Best Gaming Phone 2021: The Best iOS and Android Phone for Gaming
TL;DR – These are the Best Gaming Phones:
1. Asus ROG Phone 3
Best Gaming Phone
Asus had a strong entry into mobile gaming with the original Asus ROG Phone, and matters have only improved with the introduction of the Asus ROG Phone 3 (read our review). This phone is designed for gaming first and foremost. To that end, it packs in a 6.59-inch AMOLED display for stunning visuals that can run at a blazing 144Hz refresh rate. You’ll get your games with a high contrast ratio and strong peak brightness from the display.
Of course, with a display of that caliber, you need a chipset to match. Asus didn’t settle for the top-tier Snapdragon 865 at the heart of many Android flagships, opting instead for the higher-powered Snapdragon 865+, letting it eke out even more performance for running games. The phone itself is one thing, but Asus also supports it with a range of accessories that can offer a Nintendo Switch-like experience or connect your phone to a TV to play your mobile games on the big screen.
2. ZTE Nubia Red Magic 5G
Best Budget Gaming Phone
In many ways, the Nubia Red Magic 5G (see our review) is a special sort of phone. It delivers the latest specs for an Android device, including the flagship Snapdragon 865 chipset with 5G connectivity, and yet it only costs a hair over $600. It doesn’t make sacrifices like having a 60Hz display or IPS panel, but instead goes all in with an AMOLED display running at up to 144Hz. The storage, memory, and battery are all respectable as well.
One thing you do miss out on with this phone is water resistance. That’s because there’s actually an open port on the phone. Why? Becuase this bad boy actually actively cools its processors with a fan. Furthering its gaming credentials, the Nubia Red Magic 5G sports RGB lighting on the back and sports physical shoulder buttons for easier gameplay. Even your touch inputs get an upgrade, as the touchscreen has a 240Hz polling rate for extra responsiveness.
3. iPhone 12 Pro
Best iPhone for Gaming
So many good games come to iOS, you can’t be blamed for wanting a great iPhone to play them on. The iPhone 12 Pro is the one you’ll want. It delivers a 6.1-inch display to give you plenty of room to play on, and that’s a bright OLED panel for excellent visual quality. The new A14 Bionic chip inside will show you just how capable it is in gaming.
With 128GB of storage at minimum, you’ll get plenty of room to keep games saved onto the iPhone 12 Pro. That’ll ensure you can take full advantage of all that’s on offer in Apple Arcade. And, if you’re looking to get into some cloud gaming, the iPhone 12 Pro’s support for 5G networking will help you do just that while you’re away from Wi-Fi.
4. Xiaomi Black Shark 3 Pro
Made to Game
The Xiaomi Black Shark 3 Pro follows up on the Black Shark 2 (read our review) as another high-end device with gaming at its core. You’ll find a Snapdragon 865 chipset powering the experience, and there’s a 7.1-inch, 1,440 x 3,120 AMOLED display to trounce the competition’s screens, even exceeding the Nintendo Switch’s 6.2-inch, 720p LCD display. The display runs at 90Hz for fluid gaming and has a 270Hz report rate for top-tier responsiveness.
The screen is one thing, but the Black Shark 3 Pro also has two mechanical trigger buttons and an additional two hotkeys, letting you make full use of your index fingers while gaming. No more fussing with a touchscreen button you can’t feel when you really need to shoot your opponent. Support for 5G, Wi-Fi 6, and 65W fast charging are all just icing on the cake.
5. OnePlus 8 Pro
True Full Screen Mobile Gaming
The OnePlus 8 Pro (read our review) is a truly impressive phone. For $900, it offers an incredible smartphone experience that can rival the Galaxy S20, but it’s delivering it in the form factor of the bigger and more expensive model. The OnePlus 8 Pro packs in a 6.78-inch AMOLED display that can run at 120Hz and shine extra bright. And, while Samsung’s phones trade off resolution when they want to hit 120Hz, the OnePlus 8 Pro can hit 120Hz even at its full, 1,440 x 3,168 resolution. That’ll give you sharp, smooth gaming on a sizable screen.
The OnePlus 8 Pro also has its own gaming mode that can automatically engages whenever you play mobile games. It works to improve the visual details in your games, strengthen haptic feedback, and boost performance of both the hardware and network bandwidth. And, if you’re trying to game on the go or enjoy cloud gaming, you’ll have access to 5G networks on this device.
6. Samsung Galaxy S20
Best Everyday Phone for Gaming
Know this: a phone doesn’t have to look like a gaming phone to be a good gaming phone. That’s exactly the case with the Samsung Galaxy S20 (read our review). This phone is simply a champion of quality considerations, as Samsung has left little out aside from a 3.5mm headphone jack. You get a sharp, 6.2-inch display that can run at its full resolution for 60fps gaming or dial it down to Full HD to bring the refresh rate up to a smoother 120Hz.
The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 865 processor that doesn’t struggle under pressure, and there’s a considerable battery inside that’s not shy about getting used for games. Samsung’s Dex mode makes it easy to hook the phone up to a monitor or TV, so you can also enjoy some games on bigger screens. And, when you’re done gaming, you’ve still got a sleek handset with great cameras, 5G and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, an elegant design, and too many other features to mention.
7. iPhone SE
Best Budget iPhone for Gaming
You can actually get a fairly strong gaming experience without having to fork out for the most expensive iPhone. The 2020 iPhone SE (read our review) gives you all the performance of the Apple A13 Bionic chipset (the same found in the iPhone 11 Pro), but it costs substantially less than any other iPhone launched this year.
The iPhone SE will let you access the treasure trove of games available on iOS as well as the collection in Apple Arcade. The screen may be a bit on the small side by recent standards and the storage space is limited at 64GB, but there aren’t too many other trade-offs otherwise. Pair it with a phone controller and you won’t lose the screen space you’d normally be covering with your thumbs.
8. Sony Xperia 5 II
Best Ultrawide Gaming Phone
One problem we run into gaming on our phones is how often our thumbs get in the way of the game visuals. It makes it a bit harder to enjoy the full experience. The Sony Xperia 5 II has a solution for that thanks to its 21:9 aspect ratio, letting your thumb stay further away from the center of the action than on a 16:9 display.
On top of a phenomenal camera experience, the Sony Xperia 5 II also has some great features for gaming. The Full HD+ display can run at 120Hz for smooth action, and it has a 240Hz touch polling rate for fast response to your actions. Naturally, a premium phone like this also uses an OLED panel, so you’ll get fast pixel response times and HDR to top it off. The Xperia V II also offers a special gaming feature to let a wired power connection skip past the battery and power the internals directly, so you can protect your battery and keep temperatures down.
What to Look for in a Gaming Phone
Choosing the right gaming phone is a little different than finding the best smartphone. With regular phones, you might be more interested in battery life, the cameras, and a plethora of other specs, but the best gaming phones are all about their screens and processors with everything else being less important.
With that in mind, we’ll start with the processors. You pretty much want the latest chips available, which for Android are the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, Snapdragon 855, and the newly announced Snapdragon 855 Plus chips. On Apple’s side, you should look for an iPhone with either an A11 Bionic or A12 Bionic CPU.
In terms of displays, you should pick out anything that’s a step up from your average phone screen. Often, smartphones made for gaming will feature a display with a refresh rate greater than 60Hz. 90Hz screens are what most of the top gaming phones feature, but we’re starting to see more gaming smartphones with 120Hz displays coming to market as well.
That’s everything thing you need to know about gaming phones for now. We’ll be updating this list periodically, especially as rumors suggest we’re going to see a surge of new gaming smartphones that may include the Asus ROG Phone 2. Xiaomi has also announced that it intends to introduce the Black Shark 2 Pro by the end of the month.
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Kevin Lee is IGN’s Hardware and Roundups Editor. Follow him on Twitter @baggingspam
Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark