Nubia RedMagic 5G Review: An Unruly Android Gaming Beast

Article Index

Nubia RedMagic 5G Audio, Performance, and Battery Life

Nubia RedMagic 5G Audio, Data And Call Reception

We spent most of this review using the RedMagic 5G on AT&T’s low-band 5G network (850MHz, n5) in and around San Francisco. The phone also works on T-Mobile’s low-band 5G network (600MHz, n71) and Verizon’s 4G LTE network, making it well suited for US customers. Just don’t expect legacy CDMA support for Verizon, or any kind of mmWave 5G connectivity -- it’s sub-6GHz only. In our tests, we didn’t experience any issues making calls, and data speeds were on par with other handsets on these networks.

RedMagic5G top edge

Audio performance is great. The stereo speakers (front-mounted earpiece and bottom side-firing speaker) sound loud and clear, and the RedMagic 5G even includes a standard headphone jack with a 32-bit 384KHz DAC. We used this phone with difficult-to-drive BeyerDynamic DT990 PRO studio headphones and Etymotic Research ER 4SR in-ear monitors (IEMs) and came away very impressed. It doesn’t sound as good as the LG V60 ThinQ 5G’s 32-bit HiFi Quad DAC, but it’s better than most flagships we’ve reviewed this year.

Nubia RedMagic 5G Performance

Subjectively, of all the handsets we’ve tested so far in 2020, the OnePlus 8 Pro still feels like the quickest. But the RedMagic 5G isn’t far behind. This thing is crazy fast -- no doubt thanks to Qualcomm’s speedy Snapdragon 865 SoC and X55 5G modem, 8 or 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM, 128 or 256GB of UFS 3.0 storage (no microSD), and that ultra smooth 144Hz screen and 240Hz touch layer. Oh, and did we mention the fan? It spins up to 16,000 rpm as needed, stays pretty quiet, and keeps the phone nice and cool -- even while charging. And you can turn it off.

While everything is super snappy, we think there’s still some headroom left. Nubia’s build of Android 10 just doesn’t seem as tightly optimized as OnePlus’. Still, the RedMagic 5G handled everything we threw at it like a champ -- from our day-to-day apps to the most demanding games. Unfortunately, this author isn’t a skilled gamer, so we didn’t spend as much time gaming on this device as the target audience would. Instead, we ran two sets of benchmarks -- one at 90Hz on 4G, and one at 144Hz on 5G in Super Performance gaming mode.

Check out the results below. Just keep in mind that while Super Performance gaming mode -- which enables the fan and runs the CPU and GPU at full speed -- squeezes every last bit of performance from the RedMagic 5G, it pretty much halves battery life.

Futuremark PCMark For Android
General Purpose Pocket Computing Performance Metrics
Futuremark's PCMark for Android is an excellent suite of tests if you want to benchmark a wide range of tasks on any handset -- things like image and video editing, as well as lighter-duty, everyday workloads such as email and web browsing. When you see the test running live, it's clear the scripted application tests are carefully selected and tuned to make use of the each mobile platform in a very controlled way...
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The RedMagic 5G scores a second-place finish behind Samsung's Galaxy S20 Ultra. The Snapdragon 865 powering this device clearly offers strong all-around performance for the workloads used in PCMark for Android. Here, Super Performance Gaming mode seems to make a big difference in PCMark's photo editing benchmark.

AnTuTu 8 And AITuTu
Platform Benchmarks
AnTuTu’s latest benchmark returns a number of metrics ranked with somewhat nebulous scores, rather than frame rates or time to complete. Here we're running the latest version of AnTuTu across an multiple Android devices. AnTuTu returns four top level performance results which are all included here: CPU, RAM, 3D, UX (or User Experience), along with a total score...

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We saw more of the same in the AnTuTu benchmark. Here, the RedMagic 5G comes in second after Oppo's Find X2 Pro and climbs near the top of the charts.

AITuTu evaluates the AI performance of a device by leveraging two mainstream neural network models for machine learning and AI -- Inception v3 for Image Classification and MobileNet-SSD for Object Detection. The benchmark determines the device’s accuracy and speed when inferring data from each workload...
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Nubia's clearly done a good job optimizing AI workloads. In AiTuTu, the RedMagic 5G scores even higher in both modes than our previous winners, the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro.

3D Graphics Benchmarks: 3DMark And GFX Bench
Pushing The Pixels
Next we're checking how the RedMagic 5G compares in GFXBench, which has been one of the standard mobile graphics/gaming performance benchmarks for years. To ensure that display refresh (v-sync) and resolution aren't limiting factors, we're comparing off-screen test results here. GFXBench tests OpenGL ES graphics workloads and we're specifically testing OpenGL ES 2...
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Graphics performance is a clear strong suit for the Snapdragon 865 mobile platform. Here, the RedMagic 5G lands in the top-third, just below LG's V60 ThinQ 5G, but still finishes strong. We're also not seeing much benefit from using Super Performance gaming mode here.

Futuremark's 3DMark Sling Shot is a newer benchmark module that's been added to the 3DMark mobile suite. Unlike previous gen 3DMark mobile tests, Sling Shot is a much more advanced OpenGL ES 3.1 and Metal API-based benchmark that employs more advanced rendering techniques, like volumetric lighting, particle illumination, multiple render targets, instanced rendering, uniform buffers and transform feedback.

3DMark Sling Shot Test
Futuremark 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme Benchmark

We're running this test in off-screen mode once again to remove display resolution differences from the equation. This lets us compare cross-platform results more reliably...
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The RedMagic 5G also performed well in these 3DMark tests. The OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro finished at the top of the heap, but Nubia wasn't too far behind.

Nubia RedMagic 5G Other Features And Battery Life

Other specs include WiFi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.1 (with LE and aptX), NFC, A-GPS/ GLONASS / Galileo / BDS, and the usual collection of sensors. As we pointed out earlier, this is RedMagic’s first handset with NFC, and while we were able to set up Google Pay, making payments didn’t work. This is an ongoing problem, and we’ve reached out to Nubia for more info. [An update was recently issued that fixes the Google Pay issue - Ed.] Another miss is the RedMagic 5G’s optical in-display fingerprint sensor, which isn’t fast or reliable. Sadly, there’s no face unlock alternative. Haptics are fine, but don’t stand out.

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The RedMagic 5G features a 4500mAh battery and supports 55W wired charging (USB PD), but lacks wireless charging, and only ships with an 18W charger. Battery life is solid. Our PCMark battery test lasted an impressive 13 hours and 32 minutes at 90Hz on 4G with the fan disabled. It ran for 7 hours and 25 minutes at 144Hz on 5G in Super Performance gaming mode, which enables the fan and runs the CPU and GPU at full speed -- basically the worst case scenario. That places the RedMagic 5G near the top in our battery life tests, unless you leave it set for maximum performance all the time.

Next up: software, pricing, and the verdict...

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