As smartphones improve, the gaming experiences they offer have also continued to improve alongside other advancements. The last few years of development in chipsets and hardware has overseen the growth of a new category revolving around gaming. With phones featuring pressure-sensitive buttons embedded in their side rails or sensors that can grasp the amount of pressure applied on the screen, deciding which phone to buy has become more difficult than ever. In this guide, we’ve listed nine of the best smartphone options to help you come to a decision.
Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate
As indicated by its name, this smartphone aims to provide the ultimate gaming experience a user can demand. It bundles an FHD+ sAMOLED display that refreshes at 144Hz and has a Delta-E value of less than one. Other hardware features include an additional side-mounted USB-C port, a stereo speaker setup, four capacitive buttons — two along the side of the phone and two on the back. The device also comes with a cooling fan accessory that adds two to the already present four. If this wasn’t enough, Asus also added a small black and white screen on the back, which can play GIFs, show who’s calling, and more. All of these components depend upon a Snapdragon 888 and 6,000mAh battery.
Asus ROG Phone 5
If the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate is a little excessive for you, the next best device to consider is the ROG Phone 5, which still offers support for the same set of accessories and has a similar FHD+ 144Hz sAMOLED display. This model is also powered by the Snapdragon 888 and has a 6,000mAh battery. Also, if you find yourself clicking pictures, several reviews have deemed the camera system on this smartphone great to use, unlike previous generations of gaming phones. To reduce costs, Asus removed the two buttons found embedded in the back of the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate and replaced the ROG Vision display with a glowing ROG Logo.
Nubia Red Magic 6
The Nubia Red Magic 6 is a smartphone to pick if you need the fastest display in the smartphone market. It features a 6.8-inch FHD+ AMOLED panel that refreshes at 165Hz, has a 500Hz touch sampling rate, and a response time as low as 8ms, as per Nubia’s claims. Its design is as “gamer-y” as gaming phones can get. The phone features a cooling system that includes a fan, a vapor chamber, and copper foil which help keep the Snapdragon 888 working at full throttle. Powering the phone is a 5,050mAh battery that also supports 66W charging.
Nubia Red Magic 6R
Nubia Red Magic 6R, (the R stands for Racing), is another phone with gaming at its core but branches away to feature a more “normal” design. In front is a 6.67-inch FHD+ AMOLED display that refreshes at 144Hz and has a touch sampling rate of 360Hz, driven by a Snapdragon 888, which in turn is powered by a 4020mAh cell that supports charging speeds up to 30W. While this phone adopts some components that are a step below the Nubia Red Magic 6, it introduces a slightly better quad rear camera setup and a 16MP front-facing camera, indicating it’s better suited for mainstream users.
Asus ROG Phone 3
If you have your mind fixed on buying a device from Asus, the ROG Phone 3 is another option to consider. Being a year older also means it’s lighter on your wallet. The device features a 6.59-inch 144Hz FHD+ display powered by Snapdragon 865+ and a 6,000mAh battery. This particular model features one of the nicer looking back designs amongst the ROG phones launched to date.
iQOO 7 Legend 5G
Until now, every listed device has had a hint of gaming-inclined design, but with the iQOO 7 Legend 5G we move onto phones that are more suited to mainstream consumers. This model from the subsidiary to Vivo packs in a Snapdragon 888 to power the 6.62-inch 120Hz AMOLED display, which also features on-screen pressure-sensitive sensors. So when you press firmly on these areas, they register a tap, mappable to in-game controls. The hardware on this phone uses a 4,000mAh battery, which depends upon a 66W charger to top up in a claimed 22 minutes under controlled conditions.
iPhone 12 Pro Max
The introduction of Apple Arcade and the processing power iPhones pack make them some of the best devices to enjoy games. The A14 Bionic in the 12 Pro Max will guarantee the smoothest performance of any iPhones that came out before it, and the bright visuals on the 6.7-inch OLED screen (Super Retina XDR, according to Apple) make for a great experience. iOS 14.5 also added support for new generation controllers like the PS5’s DualSense and the Xbox Series X|S gamepad.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is another mainstream device that packs what is arguably the best display on this list. This device features a QHD+ AMOLED panel with a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz. The North American units feature a Snapdragon 888 that can handle the most demanding titles like Genshin Impact and PUBG with ease, and a 5,000mAh battery will keep you playing for hours. If you’re looking for more from the best Samsung smartphone, its flagship-grade camera system, and S-Pen support are features you’ll appreciate.
Last on this list is the OnePlus 8T, which packs in a Snapdragon 865 and a 120Hz FHD display, powered by a 4,500mAh battery capable of 65W fast charging — and comes with a brick capable of achieving this spec within its retail box. It also features one of the best skins available on any top Android phone in the market. You may be wondering why we recommend this over the OnePlus 9, which features a better processor, wireless charging, and a camera system that makes use of the Hasselblad partnership. The primary reason is with the 8T, you’ll get more storage and RAM at a lower cost, ensuring your gaming needs don’t go unfulfilled.
With this, we end our list of the best gaming smartphone options you should consider buying. If you are ready to spend your money without hesitation, the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate is the no-compromise option we recommend. But when looking at devices from Nubia, while the Red Magic 6 has a 165Hz screen, there still aren’t mobile titles that can make the best use of the available hardware. Thus, we wouldn’t mind recommending the RedMagic 6R for its lower cost and cleaner design.
As for those looking to buy a mainstream device, you can’t go wrong with the S21 Ultra, but if you plan on buying an iPhone and feel the 12 Pro Max is too large, you should give the iPhone 11 a look, for its lower cost but capable hardware.