Nubia RedMagic 8 Pro review: Sharp and speedy – Pocket-lint
With a stylish redesign and a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 on board, the RedMagic 8 Pro could prove to be one of the best gaming handsets yet.
RedMagic kicks off the calendar year with another powerhouse of a gaming phone, this time sporting the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset.
This processor alone means that it's a capable gaming machine, as we learned with the iQOO 11, but combined with RedMagic's innovative cooling solutions and software optimisation, this device seems like it could unlock the silicon's true potential.
With a fresh new design and powerful internals, the RedMagic 8 Pro is off to a strong start, but what's it like to live with? We've been using it for the past few weeks in an effort to find out.
The RedMagic 8 Pro is the fastest gaming phone money can buy. It’s not perfect, you’ll have to live with an awful selfie camera, and might run into some software bugs – but if you can get past that, you’re unlikely to find a better performer.
The RedMagic 8 Pro has a completely new look for 2023, gone are the sweeping curves of its predecessor, and instead, we get sharp squared-off corners and a completely flat rear panel (excluding the protruding camera lenses).
We're testing the Matte colourway, which is all black with a matte finish and some glossy details. The design reminds us of Sony's Xperia line, and we're quite fond of it. It's certainly subtle, by gaming phone standards, but the customary RGB lighting does make an appearance if you're after a little more flair.
The Void colourway offers a louder approach, with a transparent back panel, gold details and RedMagic's RGB cooling fan – which we saw on the RedMagic 7 last year.
The sharp edges mean that the RedMagic 8 Pro looks great when paired with a vice-style controller, like our GameSir X2 Pro. We're not sure if this was intended with the design, but it's a nice coincidence for a gaming handset, and certainly the most seamless look we've managed with the accessory.
Of course, not everyone will love the sharp edges, depending on your grip style it could prove uncomfortable – though we didn't have any such issues.
The usual RedMagic touches are present on the latest model, you get capacitive-touch shoulder buttons, along with a physical red switch for entering the game space.
The cooling vents have moved this time around, instead of drawing in air from the rear and exhausting from the top (when held horizontally) the RedMagic 8 Pro draws from the bottom and exhausts from the top. We like this change, as we found it far too easy to block the vents on the 7 Pro and 7S Pro.
With the new vent placement, the buttons have had to shift about a bit. The lock button and game-mode switch are now on the right-hand side, along with the touch triggers, while the volume rocker has moved to the left-hand side, parallel to the lock button. They're all easily reachable, but we did find ourselves taking a lot of accidental screenshots, as we'd accidentally press the volume rocker while locking the phone.
The RGB lighting is on the subtle side, illuminating the RedMagic text and the patterns underneath each trigger on the rear panel. There's a wealth of effects to choose from, and it does have vaguely practical uses, like telling you that you have unread notifications or an incoming call.
Really, though, it's just about the looks, and it does look pretty cool. We especially like how it can pulse along with the beat when you're playing music or watching a video.
The display is a highlight on this device, being one of the few options on the market free from notches and cutouts thanks to the use of an under-display camera. The narrow bezels and squared-off design add to the effect, too, making the sizable screen appear even larger.
In terms of specifications, it's pretty similar to the RedMagic 7S Pro, there's a small increase in resolution, possibly due to sharp corners but, otherwise, it's largely the same. You still get a 6.8-inch diagonal, 120Hz refresh and 960Hz touch sampling.
What has improved, though, is the brightness output. It now tops out an eyeball-searing 1300 nits, which is plenty bright enough for our needs. We haven't had much sun to contend with, being in the middle of winter, but we can imagine this being very helpful for those summer gaming sessions.
The speakers are seriously impressive, too. Managing great clarity and staging, along with some low-end thump that's often sorely lacking on mobile devices. It can't quite match the exceptional speakers of the Black Shark 5 Pro, but this might be the closest a phone has come yet. Of course, you can use headphones if you'd prefer and, thankfully, there's still a 3.5mm headphone jack present on this model.
Our review unit features the base specifications of 12GB RAM and 256GB storage, but, should you feel the need, you can bump that up to a whopping 16GB with 512GB storage.
It may come as no surprise that this is the fastest phone we've tested to date, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2-powered iQOO 11 was already topping benchmark scores, and when you add active cooling to that, things only get better.
The RedMagic 8 Pro will handle any game you can throw at it with ease, and it remains fairly cool under pressure, too. The active cooling fan does a great job of dissipating heat, and where we found that some older RedMagic devices got pretty toasty by using their aluminium frame as a heatsink, the latest model never got uncomfortably warm.
The phone runs RedMagic OS v6.0, based on Android 13, as standard. It's very similar to previous RedMagic operating systems, both in terms of aesthetics and functionality. Compared to some of the competition, it's pretty light on the bloatware, and most of the apps that come pre-installed serve a purpose for gaming or adding accessories.
As always, there's a very comprehensive set of tools for tweaking your gaming experience, and they've had a bit of design refresh for this generation. The controls now slide in from both the right and left side, and everything is easily accessible and well laid out.
You can use these tools to control everything from overclocking and touch-sampling rates to notification styles, screen recording and mirroring. You can spend hours on end just fiddling with these settings, and some gamers will absolutely love the customisation.
One feature that we hadn't tried before allowed us to stream our phone screen to our PC, running an app called RedMagic Studio, and then we could control our phone, and its entire functionality, with the keyboard and mouse. We thought this was super cool and can see it coming in very handy – whether that be for gaming, productivity or live streaming.
Our time with the RedMagic 8 Pro wasn't all sunshine and roses, though. Unfortunately, we experienced more bugs and weird glitches with this release than we have with any of the brand's other devices.
These ranged from annoying graphical hiccups like text appearing over other text and features that haven't been translated yet to full system freeze-ups. We're confident that this will get better, we're testing pre-launch and we know from experience that RedMagic pushes out a lot of updates and bug fixes – they just haven't arrived yet, and that made our daily experience a bit of a frustrating one.
When it comes to camera performance, it's the usual RedMagic story. You get a decent main shooter, along with some weaker auxiliary cameras. As always, the under-display selfie camera is pretty atrocious.
This time around, we get the Samsung GN5 as our primary snapper, a camera that's also featured on the Samsung Galaxy S22 and iQOO 11. So, it's pretty well established that this camera can take great photos, and the same is true on the RedMagic 8 Pro.
The difference here is that RedMagic's image processing isn't quite as advanced as the other brands, so while the detail is there, the colours tend toward the drearier side and might need a bit of a tweak in your preferred editing tool to look their best.
The 8MP wide-angle and 2MP macro are the same that we saw on all of RedMagic's devices last year. The wide-angle has its uses but lacks detail and the 2MP macro is best avoided altogether.
The under-display selfie camera appears to be the same one that we saw on the RedMagic 7S Pro, and that's not great news. As we found before, the live view is extremely soft with bloomy highlights, and the resulting images are subject to aggressive processing to bring some sharpness back. This results in very unflattering images, and certainly won't be the tool of choice for Instagram aficionados.
The RedMagic 8 Pro is an excellent gaming phone, and if you're looking for the ultimate in performance, this is currently the top dog.
The cooling solution works well and the software adds some useful and novel touches to the gaming experience. We like the new shape, too, the sharper edges make the large uninterrupted display look more impressive than ever.
This luxurious display comes at the cost of a decent selfie shooter, though, and we'd prefer a traditional camera in a small bezel, rather than an under-display camera that offers such poor results.
The software, in its current state, is too buggy for our liking. Though, as we mentioned, we're sure this will improve dramatically as the updates start to roll out. You may wish to wait for bugs to be ironed out before taking the plunge.
As usual, the RedMagic 8 Pro is all about performance, and on that front, it leaves little to be desired.
Prior to writing for Pocket-Lint, Luke had a long history in the PC gaming industry working on everything from marketing and PR to events and esports tournaments.
Aside from PCs and gaming, he has a passion for photography and video and the technologies surrounding them, it started with filming his friends skateboarding on miniDV camcorders and escalated to cinema cameras and a University degree.
These days he mainly uses these skills to make YouTube videos and can often be found strapping GoPros to racing drones in his spare time.