Nubia RedMagic 9 Pro in the test: a very powerful gaming smartphone – CCM

Equipped with Qualcomm’s brand new high-end SoC, the Snapdraon 8 Gen 3, and an excellent OLED screen, the Nubia RedMagic 9 Pro presents itself as an excellent gaming smartphone. And it does what it promises!

Summary

There are only a few smartphones that are consistently geared towards gaming. There are only two brands competing for this market: Asus with its ROG Phone and Nubia with the RedMagic. Don’t know Nubia? We understand you. This Chinese brand, a subsidiary of the Chinese giant ZTE, markets relatively few smartphones in our territory compared to big names in the sector such as Samsung or Xiaomi. However, that doesn’t stop it from offering generally efficient and atypical products. Nubia has been developing the RedMagic series for five years now. The goal is to make gamers’ hearts beat faster with devices that use the latest technological innovations to deliver increasingly impressive performance.

This winter 2023 it is therefore time for the RedMagic 9 Pro to make its debut. A smartphone that, like its predecessors, consists of very solid technical equipment to satisfy demanding gamers. Starting with the SoC, as it is the brand new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 from Qualcomm, released on November 15th. This RedMagic 9 Pro is the very first smartphone equipped with this SoC to pass through our hands. And to support him in his task, Nubia makes no compromises. The device also comes with 16GB of RAM and 512GB or 1TB of storage. As a gaming-oriented mobile device, the RedMagic 9 Pro also adopts all the codes of the genre: fans, multi-colored LEDs and a very distinctive software overlay leave no doubt about the true purpose of this smartphone. We were able to test this RedMagic 9 Pro for several days. Here is our verdict.

Nubia RedMagic 9 Pro in the test a very powerful

© Nubia

Nubia RedMagic 9 Pro: CCM’s opinion

  • Very high processor performance
  • Excellent in the game
  • Very good sound reproduction
  • Pleasant ergonomics with gaming buttons
  • Beautiful OLED screen
  • Convincing photos
  • Price
  • Fan noise
  • height and weight
  • Perfect selfie photos
  • A somewhat narrow autonomy

Nubia RedMagic 9 Pro: a massive design steeped in the gaming world

For those unfamiliar with the gaming world, the RedMagic 9 Pro can be unsettling. The device takes on the same size as a Samsung S23 Ultra within a few millimeters. So we are dealing with a beautiful baby that is generously sized at 163.98 x 76.35 mm and quite thick at 8.9 mm. The weight won’t leave you indifferent either: at least 229 g. Therefore, it is better to have large, sturdy bags to carry with you.

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On the left the RedMagic 9 Pro, on the right the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, two giant smartphones © CCM

And the device does not play the roundness card. The case is perfectly rectangular with slightly rounded corners. The edges remain completely flat (so you can place the smartphone vertically or horizontally without it falling), as do the screen and back. The photo sensors do not protrude on the back, as is usual with most smartphones. So much so that the RedMagic 9 Pro looks like a monolith straight out of 2001’s “A Space Odyssey.”

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Nubia has opted for transparency on the back of the device. Covered with a glass plate, the RedMagic shows some elements (nothing electronic) and several screws, giving it an industrial side, enhanced by the very playful typographic screen printing. To the right of the photo sensors, the 09 (for RedMagic 9) lights up with a multi-colored LED depending on usage. Among the sensors, the small fan is adorned with RGB LEDs, as with any self-respecting good gaming hardware.

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While the left edge of the device only has an opening for the air intake, the right edge houses several buttons on its side.

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The left edge of the RedMagic only has one ventilation opening for fresh air © CCM

The smallest, round version allows you to wake up the smartphone. At the top there are the conventional volume buttons and also a second ventilation opening for exhausting hot air. At the bottom, clearly visible by the orange color, a sliding button provides direct access to the game management interface (see below). Finally, at the ends there are two touch triggers (which also benefit from RGB lighting), allowing the mobile to be used as a portable console.

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At the top there is a jack socket for connecting a wired headset. The location is not optimal if you hold the mobile phone in landscape mode to play.

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You will have understood it, the RedMagic 9 Pro combines all the codes of the gaming world with its RGB LEDs, the font of its screen printing and the small fan. Even though its completely flat and thick slices give it a brick-like appearance, it is still quite successful. However, be careful. Due to the openings scattered throughout the device to facilitate cooling, the RedMagic 9 Pro does not have an IP certification to protect against dust and water. Finally, after a few days of use, we discovered that the paint on the edges of the device does not tolerate impacts well. So don’t hesitate to protect it with the included case.

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Nubia RedMagic 9 Pro: a large, comfortable OLED screen

To satisfy gamers and provide them with a nice visual space, the RedMagic features a large 6.8-inch Amoled screen (the size of a Samsung S23 Ultra). It offers a resolution of 2480 x 1116 pixels. Nubia claims a peak brightness of 1600 nits, which is quite pleasant. Strangely enough, while some smartphones released this year that aren’t really designed for gaming display a refresh rate of 144 Hz (and sometimes even 165 Hz), the RedMagic 9 Pro makes do with a maximum frequency of 120 Hz. This proves it to be more than sufficient , as the catalog of games that can take advantage of such a frequency seems to be running really short. However, if the device often gets stuck at 120 Hz, it is possible to adjust the frequency two levels lower (60 Hz or 90 Hz) to conserve battery life.

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There is no cutout or cutout at the top of the screen for the selfie camera. The idea is to disturb the player as little as possible so that they can use all the available screen space. So much so that the camera is hidden behind the Amoled panel (like on a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold, for example). Finally, the edges of the screen remain very thin. No chin or unsightly lines. It’s a success.

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The selfie camera is hidden behind the OLED panel and is completely invisible © CCM

Nubia RedMagic 9 Pro: a successful software overlay

The RedMagic 9 Pro comes with Android 14 out of the box and the fairly well-designed RedMagic OS 9 proprietary software overlay. It doesn’t stray too far from the original Android and we appreciate that Nubia has retained the key strengths of the Google operating system.

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Of course, customization can go very far: symbols, screen animations, LEDs… everything is possible. We also have a virtual shortcut button called Z-Pop for quick access to certain functions and even an application area on the edge of the screen like that offered by Samsung’s One UI. The interface is very responsive, not too busy and easy to use. A pleasant surprise.

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Nubia RedMagic 9 Pro: stunning performance, but not the fan

Technical worksheet

Screen size 6.8 inches
Screen definition 2480×1116 pixels
Screen technology AMOLED / 60-120 Hz
Screen resolution 428dpi
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3
R.A.M. 16 gigabytes
storage 512GB
Photo sensors (back) 50 + 50 Mpx
Photo sensor (selfie) 16MP
WiFi/Bluetooth 7/5.3
5G Yes
Fingerprint sensor Yes
face recognition Yes
battery 6500mAh
BONE Android 14
Dimensions 163.98 x 76.35 x 8.9mm
Weight 229g

This Nubia is the first mobile phone with the new Qualcomm SoC that we will find in high-end smartphones throughout 2024: the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3. An octa-core processor (1 ARM Cortex -X4 3.19 GHz , 5 ARM cortex). -A720 2.96 GHz and 2 ARM Cortex-A520 2.27 GHz), engraved in 4 nanometers. Qualcomm announces a 30% increase in CPU performance and a 25% increase in GPU performance compared to its predecessor. We therefore expect big increases, especially since here the founder’s chip is supported by 16 GB of RAM to run any application – and especially games – without the slightest slowdown. First, let’s take a look at how this new SoC performs on our usual benchmarks.

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The conclusion is clear. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 offers remarkable performance. This is a real leap forward compared to its predecessor, the 8 Gen 2, as the Antutu test shows, where the RedMagic beats both the Galaxy S23 Ultra (1,227,472 points) and the Asus Zenfone 10 (1,581,751 points ) even delivers a real slap in the face to the Asus ROG Phone 7 Pro, the Taiwanese gaming smartphone released last May (1,339,228 points), both of which are particularly well optimized for this SoC. The iPhone 15 Pro Max also lags behind the RedMagic 9 Pro (1,615,902 points) in the benchmark. This makes Nubia’s smartphone currently the most powerful on the market.

Since this is a gaming-oriented smartphone, the graphics part is of course also in good hands. Our tests with 3DMark show real progress in animation management. The counterpart to this excess power: the heat given off. Like its predecessors, the RedMagic 9 Pro is equipped with a small fan on the back and ventilation openings on each edge. This is capable of rotating up to 22,000 revolutions per minute. And you can hear it. A lot. At full throttle, the sound produced is clearly noticeable. Not as much as a PC, but still. Wearing a helmet is therefore strongly recommended for intensive use.

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Nubia RedMagic 9 Pro: a great gaming partner

But now let’s get to the heart of the matter: gaming. As we already told you, an orange sliding button provides direct access to the game management interface called Game Space. Already present on previous models, it allows the activation of a full gaming environment, essential in several points. Firstly, it helps optimize the performance of the device, thereby reducing battery consumption. Regardless of whether you play at 60, 90 or 120 Hz, playback is always smooth, without stuttering or FPS losses. Pure happiness! Note that in two hours of playtime (on Genshin Impact and Call of Duty) in High Quality mode – without setting the refresh rate to maximum and pushing the processor to its limits – we only lost 30% of the battery, which Such demanding titles are still appropriate. Of course, if you want to push the beast to its limits – and suffice it to say the results are pretty incredible – the battery will drain much faster.

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Game Space also allows you to adjust game settings, increase or reduce CPU and GPU performance, and monitor smartphone performance while gaming – you can find out the game time, number of sessions, remaining battery level or even processor temperature – to Starting or stopping the fan, but also activating some kind of filter so as not to be disturbed by notifications in the middle of an intense gaming session – that’s holy!

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From this hub we can also add plug-ins to the library that, depending on specific games, activate specific options (color inversion, automatic long press, intelligent 4D vibration, etc.), remotely control the smartphone display on a larger screen or even connect create a controller, a keyboard and a mouse. We also find the management of the avatar Mora, a slightly cheeky waifu who can act as a personal assistant: again, only people – not to say men – accustomed to the world of gaming and Japanese anime will appreciate this addition knowledge. The Game Space also contains everything you need to take screenshots, record game sequences or stream. Be careful, however, not everything is translated into French, especially in the plugin library, where you have to be content with descriptions in English – but it is already better than Chinese, as was sometimes the case with previous models.

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The other advantage of Game Space is that you can access it during a gaming session – assuming you can find the command, which is anything but intuitive! To do this, you need to drag the cursor horizontally to the left or right at the top of the screen – or down if the game is displayed vertically. You can then access all customizable options and special features, including the famous plug-ins. These can be activated, deactivated and adjusted as required. Among them we find the target integrated by Biasi of a crosshair symbol configurable in shape, size and color, a stopwatch function, a note function – very practical for writing down information in the game, for example for a puzzle – or even a game reminder function – you can set alarms for specific games program so as not to miss important events. So many features and options that set the Redmagic 9 Pro apart from standard premium smartphones, which also have impressive technical features but don’t offer as many options and customization options.

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But what happens when you have it in your hand? The Redmagic 9 Pro is very comfortable and fits perfectly between our palms and fingers, even small ones! You can play for several hours in a row without compromising comfort. Note that the device has two small tactile triggers on the edge that can be configured in-game. You can detect a short or long press and react accordingly. This can give a real advantage in certain games! There’s nothing wrong with the haptic feedback, which increases the immersion a little.

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One of the special features of the Redmagic series is, as already mentioned, the integrated fan. When it’s running at full speed it can be a bit loud, but it’s actually not very annoying. It is already possible to deactivate it at any time in the Game Space settings or to activate it only for certain games. And even when enabled, it rarely runs at full speed unless you push the device to its limits in the settings. In fact, the fan is there to keep the SOC at an optimal temperature so that it doesn’t work more than necessary. In the end, it’s barely audible most of the time – we wondered several times if it really activated or if there was a problem, but when we put our ear to the device, we heard it to say it!

After all, a gaming smartphone would be nothing without its first-class sound quality. The Redmagic 9 Pro has two stereo speakers with the Dual Smart PA system, which, like all smartphone speakers, enable better sound despite their smaller size. Attached to the top and bottom of the smartphone – or to the sides if you hold your device horizontally – they enable playback in DTS X Ultra. This is a surround technology that, in conjunction with in-house software, enables the sound to be spatialized in 3D. This gives us extremely immersive playback, especially when we add vibrations. The music and chat voices in the game are clearly audible and distinct, even when they overlap. It’s flawless!

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Nubia RedMagic 9 Pro: a anything but insignificant photography component

It’s not really the area of ​​photography we’re expecting this RedMagic 9 Pro to hit soon. And yet Nubia has not neglected this point. Two sensors from Samsung are used to take the photos. A main wide-angle module with 50 Mpx (f/1.8) and an ultra-wide-angle module with also 50 Mpx (f/2.2). On the front we therefore find a 16 Mpx (f/2.0) selfie camera placed behind the screen.

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During the day, the wide-angle module delivers quite good results. The photos are sharp, although the focus takes some time to do its job. The sharpness is very present. The device allows you to turn off the sensor to capture 50MPx images, but the interest remains quite limited. The difference in quality is not immediately noticeable.

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The portrait mode also works quite well. Again, adjustment requires some manipulation to achieve the desired result. The cropping doesn’t always work, especially with complicated subjects (like the tree in the picture below), but you can hardly blame him.

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The ultra-wide-angle module, on the other hand, isn’t much of a reason to celebrate. Despite the 50 Mpx sensor, there is a loss of detail. However, the photos remain quite usable. Note that with the ultra wide angle you cannot take photos in 16:9 format, only in 4:3 format.

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The RedMagic 9 Pro also performs surprisingly well at night. The colors are strong, the details are there and the control of the ambient light is very successful. It’s a nice surprise.

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The selfie camera, on the other hand, should be used in moderation. The images captured have a slight matte haze. The error probably lies in its location behind the Amoled plate.

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Finally, the RedMagic offers numerous shooting modes. Unfortunately, we were unable to test Starry Sky mode due to the unpredictable weather.

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Nubia RedMagic 9 Pro: Autonomy sometimes a bit tight

To provide the necessary power for its RedMagic 9 Pro, Nubia has equipped it with a 6500 mAh battery, about 1500 mAh more than the current standard for smartphones. Which probably also explains the thickness of the chassis. That’s a lot and according to the results of our tests, you actually need at least that much to last the length. In our PC Mark benchmark, which simulates multiple uses of the smartphone while mixing videos, office work, photo editing, etc., the RedMagic 9 Pro lasted a little less than twelve hours. It’s a little too short. However, by minimizing the use of LEDs and limiting the refresh rate, which all too often automatically sets to 120Hz, it’s possible to snag a few extra hours. Note that we have not found a way to cut the pound using the fan. This sometimes started as soon as the mobile woke up, even though no task was started that required intensive cooling.

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© Nubia

For charging, Nubia includes an 80W charger that can recharge the device in just 35 minutes. We were unable to test this charger because the version we received has an American plug. So we used a MacBook charger (65W). The device was able to recover 100% energy in one hour. Note that a turbo charging mode is offered specifically to speed up the charging process. Use in moderation to avoid aging the battery too quickly.

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Nubia RedMagic 9 Pro: Should you choose Nubia’s gaming smartphone?

So it won’t have escaped your notice that the Redmagic 9 Pro is not a smartphone like the others. Its size is truly outstanding and everything in its design and interface is reminiscent of the audience it is aimed at: mobile gamers. And to seduce them, Nubia goes all out to offer a smartphone with exceptional performance. Firstly, it is the very first device to feature Qualcomm’s new flagship SoC, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3. A processor with amazing and breathtaking performance. Then everything is done to play in excellent conditions, with excellent cooling (although a little noisy at times), a large Amoled screen and tactile triggers to use the smartphone like a console. And even if its general autonomy in classic smartphone use is a little disappointing given the efficiency promises of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, it still allows hours of gaming in good conditions. And that is exactly what the target group will undoubtedly be most interested in.

Finally, there is still the question of price. The RedMagic is offered in two configurations. The cheapest model, Sleet, which is based on 12 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, costs 649 euros. The Snowfall and Cyclone versions (which we tested here) differ in the color of the case. They have 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage space for a price of 799 euros. Prices that remain below the symbolic 1000 mark are often reached and even exceeded by high-end smartphones, a category in which the RedMagic 9 Pro still fits perfectly. A good point, then, for Nubia, which doesn’t consider gamers cash cows by maintaining good value for money for its smartphone. The RedMagic 9 Pro is available for pre-order on the Nubia website from December 27th and will be available from January 3rd, 2024.

The test was carried out with the participation of Maurine Briantais for the gaming part