedMagic OS. It’s one of the smoothest displays I’ve used on a smartphone thanks to the 144Hz, and the games that can push it to its limits are the ones that will likely be the most enjoyable on this smartphone. I didn’t have any issues with battery life in games and felt it wasn’t much different from any other flagship smartphone, though the much slower 30W charging might be a killer for anyone who wants to top up their phone’s battery quickly after a session of gaming.
From what I’ve seen, the Red Magic 6R delivers unwavering performance in pretty much everything you can throw at it. From 3DS emulation to your favorite titles on the Google Play Store, it handles a lot, even if it’s not necessarily the best gaming phone you can get. If you’re interested in Red Magic but are put off by some of the missing features, then the Red Magic 6 might be more up your alley.