REVIEWS

RedMagic 7 review: It won’t get heated, but you might

Nubia isn’t well-known in the US, but it’s been pushing out new gaming phones each year under its RedMagic brand, and the RedMagic 7 is the newest offering from the company. It packs the latest Snapdragon along with tons of RAM and the phone’s signature internal cooling fan, going toe-to-toe against giants at a fraction of the price.

The RedMagic 7 looks similar to the RedMagic 6S Pro, offering the same translucent rear that highlights the internal fan. This is a gaming phone, after all, so a gamer aesthetic is included, whether you want it or not. The latest RedMagic phone will not only be defined by its raw gaming power, but also its software, cameras, and support. Whether or not this will add up to a phone worth the $630 starting price when it launches on March 10th will ultimately come down to personal preference, a trend for Nubia that it just can’t seem to break.

The RedMagic 7 is a gaming device first and smartphone second. Gaming performance is excellent, but regular everyday use suffers from buggy software.


SPECIFICATIONS

  • Brand: Nubia
  • Storage: 128/256GB (UFS 3.1)
  • CPU: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
  • Memory: 12/16/18GB (LPDDR5)
  • Operating System: Android 12
  • Battery: 4500mAh w/ 65W Fast Charger, 11A dual battery cells in series
  • Display (Size, Resolution): FHD+, AMOLED, 165Hz Refresh Rate, 6.8 inches, 20:9, Resolution 1080*2400
  • Camera (Front): 8M
  • Cameras (Rear): 64M+2M+8M
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n/ac/ax 2x2mimo, WIFI6E, NFC (excluding ese), 7th Gen Fingerprint sensor (w/ increased heart rate detection)
  • Dimensions: 170.57mm x 78.33mm x 9.5mm
  • Colors: Supernova, Pulsar, Obsidian
  • Weight: 215g
  • Ports: USB Type C, Dual SIM slot, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Price: Starting at $629 ($729/$799)

PROS

  • Excellent gaming performance
  • Shoulder triggers are handy for many games
  • Haptics feel great in games
  • Internal fan helps with throttling
  • Massive amount of RAM is great for games and productivity
  • High framerate Full HD display is incredibly smooth
  • Long battery life and charges fast
  • Screen recording w/ inline sound and on-screen performance stats

CONS

  • Too buggy, unreliable for work
  • Cameras stink
  • No way to change the launcher
  • Calls are too loud even on the lowest volume setting
  • Haptics cause slowdown when typing
  • Google Pay unsupported due to manufacturer changes to the OS

Design, hardware, what’s in the box

The design of the RedMagic 7 is similar to 2021’s RedMagic 6S Pro, with a few minor differences. There are three color variations available this year, including black/red, blue/pink, and translucent black. I’m reviewing the Supernova model with the translucent rear that displays the LED-lit internal fan. The phone’s three cameras run down the middle of the phone’s back, though a larger bump now encapsulates the cameras and the flash. A vent has also been added to the backplate this year, which allows for more air to enter than a single vent.

All four sides of the device are slightly concave, with the right side (top in landscape) containing the phone’s two touch triggers. You can use the slightly raised edges to find the touch triggers when holding the phone in landscape. The rest of the indentations on the other three sides more than likely exist for parity, which is a fine look if you enjoy consistency as much as I do.

The top of the device houses the headphone jack and a mic, and the bottom has the SIM slot, mic, centered USB-C port, and speaker grill. The front-facing earpiece doubles as a speaker, so you get stereo sound in combination with the bottom-firing speaker. Still, two front-facing speakers would be better, especially for a gaming phone with plenty of available bezel below the screen. No matter the color variation you choose, gamer aesthetic is the flavor of the day. With so many subdued smartphone choices out there shooting for a minimal look, sometimes a little extravagance is welcome. Still, this design language won’t appeal to everyone.

On the left of the handset is the volume rocker, with a vent above, and the game mode slider is above that. The right houses another mic, an almost-centered power button, and the fan’s intake vent. With the power button on one side and the volume rocker on the other, using a controller clip can be challenging.

For security, there is an in-screen optical fingerprint reader. It is slow, so I recommend adding your fingers/thumbs twice for better coverage. Even then, sometimes the screen won’t unlock, so you’ll have to fall back to your pin, which is annoying when these sensors have existed for years.

Of course, the RedMagic 7 is built for gaming, so you get a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 with a choice of 12GB, 16GB, and 18GB of RAM. To power this hardware, there’s a 4500mAh battery that supports the 65W GaN charger, and it’s actually included with the phone). The fast charging even supports the internal fan so that you can cool the phone as you speedily top-off your juice, though this can be noisy in a quiet room. Luckily you have the option to turn off the fan when charging.

You also get a Full HD OLED display that tops out at a 165Hz refresh rate, and you can even cap the framerate at 60Hz, 90Hz, 120Hz, and 165Hz, depending on your needs, with no adaptive BS going on. I personally capped my device at 165Hz for the entire review, and everything was as smooth as silk. The colors are bright, with no visible jaggies around icons, and since the screen supports 700 nits, you don’t have to worry about too much washout when you’re outdoors.

At the low end, the 12GB RAM unit is paired with 128GB storage for $629 (jumping up to $729 for the 16GB/256GB unit and $799 for the 18GB/256GB unit in this review), which is excellent pricing for the hardware you get.

What’s really nice about the RedMagic 7 is that it comes packed with everything you need. You get a screen protector pre-applied, a hard-rubber protective case, as well as a USB-C charging cable, and a fast-charging power brick. It’s nice to see a manufacturer that still makes an effort.

Software, performance, and battery

Software is where things start to go south for the RedMagic 7. Since receiving my unit, I’ve had to fully wipe it three times. After an update, the always on display wouldn’t work (which is where you can see your notifications, so it’s kind of important for things like work). The AoD worked for a bit on the first wipe, but then it stopped working out of the blue. On the second wipe, the AoD didn’t function at all. I finally got it up and running for good on the third try. This situation is emblematic of the software experience on the RedMagic 7.

The phone ships with RedMagic’s proprietary dialer, and there is seemingly no way to sync your contacts to it, no matter how many times you add your Google account—it’s just outright broken. Thankfully, Google offers its own dialer on the Play Store, so you can install that to make calls instead.

The earpiece is calibrated far too loud when on a call. Even the lowest setting is ear-splitting.. In a quiet room, everyone can hear your entire conversation. When it comes to the RedMagic 7, endless bugs are to be expected. This is a running theme for RedMagic devices, and that’s because the focus of these phones is clearly centered around gaming, even when this focus causes such unpalatable consequences, like a phone that barely functions as a phone.

It’s not all bad news: I can report that the Red Magic launcher is finally fixed. For the last few iterations, the launcher would add extra home screens randomly. That’s now fixed, but you still can’t change the stock launcher. Even if you install a third-party launcher, there’s no way to permanently switch to it, which is totally baffling.

When the time comes to fire up a game, this is where you’ll find useful software. You can jump into the Game Space app by flipping the little red button on the upper left of the unit. This is where you can store all of your game shortcuts, launching them directly from this screen. Game Space includes a gameplay recorder, stats overlay, framerate adjustments, fan control, and settings for the shoulder triggers. Amazingly, all of the gaming-centric software works as expected.

I tested several games on the RedMagic 7, including Rocket League Sideswipe, Dead Cells, and Genshin Impact. I ran all gaming tests with the fan on to keep the phone from throttling gameplay. Rocket League held 60fps at max graphics at all times, Dead Cells held at 120fps at max graphics, and Genshin, well, Genshin is a special beast, but it was even able to hold 60fps at the maximum graphical settings. That’s no easy feat, illustrating the power of the hardware in the RedMagic 7.

As far as battery life is concerned, the 4500mAh will see you through at least two days of use on a single charge, and the included 65W Fast Charger ensures you can charge the unit within an hour. Whether you’re gaming or working, battery life is rarely an issue.

Cameras

RedMagic devices are not known for their cameras, and this holds true with the RedMagic 7. In fact, the RedMagic 7 uses the exact same sensors as the Redmagic 6s Pro, which used the same sensors as the RedMagic 6. You get an 8 MP front-facing camera, and the rear camera bump houses a 64 MP primary, an 8 MP ultra-wide, and a 2 MP bokeh.

The cameras are good enough for a gaming phone, though they won’t blow you away. Even on the 64 MP setting, finer details end up with odd outlines when a picture is busy, similar to a paintbrush effect but with more of a painted glass look when you zoom in. Shooting in low light is also problematic, where dark areas end up blurred.

Luckily, the portrait camera is pretty good. Even though it’s only 8 MP, portraits come out detailed, even in dimly-lit rooms, which is good news for those who plan to stream while using the front-facing camera.

So as expected, RedMagic hasn’t put much work into its cameras. They were good enough last year, and they are good enough this year. Fine for shooting outdoors, but pictures suffer when it’s dark or if objects are far away.

Should you buy it?

It depends. Are you looking for a powerful gaming phone and don’t mind dealing with buggy software and a lack of support? Then the RedMagic 7 may just fit your needs. Nubia has a knack for launching phones that offer the best specs at a fraction of the price. The RedMagic 7 starts at $629 for a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and 12GB RAM, plus you get RedMagic’s active cooling system. You’ll be hard-pressed to find similar gaming performance at such a low price point.

Of course, this low cost and high power comes with a bunch of caveats. A lot of the phone’s software isn’t fit for use, making it difficult to rely on the Red Magic for simple things like alerts or syncing contacts, drastically cutting into reliability for work and school. Then there are some odd limitations, too, like the inability to change the launcher, the slow fingerprint reader, or the loud in-call volume. There are too many noticeable cut corners, and the experience of using the RedMagic 7 suffers for it.

Still, if gaming is your primary purpose when using a smartphone, then the ReMagic 7 is definitely a deal worth considering. The high-refresh screen looks great, the internal fan does cut down on throttling, the shoulder triggers are helpful (in games like shooters), and the included tools like the screen recorder and in-game specs widget should easily appeal to streamers and let’s-players.

The latest RedMagic 7 won’t be for everyone, but when you consider what you get for $629, it can be easy to look past the RedMagic’s shortcomings. After all, those demanding games aren’t going to play themselves.

Buy it if…

  • You want the best specs for gaming without an extravagant price attached.
  • You don’t take many photos.

Don’t buy it if…

  • You require a reliable device for work.
  • You don’t play many mobile games.

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