Red Magic 5S

Price: £539 (inc VAT) from fave.co/2RV5vRY

Android Advisor - - CONTENTS -

Five months af­ter its re­lease, the Red Magic 5G is still sport­ing the jointhigh­est re­fresh rate of any phone cur­rently avail­able and its Snap­dragon 865 pro­ces­sor is still the great­est around.

Why, then, has Nu­bia al­ready de­cided to launch a fol­low-up in the Red Magic 5S? Upon hear­ing of its launch, that was the ex­act same ques­tion I was ask­ing.

The mi­nus­cule changes don’t jus­tify a new re­lease, so this re­view has to be ap­proached with­out lean­ing on its pre­de­ces­sor too much. Is the lat­est Red Magic phone still among the best gam­ing hand­sets you can buy, or has the com­pe­ti­tion caught up?

DESIGN

Be­fore you even open the pack­ag­ing, it’s clear that the Red Magic 5S is a gam­ing phone through and through. The comic­book style design on the box re­ally sets the tone for what to ex­pect, and makes for a pre­mium un­box­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

The design of the phone is largely un­changed from the Red Magic 5G, with one key ex­cep­tion. The colour op­tions. While we’ve seen vari­a­tions of sil­ver many times be­fore, the wacky two-tone ‘Pulse’ model I tested is ex­tremely eye­catch­ing. It means the 5S eas­ily stands out from the grow­ing num­ber of gam­ing-fo­cused hand­sets, and would make me re­luc­tant to throw on a case.

It’s good news, then, that the device feels fairly ro­bust, de­spite sport­ing an all-glass design with alu­minium trim. The me­tal­lic coat­ing on the back of the 5S means it’s re­sis­tant to fin­ger­print smudges, while adding some much­needed grip. It’s also where you’ll find triple rear cam­eras and some dis­crete brand­ing by gam­ing phone stan­dards.

Over­all, the choice of ma­te­ri­als means the phone has more pre­mium feel than the £599 (£539 for the sil­ver ver­sion) price tag sug­gests.

The screen on the Red Magic 5S is un­changed from the 5G: a 6.65in OLED panel at a res­o­lu­tion of 2,340x1,080.

I’d have liked to see the res­o­lu­tion bumped up slightly, but this is a more than ac­cept­able trade-off for the classlead­ing 144Hz dis­play. It’s since been joined at this re­fresh rate by the likes of the Len­ovo Le­gion Phone Duel, Asus ROG Phone 3 and Iqoo Neo 3 5G, but that doesn’t make it any less im­pres­sive.

It’s hard to ex­plain to some­one just how much smoother and more re­spon­sive this is than a reg­u­lar 60Hz screen, but it makes even ba­sic tasks feel that much more sat­is­fy­ing.

Nu­bia also of­fers op­tions for 60Hz and 90Hz, both of which help con­serve the bat­tery, but to make the most of this phone you’ll want to set it to 144Hz and leave it there. Be­sides its ob­vi­ous ben­e­fits for gam­ing, you’ll also no­tice big steps for­ward when us­ing ‘end­less-scrolling’ style so­cial me­dia apps.

The 5S is also no­tice­able for its lack of any sort of notch, with small bezels above and be­low the screen giv­ing the phone an at­trac­tive sym­met­ri­cal design. At the top, you’ll find the same 8Mp sen­sor as its pre­de­ces­sor, al­though it now has a wide 120-de­gree field of view.

Cu­ri­ously, this doesn’t sup­port face un­lock, so you’ll have to rely on the much-im­proved op­ti­cal in-dis­play fin­ger­print sen­sor. The enrolment process is sim­ple, and rel­a­tively quickly I was able to get an idea of the right amount of pres­sure to ap­ply.

The power but­ton and vol­ume rocker have been shunted un­com­fort­ably far down the right side of the phone to make way for a size­able speaker grille, one of four dot­ted around the phone.

On the op­po­site side, there’s a phys­i­cal slider for trig­ger­ing Game Space (more on that later), as well as smart con­nec­tor for the many ac­ces­sories Nu­bia of­fers.

It’s dis­ap­point­ing that the dual SIM card tray still doesn’t sup­port ex­pand­able stor­age, but we do still get a 3.5mm head­phone jack and USB-C for charg­ing and data trans­fer.

While 220g is heavy by usual phone stan­dards, the weight is jus­ti­fied here by ev­ery­thing Nu­bia is pack­ing into the phone.

GAM­ING AND BE­YOND

We usu­ally have a ded­i­cated sec­tion for per­for­mance, but first it’s worth talk­ing specif­i­cally about how it han­dles gam­ing.

The Red Magic 5G is pow­ered by Qual­comm’s lat­est Snap­dragon 865 chipset, which com­bines with 12GB of RAM (on the model I tested) and in­dus­try-lead­ing 144Hz re­fresh rate to pro­vide the most ac­com­plished mo­bile

gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced to date. I’m by no means an avid gamer, but can’t help but ap­pre­ci­ate what Nu­bia has achieved here. The 5S de­liv­ers supreme gam­ing per­for­mance and can han­dle the most graphic-in­ten­sive games from the Google Play Store with­out break­ing a sweat.

Across de­mand­ing ti­tles such as Call of Duty: Mo­bile, PUBG Mo­bile and As­phalt 9, the 5S was a joy to use, even though these games don’t of­fi­cially sup­port 144Hz game­play. The game­play feels silky-smooth, and I gen­uinely felt it gave me an ad­van­tage over play­ers us­ing a 60Hz screen.

There’s a huge range of games that do sup­port 144Hz these days, al­though you won’t no­tice a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence on ca­sual ti­tles such as 8 Ball Pool and Fruit Ninja.

The gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is en­hanced via Game Space, a spe­cial mode ded­i­cated to mo­bile gam­ing. Ac­ti­vated via a slider on the side of the phone, it of­fers tools to max­imise per­for­mance, re­duce dis­trac­tions and keep the device run­ning cool. This might sound fa­mil­iar to you if you’ve read my Red Magic 5S re­view, and that’s be­cause very little has changed with re­gards to gam­ing per­for­mance. Nu­bia claims that the shoul­der trig­gers now sup­port a 320Hz touch sam­pling rate (up from 300Hz) and that the cool­ing sys­tem is 4.3 per cent more ef­fec­tive, but I didn’t no­tice any dif­fer­ence.

PER­FOR­MANCE

It will prob­a­bly come as little sur­prise that the stel­lar per­for­mance on the Red Magic 5S ex­tends to gen­eral ev­ery­day us­age. The 144Hz re­fresh rate means ev­ery­thing feels that bit more spe­cial, and only a hand­ful of phones can truly com­pete with it on the spec sheet.

That’s high­lighted in its bench­mark scores, where it proves more than a match for the best gam­ing phones on the mar­ket.

Geek­bench 5 (multi-core)

Red Magic 5S: 3,149

Red Magic 5G: 3,327

Red Magic 3S: 2,497

Asus ROG Phone 2: 2,889

Black Shark 3: 3,440

GFXBench Man­hat­tan

Red Magic 5S: 107fps

Red Magic 5G: 106fps

Red Magic 3S: 87fps

Asus ROG Phone 2: 99fps

Black Shark 3: 60fps

GFXBench T-Rex

Red Magic 5S: 141fps

Red Magic 5G: 140fps

Red Magic 3S: 91fps Asus ROG Phone 2: 118fps Black Shark 3: 60fps

Charge in 30 min­utes

Red Magic 5S: 34% Red Magic 5G: 35% Red Magic 3S: 35% Asus ROG Phone 2: 44% Black Shark 3: 92%

SOFT­WARE

Al­though I praised some of the gam­ing-spe­cific soft­ware tweaks ear­lier, it’s ar­guably the most dis­ap­point­ing area of this phone. That’s be­cause Nu­bia’s Red Magic 3.0 skin, run­ning over An­droid 10, can’t be swapped out for an­other launcher. The beauty of An­droid has al­ways been how cus­tom­iz­a­ble it is, but the ex­pe­ri­ence feels a bit re­stric­tive here. Nu­bia’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of An­droid is func­tional, if a little ba­sic. It of­fers all the tools you’ve come to ex­pect from Google’s op­er­at­ing sys­tem, along­side plenty of du­pli­cate bloat­ware.

It’s more than us­able, even if you never played mo­bile games, but I just wish the ex­cel­lent hard­ware could have been paired with sim­i­larly great soft­ware.

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Cam­eras are of­ten the big sell­ing point on ‘reg­u­lar’ phones, and they haven’t

been for­got­ten about here. The Red Magic 5S comes with a triple rear cam­era ar­ray, with the main 64Mp sen­sor joined by an 8Mp ul­tra-wide and 2Mp macro.

In good light­ing, the phone pro­duces stills that are aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing, but ag­gres­sive sat­u­ra­tion means they’re rarely true to life.

It also tends to over­ex­pose, par­tic­u­larly in bright en­vi­ron­ments. How­ever, this works to its ad­van­tage in low-light, when you can call upon the ded­i­cated night mode. It can’t ri­val the Pixel on im­age qual­ity here, but the shots I took were more than us­able.

De­spite not hav­ing a ded­i­cated depth sen­sor, the 5S uses soft­ware to take por­trait-style shots. It reg­u­larly strug­gles with edge de­tec­tion, al­though I did give it some chal­leng­ing sub­jects in my test­ing.

In terms of video, the 5S is ca­pa­ble of cap­tur­ing 8K footage at 30fps, up from 15fps on the Red Magic 5G. The ad­di­tion of op­ti­cal im­age sta­bi­liza­tion means you can get some de­cent footage, but it suf­fers from the same sat­u­ra­tion and con­trast is­sues as with stills.

BAT­TERY LIFE

The Red Magic 5S comes with a 4500mAh, which sounds great un­til you re­alise it’s iden­ti­cal to the Red Magic 5G. Nonethe­less, with the re­fresh rate set to 144Hz, I was able to record a solid 11 hours and 18 min­utes in Geek­bench 4’s bat­tery test.

On PCMark’s Work 2.0 test, of­ten con­sid­ered more rep­re­sen­ta­tive of real-world us­age, the 5S lasts a sim­i­larly im­pres­sive 10 hours and 55 min­utes. That’s de­spite hav­ing the bright­ness set to 200 nits us­ing the Spy­derX Pro, com­pared to 120 for the Geek­bench test.

Both these scores sug­gest it has above-av­er­age bat­tery life, and that’s the ex­pe­ri­ence I had when us­ing the phone. Nu­bia warns you that the high re­fresh rate will con­sume more power, but even then it was com­pa­ra­ble with some 60Hz phones.

One area it does strug­gle slightly is on standby time, as I no­ticed the bat­tery de­plete be­tween set­ting the phone down and pick­ing it up again.

There’s no wire­less charg­ing, and I was only able to get 34 per cent charge in 30 min­utes from off, and it took about 90 min­utes for a full charge. That’s not slow by any means, but has been sur­passed by many mod­ern hand­sets.

VER­DICT

Nu­bia has once again suc­ceeded in pro­duc­ing an ex­cel­lent gam­ing phone with the Red Magic 5S, but that’s no sur­prise con­sid­er­ing it’s al­most iden­ti­cal to its pre­de­ces­sor.

320Hz shoul­der trig­gers, UFS 3.1 and a claimed 4.3 per cent bet­ter cool­ing sys­tem aside, this is the same phone that you could have bought five months ear­lier.

Ev­ery­thing I said in that re­view ap­plies here. The 144Hz re­fresh rate dis­play truly is breath­tak­ing, and com­bined with a Snap­dragon 865 pro­ces­sor and up to 12GB of RAM per­for­mance across the board is su­perb. Bat­tery life is im­pres­sive and the built-in fan works won­ders for gam­ing.

The frus­tra­tions with soft­ware re­main though, and the cam­eras are un­der­whelm­ing. These are ar­eas that could have eas­ily been ad­dressed on the 5S, but Nu­bia chose not to.

If this is your first ex­pe­ri­ence of a gam­ing phone, you won’t be dis­ap­pointed. For any­one who picked up the Red Magic 5G though, don’t worry as you’re not miss­ing out. Any­ron Cope­man

SPEC­I­FI­CA­TIONS

• 6.65in (2,340x1,080; 388ppi) AMOLED ca­pac­i­tive touch­screen

• An­droid 10, Red­magic 3.0 • Qual­comm SM8250 Snap­dragon 865 (7nm+) pro­ces­sor

• Octa-core (1x 2.84GHz Kryo 585, 3x 2.42GHz Kryo 585, 4x 1.8GHz Kryo 585) CPU

• Adreno 650 GPU

• 8GB/12GB/16GB RAM

• 126GB/256GB stor­age

• Three rear-fac­ing cam­eras: 64Mp, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/1.72in, 0.8μm, PDAF; 8Mp, f/2.0, 120-de­gree, 13mm (ul­tra­w­ide), 1.12μm; 2Mp, (macro)

• Sin­gle selfie cam­era: 8Mp, f/2.0, (wide), 1.12μm

• 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6, dual-band, Wi-Fi Di­rect, hotspot

• Blue­tooth 5.1, A2DP, aptX, LE

• GPS with dual-band A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO

• NFC

• USB 3.0, Type-C 1.0 re­versible con­nec­tor, USB On-The-Go

• Op­ti­cal scan­ner (un­der dis­play)

• Non-re­mov­able 4,500mAh lithi­umpoly­mer bat­tery

• 168.6x78x9.8mm

• 220g

The me­tal­lic coat­ing on the back of the 5S means it’s im­pres­sively re­sis­tant to fin­ger­print smudges.

On the left-hand side there’s a phys­i­cal slider for trig­ger­ing Game Space.

This shot was taken us­ing the de­fault set­ting…

…and here’s the same sub­ject shot us­ing the 3x zoom (left) and 5x zoom (be­low).

And here’s the same sub­ject, shot with the 10x zoom.

In good light­ing, the phone pro­duces stills that are aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing, but ag­gres­sive sat­u­ra­tion means they’re rarely true to life.

Here’s an ex­am­ple of a photo taken us­ing the phone’s macro lens.

Fi­nally, here’s an ex­am­ple of a selfie.

Nu­bia has once again suc­ceeded in pro­duc­ing an ex­cel­lent gam­ing phone with the Red Magic 5S.

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