RedMagic’s 8S Pro offers gaming brilliance and camera constraints

If gaming performance is your primary focus, and you can overlook some shortcomings, the device is one of the best options on the market right now

Succeeding the RedMagic 7 series, Nubia-owned RedMagic’s 8 Pro came out earlier this year, and the company released the RedMagic 8S Pro in international markets in the summer.

The 8S is a great-looking gaming phone, not just for gaming phone standards, but in general, and its performance prowess is lesser than none. The device features top-of-the-line performance specs, and it performs well no matter what you throw at it.

However, the device’s cameras leave a lot to be desired if it is to be used as an everyday device.

‘Cool’ design elements

The RedMagic 8S Pro features an edge-to-edge 6.8-inch FHD AMOLED display with a 2,480×1,116 pixel resolution, peak brightness of 1,300 nits and Gorilla Glass 5 for protection.

The display supports a refresh rate of up to 120Hz, which means it can show smooth animations even with the most demanding games. The phone supports 60Hz, 90Hz and 120Hz refresh rates. The display also features a touch sampling rate of up to 960Hz, which means it can register your touches faster and more accurately than most phones. A 960Hz touch sampling rate essentially means that the device will report your touch and your fingers’ position on the display to the CPU 960 times per second.

The display is bright and crisp, with vibrant colours and deep blacks. It has good viewing angles and the 1,300 nits brightness ensures sunlight legibility.

The phone looks tall, no matter which angle you look at it from, sporting an identical look to the RedMagic 8 Pro and a much toned-down look when compared to last year’s RedMagic 7 Pro. Partly because the display has no notch or hole-punch cutout for the front camera. The RedMagic 8S Pro uses an under-display camera technology that hides the camera under the screen.

If you were not a fan of the RedMagic 7 Pro’s bulky gamer-heavy look, the 8S Pro might be for you, as it barely has any superficial design elements that scream that it is a gaming phone. RedMagic, this time around, has opted for a sleek and professional look that marks the RedMagic 8 series apart from other gaming phones, and even its own predecessors.

The 8S Pro sports a glossy metal frame and a glass back, both of which pick up fingerprints and smudges easily. It features a headphone jack on the top, which is a rare find in smartphones these days, alongside vents on the left and right to dissipate warm air. The positioning of the vents is smart, as they don’t get blocked with your hand when you’re holding the phone like a controller.

There’s also a circular cooling fan and vent on the rear that lights up whenever you toggle it on. I’m not enthusiastic about the fan’s aesthetic, but it does keep the phone cool, and you can even feel the warm air blowing out of the vent if you place your hand next to it. While using the RedMagic 8S Pro, even during extended gaming sessions, it has always remained cool. Gaming while charging, however, does cause the phone to heat up slightly. The fan isn’t too noisy, though you will be able to hear it if you’re gaming without headphones.

The RedMagic 8S Pro is available in three colours: ‘Platinum,’ ‘Midnight’ and ‘Aurora.’ The Platinum version has a silver finish, the Midnight version has a black finish, while the Aurora version has a black finish that offers a Nothing-like design,  a peek at the device’s internals. The device that I’m using is the Aurora version, which also happens to be the most eye-catching one.

“In terms of benchmarks, the RedMagic 8S Pro performed better than Samsung’s S23 line, even the S23 Ultra, Z Flip 5 and Z Fold 5.”

As mentioned earlier, the 8S Pro is a tall phone. It measures 163.98 x 76.35 x 9.47mm and weighs 228 grams. The phone has a boxy look to it, with square edges that aren’t entirely sharp, though they likely will make your hand uncomfortable during extended gaming sessions. A soft case, however, fixes the issue.

The device, unfortunately, does not have an IP rating for dust and water resistance, which is a bummer for a 2023 device with top-of-the-line internals and a $649 starting price.

On the right side of the phone, you will find the power button, a heat vent, a game mode slider and two shoulder triggers that can be used as additional buttons for gaming. The shoulder triggers have a high touch sampling rate of 520Hz, and they feel very responsive and accurate, with no input delay. The game mode slider, on the other hand, lets you open up the RedMagic Game mode, where you’ll find all your games, network, screen and anti-disturbance settings, the option to customize the device’s shoulder triggers, refresh rate settings, crosshair overlay, plugins and more.

On the left side of the phone is a volume slider and a heat vent. On the bottom of the phone, you will find a USB-C port, a speaker grille, and a Dual-nano SIM tray, but unfortunately, no microSD card expansion slot.

Red Core 2 processor takes up Snapdragon 8 Gen 2’s load

The RedMagic 8S Pro runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, which is one of the most powerful chipsets in the market right now.

Top phones like the Galaxy S23 series, Z Fold 5 and the Z Flip 5, the OnePlus 11, and more all run on Qualcomm’s 4nm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset.

In terms of benchmarks, the RedMagic 8S Pro performed better than Samsung’s S23 line, even the S23 Ultra, Z Flip 5 and Z Fold 5. It was also better than Google’s Tensor G3-running Pixel 8 Pro. However, it falls short on both single-core and multi-core performance when compared to Apple’s latest iPhone 15 line. It’s worth noting that benchmarks don’t necessarily paint a complete picture and don’t always translate to real-life use and experience, yet they still offer an idea regarding a device’s performance, and the picture it paints for the RedMagic 8S Pro is a pretty one.

While we don't normally benchmark a smartphone's GPU performance, considering that the device is a gaming-first phone, we ran GPU benchmarks as well. The device got an OpenCL score of 9,835, which, according to Geekbench's database, is higher than all phones on the market, barring the Vivo X90.

The smartphone also incorporates an additional Red Core 2 co-processor, which is a dedicated chip that handles gaming-related tasks like graphics rendering, audio processing, network optimization, etc. According to RedMagic, the co-processor works on improving the phone’s performance by focusing on features that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 doesn’t normally touch, taking the load off the main processor, resulting in an overall faster device.

The performance boost is evident, as the phone feels even smoother than last year's RedMagic 7 Pro. The phone handles any game or app you throw at it, and it does so with ease. Games like Genshin Impact, PUBG Mobile, FIFA, and Call of Duty Mobile all run on it at max settings without any drop in frame rates or lag, partly due to the powerful processors and GPU and partly because of the device's cooling system.

According to the company, the 8S Pro features an 'ICE 12.0 cooling system' that works with a "High Thermal Conductivity Gel and Composite Graphene" to keep the device cool. The fan mentioned earlier can spin at 20,000 rpm, which can be tweaked, and consumes minimal power.

With the combination of heat dissipation and materials that keep the device cool, the RedMagic 8S Pro is able to handle multitasking, switching between apps, running games and more with ease.

On the software side, the device ships with Android 13 with RedMagic OS 8.0 on top that adds a few exclusive features to the regular Android experience and adds minimal bloatware. The device runs Google's Phone, Messages, and contacts apps by default. You wouldn't have to spend too much time replacing unwanted apps.

The biggest drawback of the software, however, is the lack of software support. It is not known how many major Android updates or security patches the device will get, which makes it a risky buy at its price point when other manufacturers promise years of support.

On the battery side, the phone rocks a massive 6,000 mAh cell that easily lasts up to two days with moderate use. While gaming, however, the battery does tend to drain quicker, but a 100 percent charge should still last you a few hours. If you need a quick charge to continue your gaming session, the device supports 65W wired fast charging that can get the phone from 0 to 50 percent in roughly 20 minutes.

The RedMagic 8S Pro does not offer wireless charging.

Selfie struggles

The cameras are the primary weak point of the RedMagic 8S, like previous iterations of the company's gaming devices. If you're in the market for a gaming phone, you should expect it not to have top-of-the-line cameras. However, on paper, the Red Magic 8S Pro's camera specs sound nice.

The device features a tri-camera setup on the back and an under-display selfie camera on the front. The rear cameras consist of a 50-megapixel main camera with a Samsung GN5 image sensor and an f/1.8 aperture, an 8-megapixel ultrawide camera with an f/2.2 aperture and a 2-megapixel macro camera with an f/2.4 aperture. The rear camera performs decently in optimal lighting conditions, though the images aren't anything special. Of course, I will not compare the device's camera with the likes of the Pixel 8 series because it sets the bar far too high. However, the images shot with the primary rear camera are mostly bright and reliable, though with an artificial post processing filter on it.

One notable strength of the main camera is its video recording capability, supporting up to 8K resolution at 30 frames per second (fps) or up to 4K resolution at 60 fps, offering impressive video quality for various scenarios.

The true test for the RedMagic 8S Pro's camera system comes in low-light conditions. Unfortunately, this is where it falters, producing grainy and lackluster images, and the phone relies on post-processing to brighten scenes up.

The ultra-wide camera doesn't stand out either. It produces photos with dull-washed colours, lacks detail, and falls short of the somewhat decent primary sensor.

Thinking back, all the RedMagic phones I've tried have a brazenly bad selfie camera. The images from the front shooter are almost always hazy, with dull colours and a complete lack of detail. I'm not sure why, but the front camera always has some sort of smoothening filter enabled, even when manually turned off, which produces inaccurate skin tones and skin texture in images. Despite these limitations, one redeeming feature of the selfie camera is its clever under-display placement, which doesn't interfere with the overall display quality.

The phone also lacks features like optical image stabilization (OIS), though it tries to compensate for it with a range of other features like a Pro mode, multi-exposure shots, Zoom blur, freeze frame, star and car trail modes and more. While these features can add some versatility to your photography, they don't fully negate the camera's limitations.

To buy or not to buy

If you're an avid mobile gamer and are looking for a device with top-of-the-line performance, a stunning display with a high refresh rate, and gaming-related features like responsive shoulder triggers and a capable co-processor, this phone delivers an outstanding gaming experience.

However, if you're seeking an all-around device for everyday use, the RedMagic 8S Pro may not be the ideal choice. The camera performance is lackluster, especially in low-light conditions, and it doesn't compete with flagship camera phones. Additionally, the lack of an official IP rating for dust and water resistance is a bummer, and so is uncertainty regarding software support, which could be a concern for long-term usability.

Ultimately, to buy or not to buy the RedMagic 8S Pro is your choice. If gaming performance is your primary focus, and you can overlook the camera shortcomings and uncertain software support, the device is one of the best options on the market right now. However, if you want the device to be more well-rounded, you might want to look at other options.

The RedMagic 8S Pro starts at $649.