RedMagic 8 Pro review: The first great gaming phone of 2023

More power, same problems

RedMagic 8 Pro playing game
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The RedMagic 8 Pro builds on past successes but without addressing the two biggest traditional weaknesses for RedMagic phones — photography and software localization. This model delivers plenty of power, a long battery life and a slew of handy tools for gamers though, plus a new sleeker design that could draw in users that don't want their gaming phone to look like a gaming phone.

Pros

  • +

    Amazing performance

  • +

    Stuffed with gaming features

  • +

    Stylish new design

  • +

    Excellent battery life

  • +

    Amazing value

Cons

  • -

    Photography remains an afterthought

  • -

    More bad software translation

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RedMagic 8 Pro: Specs

Starting price: $649 / £579
Display: 6.8-inch FHD AMOLED (1116 x 2480)
Refresh rate: 120Hz
Chipset: Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
RAM:12GB/16GB
Storage: 256GB/512GB
Rear cameras: 50MP main (f/1.88), 8MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 2MP macro (f/2.4)
Front camera: 16MP selfie (under display)
Battery: 6,000 mAh
Charging: 65W wired
Software: Android 12 with RedMagic OS 5.5
Size: 6.47 x 3.03 x 0.37 inches (164.5 x 77 x 9.47mm)
Weight: 8.04 ounces (228g)

The RedMagic 8 Pro is an early contender for one of 2023's best gaming phones. It's one of the first models to sport the latest and most powerful Snapdragon silicon, meaning it blows away nearly all rivals in the performance stakes. The phone’s also stuffed with more gaming features than ever, while also offering a much more sensible design that I imagine more people will be happy putting in their bags and pockets.

However, some long-running issues with RedMagic phones persist. The menus and software are still the worst translated I've seen on any phone, and while the under-display camera works brilliantly at hiding the sensor from view, it drags down the 8 Pro's already sub-par photography with murky-looking selfies.

You'll see through this RedMagic 8 Pro review that the phone has become more appealing to a wider audience than any of its previous iterations. But it's still really only a good fit for a dedicated smartphone gamer. Read on, and you'll see what we mean.

RedMagic 8 Pro review: Price and availability

As of January 16, the RedMagic 8 Pro is available to preorder via the RedMagic store (opens in new tab), with sales fully opening on February 2.

The basic price is $649 / £579, which is a bit more expensive than the RedMagic 7 cost when it launched ($629), but a fair bit cheaper than the RedMagic 7 Pro cost ($799), and the RedMagic 7S Pro cost ($729). 

This is impressively low given the specs RedMagic's using. To get a similar display or performance experience from another brand, you'd have to pay around $800 for a Samsung Galaxy S22 or Google Pixel 7 Pro.

The RedMagic 8 Pro is confirmed to be coming to the U.S. and U.K. via the RedMagic web store. There's no Australian availability right now, although RedMagic's parent company ZTE sells phones in the country, so there is still hope.

RedMagic 8 Pro review: Design

RedMagic's been moving away from its original loud and bright gamer aesthetic with its recent phones, and the RedMagic 8 Pro takes the biggest step yet in appealing to a regular audience.

The RedMagic 8 Pro now features flat sides, a gloss black on matte black rear design and Galaxy S22 Ultra-style individual rear cameras; plus it's a little smaller and lighter than last year’s model. RedMagic is obviously taking influences from the best phones on the market, but it's resulted in a gaming-focused phone that you wouldn't be embarrassed to have on the table during a business meeting. Even the RGB lights are restrained only to the logo and trigger indicators on the back of the phone.

RedMagic 8 Pro cameras

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Of course, if you do prefer a louder option, there's the Void colorway which adds a transparent back and extra RGB lights to the built-in fan. I imagine the majority of users will want to stick with the all-black Matte design that I tested.

On the phone’s front, we see the return of the under-display camera, meaning there are no camera holes getting in the way of what's happening on screen. What makes me happier though is how much slimmer the bottom screen bezel has become. Previous RedMagic handsets have had prominent chins, but now the design looks much neater.

RedMagic 8 Pro display

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The sides contain the regular volume and power buttons and USB-C port, but also cutouts for the built-in cooling fan, two capacitive triggers and a slider switch to open up the phone's dedicated gaming hub menu. There's even an audio jack on the top for your wired headphones or earbuds, so you can't accuse RedMagic of skimping on features, even around what's normally a plain metal rail on most phones.

Side view of RedMagic 8 Pro

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Durability could prove a problem for the RedMagic 8 Pro. Its display is built with Gorilla Glass 5, an older version of the toughened glass used on many leading smartphones. Because of the fan openings, there's no IP rating for water/dust resistance, so you'll have to be careful not to drop the RedMagic in anything, as there's a strong chance it'll damage the phone's fan, if not other internal components.

RedMagic 8 Pro review: Display

The 6.8-inch FHD AMOLED display on the RedMagic 8 Pro is one of the largest you'll get on any phone sold, although it would have been nice if we also got a higher QHD resolution too.Still, the screen is nice and bright with a max brightness of 1,300 nits max according to RedMagic, making gaming while outside in sunlight (or at least what passes for sunlight in London in January) perfectly easy. It’s colorful too, which is just what you want for gaming. When watching movie trailers on YouTube, I did find the colors to be overly saturated, making more lively-looking movies like Renfield seem fun but grounded productions like You People look a little uncanny.

RedMagic 8 Pro display

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Unlike previous generations of under-display cameras, the one installed on the RedMagic doesn't get in the way of what you're viewing unless you have the phone under very bright lights and look at it from an extreme angle. So a friend you're sharing a video with may end up seeing the camera beneath the screen, but it's unlikely you're going to get annoyed by it while playing or watching things on the phone.

RedMagic 8 Pro review: Cameras

The RedMagic 8 Pro marks the first main camera upgrade to any of RedMagic’s phones, Pro or otherwise, since 2020's RedMagic 5G, swapping the 64MP sensor for a lower-res but larger-sensored 50MP one. It's the same Samsung GN5 sensor you'll find on the Samsung Galaxy S22 or Pixel 7 series. And those are some excellent phones for photos.

RedMagic 8 Pro cameras

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In this comparison with the iPhone 14 Pro Max, our current top model of the best camera phones, we see that the new hardware does alright in a shot of an Elizabeth Line tube sign. The RedMagic's image is cooler than the iPhone's, although it's also a lot more detailed, thanks to a much larger file size when shooting in both phones' default camera modes.

The rest of the RedMagic's camera arsenal remains the same. There are 8MP ultrawide and 2MP macro cameras on the back, and a 16MP under-display selfie camera on the front. These lenses really let the RedMagic down, as we'll get into.

This ultrawide shot of the Paddington Bear statue in Paddington Station is both cooler and fuzzier through the lens of the RedMagic 8 Pro. It does have a resolution and size disadvantage compared to the iPhone 14 Pro Max's 12MP sensor, so it makes sense why its shot here just isn't up to snuff.

The final rear camera on the RedMagic, the macro camera, is a sensor we often lament being added to phones simply because it's often there to bump up the camera count. The quality of this tiny 2MP camera's image of part of Paddington Bear's luggage label, compared to the software macro image taken with the iPhone 14 Pro Max's ultrawide camera, is far worse. It's blurry, poorly focused and the color is washed out. And trust me, this is the best of a dozen attempts I made to get this photo.

Last of all, we have the RedMagic 8 Pro's 16MP selfie camera, hidden under the display of the phone. Since it's peering through a layer of pixels, the image understandably looks a bit fuzzier compared to the iPhone. Its colors are washed out like the other camera samples too, making it clear this is an issue RedMagic needs to fix in its post-processing.

RedMagic doesn't sell its phone on the strength of its photography abilities. But I feel even the most casual photo snapper would be disappointed with the 8 Pro's camera performance. I think the main camera is passable, but anyone hoping to take lots of selfies or ultrawide shots is better off using any rival phone.

RedMagic 8 Pro review: Performance

Just as you'd hope for a new gaming phone, RedMagic's inserted the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset into the 8 Pro, along with 12GB or 16GB RAM. I only got the 12GB version to test, so it's possible the results I recorded aren't the best you can get from this particular phone. Nevertheless, the results we recorded are in line with our earlier Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 benchmarks captured using a Qualcomm reference design phone.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
RedMagic 8 ProGoogle Pixel 7 ProSamsung Galaxy S22iPhone 14 Pro Max
Geekbench 5 score (single-core / multi-core)1,498 / 5,2381,060 / 3,0461,204 / 3,3481,882 / 5,333
Wild Life Unlimited score / FPS14,121 / 84.66,725 / 40.39,976 / 59.78,652 / 74
Wild Life Extreme Unlimited score / FPS3,671 / 22.01,805 / 10.82,404 / 14.43,331 / 19.9
Adobe Rush time to encode (mins:secs)0:40.90:470:470:30

It's impressive to see the RedMagic 8 Pro not only crush the Google Pixel 7 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S22 in all areas of these tests, but also beat the iPhone 14 Pro Max on the two Wild Life GPU tests. It's not far behind on the Geekbench 5 multi-core score either.

The results are impressive, but other phones with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip are on the way, most notably the Galaxy S23 from Samsung and the OnePlus 11. The Red Magic 8 Pro’s time at the top of the Android phone performance charts could be brief.

As well as the Snapdragon silicon, the RedMagic 8 Pro also uses the company's own Red Core 2 gaming chip to take care of audio, haptics and lighting on the Snapdragon's behalf, while also apparently stabilizing gaming frame rates with its performance optimizer. It's hard to judge the influence of this extra chip, but it certainly didn't seem to harm things. I raced some cars in Grid: Autosport and Real Racing 3, carved my way through minions in League of Legends: Wild Rift and attempted some headshots in Apex Legends. In all four games, everything played smoothly and at a high frame rate, with few jagged edges.

RedMagic 8 Pro display

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

As mentioned, there are 12GB and 16GB RAM versions of the 8 Pro, tied to the color of the phone (12GB in Matte, 16GB in Void). They're also tied to how much storage you get, with the basic model carrying 256GB of capacity, and the more expensive one getting 512GB. That should be plenty of space for most users, but anyone wanting to play a lot of demanding games may want to check out the higher storage option so you still have room for all your other apps too.

RedMagic 8 Pro review: Battery and Charging

You get 65W charging on the RedMagic 8 Pro, as you do with previous RedMagic phones. But there’s now a larger, twin-cell 6,000 mAh battery, up from the RedMagic 7S Pro's 5,000 mAh cell. 

In my unofficial rundown test, playing a 1080p YouTube aquarium video over Wi-Fi, the 8 Pro lasted 5 hours and 48 minutes. While I couldn't use exactly the same video as my previous tests, this is almost as good as the current champ, the Sony Xperia 10 IV, which lasted 5 hours and 50 minutes under otherwise identical conditions.

When charging with the included 65W brick, RedMagic promises the 8 Pro will charge from 0 to 100% in 43 minutes. In my own test, it took 5 minutes to reach 23%, 15 minutes to reach 54%, 30 minutes to get to 90% and a total of 36 minutes to fill the phone’s battery completely.

RedMagic 8 Pro cameras

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

RedMagic obviously needs to be more optimistic with its estimate, particularly when you factor in that I kept the fan turned off to allow a better comparison with rival phones. With the cooling system running the full time, it's possible the RedMagic could charge even faster, as the power management system wouldn't need to throttle as regularly in order to avoid overheating.

RedMagic also gets extra points for not just including a charger in the box, but using a gallium nitride (GaN) charger that is substantially smaller than most equivalent charging bricks. It's much less awkward to carry this charger around on a daily basis than most other chargers, particularly those of an equivalent or higher speed.

RedMagic 8 Pro review: Software and special features

At its core, the RedMagic 8 Pro runs Android 13, but gamers will be impressed at how many game-specific enhancements and features RedMagic has added on top of Google’s phone software. One of the biggest additions is the 520Hz capacitive triggers, which can be individually assigned per game to activate a certain portion of the touchscreen. While these work just as well as previous RedMagic triggers, they're harder to find in a pinch on the phone's side rail now because of the 8 Pro's new flattened design. 

RedMagic 8 Pro display

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Unfortunately, the pre-release RedMagic 8 Pro model I used had a lot of poorly translated, and sometimes untranslated, menu text, making it hard to try out all of the available features. This is something RedMagic could in theory easily fix with software updates, but RedMagic and parent company ZTE have struggled with this problem for years without any sign of improving.

RedMagic's signature selling point, the built-in cooling fan, is back again on the RedMagic 8 Pro, with new vapor chamber materials and an updated under-display graphene layer to help keep the phone cool. It automatically turns on when you open the Game Space launcher (via the red sliding switch), and it's barely audible, even with the phone muted.

Side view of RedMagic 8 Pro

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Game Space itself contains many handy little tools, giving fast access to game-specific settings, screenshots and notes, plus timers, alerts and more. There's a lot to explore if you're serious about mobile gaming, although I can't imagine having these tools as pull-out overlays over your game is going to be easy to use in the heat of the moment.

New for this model is X-gravity, a built-in game streaming hub for Xbox Game Pass or PlayStation Remote Play fans, and more notably RedMagic Studio, which allows you to stream the phone's screen to a TV or monitor.

RedMagic 8 Pro connected to computer monitor

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

RedMagic Studio is similar to things like Samsung DeX, only with a focus on mobile games instead of productivity. It's somewhat impressive that RedMagic's added this feature, with lots of customization on offer to bind your keyboard or gamepad to the on-screen touch controls. But mobile games aren't designed to be seen at monitor-level resolution, or to be controlled with physical keys most of the time. You can rebind a whole keyboard much like you bind the capacitive triggers, but it's still a sub-optimal way to play. Plus the poor software translation really gets in the way of the set-up process.

RedMagic 8 Pro connected to computer monitor

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Then there's Mora, an anime girl mascot that RedMagic's making the new virtual face of the company. She performs a few smart assistant-like tasks, can appear on your real-life desk via an AR feature, and chats to you with some chirpy voice lines, where she refers to the phone's user as "Commander." At best it's a harmless novelty, but I can't help but feel creeped out by the fact RedMagic thinks Mora is something its users want.

RedMagic 8 Pro review: Verdict

As I unboxed the RedMagic 8 Pro, I was hoping that this would be the most refined phone the company's produced so far. For the most part it is, and it certainly deserves a high position among the top gaming phones. But there are still rough patches that have been around so long you'd have thought they'd be worn away by natural erosion at this point.

The RedMagic 8 Pro’s redesign has done a lot to make the phone more attractive to users who don't like their gaming gear to be smothered in RGB lights and loud decals, while still retaining the brand's personality. Its processing power is top-notch as usual, and there are even more gaming-focused features to try out to maximize your play experience, with particular highlights being the familiar cooling fan and triggers, but also the ambitious RedMagic Studio desktop mode.

Because of the badly translated software and underwhelming cameras, though, users looking for a better rounded Android phone with gaming chops may want to wait for the Samsung Galaxy S23 series or OnePlus 11, or check out the Google Pixel 7 series or iPhone 14 series which you can get right now.

Phones closer to the RedMagic in style, like future ROG Phones or Black Sharks, are likely not far down the line, and will no doubt offer similar features. But for now, the RedMagic 8 Pro is an easy recommendation as a gaming phone, but a harder one for users wanting a phone that does more than that.

Richard Priday
Senior Writer

Richard is a Tom's Guide senior writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.

  • baronvonbeck
    Is it 100% confirmed that the 16/512gb model has the 6000mah battery and the 65w fast charging? In China two of these released, the Redmagic 8 Pro and 8 Pro Plus; the Pro had a 6000mah battery and only up to 12/256gb and 80w charging (now down to 65w globally), whereas the Pro Plus had only a 5000mah battery but up to 16/512gb and 165w charging (weird that the Plus had smaller battery size, but it was supposedly to accommodate the faster charging speed). I noticed in a video someone did Antutu was marking the 16/512gb model as the Pro+. The charging speed is less important, and I'd like to have the larger storage and more ram, but the 6000mah vs 5000mah battery would be most important to me. Would like to get some sort of verification that the 16/512gb model does actually have a 6000mah battery and isn't the Pro Plus with the 5000mah, if possible.
    Reply