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The 7 best phones for gaming in 2020

We've made it pretty easy for you to choose your next smartphone for a first-rate mobile gaming experience

Isabela Alzuguir
| Updated on
The 7 best phones for gaming in 2020© 2020 Aurielaki/Shutterstock.com

Long gone are the days when mobile gaming was restricted to Snake and other 8-bit games. Sure, we have fond memories of past tech novelties that helped us survive waiting rooms and total boredom over the years. But isn't it great that we can now take part in hydro jet races and venture through the cosmos with all the equipment we need literally at our fingertips?

Riptide GP Renegade (Vector Unit).jpg
Riptide GP Renegade (Vector Unit)

The bar for mobile gaming keeps being raised. Characters keep crossing over to pop culture, and giant game developers such as Blizzard now bet on mobile experiences like the upcoming and much anticipated Diablo Immortal. While this is fantastic for gamers, it takes a top-grade smartphone for smooth gameplay. We know how annoying it can be to have a game crash when you're about to complete a tough mission or to have graphics seem so extraordinary in trailers, but underwhelming on your screen. Mobile gamers deserve a hassle-free, exciting experience, and we've got you covered, with the current 7 best phones for gaming.

Diablo Immortal (Blizzard Entertainment)
Diablo Immortal (Blizzard Entertainment)

How to choose a top-performing phone for gaming

Let's first dive into the main specs to consider when choosing a smartphone for gaming: total clock speed, RAM, internal storage, screen size, resolution, and battery power. Why are they crucial for an optimal mobile gaming experience?

Although it's not the only attribute that makes for a processor's performance, the CPU speed is a significant indicator. Measured in clock cycles per second, you'll find this information under the unit gigahertz (GHz). It's also critical to keep the number of cores in mind when looking for a fast processor; the CPU speed, or total clock speed, takes into account the number of cores in a CPU and the clock speed of each of them. When playing a game on your smartphone, the last thing you want is to have your character move at level-1-Snake-game speed, so go big with those GHz.

Snake Game (Nokia)
The ancient "Snake" game on an equally ancient Nokia 6310i phone
(© Peter Gudella / Shutterstock)

Make sure to also look for high RAM capacity: the more RAM a phone has, the faster it can read and write data. RAM temporarily stores data for easy access, so your system doesn't have to hunt for operating information that could be anywhere on the internal storage unit – speaking of which, we need to talk about it. Why? Because although external memory slots can make you forget about the dismal days when phones kept running out of space, ample internal storage is still essential for gamers. The reason is that some flagship phones don't have microSD card slots (hello, Apple), and not all games allow for external card installation. Keep in mind that complex games demand tons of space. One example is Call of Duty Mobile (Activision Blizzard, Inc.), which requires about 1.5GB of internal storage space on Android phones.

Now let's discuss screen size and resolution. Current games are exceptionally visually appealing, and there's no need to get a headache while trying to capture every detail. Going for a larger screen and more resolution is a good move. There's no sense in investing time and money on games with elaborate graphics if you can't visualize them.

Finally, the downside of having access to state-of-the-art games is that they can drain your device's battery. If your phone doesn't have substantial battery power, you may find yourself in trouble. Think about your phone dying in the middle of a long, lonesome train ride, while all you wanted was to explore a magical realm for hours on end (like the dreamworld of Samorost 3, by Amanita Design).

How our top picks made the cut

Before we dive in, let's do a quick recap of the main specs we've considered when picking options for your next gaming smartphone:

  • Total clock speed
  • RAM
  • Internal Storage
  • Screen Size
  • Resolution
  • Battery Power

You may think that all of this is too much to keep in mind, but there's no reason to worry: we've got handpicked suggestions lined up for you, so let's get down to our 7 best phones for gaming.

  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
    1

    1. Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

    3,859 points

    Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

    The 6.9-inch Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is possibly the smartphone with the best display on the market today. With a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz and a 240Hz touch response rate, it makes for smooth and sharp graphics and accurate touch capture. The Dynamic AMOLED Infinity-O screen has various resolution options: from 1,600 x 720 to 3,200 x 1,440 pixels, and the refresh rate can also be adjusted. However, 120Hz is what you'll want as a gamer.

    Available in cosmic gray and cosmic black, the Galaxy S20 Ultra supports 5G connectivity and has a 5,000mAh intelligent battery that adjusts to the user's habits to optimize usage. Depending on the market, the flagship runs on an Exynos 990 or a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset; in both cases, performance is quite strong for any mobile gaming experience. Another highlight for gamers is the ability to suspend up to five apps, meaning there's no need for reloading when a user switches between apps.

    The Galaxy S20 Ultra is available in three variants:

    An additional 1TB of storage can be added via MicroSD. Furthermore, the flagship packs a powerful camera system with 108MP, 10x hybrid optic zoom, and the possibility of recording 8K video – which, at least for now, seems like overkill.

  • OnePlus 7T Pro
    2

    2. OnePlus 7T Pro

    3,696 points

    OnePlus 7T Pro

    The OnePlus 7T Pro is a powerful flagship with a polished design. Powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset, the phone features 8GB of RAM and 256GB of UFS 3.0 internal storage. Although the OnePlus 7T Pro isn't marketed primarily as a gaming flagship, the Chinese manufacturer also had players in mind. With the help of European e-sports organization Fnatic, OnePlus developed a gaming mode (named Fnatic) for enhanced performance.

    The OnePlus 7T Pro has a 6.67-inch, gently curved edge-to-edge display with a 90Hz refresh rate. Thanks to matte-textured coating, it repels fingerprints and offers a firmer grip. Other highlights are the triple-lens camera system, fast charging (68% in 30 minutes), and a haptic engine for tactile feedback.

  • Asus ROG Phone II
    3

    3. Asus ROG Phone II

    3,519 points

    Asus ROG Phone II

    This is the 2nd-gen gaming phone developed by Asus. Running on the 2.96GHz Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset and with up to 12GB of RAM, the ROG Phone II is seriously powerful. The prime model offers 1TB of internal storage, 6,000mAh of battery power, and you're unlikely to experience any slowdown even with the most performance-demanding mobile games. You also can't really ask for more in terms of display: AMOLED technology, 6.59 inches in size, and a refresh rate of 120Hz, protected by Gorilla Glass 6.

    The Asus ROG Phone II has three USB-C ports. However, one only operates as a connector for the brand's additional gaming accessories, so you can count on two USB-C charging ports. One was placed on the side of the phone, which makes playing in landscape mode while charging more accessible. Asus' flagship packs stereo speakers and a quad-mic system for noise cancellation. Depending on your market, the Asus ROG Phone II may come with a case and a cooling attachment (AeroActive Cooler 2). Other highlights for gamers are the finger resting trigger with customizable dual vibration and the Ultrasonic AirTriggers II. The latter consists of touch-sensitive areas that function as controller triggers.

    As expected, deluxe features come at a cost: a high price tag and a product that's on the heavier side. Besides, getting hold of Asus' gaming accessories isn't cheap, and buying all of them would be like buying two phones. In case you're curious, some of these accessories are the Kunai GamePad, which turns the ROG Phone II into a portable console like the Nintendo Switch, and the TwinView Dock II. More than a simple connection dock, the TwinView provides extra cooling power, 5,000mAh of battery, and another 120Hz screen for your gaming experience. If this luxury accessory sparked your interest, check out the video below.

  • Xiaomi Black Shark 3 Pro
    4

    4. Xiaomi Black Shark 3 Pro

    3,460 points

    Xiaomi Black Shark 3 Pro

    This gaming phone's predecessor already gave competitors a run for their money, and manufacturers will have to work hard to beat the Black Shark 3 Pro any time soon. Running on a Snapdragon 865 chipset (the most advanced mobile chipset at the time of the launch), the model supports 5G and is available in 8GB and 12GB versions. The flagship flaunts a 5,000mAh battery that, according to the manufacturer, can be recharged in 38 minutes.

    The Black Shark 3 Pro is equipped with a massive 7.1-inch AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate and a low screen latency of 24 milliseconds – a record at the release date – that is expected to satisfy gamers. Besides the display technology, the overall design clearly takes the target audience into account. The phone has trigger-like shoulder buttons with tactile feedback, and it's possible to attach magnetic packs for wireless charging while gaming. Still considering the design, the Black Shark 3 Pro's bezels may seem off-putting at first. However, they make it easier to hold the gaming phone and play without accidentally touching the screen.

    Xiaomi significantly improved the series' camera technology: the Black Shark 3 Pro has a triple-camera setup with a depth-sensing camera. Moreover, the model has an in-display fingerprint scanner, front-facing stereo speakers, and introduces a 3.5mm audio jack to the series, which will please gamers that favor wired sound. Additionally, the Black Shark 3 Pro can be turned into a portable console with the attachment of a gamepad with joystick and buttons.

  • Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
    5

    5. Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max

    3,264 points

    Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max

    Apple's iPhone 11 Pro Max runs on the proprietary Bionic A13 chipset, which focuses on machine learning and, according to the company at the time of the release, was "years ahead of any other chip." Along with its smaller sibling (iPhone 11 Pro), Apple's prime flagship is water-resistant and the brand's first model with a triple-lens camera system. Furthermore, it has a 3,969mAh battery that can be charged up to 50% in half an hour and supports wireless charging.

    The model is available in gold, space gray, silver, and midnight green versions, with 64, 256, or 512GB of internal storage. RAM is the same for all variants: 4GB, which disappoints in comparison to competitors. Gamers may, however, be pleased with the iPhone 11 Pro Max's 6.5-inch all-screen OLED display with Super Retina XDR technology and custom color management for increased tone accuracy.

    The iPhone 11 Pro Max features haptic feedback, front and back damage-resistant glass, Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, and Dolby Atmos stereo speakers for an immersive sound experience. Most importantly, Apple announced that its latest models were designed with environmental impact reduction in mind. Among other measures, the company developed its newest smartphones with recyclable stainless steel, arsenic and mercury-free glass and displays, and no PVC.

    As one would expect, Apple's flagship occurs at a high price: the prime model, with 512 of internal storage, comes with a price tag of $1,449, while the variant with 64GB of storage is sold for $1,099 in the US. Keep in mind that no Apple smartphone has ever featured memory card slots, so the internal storage is all you can count on. On a more positive note, some carriers offer monthly payment plans, which could be worth looking into if you're an Apple fan.

  • Razer Phone 2
    6

    6. Razer Phone 2

    3,233 points

    Razer Phone 2

    If you're a gamer on a budget, you may not want to snub the Razer Phone 2. Despite its unappealing design (like the predecessor's), the Phone 2 packs premium features for gamers; after all, Razer is mainly a gaming hardware manufacturer, and players are its primary audience. Powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 chipset, the flagship has a vapor-chamber cooling system and a 5-inch, 120Hz display for smooth graphics and accurate touch response. The cooling system dissipates heat throughout the device, avoiding heat concentration – one of the leading causes for performance issues.

    Moreover, the flagship has surround-compatible front-firing stereo speakers by Dolby Atmos and an illuminated logo with customizable RGB lighting and personalized notification alerts. The Phone 2 has wireless charging, IP67 water resistance, 8GB of RAM (no upgrade from the preceding model), a 4,000mAh battery, and a dual-lens rear camera system with Sony's IMX sensors. Like the previous version, there's no headphone jack, but an adapter instead.

  • ZTE Nubia Red Magic 3s
    7

    7. ZTE Nubia Red Magic 3s

    2,948 points

    ZTE Nubia Red Magic 3s

    The ZTE nubia Red Magic 3s was tailor-made for gamers: you won't find wireless charging or a multi-lens camera, but you can count on a showy design with customizable RGB lights, an advanced cooling system, and the mighty Snapdragon 855 Plus.

    The gaming phone is available in two variants: 12GB of RAM with 256GB of internal storage, and 8GB of RAM coupled with 128GB. Both options have a robust 5,000mAh battery with fast charging and a 6.65-inch AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate and the protection of Corning's Gorilla Glass 4.

    The Red Magic 3s is available in black, red, camouflage, and red/blue versions. It has stereo speakers with DTS:X, touch-capacitive gaming triggers, and of course, a gaming mode for optimal performance.

The 7 best phones for gaming: specs overview

CPU speedRAMscreen sizeresolutionbattery powerLCD display with 3 subpixels per pixelinternal storage
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra2 x 2.7 & 4 x 2.4 & 2 x 1.95GHz16GB6.9"1440 x 3200px5000mAh512GB
OnePlus 7T Pro1 x 2.96 & 3 x 2.42 & 4 x 1.8GHz8GB6.67"1440 x 3120px4085mAh256GB
Asus ROG Phone II1 x 2.96 & 3 x 2.42 & 4 x 1.8GHz12GB6.59"1080 x 2340px6000mAh1000GB
Xiaomi Black Shark 3 Pro1 x 2.84 & 3 x 2.42 & 4 x 1.8GHz12GB7.1"1440 x 3120px5000mAh512GB
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max2 x 2.65 & 4 x 1.8GHz4GB6.5"1242 x 2688px3969mAh512GB
Razer Phone 24 x 2.8 & 4 x 1.77GHz8GB5.72"1440 x 2560px4000mAh64GB
ZTE Nubia Red Magic 3s1 x 2.96 & 3 x 2.42 & 4 x 1.8GHz12GB6.65"1080 x 2340px5000mAh256GB
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