TL;DR – These are the Best Gaming Phones:
1. Asus ROG Phone
Best Gaming Phone
Asus ROG Phone
The Asus ROG Phone (read our review) is without a doubt, the best gaming phone right now. Featuring binned 2.96GHz Snapdragon 845 processors (0.16GHz faster than usual), a 90Hz display, and virtualized air triggers, playing Fortnite and PUBG Mobile on this gaming phone has never felt better. Thanks to its vapor chambers and liquid cooling system, this phone will also stay cool to the touch and the phone comes with an included attachable fan to stay even cooler.
Asus also has the most complete line of accessories for the ROG Phone complete with controllers—including one that adds a second screen—desktop dock, and a WiGig dock to connect the phone wirelessly to your gaming TV. It also has the same distinct copper, orange on gunmetal gamer aesthetic as the company’s gaming laptops with a design that makes the phone look almost like an Iron Man suit.
2. ZTE Nubia Red Magic 3
Best Budget Gaming Phone
ZTE Nubia Red Magic 3
On Red Magic
The Nubia Red Magic 3 is a gaming phone powerful enough to hang with the crowd of flagships like the Razer Phone 2 and Asus ROG Phone, but at a fraction of the price starting at $480. Despite being so much cheaper, this budget smartphone comes with the leading Snapdragon 855 processor. It also packs plenty of gaming-specific features including touchpad shoulder buttons, plus liquid-cooling and an internal fan to keep it cool.
With the Nubia Red Magic 3 you’ll be playing on a large 6.5-inch—albeit only Full HD—90Hz screen. For less than $500 you’re getting a lot of phone as it comes with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage to start, not to mention a massive 5,000mAh battery that will keep you gaming for a long time.
3. Razer Phone 2
Best Android Phone for Gaming
Razer Phone 2
The Razer Phone 2’s (read our review) most unique feature out of all the gaming phones is its 120Hz QHD display that makes gameplay look smoother than any other gaming smartphone. The handset also has a built-in 24-bit DAC that enhances your audio to go with that great screen.
A Snapdragon 845 processor powers this whole experience, meanwhile a vapor chamber cooling system and a massive heat-pipe help keep this complete package running cool. Instead of having a global gaming mode like other phones, Razer has a curated list of mobile games in its Cortex Mobile app, which automatically adjusts settings like resolution, frame rate, and CPU clock speeds to run games optimally.
4. iPhone XS Max
Best iPhone for Gaming
iPhone XS Max
Apple might not have a horse in the PC gaming race, but it’s still a leader on the mobile front. Plenty of mobile games launch first on the App Store and sometimes exclusively and the best device to play all these titles is the iPhone XS Max.
The iPhone XS Max features a big, beautiful 6.4-inch Super Retina HD display, and its resolution actually exceeds that of modern QHD phones. It also comes packing the A12 Bionic chip, which regularly puts Qualcomm mobile (and even Intel laptop chips) to shame.
5. Xiaomi Black Shark 2
Made to Game
Xiaomi Black Shark 2
The Xiaomi Black Shark 2 was built for gaming first and you can tell just by holding its contoured shape. It’s like it was meant to be gripped in landscape mode for gaming. This gaming phone also features one of the biggest 6.39-inch AMOLED screens with a 1,080 x 2,340 resolution—but only 60Hz refresh rate.
The Black Shark 2 also features plenty of gaming specific software with a myriad of pull down Gamer Studio options to adjust the performance of your phone as well as display, touch, audio and networking settings. Like the Asus ROG Phone, Xiaomi has plenty of accessories designed for the Black Shark 2 including an attachable controller and TV connection hub.
6. OnePlus 7 Pro
True Full Screen Mobile Gaming
OnePlus 7 Pro
If all screen mobile gaming is what you seek, the OnePlus 7 Pro (read our review) is the best gaming phone for this particular job. The OnePlus 7 Pro skips all the front camera notches and bottom button business to give you a truly edge-to-edge 6.67-inch 1,440 x 3,120 display.
This gaming phone also comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip that’s plenty fast for even the most demanding mobile games. But you can also turn on Fnatic mode to prioritize processing power and networking speeds for whichever game you’re playing. There’s also a basic gaming mode that blocks notifications, enhances haptic feedback, and activates a faux-HDR display mode that presents brighter highlights and deeper blacks on the screen.
7. Samsung Galaxy S10
Best Everyday Phone for Gaming
Samsung Galaxy S10
Just like sleeper gaming PCs, sometimes you just want a normal looking phone that offers better graphics performance than everyone else. That’s where the Samsung Galaxy S10 (read our review) comes in to play. It’s one of the best and most popular smartphones around that’s also been carefully tuned for gaming.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 is the first phone optimized for Unity-run games. Also, the GPU has been optimized for smoother gameplay for all mobile games no matter which engine they’re built on. Users can also turn on an enhanced gaming mode on the Galaxy S10 that gives you better video and audio from the Infinity-O display and Dolby speakers.
This phone also features an “advanced heat pipe” cooling systems, which helps it stay cooler than other competing handsets. The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is also a great option if you want an even bigger screen and a vapor chamber cooling system to cool things down even more.
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.
Kevin Lee is IGN’s Hardware and Roundups Editor. Follow him on Twitter @baggingspam