Nubia RedMagic 7 Gaming Phone Review

Power. Whether you like to admit it or not, everyone is obsessed with it. Whether you have it, whether you can get it, or whether you think someone has it that doesn’t deserve it. Modern technology reflects that obsession, with much of humanity foregoing the search for enlightenment in favour of the fastest processor, the most megapixels, or the objectively best screen technology.

Gamer-focussed mobile phones are the perfect storm of these technological desires, pulling together a host of different technologies with a laser-like obsession on being the most powerful gaming platform you can fit in your pocket. It might occasionally make the odd phone call, too.

RedMagic, a gamer-centric subsidiary of Chinese manufacturer Nubia, are old hands at this, and after the impressive RedMagic 6 they’re back with the unsurprisingly named RedMagic 7. What is surprising is that ahead of more well-known manufacturers, the RedMagic 7 plays host to the absolute latest in mobile technology, immediately making it the most powerful gaming phone we’ve ever seen.

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The spec list for the RedMagic 7 reads like a wishlist for mobile gamers, with up to 18GB of RAM and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, a chipset which we’re going to see in most of 2022’s flagship phones, including Samsung’s S22 range. The 8 Gen 1 CPU sees a 20% leap in processing power over the previous Snapdragon 888, and 30% improved power efficiency, meaning it can go harder for longer. The upgraded GPU sees a similar improvement with rendering and efficiency, meaning it can make the most of the high refresh rates of the RedMagic 7’s screen.

The vibrant 6.8” FHD+ AMOLED screen comes in with a 165hz refresh rate, giving gamers who dabble in competitive titles like PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty Mobile a distinct advantage. In action it feels snappy and responsive, whether you’re gaming or doom scrolling through Twitter. You can set the screen to be locked to either 60hz, 90hz, 120hz, or 165hz with those higher rates coming with an additional power cost.

For average daily use the 90hz option provided the best mix of smooth operation without any noticeable extra drain on the 4500mAh battery life. The RedMagic 7 apparently analyses your application use and makes refresh rate changes automatically to improve battery life, though oddly there’s no distinct setting to put this into action. It’s great if it’s doing it in the background, I’d just like something meaningful to confirm that’s what it’s actually doing.

That 4500mAh battery does a good job at keeping you going all day, and through regular daily use it easily made it all the way to bedtime with about an hour of gaming included. Pushing things harder will have an impact on that, though, and opting for 165hz refresh rates and ultra graphical presets saw the RedMagic 7 chew through a good quarter of the battery’s charge in 40 minutes. This is probably the phone’s key weakness – the older ASUS ROG Phone 5 has a 6000mAh battery, by comparison – however thanks to the platform’s fast charging capabilities you can use up to a 120w fast charger to refuel it in record time. There’s a 65W charger in the box, and I used a 96w charger that had it returned to full charge in around 30 minutes.

The body of the phone boasts a solid metallic backplate, with a raised central camera hub hosting the RedMagic 7’s three lenses and its LED flash. Our review unit came in Pulsar, an iridescent purple/blue hue that will delight any gamer that likes RGB and neon lighting. It reflects the light in an array of colours, and personally I think it looks great. Then again, I do have a PC that would shame Blackpool illuminations.

I’m fairly certain it will look out of place in pretty much any serious workplace, but it does come with a rubberised case in the box that reduces the paint job’s visibility. You’ll also want to use it as the reflective back panel is a horrendous fingerprint magnet.

Besides the camera hub, the other main features of the backplate are a fan vent which is semi-hidden by the design, a pair of so-small-as-to-be-pointless RGB strips, the RedMagic logo which illuminates, and the RedMagic name that sits centrally in unassuming white.

The metal frame of the RedMagic 7 matches up with the colour scheme, though it’s a solid dark blue on the colourful Pulsar version. You can find all of the phone’s physical controls wrapped around here, with the right-hand side playing host to a pink power button, and the two 500hz touch-sensitive gaming triggers. You’ll also find another cooling vent here as well.

Meanwhile the left side of the body has a matching vent, a volume rocker, and the dedicated Game Space switch that RedMagic gaming phones have always included. A simple click takes you into the dedicated gaming area, laying out all of your games in an easy to access way, while also letting you make a few other changes to your setup.

The top of the RedMagic 7 features my favourite inclusion on any modern phone: a 3.5mm headphone jack. Some companies have realised that this remains the best way to get high-quality audio into your ears, while it has the added benefit of reducing additional battery load from a Bluetooth connection. It isn’t in the best place for gaming mind you, hindering access to the left trigger.

There is the option of Dolby DTS:X Ultra here, with options for music, movies, and gaming. The music preset is horrible, but both the movie and gaming options add an extra degree of immersion to whatever content you’re indulging in. You’re best sticking with a regular equaliser when it comes to your tunes.

The bottom of the phone boasts the USB-C socket for charging and accessories, which isn’t the best place for it to be if you’re intending on playing games and charging at the same time. There’s also the dual sim tray and a single down-firing speaker squirreled away down here. The RedMagic 7 is definitely capable of pumping out some loud audio, but it’s of the tinny and clipped variety when you crank things up.

Gaming is the central focus here, and the RedMagic 7 provides a host of options once you’ve dropped into a game via the Game Space. Swiping in from the left brings up a window with everything you could want to change on the fly, from overclocking the CPU through to screen refresh, recording, and controller settings. You can save these settings on a per-game basis, meaning that you only have to get it right once.

Playing PUBG Mobile, Asphalt 9, and Call of Duty Mobile with the RedMagic 7 proved to be a high-quality experience, and the screen’s high refresh rate and powerful chipset meant that the action remained gloriously smooth throughout. Having cranked the visuals and the frame rate to the maximum the phone did become noticeably warm while gaming, though not uncomfortably so. Knocking the settings back down helped to reduce the heat.

The in-built fans also helped to reduce the temperature, with the fan capable of hitting 20,000 RPM in its bid for cooling. Unsurprisingly, those high rotations also produce a noticeable sound – RedMagic claim this is only 28 decibels – and a warm breeze alongside when the phone’s internals have warmed up. It’s louder than my original Switch when playing in handheld, but the pitch isn’t overly annoying. If you’re playing near family members they might well notice it, but as an in-built solution it does a good job of reducing the phone’s temperature. If you’re really serious you might want to consider RedMagic’s Turbo Cooler add-on.

In 3DMark the RedMagic 7 turned in an incredible performance, scoring 10045 on the Wild Life test and putting itself ahead of pretty much every other current flagship phone. It put in a similarly impressive performance via Geekbench, with a CPU single core score of 1232 and a multi-core score of 3748. On the computation end of things, the OpenCL score was 6129 and the Vulkan 8512.

To put those numbers into context the Samsung S21 Ultra 5G, last year’s flagship phone to beat, has a single-core score of 924 and a multi-core score of 3085, with the RedMagic 7 trouncing it for power. While there’s some question as to whether these tests are 100% reflective of a device’s capabilities, it’s clear that the RedMagic 7’s inclusion of the latest technology has resulted in a hugely capable mobile phone that’s perfect for complicated tasks and advanced visuals.

The RedMagic 7 is a big phone, but chances are if you’re interested in this device you’ll want all the screen real estate you can get. The front-facing camera is tucked into a slim bezel at the top of the phone, meaning that the screen is free of pin-holes or notches to affect the viewing experience. The under-screen fingerprint sensor is extremely fast and accurate, and it was a rare occasion that it didn’t register during our testing.

Once you’ve opened things up, the RedMagic OS 5.0 isn’t an overly intrusive take on Android 12, though there’s the occasional linguistic oddity in the English translation. It does continue the gamer aesthetic in its icons, but you’ll be immediately at home with it if you’ve had any modern Android phone. There are some clear annoyances though, including the fact that Google Pay won’t work with the handset due to changes made to the hardware.

The triple camera setup is equipped with neovision AI photography which certainly does some clever things when it comes to identifying what you’re shooting like telling you that a flower is a plant. There’s a 64MP main lens, an 8MP ultra-wide, and a Macro 2MP option, with the images proving to be nicely detailed and perfectly acceptable in regular lighting conditions, though they are a long way from challenging the top-tier camera’s in Apple, Samsung, and Google’s best phones. The front-facing camera meanwhile is a micro custom ultra-small 8MP number, and it’s certainly very small. It’s not that detailed though, and struggles in low-light, but it’ll be absolutely fine if you’re using it for some on-the-fly video chat.

Starting at $629 for the 12GB/128GB edition RedMagic 7 offers excellent value for money, packing in technology that you won’t find in any other phones right now. By comparison, the ASUS ROG Phone 5s, the most recent top-tier gaming phone, still retails for $999.99. Sure, it has a considerably bigger 6000mAh battery, but it’s also got the older Snapdragon 888 Plus chipset holding it back from achieving the same level of performance.

The RedMagic 7 launches globally on the 10th March, 2022.

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Summary
The RedMagic 7 is a hugely powerful modern gaming phone, and at this moment in time it’s the best gaming phone out there. It’s still unlikely to attract too much mainstream attention, but if you’re looking for a phone where gaming is going to be the central focus this is the 2022’s first must-buy.
Good
  • Incredibly powerful
  • Great value for money
  • Attractive gamer-focussed design
Bad
  • Lacklustre cameras
  • UI is janky
  • No Google Pay
8
Written by
TSA's Reviews Editor - a hoarder of headsets who regularly argues that the Sega Saturn was the best console ever released.