Both Nubia and Xiaomi finally launched their latest gaming smartphones in Europe, with the Red Magic 3S also being available in North America. Both devices offer some improvements over their predecessors, but nothing game-ganging. The devices are really good on paper and if we are to look at what the previous phones could achieve in benchmarks and gaming, performance should be right at the top. However, with both the Red magic 2S and the Black Shark 2 Pro having similar specs, which one should you buy?
Yes, both phones come with the latest Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset. If you already have a Snapdragon 855 phone then there is no need to upgrade, but this newer CPU does offer better performance, something that hardcore gamers want. Both smartphones come with either 8GB or 12GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of UFS3.0 storage. But we are not here to talk about their similarities. The differences are what will make you choose one phone over the other, and I am not talking only about looks, even though this may be a factor for many people when choosing a smartphone. Let’s put the specs and features down, analyze them, and see which one you should buy.
First, the screen. The Red Magic 3S has a slightly bigger display with a 6.65″ diagonal, compared to the 6.39″ on the Black Shark 2 Pro. Both have the same FullHD+ resolution and both feature an AMOLED panel. Where the Red Magic 3S wins is at the refresh rate. While the Black Shark 2 Pro has a more traditional 60Hz display, Nubia’s offering comes with a smoother 90Hz refresh rate display. I honestly hope that this would come to the Black Shark 2 Pro, since it was one feature that should be available on a gaming smartphone in 2019. However, let’s give credit where credit is due. The Black Shark 2 Pro may not have a high refresh rate for the display, but it does have the fastest touch-sensing capabilities, at 240Hz. In my opinion, though, a faster refresh rate for the screen is more important, since even with a traditional touchscreen, the input lag is unnoticeable.
Another significant difference between the Black Shark 2 Pro and Red Magic 3S is how they handle in-game secondary actions. The Black Shark 2 Pro has force-touch, where it can trigger a different action if you press harder on the screen, something that is configurable by game for up to two action. The Red Magic 3S has two shoulder-buttons that are touch-sensitive. Both implementations achieve the same results: two more buttons that you can use in-game. Which one is better falls down to each individual user, so I would give a tie here.
None of the phones are top-of-the-line when it comes to photography, but I assume that no one is expecting or buying a gaming phone primary to take pictures. Smartphones have gotten more and more cameras and features for them, so it is quite odd for the Red Magic 3S to only have one back camera in 2019. The Black Shark 2 Pro is a bit better here, having a secondary 12MP camera with a telephoto lens. Both phones have the main camera with a 48MP sensor and similar features. The Black Shark phone wins for the selfie camera as well, having a 20MP one compared to the 16MP found on the Red Magic 3S.
Other things that set these phones apart are the connectivity options and accessories. The Red Magic 3S has a 3.5mm audio jack, something missing on the Black Shark 2 Pro even though it would be very useful. 4G bands are also slightly better on the Red Magic, but this is mostly because there is also a NA version. None of the phones have NFC, despite it becoming standard even on mid-range devices. The Red Magic 3S has a bigger battery, at 5000mAh compared to the 4000mAh on the Black Shark 2 Pro, but it only supports 18W fast charging, while Xiaomi’s phone can go up to 27W. Nubia’s gaming smartphone also has dual-bang GPS, but everything else on connectivity is the same between the two phones.
When it comes to accessories, the Red Magic 3S stands out due to its docking station, however, the Black Shark 2 Pro has a controller kit that transforms it into a “Nintendo-switch-like” device. The Red Magic also has a controller, but it is mostly a standard Bluetooth controller. Xiaomi’s controllers are not always fully compatible with most games, but they are unique and quite nice to use.
Last, but definitely as important as the rest, is pricing. The Black Shark 2 Pro starts at €599 and can go up to €699 for the higher-end model. The Red Magic 3S is significantly cheaper, at around €500, or even €479 if you are among the first 100 to order on the 16th when sale starts. If Xiaomi’s offering is worth the extra money is up to you, but right now I would go with the Red magic 3S, even though it did not win on all categories.