Should I buy the Nubia Red Magic 7?
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Nubia Red Magic 7 full review
Smartphones designed specifically for gaming still feel like a relatively new concept, but Nubia has been extremely prolific during that time. In the four years since the first Red Magic handset, the Chinese company has unveiled no fewer than 13 gaming phones.
Not all of these have been released outside China, but that doesn’t apply to the Red Magic 7 Series. Both the regular and Pro models are getting a global launch, although the Pro won’t arrive until later in the year.
As a result, it’s the standard Red Magic 7 that’s my focus here. On paper, there are only minor upgrades compared to 2021’s 6S Pro.
But almost no-one will be upgrading every six months, so the bigger question is how it stacks up to the best gaming phones you can buy. After spending a couple of weeks with the Red Magic 7, here’s my full review.
Design & Build
- Same 6.8in display with no notch
- Premium design and built
- Still bulky and heavy
Despite all the changes between generations, Red Magic phones have maintained a relatively consistent design throughout. It remains the case here as the Red Magic 7 is a large, bulky device with a bold aesthetic that’s sure to turn heads – but in the right way?
That’s especially true on the Cyborg model I tested, where transparent glass on the back allows you to see some internal screws and the built-in fan. This kicks into life when charging and running demanding apps, doing a good job of preventing any overheating.
It’s helped by a new third fan grille, which works alongside existing vents on either side of the phone. I was concerned about unintentionally blocking this while gaming but it was never an issue.
Despite not being visible, Nubia has used this finish as an opportunity to highlight the Red Magic 7’s key specs – by literally printing them all over the back. It leaves you in no doubt that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, 64Mp camera, 165Hz screen and 720Hz touch sampling rate are all on board.
Gaming enthusiasts may like this design, but it’s not something I’m a fan of. Alternatives are available in the form of Obsidian, Pulsar and Supernova finishes, although only the former has anything like an understated design.
Whichever you choose, a long glossy strip extends down the back of the of the phone. This is where you’ll find Red Magic branding, RGB lighting and a triple rear camera system – more on those later.
Impressively, Nubia has managed to get the cameras to sit almost flush with the back of the display. That means almost no movement when sitting flat on a table, although the phone is 9.5mm thick to make it possible.
Flipping the phone over reveals the same size display as its predecessor at 6.8in. Bezels here are a touch larger than on the 6S Pro, but they remain symmetrical. When regularly gaming in landscape mode, it makes a difference. Also, I doubt anyone is complaining about an 83.6% screen-to-body ratio.
There’s still plenty of room above the screen for an 8Mp selfie camera, which also supports face unlock. But I imagine most people will use the in-display fingerprint scanner, which Nubia says is better than ever. I didn’t notice any real difference compared to the 6S Pro, but it’s fast and reliable on both phones.
Not a lot has changed on the side of the Red Magic 7, but that’s a good thing. It means the 3.5mm headphone jack is still here, something which can’t be said for most modern phones.
You also still get the physical slider for the Game Space mode and shoulder triggers to reduce the need for on-screen controls in some games. As expected, USB-C is used for charging.
However, the combination of an all-glass design, built-in fan and large display means the Red Magic 7 is heavier than most phones. It weighs in at 215g, although that’s identical to the 6S Pro and China-exclusive 6S.
Screen & Speakers
- 6.8in Full HD+ AMOLED display
- 165Hz refresh rate, 720Hz touch sampling
- Impressive results, despite no upgrades
The display is arguably the most crucial aspect of any phone and Red Magic phones have consistently produced impressive results. That explains why there are almost no upgrades to the Red Magic 7’s display – it remains a 6.8in, 1080×2400 AMOLED panel. I’d like to see the resolution increased to 1440p, but it’s not a priority – most Play Store games run at 1080p anyway.
A class-leading 165Hz refresh rate is still here, but the previous two generations of Red Magic handsets also have this feature. However, unlike some other phones, it’s not adaptive.
You’re limited to 60-, 90-, 120-, 144- or 165Hz, with no way to automatically switch between them. This also means the phone can’t drop below 60Hz to help preserve battery life where appropriate.
However, you do now get 720Hz touch sampling, one of the highest you’ll find on any phone. That makes it incredibly responsive – combined with silky-smooth 165Hz visuals, this could give you a crucial upper hand during online multiplayer gaming.
Indeed, it’s important not to be too harsh on Nubia here. The Red Magic 7’s display is still mightily impressive, offering great detail and an impressive range of vivid colours. Nubia says it can hit 708 nits at max brightness, but even the 508 I recorded makes it relatively easy to use outdoors.
The screen is great but I was underwhelmed with the quality of the stereo speakers, which were lacking in detail despite plenty of bass. This is still an improvement on the usual quality of built-in phone speakers though, and you can always connect wired or wireless headphones instead.
Specs & Performance
- Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and at least 12GB RAM
- Excellent performance across the board
- Limited to 128GB or 256GB storage
Despite starting at a mid-range price, Nubia always includes the latest and greatest Qualcomm chip in Red Magic handsets. In the case of the Red Magic 7, that’s the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.
Qualcomm claims the move to 4nm process yields big performance improvements, but it’s marginal gains on flagship phones. It also, as you would expect, comes with support for 5G networks.
I can’t honestly say I noticed a difference compared to the 6S Pro, even with a mind-blowing 18GB of RAM on board. You’ll struggle to find anything that can cause even a moment’s hesitation, but these high-end specs should help with futureproofing, too.
Provided your internet connection is strong, it also means gaming on the Red Magic 7 is a delight. Whether you’re in the midst of combat on Call of Duty: Mobile, taking to the tracks on Real Racing 3 or controlling the world’s best footballers on FIFA Mobile, the experience is consistently top-notch.
What’s more, having a powerful built-in fan means the device never gets more than slightly warm. The sound it makes is noticeable, but it’s usually drowned out by the audio from the game.
It probably goes without saying, but stellar performance extends to everyday usage. The 165Hz refresh rate means using endless scrolling apps such as Twitter is a highlight, but you won’t be disappointed while web browsing, checking email or multitasking either.
That’s reflected in the benchmarks below, which show the Red Magic 7 can compete with any phone you can buy when it comes to raw performance:
However, storage may be a problem for some people, with only 128GB and 256GB models available globally. It’s not clear why the 512GB version is a China-exclusive, especially with no option for expandable storage.
Software & Apps
- Red Magic OS 5.0 over Android 12
- No guarantees on software updates
- Various gaming-specific features
As expected, the Red Magic 7 runs Nubia’s custom Red Magic OS over Android 12. Parent company ZTE doesn’t make any specific commitments on software support, but the phone should be updated to Android 13 at the very least.
This is the fifth major version of Red Magic OS, although it’s very much in keeping with previous iterations. From testing previous Red Magic phones, this was instantly familiar, but it will take some getting used to for anyone new to it. That’s your only option here, as the default launcher still can’t be swapped out for something else from the Play Store.
The phone retains full Google support, including the Discover feed next to the home screen. All the features you’d want are here – it just doesn’t feel as intuitive as the version on Google or Samsung phones.
But gaming is the priority, with Nubia’s dedicated ‘Game Space’ mode returning. It’s still activated via a physical slider on the side of the phone and offers a similar suite of gaming-focused features. These include the ability to boost CPU/GPU performance, adjust fan activity and block distractions.
This is also where you can configure the shoulder triggers, which offer a compelling alternative to on-screen controls in games such as PUBG Mobile.
- Same triple rear cameras as last year
- Better results, presumably due to software
- Noticeable improvement to selfies, too
On paper, the Red Magic 7 has an identical camera system to its predecessor. That’s a triple rear setup, consisting of 64Mp wide, 8Mp ultrawide and 2Mp macros.
However, it looks like Nubia has made some improvements on the software side. In good lighting conditions, the Red Magic 7 delivers vibrant shots brimming with detail. Dynamic range is also pretty good, but exposure remains a challenge – the sky is often wildly overexposed.
The phone is better suited to shots where there’s a clear subject in frame. That helps explain some impressive portrait photos, despite struggling for edge detection at times. I achieved some good results with people, cats and signs.
There’s a noticeable drop in quality when moving to the ultrawide lens, but it’s still nice to have that versatility. But with no telephoto, the zoom is all digital – even shots a 5x lose a lot of detail.
As is often the case, the macro camera has no real value. Even in good lighting, close-up shots lack detail and are not even good enough to share on social media.
It’s better news where the 8Mp front-facing camera is concerned. Despite beauty mode being enabled by default, selfies offer decent exposure and colour accuracy. They also avoid the common tendency to sacrifice all details in the background.
Here’s a selection of photos I took while testing:
Video is available up to 8K at 30fps, although I doubt most people will exceed 1080p. The inclusion of optical image stabilisation (OIS) means footage is stable even with movement. It’s fine for home videos and sharing online.
Battery Life & Charging
- 4500mAh battery
- Underwhelming battery life, even on non-gaming tasks
- 65W fast charging gets full charge in 30 minutes
Disappointingly, the Red Magic 7 has a smaller battery than both the 6S and 6S Pro – 4500mAh compared to 5050mAh. It sounds like a minor change, but it’s enough for battery life to become one of the phone’s main weaknesses.
Assuming you’re playing games every day, a single charge may not be enough to make it through a full day. At 165Hz, I recorded 7 hours and 55 minutes in Geekbench 4’s battery test (our usual PCMark test would not run). However, this is only a simple measure of screen-on time at a relatively low 120 nits of brightness.
In reality, you won’t get nearly as much real-world usage before needing to reach for the charger. One way to mitigate this is choosing a lower refresh rate, but you’re not buying a 165Hz phone to run it at 60- or 90Hz.
This battery capacity would be sufficient for a regular handset, but playing games is one of the most demanding things you can do on a phone. Considering how bulky the Red Magic 7 is, I expected more.
However, one area I can have no complaints about is charging speeds. The standard Red Magic 7 might not get the super-fast 135W from the Pro, but the 65W available here is still good.
From completely dead, I reached 65% in just 15 minutes using the adapter included in the box. At 30 minutes, the device was fully charged. There’s still no wireless charging here, but this is a worthwhile substitute.
Price & Availability
It’s now significantly more expensive than the Black Shark 4 Pro, going head-to-head with the Asus ROG Phone 5. But even with price increases, the Red Magic 7 still offers great value for money – for the right person.
Nubia has reserved most of the exciting upgrades for the Red Magic 7 Pro, making its regular sibling feel a little boring by comparison.
However, we shouldn’t take stellar performance for granted, alongside features that many mobile gamers will love. Nubia’s work on software processing delivers noticeable camera improvements, while the imposing design still feels ahead of its time.
But the 165Hz refresh rate still isn’t adaptive – combined with a smaller battery capacity, battery life is noticeably worse than last year. While the software is great for gaming, it’s slightly lacking for everyday use.
The Red Magic 7 is still an excellent phone for mobile gaming, especially at its mid-range starting price. But the better selfie camera, larger battery and much faster charging on the 7 Pro could be worth waiting for.
Nubia Red Magic 7: Specs
- Android 12 with Red Magic OS 5.0
- 6.8in Full HD+ (1080×2400) OLED display, 20:9, 165Hz
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
- 12/16/18 GB RAM
- 128/256GB internal storage (non-expandable)
- 64Mp main, 8Mp ultrawide, 2Mp macro cameras
- 8Mp selfie camera
- Fingerprint scanner (in-screen)
- Wi-Fi 6E
- Bluetooth 5.2
- 5G (mmWave, sub-6)
- 4,500mAh non-removable battery
- 65W wired charging
- 170.6 x 78.3x 9.5 mm
Author: Anyron Copeman, Senior Staff Writer
As the resident expert on Windows, Anyron’s main focus is PCs and laptops. Much of the rest of his time is split between smartphones, tablets and audio, with a particular focus on Android devices.