At the unveil event of the Red Magic 5G phone in March, Nubia had confirmed that it will be available in three colors like Hacker Black, Cyber Neon (red-blue) and Mars Red (red-orange) in China. However, the first 5G-ready gaming phone has been available in Hacker Black and Cyber Neon editions since the time it was made available for purchase in the home market. Starting from today, buyers can also avail the Mars Red version of Red Magic 5G.
The Nubia Red Magic 5G Mars Red edition comes in 8 GB RAM + 128 GB storage version only. It carries a price tag of 3,799 Yuan ($537).
In the international markets, the Hacker Black, Cyber Neon and Mars Red color editions are called Eclipse Black, Pulse and Hot Rod Red, respectively. Currently, the handset is available in Eclipse Black color in the global market in 8 GB RAM + 128 GB storage for $579. The Hot Red Red color edition with 8 GB RAM + 128 GB storage version will soon go on in international markets also for $579. The Pulse model with 12 GB RAM + 256 GB storage is currently sold out. Its pricing is $649.
Nubia Red Magic 5G specifications
The Red Magic 5G has a 6.65-inch notch-less screen that supports full HD+ resolution of 1080 x 2340 pixels. The Android 10 OS along with Red Magic 3.0 runs on the device. The Snapdragon 865 mobile platform powers the device and it comes with up to 16 GB of LPDDR5 RAM. The phone offers users with UFS 3.0 storage and it lacks an external storage slot.
A 4,500mAh battery is at the helm of Red Magic 5G. The handset comes with support for 55W fast charging. It has a front camera of 8-megapixel. The back panel has a Sony IMX686 64-megapixel lens, an 8-megapixel ultrawide sensor and a 2-megapixel macro sensor placed inside its triple camera system. It is equipped with 5G support, stereo speakers, 3.5mm audio jack and NFC.
This is a pretty big and heavy phone, with a design similar to last year’s Red Magic 3S. While the aluminum back has been dropped in favor of a glass one, and the earpiece is slightly smaller, it’s otherwise pretty similar. On the right side, you have the capacitive triggers, volume and power keys, and an exhaust vent. The left has a switch that takes you to a “Game Space” mode, a pogo pin connector for the company’s “Magic Adapter” dock, and the corresponding intake vent. The headphone jack is up top, and the Type-C port, dual SIM tray, and down-firing speaker are on the bottom.
In-hand, it’s a very chonky phone. Folks that don’t know better tend to dismiss differences of a few mm on a spec sheet out of hand, but the extra couple it has over even the Galaxy S20 Ultra are immediately felt. It’s an awkward device to use as a phone, and there will be plenty of times a button or menu’s positioning will force a two-handed maneuver.
If you compare it to a “normal” phone, the size is comical, but I think gaming phones are a special niche and much more useful as secondary devices, which makes it less of a problem — you’re probably not going to using it for the same things. But if you are, keep the size in mind.
Just because it’s a big phone doesn’t mean it has the biggest screen, though. At 6.65″, it’s actually smaller than the one in the OnePlus 8 Pro (6.78″) or the Galaxy S20 Ultra (6.9″), and it hits a lower resolution to boot: This is “just” 1080p. The extra bump to 144Hz over 120Hz isn’t especially noticeable on a display of this size, but it’s definitely smooth, and it seems to get pretty bright outdoors. It also crushes blacks pretty badly at lower brightness, but the screen was surprisingly uniform and won’t be a problem with dark theme backgrounds at night. The added bezel also makes it a little easier to hold in landscape when playing games, with fewer accidental touches.
The in-display fingerprint reader is of the optical variety and works pretty reliably for me, even in landscape, though I wish it was a bit further up the screen. I also didn’t like the haptics at first, which were strong but not very sharp, but they do well in games.
Software, performance, and battery
Words can’t honestly express how frustrating Red Magic OS is, and I haven’t looked forward to the end of a review so much in a long time. I’ll try to keep my complaints short:
It’s unstable — apps crashed with almost iOS-like frequency.
Google Photos would crash for me on start until the very last day I used the phone, when it randomly started working.
I suffered connectivity issues, had to reboot at times to get cellular data to connect. 5G was also disabled by default, which is weird since it’s even in the phone’s name.
Red Magic’s “gesture navigation” is incomplete and doesn’t follow Google’s guidelines/requirements. There’s no quick-switch gesture for changing quickly between apps by sliding along the pill.
The stock launcher is garbage.
Making folders is incredibly difficult.
You can’t add to folders if they’re in the persistent row of apps, though folders can exist there.
Sometimes it will literally just eat apps you drop into them.
The shortcut to add apps from directly inside folders has an incomplete list of installed applications.
The launcher will randomly decide to hide the notification bar sometimes.
App drawer sometimes just won’t open.
The stock launcher can’t be replaced.
Settings app is missing battery stats.
No option to enable power or volume key shortcuts to the camera.
Contacts from your Google account don’t appear in the built-in Contacts/Dialer app (even with contact access permissions) until you separately import them, which is sketch.
Notification icons were missing for some apps in the status bar, though the notifications themselves would be present once you pull down the shade — you will miss things if you don’t see them come in.
Notifications can only be dismissed by dragging in one direction: Right.
Camera has an ugly watermark enabled by default, sometimes does a weird oscillating brightness thing when outdoors.
Poor Chinese-to-English translations almost everywhere.
Fails SafetyNet check, limiting the apps you can use — especially games.
With how pleasant the stock-like software on the Red Magic 3S was, the Red Magic 5G is a genuine disappointment, with heavy-handed changes that provide no benefit and plenty of drawbacks compared to the previous model. You can certainly get by, but it’s a much less pleasant experience compared to the previous phone.
Before I discuss the camera results themselves, I need to make it clear that Red Magic 5G’s camera app is terrible. You can’t access the wide-angle camera in the default “Photo” mode, you have to switch to “Pro” mode, and the alleged “macro” camera is hidden in the left-most “Camera Family” section where it’s pretty difficult to spot,
That’s too bad, because the primary Sony IMX 686 sensor seems to do an okay job when it comes to actually taking photos. I don’t think it competes with flagships, but results have acceptable detail and dynamic range, and that’s more than I expected given the price and the fact that it’s a gaming phone.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a great camera. Results often seem washed out, and low-light performance is poor, but it’s above “at least it has a camera” territory.
Should you buy it?
Probably not. I haven’t used a phone that covered such a range of advantages and disadvantages in quite a long time, and weighing my feelings for the Red Magic 5G has been difficult. On the one hand, it’s an unbelievable value, with crazy specs for the price. On the other hand, the software is among the worst I’ve used in recent memory — it really rubbed me the wrong way, and I’d even prefer EMUI or Color OS to this.
As a sequel to the Red Magic 3S, I’m personally disappointed, and I do not like this phone. But, if you aren’t picky about software (and a lot of people aren’t), this could be one of the best deals you can get given the price. It’s hundreds less than other Snapdragon 865-equipped phones, and a mere $100 more than last year’s Red Magic 3S. On pure specifications, the Red Magic 5G is a winner, but this is probably one of the best examples out there when it comes to the old argument about there being more to a phone than just specs.
Gaming performance, by itself, is solid — at least, when games work. Fortnite freaked out thinking I had USB debugging enabled when I didn’t, SafetyNet checks failed, and that’s just the tip of the janky software iceberg on the Red Magic 5G. If you’re just looking for a secondary device to play games, this phone could be a steal, but don’t buy it to use as your actual phone.
Buy it if
You want a Snapdragon 865 on a tight budget.
You need a second device specifically for mobile games.
Don’t buy it if
You plan to make it your primary phone.
You want a great camera.
Bad software is a deal-breaker (as it probably should be).
You aren’t interested in mobile gaming.
Your budget goes above $580.
Where to buy
The Red Magic 5G is available directly from Red Magic’s site.
Pricing and Availability
The Nubia Red Magic 5G goes on sale in China on 12th March 2020 and globally in April. The following combinations will be available:
8GB + 128GB: CNY 3799 ($543)
12GB + 128GB: CNY 4099 ($586)
12GB + 256GB: CNY 4399 ($629)
16GB + 256GB: CNY 4999 ($715)
The Transparent Edition comes in the following variants:
12GB + 256GB: CNY 4599 ($658)
16GB + 256GB: CNY 5199 ($743)
Nubia has also mentioned that the phone will be available for the global markets soon. Though, it would be a stretch to expect the transparent edition to also be made available.