True 144fps gaming arrives on mobile with the Nubia Red Magic 5G

We've seen smartphones promising >100fps gaming before, but Nubia's new handset is the first we've benchmarked that actually delivers stable 144fps gameplay in a real-world scenario. With its Snapdragon 865 chipset and active cooling, this phone offers some blistering frame rates at 90Hz and 60Hz too -- take a look at our frame rate stats below! 

(Note: Like many manufacturers, Nubia is a GameBench client. However, Nubia did not sponsor this blog post or try to exert any editorial control over its content, all of which is based on GameBench's strict and objective game-testing tools and methodology, and can be verified by other GameBench users.)

Real Racing 3 (Electronic Arts)

Using GameBench to measure Real Racing 3 on a pre-release Red Magic 5G, we recorded a median frame rate of 144fps. In other words, that's the same degree of visual smoothness you'd get from a gaming PC with a 144Hz monitor.

Being subjective for a moment, since performance metrics are ultimately about capturing human experiences, the Red Magic's 144fps rendering of Real Racing 3 had an immediate impact on the game's visuals and responsiveness. It felt like a whole new experience, rather than the same ol' driving sim we've been benchmarking since 2013.

Of course, this is just one game and it's perhaps unlikely that many studios will make a deliberate effort to support 144fps at this stage, but Real Racing 3 certainly demonstrates the potential of this technology on mobile.   

Ultra-90, Ultra-120 and Ultra-144

 Major game studios and phone makers who use GameBench are already quite familiar with our Ultra badge, which until now has represented solid 60fps performance. When the first >60Hz phones and tablets started to arrive a few years ago, along with VR headsets, we also created Ultra-90, Ultra-120 and Ultra-144 badges, but we never had much chance to use them because the first crop of devices failed to deliver our Ultra-grade thresholds for frame rate stability. The Razer Phone V1, for example, showed highly erratic frame rates. 

Real Racing 3 on the Red Magic 5G is the very first time we've awarded an Ultra-144 badge to a gaming experience. This is much deserved because the frame rate is not only high, it's also highly stable.  As the chart below shows, there were no significant drops across a 15-minute gameplay session (which took place after a 15-minute warm-up in order to factor in any thermal throttling). The minimum frame rate during gameplay was 142fps and the only bigger drops happened during  menus and other non-gameplay segments between races:

 

 

PUBG Mobile (Game for Peace) and Arena of Valor (Honor of Kings)

Although these two games don't yet support full-throttle 144fps, they did surprise us in other ways. With Game for Peace, the Chinese version of PUBG Mobile, GameBench recorded a median frame rate of 90fps and a minimum 83fps -- well within our Ultra-90 criteria, which makes a real difference to gameplay and competitiveness. With the ever-popular MOBA, Tencent's Honor of Kings (available in the West as Arena of Valor), we couldn't unlock any >60fps modes, but we recorded our first ever session that showed perfect 60fps -- i.e. the median and minimum were both 60. Good news for gamers! 

 

Nubia Red Magic 5G

 

    GB Labs

 

    Game   Median FPS Minimum FPS FPS Variability Badge  
  Real Racing 3 by EA   144fps 142fps ±0.37fps Group 8

 

 
  和平精英 (PUBG) by Tencent   90fps 83fps ±1.11fps Group 6

 

 
  王者荣耀 (Arena of Valor) by Tencent   60fps 60fps ±0.45fps Group 5   
                 

New processor, new design

How has this new level of visual fluidity been accomplished? It's impossible to pinpoint causes just by looking at results, and every gaming experience relies on a big mix of hardware and software variables. However, some important clues surely lie in the Nubia Red Magic's spec sheet, which reveals -- among other things -- a Snadpragon 865 chipset:

 

Key device specs:

Device Name: Nubia Red Magic 5G

Model Number: NX659J

Android Version: 10

Red Magic OS Version: 3.0

Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 (865+X55M) with Adreno 650 GPU

RAM: 12GB

Storage: 256GB

Cooling: Active 

Battery: 4,500mAh

 

The Red Magic 5G's processor is three generations on from the Snapdragon 835 that powered the first >60Hz Android phones, and high frame rates are now a deliberate and mainstream focus for Qualcomm. The latest chipset not only supports high frame rates, but also brings adaptive sync between the GPU and smartphone display to reduce missed vsyncs and stutter -- something that works very well, since we observed no significant stutters during our tests, even during the occasional frame rate drops.

Another key spec is active cooling, which is a bold design decision for a smartphone (alongside Nubia's other brave choice: the addition of shoulder buttons!).  The fan is effectively silent during normal operation, but it audibly speeds up when the chipset is under pressure -- just enough that you can hear it operating. In this way, the fan appears to do a good job of keeping temperature and throttling in check, while still allowing for excellent frame rates and reasonable battery life -- we measured over five hours of expected play time on a charge whilst playing Real Racing 3 at 144fps, and even longer play times in the other games, thanks to the device's huge 4,500mAh cell.

(Correction: We previously stated that this phone had a 5000mAh battery, but it's actually 4,500mAh. However, none of our conclusions about battery life are affected.)

One last disclaimer: We should point out again that we tested a pre-release device sent to us directly Nubia, running a pre-release OS build. We cannot guarantee that the commercial device will behave in exactly the same way once it arrives on shelves, but we see no reason why it shouldn't, and we certainly hope that it will!