Not all smartphone manufacturers create a gaming phone. Technically, flagship smartphones with top specs are ideal for gaming but they lack the appeal and design. When Razer announced their own phone, it was true to its Razer branding but lacked the RGB lighting we’ve known from PC gaming peripherals.
I spent a few days with the Red Magic and here’s my hands-on.
It looks like a true gaming smartphone
The Red Magic practically screams “extreme gamer” due to its sharp, hexagonal cutouts, red vents and details, and the glowing LED strip on the back.
However, it’s still your usual premium Android device with a 6-inch Full HD+ display. It’s got an 18:9 aspect ratio and, thankfully, there’s no notch that’ll get in the way when playing games.
The top and bottom bezels are not as thin as the Galaxy S9’s, so there’s still some room for your thumb on the side when holding the phone in landscape with two hands.
Overall, the phone feels really solid thanks to its aluminum unibody, but to make things a bit special and more gaming-focused, the back of Red Magic is a bit curved making it comfortable in my hands.
On the side, it has what they call the “Compete Button” which reminds me of the alert slider on OnePlus’ phones. Instead of shushing notification sounds though, Red Magic’s slider puts the phone in tip-top performance. This is useful when you’re about to play a game.
The Compete Button not only improves the phone’s performance, but it also triggers some settings like blocking app notifications to avoid unnecessary pop-ups while playing. You can also set it to block the virtual navigation button from showing up accidentally.
Most importantly, the Compete Button activates the RGB LED strip at the back. It’s a visual cue showing that the Red Magic is ready to take on the challenge. The LED strip has four preset effects: Skyline, Rainbow Ribbon, Laserwave, and Voice Controlled.
It’s fun to play around with the effects, but my personal favorite is the Voice Controlled option. Well, it’s not exactly based on your own voice but rather with the audio of the game you’re playing.
The light strip also acts as notification light if you wish. Just be sure to lay the phone flat on a table so you won’t miss it.
The rear of the phone is quite intriguing but also distinct. There are four red lines on the corners which I first thought are all speakers. But, only one of them is the actual loudspeaker and it’s the one at the lower left. Even though it’s a mono back-firing speaker, it’s loud and has good bass.
When it comes to power, the Red Magic is not lacking but it could have had a better processor. The phone sports last year’s Snapdragon 835 processor which is a step down compared to this year’s flagship phones. At least it’s paired with 8GB of memory and 128GB of internal storage.
The Snapdragon 835 is still a capable processor with the Adreno 540 GPU. I managed to play a number of games on the Red Magic, and the device was able to handle them like magic. PUBG ran smoothly with the highest settings and the new Asphalt 9: Legends was flawless and stunning on the screen.
The Red Magic was even the best-performing Snapdragon 835-powered phone on AnTuTu’s list. It managed to be in the top ten of the most powerful Android phones last June which is dominated by phones with Snapdragon 845 processor.
Does it have good cameras?
A gaming phone still needs cameras. There’s a 24-megapixel f/1.7 rear shooter which takes good-looking photos. Thanks to the large aperture of the camera’s lens, it can take great photos even in low-light.
Here are some samples:
It might not be the best camera phone around, but that’s not the focus of the Red Magic. It lacks a secondary sensor for bokeh or other effects, but the camera launcher has a couple of modes you can play with including manual shooting. For selfies, there’s an 8-megapixel front-facing camera with an f/2.0 aperture.
Is this you GadgetMatch?
Hard to tell if the phone will impress mobile gaming enthusiasts out there, but the design of Nubia Red Magic is certainly a head-turner. The red accents might be too common in the world of gaming, but the unique RGB LED strip at the back sure gives its own persona.
The Nubia Red Magic is available in China starting at CNY 2,499 for the base variant with 6GB of memory and 64GB of storage. The high-end version I have here with 8GB of memory and 128GB storage is priced at CNY 2,999. In the US, it’s priced at US$ 399 through Indigogo but the funding project is already closed.
Playdate is a handheld gaming system with a crank
Yes, an actual crank
If you’re bored of the current gaming console landscape or are simply waiting for the next-gen PlayStation to come out, there’s this new handheld system that might keep you a little busy.
From a company named Panic, which is known for developing the popular game Firewatch, comes the Playdate. It may seem like a simple gaming system at first, but look to its right and you’ll see its defining feature: a crank.
The developer says that some titles will use this analog controller exclusively, while some won’t at all (which, to me, sorta defeats the purpose of placing that game on this console). Everything will be played on its monochrome screen with no backlighting.
You can see it in action here:
Oh yeah, the crank! No, it doesn’t power the device. It’s a flip-out rotational controller that puts a fresh spin on fun. Some games use it exclusively, some use it with the d-pad, and some not at all. pic.twitter.com/XYW97nLZKK
— Playdate (@playdate) May 22, 2019
The spin here is that the Playdate will come with a subscription of 12 games — delivered to you once a week for 12 weeks. It’s part of the initial cost of US$ 149, but there’s no word yet if there’ll be subscriptions after that and how much they’ll cost.
Each game will be a surprise, which may or not be a good thing. Spending this much on an unproven console — and possibly more for succeeding subscriptions — could end up becoming a costly risk.
Orders will be accepted later this year, while actual shipping will happen in early 2020. For now, you can sign up through the official website to receive updates on its progress.
Here’s an early look at the Sony PS5’s raw performance
Spoiler: It’s fast!
Even though Sony dished out some early info on the upcoming PlayStation 5 (should they choose to stick to the numbered naming scheme) and revealed that it’s more than just a mere upgrade, we don’t have any tangible data on what exactly to expect.
Fortunately, Wall Street Journal tech reporter Takashi Mochizuki was present at Sony’s most recent gaming presentation and had this video to show us:
Sony’s official video comparing performance of PS4 Pro vs next-gen PlayStation pic.twitter.com/2eUROxKFLq
— Takashi Mochizuki (@mochi_wsj) May 21, 2019
What you see here is a comparison between the loading times of the PS5 and PS4 Pro. Make no mistake here: The next-generation console is incredibly fast! A lot of credit must be given to the built-in SSD the PS5 will ship with.
This should be taken with a grain of salt, however. Tech demos are often fixed to make the newer (and more expensive) product seem superior. To the next-gen console’s credit, it’ll come with the latest eight-core Ryzen chip and a custom GPU from AMD’s Radeon Navi, which are capable of 8K gaming and ray tracing when put together.
Sadly, we still don’t have a release date and Sony won’t announce anything at E3 next month. For now, savor your PS4 and its growing library of classics.
Minecraft Earth is like Pokémon Go but with building blocks
In a move that makes loads of sense, Minecraft is coming to mobile though an augmented reality app similar to Pokémon Go.
It’s called Minecraft Earth and it’s arriving later this year with a beta phase happening during summer. The developers offered this trailer, but it does little to explain how the system would work.
Check it out:
The official website’s FAQ section, however, delves into more of the info we actually care about.
For one, it’ll be free to play and will include several of Minecraft‘s traditional features including world building and discovering/fighting mobs.
Concerning regional availability, the developers aren’t confirming these details just yet. If it’s anything like the issues Niantic experienced with Pokémon Go before, chances are this rollout will be gradual, too.
Finally, for the “Will Minecraft Earth have loot boxes?” question, the website has a definite “No” to answer that.
Minecraft Earth will be available on both Android and iOS. Fingers crossed that there’ll be no delays. 🤞
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