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The best phones for gaming: Play faster and better (January 2022)

There are a lot of excellent options if you're looking for a phone for gaming. Check them out below!
By
January 9, 2022
Asus ROG Phone 5 product shot of the rear of the device at an angle
Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

You could argue that almost every smartphone is a gaming phone of some kind, but what if you want the smoothest performance? Maybe you need physical buttons or a display with a high refresh rate? Either way, that’s where gaming phones come in, and there are loads of devices that fit the bill. We’ve got you covered with our list of the best gaming phones you can buy.

The best gaming phones:

Editor’s note: We will be updating this list as more gaming phones hit the market.


1. Asus ROG Phone 5

Asus ROG Phone 5 ROG RGB logo
Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

Our number one pick for the best gaming phone goes to the Asus ROG Phone 5. This should come as no surprise since it was designed and marketed with gamers in mind. Apart from top-of-the-line specs like a Snapdragon 888 processor, a 144Hz refresh rate screen, up to 512GB of storage, and up to 18GB of RAM, this phone has one of the largest batteries on the market at a whopping 6,000mAh. Oh, and did we mention a headphone jack?

Read also: Asus ROG Phone 5 review: King of the hill

In the 2021 lineup there were actually three different models: the Asus ROG Phone 5, the ROG Phone 5 Pro, and the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate. All three share the same front screen and shoulder buttons (Air Triggers 5), with minor spec boosts as you move up the ladder. The design of the back is also different, with an extra screen and two additional touch sensors on the back of the Pro and Ultimate models.

Like previous iterations, the ROG Phone 5 also has a variety of mobile gaming accessories that enhance the smartphone gaming experience. These include the Aeroactive Cooler, RGB cases, mobile phone gaming clips, port extension docks, and more. The Aeroactive Cooler ships with the Pro and Ultimate models, but the rest will cost you extra.


ROG Phone 5 specs:

  • Display: 6.78-inch, 144Hz FHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 8/16GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 64, 13, and 5MP
  • Front camera: 24MP
  • Battery: 6,000mAh
  • Software: Android 11

ROG Phone 5 Pro specs:

  • Display: 6.78-inch, 144Hz FHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 512GB
  • Cameras: 64, 13, and 5MP
  • Front camera: 24MP
  • Battery: 6,000mAh
  • Software: Android 11

ROG Phone 5 Ultimate specs:

  • Display: 6.78-inch, 144Hz FHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 18GB
  • Storage: 512GB
  • Cameras: 64, 13, and 5MP
  • Front camera: 24MP
  • Battery: 6,000mAh
  • Software: Android 11

2. Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2

Lenovo Legion Duel 2 4
Luke Pollack / Android Authority

The Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 takes the term “gaming phone” to a whole new level. Lenovo leverages its gaming PC know-how and brings it, albeit at a much smaller scale, to its latest gaming smartphone. The Legion Phone Duel 2 comes with two cooling fans that work in combination with a vapor chamber to help keep the phone cool when playing graphic-intensive games for a long time.

The phone’s unique look is not only to make it look like a gaming phone but also serves a practical purpose. All its internal hardware is at the center to ensure optimal cooling. Shoulder triggers are par for the course with good gaming phones nowadays, but Lenovo kicks things up a notch with four ultrasonic shoulder keys and two rear capacitive touchpoints. You also get two touchpoints embedded into the display, for a total of eight triggers.

Learn more: Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 review

The front camera pops out from the side once again and is in the ideal position to record yourself while playing games in the horizontal position. The camera is also a much better 44MP shooter this time around. Other specs include the Snapdragon 888 processor, up to 18GB of RAM, up to 90W fast charging, and a 64MP primary camera on the back. The Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 is certainly one of the best gaming phones you can get.


Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 specs:

  • Display: 6.92-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 12/16/18GB
  • Storage: 128/256/512GB
  • Cameras: 64, and 16MP
  • Front cameras: 44MP
  • Battery: 5,000mAh
  • Software: Android 11

3. Black Shark 4 series

Black Shark 4 Pro front and back
Black Shark

The Black Shark series of gaming smartphones get even better with the latest iteration, with the Black Shark 4 series improving on its already impressive predecessors in key areas. Both phones get a 6.67-inch FHD+ E4 OLED screen running at 144Hz, along with a 720Hz touch sampling rate, which is more in line with what you’d want from a gaming phone. The shoulder buttons return but now retract in and out of the body, which honestly looks really cool.

Making sure that you don’t have to wait long before diving into your games again, both phones come with 120W fast charging that Black Shark claims will give you a full charge in under 15 minutes. Looking at more standard smartphone features, both Black Shark phones have triple rear camera setups, with the Pro model offering a 64MP main camera and the standard variant packing a 48MP main shooter.

There is a difference in the processing power this time around though. The Black Shark 4 Pro is powered by the Snapdragon 888, while the standard model has the Snapdragon 870 under the hood. The Black Shark 4 series is great, and while the Pro edition is even better, it’s not as easily available as the standard version, which you can buy right now at the link below.


Black Shark 4 specs

  • Display: 6.67-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 870
  • RAM: 8/12GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 48, 8, and 5MP
  • Front camera: 20MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 11

Black Shark 4 Pro specs

  • Display: 6.67-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 865
  • RAM: 8/12/16GB
  • Storage: 256/512GB
  • Cameras: 64, 8, and 5MP
  • Front camera: 20MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 11

4. Nubia Red Magic 6

Red Magic 6 back of device in stool
Gary Sims / Android Authority

If you’re looking for one of the best gaming phones that’s a little easier on the wallet, the Nubia Red Magic 6 will tick a lot of boxes. Designed for gaming first and foremost, it has the latest Snapdragon 888 processor, up to 16GB of RAM, active cooling, shoulder triggers, and a blazing fast 165Hz AMOLED display. That display is only FHD+, but it’s still the fastest refresh rate we’ve ever seen on a phone.

The real kicker is that it costs less than half the sticker price of some of its brand-name competitors. At just $599, it’s just a hair more expensive than many upper-midrange phones, with specs that punch well above that. You don’t get the same commitment to updates or camera performance, but for pure gaming, it’s a killer device.


Nubia Red Magic 6 specs:

  • Display: 6.8-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 12/16GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 64, 8, an 2MP
  • Front camera: 8MP
  • Battery: 5,050mAh
  • Software: Android 11

5. OnePlus 9 Pro

OnePlus 9 Pro right rear profile
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

OnePlus is a perennial favorite of our readers here at Android Authority, and for good reason. These phones might not offer the same level of value as they have in the past, but they combine great hardware with great software in a way that’s sure to please.

Read also: OnePlus 9, OnePlus 9 Pro, and OnePlus 9R buyer’s guide: What you need to know

2021’s top-end model, the OnePlus 9 Pro, deserves a spot among the best gaming phones due to a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, up to 12GB of RAM, and a gorgeous 120Hz AMOLED display. Battery life is a bit of a weak point for the phone, but the included 65W Warp Charge 65T can top you off in a jiffy.

Although it’s not explicitly a gaming feature, camera performance on the OnePlus 9 Pro is a step above what we’ve seen in previous years. The quad-camera setup is an all-around great performer, which eliminates the Achilles heel of OnePlus phones. However, the price has been bumped up to match, with prices starting just under $1000.


OnePlus 9 Pro specs:

  • Display: 6.7-inch, 120Hz
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 8/12GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 48, 50, 8, and 2MP
  • Front camera: 16MP
  • Battery: 4,500Ah
  • Software: Android 11

6. Samsung Galaxy S21 series

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S21 Plus vs S21 Ultra 1 1
David Imel / Android Authority

Samsung’s 2021 flagships aren’t branded as gaming phones, but they are true powerhouses that offer exactly what most gamers need in a handset. Like the previous generation, the lineup includes the Samsung Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Plus, and super-premium Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Read also: Samsung Galaxy S21 buyer’s guide: Everything you need to know

All three Galaxy S21 models offer top-of-the-line specs, including adaptive 120Hz AMOLED displays, Snapdragon 888 (or Exynos 2100) processors, and excellent battery life. The S21 Ultra is obviously the most powerful of the bunch, with an extremely versatile camera setup and, for the first time, S-Pen support (sold separately).

It isn’t just about the hardware, either. All three models offer Samsung’s Game Launcher and Game Tools options, allowing you to tweak performance in individual games. The Game Tools suite also lets you easily adjust resolution, take screenshots, record videos, and more.

None of these phones are cheap, but any of the Samsung Galaxy S21 phones are a great choice for those looking for one of the best gaming phones you can buy. If you want to save a bit of money, you can also wait until summer for the inevitable Galaxy S21 FE model, which should offer the same specs at a slightly lower price point.


Samsung Galaxy S21 specs:

  • Display: 6.2-inch, 120Hz Full HD+
  • SoC: SD 888 or Exynos 2100
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 12, 64, and 12MP
  • Front camera: 10MP
  • Battery: 4,00mAh
  • Software: Android 11

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus specs:

  • Display: 6.7-inch, 120Hz FHD+
  • Chipset: SD 888 or Exynos 2100
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128/512GB
  • Cameras: 12, 64, and 12MP
  • Front camera: 10MP
  • Battery: 4,800mAh
  • Software: Android 11

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra specs:

  • Display: 6.8-inch, WQHD+
  • SoC: SD 888 or Exynos 2100
  • RAM: 12/16GB
  • Storage: 128/256/512GB
  • Cameras: 108, 10, 10, and 12MP
  • Front cameras: 40MP
  • Battery: 5,000mAh
  • Software: Android 11

7. Xiaomi Mi 11 series

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra rear display closeup
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Xiaomi has long had great flagship contenders in its Mi series, but last year’s Mi 11 series can finally compete with the best from Samsung, Apple, and others.

Read also: Xiaomi Mi 11 series buyer’s guide: Everything you need to know

The premium Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra has everything you could possibly want from a gaming phone and more. It has a gorgeous 6.81-inch WQHD+ 120Hz AMOLED screen, a Snapdragon 888 processor, 12GB of RAM, and a beefy 5,000mAh battery. Plus, the included 67W charger can top off that battery in no time flat.

Camera performance is excellent, too. With a 50MP main sensor, 48MP ultra-wide, and 48MP 5x periscope camera, you can capture some truly great photos. There’s even a novel selfie viewfinder on the back of the phone if that’s your thing.

The biggest downside is the price. This phone runs upward of $1600, making it one of the most expensive smartphones you can buy. The more affordable Xiaomi Mi 11 starts at around $760 and still delivers a lot of the same great performance. If you’re willing to splurge a little more, the middle-of-the-pack Mi 11 Pro is an option as well. The Mi 11 Pro comes with the larger battery of the Ultra, and a mix and match of the camera setups of its siblings.

Any of the three phones will be great gaming phones, although availability in the US is limited at best. Check the latest at the links below.


Xiaomi Mi 11 specs

  • Display: 6.81-inch, WQHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 108, 13, and 5MP
  • Front camera: 20MP
  • Battery: 4,600mAh
  • Software: Android 11

Xiaomi Mi 11 Pro specs

  • Display: 6.81-inch, WQHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 8/12GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 50, 8, and 13MP
  • Front camera: 20MP
  • Battery: 5,000mAh
  • Software: Android 11

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra specs

  • Display: 6.81-inch, WQHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 12GB
  • Storage: 256GB
  • Cameras: 50, 48, and 48MP
  • Front camera: 20MP
  • Battery: 5,000mAh
  • Software: Android 11

8. Sony Xperia 1 III

Sony Xperia 1 III rear of phone showing camera module
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

The Sony Xperia 1 III isn’t a gaming phone in the strictest sense, but it has a boatload of features that any gamer would be delighted to have. In fact, it’s one of the most fully-featured smartphones on the market.

For starters, there’s the gorgeous 6.5-inch 120Hz 4K OLED display with a novel 21:9 aspect ratio. This might be a bit long for video, but for games the extra real estate in landscape is perfect.

Then, of course, there’s the powerful Snapdragon 888 processor paired with a whopping 12GB of RAM. It might seem odd that there’s only one storage option at 256GB, but the included microSD card slot opens a world of possibilities. Oh, and did we mention the headphone jack and great triple cameras setup?

No matter what you use it for, the Sony Xperia 1 III won’t let you down. That said, you’ll pay for the luxury, as this is one of the priciest phones on the list.


Sony Xperia 1 III specs:

  • Display: 6.5-inch, 4K 120Hz
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 12GB
  • Storage: 256GB, microSD
  • Cameras: 12, 12, and 12MP
  • Front camera: 8MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 11

9. iPhone 13 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 12 Pro back in hand
David Imel / Android Authority

We usually talk about Android phones here at Android Authority, but we’d be doing a disservice to all of you by not including the iPhone 13 Pro Max among the best gaming phones. It offers incredible performance, fantastic cameras, and access to a more robust (albeit closed) ecosystem.

There are once again four phones in the 2021 iPhone lineup, but we chose the iPhone 13 Pro Max for this list because of its larger screen. Measuring 6.7-inches, the ProMotion 120Hz OLED panel is sharp, bright, and has an excellent contrast ratio at 2,000,000:1. It isn’t a huge change from 2020’s iPhone 12 Pro Max, but honestly there weren’t many faults with that phone to begin with.

If the iPhone Pro Max display is too big (or expensive) for you, you should also consider the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro. They both feature a smaller 6.1-inch OLED screen and the same great A15 Bionic processor, with the iPhone 13 Pro gaining 120Hz ProMotion and an extra 12MP telephoto sensor. The fourth phone in the lineup, the iPhone 14 mini, is just too small to use as a gaming phone.


iPhone 13 Pro Max specs:

  • Display: 6.7-inch, XDR OLED 120Hz
  • SoC: Apple A15 Bionic
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128/256/512GB/1TB
  • Cameras: 12, 12, and 12MP
  • Front camera: 12MP
  • Battery: 4,374mAh
  • Software: iOS 15

10. Poco F3 GT

Poco F3 GT top down of display
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Redmi spinoff Poco has been making a name for itself recently, and the brand’s latest release is one of the best gaming phones for readers in India. The Poco F3 GT is essentially a rebranded version of the China-exclusive Redmi K40 Gaming Edition, and it’s packed with features designed for gaming.

First off there’s a 6.67-inch 120Hz AMOLED panel with HDR 10+ support and DC Dimming. Then there are two retractable magnetic levitation triggers that flick out with a slider on the side of the phone, programmable to any spot on the screen for your favorite mobile shooters. It also packs an impressive 5,065mAh battery and a triple camera setup in on the back.

The catch is that it’s not powered by a Snapdragon processor. Instead, it houses a MediaTek Dimensity 1200 chipset. This won’t be a concern for most gamers, as it offers performance roughly on par with the slightly older Snapdragon 865, but it isn’t the most powerful processor on the market.

The advantage here is price. Slotted firmly in the upper-midrange segment, you can pick up the Poco F3 GT starting from Rs 26,999 (~$362) in India, with no global release planned for the future. 


Poco F3 GT specs:

  • Display: 6.67-inch, Full HD+ 120Hz
  • SoC: MediaTek Dimensity 1200
  • RAM: 6/8GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 64, 8, and 2MP
  • Front camera: 16MP
  • Battery: 5,065mAh
  • Software: Android 11