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Smartphone games are becoming more sophisticated and graphically complex than ever. But while most phones can play most games, you need a smartphone with great specs to properly handle top titles like Call of Duty or Fortnite.
So if you want to buy the best gaming phone for 2019, let’s take a look at your options.
What to Look for in a Gaming Phone
When you’re looking for the best gaming smartphone, there are a few key specs you need to keep an eye out for. You don’t need all of them, but the more you have, the better your phone will perform.
- Fast CPU and GPU: you want a flagship-level processor, ideally something in the Snapdragon 8xx range or similar.
- Cooling system: a phone’s CPU normally slows down once it starts to get too hot. Liquid cooling, or some other special cooling system, will help control the temperature and keep it running faster for longer.
- Big battery: a large battery, starting at around 4000mAh, is a must. Fast charging is also good to have.
- Lots of RAM and storage: Android phones will ideally have at least 6GB of RAM for gaming, if not more, plus as much storage as possible to keep your games on.
- Fast refresh screen: most phone screens have a 60Hz refresh rate, meaning they refresh 60 times every second. Some gaming phones are 90Hz, or even 120Hz, and can produce smoother, more fluid animations.
We’ll start with the iPhone 11 Pro Max. It is, by almost any measure, the most powerful smartphone you can buy. And iOS is still the best platform for smartphone gaming. Although all the main AAA titles are available on Android, iOS still has the best indie titles.
All the iPhone 11 models have the same core specs, but we’d recommend the 11 Pro Max for gaming because it’s the only one of the three to combine the largest screen with the longest battery life. In truth, though, they’re all great games machines.
When you’re looking for the best Android phone for gaming, why not start with one of the best-known gaming hardware brands. From a company renowned for its gaming laptops, the Razer Phone 2 is a pretty compelling gaming phone.
What it lacks in style—the large bezels give it a slightly dated look—it more than makes up for in power and performance. It’s got a fast processor, a large 4000mAh battery, dual Dolby Surround Sound speakers, and a vapor chamber cooling system to stop it overheating.
But best of all is the 120Hz display for a super-smooth gaming experience. The device came out in late 2018, and subsequent price cuts make it an absolute bargain.
3. Red Magic 3
The Red Magic 3 is one of the top gaming phones you can buy right now. Manufacturer ZTE describes it as delivering “Esports grade” performance. The standout feature is a fan assisted liquid cooling system that enables the processor to run at a faster clock speed for longer.
You also get up to 12GB of RAM, a massive 5000mAh battery, and a 6.65-inch HDR display with a 90Hz refresh rate. And if that’s not enough, the device also has capacitive shoulder triggers for some of the most ergonomic gaming you’ll find on a phone.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a phone with better specifications than the Asus ROG Phone 2. It crams in the cutting-edge Snapdragon 855 Plus CPU, a 120Hz AMOLED HDR display, twin front-facing speakers, and up to 12GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.
It’s all backed up with a mammoth 6000mAh battery with 30W fast charging that can take you to 40 percent in just half an hour. The only downside is the aesthetic design—it is not a phone for the style-conscious. The ROG 2 is big, has a rugged looking design, and weighs over half a pound.
With its two rear LED lighting strips, the Black Shark 2 Pro from Xiaomi looks more like a gaming phone than any other. It isn’t all gimmicks, though, as it has the specs to match. There’s the Snapdragon 855 Plus processor, super-fast UFS 3.0 storage, liquid cooling, and your choice of 8GB or 12GB of RAM.
Most impressive is the gaming-optimized display. The low latency allows for faster in-game responses, while the high sensitivity—it recognizes movements as short as 0.3mm—gives you incredible levels of precision. Best of all, it’s pressure-sensitive. You can use different actions within your games simply by pressing the screen harder.
You don’t need a dedicated gaming phone to get great gaming performance. The OnePlus 7 Pro has most of what you’re looking for in a sleeker, more stylish package.
This includes a flagship Snapdragon 855 processor, up to 8GB of RAM, a 90Hz QHD display, dual stereo speakers, and a 4000mAh battery with the unique Warp Charge 30 system. As well as charging the phone rapidly, it doesn’t get hot if you keep it plugged in while gaming.
Also, check out the OnePlus 7T Pro, with a slightly upgraded processor. It’s available in the UK and other parts of the world, but not the US.
7. Honor Play
Gaming doesn’t have to be off-limits if you’re on a budget, thanks to the Honor Play. This device may come at an affordable price, but it packs in the high-end Kirin 970 processor and up to 6GB of RAM, along with the GPU Turbo feature that’s tuned for high frame rates and low power consumption.
There are a few compromises, inevitably. There’s only a single speaker, and storage is limited to 64GB—although there is a microSD slot. But while the battery looks small at 3750mAh, users suggest it holds up pretty well.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 excels as a gaming smartphone. There’s an innovative cooling system and the S10 is optimized for games built with the Unity engine. The phone has stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos sound, and a GPU that’s over a third faster than on the Galaxy S9 just a year earlier.
With up to 12GB of RAM, it’ll handle the most cutting edge games for several years to come. And all that’s on top of the other great stuff the S10 has to offer; fast performance, an incredible camera, and a long battery life with fast charging too.
9. Pocophone F1
You can play games on cell phones of any kind, but the better the specs, the better your experience will be. The Pocophone F1 is the cheapest way to get your hands on a true flagship. Despite its lower mid-range price, the F1 doesn’t skimp on the specs.
It has a top-end Snapdragon 845 CPU, with up to 8GB of RAM, up to 256GB of storage, and stereo speakers. The 4000mAh battery, with fast charging, will keep you playing for a long time. It even has a liquid cooling system to prevent heat from becoming a problem.
On the downside, it is plastic and does have larger bezels than you might prefer. But these aesthetic issues can’t detract from the sheer power under the hood.
The Best Smartphone for Gaming
All of these devices rank among the best smartphones for gaming this year. Whether you’re a serious player or just prefer casual games, they’ll all serve you well.
If you have other priorities, like how long-lasting a phone is, check out our picks of the Android phones with best battery life.