In the past year,  there’s been a surge of smartphones focused on giving the best gaming experience. It makes sense — more and more mobile games are pushing the envelope in graphics, gameplay, and features.

What are the best phones for gaming right now?

Editor's Pick

Let’s take a look at the best of the current and upcoming gaming phones, which have high-end hardware specs and special features made just for gaming. We’ll also take a brief look at more conventional phones with excellent performance and features for gaming.

Razer Phone 2

Razer got started as a hardcore gaming accessory and hardware company for PCs and consoles. It started this current gaming smartphone trend in 2017 with the launch of the first Razer Phone. Now the company has just launched its successor, the Razer Phone 2, which by all accounts improves on the original in nearly every way.

Like the first Razer Phone, the Razer Phone 2 has 8GB of RAM and a big 5.7-inch display with a 120Ghz refresh rate. Combined with Ultra Motion, which syncs up the phone’s GPU with the high refresh rate, these features allow games made for the phone to have silky smooth framerates with little to no lag or screen tearing. In addition, the screen on the Razer Phone 2 is 50 percent brighter than the first Razer Phone.

Editor's Pick

Besides the display features, the Razer Phone 2 also has a big 4,000mAh battery and supports wireless charging. It also has the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, loud twin front speakers with Dolby Atmos support, and more. Software improvements like Game Booster let owners set customized performance setups for each game. The cameras in the Razer Phone 2 are highly improved compared to the original, and the phone incorporates the company’s Chroma LED lighting in the back for the Razer logo. 

You can purchase it now from Razer unlocked for $799.99. Razer also announced the Raiji Mobile game controller, made specifically for the Razer Phone 2, although it works with any Android phone. It will go on sale later this year.

Specs

  • 5.7-inch LED display with 1,440 x 2,560 resolution
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor
  • 8GB of RAM
  • 64GB of onboard storage, MicroSD slot available
  • Dual 12MP rear cameras, 8MP front camera
  • Non-removable 4,000mAh battery
  • Android 8.1 Oreo
  • 158.5 x 78.9 x 8.5mm, 220g

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Xiaomi Black Shark

xiaomi black shark Xiaomi Gaming

Chinese phone company Xiaomi launched its own phone for gaming in China in April 2018 with the Black Shark. It has a big 6-inch, 2,160 x 1,080 resolution display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. Inside, it sports 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. The phone comes in either 6GB or 8GB of RAM varieties, with either 64GB or 128GB of storage respectively.

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. Its special “Shark Key” can also push the Black Shark into a high-performance mode. Xiaomi also sells a one-sided gamepad that attaches to the device and with a charge lasting around 30 hours.

Editor's Pick

As we said, the Xiaomi Black Shark went on sale first 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. The phone never officially launched in the U.S., but retailers like GearBest sell the international versions of the phone for prices as high as $685.

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 Magicvia Red Magic

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 the phone is its angled rear design, which gives it a rather slick and unique look. The back also includes a horizontal RGB LED light you can customize to show up to 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 — Nubia calls it Gameboost — to improve gaming performance. 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 is 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. 

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

Honor Play

Honor Play player edition

Huawei’s Honor brand announced its first gaming-centric phone, the Honor Play, earlier in 2018. Unlike many of the other phones on this list, the Honor Play has been made for gamers who don’t have a ton of money. It has  Huawei’s Kirin 970 chipset, either 4GB or 6GB of RAM, and 64GB of onboard storage, along with a 3,750mAh battery. It features a notched 6.3-inch, 2,340 x 1,080 LCD screen, a 16MP and 2MP dual-lens rear camera and a 16MP front-facing camera.

The Honor Play’s GPU Turbo technology is supposed to offer a smoother gaming experience with higher frame rates and longer battery life. It also features “AI 4D Smart Shock” which makes the phone vibrate in unique ways to reflect the action in-game. Even the back of the phone has a cool circuitry-themed design made to appeal to gamers. You can get the 4GB RAM version of the Honor Play on Amazon right now for the price of just $340.

Specs

  • 6.3-inch display LCD 2,340 x 1,080 display
  • Kirin 970 processor
  • 4 or 6GB of RAM
  • 64GB of onboard storage
  • 16MP and 2MP rear cameras, 16MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,750mAh battery
  • Android 8.1 Oreo
  • 158.8 x 76.2 x 8.6mm, 200g

Asus ROG Phone

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

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

The Asus ROG Phone has 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 has 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’s being 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 has some interesting gaming features. It has three AirTrigger ultrasonic touch sensors to serve as shoulder triggers when holding the phone in landscape. In addition to its USB Type-C port on the bottom, the Asus ROG phone has an extra USB Type-C port on the side, so you can connect the phone up to an optional WiGig gaming dock. Finally, there’s 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. The AeroActive Cooler will keep the phone nice and cool during long gaming sessions. Asus will also sell a third-party controller for the phone made by GameVice to 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 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 in its 128GB version is for sale now on Amazon, and also via Microsoft’s online store, priced at $899. The 512GB version will go on sale in November for $1,099. The phone will ship with the AeroActive Cooler accessory for free. The other accessories will go on sale later this year.

Specs

  • 6-inch 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

 

Huawei Mate 20 X

China-based smartphone company Huawei jumped into the gaming phone trend in a big way with the Huawei Mate 20 X. It shares most of the same hardware specs as Huawei’s new flagship Mate 20 Pro, with a few differences. The biggest change is the massive 7.21-inch 2,244 x 1,080 OLED display, which is the largest screen ever on a Huawei phone. It also has a huge 5,000mAh battery, and inside there’s a new, graphene-based cooling system, which has never been used in the smartphone industry. It is supposed to provide superior cooling during long play sessions.

The other hardware specs for the Mate 20 X include Huawei’s in-house Kirin 980 chipset, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of onboard storage, a triple rear camera, dual speakers, and Android 9.0 Pie (with Huawei’s EMUI 9.0 skin) out of the box. It will go on sale in Europe later in October for 899 euros (~$1040). Huawei also plans to sell a game controller for the Mate 20 X that clips on the left-hand side of the phone and will have an analog stick and D-pad. Pricing for the accessory has yet to be announced.

Specs

  • 7.21-inch display OLED 2,244 x 1,080 display
  • Kirin 980 processor
  • 6GB of RAM
  • 128GB of onboard storage
  • 40MP, 8MP and 20MP rear cameras, 24MP front camera
  • Non-removable 5,000mAh battery
  • Android 9.0 Pie
  • 174.6 x 85.4 x 8.2 mm, 232g

Xiaomi Black Shark Helo

The Xiaomi BlackShark Helo. Xiaomi

After launching the first Black Shark gaming phone earlier this year, Xiaomi has quickly announced its successor, the Black Shark Helo. The big change for the new phone is it’s now available with 6GB all the way to a whopping 10GB of RAM inside. It also now has a 6-inch OLED 2,160 x 1,080 display, the current Snapdragon 845 chipset inside, 128GB to 256GB of onboard storage, a 4,000mAh battery, front facing speakers, and a hardware key so owners can activate the phone’s performance mode. Finally, it will have a dual 20MP and 12MP rear camera setup, with a 20MP sensor up front.

The Black Shark Helo’s Gamer Studio software will let owners change and customize the processor, touch, display, network speeds and other things for specific games. The phone will also have two gamepad attachments to add console-like D-pads and buttons to each side of the phone. Buyers of the 6GB and 8GB model will get one of them free, but the 10GB model gets both gamepad attachments out of the box. It will go on sale in China soon for 3,199 yuan (~$461) for the 6GB/128GB variant, and 3,499 yuan (~$504) for the 8GB/128GB model. There’s no word yet on what the big 10GB/256GB model will sell for just yet.

Specs

  • 6-inch OLED 2,160 x 1,080 display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor
  • 6/8/10GB of RAM
  • 128 or 256GB of onboard storage
  • 12MP and 20MP rear cameras, 20MP front camera
  • Non-removable 4,000mAh battery
  • Android 8.1 Oreo

Nubia Red Magic Mars

The Nubia Red Magic Mars. Nubia

It didn’t take long for Nubia to launch a successor to its Red Magic gaming phone. While that first phone didn’t really wow us with its hardware specs, the Nubia Red Magic Mars is a phone that may be trying too hard to impress. Yes, it does have a  Snapdragon 845 chipset inside, and some versions will have 6GB to 8GB of RAM, and 64GB to 128GB of fixed storage. However, there will also be a version with 256GB of storage, and a whopping 10GB of RAM inside.

In addition, the Nubia Red Magic Mars two extra shoulder triggers for gaming, which are actually capacitive keys. There will also be an optional gamepad attachment sold for the phone, which looks a bit like the JoyCon controller for the Nintendo Switch. Some of the other hardware features include a 6-inch LCD screen, a 3,800mAh battery, stereo speakers, an 8MP f/2.0 selfie camera, a 16MP f/1.8 rear camera, a headphone jack, and the Redmagic OS based on Android Pie

Some of the other gaming-themed features of the phone include a vapor cooling system, a motor-based rumble system and a RGB light strip in the back that will react to certain in-game actions. There’s even a built-in voice changer, just in case you want to mask out your real voice when engaging in multiplayer online battles.

The Nubia Red Magic Mars will go on sale Dec. 7 in its home country of China, with a starting price of 2,699 yuan (~$389) for the 6GB/64GB variant. The 8GB/128GB model is priced at 3,199 yuan (~$461), and the over-the-top 10GB/256GB version is priced at 3,999 yuan (~$575). There’s no word on when it might be released outside of China.

Specs

  • 6-inch LED 2,160 x 1,080 display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor
  • 6/8/10GB of RAM
  • 64/128/256GB of onboard storage
  • 16MP rear cameras, 8MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,800mAh battery
  • Android 9 Pie

Wonder (Upcoming)

wonder gaming smartphone preview The Verge

Mysterious startup Wonder made its public debut a couple of years ago, and recently began revealing details for its own phone for gaming. It will be an Android phone running a skin called WonderOS. This UI will overclock phone’s processor so it can output to larger screens, 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 WonderOS.

Who knows if this will work. At the moment, the first phone with WonderOS might not launch until 2019 at the earliest. Turning a mobile device into a game console certainly worked for the Nintendo Switch, so maybe this setup could work for Android as well.

Will there be a Samsung gaming phone in 2019?

The Samsung logo.

There have been rumors this year Samsung will jump in and launch its own gaming-centric smartphone in 2019. The latest such unconfirmed report claims not only is such a phone in the works but that it could be the first such device with Samsung’s own mobile GPU. If this report is accurate, it makes sense for a gaming phone from Samsung to use its own GPU to boost gaming performance. We will update this post when more information is revealed.

Current mainstream smartphones that are great for gaming

More and more gaming phones are entering the marketplace, but plenty of phones on the market are 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. The more recent Galaxy Note 9 is also a great option, with the same processor, a 4,000mAh battery, up to 8GB of RAM, and its impressive 6.4-inch 1,440p Super AMOLED Infinity Display.

All of these Samsung phones have what the company calls Game Tools, which lets users play games in Full Screen mode, filling the entire edge-to-edge display. You can also still quickly take screenshots or record gameplay on the phone, and temporarily disable the phones’ digital home button or any notifications that might interrupt gameplay.

 

The Moto Z family of phones are also great for gaming, with optional Moto Mods that attach to the back of those devices, like the gamepad Moto Mod Motorola launched 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 are mainstream phones that are also great for gaming we recommend:

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?