The age of the “flagship killer” may be beginning to fade as OnePlus has essentially abandoned its “budget” pricing. Enter the Nubia RedMagic 5G, an unapologetic gaming phone that really packs a punch for just $579.
As we mentioned during our initial short hands-on, the RedMagic 5G is a beast that undercuts the competition quite substantially. It’s a whopping $320 less than the entry-level OnePlus 8 Pro, even with similar specifications — albeit with a very different potential customer base.
Gaming smartphones are starting to become a mainstay, and from the very beginning, Nubia has given mobile gamers great affordable options that offer impressive internals but without majorly compromising in all the areas that matter most. The previous RedMagic devices were surprisingly good fun, if a little in-your-face about what they were hoping to achieve — mobile gaming domination.
If you are intent on getting a dedicated device for gaming on-the-go, then you may be very interested in the Nubia RedMagic 5G. It might even be the perfect companion for more than just gaming, thanks to the large display, ample battery, and that aforementioned low price barrier. I’ve spent just over a week with Nubia’s latest to better understand just why you might want to do that.
Hardware & Design
A gaming phone with some serious hardware, the move from the angular, aggressive to a softer, colorful design is one that I am happy to see. The RedMagic 5G is especially comfortable to hold thanks to the rounded corners and softened edges. Personally, I prefer the feels of the new glass back over the aluminum 3S, but that is all personal preference.
This is especially helpful, as the capacitive triggers are undoubtedly one of the core hardware additions, as you can map these via the RedMagic software for a more precise and familiar gaming experience. It really adds an extra edge that ups the ante when gaming on mobile. On top of that, the added weight in the hand is reassuring, as the RedMagic 5G feels far more robust as a result, I’ve enjoyed how well the weight is distributed — especially when in landscape mode.
If you want a stealthy gaming phone, then you might want to opt for the black RedMagic 5G. However, the colorful blue and red model exudes character. The design reminds me of a candy bar, with the red merging into the light aqua blue for a unique take on a two-tone design. At the top, there is even a headphone jack, which is ideal for adding an affordable headset, although Bluetooth earbuds are almost as cheap as a solid pair of wired buds now.
Coming with 144Hz is a major draw for gamers, with many desktop gaming monitors touting the high refresh rate. While the resolution is FHD+, I have enjoyed using it. It’s clear, bright and the colors are solid in most lighting conditions. Although it’s difficult to test properly outside during lockdown.
Moving from a 90Hz display on the Google Pixel 4 XL, I can’t say I was completely blown away. But I did notice quite a big difference right away. Scrolling and swiping feel quite a bit smoother, when gaming the extra frames being squeezed out mean that you feel more precise and in control of your 3D characters — especially in FPS titles.
Software & Performance
After extensive usage, the RedMagic OS skin atop Android 10 seems like it will be great for most people. It’s lightweight enough that those that prefer “stock” Android will be pretty happy, while you’re given some customization options and tweaks on top of the more “vanilla” flavor. The 144Hz display also enhances all of your daily interactions, especially when scrolling, swiping and tapping through your usual Android apps and menus.
I also really like the ability to flip a dedicated hardware switch and get right into the dedicated gaming dashboard. It really helps you sift through all the titles you have installed and helps eliminates any major distractions, this, in turn, lets you focus on the game you’re currently playing. I’d liken it to a “gaming mode” on steroids.
Add-in the ability to customize the two shoulder capacitive triggers and you’ll be improving your scores in popular titles like PUBG and Call of Duty in no time. I took the obvious route and mapped the right trigger over the shoot button, and the left trigger over the aim down sights button. In racing games, I turned this to the accelerator and brakes respectively. This is the most intuitive as it’s the same familiar setup as you’ll find on your gamepad of choice. Plus it makes it far easier to fire weapons or control a vehicle using the triggers than tapping your screen.
There are further options when this mode is activated too. Like the ability to silence notifications or have pop-ups from selected apps. This might prove useful if you still want to be able to reply to WhatsApp messages quickly.
For the most part, I was unable to really slow the RedMagic 5G down. It is a true powerhouse and found it could handle everything you could possibly want to throw at it. Apps load quickly, gaming is fluid and smooth thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 and the 144Hz display just adds to that sense of speed.
When you push it in power-hungry games, the inclusion of a neat cooling fan also ensures constant framerates are more than manageable, plus no uncomfortable hot back glass. You can adjust fan speed and further fan controls from within the dedicated gaming panel, which ensures that you feel in full control of your entire mobile gaming experience.
When running at 144Hz, the FHD+ AMOLED display fares pretty darn well. I’ve used the RedMagic 5G as my main phone over a week and a half period, alongside a secondary phone — the OnePlus 8 Pro. With general usage, the 4,500mAh battery managed a day of usage with little to no issue.
Adding in a few sessions on Call of Duty mobile and it does take a hit at 144Hz, but it can handle a good few hours before really lowering the lifespan significantly. At no point during my time with the RedMagic 5G have I felt any sort of battery anxiety.
The optional 55W charger lowers the worry you might have about not having wireless charging. However, the standard bundled charger is impressively fast but I would expect the full-fat 55W option will manage to go toe-to-toe with the 65W SuperVOOC on the Find X2 Pro — although even without that extra accessory, charging was still pretty darn fast. Also, considering this is a gaming phone, being able to plug in and continue playing your favorite games is undoubtedly a massive bonus.
Being completely honest, the camera has impressed me. It’s not the best on the market but it’s relatively solid. You get three decent focal lengths to work with no matter what type of image you are looking for. This selection will definitely get the job done in most scenarios, with some quite impressive results even in low-light. For the most part, gaming phones come with inadequate cameras but the RedMagic 5G is a solid performer across almost every daily shooting situation you might face.
If you are a real stickler for getting the most bang-for-your-buck, then the Nubia RedMagic 5G might be a really solid purchase — even for people maybe not too fussed about gaming. The design is striking, the hardware quality undoubtedly a step up over many similarly-priced rivals.
For those wanting a dedicated gaming device though, there are not many better options. This is, after all, the cheapest device available in North America with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset and with a 144Hz gaming ready display. The Nubia RedMagic 5G is available right now on the official RedMagic website starting at just $579.
Pre-order the Hot Rod Red version of the RedMagic is available from June 1 to June 8, 2020. 1% of pre-order sales of the Hot Rod Red will be donated to Child’s Play, a non-profitable charity organization.
More on Nubia:
- Red Magic 5G goes official w/ 144Hz display, Snapdragon 865, colorful designs
- Nubia Z20 review: A decent device with an unnecessary second screen gimmick [Video]
- Nubia is apparently bringing 80W fast charging to its next Android phone
FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.