I’ve tested a number of gaming phones over the past year, not because of how many manufacturers there are in the market, but because each one (for whatever reason) likes to roll out new iterations every month or two.
This saturation of gaming phones often leads to tempered expectations and less excitement compared to phones that release on a less-frequent, yearly basis. More importantly, these quarterly “upgrades” tend to be minor and forgettable; maybe one or two new colors, a switch-up to one of the camera lenses, a slightly larger battery, etc.
If those were the kind of changes that Nubia made to the new RedMagic 7S Pro, then I’d be less inclined to review it. Instead, the successor to the 7 Pro sees a new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor as well as a new ICE 10.0 multi-dimensional cooling system. Altogether, mobile gaming gets a major lift with the new model, which makes it worth my attention – and yours.
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1Display6.8-inch AMOLED, 2400×1080 pixels, 120Hz refresh rate Weight236g (8.29 oz)
12GB/256GB (Obsidian), 18GB/512GB (Mercury and Supernova)
64MP main camera, 8MP ultra-wide, 2MP depth sensor, and 16MP front under-display camera
Battery5,000mAh with 65W fast charging Connectivity3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C, Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 802.11ac
RedMagic OS 5.5 based on Android 12
Obsidian, Mercury, Supernova
Meet the game changers
If you’re reading this article, chances are you know full well what gaming phones have to offer: Top-of-the-line specifications, PC levels of RAM, and futuristic industrial design that makes the latest iPhone look like a retro console. That’s why I’ll begin this review by cutting right to the chase, highlighting the most innovative features of the RedMagic 7S first, and then rounding it out with insights on the rest of the mobile experience.
1. Capacitive shoulder triggers need to stay
Since the early days of gaming, shoulder triggers have been quintessential for their accessibility and practicality. A left or right tap with your index finger can help you reload ammo, sprint through fields of enemies, or pull up the world map to help you know your place. While shoulder triggers are no strangers to gaming phones, the ones on the RedMagic 7S Pro are among the best I’ve tested.
Instead of using magnetic pop-up triggers, like on the Black Shark 5 Pro, the RedMagic takes a more subtle route with capacitive touchpoints on the right side of the device. This means they’re easier to register inputs with and free of that distractingly clicky sound. Nubia says the two triggers support a 520Hz touch sampling rate (not to be mistaken with refresh rate) so the actuation of your taps and presses is near instant.
I found the capacitive shoulder triggers plenty useful, especially for games like Call of Duty: Mobile which required me to glide across the phone screen to control the camera angle while I was aiming for enemies, reloading, calling air strikes, and so on. The added inputs are greatly appreciated, and it’s a feature that I’m expecting to see wider adaptation as more companies venture into cloud gaming.
More: How Microsoft and Samsung may finally take cloud gaming mainstream
2. The 20,000 RPM cooling fan is not a gimmick
Believe it or not, the shoulder triggers are not the coolest feature on the RedMagic 7S Pro. That honor goes to the built-in, 20,000 RPM fan that helps with heat dissipation and internal cooling.
Gaming phones can get hot. Really hot. That’s why Nubia straight-up built a ventilation system from within the handset (dubbed ICE 10.0 cooling system) to pull cool air in and push hot air out. To my surprise, the fan worked remarkably well, with an audible hissing sound to personify the effort. (You can even feel the air shooting out when you place your finger on the side vent.)
Still, for the first time in a while, playing graphic-intensive titles like Genshin Impact at its highest FPS settings didn’t make a phone feel like a hand warmer after ten or so minutes. And when it came time to put the game down and charge the phone up, the cooling fan comes to play – preventing the battery temperature from overheating.
3. No island getaway on this phone
The RedMagic 7S Pro uses Nubia’s second-generation, under-display camera (UDC), meaning it’s more hidden and camouflaged than ever before. If you’re a mobile gamer, then you probably care more about the “under-display” part of the component given the less-distracting viewing experience that it contributes to.
Whether you’re playing a fullscreen title, streaming Twitch, or casually browsing, the lack of a notch, punch hole, or Dynamic Island, makes the RedMagic 7S Pro a more immersive phone to use.
More: Best gaming phones in 2022
That said, the actual quality of the UDC is…not great. I’ve tested similar interpretations of the stylish camera tech, like on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, and have always found the output quality washed out and over-processed. While the Galaxy Z Fold 4 has a unique Flex mode to save its selfie potential, the RedMagic 7S Pro doesn’t, and that’s why the ‘camera’ bit of ‘under-display camera’ gets a thumbs down from me.
How about the rest of the phone?
I touched on the main points of the RedMagic’s design above but other than the gaming-focused features, I’d like to reiterate that this phone is huge. The 6.8-inch display is surrounded by flattened edges and a generally rectangular form factor, making the phone feel more like a brick and less like a pebble.
I will commend Nubia for making the most out of the real estate though, fitting two shoulder triggers, power and volume buttons, a game mode switch, and even a 3.5mm headphone jack along the railing. All that’s really missing is a microSD card slot for expanded memory. You know, for ROMs, emulations, and stuff.
Generally speaking, the RedMagic 7S Pro is a reliable and powerful gaming phone that delivers outstanding performance gains. AAA titles via Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass loaded and operated just as smoothly as more mainstream applications like scrolling through feeds of vertical video. And when I did notice any signs of slowing down, turning on the cooling fan was all that was needed to maintain peak performance.
RedMagic’s software over Android can be an overwhelming experience, especially if you’re akin to the simpler and more user-friendly approach of iOS and “stock” Android launchers. There’s a home screen widget for pretty much any function that you can think of, including a heart rate tracker for those high-intensity matches. Also, be prepared for your initial run of games to trigger random pop-ups and notifications that teach you about the cooling fan, RedMagic’s Game Space, and other enhancement features.
Also: Opensignal: 5G surpasses public Wi-Fi for mobile gaming performance
Battery and charging
On paper, the 7S Pro’s 5,000mAh battery is promising. (It’s literally the battery size that I’ve been asking more manufacturers to adopt!) But in practice, the beefy capacity turned out to be just okay and barely able to pass three and a half hours of screen-on time (SOT). Remember, this is a gaming phone after all. And for how much power it’s needing to manage by the minute, three to four hours of SOT is to be expected.
Fortunately, the RedMagic’s 65-watt fast charging makes the half-day endurance a little more bearable. With 20 minutes plugged in, the 7S Pro can go from 0% battery to nearly 70%. There is no wireless charging on the device, though.
If you’re deadset on a gaming phone and want the most spec’d out offering, look no further than this. The RedMagic 7S Pro is rich in software features, equipped with shoulder triggers to give you an upper hand, and is one of the only devices that I’ve tested with zero overheating issues.
The base model, which comes with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, starts at $899. If you’re patient enough, wait for one of Amazon’s occasional sales to get the RedMagic for an even greater price.
Alternatives to consider
Besides the Nubia RedMagic 7S Pro, here are three worthy alternatives that you should consider:
The Black Shark 5 Pro uses magnetic pop-up triggers instead of the RedMagic’s capacitive ones, but it’s still a worthy pick-up if you want a gaming phone for less. The display measures 6.67 inches and is capable of ramping up to 144Hz for ultra-smooth animations and graphics.
As I mentioned at the start of the review, manufacturers are churning out gaming phones like there’s no tomorrow. The RedMagic 7 Pro – not to be mistaken with the 7S Pro – is a cost-effective way to get most of the features on the new S variant, including the 20,000 RPM fan and shoulder triggers.
Mainstream manufacturers like OnePlus have been carving their own paths into the gaming market by adding overclocking features, insanely-fast charging speeds, and 5G support for on-the-go matches. The OnePlus 10T is less expensive than most gaming phones at $649 but is just as reliable for work and play.