Mobile gaming is bigger than it's ever been, and that's why phone makers now offer devices specifically built to run your favorite titles at unparalleled quality. These handsets feature top-of-the-line processors, copious amounts of RAM and occasionally even displays with faster refresh rates, to ensure you don't miss a single frame of the action.
Companies like Razer and Asus — names gamers are likely very well-acquainted with by now — have lent their expertise in the field to produce purpose-built, gaming-focused handsets. But the latest flagships from Samsung and Apple, with their class-leading specs, are also great for use with demanding titles. If you like to dip into a round of Fortnite or Arena of Valor on the go, these are the smartphones you're going to want to check out.
1. Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
The all-around champRating: 4.5/5 stars
Screen: 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED (3040 x 1440) | OS: Android 9 Pie with One UI | Processor: Snapdragon 855 (U.S.)/Exynos 9820 (WW) | RAM/Storage: 8GB, 12GB/128GB, 512GB, 1TB
Right now, there's no more powerful Android phone in the world than Samsung's just-released Galaxy S10 Plus. And power is important if you want to play titles like Fortnite and Asphalt 9: Legends in full detail with consistently high frame rates.
But the S10 Plus isn't just fast. It'll last quite a while in the heat of battle, thanks to its generously sized 4,100-mAh battery and vapor chamber-cooling technology, designed to keep things humming along even under the stress of AAA gaming. And Samsung's stunning Dynamic AMOLED display will make your games look as beautiful as they run.
Read our full Galaxy S10 Plus review.
2. OnePlus 6T
Top-tier gaming on a budgetRating: 4.5/5 stars
Screen: 6.4-inch AMOLED (2340 x 1080) | OS: Android 9 Pie with OxygenOS | Processor: Snapdragon 845 | RAM/Storage: 6GB, 8GB, 10 GB/128GB, 256 GB
OnePlus has a reputation for offering flagship hardware at affordable prices, and the OnePlus 6T keeps that tradition going with one of the fastest, most fluid Android user experiences we've encountered.
That's great news for gamers, who can spend as little as $549 on this device — nearly half the price of some high-end models from Apple and Samsung — and still be able to play the latest and greatest titles. Additionally, OnePlus' gaming-centric features, like Do Not Disturb mode, will keep your attention on the objective at hand. We should note, however, that an even more powerful OnePlus 7 is likely just around the corner, and should be revealed before the end of spring.
Read our full OnePlus 6T review.
3. iPhone XR
The premium experience for iPhone gamersRating: 4.5/5 stars
Screen: 6.1-inch Liquid Retina LCD (1792 x 828) | OS: 12 | Processor: A12 Bionic | RAM/Storage: 3GB/64GB, 128GB, 256GB
In truth, all three current iPhones are fantastic choices for gaming, thanks to their edge-to-edge displays and speedy A12 Bionic chipsets. But the cheapest of the bunch, the $749 iPhone XR, leads the pack for gamers, due to its best-in-class battery life and Liquid Retina LCD screen, all at a relatively low price.
The iPhone XR's 6.1-inch panel boasts a 120-Hz touch sample rate. Don't get that confused with a 120-Hz refresh rate, like you'd see on a top-line gaming monitor or the Razer Phone 2. The iPhone XR's display isn't quite as buttery smooth, but the improved touch sample speed does make this phone super responsive to your inputs. And that's very, very important when lightning-quick movements often spell the difference between victory and defeat.
Read our full iPhone XR review.
4. Asus ROG Phone
Innovative gaming features make it stand outRating: 4/5 stars
Screen: 6-inch AMOLED (2160 x 1080; 90-Hz refresh rate) | OS: Android 9 Pie with Zen UI | Processor: Snapdragon 845 | RAM/Storage: 8 GB/128, 512 GB
The ROG Phone very clearly looks like one of Asus' Republic of Gamers PCs, but shrunken down into the body of a handset. There's RGB lighting on the back and a set of stereo speakers on the front. And the gorgeous 6-inch, 18:9 AMOLED display with a 90-Hz refresh rate makes everything — from games to the user interface — look and feel extremely fluid.
But what really makes the ROG Phone stand out are all of its crazy special features and available add-ons. There are AirTriggers — touch-sensitive zones on the frame that you can remap to serve different functions in different games, like shoulder buttons. Asus also offers an optional cooling fan and Gamevice controller, to add the precision that only buttons and analog sticks can provide. We do wish these accessories were a bit cheaper, but that said, we're glad this crazy interpretation of what a gaming phone should be exists at all.
Read our full ROG Phone review.
5. Razer Phone 2
120-Hz refresh rate in the palm of your handRating: 3/5 stars
Screen: 5.7-inch LCD (2560 x 1440; 120-Hz refresh rate) | OS: Android 9 Pie | Processor: Snapdragon 845 | RAM/Storage: 8 GB/64 GB
Many were skeptical when Razer announced that it would enter the phone business, but the company very quickly proved its decision was justified when it launched the first-generation Razer Phone in 2017. The device was far from perfect, but Razer's sleek and refined aesthetic combined with the device's strong performance endeared this phone to a subset of mobile gamers on the hunt for a device that would allow them to play without compromises.
The Razer Phone 2 doubles down on that theme with an improved 120-Hz, 1440p LCD display; Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 system-on-chip; wireless charging; and a Chroma RGB-powered logo on the back that might be one of the coolest notification lights ever to grace a phone. We also liked the device's powerful stereo, front-facing speakers. Ultimately, the camera brings the Razer Phone sequel down. But now that the device sells for nearly half its initial price of the $799, it might be worth putting up with some substandard photos for everything else the Razer Phone 2 offers.
Read our full Razer Phone 2 review.
6. Samsung Galaxy Note 9
A versatile powerhouse for work and playRating: 4/5 stars
Screen: 6.4-inch Super AMOLED (2960 x 1440; 120-Hz refresh rate) | OS: Android 8.1 Oreo with Samsung Experience | Processor: Snapdragon 845 (U.S.)/Exynos 9810 (WW) | RAM/Storage: 6GB, 8GB/128GB, 512GB
The Galaxy Note 9 may not be the top dog of Samsung's smartphone lineup anymore, now that the Galaxy S10 Plus is out. But the Note 9 is still plenty capable, thanks to its Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip, up to 8GB of RAM and water-carbon-cooling system that was further refined in the S10 series.
This device is also the only Samsung handset that you can buy with an S Pen stylus, which lends some productivity appeal to the device. The Note 9's 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display remains one of the finest on the market, and some people will especially appreciate that it's unencumbered by an Infinity-O-style hole-punch cutout or a pesky notch. Because the Note 9 has been on the market since August, its price has dropped considerably, making now a great time to pick one of these phones up.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review.
7. LG V40 ThinQ
The gaming phone for audiophilesRating: 3/5 stars
Screen: 6.4-inch pOLED (3120 x 1440) | OS: Android 8.1 Oreo with LG UX | Processor: Snapdragon 845 | RAM/Storage: 6GB/64GB
Like many of the other phones on this list, the LG V40 is packed with Qualcomm's powerful Snapdragon 845 chipset and 6GB of RAM. However, LG's attention to the audio experience helps this phone stand out from the pack. The V40 comes equipped with a quad digital-to-analog converter for audio, which delivers some of the most immersive sound we've heard from a smartphone.
It helps, too, that the V40 comes equipped with a headphone jack — a rarity among modern handsets — as well as loads of conveniences, like wireless charging and a microSD card slot for expandable storage, making room for even more games, media and apps. You also get a trio of cameras, including wide-angle and telephoto lenses, that shutterbugs will surely love. Still, if you're interested in the V40 ThinQ, you should know that its successor, the 5G-capable V50 ThinQ, is set to arrive later this spring, with many of the same great features, as well as an even larger battery.
Read our full LG V40 ThinQ review.
… and We're Just Getting Started
Another wave of gaming phones is on the horizon for 2019, beginning with Nubia's just-released Red Magic Mars, as well as Xiaomi's Black Shark 2. Both are relatively low-priced, high-performance handsets that could rival OnePlus on the value front.
Speaking of which, we're about due for a new OnePlus flagship, as the Chinese phone maker readies the OnePlus 7, likely for a spring release. There could even be a 5G version of that phone down the line (in the U.K., anyway — sorry, U.S. readers), and that model figures to be especially beneficial to the competitive multiplayer crowd.
Not to be outdone, Samsung is gearing up to launch a 5G variant of the Galaxy S10 in the company's home market of South Korea on April 5. Given that Verizon has confirmed it will flip the switch on its 5G network the following week, on April 11, a North American launch for Samsung's next flagship shouldn't be far behind.
Credit: Tom's Guide