Nubia RedMagic 5S Review: A gaming phone that (almost) delivers
October 6, 2020

Let’s take a look at this high-end Android gaming smartphone.

Android smartphones vary in form and function, and there has been an increasing demand for niche devices that focus on specific features. Such is the case for gaming smartphones, where we’ve already seen devices from Asus and Razer that bring high-end gaming-centric features. 

Enter Nubia with the RedMagic 5S that boasts some of the best hardware you’ll find on a smartphone. While its gaming performance is top-notch, the RedMagic 5S’s buggy software prevents us from giving it our highest recommendation. Let’s take a look.

The RedMagic 5S is big and bulky, which emulates the design of most gaming notebooks nowadays. The back comes in a brushed silver finish (it’s also available in other colors) that actually looks great, highlighting the brand name and the small camera array. 

There’s a USB-C port located below for charging and data transfers, sitting next to the SIM card slot. It also retains the 3.5 mm audio jack so you can still connect legacy headsets, while the physical buttons for power and volume are located at the size. There are also exhaust vents on each side, where you’ll hear the subtle noise of the fan when you’re playing a game or charging the device.

There’s also a special accessory connector along with a dedicated button for accessing games plus shoulder touch triggers that support a 320Hz polling rate. An internal fan along with a liquid cooling tube is responsible for containing the heat that comes from the device, allowing for seamless gameplay without worry about the heat.

Nubia went all out with the RedMagic 5S’s hardware. It runs on a Snapdragon 865 CPU with up to 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM. Storage is up to 256GB, along with dual SIM support, Wi-Fi 6, and of course 5G. It runs on Red Magic OS, which is based on Android 10. The back of the smartphone also houses the RedMagic logo with a hidden LED that you can optionally turn on.

You get a triple camera setup on the rear of the RedMagic 5S, which includes a 64-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera, and a 2-megapixel macro camera. There’s also a front-facing 8-megapixel camera. Images taken are strictly okay, though it tends to be noisy especially at low light. 

The screen is one of the best features of the RedMagic 5S since you’re getting a 6.65-inch OLED FHD+ display with a 144Hz refresh rate and a 240Hz touch sampling rate along with an in-screen fingerprint reader. The screen can be set at 60Hz, 90Hz, and 144Hz depending on what you prefer, but note that the higher the refresh, the faster the battery drains. It’s kind of uncanny experiencing a mobile display at 144Hz, and while you’d see smoother text when browsing, it is in games where this is most beneficial.

The red switch on the upper left side of the RedMagic 5S instantly opens Game Boost mode, where you can access all your installed games and take advantage of the overlay menu that lets you adjust different aspects of the hardware. You can easily turn on the fan, adjust the screen’s refresh rate, monitor your CPU and GPU speed, and even block notifications so you can focus on gaming.

This is where the RedMagic 5S shines. The internal fan allows the processor to churn up decent framerates, where games like PUBG, Fortnite, and Asphalt 9 all showcased graphics that are stutter-free. The fan can get quite loud, but if you’re used to playing on a PC then I’m sure you’ll be okay with it. You even have the option to purchase additional accessories that can help cool down the RedMagic 5S even more.

I’ve been playing with the RedMagic 5S so much that I kind of forgot it’s still a smartphone. It runs Android 10, with Red Magic’s own skin on top of it. The software is buggy at times, with letters often appearing outside textboxes or comes with broken English. I’ve also had instances where browser apps like Chrome crash without warning, which can be frustrating. Since this is all software-based, I’m hoping Nubia polishes the OS so it can match the premium hardware that it’s running on.

I’m happy to report though that the 4,500 mAh battery lasted for a whole day of heavy usage. When I’m not using the RedMagic 5S for gaming, I can easily churn out more than 1.5 day’s worth of usage before it asks me to plug in the charger. Speaking of the charger, the smartphone also supports 18W fast charging with an optional 55W charger also available.

Overall, the Nubia RedMagic 5S delivers as a gaming smartphone but its flaws might give you second thoughts. Still, there’s a lot to love about this device, which hopefully will get sufficient updates and bug fixes in the future.

The Nubia RedMagic 5S is available through its official website and across all Virgin Megastore branches in the UAE.

We Like: 

+ Great gaming performance

+ Super-smooth 144Hz screen

+ Shoulder triggers

+ Active cooling via an internal fan

+ Reasonable price

We Didn’t Really Like: 

– Buggy software

– Big and bulky

– Average camera performance

Final Rating: 4/5

by Victor Philip Ortiz
Tech Enthusiast and Movie Buff. When he’s not busy playing with the latest games, Victor usually spends his time collecting Blu-rays and building his own movie library. As the Online Editor for T3 Middle East, he develops and writes content for which includes reviews, features, and videos in addition to managing its social media and web content.
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