Xiaomi Redmi 7 review: a beautiful budget phone that demands your attention

Redmi 7

Rating: 7.8/10

Pros:

  • Eye-catching design
  • Good battery life
  • Mostly stable performance
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 5

Cons:

  • MIUI ads
  • Speaker quality is average

After the lackluster Redmi 6 last year, Xiaomi has gone back to the drawing board and made a truly desirable Redmi smartphone this time around. At least on paper, the Redmi 7 feels like a phone that rights the wrongs committed by the Redmi 6. 

Having said that, the Redmi 7 is very similar to the Redmi Y3 with the only exception of a pared down 8MP selfie camera. So, where does the Redmi 7 slot in 2019? 

Find out in our in-depth review of the Xiaomi Redmi 7.

Xiaomi Redmi 7 design: very refined for a phone in this price range

The moment I saw the Redmi 7 for the first time, I was enamoured by what Xiaomi had done with the design. The Redmi 7 is quite unique and refined for a phone in its price range. The whole body is made of polycarbonate but it has been polished to look like glass. The sheen and the reflection can fool anyone into thinking that the phone is actually made of glass. This is not the first phone to look like this — OPPO and Vivo have had such designs since last year — but it is definitely one of the better-looking ones out there. But note this, the Redmi 7 is a major, major fingerprint magnet as a result of this new sheen.

Our Black and Red colour gradient especially looks great. We should just call this the MKBHD edition. Anyway, you also get the phone in a Blue gradient and a plain Black colour. Xiaomi calls this the Aura Smoke design. And, the Y3 has a new Aura Prism design.

While the phone does look good, the curved back that blends into the matte Black plastic frame makes it easy to hold. It also gives out the illusion that the phone is slimmer than the 8.5mm on paper spec. Moreover, the internals is protected by a p2i nano-coating to protect the parts from any water damage.

What I like about the curved corners and rear is that it aids in the ergonomics of the phone. Holding the phone and using it with one hand is extremely comfortable. The weight is distributed evenly across the device. My only tiny grouse with the otherwise stellar design is the fact that the area where the plastic on the rear meets matte frame feels coarse to the touch. It feels slightly rough. Moreover, the plastic body is bound to scratch easily. But thankfully, Xiaomi has provided a case in the box. Although, the phone looks so good that I am not really a fan of putting it inside a case. 

The fingerprint scanner on the rear is present at a very convenient location and it works extremely fast. The Face Unlock works fairly fast in adequate lighting conditions and it doesn’t unlock when your eyes are closed. At the bottom, you can find the Micro-USB port and grilles flanking it on either side. Obviously, only the grille on the right works as the mono speaker. On the top, you get the headphone jack and the infrared port. So, that stays. The power button and the volume rocker are on the right edge and feel adequately tactile. You also get a notification LED, which sits on the chin.  

Overall, I really like the design of the Redmi 7. And, I think this is definitely one of the better-looking phones under Rs 10,000.

Xiaomi Redmi 7 display and multimedia: does the job well

The Redmi 7’s front is dominated by the 6.26-inch IPS LCD panel, which has an aspect ratio of 19:9. On this display, you get a total of 720×1520 pixels and that translates to a pixel density of 269ppi. This is the standard resolution for most phones in this price range, so nothing to complain about here really. The display has a fairly neutral colourspace and the viewing angles are great too. At its highest point, the brightness level is good and the display is actually pretty readable outdoors. Even the lowest brightness setting is at an adequate level. 

Now, this display has a ‘Dot Notch’ — which is what Xiaomi calls the water-drop notch — on the top and a big chin at the bottom. However, I didn’t mind it too much after a few days of usage. The viewing experience while gaming or watching movies is not too bad. You only get Widevine L3 support, though. But that shouldn’t really matter much for a phone in its price range. After the whole light bleeding fiasco that plagued the LCD panels of the Poco F1, Xiaomi seems to have tightened its machine-line engineering. There is no light bleed on the Redmi 7 whatsoever, and that is great. 

Now, with this display, watching videos was fairly fun with only the tiny “Dot Notch” breaking the experience. You can switch off the notch if you want to by the way. The accompanying speaker gets loud enough for the most part but at maximum volume, the sound quality is not too great. It is a slightly underwhelming mono speaker if you ask me. Similarly, the sound through my KZ AS06 was loud but it wasn’t too refined. There was a lot of bleeding of instruments sounds in tightly packed songs. 

Xiaomi Redmi 7 camera: adequately good

The Redmi 7 has three cameras in total: an 8MP selfie camera and a dual (12+2MP) camera setup on the rear. The secondary 2MP camera is a depth sensor for better bokeh shots. After shooting around a bit, one thing is clear: the Redmi 7 is a slow shooter. So, more often than not, you will end up with a blurry shot if you are not very stable. You will have to learn to be patient with the Redmi 7 when capturing images. 

Now, in daylight shots, the Redmi 7 offers a decent amount of details at 100% crop. This 1.25-micron sensor is not super duper crisp but it gets the job done. Without AI, the Redmi 7 shoots slightly dull colours but with AI it immediately boosts the colours. For example, take a look at this shot and how the phone has made the blue colour of the sky punchier with AI on. The camera has decent exposure control and the colours look neutral most of the time. It does lose out some details in the shadows but that is just nitpicking. You get auto-HDR and that gets the job done most of the time. 

Redmi 7 Google camera sample

Redmi 7 sample

The camera starts struggling slightly when you take it indoors. The images become softer and the shutter speed becomes slower. But the low light pictures don’t look half bad for a budget phone. If you want a phone for camera performance, I’d strongly suggest bumping up the budget and getting something like the Mi A2 or the Redmi Note 7 Pro. The jump in picture quality will actually make that budget jump worth it. 

AI off

AI on

The phone also shoots very soft selfies even in proper daylight. But there is a fix for it: the Google camera port. Yes, the Redmi 7 supports camera2api and one of the Google camera ports worked for me. Just look at the difference in image quality! Google camera does a fab job in selfies and offers more accurate colours in rear camera shots as well. 

 

Moving on, you also get 1080p 60fps video recording using the rear camera, without any sort of stabilisation. It is fine but I wouldn’t use it much. 

Overall, the cameras on the Redmi 7 are good enough and there is nothing more to analyse really.

Xiaomi Redmi 7 software: MIUI 10 is clean and responsive 

The Redmi 7 runs on the latest version of MIUI 10 on top of Android 9 Pie. So, you definitely get the latest software on the phone and that’s obviously a good thing. What’s not good is that once again, there are tons of ads. For example, lock screen wallpapers by Glance throw up ads the moment you wake up the phone. And, if you install an app, the inbuilt security check will check every app individually and you are greeted with an ad on that screen as well. 

I like MIUI 10 for the gestures and the bucketload of features that you get with it. But, it is annoying to sit through all these ads. Yes, you can switch them off individually but I doubt a lot of folks will actually do that.

Xiaomi Redmi 7 performance: good enough

This is the first time that Xiaomi has used a Snapdragon 600 series chipset in the budget Redmi series. Last year, the company did get a lot of flak for launching the Redmi 6 with a MediaTek Helio P22. Anyway, the Redmi 7 uses the Snapdragon 632 chip, which also includes the Adreno 506 GPU. Our variant was the one with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. 

During my testing, I noticed that the phone did restart heavy games after about 15-odd minutes. However, that is totally reasonable for a budget smartphone. That said, I was glad that if you merely used regular apps like Instagram, Gmail, Facebook, and the likes, the Redmi 7 was far more lenient with keeping things in memory. The day-to-day performance was not blazing fast or anything. For example, after a while of usage and with a few apps in memory, the swipe down to search would become slow to respond. Also, apps would take a while to open. But these are within the realm of a budget smartphone. 

What I particularly enjoyed was the fact that it had a smooth scrolling in a power-hungry app like Facebook. This makes me believe that Redmi 7 is possibly one of the most powerful phones out there in its price range. I could actually use the phone for my podcasts, daily social media usage, emails, and more without any hiccups as such. The phone is also great for some casual gaming on-the-go. Now, while it can indeed play PUBG and the SoC defaults to Medium graphics, I saw a lot of stutter with the fps hovering somewhere around the 25 fps mark. You will have to drop to Low graphics to get a stable 40 fps reading. I don’t think the PUBG fans should look at a phone like the Redmi 7. 

The one major loss with Snapdragon 632 is that you don’t get support for 802.11ac, so forget about connecting to 5GHz networks. Although I am not so sure many phones in this price range have that option in the first place. The 4G network performance was decent though, and I had no trouble browsing on the go. The call quality through the earpiece was slightly muffled and garbled. It wasn’t crystal clear per se. But, the phone didn’t drop the network once. So, that’s a plus. 

Xiaomi Redmi 7 battery: way better than the previous generation

Xiaomi has also bumped the battery capacity on the Redmi 7. After the paltry 3000mAh battery inside the Redmi 6 last year, the Redmi 7 is going gung-ho with a 4000mAh battery. Fun fact: all the Xiaomi phones launched this year come with a 4000mAh battery. Anyway, you get a 5V 2A or 10W charger inside the box and it can charge this battery from 0 to 100 in around 2 hours and 20 odd minutes. Now, this is decently fast but not fast enough. 

Anyway, this 4000mAh battery can easily give you one and a half day’s worth of battery life even on heavy usage because of the lower resolution display. I got a SoT of more than 7 and a half hours on a couple of occasions and the standby drain in the night is minimal too. Overall, I don’t have much to complain about battery performance really. 

Should you buy the Xiaomi Redmi 7?

At the time of writing this review, we don’t have the price for the Redmi 7 but I expect it to be priced around the Rs 9,000 mark. The phone itself is appealing for what is on offer, but there are quite a few good options. Let’s start by taking a look at each one of them:

Xiaomi Redmi Y3

Launching alongside the Redmi 7, the Redmi Y3 is practically the same phone with a 32MP selfie camera. But no doubt, it is bound to be priced higher than the Redmi 7. I am guessing that there’d be at least a good Rs 2,000 difference, for the base variants if I am not entirely off the mark. For that price bump, you get a dedicated 32MP selfie camera, if you are into capturing self-portraits. And, I think, the Y3 might just be a better buy if you can stretch the budget. 

Realme C2

With the new Realme C2, Realme has a great product for an incredible price tag of Rs 5,999. This one has the Helio P22 compared to the Snapdragon 632, which is the only difference worth highlighting. Otherwise, the other specs are almost on par. I can’t really comment right now if the C2 is better than the Redmi 7. We will wait for a review unit to compare the two but at least on paper, the C2 looks like quite a formidable competitor. 

Samsung Galaxy M10

Between the Samsung Galaxy M10 and the Redmi 7, I’d go for the latter because it has better cameras for sure. And, the design looks better as well, in my opinion. 

Also read: Samsung Galaxy M10 review: recommendations made easier

ASUS ZenFone Max M2

Now, the ZenFone Max M2 is definitely an option to consider because the specs are almost identical. But, the Redmi 7 has better cameras, and a better design language, especially with the Dot Notch at the front.

You might also get some older phones on discounts now. For example, the ZenFone Max Pro M1 with a SD636 chip is quite a powerful phone right now. So, that could definitely make for a good buy. And then, there are phones like the Honor 9N or the Honor 8C as well. And of course, the Redmi 6 Pro, one of my favourite Xiaomi phones from last year, is also available for a lower price now. There are options aplenty but the Redmi 7 does make a mark for itself with a unique-looking design and reliable performance across the board. 

What did you guys think of the Redmi 7? 

Post publish edit: After the launch and the prices, I realised that I completely forgot about the 3GB/32GB storage variant of the Redmi Note 7. The Redmi Note 7 with a glass body, SD660 SoC, QC 4.0 support, and a Type-C port at Rs 9,999 for the 3GB RAM/32GB storage variant is such a great option compared the Redmi Y3 and the Redmi 7.  Evidently, the Redmi Note 7 India variant keeps slipping off of my mind for some reason. Why could that be? Did Xiaomi not market it enough?

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Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?