Xiaomi Black Shark 2 vs Nubia Red Magic Mars vs Vivo iQOO: Battle of the gaming smartphones

We did a comparison between the gaming smartphones available a few months ago and today, with the launch of Xiaomi’s Black Shark 2, it is time to make another one. This time we will let the specs of the top three Chinese gaming smartphone battle head to head and see which one has the best price to performance ratio. So, let us take a look at what the Xiaomi Black Shark 2, the ZTE Nubia Red Magic Mars and the Vivo IQOO have to offer.

 Xiaomi Black Shark 2Nubia Red Magic MarsVivo iQOO
CPUSnapdragon 855Snapdragon 845Snapdragon 855
RAM6GB, 8GB or 12GB6GB, 8GB or 10GB6GB, 8GB or 12GB
Storage128GB or 256GB64GB, 128GB or 256GB128GB or 256GB
Display Size6.39"6.0"6.41"
Display Resolution1080 x 23401080 x 21601080 x 2340
Display TypeAMOLEDLTPS IPS LCDAMOLED
Camera48MP + 12MP16MP12MP + 13MP + 2MP
Front Facing Camera20MP8MP12MP
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPSWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPSWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS
Battery4000mAh3800mAh4000mAh
Additional Featuresin-display fingerprint reader, gaming accesoriesin-display fingerprint readerRGB strip on the back
Price$685.99 (pre-order)
$815.99 (pre-order)
$399
$449
$655.99
$715.99

Out of the three, only the Nubia Red Magic Mars comes with the previous generation Snapdragon 845 CPU. It is also the only one that does not have an AMOLED display. Both Black Shark 2 and IQOO come with an in-display fingerprint reader, but, since it only has an IPS LCD display, the Red Magic Mars has to settle for a more traditional one on the back. This isn’t necessarily something bad, mostly since in-display fingerprint readers are usually a little bit slower, but it is worth mentioning it. Talking about the screen, the Vivo IQOO has the biggest one, measuring 6.41″ in diagonal and having a 1080x2340px resolution. Xiaomi’s gaming smartphone has a slightly smaller screen, 6.39″ to be more precise, but with the same resolution. ZTE’s offering falls short again, having a 6″ with 1080x2160px resolution. Still, all three have a density of approximately 402ppi.

All three smartphones start with a base configuration of 6GB of RAM and go all the way up to 12GB for the Black Shark 2 and IQOO, and 10GB for the Red Magic Mars respectively. Storage space starts at 128GB for Xiaomi and Vivo, and 64GB for ZTE’s smartphone. Still, all three have an 8GB/128GB version and go up to 256GB of storage for the highest model. None of them have expandable storage, so chose the one you think will satisfy your needs.

Camera wise, Xiaomi has the best among the three. The Black Shark 2 comes with a Dual 48MP + 12MP setup on the back that should take excellent quality photos, on par with what the Mi 9 offers. The ZTE Nubia Red Magic Mars has a single 16MP sensor on the back, which feels a bit outdated. The pictures are not bad, but they do not reach the high expectations that people have nowadays from high-end smartphones. Vivo chose a middle ground for the back cameras. It offers a triple-camera setup of 12MP + 13MP + 2MP that should capture good photos and videos, but maybe not as good as what the Black Shark 2 offers.

Design wise, the IQOO does not look like a gaming smartphone. It is an elegant device that resembles many high-end devices from the past year. The Black Shark 2 has a more gaming appearance and feel, with sharper edges and non-standard design. The Red magic Mars also has sharp edges and a gaming look-and-feel, a design that is further enhanced thanks to the RGB strip present on the back.

I know that you may be thinking why would anyone buy the Red Magic Mars since it’s specs are clearly inferior compared to the other two. The answer is “price”. The Red Magic Mars starts at just $399 at the official store and goes up to $449 for the 8GB/128GB version. The other two smartphones here are more expensive. The Xiaomi Black Shark 2 starts at $685.99 (un-official store – pre-order), goes up to $815.99 for the 8GB/256GB version and can reach more than $1000 for the highest model. The Vivo IQOO has a similar price, with the base model starting at $655.99 and the 8GB/128GB costing $715.99. Are the extra dollars worth it? It depends a lot. Strictly from a gaming point of view, the Red Magic Mars should be able to handle everything you can throw at it right now. But maybe the extra accessories (sold separately) the Xiaomi has to offer for their device may be worth the upgrade to a more recent device.

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