With a vast assortment of increasingly impressive titles to choose from and more powerful hardware, phones are quickly becoming a mobile gamer’s go-to device when out and about. It’s true that many of today’s flagship phones can run even the most demanding games; however, some devices are designed specifically with gaming in mind with unique features and jacked up specs meant to supercharge your mobile gaming experience. Here are some of the best mobile phones for gaming you can get your hands on today.
1. ASUS ROG Phone 5
The ASUS ROG Phone 5 is one of the best – if not the best – mobile phones for gaming. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t do other stuff well – because it does. But this phone was designed from the ground up to be a gaming beast. In addition to packing some seriously powerful hardware, the Asus ROG Phone 5 has additional features geared toward gamers.
Much like a PC, the Asus ROG Phone 5 is heavily customizable. Users can tweak things like RAM performance, fan speeds and even overclock the CPU and GPU. The phone’s software even includes a widget that monitors things like framerates and temperatures. In addition, the ROG Phone 5 has built-in trigger buttons, crisp front-facing speakers and a 144Hz OLED display.
Despite the impressive specs, the ASUS ROG Phone 5 does have a few caveats: first is its size. It is a massive phone that is almost impossible to wield with one hand. However, its large size is partly due to the hefty 6,000 mAh battery. Furthermore, the camera isn’t fantastic, but if you’re considering the ROG Phone 5, you’re probably not all that fussy about that.
2. Xiaomi Black Shark 4
Xiaomi’s Black Shark series of phones are some of the most affordable gaming-centric mobile handsets on the market. The latest offering, the Black Shark 4 and 4 Pro, doesn’t look like a gaming phone compared to some of the other devices on this list. Despite the more subdued aesthetics, the Black Shark 4 features some must-haves for mobile gaming.
Like the ASUS ROG Phone 5, the Black Shark 4 boasts an OLED screen with 144 Hz refresh rate and excellent sounding front-facing speakers. Additionally, the Black Shark 4 also has dedicated shoulder buttons. However, Xiaomi claims that these buttons have “magnetic lift,” which is a fancy way of saying that they feel clicky.
What really separates the Black Shark 4 from the rest is the inclusion of a pressure-sensitive display. This allows users to map two different controls to one spot of the screen. How hard a user presses on that area of the screen determines the action performed in game. This gives mobile gamers more control and presents a significant advantage over more traditional phones.
3. Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2
Full disclosure: The Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 is a funky looking device. The Duel 2 is another phone that boasts a 144 Hz AMOLED display and top-end specs, but some design choices set it apart. Most notably is the fairly large hump on the back. This is the result of a dual fan system that helps to keep the phone cool during heavy gaming sessions.
Unfortunately, the raised back makes the phone somewhat unwieldy when held in portrait mode. That being said, when held horizontally, the Legion Duel 2 is significantly more comfortable. The raised hump on the back provides a recessed area for users to place their fingers, emulating the feel of an actual controller. Furthermore, because the CPU, GPU and cooling system are all located in the middle hump, the majority of heat generated is pulled away from the user’s hands, resulting in a more comfortable experience during marathon gaming sessions.
Unfortunately, the Legion Phone Duel 2 suffers from some odd design choices. These include a camera setup that is located in the middle of the phone as well as a pop-up selfie shoot that is also located in the center of the phone. While the cameras aren’t anything to write home about, their placement makes them super awkward to use. It’s almost as if Lenovo decided that the majority of Legion Phone users would perpetually hold the device horizontally. This would make sense for a handheld console, but not so much for a device that still calls itself a phone.
4. ZTE Nubia Red Magic 6
The ZTE Nubia Red Magic 6 is similar to other gaming phones. It sports a beefy processor, a ton of RAM and aesthetic flourishes that let everyone know that you’re a gamer. What sets the Nubia Red Magic 6 apart from the competition is its display. The large 6.8-inch AMOLED panel sports a 2400 x 1080 resolution, but the kicker is the high refresh rate. The Red Magic 6’s screen refreshes the image 165 times per second, making it 165 Hz. Considering most other gaming phones top out at 144 Hz, this is an impressive feat. For games that support higher refresh rates, this is – for the lack of a better phrase – a game-changer.
A high refresh rate isn’t the only trick up the sleeve of the Nubia Red Magic 6. The phone also features haptic shoulder buttons on the right side of the device. Looking at the edges of the phone, there isn’t much to see. When holding the phone horizontally, there are shoulder buttons where the index tips of your index fingers rest alongside the right edge. These aren’t physical buttons but rather haptic feedback buttons. Tapping them gives you a slight shudder to indicate that the button was activated.
Like the Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2, the ZTE Nubia Red Magic has a fan-based cooling system. Unfortunately, it has been reported that the fan does get pretty loud. Despite this, the ZTE Nubia Red Magic 6 is one of the more affordable gaming phones available, which makes up for some of its minor annoyances.
5. Motorola Edge Plus
Motorola’s return to flagship phones isn’t classified as a gaming phone, but it does include some unique features which lend themselves to mobile gaming. Additionally, it is slightly cheaper than other phones on this list and is very much a phone first. This means overall usability of the phone is taken into account rather than just gaming performance. Still, the Motorola Edge Plus is one to consider if you’re a mobile gaming enthusiast.
The Edge Plus has a 6.7-inch OLED display with a resolution of 2340 x 1080. Compared to other phones on this list, it’s nothing spectacular; however, the Edge Plus screen has what Motorola has dubbed the “Endless Edge.” The screen curves around the edges of the phone, similar to that of Samsung flagships. This waterfall effect is nice to look at, but gamers will be happy to know there is a little something extra: two remappable shoulder buttons. This can give gamers a considerable advantage, especially when playing first person shooters.
Despite the addition of shoulder buttons, there is one major downside to the screen on the Edge Plus: the refresh rate maxes out at 90 Hz. While this is better than most standard phones, which only have 60 Hz screens, this is considerably less than the 144 Hz found on gaming-centric phones. Yet, there are a number of other advantages to the Edge Plus, particularly if you actually plan on using this phone as, well, a phone.
The quality of the images captured on the Edge Plus is better than the other devices on this list. This is in large part due to the 108 MP main shooter on the rear of the phone. However, this is accompanied by a 16 MP ultra-wide lens and an 8 MP 3x optical telephoto lens. While the camera setup isn’t as impressive as the one found on a Samsung, it can outperform the other phones on this list. So if you’re looking for a better-than-average gaming experience without having to sacrifice things like camera quality, consider the Motorola Edge Plus.
Other than high-end processors and tons of RAM, this list of the best mobile phones for gaming also boasts phenomenal displays with high refresh rates and impressive specs. If you are a serious gamer, you should highly consider getting one of these phones.