best gaming phones

Best Gaming Phones In 2021: Review, Deals, & Comparison

As a gamer, it's important to have a great cell phone that can support your hobby. However, with so many cell phone options, it can seem impossible to find the perfect one for you. In this article, I'll tell you about the best phones for gaming!

What Do Gamers Need In A Cell Phone?

We've come up with a list of criteria to make your gaming experience on a cell phone as enjoyable as possible. A gamer's cell phone should have:

  • Storage space: A phone that can accommodate video games, which can take up quite a bit of storage space, is necessary. A phone with lots of storage space is especially necessary if you're also planning on using it as your primary phone for making calls, sending texts, taking photos, and more.
  • Large, sharp display: Simply put, it's easier to play a game when the screen is larger and sharper.
  • Fast processor and enough RAM: New smartphones have fast enough processors for smooth game play, but they'll have differing amounts of RAM. RAM (random access memory) is a device's short-term digital storage. Check out our article on what RAM is to learn more.
  • Long battery life: Gaming will drain your phone's battery faster than if you were just sending texts or browsing the web. Comparing mAh (milliamperes per hour) from phone to phone will give you a general idea of the longest-lasting phone batteries. Additionally, it's important to consider how long it will take to recharge your phone's battery. Fast charging can charge your phone up to 50% in less than 30 minutes!

Refresh Rates And Why They're Important For Gaming

A refresh rate is the speed your phone screen updates the display and is measured in Hertz (Hz) per second. So, for example, a 90 Hz refresh rate will refresh the display 90 times per second. Higher refresh rates means a smoother display and transitions, which is most notable when using your smartphone for gaming.

Gamers who use desktop computers normally have 120 Hz (or even 144 Hz) displays that allow for optimal refresh rates and smooth gaming. With higher refresh rates on smartphones, it makes it easier to mobile game, but it can come at the cost of your battery life.

If your smartphone's display is 90 Hz or above, the battery life of your phone is significantly reduced. Notably, over 2 hours in battery life is lost for the OnePlus 7 Pro with a 90 Hz display and the Google Pixel 4's questionable battery life to begin with doesn't make this phone ideal for gaming.

Best Phones For Gaming

Now that we've established the criteria for what a gamer needs in a cell phone, let's take a look at the best gaming phones. Here's a quick overview:

 

Phone Display RAM Battery Starting Price
iPhone 11 Pro Max 6.5 inches 6 GB 3969 mAh $36 / month
Samsung Galaxy S10+ 6.4 inches 12 GB 4100 mAh $33 / month
Razer Phone 2 5.7 inches 8 GB 4000 mAh $13 / month
Google Pixel 4 XL 6.3 inches 6 GB 3430 mAh $33 / month
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 6.4 inches 8 GB 4000 mAh $30 / month
OnePlus 8 Pro 6.55 inches 12 GB 4510 mAh $58.25 / month
Samsung Galaxy S20 6.2 inches 12 GB 4000 mAh $74.92 / month
iPhone 12 Pro 6.1 inches 6 GB All Day $33.34 / month
Google Pixel 5 6.2 inches 8 GB All Day $29 / month
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 6.8 inches 16 GB All Day $72.17 / month

iPhone 11 Pro Max

The iPhone 11 Pro Max is our personal pick as the best gaming phone. It has a screen size of 6.5 inches, a pixel density of 458 pixels per inch (ppi), and 6 GB of RAM. The iPhone 11 Pro Max runs on an A13 Bionic chip with third-generation Neural Engine processor and supports fast charging for its 3969 mAh battery.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max, alongside the rest of Apple's phones, has a refresh rate of 60 Hz. This is the standard refresh rate for smartphones today since it provides high quality gaming without sacrificing battery life.

The main drawback of this phone is its price, but you can get a great deal when you purchase it from your wireless carrier.

Samsung Galaxy S10+

The Samsung Galaxy S10+ is our favorite Android choice for gamers. This phone has a screen size of 6.4 inches, a pixel density of about 550 ppi, and 12 GB of RAM. It runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor and supports fast charging for its 4100 battery mAh.

The Samsung Galaxy S10+, and the regular Galaxy S10, both have the normal refresh rate of 60 Hz that makes for a smooth game with optimal battery life.

Like the iPhone 11 Pro Max, this phone can be cost-prohibitive. However, most carriers offer great deals and pricing plans to make purchasing this phone much easier!

Razer Phone 2

The Razer Phone 2 was designed with gamers in mind. This phone has 8 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage space. It has 120Hz, 5.7 inch display, allowing you to enjoy a smooth gaming experience.

Naturally, playing games with such a sharp display will drain your phone's battery pretty quickly. Fortunately, this phone has a 4000 mAh battery and supports fast charging, so you won't have to wait long in between gaming sessions.

The Razer Phone 2 has a high refresh rate of 120 Hz, one of the best refresh rates for gaming, but causes the battery life to drain quickly. Many mobile games for smartphones are locked at 60 FPS, or frames per second, and because of this a smartphone with 120 Hz refresh rate might be unnecessary.

To support fast gameplay, this phone is equipped with a Snapdragon 845 2.8GHz processor and cooling system that'll help prevent your Razer Phone 2 from overheating.

Currently, the only carriers offering this phone are AT&T and Page Plus Cellular. However, you can also purchase an unlocked Razer Phone 2 on Amazon for $399.

Google Pixel 4 XL

The Google Pixel 4 XL is another great phone for gamers. We suggest getting the 128 GB storage variant, which starts at $999 outright or $33 / month.

The Google Pixel 4 XL offers a refresh rate of 90 Hz, but only when the screens brightness is high. If the screen brightness is low, the Google Pixel 4 XL's refresh rate lowers to 60 Hz.  This method is nice for saving battery life but also providing a better gaming experience, but the Google Pixel 4 XL's rear camera drains the battery as well, so combined with the 90 Hz display the battery on this phone will drain quicker than others.

The Pixel 4 XL has a 6.3 inch screen, a pixel density of 537 ppi, and 6 GB of RAM. It also has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, a 3430 mAh battery, and supports fast charging.

Samsung Galaxy Note9

The Samsung Galaxy Note9 is great phone for gamers with one small advantage — it comes with a stylus. That stylus might come in handy when you're playing certain games.

This Android is great for gamers for a lot of other reasons too. It has 8 GB of RAM and a large, 6.4 inch display with more than 514 pixels per inch. The Note9's Snapdragon 845 octa-core processor allows for a smooth gaming experience.

The Note9 also has a powerful, 4000 mAh battery. When you're low on battery life, you can quickly charge it using a fast charger.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 comes with a 60 Hz refresh rate, great for continuous gaming and maintaining strong battery life. Unlike the other phones on this list, it also has a headphone jack so you can plug in some headphones while you're playing!

The Galaxy Note9 starts at $30 / month and is available from more than a dozen wireless carriers.

OnePlus 8 Pro

The OnePlus 8 Pro is a great option if you're interested in a phone for gaming–it comes with a 6.55 inch screen as well as a pixel density of 402 pixel per inch. This Android phone comes with an AMOLED display screen and 12 GB of RAM. This phone also has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, creating better operating performance and extended battery life for more optimal usage.

The OnePlus 8 Pro is also compatible with wireless charging and combined with the 4,510 mAh battery this phone is great for mobile gaming.

Samsung Galaxy S20

The Samsung Galaxy S20 comes with a 6.2 inch screen and a a stunning display with a pixel density of 563 pixels/inch. This phone also comes with a 4000 mAh battery and 12GB of RAM, giving this phone a long battery life and lots of capability. The Samsung Galaxy S20 is the first Android phone to go above 60 Hz by supporting the high refresh rate of 120 Hz, but there's no middle ground between 60 Hz and 120 Hz.

One drawback of this phone is the price point. Depending on your carrier, this phone can range from $800 to $1049, but if mobile gaming is a priority than this phone may be ideal for you.

iPhone 12 Pro

The iPhone 12 Pro is a great phone for gaming thanks to its Super Retina XDR display and Dolby Atmos stereo speakers. This phone also comes with a 10x Display PPI and a 6.1 inch screen. Not only that, it has an A14 processor, the fastest and most efficient processor ever placed in an iPhone.

The iPhone 12 Pro's 6 GB RAM provides the processing speed necessary for serious gaming on your phone. Thanks to this device's 60 Hz refresh rate, your favorite game's imagery will appear smooth and clear.

If you're interested in a larger screen size, the iPhone 12 Pro Max offers similar specs as the iPhone 12 Pro, but features a 6.7 inch display. Additionally, the Pro Max comes with a 12x Display PPI, rather than 10x.

Google Pixel 5

The Google Pixel 5 is the most premium cell phone ever released by Google. Thanks to this device's 5G compatibility and speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, it can keep up with many high-powered games. With a battery life of up to 26 hours, you'll rarely have to think about finding a place to plug in and charge, especially when you turn on Extreme Battery Saver. The Pixel 5 also features stereo speakers and a 6.2-inch display to make your gaming experience more immersive than ever.

This device has 8 GB of RAM, a 128 GB storage capacity, and is easily compatible with many Google programs like Google Drive and Google Photos. The Pixel 5 runs on Android 10 and features dual rear-facing camera lenses. Another major asset this phone offers gamers is seamless integration with Google Stadia, Google's gaming subscription service featuring many popular titles like Assassin's Creed and Doom.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra offers another great option for gamers. This is another premium phone from Samsung featuring better graphics and battery life than previous models. The S21 Ultra features a massive 6.8 inch AMOLED display that automatically adjusts to lighting to create the optimal viewing experience at all times. Combined with this phone's noise cancelling Dolby Atmos stereo speakers, S21 Ultra users can expect a crystal-clear gaming experience at all times.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra can connect to 5G networks and features an all-day battery life. This device is also one of the most powerful Android phones ever released, featuring 16 GB of RAM and a Snapdragon 888 processor. Thanks to this design, the S21 Ultra boasts 35% better graphics performance and 25% greater power efficiency than previous Galaxy models. If size, speed, and power are your priorities, you won't find a better Android phone than this!

What Is Apple Arcade?

Apple Arcade was introduced to iPhone users in September 2019. It offers access to over 100 games with one subscription. At $5 / month, Apple Arcade doesn't include any in-app purchases, so you never need to spend more than the subscription fee. These games are also ad-free, making for an optimal gaming experience.

Your subscription comes with access for up to six family members, and it saves your progress across every device. Apple Arcade is compatible with parental controls and Screen Time, so you can set limits on your child's play time as you see fit. Plus, Apple Arcade is great for road trips or traveling, since you can download games to your phone to play offline at any time.

A stand-out feature of Apple Arcade is its compatibility with controllers. Specifically, it's compatible with Xbox wireless controllers, PlayStation DualShock 4, and MFi game controllers. This makes Apple Arcade great for your AppleTV, Mac computer, or iPhone!

Why We Prefer Flagship Smartphones

There are a lot of smartphones out there designed specifically for gaming. These can be great options if you only want to use your phone as a handheld gaming device. However, most people want to use their phones for other things like making calls, sending texts, taking pictures, and staying organized.

The phones designed specifically for gaming generally fall short on these other criteria, all because they're one-dimensional. We recommend flagship smartphones because they are designed to be excellent for gaming while remaining versatile in other ways as well.

Game Away!

Gaming is a fun hobby and now you can enjoy it while you're on the go. We hope you'll tell your friends about the best gaming phones so they can join in on the fun. Thanks for reading, and comment below if you have any other questions.

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