How to buy the perfect gaming smartphone

How to buy the perfect gaming smartphone

If you want to enjoy games in all their splendor on the go, you need a fast smartphone. But what makes a good gaming smartphone? In this article, we'll show you special models and advise you about buying. This chipset, memory, accessories, etc. make some smartphones more ideal for gaming.


What makes a good gaming smartphone?

First of all, the games from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store are optimized so that they work on almost all smartphones. Unlike computer games on weak PCs, smartphone games don't start jerking on weak devices. The games recognize the available hardware and reduce graphic details such as shadows, texture quality, or resolution accordingly. If you have a weaker phone, the game just gets uglier.

A passionate player is reluctant to compromise and wants to enjoy their favorite titles in full splendor at a constant 60 frames per second (or sometimes more). Certain hardware components are required for a smartphone to be able to perform this task despite its limited options. So we created a checklist of what a gaming smartphone has to deliver. You can find the recommended requirements below:

Gaming smartphone checklist:

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 or higher
  • Samsung Exynos 88** or 98**
  • HiSilicon Kirin 970 or higher
  • Adreno 530, 540, 630 or 640
  • Mali-G72 MP12, Mali-G76 MP10 or higher
RAM 4 GB LPDDR4 or more
Internal storage UFS 2.0 or higher, 64 GB or more
Display Full HD, for VR 2560 x 1440 or more
Battery 4,000 mAh, fast charging technology
Software Android 8 or newer

The chipsets mentioned are part of the high-end smartphones that have been available since 2016. So if you want to save money in your search for the perfect gaming smartphone, you could search on eBay for a used Galaxy S7 or Google Pixel (first generation).

The GPU names are somewhat encrypted. The rule of thumb for the Qualcomm GPU is: If its name ends in * 30 or * 40, it is fast. For the Mali GPUs (in Samsung or Huawei phones), the number behind the "MP" should be in double digits, because it determines the number of shader clusters. The more shader clusters a GPU has, the more computing steps it can process in parallel.

The available RAM is critical in that it is also fully used by the GPU in smartphones. The more RAM you have, the more graphical details (higher resolution textures, shader processing steps, etc.) the GPU can store. The RAM should logically scale with the display resolution: the bigger the better. Also, pay attention to the RAM generation: DDR4 is often twice as fast as DDR3.

With internal storage, speed is more important than size. Devices with universal flash storage (UFS) have the highest read rate. Some newer devices already have Embedded UFS 3.0 for read speeds of around 2 GB/s. In games, the loading times are significantly reduced compared to conventional eMMC. Its size should be 64 GB or more; not because you need the space, but because the number of write cycles per memory cell remains low for longer and the performance remains high.

fortnite on android
With a controller for your gaming smartphone, you can easily switch off the space-consuming buttons. / © NextPit

You don't have to pay much attention to the display on a gaming smartphone. If it has a resolution in FullHD, you will be happy. If many controls block the viewing area in your favorite game, a larger display with a size of 5.5 inches or higher is of course worthwhile. Alternatively, you connect a gamepad to your gaming smartphone.

The refresh rate is less critical and more of a question of taste. Manufacturers like to refer to devices with 90 or 120 Hertz displays as particularly gaming-compatible smartphones (OnePlus 7T or 7T Pro, Google Pixel 4, others, see below). Converted this means that frames are drawn up to 8 milliseconds earlier. I doubt whether this minimal head start will increase your success in Fortnite.

The battery should also scale with the size of the display. However, it should not be allowed to store significantly less than 4,000 mAh. For a device with a 6-inch display, it should hold around 4,500 mAh. A power bank with fast charging technology is advisable. The manufacturers often offer suitable accessories themselves.

There is little to consider in terms of software since most games can also cope with older versions of Android. The current number one hit Call of Duty requires Android 4.3 from 2012. If you use an iPhone, the question about the software is no longer applicable, since the current iOS version has been running on all mobile devices over the past five years. Android 8.0 is still advisable because such devices often still receive security updates. This is useful in all digital situations when you are not playing.

The best smartphones for gaming


Asus ROG Phone: one with everything

The recently released gaming smartphone from Asus sub-brand Republic of Gamers seems to have it all and then some. Special 2.9GHz Snapdragon 845 SoC, 8GB RAM, 128GB or 512GB storage, and a 6-inch AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate. In our review of the ROG Phone, we found it to be the best all-round gaming smartphone.

Like its rival from Razer, below, the ROG Phone has a light-up logo on the back, great front-firing speakers, an advanced cooling system and specialized software for managing your games and allocating system resources, with additional options for live streaming and using special pressure-sensitive shoulder buttons called 'AirTriggers'. As well as extra inputs in games, these can be squeezed to trigger the 'X-mode' for maximum performance.

asus rog phone 17
The rear design just screams 'gamer!' / © NextPit

Throw in all that plus a clip-on cooler that allows for an extra connection for charger an headphone jack, and you've got a device that can easily handle the most advanced mobile games for hours, with additional accessories such as Joycon-style controllers and a dual screen mod to be sold separately in the future. The downside? At $900, it's beaten only by the highest-end Galaxy smartphones as the most expensive on this list.

Razer Phone 2: big, loud, and super-smooth

The company that made its name manufacturing powerful gaming accessories and the acclaimed Razer Blade laptop range has upped its game with the Razer Phone 2, addressing several issues with the first generation and including the company's signature Chroma lighting on the back.

The Razer Phone 2 packs in 8 GB of RAM alongside 64 GB storage and the Snapdragon 845 chipset. All this with seriously powerful speakers in the side bezels for an immersive sound. But the real star of the show is the 5.7-inch display with a 120Hz refresh rate. The GPU can be synced to this refresh rate for lag-free, silky smooth frame rates on even the most demanding games, and is especially helpful on action titles where a split-second reaction can make the difference between victory and defeat.

Razer 2 03
A fast display and handy software for games on the Razer Phone 2 / © NextPit

Another benefit is Razer's Cortex app where you can manage your games, buy games, and control various settings related to gaming, like adjusting the resolution, frame rate and processing power. If you're someone with a ton of games on your phone, some requiring more power than others, this is great for making sure your phone handles them efficiently. You can even toggle anti-aliasing and disable notifications while a game is running so that you're not disturbed.

iPhone XS: when you want to be first in the game

In contrast to the previous entry, iPhones don't exactly scream 'gamer' in appearance or marketing, but there's a definite advantage to them for gamers. With iOS, Apple keeps a well-trimmed walled garden across the iPhone range which makes it easier for app developers to develop a game for iOS than for Android, which suffers from fragmented distribution and a staggering variety of hardware configurations.

AndroidPIT apple iphone xs max box
You'll get earlier access to games with iPhones. / © NextPit

The result? High-end games often debut on the App Store much sooner than on Google's Play Store. iPhone owners had been playing Fortnite, for example, on their phones for months while Android gamers are still waiting. While I still prefer the greater choice and control of Android, I've cast an envious eye over to iPhone owners more than once for this reason. Apple's careful curation of the App Store also guarantees good optimization and performance for your hardware.

Naturally, the obvious choice is the iPhone XS or XS Max, Apple's top model of the moment, but the iPhone 8 Plus is also a good choice for iOS gamers who prefer a more classic look.

Black Shark 2: gamer gimmicks on a budget

The Black Shark 2 is a gaming-focused smartphone and not shy about it, with an aggressive angular look and emerald green highlights. But it's not all show. Inside the Black Shark 2, we find an array of hardware powerful enough to handle any modern game with ease: Snapdragon 855 chipset, 8 GB+ RAM, and 128 GB+ storage. Naturally, there's also a specialized cooling system. Although limited to 60Hz refresh, the Black Shark 2's OLED screen is pressure-sensitive, so different game actions can be assigned to say, a hard press or a light tap.

Another striking feature is the dedicated Shark button. When you press it, your phone switches to maximum performance and opens a gaming environment in landscape mode. From here you can manage your games and configure the snap-on gamepad. Although sold separately, the gamepad comes highly recommended. 

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The gamepad accessories cost an extra £79, but are recommended for action games. / © NextPit

For £479, the Black Shark 2 is one of the most affordable options that still has plenty of extras to offer gamers. 

Samsung Galaxy S10/S10+/Note9: Game Mode on

The top range Galaxy smartphones from Samsung don't disappoint when it comes to gaming either. Galaxy S10 and its more powerful sibling, the S10+ pack enough power with a Snapdragon 855 and 8GB+ RAM, and the Note9 makes up for last year’s high-end internals with a depreciated price.

Samsung's dedicated Game Mode, which is comprised of Game Launcher and Game Tools, shows the special care Samsung has taken to accommodate mobile gamers. The Game Launcher is home to all your games, while Game Tools changes the screen mode to accommodate games that don't support the unique 18.5:9 aspect ratio, among other things. All of this ensures that your experience is immersive, by disabling notifications and the invisible home button to allow for uninterrupted gameplay, for example.

The impressive hardware also allows for a smooth, engaging experience. AMOLED Infinity Displays offer a great visual experience and the phones have easy-to-handle, curvy ergonomic bodies.

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The new generation of Samsung Galaxy S offers some good options for gamers. / © NextPit

OnePlus 7 Pro: the flagship killer with more than enough RAM 

The OnePlus 7 Pro is no slouch when it comes to gaming, thanks to its top specs including 8 to 12 GB of RAM. This gives it incredible gaming performance which is complemented by the Gaming Mode, which suppresses accidental presses of the keys and notifications, can route incoming calls to the speaker, save battery and other useful tweaks to ensure you are not disturbed while playing. This mode was extended with the 'fnatic' mode, created together with the long-time eSport company, that dedicates all system resources to high-performance gaming. The 6.67-inch AMOLED display refreshes at 90Hz.

AndroidPIT oneplus 7 pro gaming
The OnePlus 7 Pro won't disappoint gamers. / © NextPit

There are plenty of other great phones (and accessories) for gaming on the go, of course. Special mention must go to some cheaper devices like the Honor Play and Nubia Red Magic 3 which still not as feature-heavy as the slightly more expensive Black Shark, still has some nice extras for gaming. If you're not running the most graphically demanding games, however, even mid-range devices should be able to handle most of what's new on the Play Store.

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  • The best gaming phone is also one of the best 'consoles' you can get. No, really - we're serious. Although phones aren't a traditional games machine, the mobile space is one of the most vibrant in all of gaming nonetheless.

  • God, my greatest love, this is black shark 2.0. I just sleep and see myself opening the box and taking it out. Judging by what I saw at the presentation, this is the best value for money.

  • Everything is going to buying flagman smartphone

  • Can i get one free

  • Helpful article, I will go for S9

  • I think Samsung Galaxy A70 is one of the best

  •   46
    Deactivated Account Dec 31, 2018 Link to comment

    I like this gaming phone from Doogee the S70 lite rugged gaming phone.

  • S9, gaming,? Funny. You have to charge it after 30 minutes. 😂😂

  • Please update the article. All the old phones are there in list... 👎👎👎

    • We've just updated our list again!

      • GASB Aug 10, 2017 Link to comment

        Reallyl? Are you recomending the Galaxy S8 for gaming, when it has poor GPU performance? The best phones for games are the phones with Snapdragon 820/821. Please you just do well your homework.

        Sorry for my words, but I hate this marketing that conceals with tecnology...

  •   46
    Deactivated Account Jan 28, 2017 Link to comment

    What about the LG V20 the perfect phone for gaming. With the removable battery you can play all day. AndroidPit you are so biased in your phone coverage it is pitiful.

    SorinDeactivated Account

  • The fact that the HTC 10 doesn't have an amoled display isn't necessary a bad thing, people talk like amoled displays are superior, when in fact amoled displays aren't as sharp, and while the high contrast may seem better in some cases, it provides a very unnatural picture, much like the camera on the S7. The HTC 10 actually outperforms the Galaxy S7 in many ways, the HTC 10 scored 30,000 higher according the antutu benchmark scores listed on the site, and the HTC 10 received the highest DXOMARK score of 88, (despite the S7 having the same score the 10 did better with still images which put it ahead), the 10 has better audio microphones, and speakers. The HTC 10 is water resistant just not as well as the S7, but considering your far more likely to drop your phone and break it than drop it in 3 ft of water, the metal body proves better than the S7's glass body, Not to mention the HTC 10 has uh-oh protection which covers the phone in any worst case scenario. The HTC 10 doesn't have all the bloatware found on the S7, which will weigh on the phones performance in the long run, the HTC 10 has adotpable storage, and receives Android updates within 15 days of release while Samsung takes months to get updates. The HTC 10 is the best all around device on the market right now.

  • Moto E LTE with Snapdragon 410. 4.5" screen pushing 960x540 resolution, makes it a no brainer everywhere I want to go device. Can find them for every carrier under $30, refurbs for $5, and it plays every android game with fair ease for on the go gaming.

    Sure a nice tablet for couch gaming, with a great resolution, but you cant beat a 2390mAH battery, running what would essentially be a 'Nintendo' level of handheld phone. There are other variants out there, with 410s, running 2Gb of RAM, but if you keep the screen res to the 960x540 range you'll be greeted with plenty of devices that are capable of the latest games your shield can play, while on the go for a much more friendly on the go price (breaks, wear down. It's even got a splash proof coating on it for longevity).

  • Currently I have an Xperia T3, which I kind of love. I love the Xperia's but since I am a phone gamer, those can be shit too. My Xperia T3 is good overall, but when it comes to games... No. Just no. This is not a gaming phone.
    So, after this phone dies. I obviously want a new one. I'm thinking of abandon the Xperia series (I have been with them since Xperia Mini Pro) and get a really good gaming phone. I really don't like buttons, I prefer touch-buttons. Large screens is a must.
    1) Gaming phone
    2) Touch buttons only
    3) Large screen
    Please help me find my perfect phone!

  • Tilton Jul 11, 2016 Link to comment

    No G5? WTF

    Deactivated Account

  • Lame no note series listed here, and my note 3 is still amazing at gaming

    Deactivated Account

  •   46
    Deactivated Account Jun 9, 2016 Link to comment

    The Note 4 is the best for gaming big screen, Micro SD, replicable battery so you don't have to worry about running out of power.

  • Anand Jun 9, 2016 Link to comment

    Why Galaxy Note series is not listed? Note have always had amazing big screen with beefy flagship hardware for it's time.

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