We've had some issues with the previous version of Redmagic UI and most of the problems related to bad translations from Chinese. But this time around, we found only a couple of confusing translations and mostly missing stuff from the settings menu. Granted, nubia did warn us that this is not the final version of the software and an update is on its way to iron out some of the bugs.
For instance, there's no Battery menu at all. You can't even set the battery percentage to display in the upper-right corner of the screen. We are sure that nubia will add a battery menu in the future update.
Other than that, the software looks kind of stock-ish. There aren't many tweaked UI elements - the drop-down menu has the same appeal as in the vanilla Android. Some of the quick icons do appear in green instead of blue, however, making it easier to distinguish the different settings. The recent apps menu remains unchanged, and the general Settings menu has new colorful icons so you can navigate easily.
And like most highly-customized Android skins, nubia's Redmagic offers a handful of cool software features, aside from the strictly-gaming related ones, about which we will talk about later.
The Always-on display option is one of the first things we've noticed. The always-on screen is highly customizable with various clock styles and graphics. You can even set a short clip or GIF to be displayed on top. Speaking of the screen-related features, you can also set the refresh rate frequency to 60, 90 or, of course, 144Hz. You can expect the best possible battery life from the 60Hz mode and deteriorate with the 90 and 144Hz. Perhaps 90Hz remains as a sweet spot, as nubia has pointed out in the description.
The Colorful Light Effect gives you a granular control over the RGB LED lighting on the back. You can choose between different styles, colors, gradients and in which scenarios the "Redmagic" LED turns on - for notifications, during gaming, with incoming calls, etc.
Aside from its role in gaming performance, the cooling fan can also be used to cool down the phone during charging. We couldn't try it out since we received the standard 18W charger instead of the 55W one, but we were told that the fan kicks in to allow for better thermals during charging and also prevents the charging process from causing thermal throttling. The Cooling fan sub-menu is there to adjust the fan speed. You are presented with two options - automatic adjustment of the fan's speed and the maximum speed for faster and more efficient cooling. Given that the sound coming from the fan isn't loud or obnoxious going for the second option is advisable. It is a little high-pitched, though, so keep that in mind.
As far as navigation goes, the Redmagic UI gives you a choice between the standard Android 10 navigation gestures, swipe up from the bottom gestures and the good old software buttons.
Oddly, there's a menu called "neo AI" that's mostly about explaining how the neo AI works. A couple of slides talk about the game recording feature, the cooling fan, and the automatically adjustable screen refresh rate. As you've probably guessed, the phone monitors the CPU and GPU's temperature and applies fine control over the cooling fan. And depending on the application, the software adjusts the screen refresh rate - if it's a static image or a video, it will switch to 60Hz, and if it's a game, it would default to 144Hz. It does so with games as well - if the game doesn't support high-refresh rate, it would lock to 60fps.
Surely, you play some games more often than others. With neo AI, the system learns from your behavior, utilizes the system resources, and launches those games faster. During the night, the system will use the time to clear the clutter from the system memory. The neo AI also tracks apps that you don't use and freezes them, or in other words, suspends all the app's processes to conserve energy.
Lastly, we would like to address the new in-display fingerprint scanner. It's a much-needed addition to the Red Magic family, but it's also poorly executed. This is, hands down, one of the most unreliable in-display fingerprint readers we've used in a while. Almost every unlocking required several attempts. We almost never could unlock the phone from the first try, no matter how we trained the fingerprint reader. The reader is also positioned a bit low on the screen so users with longer fingers will have to do some finger gymnastics. Not to mention, it's not as fast as most fingerprint scanners.
On a more positive note, as soon as you move the phone, the fingerprint area lights up so you know exactly where to place your finger. This has worked excellently. You can also set a double-tap-to-wake function as well as raise-to-wake. Alternatively, you can just place your finger in the right spot, and the fingerprint reader will unlock the phone. That's not something all phones with optic fingerprint readers can do.
We see the return of Game space in the form of version 2.1. It's more polished this time around and gives you more options to play around with. At least compared to the older iteration running on Red Magic 3 and 3s.
Anyway, flipping the red switch located on the upper-left corner of the phone will summon the Game space 2.1. You will be presented with a list of games along with a quick switch for the back LED lighting and the cooling fan. Pulling the menu from the right side opens up a drawer with a couple of quick settings like fan toggle, 144Hz screen mode, block calls, and quick screenshot.
There's also a quick shortcut to set up the shoulder triggers. It opens up an overlay menu with buttons representing the triggers. All you have to do is drag-and-drop them on the actions you'd want them to "trigger".
A dedicated button for combo execution is also at your disposal. Games that require a series of button presses can benefit from a one-click combo tap.
The Game Enhancements button, on the other hand, is all about fine-tuning the hardware to your liking. You can boost the CPU, the GPU, or both to increase performance. Of course, it goes without saying that this would have a negative impact on battery life and the fan will probably start spinning faster to compensate for the extra heat.
Additional settings for the screenshots, screen recordings, fan control, LED customization and a summary of how much and what you've played for the day and the whole week can be found in the personalization menu in the upper-right corner.
Unfortunately, we don't have the controller or the docking station so we can't go into detail about those accessories, but they do offer some additional options in the Game Space 2.1 menu.
And aside from some of the confusing translations, we didn't have any issues with the Game Space itself. In fact, the floating window for incoming calls during gaming is pretty neat and surprised us there were no issues arising from the overlay.
And we can't miss noting that the shoulder triggers really make a difference in some game genres. They are particularly useful in first-person and third-person shooters. Say you map the left trigger to aim down at sight and the right one for shooting, it's much easier to control your character that way than using the software buttons on the screen. You also get a nice tactile and haptic feedback from the precise vibration motor (kudos for that), and you can also adjust the pressure at which the triggers react. After all, nothing beats hardware buttons when it comes to gaming.