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The 7 Best Phones for Gaming in 2018

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 2018© 2020 Aurielaki/Shutterstock.com

Long gone are the days when mobile gaming was restricted to Snake and other 8-bit games. Sure, we'll always have fond memories of past tech novelties that helped us survive waiting rooms and total boredom over the years – but how great is it that, with high-powered smartphones, we can now take part in hydrojet races and venture through the cosmos with all the equipment we need literally at our fingertips?

Riptide GP: Renegade
Riptide GP Renegade

The bar for mobile gaming is being set higher and higher, with characters spreading across pop culture (Rovio Entertainment's Angry Birds franchise even made it to Hollywood!) and giant game developers such as Blizzard Entertainment betting on mobile titles like Hearthstone for smartphones and having a Warcraft-inspired mobile game reportedly in the works. While this is fantastic for gamers (and for those who have yet to discover the fun of it), it takes a top-grade smartphone for smooth gameplay. We know how annoying it can be to have a game crash when you're finally about to complete that tough mission, or to have graphics seem so astonishing in trailers, but so underwhelming on your phone's screen. Mobile gamers deserve a hassle-free, exciting experience, and we've got you covered, with the current 7 best phones for gaming.

Angry Birds Evolution
Angry Birds Evolution

How to choose a top-performing phone for gaming

First of all, let's keep in mind the main specs to consider when choosing a smartphone for gaming: we're talking total clock speed, RAM, internal storage, screen size, resolution and battery power. Why are they fundamental for an optimal mobile gaming experience?

Although it is not the only attribute that makes for a processor's performance, the total clock speed is a significant indicator. Measured in clock cycles per second, you'll find this information under the unit gigahertz (GHz) for current smartphones. It's also crucial to keep the number of cores in mind when looking for a fast processor – but of course, we've done the job for you. The total clock speed takes into account the number of cores in a CPU, and the clock speed of each one of them – which is not necessarily the same, as current technologies can make use of different speeds per core to improve system performance. 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 again, let's go big with those GHz.

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 engage in a full-on investigation for essential operating information that could be allocated anywhere on the actual internal storage unit – a feature that we also need to talk about. Why? Because even though external memory slots can make you feel invincible and forget the dismal days when phones kept running out of space (remember having to delete a photo before taking another one?), vast internal storage is still important for mobile gamers. The reason is that, asides from some flagship smartphones not having microSD card slots (hello, iPhone!), not all games allow for external card installation, and some apps truly demand a lot of space – especially complex games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (published by Rockstar Games), which requires at least 1.78GB of internal storage space on Android phones.

Now let's talk about screen size and resolution. As mobile games become more visually-appealing, you wouldn't want to squint your eyes and get a headache while trying to capture all the details and elements of a game, so 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 such as the puzzle adventure game Lumino City, developed by State of Play Games with craft materials – if you can't actually 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, it may be often too late for you; 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

We've also taken into account votes from our users, as well as the Amazon Best Sellers list for cell phones, making sure our list of recommendations is spot on.

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.

  • Apple iPhone X

    1. Apple iPhone X

    3,127 points

    Apple iPhone X

    The iPhone X is finally available, but you may be wondering: what's all the hype about? For starters, apart from a small set of sensors and cameras on top, the model is all screen, and Apple has stated that the iPhone X is so immersive that "the device itself disappears into the experience." Not bad for gamers, huh? Moreover, the iPhone X is made of potentially hard-wearing glass and surgical-grade stainless steel, and with a 5.8-inch Super Retina OLED Screen, you'll likely love mobile gaming even more.

    The iPhone X is powered by Apple's new A11 Bionic chipset, which achieved great results in Geekbench tests and promises "a new level of fluidity and realism." The A11 was developed with the big.LITTLE architecture (a first for Apple phones), and unlike previous Apple chipsets, all six cores can be put to use at once for highly-demanding tasks, such as complex games, as well as 3D and AR experiences. Furthermore, the iPhone X features 3GB of RAM, allows for wireless charging and has really impressive cameras – its main camera system is made of 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras, and its depth-sensing front camera makes for professional-quality selfies. 

    Finally, we must talk about the iPhone X's innovative Face ID. Thanks to an infrared camera and a dot projector that generates a unique facial map, this system is said to be 20 times more secure than fingerprint authentication.

    Of course, great things often come at a high price: the top model, with 256GB of internal storage, comes with a price tag of $1,149, while there's a version with 64GB of storage for $999. If it's hard to decide, just keep in mind that Apple has never featured memory card slots in its phones, so the internal storage is all you can count on. On a more positive note, some carriers offer monthly payment plans, so this might be something worth looking into, in case you such a hardcore Apple fan that you won't be able to sleep at night until you have an iPhone X to call yours.

  • OnePlus 5

    2. OnePlus 5

    2,824 points

    OnePlus 5

    Only three years after releasing their first device, Chinese company OnePlus brought real competition to giant manufacturers with the high-end OnePlus 5. The device's premier version delivers 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage, and its base model also impresses, with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage – the drawback is that there's no card slot in either version... Still, with a 5.5-inch Full HD AMOLED screen and a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels, the OnePlus 5 is a serious bet for mobile gamers, who can count on an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 CPU (4 x 2.45GHz & 4 x 1.9GHz) and 3300mAh of battery power.

  • Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

    3. Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

    3,387 points

    Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

    If your phone's screen size has been stopping you from getting into mobile gaming, the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus can put an end to this problem. With a 6.2-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED infinity display, 1440 x 2960 resolution and a Game Mode function for graphic-intensive games, it leaves no excuse for not acing that action RPG game because "your fingers are too big." The device also features a Game Launcher and Game Tools, which help you easily mute alerts, enhance performance and use of functions like video recording and taking screenshots while playing. The frontrunner of Samsung's flagship series also offers 4GB of RAM, a 3500mAh battery, and processors with core speeds of up to 2.3GHz (varying per country). This smartphone's top version features 64GB of internal storage, expandable up to 256GB.

  • Razer Phone

    4. Razer Phone

    2,647 points

    Razer Phone

    If you're an avid gamer, you definitely shouldn't snub the newly-released Razer Phone. Although there's no denying that its design is unappealing, its specs are quite impressive. The first smartphone released by the gaming hardware manufacturer was, of course, built to please gamers. The Razer Phone is powered by the mighty Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset and features whopping 8GB of RAM. With a 120Hz refresh rate and fanless cooling to boot, it seems like Razer can really deliver on its promise of "zero lag or stuttering" for gaming experiences.

    The Razer Phone is equipped with a 5.7-inch Quad HD LCD display protected by the Corning Gorilla Glass 3 technology, and it doesn't come short on battery power: 4000mAh and Quick Charge 4+ technology. Add to that Dolby ATMOS and THX-certified audio, and you're all set for powerful on-the-go gaming. However, the Razer Phone has its disadvantages: the smartphone doesn't feature a headphone jack (an adapter is included in the box), and it may be hard to turn a blind eye to its outdated design.

  • Asus Zenfone AR

    5. Asus Zenfone AR

    3,048 points

    Asus Zenfone AR

    If your social activities revolve around meeting fellow Pokémon collectors to play Pokémon GO (Niantic Inc. and Nintendo), you're probably a fan of augmented reality – and if you're not, the Asus Zenfone AR will most likely turn you into one. Asides from bringing a spacious 5.7-inch screen with a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels, as well as 8GB of RAM, a 3300mAh battery and 128GB of internal storage (64GB for the device's base version) that can be increased to 2TB with a microSD card, this is the perfect smartphone to explore augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) games. The Asus Zenfone AR is the first phone to enable Google's Tango AR and Daydream VR technologies, promising a new level of immersion for gamers; this is possible thanks to the device's TriCam system, which comprises three rear cameras that work together to create a 3D model of the area and track the device's motion and distance from actual objects.

  • Motorola Moto Z2 Play

    6. Motorola Moto Z2 Play

    2,911 points

    Motorola Moto Z2 Play

    We get it: some gamers just can't see themselves without a control stick. Still, that doesn't mean that mobile gaming isn't for you! The Motorola Moto Z2 Play is compatible with Moto Mods – an ever-increasing collection of attachable components, ranging from power packs to stereo speakers, a photography add-on with the Hasselblad signature, and most importantly, the Moto GamePad. Ready for 8 hours of gameplay, this accessory will transform your smartphone into the ultimate mobile gaming device, with dual control sticks, tactile action buttons, a D-pad and fast responsive control. The Motorola Moto Z2 Play has 64GB of internal storage (expandable up to 2TB) and 4GB of RAM for its prime version, as well as a 5.5-inch Full HD Super AMOLED screen.

  • Sony Xperia XZ Premium

    7. Sony Xperia XZ Premium

    3,317 points

    Sony Xperia XZ Premium

    This smartphone delivers sharp images, with an impressive 5.5-inch 4K HDR display enabled with the Triluminos technology, which promises to outweigh the color spectrum shown by standard displays in 38%. The Sony Xperia XZ Premium also has a fast performance, with 4GB of RAM and an octa-core CPU with up to 2.45GHz per core. Its internal storage of 64GB can be expanded up to 256GB and its battery ranks high, at 3230mAh, but what really makes Sony's flagship phone special for gamers is its compatibility with the PlayStation 4 – asides from enjoying mobile games on its vivid 2160 x 3840 screen, you can also sync it with your console, streaming PS4 games onto your smartphone.

The 7 best phones for gaming: specs overview

CPU speedRAMscreen sizeresolutionbattery powerinternal storage
Apple iPhone X2 x 2.53 & 4 x 1.42GHz3GB5.8"1125 x 2436px2716mAh256GB
OnePlus 58 x 2.45GHz8GB5.5"1080 x 1920px3300mAh128GB
Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus4 x 2.3 & 4 x 1.7GHz4GB6.2"1440 x 2960px3500mAh64GB
Razer Phone4 x 2.45 & 4 x 1.9GHz8GB5.7"1440 x 2560px4000mAh64GB
Asus Zenfone AR4 x 2.35GHz8GB5.7"1440 x 2560px3300mAh128GB
Motorola Moto Z2 Play8 x 2.2GHz4GB5.5"1080 x 1920px3000mAh64GB
Sony Xperia XZ Premium8 x 2.45GHz4GB5.5"2160 x 3840px3230mAh64GB

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