Nubia makes a swift return with another gaming phone bargain, offering top-tier performance at a competitive price
- Unmatched gaming performance
- Dedicated gaming controls add a further dimension
- Large, responsive display
- Battery life has regressed
- Few advances from Redmagic 6S Pro
- UI still a bit of a mess
In my full-length review from October 2021, I called the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro “the most impressive all-round gaming phone yet”. Now here we are with its follow-up, the Nubia Redmagic 7, and yet again it’s an absolute corker.
In the world of “normal” smartphones, this might be considered an overly hasty turnaround. But in the spec-obsessed world of gaming phones, it’s merely keeping up with the times.
The key driver for the Redmagic 7 seems to be the switch to the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, with familiar specifications to be found elsewhere. While we might have hoped for something truly new and exciting, or at least for some of our issues with the Redmagic 6S Pro to have been addressed, this automatically makes it our new top pick for the committed mobile gamer.
Nubia Redmagic 7 review: What you need to know
The Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro went full steam ahead in providing the best environment possible for high-end mobile gaming, and the Nubia Redmagic 7 is no different.
This is essentially the Redmagic 6S Pro+, with a very similar form factor, display and camera system to the 6S Pro, but with a half-generational bump up in performance. On that front, the Snapdragon 888 Plus has been exchanged for the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and this is backed by either 12, 16 or 18GB of LPDDR5 RAM, which is more than enough for anything you might like to throw at it.
Redmagic has supported this cutting-edge chip with a meaty cooling system, which incorporates a physical Turbo Fan to keep things from getting too toasty during mammoth Genshin Impact sessions.
As before, the Redmagic 7 is fronted by a large 6.8in OLED display with an eye-catching 165Hz maximum refresh rate and a rarely matched 720Hz touch sampling rate. Again, this is all in service of a tip-top gaming experience.
You also get a pair of touch-sensitive shoulder buttons on the right-hand edge for a more tactile gaming experience – fans of competitive shooters and console ports take note.
READ NEXT: The best gaming phones to buy
Nubia Redmagic 7 review: Price and competition
One of the most appealing things about Redmagic phones is that they provide top-notch specifications for a remarkably low price. The Nubia Redmagic 7 is no different.
Prices start from just £529 for the Obsidian-shaded model with 12GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. This moves up to £619 for the Pulsar model (the one featured in this review) with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and tops out at £679 for the Supernova variant with 18GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
Away from the peculiar world of RGB lighting and physical fans, this £500 to £600 category is populated by the likes of the Google Pixel 6 and the Xiaomi 11T Pro. Neither have the raw power or silky screen tech of the Redmagic 7, but both have more subdued designs, decent cameras and less obnoxious software.
Nubia Redmagic 7 review: Design and key features
Another robust, relatively restrained gaming phone, the design of the Redmagic 7 is very close to the previous Redmagic 6S Pro.
Of course, “restrained” is an important qualifier, because gaming phones aren’t known for exhibiting a great deal of taste or restraint. They usually have the nasty habit of unleashing their inner 12-year-old, with garish RGB lighting and tacky body detailing.
Recent Redmagic phones have tended to tone those elements down a little, if not eradicate them completely, and the Redmagic 7 is similar.
My test model came in the Pulsar shade, which is a colour-shifting, semi-reflective combination of blue and purple. Subtle it ain’t, but nor is it totally repulsive, which is a small victory. There’s also a semi-transparent Supernova shade, which shows off some of the phone’s internals, including an RGB light-equipped fan.
At 171 x 78 x 9.5mm, the Redmagic 7 is just fractionally bigger than the 6S Pro, which is to say it’s still quite a hefty handset. It weighs the same 215g which, while hardly light, isn’t anywhere close to pocket-stretching offenders like the Asus ROG Phone 5 (238g) or the Legion Phone Duel 2 (259g).
READ NEXT: Nubia Redmagic 8 Pro review
The reasons for the Redmagic 7’s above-average size are all in line with that gaming phone brief. The bezels have been made larger so that you don’t have a distracting selfie camera obstructing your view, with the front-facing camera instead housed in the phone’s forehead.
It’s a shame to note that Nubia hasn’t addressed my criticism of the Redmagic 6S Pro and used this extra real estate to supply a pair of front-firing speakers, as you get with the Legion Phone Duel 2. However, you still get a decent pair of stereo speakers.
That extra thickness has a clear gaming purpose in the way of cooling. As mentioned already, the Redmagic 7 packs a physical fan that kicks into life whenever you boot up a CPU-intensive application, or when you manually activate it from the notification menu or the extravagant homescreen widget. There are vents on the left and right edges of the phone, and the fan creates quite a whir when it’s in action.
Another gaming-related flourish is the provision of a dedicated switch on the left edge of the phone, which instantly jumps you into Redmi’s landscape gaming UI. The idea is to provide a console-like interface for accessing your games and custom gaming settings, and it works rather well.
Nubia Redmagic 7 review: Display
Redmagic hasn’t changed things with its display offering, which isn’t a bad thing. This panel is plenty large enough at 6.8in across the diagonal, and while a resolution of 2,400 x 1,080 (FHD+) isn’t full-on flagship standard, it’s ideal for hardcore mobile gaming, with performance taking precedence over pixels.
The stand-out feature here relates to the display’s responsiveness. With a maximum refresh rate of 165Hz, the Redmagic 7 goes above and beyond the 120Hz standard of regular flagship phones. Meanwhile, a 720Hz touch sampling rate makes it two to four times more responsive to inputs. You won’t notice the latter in general use, but it could make the difference in competitive shooters such as Call of Duty Mobile and PUBG Mobile.
This isn’t the brightest display I’ve ever encountered, but it proves more than enough for outdoor use. Redmagic states a maximum brightness of 700cd/m², and I measured a maximum luminance of around 500cd/m² with autobrightness switched off. This is the one notable upgrade on the Redmagic 6S Pro, which hit closer to 410cd/m².
READ NEXT: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review
Colour accuracy is a bit on the oversaturated side, however, with a recorded sRGB gamut coverage of 100% and a total volume of 165% in the default Vivid display setting. That’s comparable to the Redmagic 6S Pro, and you’ll find more colour-accurate screens from non-gaming flagships.
Nubia Redmagic 7 review: Gaming, performance and battery life
The main point of progression from the Redmagic 6S Pro to the Redmagic 7 is the power plant at the heart of both phones. Redmagic has moved on from the Snapdragon 888 Plus to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in 2022.
Here’s a quick one-line summary: it’s not a revolutionary leap in power when it comes to the CPU, but the GPU gains are rather impressive.
In CPU processing terms, I recorded an average Geekbench 5 single-core score of 1,240 and an average multicore score of 3,777. In both instances, that’s fewer than 100 points higher than the Redmagic 6S Pro managed in the same test a few months ago.
However, the GPU benchmark margins are much more pronounced. In my GFXBench Car Chase tests, the Redmagic 7 averaged around 20fps more than its predecessor. In the Manhattan 3 tests it averaged 18fps more for onscreen and a whole 84fps more for offscreen.
There have been early suggestions that Qualcomm has perhaps pumped up the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 a little too much, with manufacturers (or more specifically their precious flagship phones) wilting under the extra heat. The Redmagic 7 shows what this chip can really do with a sufficiently meaty cooling system. For comparison, I ran the Oppo Find X5 Pro through the same tests as an example of a standard flagship phone running the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. It scored lower across all four GPU tests, most notably falling 30fps short in Car Chase and 103fps short in Manhattan 3 (both onscreen).
In practical terms, running the famously demanding Genshin Impact on the absolute highest settings, the frame rate stuck fairly resolutely to 60fps while running literal circles around a group of flame-spitting enemies, with only the very odd dip into the 50s. In the exact same circumstances, the Redmagic 6S Pro dropped into the low 50s after about a minute of holding its own.
Like its immediate predecessor, the gaming gains extend beyond mere performance. Playing Call of Duty Mobile with the phone’s shoulder buttons grants a genuine advantage, once you’ve mapped the ADS and shoot commands accordingly.
It isn’t all good news, however. Stamina has taken a big hit from the Redmagic 6S Pro. I’m not sure why, but the company has rolled the latter’s battery capacity back from a healthy 5,050mAh to a somewhat anaemic 4,500mAh.
In our regular looping video test, the Redmagic 7 lasted 15hrs 37mins, which is a considerable six hours less than the Redmagic 6S Pro, and more than eight hours less than the ROG Phone 5s Pro. For avid gamers running high-end games for extended periods, this could be a problem.
Charging is handled via a 65W fast charger that’s bundled into the box. There’s still no wireless charging support, which is a common omission among gaming phones.
Nubia Redmagic 7 review: Software
Nubia hasn’t changed its approach to software for the Redmagic 7, even though it’s running the new RedMagic OS 5 on top of Android 12.
READ NEXT: Apple iPhone 14 review
You still have to contend with three comically in-your-face widgets on the main home screen. The largest of these simply activates the fan, while the others allow you to take your heart rate via the under-display fingerprint sensor and track your weekly gaming time.
There’s still a largely tacky selection of wallpaper options; notifications still seem mystifyingly inefficient with their use of space; and you still get some confusing pre-installed apps. NextWord Browser, in particular, is a downright weird mixture of iffy web browser and translation tool.
On the plus side, I didn’t spot any random outbreaks of Chinese text as I did with RedMagic OS 4.5 on the Redmagic 6S Pro. This one seems to be a little readier for western markets.
As before, Nubia’s gaming overlay is a genuinely powerful, useful and largely intuitive way to optimise your gaming experience. And lest we forget, we’re all here for the gaming.
Nubia Redmagic 7 review: Cameras
As far as I can tell, the camera system on the Nubia Redmagic 7 remains unchanged from the Redmagic 6S Pro. You get a triple-camera array led by a 64MP wide sensor and backed by an 8MP ultrawide, pointlessly accompanied by a 2MP macro sensor.
The 64MP snapper continues to be merely good enough for general shots in decent lighting. The detail and contrast levels are adequate, and the colours appear quite natural. Night shots generally get the tone right but look fuzzy and indistinct when exposed to any kind of close scrutiny.
The 8MP ultrawide, meanwhile, is a deeply unimpressive component. Shots taken with this sensor are lacking in detail, and they tend to blow out highlights. There’s no telephoto lens here, but that’s not unusual in a £500/£600 phone.
All in all, the Redmagic 7’s camera is just about fit to do a basic job, but you can get a better camera experience for much less money. If that’s where your priorities lie, check out the significantly cheaper OnePlus Nord 2 or the Realme 9 Pro Plus, or splash out £600 for the Pixel 6.
READ NEXT: The best phone camera to buy
Nubia Redmagic 7 review: Verdict
The Nubia Redmagic 7 is much the same as the Redmagic 6S Pro before it, which is both a good and a bad thing.
It inherits many of that phone’s foibles, including messy software and a deeply mediocre camera, while its stamina has taken a backwards step. But it also inherits that phone’s relatively tidy design, excellent display and brilliant gaming controls at a hugely competitive price.
Add in a notable bump in gaming performance from the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, which is put to better use here than in any early 2022 flagship we’ve used so far, and you have a new all-round gaming phone champion.