I'm coming from a Oneplus 6 and have owned a lot of other Android devices, off the top of my head these include the Nexus 4, OnePlus One, Asus Nexus 7, Samsung Tab Pro 8.4, Galaxy S7 Edge, Huawei Nexus 6P, LG v20, Lenovo ZUK Z2, Mediapad T5, Red Magic 5g etc.
Let's start with the Red Magic 5G. I ordered this a few months ago off tradingshenzhen, it got to me fast enough and the price was fair, but their customer support was not very good (I will not be ordering from them again cause of this https://i.imgur.com/2qd4zPM.jpg). They'll get your phone to you and offer one year warranty but don't expect them to be nice or helpful in the event you dont like your phone or have any issues.
Either way, here my notes on the phone:
I got the Chinese version of the phone. I found the software experience to actually be very good despite this, ignoring the fact that there were some chinese apps that I didnt understand. I'm sure if I removed these few apps I would have had a very good software experience. The software felt very smooth and stable. There were some pretty cool features, but not a ton. Experience felt close to stock android, but lightly skinned with the right theme after some setting up. It didnt come with play store, I just had to install the playstore from apk, chrome and google keyboard then I had an experience not all that different from my OnePlus 6. My red magic 5g got a lot of updates in the time I had it, with big change logs, I'm not sure if global rom users will get that same experience since these types of phones seem to get better support in China.
Display and Body
This is where my mind was blown. That 144hz screen is beautiful and smooth. This was definitely what I loved about the phone most. However, I had my gripes with this screen. For one the, bezels were huge, and the corners were too rounded (meaning less screen). They were so rounded that it was distracting to me, almost as much as having a notch.. This might be a gross exaggeration but I hope it gets my point across. As for the large bezels, it feels like they used the "gaming phone" identity as an excuse to cut corners here with bezel size. It bothered me that there's so much potential screen space being wasted with those large unused bezels. Now the body has very nice comfortable shape, so I don't have anything against that, but it is kind of big, and it is pretty heavy. It felt very premium and nice in hand, but at the same time, it was not comfortable to one hand for long periods of time, it's size and heft also made it a little unwieldy for one handing. This is the main reason I ended up selling this phone. I would often find myself going back to my oneplus 6 instead of using my new phone cause it was just way more comfortable to use with one hand.
Battery and Misc
Microphone was good according to those that I called, speakers sounded fine to me, werent bad at all. They were stereo speakers, one bottom firing and one in the ear piece, which was nice. Battery was meh. For a 4500mah battery phone, it died very fast. Battery felt about the same as my much older oneplus 6 in it's current state.. Around 6-7 hours of screen on time with regular use (not gaming). With gaming I got around a little more than half that. It charged at a decent speed, not slow but not astonishingly fast. My Red magic 5g benchmarked around 595k on Antutu, so it was very fast. The fan was barely audible in it's intelligent mode or whatever it's called. Personally I think the fan is pointless, and that good thermal design makes a much bigger difference. I loved having the shoulder triggers for gaming. playing games like codm, pubg, etc were great experiences. I sunk hours into these games even though I dont tend to really do any smartphone gaming. I don't really like that manufacturers are trying so hard to make phones into "gaming phones" cause they are still just phones at the end of the day. If anything I would like to have a good value flagship (or flagship killer) with shoulder triggers, it doesn't need to be a "gaming phone". For instance, I think the oneplus 8 (or pro) but with a flat screen + shoulder triggers would be the perfect and ideal phone for me.
I also ordered the Realme X2 Pro but the seller (realme's aliexpress store) cancelled this order due to shipping issues. Then I ordered the Poco F2 Pro but GearBest hadn't shipped it out even after 3 weeks so I cancelled the order. Finally I ordered the Ace2 off Giztop and this was a much better experience. Order placed Friday, shipped out Monday, then received next week Monday (today). The Ace2 was discounted to $589.99 and I got a further 4% discount with the GTRE4 code. Shipping was $30 (DHL) and duties/brokerage was $37, so I paid a grand total of around (roughly) $632. Not bad. The shipping, handling, duties and fees all together were still less than Canadian tax (13%). Canadian retailers sell phones like the Poco F2 pro for around $580 (USD), after taxes that's $655, not even including shipping costs. Much better to wait a little for longer shipping and buy from outside of Canada it seems. So let's talk about this phone.
First and foremost, I'd like to note I do get buyer's remorse (like I did with my red magic 5g), but I've never had any issues post-purchase rationalization. If I don't like something, I don't try to justify it, especially where phones are concerned and having owned so many different devices, both good and bad. For example, the LG V20 was my most expensive purchase and easily the phone I hated most out of all the devices I've owned. I had already paid for it, so I stuck with it even though I hated it for at least a year, before finally getting my current oneplus 6. The LG V20 was so bad that I thought my much older nexus 6p was wayyy better, I wanted to go back to it so bad but I had already handed it down to my mom. While I liked the red magic 5g, I didn't like it enough to keep it and ended up selling it at a loss. My point here is, that these are just my opinions, but I do try to be as unbiased as I can be. I bought the Ace2 knowing that I would sell or return it if I didnt like it, like I did with my Red Magic 5g, so I didnt have my hopes high or any plans to keep it if I wasnt happy with it.
The unboxing experience was very basic, like any other Chinese smartphone so I will skip this part, but it does come with a pre-applied screen protector and a surprisingly nice clear case. I thought it would be a cheap clear case that looked nasty on the phone.
First thing I did was update the phone's firmware, then do a full factory reset. I set it up fresh, uninstalled what chinese bloat I could (there was a lot), installed playstore with the first apk I found, then using that I installed chrome + google keyboard. After turning on the app drawer, and dark mode I felt I had a very usable experience similar to what I had on my oneplus 6. I hate migrating phones, but the experience here wasnt too bad, I downloaded and used oppo's phone clone app from my oneplus 6, it connected the two phones with direct wifi and copied 30 gigs of data over in around 15min. I did not get much control in what gets copied over but it was still a very simple and hassle free process that I could appreciate.
I'm going to start with this phone's biggest weakness. So the software is.. a mixed bag. Say what you will about the design, but ColorOS and oppo launcher are really well optimized. ColorOS has really come a long way from what it used to be. I tested a bunch of different launchers on this phone but I ended up going back to the oppo launcher cause it was just wayyy smoother and responsive. I wish that's all I had to say about the software but there's a lot more to say.. like how bloated this phone comes. Just random chinese apps everywhere. Most of them can be uninstalled off the bat, but the rest need a little more work to get rid of, including ADB and a little research. I actually think I would have liked coloros a bit more than oxygenos had this been a global version and came with less bloat. It's just a big hassle that I'm sure nobody wants to deal with after getting a new phone. The software experience here is great- if you're chinese. If you're not, you have a whole lot of work to do to get it somewhere good. On the other hand, I thought coming from oxygenos I thought this would be a complete downgrade, but much to my surprise there are a lot of things it actually does better. There are way more features, yes I mean useful ones, it feels smoother and more responsive for some reason (the animations are way quicker and smoother). I think ColorOS isn't actually that bloated once you get rid of the apps you don't need (using ADB where you need to). OxygenOS is great and used to be way ahead of it's time, but I feel the other choices available have caught up while OxygenOS hasn't really gone anywhere. My OnePlus 6 barely gets updates and is slow to get them when it ever even gets any. I've noticed that's a common occurrence with OnePlus devices, you get a lot of quick updates when your device is still a new release, but then it gets put on the backburner as new devices come out.
This display is amazing, it's breathtaking. Side by side with my oneplus 6 it looks and feels like an upgrade in every way. The colors are better, and the smoothness is so satisfying, every bit as much as the 144hz display I had on my red magic 5g, which further leads me to believe anything above 90hz isn't really worth the price premium and battery cost. The punch hole was a little distracting at first since I wasnt used to it, but I quickly got used to it and dont even notice anymore. It's a very small punchole and is a nice upgrade from the big notch my oneplus 6 had. I would rather have this punch hole then the huge top bezel (and lost screen space) the red magic 5g had any day. I didn't realize this until I had the red magic 5g in my hand and wish I realized this sooner. The whole point of notches and punch hole I think is to give us more screen where we used to have bezel, and this is something I appreciate a lot more now. One of the biggest things for me here is that the screen is flat. I'm soo glad that I didn't have to compromise with curved edges. After owned an s7 edge, I never want to deal with that again. I know they aren't as bad as they used to be, but I still think it's silly to have to compromise with how the light reflects off of curved edges, the accidental touches or touch rejection, finding screen protectors that work, etc. If flat screens are cheaper I dont see why more manufacturers dont choose to go this route on their budget flagships at least (looking at you mi 10 non pro and oneplus 8 non pro).
This phone is very solid and quality feeling. It doesn't have any super outstanding premium feeling that a higher end flagship might give you, but it does not feel cheap at all. The body is your typical metal frame, gorilla glass 5 sandwhich build. I have to say though, I love this two tone color on the back. It's like a black/navy type color that looks really elegant and sexy in my opinion. I hate oreo shaped camera modules but this is the one phone that I think it actually looks good on because of it's simple minimalist design. My favorite part of this phone is the weight and size. It's almost the same as my oneplus 6, in both weight and size, but has a larger screen. To me, that's amazing, because looking at all the new SD865 phones released this year it felt like I was going to have to give up the light weight and compact size of the oneplus 6 to upgrade to a "better" phone. It's one of the smallest and lightest Snapdragon 865 phones available and it IS the smallest and lightest one available with a flat screen, which exactly what I wanted. It just feels soooo comfortable in hand compared to anything else I've recently used. They really nailed the comfort aspect with this phone. I had no idea this was going to matter so much to me until I used the red magic 5g for a week (which isnt even that big or heavy for a gaming phone, there are worse offenders out there like the black shark 3). I can see why some people really want smaller phones now. For me, I like having a big screen, so it's not smaller phones that I want, but phones that have better screen to body and weight ratios.
Now here's where I found a nice surprise. Good stereo speakers. Never thought I would ever care about having this. I'm a headphone guy, and phone speakers always suck anyways so why would I care (so I thought). These are by far the best phone speakers I've ever heard, and they somehow blew me away even though I've never cared about how good the speakers on a phone were. They get very loud, and they sound very full. Even at the loudest volume setting where I expected the fidelity to deteriorate, it still had nice clear, smooth, full sounding stereo audio. I saw someone on reddit asking for a phone recommendation with good stereo speakers, apparently it was a must for him, and I didn't get why until now. I no longer feel the need to grab my headphones when I want to watch a youtube video, the stereo experience on this is just much better. There is still a con to be talked about however, no headphone jack. Having a headphone jack would have been nice, and even cooler if the phone came with a nice DAC (pretty much the only thing LG does right in their phones). Not a huge deal for me, I would be using bluetooth or a USB DAC anyways if it didnt come with a good internal DAC but it does make things less convenient in a pinch.
Battery and Performance
Well, it has a snapdragon 865, haven't had a single hiccup yet. Phone is blazing fast as expected. Coloros is well optimized too. Battery is good too, I will report screen on times soon. Much better than my red magic 5g so far from what I can tell. The main star of this show though is that 40w wireless charging and 65w wired charging. Charging cable that it came with is kind of short but the phone charges so fast I don't think it matters. 4000mah might seem small compared to alternatives, but coloros is surprisingly very efficient with it, even with 90hz on and all the chinese bloat it came with. Im surprised they managed to fit a battery this size and a 40w wireless charging coil in such a compact and light phone (relative to similar spec phones).
I think this is what the OnePlus 8 should have been, and I hope for others that this is what the Realme X3 pro is going to be if not better. There are a lot of things more expensive oneplus 8 is missing out on here, like the 65w charging, wireless charging, flat screen, etc. The only thing I think it has going for it is that it seems like a nicer build/quality phone with better software. I think the Poco F2 pro on the other hand is a solid contender because it actually comes with global software, has a huge battery + great screen on time, has a decent camera and will have a big developer community. I ultimately ended up passing up on this phone because it doesnt have 90hz, wireless charging, 65w charging, doesnt support very many frequencies, has a slower face unlock and cause its a pretty heavy phone (so not as comfortable), but this phone will make sense as a better choice for many others that have different priorities. Pick what suits you and your needs best. All in all, this is a very underrated phone that doesn't get talked enough about outside of Asia. I think if you're interested in the Ace2, feel it fits what you want well at a price that you think is good that you shouldn't be afraid to buy it. It's a great phone and it's worth it. Just note that you may need to do some extra work to make the software experience good for you because of the chinese bloat (as you would need to with any chinese rom phone anyways). Not to say that the software is bad, it's very good software that's just marred by all the extra chinese stuff it comes with that most of us probably dont want or need.
If there's anything more you guys would like to know about any of the phones that I own or have owned please let me know. I'll try to answer them the best I can. Would love to see some form of an Ace2 community grow but I won't be surprised if it's just me even months later.