Phones for gaming

In the last several months, companies have released a surge of phones focused on giving the best gaming experience. It makes sense — more and more mobile games are pushing the envelope in graphics, gameplay, and features. But what are the best phones for gaming right now?

Editor's Pick

In this article, we take a look at these new gaming phones, which have high-end hardware specs and special features made just for gaming. We also take a brief look at more conventional phones that still offer excellent performance and features for gaming.

Razer Phone

razer phone

Razer has already been highly successful with its wide range of gaming hardware and accessories. Now the company’s decided to make a gaming and entertainment oriented smartphone, simply called the Razer Phone. It’s arguably the device that started this current gaming phone trend.

Its 8GB of RAM shows you Razer wants to make gaming on a phone smoother and better than on a normal device. The Razer Phone includes a big 5.7-inch display with a 120Ghz refresh rate. That feature can be combined with the phone’s other major feature,  Ultra Motion, which syncs up its GPU with the high refresh rate, allowing games made for the phone to have silky smooth framerates with little to no lag or screen tearing.

Editor's Pick

Besides the display features, the Razer Phone also has a big 4,000mAh battery, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, loud twin front speakers with Dolby Atmos support, and more. While other gaming phones have since been announced or revealed with even more features, the Razer phone is still a highly impressive phone. You can purchase it now from Razer unlocked for $599.99.

Specs

  • 5.7-inch LED display with 1,440 x 2,560 resolution
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
  • 8GB of RAM
  • 64GB of onboard storage, MicroSD slot available
  • Dual 12MP rear cameras, 8MP front camera
  • Non-removable 4,000mAh battery
  • Android 7.1.1 Nougat (Update to Android 8.0 Oreo)
  • 158.5 x 77.7 x 8 mm, 197 g

Xiaomi Black Shark

xiaomi black shark Xiaomi Gaming

Chinese phone company Xiaomi launched its own phone for gaming in April 2018 with the Black Shark, though at the moment it’s only available in China. It has a big 6-inch, 2,160 x 1,080 resolution display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. Inside, you will find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset and a beefy 4,000mAh battery, which supports Quick Charge 3.0. It includes a 12MP and 20MP dual camera setup, with a 20MP front-facing camera. It’s available with either 6GB or 8GB of RAM, and either 64GB or 128GB of storage.

The design of the Xiaomi Black Shark itself looks like what would happen if you shrunk a gaming laptop design down to a smartphone size. In fact, the phone has a PC-like integrated cooling system to avoid overheating during long gaming sessions. It also has a special “Shark Key” that pushes the Black Shark into a high-performance mode. Xiaomi is also selling an optional one-sided gamepad that attaches to the device and is good for around 30 hours.

Editor's Pick

As we said, the Xiaomi Black Shark is only on sale in China, but the price in that part of the world is pretty low for a gaming smartphone with these features. You can snap the 6GB of RAM and 64GB storage version up for just $479, while the version with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage will run you $559. Hopefully, the company will expand into other markets around the world.

Specs

  • 6-inch display IPS LED display with 2,160 x 1,080 resolution
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor
  • 6 or 8GB of RAM
  • 64 or 128GB of onboard storage, no expansion slot
  • Dual 12MP and 20MP rear cameras, 20 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 4,000mAh battery
  • Android 8.0 Oreo
  • 161.6 x 75.4 x 9.3mm, 190g

Nubia Red Magic

Nubia Red Magic @redmagicgaming

Yet another Chinese phone maker, Nubia (a subsidiary of ZTE) introduced its own phone for gaming in April, called the Nubia Red Magic. The first thing you may notice about it is its angled rear design, which definitely gives it a rather slick and unique look. The back also includes a horizonal RGB LED light that can be customized to show up in 16 million color variations. Nubia claims the angled back also helps in cooling the phone, since it has more surface area, along with three rear cooling ports.

Like the Black Shark, the Red Magic has a 6-inch display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. There’s also a hardware button on the Red Magic, which Nubia calls Gameboost, that is supposed improve performance while gaming. However, the Red Magic packs in a smaller 3,800mAh battery, and the older Snapdragon 835 processor. It also has just a single rear camera, which is still pretty large at 24MP, along with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

Nubia decided to sell the Red Magic via Indiegogo, and it recently ended sales of the phone, which it priced at $399. Nubia plans to ship the phone starting in June. A limited number of units were sold to North America for “testing” and those folks are supposed to be able to trade that version in for the real North American version of the Red Magic when it goes on sale later this fall (assuming ZTE is able to get back up and running fully, though signs look good).

Specs

  • 6-inch display Full HD+ 1,080 x 2,160 display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
  • 8GB of RAM
  • 128GB of onboard storage
  • 24MP rear cameras, 8MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,800mAh battery
  • Android 8.1 Oreo
  • 158.1 x74.9 x9.5 mm, 185 g

Asus ROG Phone (Upcoming)

Asus Rog Phone gaming smartphone render against a black background - phone for gaming Asus

After hinting at it for months, Asus announced its entry into the gaming smartphone market in June with the ROG Phone. Asus is wisely using its well known Republic of Gamers (ROG) PC brand and it already looks like the most feature-rich device for this market niche yet.

The Asus ROG Phone will have the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset inside, but with a clock speed boost to 2.96Ghz (the normal speed for the processor is 2.8Ghz). It will have a 6-inch AMOLED 2,160 x 1,080 display with a 90Hz refresh rate. While that’s higher than the normal 60Hz rate on most phones, it doesn’t match the 120Hz rate on the older Razer Phone. It will be sold with 8GB of RAM, either 128GB or 512GB of onboard storage and a 4,000mAh battery. Look for a dual 12MP and 8MP rear camera setup on this gaming phone, along with an 8MP front-facing camera and dual speakers on the front.

Read Next: Hands on with the Asus ROG

The phone will also have some interesting hardware features tailored to the hardcore gamer. It will have three AirTrigger ultrasonic touch sensors to serve as shoulder triggers when holding the phone in landscape fashion. In addition to its USB Type-C port on the bottom, the Asus ROG phone will have an extra USB Type-C port on the side, so you can connect the phone up to an optional WiGig gaming dock. Finally, there will be an X Mode, activated by squeezing the sides of the ROG Phone, to increase the hardware performance of the phone.

Asus Rog Phone gaming smartphone in hands from behind. Asus

Along with the ROG Phone, Asus plans to sell a number of optional accessories made just for this device. The previously mentioned WiGig dock can connect the phone to an external display, or a mouse and keyboard to play games or do other things like on a PC. Another accesory is an AeroActive Cooler for keeping the phone nice and cool during long gaming sessions. Asus will also sell a third-party controller for the phone made by GameVice that will add analog sticks, shoulder buttons, and other keys on each side of the ROG Phone.

Finally, Asus will sell the TwinView handheld dock, adding a secondary display to let you either play a game with more screen real estate or launch a second app to chat with friends while playing a game. The TwinView will also come with its own 6,000mAh battery. The Asus ROG Phone goes on sale in Q3 2018. Pricing for the phone and its many accessories, has yet to be revealed. We would expect to pay a bit more for an overlocked phone for gaming like this.

Specs

  • 6-inch display AMOLED 1,080 x 2,160 display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor
  • 8GB of RAM
  • 128 or 512GB of onboard storage
  • 12MP and 8MP rear cameras, 8MP front camera
  • Non-removable 4,000mAh battery
  • Android 8.1 Oreo
  • 158.8 x 76.2 x 8.6mm, 200g

Wonder (Upcoming)

wonder gaming smartphone preview The Verge

Mysterious startup Wonder made its public debut a couple of years ago, and recently it began revealing details for its own phone for gaming. It will be an Android phone running a skin called WonderOS. This UI will let the phone’s processor be overclocked so it can output its display to a larger screen, like a TV. The phone will come with a dock and controller for this, but Wonder won’t actually make the device. It is in talks with a number of unnamed Android OEMs to make handsets with the WonderOS in mind.

Who knows if this will work. At the moment, the first phone with WonderOS might not launch until 2019 at the earlier. However, turning a mobile device into a game console has certainly worked for the Nintendo Switch. It’s possible this setup could work for Android as well.

Current mainstream smartphones that are great for gaming

More and more gaming phones are entering the marketplace, but there are still plenty of phones on the market already great for high-end gaming. The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus have excellent 5.8- and 6.2-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED displays, along with the Snapdragon 845 processor, and will handle just about anything you throw at them. Even the older Galaxy Note 8 is a great option, with its impressive 6.3-inch QuadHD+ Infinity Display.

All of these Samsung phones have what the company calls Game Tools. The feature lets users play games in Full Screen mode, which fills the entire edge-to-edge display, instead of seeing them in letterboxed mode. You can also still quickly take screenshots or record gameplay on the phone along with a way to temporarily disable the phones’ digital home button and cuts off any notifications from showing up on your screen in the middle of gameplay.

The Moto Z family of phones are also great for gaming, with optional Moto Mods that attach to the back of those devices. Motorola launched a gamepad Moto Mod for those phones in mid-2017. Connecting it up places control sticks on either side of the phone. It also has a D-pad and four tactile action buttons, and its own 1,035mAh battery that is supposed to offer even more gaming time for any Moto Z phone.

Here’s a quick list of our recommendations of mainsteam phones that are also great for gaming:

Best phones for gaming – Conclusion

Those are our picks for the best phones for gaming. We’ll keep an eye out for more hardcore gaming phones in the months ahead and update this post accordingly. In the meantime, are you planning to purchase one of these gaming phones?