"An affordable gaming phone, assuming games are your top priority, but lacking the shine needed for a strong everyday device."

  • Good game-oriented design

  • Excellent multimedia capability

  • A lot of performance

  • Long battery life

  • Mediocre camera

  • Bad software experience

  • Fingerprint sensor is not working

The Nubia Red Magic 5G gaming phone is an enticing purchase with flagship specs for just $ 579, but buying a gaming phone is a big decision. You might want it mainly for games, but it almost certainly has to do other things as well. This includes taking pictures, making calls, using social networks and much more.

You have to live with it every day, so it has to do everything every other phone does, plus it has to meet your gaming needs. The Red Magic 5G will meet your gaming needs, but is not enough elsewhere.

design

There is no doubt that the Red Magic 5G is a gaming phone. It has cooling slots on the side, a sci-fi design on the back, and the biggest giveaway of all – the Red Magic logo lights up. My test model is in Eclipse Black, which is a bit reserved, but the Hot Rod Red and Pulse versions are much brighter and more like what I would expect from a gaming phone design.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

This is not a featherweight. It weighs 218 grams and is also 9.8 mm thick. While this is usually too much for a "normal" smartphone like the 220-gram Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, it is quite welcome on a gaming phone because the size makes it easier to grip and hold. It's not that hard to cause fatigue, and it's still lighter than the Monster 240 gram Asus ROG Phone 2.

Despite the vents, buttons, and lights, the Eclipse Black Red Magic 5G is a bit boring to look at, and some of the visual elements are random. The three lens camera body is small and full of mismatched shapes, with only two of the lenses and not all three having a bump. The phone calls "5G" on the back, which looks uncomfortably cheap. I like the textured, bright red Game Space button on the side of the phone, which feels great.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

On the side opposite the Game Space slider are the on / off switch and the volume rocker. I usually pressed the volume button instead of the power button, which I think is too low on the side of the phone. The placement is affected by the cooling slots and two additional shoulder buttons on the same side.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Holding the Red Magic 5G in landscape mode is extremely convenient due to the excellent balance, the rounded corners, the flat screen and the chunky body. The portrait orientation is not as comfortable as the phone is not only thick, but also just a little bit wider than the Asus ROG Phone 2 and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. The Red Magic 5G serves its target audience well, but loses notes as an everyday tool.

screen

The Red Magic 5G has the world's first screen with a refresh rate of 144 Hz on a smartphone. It is a 6.65-inch AMOLED with a resolution of 2340 x 1080 pixels and an aspect ratio of 19.5: 9. It also has a touch sampling rate of 240 Hz for a faster response.

Let's talk about the 144 Hz refresh rate. Yes, you notice the difference between 60 Hz and 90 Hz or 120 Hz, but it becomes much more difficult to see between 90 Hz and 120 GHz and between both and 144 Hz.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Red Magic 5G works at 90 Hz most of the time and is very easy on the eyes. Screens with a higher refresh rate should be displayed on all cell phones today because they make scrolling and gameplay more enjoyable. But is 144Hz overkill? The setting is activated when you play games that are optimized for Red Magic 5G, of which there are currently a handful. Real Racing 3 is one of them, and while it's undeniable that it's incredibly fluid, I'm not sure if I make a big difference when compared to the 90 Hz OnePlus 8 Pro or the 120 Hz Asus ROG phone 2 found.

Watch videos with the default settings of the screen. The colors are a bit washed out and details are missing, especially when compared to the iPhone 11 Pro. Go to the "Settings" menu and select the "DCI-P3 color scale" option. This makes everything more saturated and the details are further hidden in the deeper black tones. I'm going to pick a little here because otherwise it's a great phone for games, media, and videos. The stereo speakers are loud and there is plenty of bass to the point where the back of the phone vibrates in your hand.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

There is a large bezel at the top and bottom of the screen, which is not preferable on most phones, but makes it easier to hold and edit in landscape orientation – something gamers want. For the same reason, most will be happy that there is no curve on the sides. This makes controlling games much more natural, but affects how modern the phone looks.

Play

Real Racing 3 presents the Red Magic 5G with a challenge. If you activate Game Space, you can switch the refresh rate from 144 Hz to "On". I played it in both auto and super performance modes, where it fully exploits the capabilities of the CPU and GPU. The game plays great, with no difference between minute one and minute 60 in terms of speed, smoothness and fun. However, the phone gets hot.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Red Magic 5G has an active, multi-layer cooling system with a fan (a real, whirring fan that you can hear rotating) for just this situation. It didn't make much of a difference to the surface temperature of the phone, especially on the sides of the case, but I suspect that it effectively cools the components inside since the performance has never changed. The sound in action is somewhat distracting.

For comparison, I played Real Racing 3 on the Red Magic 3, the OnePlus 8 Pro and the Asus ROG Phone 2. The game looks better on the Red Magic 5G than on the OnePlus, generally brighter and more attractive and with improved response. However, it cannot keep up with the ROG Phone 2. The Asus phone's 120 Hz screen is stunning, it has front-facing stereo speakers that sound great, and the tilt control of the Asus phone responds faster than the other two. I was a better and faster driver who played on the ROG Phone 2. The ROG Phone 2 is almost twice as expensive as the Red Magic 5G, but it shows.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The phone has two capacitive shoulder buttons that work with Asphalt 9: legends for drift and boost controls. They are responsive and easy to press and locate with your finger. They were also easy to configure with most games. When you use them, your fingers stay away from the screen. The Red Magic 5G has a touch sampling rate of 240 Hz, which allows you to react quickly to your taps and swipes, while the shoulder buttons go beyond 300 Hz.

Is the Red Magic 3 about graphically intensive, processor-intensive games? I spent time playing Game Dev Tycoon with Game Space active, and although the fan did turn on occasionally, it didn't seem to be charging the phone in any way. Playing on the Red Magic 3 was no different than playing on another high-end smartphone outside of the very comfortable body, which during my review never resulted in fatigue when kept in landscape orientation.

nubia red magic 5g rating scope "class =" m-carousel - picture dt-lazy-no "src =" https://icdn2.digitaltrends.com/image/digitaltrends/red-magic-5g-game-space- 640x640. jpg "srcset =" https://www.digitaltrends.com/data:image/gif;base64,https://www.digitaltrends.com/R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAARed Magic 5G scope Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

nubia red magic 5g rating game performance "class =" m-carousel - image dt-faul-no "src =" https://icdn3.digitaltrends.com/image/digitaltrends/red-magic-5g-game-performance- 640x640. jpg "srcset =" https://www.digitaltrends.com/data:image/gif;base64,https://www.digitaltrends.com/R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAARed Magic 5G performance modes Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

nubia red magic 5g Check trigger setting "class =" m-carousel - image dt-faul-no "src =" https://icdn4.digitaltrends.com/image/digitaltrends/red-magic-5g-trigger-setting- 640x640. jpg "srcset =" https://www.digitaltrends.com/data:image/gif;base64,https://www.digitaltrends.com/R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAARed Magic 5G trigger settings Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Game space is turned on using a physical slider on the side of the phone. It acts as a menu for your games and a slot adjusts the phone's GPU and CPU performance, sets up the Pro Trigger shoulder buttons, activates the fan and 144 Hz refresh rate, and minimizes notifications. It also has a programmable macro mode to perform complex functions quickly, as well as a screen recorder system. I don't like how it suddenly increases the volume in the game when you activate it, as it has made me decrease the volume each time. If I want to increase the volume, I turn it up myself.

Overall, playing on the Red Magic 5G is a very enjoyable experience as the excellent visual and acoustic performance adds a lot to my favorite games and urges me to play more.

software

My test Red Magic 3 had Android 10 installed with the security update March 2020 and exaggerated version 2.0 of the user interface of Red Magic OS. If you expect the phone to have software as good as Google Pixel 4 or OnePlus 8 Pro, be prepared for disappointments. Red Magic phones come from device maker Nubia, which was once part of the ZTE empire, and the similarity to dodgy Android user interfaces on Nubia and old ZTE phones is still evident.

Symbols are large, stylized, and often mismatched, with some more curved than others. This makes the home screen look cheap and messy. Even though there is an app drawer, the phone still distributes app icons across multiple home screens, so you'll end up having to clean everything up yourself.

The always-on screen is customizable and shows a clock and battery level, but no notification icons. On the home screen, only a few icons have notification counters like messages, but others like WhatsApp don't. Email notifications are also not grouped in the notification shade, which results in a long list that isn't particularly useful. It's full of other little quirks, like warnings that don't have an OK option to close, but an "I know" button instead.

Handling the phone with notifications is frustrating. I checked my phone more because I couldn't tell at a glance whether a message was waiting. Otherwise there were no compatibility or performance problems. I like the Google News panel that appears and Game Space works well. In addition, drawing shoulder triggers for certain functions in a game is easy and effective. It's unfortunate that I trust the phone less because of everyday issues, which in turn means that I don't want to use it.

camera

Obviously, Red Magic is focused on gaming, and at this price, other aspects of the phone may not get the attention they deserve. The camera seems to be one of them. The main sensor has 64 megapixels, the wide-angle sensor has 8 megapixels and the macro lens has 2 megapixels. On paper, it's a mid-range setup that should still deliver some decent photos.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

In reality, work is still needed. The main problem is the dynamic range, as the phone has difficulty handling shadows and exposure, especially when the lighting is uncomfortable. Shots on sunny days have lost many details or increased the saturation too much, while some indoor shots have mixed up the colors. A photo I took of cooking rice turned yellow when, for example, there was no yellow at all.

The software of the phone supports a 3x, 5x and 10x zoom function. However, these appear to be completely digital, and the quality over 3 times is poor. Don't be fooled that the Red Magic 5G will question the Huawei P40 Pro's mega-zoom capability. There's also a wide-angle mode, but strangely, the setting is only available in Pro mode. The results are solid, so it's a shame that many miss their very existence. There are also a variety of bizarre camera modes, from a multiple exposure mode to "phantom" that gives videos a strange motion blur effect. They are all totally unforgettable.

nubia red magic 5g evaluation standard "class =" m-carousel - image dt-lazy-no "src =" https://icdn5.digitaltrends.com/image/digitaltrends/red-magic-5g-standard-640x640.jpg "srcset = "https://www.digitaltrends.com/data:image/gif;base64,https://www.digitaltrends.com/R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7Red Magic 5G standard Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

nubia red magic 5g review 3x zoom "class =" m-karussell - picture dt-lazy-no "src =" https://icdn6.digitaltrends.com/image/digitaltrends/red-magic-5g-3x-zoom- 640x640 .jpg "srcset =" https://www.digitaltrends.com/data:image/gif;base64,https://www.digitaltrends.com/R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAARed Magic 5G 3x zoom Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

nubia red magic 5g review 5x zoom "class =" m-carousel - picture dt-lazy-no "src =" https://icdn7.digitaltrends.com/image/digitaltrends/red-magic-5g-5x-zoom- 640x640 .jpg "srcset =" https://www.digitaltrends.com/data:image/gif;base64,https://www.digitaltrends.com/R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAARed Magic 5G 5x zoom Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

nubia red magic 5g review 10x zoom "class =" m-karussell - picture dt-lazy-no "src =" https://icdn8.digitaltrends.com/image/digitaltrends/red-magic-5g-10x-zoom- 640x640 .jpg "srcset =" https://www.digitaltrends.com/data:image/gif;base64,https://www.digitaltrends.com/R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAARed Magic 5G 10x zoom Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Don't buy the Red Magic 5G and don't think the camera will be more than average. I want it to get a lot better, but I guess it's not about what the phone is about. As long as you do, you won't be disappointed.

Performance, battery and security

A Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor is the power source of the Red Magic 5G with 8 GB or 12 GB RAM, depending on the version you purchased. My test model has 8 GB. Here are the benchmark results:

Geekbench 5: 3222 Multi Core / 902 Single Core

3DMark Sling Shot Extreme: 6702 (volcano)

These numbers match those of the Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro, Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro and OnePlus 8 Pro, all of which have the same Snapdragon 865 processor. The results of the Red Magic 5G outperform the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus with Exynos technology. I haven't found any issues with the phone's performance and calls were fine, but I haven't tried the 5G connection due to movement restrictions and no 5G service near me.

There is a fingerprint sensor under the screen. This has refused to register my fingerprint at all, which makes it completely unusable. Although my software version claims to have a face unlock feature, it doesn't exist. I spoke to Red Magic about this and was informed that a software update that resolves these issues is available for my device. However, it has not yet arrived at the time of writing. My Red Magic 5G can only be secured with a PIN or a sample.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Battery life was strong, and the phone lasted a full day in addition to my usual activities, even after several hours of gaming. With more general use, it took almost two full days. However, charging doesn't match because the phone says Red Magic supports 55W fast charging, but you'll need to purchase a special charger, sold separately, to charge it. Otherwise, you can get by with the 18 W charger in the box, which takes almost two hours to charge the 4,500 mAh cell. Disappointing, and there is no wireless charging either. In addition, the USB Type-C port is traditionally located at the end of the phone, as opposed to the side port on the ROG Phone 2, to improve ergonomics.

Price, guarantee and availability

You only pay £ 579 or £ 539 for the 8GB / 128GB Red Magic 5G phone I've tested here, or you can spend £ 599 or £ 599 for the 12GB / 256GB version. It's best to buy the phone through Red Magic's own website so you can take advantage of the manufacturer's warranty that covers one year in the United States and two years in the United Kingdom.

Our opinion

The Red Magic 5G does what it was built for – playing games – very well and is decent in terms of hardware. Outside of gaming, however, the phone disappoints on several fronts, including the camera, slow battery charging, and software.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes. If you only want to spend around £ 600 or £ 600, check out the OnePlus 8 and Poco F2 Pro. Both have the same processor as the Red Magic 5G, while the OnePlus 8 has a screen with a refresh rate of 90 Hz and a more elegant design. Both have cameras that are better than the Red Magic 5G, but obviously don't have game-centered features like the shoulder buttons.

If a gaming phone is at the top of your list, the Asus ROG Phone 2 still applies despite its age of almost a year. However, we recommend waiting to see if Asus releases a sequel in the near future as there are rumors that it will arrive before the end of summer. It's also much more expensive than the Red Magic 5G, and if price doesn't matter, it is our recommendation to put the iPhone 11 Pro at the top of your list due to the wealth and quality of the games available for it.

How long it will take?

Do you see these vents on the side of the Red Magic 5G? They should give you an indication of the phone's ability to withstand water. That's right, there is no IP protection class here, and the glass bottom and heavy weight mean that it will probably not be great even in a long fall. Treat it with care.

With 5G and the Snapdragon 865 and the high-spec screen, the phone should stay fresh for some time. However, if you aim to use the phone for a lot of photos now or in the future, it may not meet your needs very well. However, if you just want to play games, the Red Magic 5G will be there for you for at least several years.

I asked Red Magic for software updates. Apparently the phone will get Android 11, but there is no timeframe at the moment. The team also says it sends general software updates to the phone every two months.

Should you buy it

No. The Red Magic 5G is a good gaming smartphone, but not a great everyday smartphone.

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