It's been just over seven months since the launch of the Redmi 6 series in India, but in the smartphone world that's a lifetime. New features such as waterdrop notches and gradient designs have become popular, and competitors aren't standing still. Xiaomi isn't the only company constantly fighting to improve specifications and features in low-cost phones. The newly reinvigorated Samsung, in particular, poses a significant threat with its reasonably priced A-series and M-series models, which have been selling quite well since their launch. It's no surprise then that Xiaomi has already refreshed its sub-Rs. 8,000 offering.
The newly announced Redmi 7 is a workhorse all-rounder that should appeal to anyone. It seems to offer nearly everything that buyers might want, and the focus is on overall value rather than any one major feature. Interestingly, Xiaomi hasn't launched Redmi 7 Pro or Redmi 7A companion models – not yet at least. In this review, we're focusing on the Redmi 7, and we're going to see whether Xiaomi has managed to deliver enough to stay ahead of Samsung, Honor, Realme, and other competitors.
Many of Xiaomi's previous phones have looked very similar, but the Redmi 7 breaks the mould. The company has completely ditched the metallic look of the Redmi 6 (Review), and has embraced multi-coloured glossy plastic just like many of its competitors have. There are three colours to choose from – the plain Eclipse Black — which we got for review — and the more eye-catching Comet Blue and Lunar Red.
The latter two feature colour gradients on their rear panels. Xiaomi calls this its ‘Aura Smoke' look. The Comet Blue option features dark purple merging into bright blue, while Lunar Red is black at the top fading into red on the bottom. While not everyone will love this, the overall effect is a little subtler than some of the other designs we've seen recently. If you don't like these finishes, you can use the dark translucent plastic cover that comes in the box.
Phones have been growing bigger, and the Redmi 7 is no exception. Its 6.26 inch screen is much larger than the 5.45-inch one on the Redmi 6, but that isn't just because of slimmer borders. The Redmi 7 is significantly bigger than its predecessor in all dimensions, and heavier too. At 180g and 8.47mm in thickness, this phone is quite a handful, and you'll feel its heft in your pocket when walking around. It also isn't easy to reach all corners of the screen with just the thumb.
With this generation, even the low-cost Redmi 7 gets a modern “dot” notch, though we have to say that if you're looking for a borderless screen, this phone doesn't quite fit that description. The good news is that Xiaomi has used Gorilla Glass 5 for the display, which should give you some peace of mind.
The back of this phone is made out moulded plastic, which Xiaomi says has been “finished with a nano-spray”. Our plain black review unit was glossy and highly reflective, and didn't have any noticeable texture. Sadly, it did get very grimy with fingerprints and smudges within moments of us unboxing this phone. We also noticed that dust and tiny fibres tended to stick to the back. It's impossible to keep the Redmi 7 looking fresh which is a pity. We saw major scratches and scuffs after less than a week of careful handling.
The edges where the glossy rear panel meets the matte plastic frame aren't perfectly smooth and this phone is somewhat awkward to use. Thankfully the fingerprint sensor on the rear and the power and volume buttons on the right are within easy reach.
There's a very slim earpiece right above the front camera notch, and the sensors are hidden. A tiny white LED embedded in the chin below the screen lights up when this phone is charging and goes off when the battery is full. The rear dual-camera module sticks out just a tiny bit and doesn't get in the way of anything.
On the top of this phone, you'll find a 3.5mm headset socket and an infrared emitter for controlling appliances with. A single tray on the upper left can hold two Nano-SIMs as well as a microSD card, which is always good to see. Of the two grilles on the bottom, only one is actually a speaker. We would have liked a USB Type-C port, but we can't complain about the use of the Micro-USB standard at this price, and at least a lot of people will be able to recycle old cables.
Not everyone will like the plastic body and colourful gradients, or the fact that this phone is rather bulky and unwieldy. If you like bigger phones, you'll find the Redmi 7 much more attractive than its predecessors at the same price.
At the heart of the new Redmi 7 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 SoC which is a considerable improvement over not only the Redmi 6's MediaTek Helio P22, but also the Snapdragon 625 in the Redmi 6 Pro (Review). It has eight of Qualcomm's own Kryo 250 CPU cores running at up to 1.8GHz, and integrated Adreno 506 graphics.
Xiaomi has launched two variants of the Redmi 7 in India, and both have 32GB of eMMC storage. The only difference is that the base variant priced at Rs. 7,999 has 2GB of RAM, and the Rs. 8,999 variant has 3GB of RAM. That doesn't make a lot of sense to us. If you're willing to pay Rs. 1,000 more, you could buy the Redmi Note 7 (Review) instead. It's also a small step backwards compared to the Redmi 6, which had 3GB of RAM across variants and a choice of 32GB of storage at the same price or 64GB for Rs. 1,500 more.
The 6.26-inch screen has a resolution of 720x1520 and an aspect ratio of 19:9. Xiaomi says you get 84 percent of the NTSC colour gamut which is decent enough for a low-cost phone. There's a 4000mAh battery which is a big bump up from 3000mAh on the Redmi 6, and while Qualcomm's Quick Charge isn't explicitly supported, the bundled charger is rated at 10W.
The Redmi 7 supports 4G and VoLTE on both SIMs, as well as single-band Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.2, and GPS. There's an electronic compass plus the usual accelerometer and ambient light sensor, but no gyroscope. Our diagnostics showed that this phone supports Widevine L3 DRM, not L1 for full-HD video streaming.
Our review unit was running MIUI 10.2 on top of Android 9 Pie. During the initial setup process there's an option to disable “Wallpaper Carousel” stories on the lock screen, which can include some ads and sponsored content. You'll see a different item every time you unlock your phone. Interestingly, this is exactly the same platform we've encountered on Samsung's latest phones. It's powered by a third-party app called Glance.
We saw fewer blatant ads and better-designed snippets than we did when reviewing the Samsung Galaxy M20 (Review), but it's still annoying. When disabled, there's a permanent icon on the lock screen leading you to an option to turn it back on.
MIUI doesn't give you the option of an app drawer so all icons are on the home screens. If you swipe right from the first home screen, you'll come to a page called App Vault which has various panels including shortcuts to specific tasks within certain apps. There are also ads for “recommended apps”, contests, and app integrations here. The MIUI task switcher has a tiled layout which is actually quite handy.
The Second Space feature is a separate profile for private apps and data, which you can delete and reset anytime. Dual Apps lets you run two instances of nearly any app, not just messengers.
We noticed that when installing any app from the Google Play store, an “app checker” screen with an ad would pop up. The default Facemoji keyboard offers loads of ASCII text effects, emojis, GIFs, stickers, and themes. There's a Mi Apps store and several first-party apps, and as we've seen before there are ads in many of them.
The Music app lets you stream songs from Hungama without any account setup process. An app called Security has a virus scanner and some privacy tools, but also for some reason includes a “game speed booster” and the battery and storage controls that are usually in the Settings app. Of course there are ads everywhere, including full-screen interstitials.
We received the 3GB RAM version of the Redmi 7 for review, so our experiences might be better than those of people who buy the base variant, which is of course more affordable. Other than the ads throughout MIUI, we found the Redmi 7 easy to use, but a little buggy. There was sometimes very minor lag when calling up and scrolling through the app switcher, most likely due to the thumbnails of all running apps that need to be cached. One rare but odd issue was that notifications would sometimes disappear in less than a second, making them impossible to read.
The screen is a little too reflective, but is decent in terms of quality. With a screen this large, videos and games look great, but text is just a little bit fuzzy. Colours and viewing angles are fine, but sunlight legibility was not very good.
We were impressed with the speaker, which can push out loud sound without distortion. It's great for voices in video and music, but of course there isn't much bass or richness to the sound. As is standard for Xiaomi, no headset is included.
Our benchmarks showed big performance improvements compared to the Redmi 6 series. AnTuTu gave us 103,574 points and Geekbench's single-core and multi-core scores were 1,247 and 4,333 respectively. The Redmi 7 managed 511 points in 3DMark's Sling Shot Extreme test and 14,458 in Ice Storm Unlimited. GFXBench's T-rex and Manhattan 3.1 tests ran at 36fps and 14fps respectively.
Asphalt 9: Legends showed up in the Google Play Store as incompatible with this phone, so we couldn't test it. PUBG Mobile ran fine at the Medium preset by default. We did notice the upper back of the phone getting a bit warm after a few rounds.
The 4000mAh battery in this phone lasted a very impressive 17 hours, 9 minutes in our HD video loop test. With casual use, including a lot of Web surfing plus a bit of photography, gaming and video streaming, we managed to make it through a full day and still had about 30 percent remaining at night.
The Redmi 7 has a 12-megapixel f/2.2 primary rear camera with a 2-megapixel depth sensor. It doesn't have an extra zoom or wide-angle lens, but the app does boast of AI to detect scenes and adjust camera settings automatically.
Other than the usual Pro and Portrait modes, there are menus in the photo and video modes with additional options including Tilt-Shift, Beautification, Group Selfie, Time-lapse, and Google Lens. You can take bursts by tapping and holding the shutter button, and there's even a setting to let you choose between average, centre-weighted and spot metering.
We liked how our photo samples came out. The shots we took under bright sunlight had sharp focus and subtle details within the focused area, though anything more than a few feet away looked a lot poorer. The Redmi 7 handled exposures well in scenes with bright light as well as shadow, but would have liked a little more vibrancy and punch to the colours.
We were pleasantly surprised by how bright low-light shots came out, and even colours were relatively well preserved. However, there was a lot of noise and these photos really didn't look good when we zoomed in. There's also a lot of motion blur and you can expect bright areas to be overexposed thanks to the slow shutter.
Videos can be recorded at 1080p 60fps and you can choose between the more widely compatible H.264 and more efficient H.265 codecs. The clips we recorded looked a bit dull and there was a lot of jerkiness. Detail was poor in full-HD videos recorded at night. Beautification is applied automatically when using the 8-megapixel f/2.0 front camera, and it's way too aggressive.
Xiaomi has done a lot to improve the Redmi series, and the new Redmi 7 offers better features and specifications as well as more up-to-date looks than the Redmi 6. There are a few steps backwards though – we don't like the reduction in RAM on the base model and lack of a 64GB storage variant. The Redmi Note 7 and Redmi Y3 both start at Rs. 9,999 — Rs. 1,000 more than the top-end Redmi 7 — and it would be very tempting to choose either of those models for the improvements they offer.
As for this phone's competition, we have the Realme 3 (Review), Samsung Galaxy M10 (Review), and Asus Zenfone Max M2 (Review) or ZenFone Max Pro M1 (Review). Xiaomi does seem to have an advantage in terms of features and specifications overall at its price. However the software experience, particularly all the advertising, is likely to put a lot of people off.
Do Redmi 7 and Redmi Y3 prices in India show that Xiaomi's missed a trick? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.