RedMagic 7 Review: The ultimate smartphone hardware, with one major compromise

RedMagic 7 Review: The ultimate smartphone hardware, with one major compromise

Generally speaking, even the flagship smartphone market is filled with compromises. If you want to pick up one of the best smartphones in the business, typically you’re going to end up foregoing something that another user may have felt was a dealbreaker. For some people, it’s the lack of a headphone jack, for some gamers, it’s the lack of game-related design choices, and for some enthusiasts, it’s compromises made in the performance. What if I told you that the RedMagic 7 is the ultimate smartphone and cuts virtually no corners?

For context, RedMagic is a gaming-oriented smartphone brand that aims to make the best gaming phones on the market, and the RedMagic 7 is the next iteration of that with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 powering the entire setup. It packs a built-in fan, shoulder triggers that can be mapped to the screen, and it even has a headphone jack atop the massive 6.8-inch 165Hz screen.

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This phone really does seemingly have everything, but what’s the catch? Well as is typically the case with RedMagic phones, it’s a combination of software quality and software updates. If you don’t care about either of those things though (and it’s difficult to really get past the frustration at times), then honestly, I don’t really think there’s much of a catch at all. There’s also the lack of a physical retail distribution setup in most major markets of the world, but you should be able to buy the phone from the online store and have it shipped globally.

    The RedMagic 7 is the latest gaming phone from RedMagic, and it packs all of the top-tier gaming hardware you'd expect.

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The back of the RedMagic 7 with the phone sitting on a box


RedMagic 7: Specifications

Specification RedMagic 7
Dimensions and Weight
  • 170.6 x 78.3 x 9.5mm
  • 215g
Display
  • 6.8-inch AMOLED (2400 x 1080)
  • 165Hz refresh rate
  • Up to 720Hz touch sampling rate
  • 10-bit color support
  • 100% DCI-P3 wide color gamut coverage
  • DC Dimming
  • Gorilla Glass 5
SoC
  • Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
    • 1x ARM Cortex-X2 @ 3.0GHz
    • 3x ARM Cortex-A710 @ 2.50GHz
    • 4x ARM Cortex-A510 @ 1.80GHz
  • Adreno 730 GPU
  • 4nm process
RAM and Storage
  • 12GB/16GB/18GB RAM
  • 128GB/256GB UFS 3.1 flash storage
Battery & Charging
  • 4,500 mAh battery
  • 65W fast charger (inside the box)
Rear Camera
  • Primary: 64MP
  • Secondary: 8MP ultra-wide
  • Tertiary: 2MP macro
Front Camera 8MP
Other features
  • Dual stereo speakers
  • Built-in active cooling fan
  • ICE 8.0 Multi-dimensional Cooling System
  • Three microphones
  • Dual shoulder trigger buttons
  • DTS sound
Connectivity
  • 5G NR
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • NFC
  • WiFi 6
  • 2×2 MIMO
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • USB-C
Security Under-display fingerprint scanner
Software Android 12 with RedMagic OS 5.0

About this review: I received the RedMagic 7 for review from the company on the 26th of January, 2022. RedMagic did not have any inputs into the contents of this review.


RedMagic 7: Display

  • Big and bright AMOLED display
  • 165Hz refresh rate
  • No notch, no punch holes

RedMagic 7 full 165Hz display

The RedMagic 7 features a full HD 165Hz 6.8-inch AMOLED panel, and it is huge. It’s completely unimpeded by a notch or punch hole, and it gets plenty bright. It’s fantastic for gaming or media consumption thanks to its size and the fact that nothing encroaches on the display, but it’s really hard to convey just how big it is. It makes total sense for a gaming phone though.

The RedMagic 7 is fantastic for gaming or media consumption thanks to its size and the fact that nothing encroaches on the display

As for the display quality itself, this is my first time ever experiencing 165Hz, and the difference over even a 144Hz display is slightly noticeable. There is definitely an element of diminishing returns as you increase in refresh rates, but 165Hz is great in its own right. There are also multiple options to choose from as you can choose 165Hz, 120Hz, 90Hz, or 60Hz, in order to decrease power consumption.

The display is surrounded by minimal bezel, with a small amount of space for the selfie camera and a small amount of space at the bottom of the display. It’s a completely flat panel, too, and comes with a pre-applied screen protector.


RedMagic 7: Design

  • Headphone jack
  • Shoulder triggers
  • Built-in fan

RedMagic 7 back RGB fan while switched on

The RedMagic 7 packs basically everything you could want in a gaming smartphone. There’s a headphone jack at the top, shoulder-triggers at the top and bottom of the right-hand side, and a slider on the top left that enters your phone into gaming mode. The back features a very RGB-heavy faux-transparent design, while also displaying multiple pieces of marketing information.

I'm a big fan of the RedMagic 7's design

I’m a big fan of the RedMagic 7’s design, but I can definitely understand that it’s a polarising one. The three cameras are in line with the curved back of the phone so as to not stand out which is a plus, and the phone doesn’t really rock on a table.

The one issue that I had with this phone’s design is that the fan intake on the back of the phone can still be blocked if the phone is down on a table. It’s admittedly unlikely you’d be playing games while not holding your phone upright, though. The presence of the fan also means that the phone is not IP rated for water or dust resistance, which can be a dealbreaker for people considering several smartphones in the market now tout water resistance as a marketing feature.


RedMagic 7: Performance

  • Latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset
  • Great sustained performance

RedMagic 7 Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 emblazoned on the back

The Red Magic 7 packs the latest and greatest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, which we would expect to see in a gaming phone. It has all the generational leaps over its predecessors and a 4nm node size for better performance without a substantial increase in power draw. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 retains the 1+3+4 configuration which Qualcomm has been running for a while, with the single Prime core being based on ARM’s new Cortex-X2.

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in the RedMagic 7 performs just as well as you would expect

The Kryo cores are based on the ARMv9 architecture. The first CPU designs to be announced using the new technology were the Cortex-X2, Cortex-A710, and Cortex-A510, and those are the exact CPU designs that form the basis for Qualcomm’s Kryo chips. The Cortex-A710 promises a 30% boost in efficiency and a 10% performance uplift over its predecessor, the A78. The Cortex-A710 cores are clocked at 2.5GHz. As for the three Kryo Efficiency cores, they are based on the new Cortex-A510 design. A major criticism of last year’s Efficiency cores in the Snapdragon 888 surrounded the use of the aging Cortex-A55 cores, so now we should see a nice efficiency boost this year. The Cortex-A510 boasts a 35% increase in performance over the A55, with a 20% efficiency improvement, too. These cores are clocked at 1.79GHz.

We will be analyzing the performance of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 to a greater level of detail in a future article. However, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in the RedMagic 7 performs just as well as you would expect, and I’ve found its performance in gaming (including in emulation through AetherSX2 and Dolphin Emulator) to be excellent.

Benchmarks: Geekbench 5 & AndroBench

The RedMagic 7 performs well in both storage speed and in Geekbench 5. Storage speed is important for gaming as it ensures fast, consistent load times in your games, as slower storage speed will act as a bottleneck.

As for the Geekbench 5 results, they are exactly as we expect from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 according to benchmarks that we ran on the Qualcomm Reference Device.

Sustained performance

Sustained performance is one of the most important metrics to pay attention to when using a gaming smartphone. If the sustained performance is poor, then you’ll have greatly reduced performance after what could potentially be a short period of time. I used the CPU Throttling Test app on the Google Play Store for half an hour to test the thermal throttling on the RedMagic 7, and I was impressed by the results. I ran the test twice; one with the fan off, and one with the fan on.

CPU Throttling Test
Developer: Unknown
Price: Free

Both results were pretty good, especially with the fan enabled. The only problem was that I found the phone became too hot to touch towards the end of the test. That’s not what you want from a gaming phone, and was quite alarming even when thinking of what could potentially be the long-term health of the phone’s internals, particularly the battery.


RedMagic 7: Software

  • Bad software
  • Buggy
  • Poor translations

Software on RedMagic devices is where they really fall down, and this is no exception. It leaves a lot to be desired in the sense that, really, it’s just a poor experience. Inaccurate or strange translations plague the operating system and make it an interesting experience at times, and a lot of the design of the operating system is also very “gamery”. Furthermore, Google Pay doesn’t work, as it fails to pass Google’s Compatibility Test Suite when running a SafetyNet check.

The software on the RedMagic 7 leaves a lot to be desired

Despite all of that, I don’t mind a lot of the UX design of RedMagic OS, and I would be a lot more comfortable with it if it wasn’t so buggy. The launcher is terrible (and I can’t find a way to set a custom launcher of my own), I often can’t actually read notifications after unlocking my phone (it says that notifications are hidden as if I were on the lock screen), and it just feels very unpolished.

The sad thing is, this is the one major compromise I have found with the RedMagic 7. I genuinely love all of the other aspects of this phone, but somehow, it’s been completely screwed up by software. I couldn’t import my contacts in the Dialer (it told me “No vCard file found in storage”), and the always-on display can’t be set to be “always-on” — you need to choose a start time and an end time, which you can set one minute apart.

The only compliment I can really pass to the software is that it’s smooth and games run well, but that’s kind of the entire point of the phone. The most work has clearly been put into the company’s game space, which can be entered by flicking a red switch at the top left.

RedMagic OS Game Space

While it’s still filled with dodgy translations (and the occasional bugs), RedMagic’s game space is a lot better of an experience than anything else with this phone. It generally makes sense with a lot of useful features and attention to detail, something that you’d really be looking for from a gaming phone.

Game Space on the RedMagic 7 is one of the best gaming modes I've seen on a smartphone

Is it perfect? No, but it’s one of the best gaming modes I’ve seen on a smartphone. It will automatically enable the fans on your phone when you enter a game, and there are loads of features to engage with and try out while you’re gaming. It’s a pretty simple process to configure the shoulder triggers too, with special care taken towards helping users with PUBG Mobile in particular.


Is the RedMagic 7 worth your money?

Software issues are the biggest problem with the RedMagic 7, and I don’t just mean what I’ve outlined above. The company has a bit of a difficult history when it comes to consistently updating its smartphones, so you should judge the phone on what it is right now as against what it could become with a software update or two. You almost certainly will get some updates, but I would also be afraid of further bugs and other problems being introduced that it isn’t possible to roll back from. In an era when companies have polished UX and promise as many as four generations of Android updates, it is a bummer to get the experience that you get on the RedMagic 7.

As a result, unless you’re a die-hard gamer, this can be a hard phone to recommend. It’s the ultimate phone hardware — in that, it packs literally everything and the kitchen sink into one robust package — but it isn’t the ultimate phone because of that minute detail that the software is a completely poor experience. If you think you can get over that and all you want is a relatively inexpensive gaming phone, then by all means, the RedMagic 7 might well be worth your money.

    The RedMagic 7 is the latest gaming phone from RedMagic, and it packs all of the top-tier gaming hardware you'd expect.

      Features:

      Pros:

      Cons:

The RedMagic 7 will go on sale starting March 10 from Nubia’s global website. It will be available in three colors: Obsidian, Pulsar, and Supernova. The base 12GB/128GB model is priced at $629 / €629 / £529 while the 16GB/256GB variant will set you back $729 / €729 / £619. Finally, the top model with 18GB RAM and 256GB will retail at $799 / €799 / £679. Nubia says it plans to launch the RedMagic 7 Pro globally in Q2 2022. For €629, this would be a good deal if you can get past the software, but that is a fair bit to ask.

About author

Adam Conway
Adam Conway

I'm a senior editor at XDA-Developers. I have a BSc in Computer Science from University College Dublin, and I'm a lover of smartphones, cybersecurity, and Counter-Strike. You can contact me at [email protected] My Twitter is @AdamConwayIE and my Instagram is adamc.99.

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