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The Red Magic Nubia 5G isn’t like other phones – it’s a phone designed specifically for playing mobile games.
As such, it packs in some seriously high-end specs, as well as the world’s first 144Hz refresh rate screen on a phone. It even has a dedicated cooling fan to keep the processor cool while you’re gaming. It’s not even that expensive, starting at $579. But should you buy it?
This content has not been updated since July 2020. For more recent tech advice for your business, why not check out our picks for the best phones of 2021.
The Nubia 5G is an interesting phone, but not one that we’d necessarily recommend buying. Its pros are far too niche to outweigh its cons, in our opinion.
Of course, if you are a serious mobile gamer – the kind that would enter a PUBG Mobile tournament with a serious chance of winning – then the Red Magic 5G might be the phone for you. If you’re not that type of person, however, we’d look elsewhere.
But does the Nubia 5G actually work as a phone when you’re not gaming?
In this review:
- Red Magic Nubia 5G Design and Screen – High-tech screen but an unusual design
- Red Magic Nubia 5G Performance – Electric performance, particularly when gaming
- Red Magic Nubia 5G Cameras – Not the best but not unusual, either
- Red Magic Nubia 5G Ease of Use a range of compromises
- Red Magic Nubia 5G Cost and Value for Money – Not that expensive but there are much better phones for the money
- Red Magic Nubia 5G Verdict – Full of compromise to achieve gaming excellence
Red Magic Nubia 5G Design and Screen
The Nubia 5G is a unique-looking phone, to say the least.
Its rear case is festooned with red accents and a light-up “Red Magic” logo. It even proudly boasts of its 5G connectivity.
However, it gets even weirder on the sides. The power button and volume rocker are located in the bottom half of the phone in order to make way to the large grilled vent and the two haptic shoulder buttons. On the other side, you’ll find a red switch which controls the phone’s gaming mode and fan. You’ll also see a magnetic strip which allows you to connect the phone to a dock, in order to play games with a peripheral controller or keyboard and mouse.
Round the front, things are slightly more orthodox. The screen has small-ish bezels and a small front-facing camera. However, the phone also comes with a plastic film screen protector already attached, apparently to aid the in-display fingerprint sensor. However, as with most plastic screen protectors, it broke whilst in our pocket. It’s these sort of touches that put us off recommending the Nubia 5G.
The screen itself is fine, for the most part. It uses a 6.65-inch AMOLED panel with a 1080×2340 resolution and, as we mentioned earlier, that 144Hz refresh rate.
Contrast is good, although it doesn’t quite get as bright as we’d have wanted. The 144Hz refresh rate is, well, fine as well. The difference between 144Hz isn’t as drastic as the difference between 60 or 90Hz and 120Hz, and it feels like we might be approaching the point of diminishing returns with refresh rates on such small screens.
All told, we’re not massively sold on the Nubia 5G’s design. While the matter is, of course, subjective, it’s simply too gamer-y for us to really get behind.
Red Magic Nubia 5G Performance
The Red Magic Nubia 5G packs some serious specs for its relatively low price. It has the latest 5G-ready Snapdragon 865+ processor, as well as a choice of 8GB, 12GB, or even 16GB of RAM.
Our test model had 8GB of RAM, but it was certainly more than enough to run the most demanding games on their highest settings. The fan, which is activated via a dedicated switch, might seem gimmicky. However, during long sessions playing 3D games like PUBG Mobile, it did help to keep the phone cool.
Having said all that, the Nubia 5G didn’t feel distinctly faster than any other phone we’ve recently used.
When it comes to battery life, we were typically able to get around a day’s full use from the Nubia 5G. Having the screen fixed to 144Hz did make the battery drain slightly faster, but it wasn’t a massive deal. Gaming with the fan will see your battery life plummet, but that’s to be expected.
You will notice the extra steps taken to ensure smooth gaming performance on the Nubia 5G. The fan does work, and the powerful processor and ample RAM make playing graphically demanding games easy. That said, we’re still not convinced those features alone make the phone a worthwhile buy.
Red Magic Nubia 5G Cameras
This isn’t a phone you’d be picking for its camera, but that’s not to say it lacks in the picture-taking department. The Nubia 5G has three rear cameras: a 64Mp main lens, an 8Mp ultrawide lens, and a 2Mp macro lens. They don’t take the worst pictures, but they’re far from the best, either.
The images lack a bit of contrast sometimes, making everything look a bit bland. We also thought that they would have benefitted from a bit more detail, as well. However, we did find the macro lens worked pretty well, ensuring a good amount of detail and well-lit shots. Its portrait mode also worked pretty well, especially so given that there’s no dedicated depth-sensing lens.
Round the front, the Nubia 5G gets a single 8Mp selfie camera. It isn’t great if we’re honest. There’s a lack of detail in the shots, and a lot of texture-smoothing. Videos from the front and rear cameras can look a bit grainy and bland, as well.
One big annoyance we had with the camera was that the photos come watermarked with the Red Magic logo by default, and turning off the watermark wasn’t completely obvious, either.
Still, all told, for a phone designed for gaming rather than photography, the Nubia 5G takes decent shots. You may have to work a bit harder than you would on other phones to get the best photos possible, but you’ll find them more than passable.
Red Magic Nubia 5G Ease of Use
The Nubia 5G isn’t the easiest phone in the world to use. In fact, it can be quite irritating to live with at times.
Our biggest issue with the Nubia 5G was its Android skin. We weren’t allowed to go as in-depth with customizing the phone’s aesthetics as we’d have liked. Some features we’d expect to find, such as the battery life history, simply weren’t present.
We also found the Nubia 5G to be a fair bit wider than the phones we’re typically used to. This made single-handed use a chore, plus it wasn’t as easy to stow in our pocket. We also found that the side-mounted volume rocker and power buttons were too low down – this was obviously to accommodate the cooling vents and the shoulder triggers, but it did give the Nubia 5G an unorthodox feel.
Red Magic Nubia 5G Cost and Value for Money
Starting at $579, the Nubia 5G isn’t particularly expensive. In fact, it costs around the same as the Motorola Edge and OnePlus 8. But both of these phones are significantly better at being phones rather than gaming devices.
However, unless you are absolutely dedicated to playing mobile games, we’d look elsewhere. If you want something to play games and want a good phone, and only have $600 or so to spend, we’d buy an Xbox One S or PlayStation 4 for $300 and grab a Motorola G8 or Nokia 5.3 with the change.
Red Magic Nubia 5G Review Verdict
The Nubia 5G isn’t for everyone. It’s a niche product for hardcore mobile gamers. Clearly, there’s a market for phones like this, and when it comes to playing games, the Nubia 5G excels.
However, we wouldn’t recommend buying one unless you are prepared to live with its quirks, flaws, and distinctly ‘gamer’ aesthetic.
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