nubia Red Magic 5S review

GSMArena team, 28 August 2020.


It's time for a refresh and to improve upon the already great nubia Red Magic 5G. But as the name Red Magic 5S implies, the changes in the new iteration of the phone are subtle, to say the least. All the major hardware inside is the same with no changes except the storage type and configurations. There is also the new design, too.

nubia Red Magic 5S review

The Red Magic 5S base storage is 8GB/128GB. The high-end versions with 12 and 16GB of RAM paired with 256GB of internal storage are still available. However, the storage type has been upgraded from UFS 3.0 to UFS 3.1. But what does that mean for the end user? Well, you can expect slightly faster write speeds and perhaps loading times. We go into details in our Performance section of the review.

Aside from the small hardware change, the new 5S comes in just two colors, one of which is new. We've got the Cyber Neon version and the Silver one as an alternative if you don't like the flashy gaming aesthetics.

ZTE nubia Red Magic 5S

  • Body: 168.6x78.0x9.8mm, 220g; Glass front and back (Gorilla Glass), aluminum frame.
  • Display: 6.65" AMOLED capacitive, 1080x2340px resolution, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 388ppi; 144Hz refresh rate; 240Hz touch-sensing rate.
  • Chipset: Qualcomm SM8250 Snapdragon 865 (7 nm+): Octa-core (1x2.84 GHz Kryo 585 & 3x2.42 GHz Kryo 585 & 4x1.8 GHz Kryo 585); Adreno 650.
  • Memory: 128GB 8GB RAM, 256GB 12GB RAM, 256GB 16GB RAM; UFS 3.1.
  • OS/Software: Android 10, Redmagic 3.0.
  • Rear camera: Wide (main): 64 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/1.72", 0.8µm, PDAF; Ultra wide-angle: 8 MP, f/2.0, 13mm, 1.12µm; Macro: 2 MP; LED flash, HDR, panorama.
  • Front camera: 8 MP, f/2.0, (wide), 1.12µm; HDR.
  • Video capture: Rear camera: 8K@30fps, 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/120/240fps; Front camera: 1080p@30fps.
  • Battery: 4,500mAh; Fast charging 55W, 56% in 15 min, 100% in 40 min (advertised); comes with 18W charger outside of China.
  • Misc: Fingerprint (under display, optical), Pressure sensitive shoulder triggers (300Hz touch-sensing), Built-in cooling fan ; NFC.

So what's the point of this review then? We could have just tested the storage speeds and be done with it. Not so fast. If you recall in our previous review, we said that the software needs more work and the range of games that support frames beyond 60 or 90 frames per second is quite limited. Nubia says they've worked on both of these issues so it's going to be interesting to see where the 5S stands almost 5 months later. With more luck, there could be some hidden or more apparent software optimizations towards battery life and performance.

nubia Red Magic 5S review

Additionally, the new 5S came in our office with the so-called Ice Dock, which is an external pad with a fan that helps with the cooling performance of the internal fan. We've tested that out as well.

The good news is that with the hardware refresh, nubia isn't charging more for this model. It costs just as much as its predecessor starting at $579/€579 for the base version with 8GB of RAM and 128GB storage. However, the competition since April this year has changed a lot too. Now the 5S has to face tougher rivals such as the Asus ROG Phone 3. And something tells us that it would still fare well given the price/performance and even the price/features ratio. After all, nubia's gaming phones are all about affordability and they can sure bundle a lot of that spicy hardware at a very competitive price.

Unboxing the nubia Red Magic 5S

The standard international retail box is once again looking pretty good but sadly, it comes with the standard 18W charger once again. You will have to buy the 55W brick separately.

Aside from the usual user manuals and the USB-A to USB-C cable used for charging and data transfer, there's nothing too special about the package. There's also a transparent, silicone protective case as well with bumper edges that should protect the phone better if dropped. The previous Red Magic 5G's case didn't have those bumpers.

nubia Red Magic 5S review

We also got the so-called Ice Dock accessory that's supposed to help with the cooling during long gaming sessions. It's not included in the box as it's sold separately.

nubia Red Magic 5S review

Reader comments

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...seems like IOS designed for kids only to play few powerful games. The OS doesn't let you get the potential advantages of its specifications/capabilities. On the other hand, in those years Android has almost overcome its lags. Now a days Andro...

Oh yeah! Really? Don't say IOS has better software + hardware. Since it was never. But you can say, IOS has better integration between hardware and software. And, because the hardware and the software is designed and controlled by same company. ...