Smartphone makers are starting to crank out purpose-built gaming phones, and the latest to join the fray is Nubia, a sub-brand of ZTE, one of China's leading telecom equipment manufacturers. Nubia's new Red Magic Mars is a high-end handset powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor and up to 10GB of RAM, which is 2GB more than the Razer Phone 2 and ASUS ROG Phone.
The 10GB model is paired with 256GB of onboard storage. There are two other SKUs, one with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and the other with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. All three models boast a 6-inch display with a 2160x1080 resolution (18:9 aspect ratio) and 2.5D curved glass, dual SIM support, and a rear fingerprint sensor. It's not clear what the refresh rate is on the display—for comparison, the ROG Phone runs at 90Hz and the Razer Phone 2 goes even higher, hitting 120Hz.
Interestingly there is only a single camera on the rear of the phone, a 16-megapixel shooter with an f/1.8 aperture and dual-tone LED flash. Most high-end handsets these days wield at least two camera sensors on the rear. Nubia must have figured that mobile gamers won't prioritize camera performance, but for an otherwise burly set of features, it seems a misstep on the company's part.
For taking selfies, there is an 8-megapixel camera with an f/2.0 aperture and wide-angle lens on the front of the phone.
Beyond the core specs, Nubia has taken a page from ASUS and its ROG Phone (which we're in the process of reviewing) and added touch-sensitive shoulder 'buttons' on the right side of the handset. The idea is that they function as shoulder buttons when playing games in landscape mode. They're not physical buttons like you would find on a typical gamepad, like a DualShock 4 controller, but in our hands-on time with the ROG Phone they're a definite upgrade over using only on-screen controls.
The Red Magic Mars also features a cooling system that Nubia refers to as ICE. It's a combination of liquid and air cooling, and according to Nubia, it can decrease temps by up to 13.2 degrees and increase CPU performance by up to 70 percent.
It's an interesting phone, though whether it ever ships to US soil remains to be seen (we're not holding our breath). Pricing in China is set at CNY 2,699 (~$388) for the 6GB + 64GB model, CNY 3,199 (~$460) for the 8GB + 128GB model, and CNY 3,999 ($576) for the 10GB + 256GB model.