Red Magic has been our favorite brand for budget gaming phones for the last few years. While Asus and Razer have been busy topping each other with 120Hz screens and the highest-end specs, Red Magic has been content to offer a 90Hz experience at a discount.
The Nubia Red Magic 5G, on the other hand, eschews that trend by offering the first 144Hz display we’ve seen along with the latest processor and 5G connectivity. This handset’s splashy spec sheet also features modern comforts like a triple camera setup and an in-screen fingerprint reader – all at a fairly reasonable $579 price. But while this gaming-focused smartphone looks really great on paper, there are some notable quibbles you’ll have to contend with.
[widget path=”global/article/imagegallery” parameters=”albumSlug=nubia-red-magic-5g-review&captions=true”]
Nubia Red Magic 5G – Design and Features
Nubia’s latest 5G gaming phone has seen a big design change over previous Red Magic devices. Instead of going with an angular, geometric metallic backside, the Red Magic 5 features a curved glass back. There’s also a smooth metal frame that goes all around the edges of the device, which makes it feel even more like a flagship phone.
The whole thing looks and feels as slick as a surfboard, which is great for its new premium stature, but also makes it extremely slippery. Comparatively, I always liked how it’s predecessor, the Red Magic 3S, had ridges and lines that gave my fingers a natural resting place to hold it.
Of course, this is still unmistakably a gaming phone considering the shoulder buttons, cooling vents, and RGB lighting on the back of the device. I also really dig the blended red and teal paint job and even the played-out X-shaped decal on my review unit.
The new 144Hz display is easily the biggest hardware upgrade on the Red Magic 5G. That’s even faster than the 120Hz screens you’ll find on the Asus ROG Phone 2 and Razer Phone 2. The fact that the refresh rate on this gaming phone is now as fast as some high-refresh-rate gaming monitors is impressive.
The phone’s AMOLED display is also decently sized at 6.65-inches and meets the same 1,080 x 2,340 resolution of most gaming phones on the market today. Thankfully, the screen gets super bright so you can easily see everything even in direct sunlight.
While that’s basically the same screen size we saw on the Red Magic 3S, the company has managed to make its latest handset smaller thanks to a slightly slimmer top and bottom bezels. However, in that process, the Red Magic 5G has moved the lower speaker to the bottom of the device, leaving only one front-firing speaker on its forehead.
In terms of hardware, you’re also getting pretty much everything you’d expect from a modern flagship device, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor with at least 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. This unit even features an in-display fingerprint reader, headphone jack, and a 4,500 mAh battery.
Nubia Red Magic 5G – Gaming and Performance
The Red Magic 5G flies faster than any flagship phone I’ve used, largely thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 5G. Add in the fact that it has a lower resolution display with a higher refresh rate, and this phone simply has more headroom to operate on a faster screen.
When it comes to gaming though the 144Hz display isn’t exactly as universally useful. For one thing, very few games support it. In my testing, Real Racing 3 was the only game to run at the 144 fps needed to take full advantage of the high-refresh-rate display.
I hope more games in the future will be updated to take advantage of the ever-increasing refresh rates on Android phone displays. In the meantime, the Red Magic 5G is primed and ready for once mobile games catch up.
Still, you’ll be able to play Android games running at their highest available frame rates. Plus the 240Hz polling rate on the touchscreen and having two shoulder buttons gives you a huge advantage over most mobile gamers.
This is especially true in PUBG Mobile where I can aim more smoothly, see more frames of animation, and fire my gun without having to move my thumb off the virtual thumbsticks. Circle strafing for the win!
[widget path=”global/article/imagegallery” parameters=”albumSlug=best-smartphones&captions=true”]
The Red Magic 5G also has a few dedicated gaming features, which can all be accessed as soon as you push forward a switch on the side of the phone. As soon as you do, you’ll be dropped into a gaming space with a spinning carousel of your games. This also immediately kicks on the internal fan, which has a high-pitched whine that sounds exactly like a hairdryer.
As much as I like my gaming phone running cool, the fan on the Red Magic 5G is loud even while running at its lowest speed. And when spinning at max speed, I could hear it from across my living room. You’ll definitely want to throw on a pair of headphones while gaming with this phone. The good news is it still has a headphone jack if you only have wired headphones or earbuds.
[widget path=”global/article/imagegallery” parameters=”albumSlug=nubia-red-magic-5g-image-samples&captions=true”]
Nubia Red Magic 5G – Camera
I usually don’t come expecting to write much about the photography you can take with a gaming phone, but the Red Magic 5G comes with a surprisingly long list of camera features. For starters, it has three cameras including one main 64MP wide-angle, an 8MP ultrawide, and a 2MP macro – plus an 8MP selfie camera.
Images from the phone look sharp and colorful, especially with the 64MP main camera. However, photos taken on a sunny day can look overly contrasty with shadows that are too dark and matte out detail, while bright lights end up washing out colors. Images just aren’t as balanced and poppy as you would expect – this is where Android flagships like the OnePlus 8 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra win out.
Switching between the Red Magic 5G’s three cameras can be a bit complicated. You’ll need to jump into the camera settings menu to switch it from shooting at 16MP to its native 64MP resolution, however, this ends up disabling your ability to digitally zoom. Even stranger, the ultrawide camera is only accessible in the pro shooting mode and the macro lens option is buried even deeper in the grid of Camera-Family shooting modes.
Having a macro shooting option is fun and all, but with only two megapixels the photos from this mode look like they were taken with a toy camera.
Nubia Red Magic 5G – Battery Life
Between the Red Magic 5G’s sizable 4,500mAh battery and Full HD display, this phone has plenty of battery life in it to get you through long gaming sessions. Playing a single match of PUBG Mobile complete with a chicken dinner for 30 minutes only eats up 5% of the total battery life.
With more casual usage, which includes a fair share of watching videos and gaming along with everyday web browsing, you’re looking at around two days of battery life.
Although the Red Magic 5G is capable of fast charging at up to 55W, it only comes with an 18W charger. Don’t get me wrong, this phone soaks up electricity quickly with a completely depleted battery going back up to 32% after 30 minutes and then 51% after an hour. However, when I have it plugged into my 60W MacBook Pro charger, it easily regains a 53% charge after just 30 minutes.
[poilib element=”poll” parameters=”id=3a4c87d0-984b-42d0-92f5-a8c1f6234e93″]
The Nubia Red Magic 5G is available at a starting price of $579 from Amazon and Red Magic’s official site. This model comes equipped with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage in Black and Red color variants.