Gaming phones have generated quite the buzz over the years, packing unimaginable specs in bodies that come straight from sci-fi movies. Putting the ginormous batteries and RGB lights aside, phones like the Asus ROG Phone 3 have become attractive offerings to gamers and non-gamers alike.

But Asus isn’t the only brand trying to reinvent mobile gaming. Nubia’s Red Magic 5G brings a similar experience while undercutting Asus by almost half the price. So which phone is more worth it? We break down the design, performance, cameras, and special features of both to help you decide.

Specs

Asus ROG Phone 3
Nubia Red Magic 5G
Size 171 x 78 x 9.9mm (6.73 x 3.07 x 0.39 inches) 168.6 x 78 x 9.8mm (6.64 x 3.07 x 0.39 inches)
Weight 240 grams (8.47 ounces) 218 grams (7.69 ounces)
Screen size 6.59-inch AMOLED 6.65-inch AMOLED
Screen resolution 2,340 x 1,080, 19.5:9 ratio (391 pixels per inch) 2,340 x 1,080 pixels, 19:5 ratio (388 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 10; ROG UI Android 10; Red Magic OS
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB 128GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay Google Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
RAM 8GB, 12GB, 16GB 8GB, 12GB
Camera 64-megapixel main, 13MP ultrawide, 5MP macro, 24MP front 64-megapixel main, 8MP ultrawide, 2MP macro, 8MP front
Video 8K at 30 fps, 4K at 120 fps, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 480 fps 8K at 15 fps, 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version 5.1 5.1
Ports USB 3.1, USB-C USB 3.0, USB-C
Fingerprint sensor Yes, in-display Yes, in-display
Water resistance No No
Battery 6,000mAh

Fast charging (30W)

4,500mAh

Fast charging (55W)

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support No official U.S. support All major U.S. carriers
Colors Black Glare Eclipse Black, Hot Rod Red, Pulse
Prices $930 (799 euros) $579 (539 euros)
Buy from Import service Red Magic website
Review score 4.5 out of 5 stars 3 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Before deciding on team Asus or Nubia, be aware both devices look exactly the way you’d expect a gaming phone to. You’ll notice unorthodox etchings, metallic accents, and additional ports throughout. They’re also a lot bigger and heavier than the average smartphone. The ROG Phone 3 has a 6.59-inch display, and that doesn’t take into account the thick bezels housing its front-firing speaker. The Red Magic 5G rocks a slightly larger 6.65-inch display but compensates the size with curved edges throughout the body. Both devices sport 144Hz panels so you’re getting smooth and snappy mobile experiences. While the displays aren’t the sharpest in the market, the lower resolution certainly helps with long hours of gaming and battery life, which we’ll get more into later on.

Flipping the devices over, you’ll discover some very sci-fi and futuristic designs — but they’re more subtle than you think. Nubia uses a symmetrical finish divided by the Red Magic logo and cameras. In the right lighting, you’re able to see all the little hidden accents. The ROG Phone 3 has a similar design with the logo at the center and accent lines crossing from edge to edge.

With extra ports for attachable cooling fans and control pads, it should come as no surprise that both devices lack an IP rating. This shouldn’t be a major issue unless you enjoy gaming by the pool. In terms of design and durability, the ROG Phone 3 and Red Magic 5G stand toe-to-toe.

Winner: Tie

Performance, battery life, and charging

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Probably the most important aspect of a gaming phone is performance. Luckily, both devices excel when it comes to just that. We tested the two with some of the most graphic-intensive games available like Asphalt 9 Legends, Real Racing 3, and Game Dev Tycoon, and they handled all with ease. The ROG Phone 3 deserves a special mention for having Google Stadia support. It’s also the first phone to launch with the latest Snapdragon 865 Plus processor. When pairing that with the upgraded 16GB of RAM model, Asus is giving you one of the most high-end, lag-free mobile experiences money can buy. But the Red Magic 5G has a trick of its own — featuring a built-in cooling fan that you can actually hear.

One of the biggest disparities between the two phones is battery life. The Red Magic 5G does a great job with its 4,500mAh cell, getting you a day and some more of usage. However, those numbers are overshadowed by the whopping 6,000mAh capacity of the ROG Phone 3. Its predecessor — the ROG Phone 2 — already had long-lasting battery life, so expectations were high for the 2020 version. With a battery that lasts two days, it’s safe to say that expectations were met. We do have to give some props to the Red Magic 5G as it supports 55W fast charging with a proprietary charger.

All things considered, the ROG Phone 3 takes the win with a more up-to-date processor and worry-free battery life.

Winner: Asus ROG Phone 3

Camera

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

You don’t really buy a gaming phone for its camera, and it seems like Asus and Nubia had the same idea when building the ROG Phone 3 and Red Magic 5G. The cameras on these phones are passable especially if picture-taking isn’t your number one priority, but they surprisingly offer a good balance of lenses.

The ROG Phone 3 sports a triple-lens rear camera with a 64-megapixel main sensor, a 13-megapixel ultra-wide, and a 5-megapixel macro sensor. You get a good variety of shooting modes — some which you’ll find familiar like night mode, portrait mode, and 4K video in HDR. Overall, pictures come out decent but are inconsistent, especially when taking wide-angle or macro shots. You can also shoot in 8K if you want the most detailed videos.

Nubia’s Red Magic 5G brings a similar setup with a 64-megapixel main sensor, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide, and a 2-megapixel macro lens. On paper, the specs look promising, but reality tells a different story. The camera struggles with dynamic range and can overexpose or dim subjects when lighting isn’t ideal. Nubia gives you the options of 3x, 5x, and 10x zoom, but they’re done digitally.

In an ideal world, every smartphone would have a reliable camera, but the gaming world is a little different, and that’s fine. Picture and video quality should come second, and you probably won’t be using your camera too often unless you’re playing games in augmented reality. With better camera modes and 8K video at 30 fps, the ROG Phone 3 edges out the Red Magic 5G this round.

Winner: Asus ROG Phone 3

Software and updates

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Though the ROG Phone 3 and Red Magic 5G are head-turners, it’s software that makes for the most optimal mobile experience. The ROG Phone 3 runs on ROG UI, layered over Android 10. Keeping with the sci-fi theme, the default launcher has an interface similar to that of an alien spaceship. It’s fun, very customizable, and full of hidden gems in the settings. The most notable feature is Game Genie, a side panel that gives you quick toggles to screen record, stream, turn off alerts, and more while you’re gaming.

Nubia takes a similar approach to software with its Red Magic OS, also layered over Android 10. Like the ROG Phone 3, the phone has a slew of software features worth checking out. For example, you can set control configurations for the shoulder triggers of the phone. The Red Magic 5G also has Game Space, a hub that displays your network speeds, control settings, and refresh rate with a swipe. Note that you won’t be able to apply a third-party launcher as the default app — that includes Nova Launcher, Lawnchair, and others. If you can get over the stylized app icons and wonky animations, then you’ll have an enjoyable time with the phone.

While ROG UI and Red Magic OS aren’t the cleanest flavors of Android, they come with an abundance of customization options that, for the most part, enhance your gaming experience. But the inability to permanently apply launchers and poor software support lose it for the Red Magic 5G this round.

Winner: Asus ROG Phone 3

Special features

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

We usually look to in-display fingerprint sensors, multi-camera setups, and high refresh rates when it comes to special features, but gamings phones bring even more to the table.

Asus has done an excellent job building an ecosystem of accessories for the ROG Phone 3, including the AeroCooler Active 3 Kickstand and Kunai controller. The modular design of the phone lets you snap on accessories with ease. Mounted on the side of the phone are AirTriggers — they function like shoulder buttons of a conventional console controller.

The Red Magic 5G also has some special features up its sleeves. As the name suggests, the phone is 5G compatible — though it’s limited and you’ll need to have the right data plan. The faster internet speed compared to 4G LTE can make the biggest difference whether you’re playing a first-person shooter or racing. Situated on the top of the phone is a headphone jack — the ROG Phone 3 doesn’t have it.

All in all, both phones are packed with special features, and you won’t go wrong with either device.

Winner: Tie

Price and availability

The ROG Phone 3 starts at 799 euros (roughly $930) for the 8GB of RAM and 256GB model; the 16GB of RAM and 512GB model is 1,099 euros. It’s only available for purchase in Europe, but Asus plans to launch the phone in North America come September.

Nubia’s Red Magic 5G goes for $579 for the 8GB of RAM and 128GB storage model. For an extra $70, you can upgrade the phone to the 12GB of RAM and 256GB storage option. If you’re interested in buying one, you can buy the phone on the Red Magic website or Amazon.

Overall winner: Asus ROG Phone 3

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Though more expensive, the Asus ROG Phone 3 is the better device overall. If you’re searching for standout performance, multiday battery life, and an array of features that will take your gaming to the next level, then look no further.

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