The age of the “flagship killer” may start to fade as OnePlus has essentially given up its “budget” pricing. Enter the Nubia RedMagic 5G (Red Magic), a gaming phone that packs a punch for just $579 in real terms.
As we described in our initial short hands-on, the Nubia RedMagic 5G (Red Magic) is a beast which significantly undermines the competition. It’s a whopping $320 cheaper than the OnePlus 8 Pro entry-level, but with identical specifications — but with a somewhat different potential client base.
Gaming smartphones are beginning to become a cornerstone, and Nubia has given mobile gamers great affordable options from the very beginning, offering impressive internals but without compromising the most important in all areas. The previous RedMagic devices were surprisingly good fun, if they were a little in-your-face about what they hoped to achieve — mobile gaming dominance.
If you’re planning to get a dedicated gaming device on-the-go then you might be very interested in the Nubia RedMagic 5G. Thanks to the large display, ample battery, and the aforementioned low price barrier, it might even be the perfect companion for more than just gaming. I spent a little over a week with the latest in Nubia to better understand why you might want to do that.
Hardware & Design
One that I am happy to see is a gaming phone with some serious hardware, move from the angular, aggressive to a softer, colorful style. Thanks to the rounded corners and relaxed edges, the RedMagic 5G is particularly comfortable to hold. I personally prefer the new glass feeling back over the 3S aluminum, but that’s all personal preference.
It is especially useful, as the capacitive triggers are certainly one of the key hardware add-ons, because you can map them to a more precise and familiar gaming experience through the RedMagic app. It also brings an extra twist to the ante when it comes to mobile gaming. In addition, the added weight in the hand is reassuring, as the RedMagic 5G feels much more robust as a result, so I’ve enjoyed how well the weight is distributed — especially when in landscape mode.
If you’re looking for a stealthy gaming phone, you might want to opt for the black RedMagic 5G. But the colorful red and blue model exudes character. The design reminds me of a candy bar, merging the red into the light aqua blue for a unique two-tone design take on. There is even a headphone jack at the top which is ideal for adding an affordable headset, even though Bluetooth earbuds are now almost as cheap as a solid pair of wired buds.
Coming with 144Hz is a major draw for gamers, with the high refresh rate being ventured by many desktop gaming monitors. Though the resolution is FHD+, I enjoyed using it. In most lighting conditions, it is clear, bright and the colors are good. Though checking properly outside during lockdown is difficult.
I can’t say I was completely blown away from a 90Hz display on the Google Pixel 4 XL. Yet instantly, I found a very big difference. Scrolling and swipping feel a little smoother when you play the extra frames that are being squeezed out means you feel more accurate and in control of your 3D characters — particularly in FPS titles.
Software & Performance
The RedMagic OS skin atop Android 10 after extensive use seems like it’s going to be great for most people. It’s lightweight enough to be pretty satisfied for those who prefer “stock” Android, while you get some customization choices and tweaks on top of the more “vanilla” flavor. The 144Hz display also enhances all of your daily interactions , particularly when scrolling, swiping and tapping through your usual Android apps and menus.
I like the ability to turn a dedicated hardware switch straight into the main gaming dashboard, too. It also helps you sift through all the titles you’ve installed and helps remove any big distractions, which in turn encourages you to concentrate on the game you ‘re playing. I would have compared it to a “gaming mode” on steroids.
Add in the ability to customize the two shoulder-capacitive triggers and in common titles like PUBG and Call of Duty you’ll raise your scores in no time. I took the obvious route and mapped the right trigger over the fire button, and the left trigger over the sights down button. I turned this to accelerator and brakes in racing games respectively. This is the most intuitive because it is the same familiar setup you can find on your preferred gamepad. Plus it makes it much easier to use the triggers to fire arms or control a vehicle than to tap your screen.
There are additional options when activated this mode, too. Like the ability to silence notifications from selected apps or have pop-ups. If you still want to be able to respond to WhatsApp messages easily, this might prove useful.
For the most part, I couldn’t really slow down the RedMagic 5G. It’s a true powerhouse, and found it could handle all you might want to throw at it. Apps load easily, gaming is fluid and smooth thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 and the 144Hz display just adds a sense of pace to that.
The inclusion of a neat cooling fan also ensures that constant framerates are more than manageable, plus no uncomfortable hot back glass when you push it in power-hungry games. From within the dedicated gaming panel, you can adjust fan speed and further fan controls, ensuring you feel in full control of your entire mobile gaming experience.
The FHD+ AMOLED display fares darn pretty well when running at 144Hz. Over a week and a half I used RedMagic 5 G as my main phone, alongside a secondary phone — OnePlus 8 Pro. The 4,500mAh battery managed a day of use with little to no problem, with general use.
Adding to Call of Duty mobile in a few sessions takes a hit at 144Hz, but it can handle a few hours before significantly reducing the lifespan. At no point have I felt any kind of battery anxiety during my time with the RedMagic 5G.
The optional 55W charger lowers your worries about not having wireless charging. However, the standard bundled charger is impressively good, but I would imagine the full-fat 55W option would manage to go toe-to – toe on the Find X2 Pro with the 65W SuperVOOC — while charging was still pretty darn good even without that extra accessory. Also, considering that this is a gaming phone, being able to plug in and continue playing your favorite games is a massive bonus, without doubt.
The camera has impressed me, being absolutely honest. It is not the best but it is relatively solid on the market. You get to work with three decent focal lengths, no matter what type of image you are looking for. In most cases this list will certainly get the job done, with some very impressive results even in low-light. Gaming phones come with inadequate cameras for the most part, but RedMagic 5G is a solid performer in almost any shooting situation which you may face.
If you’re a real stickler to get the most bang-for-your-buck, then the Nubia RedMagic 5 G might be a pretty good buy — even for people who may not be too worried about gambling. The design is striking, and the quality of the hardware is undoubtedly a step up over many similarly priced rivals.
There are however not many better choices for those who want a dedicated gaming device. This is, after all, North America ‘s cheapest device available with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset and a gaming-ready display with 144Hz. The Nubia RedMagic 5 G is available right now starting at just $579 on the official RedMagic web site.