Of all the phones we've tested, the best gaming phones are the ones with the performance, displays and batteries that can handle today's most demanding games.
Of these phones, some are familiar flagship phones from big companies like Apple or Samsung, with the camera and software quality (and price) that you'd expect as a result. Others are specifically aimed at gamers and have extra features like trigger buttons, enhanced cooling and unique software. Neither is strictly worse than the other, it'll just depend on what else you want from your phone, if anything.
Whatever your needs are, these are the best gaming phones you can get right now.
Editor's note: Samsung just announced the Galaxy S23 series. Be sure to check out our Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Plus hands-on review.
The best gaming phones you can buy now
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Samsung pulled off something incredible with the Galaxy S23 Ultra by de-throning the iPhone 14 Pro Max as the top gaming phone. And that's thanks to a new chipset.
Not only does the Galaxy S23 Ultra still come with excellent cameras, a top-quality display and a generous battery capacity, it also uses the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset. This Samsung-specific chip offers increased power over the regular 8 Gen 2 silicon, and even the A16 Bionic chip, meaning you won't find a more powerful phone to game with.
We still wish the phone was a bit cheaper and that it charged faster, and some of you may wish it had flat sides instead of curved ones. But you can't argue with the overall quality of the phone, including the Galaxy S23 Ultra's gaming abilities.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review here.
While Apple doesn't prioritize gamers in the same way other phone makers do, the iPhone 14 Pro Max is a fantastic phone to play on. Its A16 Bionic chipset offers loads of power, and the 120Hz display is smooth and colorful. Coupled with a lengthy battery life, you'll have plenty of time to enjoy the best iOS games to their full potential.
Unfortunately, the App Store doesn't allow for gaming emulators, so for those interested in playing classic games, they may be out of luck. Although, some of the most popular titles from the SNES and PS2 eras have been ported to iPhone.
The other benefits of going for the iPhone are its strong photography abilities, its newly added always-on display and the also-new Dynamic Island notch that gives you more screen to play with. Unfortunately, this is still an expensive phone, and with no SIM slot in the U.S. (it's eSIM only) and sluggish charging, this isn't the most welcoming phone if you're not already comfortable with the iPhone way of life.
It's also worth noting that the iPhone 14 Pro is cheaper and more compact while using the same chipset. However, the Pro Max is our top pick since we prefer having the larger display and extra battery life.
Read our full iPhone 14 Pro Max review.
The top-performing Android phones coming out these days feature a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 system-on-chip, and that’s the silicon powering the OnePlus 11. As a result, even the most demanding games play like a dream on this device.
Gamers will also appreciate the 120Hz refresh rate on the phone’s 6.7-inch display, as well as the long battery life — over 13 hours even with that adaptive refresh rate enabled. But perhaps the most attractive thing about the OnePlus 11 is its price. While other flagships flirt with $1,000 price tags, the OnePlus 11 comes in at $699. It’s hard to find a top-line phone that delivers so many premium features at that cost.
Read our full OnePlus 11 review.
If a dedicated gaming phone is your cup of tea, then look no further than the ROG Phone 6 Pro. This monster packs the new Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset, a whopping 18GB of RAM, a mammoth 6,000 mAh battery, new and upgraded AirTriggers, and enhanced cooling options for sustained gaming periods.
The chip alone makes the ROG Phone 6 Pro the most powerful gaming phone to date — it comes close to matching Apple’s A15 Bionic in our testing. While 18GB of RAM is excessive, it’s something to brag about. This handset also has the best software we’ve seen on a gaming phone.
And the battery life, wow. The ROG Phone 6 Pro is the longest-lasting phone that we’ve ever tested at Tom’s Guide, going for an incredible 15 hours and 30 minutes in its 165Hz mode. Knock it down to 60Hz and you get an extra hour. The ROG Phone 6 Pro does everything a gaming phone should and then some, but it has the $999 price tag to match.
Read our full Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro review.
The Black Shark 5 Pro is the first dedicated gaming phone that we can honestly recommend. Not only does it feature powerful hardware, a beautiful display and excellent battery life, but it offers unique gaming features that we love. Not to mention that the main and ultrawide cameras are surprisingly good.
The best part about the Black Shark 5 Pro, however, are the physical shoulder buttons. These magnetic triggers pop up when you want them, offering real, tactile feedback during gameplay. If you've struggled with ultrasonic triggers in the past, you might like these.
Starting at $799 / £629 / €799 for the base 8GB/128GB model, the Black Shark 5 Pro is the best dedicated gaming phone. If mobile gaming is all you care about, this is the phone for you.
Read our full Black Shark 5 Pro review.
Google has another hit on its hands with the Pixel 7 Pro, and that includes for gamers. The Tensor G2 chip offers excellent GPU benchmark results, and also enables unique Pixel features like live translation, Photo Unblur and more.
The cameras are also particularly good, with lots of post-processing going on there too to make scenes look as attractive as possible. And at $899, it's a lot cheaper than comparable phones, especially for its size and camera quality.
We wish the phone had better battery life though, as it's the Pixel 7 Pro's greatest weakness. But if you're not worried about running out of charge away from an electrical outlet, then there's little else to fault the Pixel 7 Pro for.
Read our full Google Pixel 7 Pro review.
With its Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, the RedMagic 8 Pro offers some of the best performance-per-dollar of any phone on the market. It starts over $100 lower than equivalent flagship phones in price, while still offering superior specs like 65W charging and up to 16GB RAM, plus its own unique but useful quirks like a cooling fan and lots of software tools to use while in-game.
RedMagic still can't seem to nail photography or software quality though. These are two things most flagship phones don't have problems with, so if dodgy photos or weirdly worded settings menus are going to annoy you, look elsewhere. But users who know their primary activity on their phone is gaming and want to save a few hundred dollars should make a beeline for the RedMagic.
Read our full RedMagic 8 Pro review.
We think the OnePlus 10 Pro is a better choice if you're looking for the best gaming phone from OnePlus. But if you don't want to pay $899 for that flagship, the OnePlus 10T offers a less expensive option. Even better, you don't really sacrifice performance for that lower price, as the 10T features a more advanced Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset than its predecessor.
The Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 delivers a performance boost over the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, which OnePlus augments by packing the phone with RAM. In fact, you can get a version of the phone with 16GB of memory for $749, just $100 more than the $649 starting price. The OnePlus 10T also features a new cooling system to keep the phone from overheating during marathon gaming sessions. Throw in a fast charging and a big display capable of a 120Hz refresh rate, and you've got quite a mobile gaming device that's cheaper than most flagships.
Read our full OnePlus 10T review.
Motorola's latest flagship model has a few flaws, but it delivers the goods for gamers. The 144Hz refresh rate is above average for Android phones, and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, combined with 8GB or 12GB RAM, means you aren't lacking in performance.
The main issue you'll worry about with gaming is the Edge Plus' disappointing battery life. You may want to keep a plug handy for any gaming marathons you're doing. Fortunately the included 30W charger gets you going again fast, and unless you're particularly bothered about not having a telephoto camera or a glass back panel, it's a good compromise between costly well-rounded regular flagship phones and cheaper dedicated gaming smartphones.
Read our full Motorola Edge Plus (2022) review
How to choose the best gaming phone for you
As with all things, choosing the right gaming phone is a matter of priorities. If you're after the best performance — and you likely are if you're reading this — you'll want a phone with a Snapdragon 8-series chipset or Apple's A15 Bionic. Emphasis on the Snapdragon, as Qualcomm's best silicon for Android phones is available in devices from a number of manufacturers.
But what about high refresh rates? That's something you'll only find on the more expensive end of the market, though it's a feature that will surely descend to more modestly-priced phones over time. Panels rated at 90Hz and above offer smoother scrolling and overall graphics than conventional screens, making you feel as if every swipe, tap and action is eliciting a response with no delay. If you're an especially serious competitive gamer, higher refresh rates will ensure you won't miss any of the action.
Of course, the more a device is geared toward gaming with the appropriate features, the more phone makers ignore other considerations. While battery life is central to gaming (because games consume a lot of power), you'll have a tougher time finding gaming phones with great camera hardware and software, or perhaps conveniences like wireless charging and water resistance. If those things are important to you, you may want to focus your search on the more powerful handsets on this list that aren't strictly intended for gaming but can still very much hold their own, like the OnePlus 10 Pro, Galaxy S22 Plus and iPhone 13 Pro Max.
How we test gaming phones
In order for a smartphone to make any of our best phone lists — gaming phone or otherwise — it needs to excel on several tests that we run on every handset. We perform some of these tests in our labs and some in the real world.
When it comes to performance, we rely on such synthetic benchmarks as Geekbench 5 and GFXBench to measure graphics performance. These tests allow us to compare performance across iPhones and Android devices. We also run a real-world video transcoding test on each phone using the Adobe Premiere Rush app and time the result.
To measure the quality of a phone's display, we perform lab tests to determine the brightness of the panel (in nits), as well as how colorful each screen is (DCI-P3 color gamut). In these cases, higher numbers are better. We also measure color accuracy of each panel with a Delta-E rating, where lower numbers are better and score of 0 is perfect.
One of the most important tests we run is the Tom's Guide battery test. We run a web surfing test over 5G or 4G at 150 nits of screen brightness until the battery gives out. In general, a phone that lasts 10 hours or more is good, and anything above 11 hours makes our list of the best phone battery life.
Last but not least, we take the best phones out in the field to take photos outdoors, indoors and at night in low light to see how they perform versus their closest competitors. We take shots of landscapes, food, portraits and more, and also allow you to be the judge with side-by-side comparisons in our reviews.
If you plan to stream games to your phone, consider one of our picks for the best wireless gaming mouse.
And if you're curious how a foldable phone performs, here's why the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 falls flat as a gaming phone.
In all honesty, I came here looking for a way to contrast brands before I level up from my ROG 3 ... Looking for non contradictory reviews basing on detailed perks that apply to actual gaming.
On seeing that the iPhone 13 was number one, I smelled bias
Sure the 5nm chip works wonders but the iOS platform misses out on open source perks so there aren't many accessories / peripherals nor titles that you can enjoy
Take the Asus dock for example ... Giving you a PC experience at home with the key mapping while the Kunai pads give you a console experience (like any other snappy pads) but their perk is in having the mobile console experience ... Nostalgic when playing PsP games ... Hyper fusion, dual band wifi ... We all know that connectivity is a decider when playing multiplayer games ... But this article makes mention of cameras (not making any AR references btw ... More so it wouldn't matter) ...
Man ... Forgive me for ranting but you can't make an all round ranking and base the final outcome with some things that hardly count and then leave out the plethora of perks others have
The ROG 5 doesn't merely heat easily
It dispenses heat away from the processor easily... So don't be touching the heat sink. -_-
It's really disappointing to see someone create a ranking of GAMING PHONES and puts the first gaming phone at number 3 then goes a step further and says one of the cons is "gamer asthetic not for everyone" ... Dude! Gaming phones aren't for everyone... Many are called, few are chosen. This is disappointing
It's like creating a ranking for supercars and you put a Rolls Royce at 1st (crediting its comfort) and puting a Lamborghini 3rd (and complains about its aggressive design)
I'm sure most mobile gamers failed to complete reading this article due to obvious reasons
That makes this article basically useless for me.
1. How are you going to put OnePlus 10 Pro at #2 and OnePlus 10T at #7 when the 10T was literally made to be the better performing gaming variant. They cut back on various other aspect of the phone including the camera in exchange for better performance. Wild Life Extreme Stress Test(20 minutes): 10 Pro (went from a loop score of 2618 to 1631, 62.3% stability), 10T (went a loop score 2827 to 2537, 89.7%) There is a clear winner here. Sustained performance is a key part of what makes a good gaming phone.
You literally said it yourself:
-"OnePlus 10T offers a less expensive option"
-"The Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 delivers a performance boost over the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1"
-"The OnePlus 10T also features a new cooling system to keep the phone from overheating during marathon gaming sessions"
So...10T is cheaper, better performing, and has a better cooling system and yet somehow the 10 Pro is better lul.
2. Why is a Pixel on this list of gaming phones. Even Google's newest Tensor 2 chip that is to be released with their 7 series performs worst than Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and we already have Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1. And in a couple of months Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is coming out so the Tensor chip is going to fall even more behind. There's also heating issues when gaming with the phone. Google Pixel isn't a gaming phone and it wasn't meant to be. It's a flagship level phone with a huge emphasis on camera and videography. It works as a daily driver for those that mostly use it for work, messaging, social media, apps, youtube, etc...which is why they can offer it at a lower price point than other flagships because they don't need to deck the phone out with the best performing specs.
3. If we are talking about gaming phones, the red magic 7s pro should be way higher on this list. Rog 6 at #1 and 7s Pro at #2. In terms of performance, the phone rivals that of the Rog 6, and the cooling fan inside the 7s pro isn't just a gimmick. Also why are you factoring in camera quality for a gaming phone ranking. You think someone that is looking to buy a gaming phone is concerned about camera quality? Also, that under displa camera is something that I really liked about the phone and hope more companies would adopt it unlike iphone's giant ugly notch. I was hoping they get rid of it, but instead they decided to embrace it with the dynamic island thing. It even gets in the way of gaming and blocks the controls for some games...
4. Another thing about gaming phones is their ability to dissipate heat. That's why these phones are thick and hefty because of the advance cooling system to prevent phone from overheating and allow users to play games for long durations without much drop in performance. Normal flagship phones may start off fine, but give it like 15 minutes and the phone will start to get hot and/or performance starts to greatly deteriorate. Gaming phones like the rog 6 has a power external cooling accessory people can use to greatly cool the phone down using the side usb-c port and the kunai gamepad gives users different gaming experiences - use bluetooth and use the kunai as a regular controller, or you can attach the controllers to the phone itself and now you got a nintendo switch like gaming experience.