Update: For the best under-display camera, the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra is the one to go for as we discovered.
The RedMagic 7 Pro takes the base RedMagic 7 and adds a bucketful of upgrades, but there's one thing it's deserving praise for more than anything: being the best implementation of an under-display selfie camera on any phone I've tried so far.
If you're not familiar with the RedMagic 7, it's a gaming phone that offers a ridiculous amount of performance along with capacitive triggers and a cooling fan to let you play games more comfortably and for longer. The new Pro model increases the battery size, improves the cooling system, adds a higher touch-sampling rate and a new Red Core 1 chip to assist with haptics, audio and the under-display camera.
Now perhaps you're wondering why this gaming phone has got a feature normally reserved for devices like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. The answer is its relatives. RedMagic's parent company Nubia is an associate company of ZTE, which introduced the world to under-display cameras with the Axon 20 and refined them with the Axon 30. Therefore, RedMagic probably had little trouble getting a hold of these new displays.
Even though the screen needs to be built differently in order to have the camera appear when needed, it looks just as good as a regular display, even over where the camera sits. Unlike playing on an iPhone, where the notch takes a big bite out of the display, or a regular modern Android phone that loses a bit of display to the punch-hole cutout, this feels like one continuous display. And with the powerful chipset and extra sensitive touch triggers, it's great to play games like Asphalt 9 with.
Does the camera take good photos? They're decent. Color-wise I think the RedMagic's got at least a passing grade, but the texture of my skin and my hoodie could look better.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3's under-display camera helps keep the central focus on the phone –- the big inner display — looking large and inviting for users, but it effectively means you're better off taking photos or making calls with the phone closed. As for the ZTE Axons, they're meant to be regular premium phones, where photography ability is a key factor for phone buyers. The weird blurry, heavily processed photos they produce hold the phones back from being among the best Android phones as a result.
But on a gaming phone, where cameras take a rare back seat to other features, it's easier to overlook if you prioritize computing and gaming performance over photo quality.
The under-display camera comes with a hidden cost alongside the questionable photo quality: the RedMagic 7 Pro actually offers a lower display refresh rate (120Hz) than the standard 7 (165Hz). You probably won't spot the difference when using the phone normally, but it's unfortunate that the enhanced model isn't universally better than the basic model.
We'll have a full review of the RedMagic 7 Pro soon to give you a proper breakdown of everything this phone can do and see if it can make it onto our best gaming phones list. For now, though, it deserves praise at least for implementing a currently imperfect feature as well as can be done right now.
Future phones will likely advance under-display cameras to a point where they work just as well as a notched one, but RedMagic's been canny enough to make the technology a sensible addition right now.