Smartphones have come along such a long way in the last decade that, today in 2022, mobile gaming is no longer limited to simplistic games and ideas. Now you experience full-fat MMOs, online shooters and fully-fledged RPGs – all from a device you can slide into your pocket.
Just take one look at the devices in T3's best phones, best Android phones and even best cheap phones buying guides and you'll see loads of hot hardware that enable great mobile gaming experiences.
Manufacturers are now developing devices that are aimed specifically at gaming, though, with enhanced components, higher refresh rates and improved cooling systems. And, simply put, for gamers who want to absolutely maximise their smartphone gaming experience, they are a great choice.
So, we’ve compared two gaming phones that have been on the market a while but have both featured in our best gaming phone buying guide, to help give you a helpful insight into some of the exciting developments from this unique corner of the mobile market. Right here we take a look at the Xiaomi Black Shark 3 vs Nubia Red Magic 5G.
Quick note on both these handsets – we're expecting them to be discounted during Black Friday this year. As such, if you can wait a few months to land your gaming phone upgrade then it could be a smart move. Both these phones are quite affordable now, but with a Black Friday price cut they could become a steal.
XIAOMI BLACK SHARK 3 VS NUBUA RED MAGIC 5G: DESIGN AND DISPLAY
Gaming phones can often mean larger form factors, and the Black Shark 3 is no exception with dimensions that measure 168.7 x 77.3 x 10.4mm. That also translates into quite the chunky size, with a weight of 222g so you’re getting something more on the phablet side. It makes it less portable than a standard handset, but that size does mean you get a large 6.67-inch AMOLED display. It doesn’t quite hold up to the resolution of top-end smartphones, but it still does a decent job.
The Red Magic 5G launched in June 2020 in the West, bringing with it the very first gaming phone to feature a 144Hz refresh rate. Even now, that feature makes this powerful device a very competitive and truly rewarding mobile gaming platform. That display is a 6.65-inch 1080 x 2340 AMOLED screen with a bright and vibrant colour display. The design itself is quite chunky, but the cute customisable RGB lights on the back helps make up for the larger form factor.
XIAOMI BLACK SHARK 3 VS NUBUA RED MAGIC 5G: CAMERA AND BATTERY
Gaming phones don’t often include the most impressive cameras – it’s usually an afterthought for most – but the Black Shark 3 delivers a surprisingly strong set of lenses with a 64MP main, 13MP ultra-wide and a 5MP depth-sensing camera. The Black Shark 3 comes with a 4,720mAh battery as standard, which will get you through a day of intermittent use but will probably tap out after an hour’s gaming.
In terms of battery performance, the Red Magic 5G performs well with its 4,500mAh offers hours of play at default settings without the need for extra charge – but expect that figure to drop if you’re dialling up the settings. Its trio of cameras – a 64MP, 8MP ultra-wide and 2MP micro – deliver decent results with bright colours and plenty of detail, but don’t expect the results to match up to those produced by the leading names in the traditional smartphone market.
XIAOMI BLACK SHARK 3 VS NUBUA RED MAGIC 5G: GAMING PERFORMANCE
The Black Shark 3 comes with a Snapdragon 865 from Qualcomm, with 8GB of memory, which results in benchmarks that match most of the major handsets out now such as the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus. Games are quick to load, there’s rarely ever any slowdown and even the lower refresh rate impact the over gaming experience.
Nubia has made a real statement of intent with the Red Magic 5G, with that 144Hz refresh rate making a real difference to the games that support it. Much like the Black Shark 3, the Red Magic 5G comes with a dedicated Game Space for customising your gaming experience on the go, while the dedicated shoulder buttons make a real difference when playing shooters such as Fortnite or Call of Duty: Mobile.
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XIAOMI BLACK SHARK 3 VS NUBUA RED MAGIC 5G: OTHER SPECS AND FEATURES
Alongside a copy of Android 10 with JoyUI, the Black Shark 3 comes with a very handy Shark Space mode, a mode that optimises the phone for a fully immersive gaming experience. You can access all your downloaded games for a carousel, while all notifications are turned off to ensure you’re not disturbed halfway through a match. You can even tweak your phone’s settings to get a setup that really suits certain games or genres.
Those shoulder buttons can be customised to suit certain genres, such as racing games or platformers, making them a great addition that normal smartphones simply don’t cater for. The Red Magic 5G also supports 4D Shock for compatible games, so you can feel the vibration of a gun emptying its magazine or the rumble of an accelerator.
XIAOMI BLACK SHARK 3 VS NUBUA RED MAGIC 5G: PRICING AND VERDICT
When compared to models from more established names in this area, such as Razer or Asus, the Black Shark 3 offers a relatively affordable option for those that want to invest in a gaming-first handset. You can pick one up for around £590/$600, which is quite reasonable when you consider the strength of its specs and the smooth gaming experience it delivers on the go.
You can pick up a Red Magic 5G for around £500/$650, which is very reasonable considering the strength of its components and the sheer number of features it’s boasting. Its tough to compete with the gaming experience of Razer and Asus and other leaders in the market but leading the charge on that 144Hz refresh rate and offering players a dedicated mobile gaming platform that’s jam-packed with potential.
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