Review: The Nubia Red Magic 7s Pro gaming smartphone
The Nubia Red Magic 7s Pro is a great smartphone targeted at gamers.
Gaming smartphones are a growing niche in the mobile sector, bolstered by the runaway successes of titles like Call of Duty: Mobile and PUBG Mobile.
A handful of manufacturers cater to this growing industry niche, with Nubia among the most prominent.
KnowTechie got its grubby claws on Nubia’s latest device: the Red Magic 7s Pro. It’s a powerful kit and might be your best choice for gaming-focused smartphones.
With oodles of RAM, a top-drawer Snapdragon platform, and a capable cooling system, it can handle anything you throw at it. It’s pretty, well-designed, and endlessly compelling.
Power doesn’t come cheap, however. Even so, we think the Nubia Red Magic 7s Pro is worth the money. Read on to find out why.
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Who is Nubia?
Nubia is, put simply, the gaming-focused subsidiary of ZTE. On one hand, it’s very similar to fellow Chinese tech brand Huawei, with both thriving consumer electronics and carrier equipment businesses.
And, like Huawei, it’s no stranger to butting heads with Uncle Sam. But, unlike Huawei, it’s a meaningful player in the US smartphone market. It’s a rare example of a Chinese mobile brand with genuine stateside success.
In 2017, the company accounted for 12.2 percent of US smartphone sales.
Its star has since waned somewhat, although this is primarily due to the carrier-centric nature of the US mobile market, and the fact that Samsung and Apple now hold an effective duopoly.
ZTE’s bread-and-butter isn’t devices like the Nubia Red Magic 7s Pro or its other flagship devices, like the Axon series.
Instead, it is normal, perfunctory, mass-market phones designed to be sold cheaply at unfathomable volumes. But the company is also unafraid to experiment. And that’s why ZTE is so damn interesting.
It flirted with the idea of dual-screen phones back when the Microsoft Surface Duo was but a twinkle in Satya Nadella’s eye, and foldables were considered a distant, experimental concept.
The pioneering ZTE Axon M wasn’t a rousing commercial success, but it was certainly interesting. Prescient, even.
Similarly, it was the first smartphone manufacturer to introduce an under-screen selfie camera.
The ZTE Axon 20 5G was the first device to offer a real alternative to notches and hole-punch cameras, and shattered the last meaningful barrier to ever-thinner screen bezels.
And then we get back to Nubia. As mentioned, this is ZTE’s gaming-focused subunit. For the sake of clarity, I should point out that ZTE has since reduced its stake in Nubia, although it remains a majority shareholder.
Some may quibble about whether it’s really a subsidiary, an affiliated business, or a sub-brand. That’s neither here nor there.
What’s important is that Nubia is hugely successful. There isn’t much analyst data on the gaming smartphone market, but the most recent figures I found show Nubia commanding an impressive 39 percent share of the market.
This is ahead of Asus’ ROG brand (with a 14 percent share) and slightly behind Black Shark (which has a 47 percent market share).
Okay, now that introductions are out of the way, let’s take a high-level look at the Nubia RedMagic 7s Pro
Nubia’s release pattern largely consists of one large flagship annual release, followed by a more modest refresh.
The Nubia Red Magic 7s Pro is an example of the latter. But don’t let that dissuade you, there’s still a lot to like.
This is a legitimate powerhouse, with impressive specs backed by an array of clever software enhancements. But, we’ll get to those later.
First, the specs. The Nubia Red Magic 7s Pro contains:
- A Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 Processor
- An Adreno 730 GPU
- A 6.8-inch AMOLED display (120Hz, 600 nits, 1080×2400)
- 12GB/16GB/18GB RAM
- 256GB/512GB/1TB UFS 3.1 RAM
- 5,000mAh battery
- 65W fast charging
- A 3.5mm Headphone jack
- Android 12 (with RedMagic 5.5)
On the imaging front, it packs a three-camera array on the back. The primary shooter touts a wide-angle lens and a resolution of 64MP. Accompanying this is an 8MP ultra-wide camera and a 2MP macro lens.
The phone also boasts several clever gaming-specific features, including a cooling fan (with the obligatory RGB lights) and capacitive touch-sensitive buttons.
These allow you to quickly fire off a volley of rounds in Call of Duty: Mobile without having to strain to touch the screen.
Look and feel
Let’s be blunt: most gamer-targeted devices are ugly as sin. Aesthetics are, of course, subjective (thus explaining the surprising longevity of the No Fear clothing brand).
That said, I was impressed with the restraint shown by Nubia when creating the Red Magic 7s Pro. Its delightfully-thin bezels and inconspicuous under-screen selfie camera lend to an immersive experience.
The screen feels all-encompassing in a way that other smartphone brands would be wise to replicate. Its curved glass back, while hardly the most grippable of finishes, gives this phone a premium finish.
Nubia walks a fine line between making something that conforms to the gamer aesthetic, yet isn’t tacky. Sure, the Red Magic 7s Pro winks at its intended audience (the RGB-embossed cooling fan is a good example), but subtly.
Although packing the color fidelity you’d instinctively expect from an AMOLED panel, the display isn’t the brightest.
It struggles to overcome the brightest of summer days, and its 600nits falls well short of other gaming smartphones (like the ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro). But overall, this is a well-built, good-looking phone.
Speaking of the display, the Nubia Red Magic 7s Pro has a top refresh rate of 120Hz. This isn’t the fastest, but in my experience, that’s not much of a problem.
This is because faster rates arguably cost more, consume more battery life, and offer minimal benefits.
As with other phones with high refresh screens, the Nubia Red Magic 7s Pro dynamically adjusts the display’s screen depending on the context to preserve battery life.
Although Android 12 sits at the heart of the Nubia RedMagic 7S Pro, it doesn’t do all the heavy lifting. It ships with Nubia’s custom suite of UI tweaks and gaming-specific enhancements.
The Red Magic 5.5 UI deviates from the stock Android experience in a few key areas, but these don’t feel superfluous. Many (if you’ll pardon the pun) raise the game.
To access the system’s most gamer-centric functionality, you must first toggle a physical hardware switch located on the side of the device.
Here, Nubia makes it easy to customize the phone’s performance. Within the GameSpace environment, for example, you can switch the GPU to several intuitive presets (Eco, Balance, and Rise).
It’s easy to optimize your device for battery longevity or performance, depending on your immediate needs.
Tight integration with messaging apps makes it easy to post to WhatsApp or Discord while languishing in a matchmaking lobby. And, perhaps most interesting, there’s the ability to stream your game to your PC.
This feature relies on you owning a Windows PC with the Red Magic Studio app. In practice, it makes it possible to play mobile games using a keyboard or mouse.
Obviously, this changes the competitive dynamic. Those playing with PC peripherals will enjoy an undeniable advantage when faced with those using the normal phone UI. That, however, is a debate for another article.
No surprises here. The Nubia Red Magic 7s Pro is a performance powerhouse.
Thanks to its generous RAM (we received the ridiculous 18GB model) offerings and bleeding-edge Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 platform, the Nubia Red Magic 7s Pro tore through anything we threw at it.
Call of Duty: Mobile and PUBG purr, even when the on-screen action reaches its dizzying heights, and performance remains respectable even when you crank down the GPU settings to conserve battery life.
Meanwhile, the capable 520Hz shoulder triggers make it easy to act decisively in the heat of a game.
Its 5,000mAh battery isn’t the biggest. Not by a long shot. But battery life is nonetheless impressive. In our testing, we managed to get two days of mixed-use activity between charges.
This includes gaming, watching movies, browsing, and casual social media use. Impressive, not least when considering the phone has a built-in cooling fan.
Fast-charging is not standard on all versions
Non-Chinese versions of the Nubia Red Magic 7S Pro support 125W fast charging. Those intended for overseas markets (like the UK, Europe, and the US) are limited to 65W.
That’s still a respectable figure, however. You can go from empty to full in less than 45 minutes.
The Nubia Red Magic 7s Pro touts some of the most powerful speakers I’ve ever encountered in a smartphone.
These produce a punchy sound, albeit with a slightly bassy profile. I must admit, the first time I heard a notification chime, I felt a touch startled. You’ll likely want to turn this down.
That said, the lack of front-facing speakers felt like a missed opportunity. Admittedly, positioning this front-and-center would add a few millimeters to the phone’s already hefty gait.
However, I’d wager that most die-hard mobile gamers would be happy to make that compromise.
The camera array, although middling, proved competent. The Nubia Red Magic 7s captures reasonable, Instagram-quality snaps, but without any of the flair of a similarly-priced smartphone, like the iPhone 13 or the Samsung Galaxy S22.
The Nubia Red Magic 7s Pro is an undeniably competent gaming smartphone. ZTE pairs high-end specs with a bevy of features aimed squarely at their target audience.
The device’s software makes it easy to compete, customize, and share footage of your latest PUBG exploits. And it does so with an undeniable degree of finesse.
We had some minor grumbles. The cameras aren’t the best we’ve ever used. The cooling system, although powerful, is noisy.
There’s no dust or water ingress certification, meaning we have no idea how it’d withstand the force of an upturned can of Mountain Dew. And the placement of the speakers feels like a missed opportunity.
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