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Best gaming phone 2021


If you’re a mobile gamer, having the right phone can make a massive difference in your gaming experience. Today’s best gaming phones can deliver smooth playing experiences that compete with popular consoles and gaming systems — all from the convenience of your smartphone.

With so many options on the market, how do you choose the right gaming phone? You’ll want to look for something robust and reliable, with high resolution, a fast refresh rate display, and plenty of power. Each of the gaming phones below checks these boxes, so keep reading to find the right one for you.


Designed specifically for gamers

asus-rog-phone-5.jpg
Amazon

Specs:

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

  • Screen: 6.78 inches, 2448×1080 pixels

  • Weight: 8.4 ounces

  • Battery: 6,000mAh

  • RAM/Storage: 16GB/256GB

  • Operating system: Android 11


The ASUS ROG Phone 5 should be at the top of every hardcore gamer’s list, from the sizeable screen to the high-quality audio to the powerful hardware.

This phone offers a top-notch player experience, thanks to the lightning-fast refresh rate (144Hz), GameFX audio system, and gamer-friendly design. Inside, there’s a cutting-edge Snapdragon 888 processor, which provides ample power for all types of games. There’s also a huge 6,000mAh battery that’s designed for extended sessions.

Because the ROG Phone 5 is so popular, it sells out quickly on some sites. However, you can find it on Amazon right now for $855. Alternatively, you can opt for another model (like the ROG Phone 3).


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Powerful phone for gaming and everyday use

samsung-galaxy-s21-ultra.jpg
Amazon

Specs:

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

  • Screen: 6.8 inches, 3200×1440 pixels 

  • Weight: 8.08 ounces

  • Battery: 5,000mAh

  • RAM/Storage: 12GB/128GB 

  • Operating system: Android 11


Released in early 2021, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is one of the most popular phones on the market right now. It’s also one of the best for gaming, thanks to its best-in-class processor, gamer-friendly display, and massive storage limits.

Frequent gamers will appreciate the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s 120Hz refresh rate, delivering super-crisp graphics and minimal lag. On top of that, this best-selling phone is powered by the ultra-modern Snapdragon 888 processor, which has been a game-changer since it debuted earlier this year.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra sells for about $1,000 on Amazon, making it one of the more expensive phones on this list. But considering how many impressive gaming and non-gaming features you get with this product, we think the higher price tag is justified.


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A seamless gaming experience

oneplus-9-pro.jpg
Amazon

Specs:

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

  • Screen: 6.7 inches, 1440×3216 pixels 

  • Weight: 6.95 ounces

  • Battery: 4,500mAh

  • RAM/Storage: 12GB/256GB

  • Operating system: OxygenOS (Android 11)


If you aren’t familiar with OnePlus, you aren’t alone. At the moment, the company doesn’t have the biggest presence in the U.S., but its newest flagship phone, the OnePlus 9 Pro, is great for gaming.

There’s a big focus on graphics with this phone, which has a 6.7-inch screen and a speedy 120Hz refresh rate. Combined with the high resolution, you can expect a seamless gaming experience. Even better? The OnePlus 9 Pro includes Hyper Touch functionality, a gamer-friendly feature that increases the screen’s responsiveness to touch.

Right now, you can purchase the OnePlus 9 Pro on Amazon for $969. It’s on the pricier end of the spectrum, but with its unique gaming-focused features, it’s worth considering if you’re a regular gamer.


Pros:

Cons:

  • Not the cheapest option

  • Shorter battery life


Apple’s best phone for gaming

apple-iphone-12-pro-max.jpg
Amazon

Specs:

  • Processor: Apple A14

  • Screen: 6.7 inches, 2778×1284 pixels

  • Weight: 8.03 ounces

  • Battery: 3,687mAh

  • RAM/Storage: 6GB/128-512GB

  • Operating system: iOS 14


As you’ve probably noticed, Androids make up a majority of the best gaming phones on the market. However, some Apple products hold their own, with the iPhone 12 Pro Max being the best iOS option for gamers.

Even though this iPhone’s 60Hz refresh rate isn’t as fast as the other products on our list, there are still plenty of perks for gamers. Most notably, this phone is built with Apple’s industry-leading A14 Bionic chipset, offering power and speed for iOS users. And, of course, graphics look incredible on the 6.7-inch OLED display.

With a starting price of $1,099, you might be wondering: is the iPhone 12 Pro Max worth it for gamers? We think so — as long as you’re okay with giving up a few best-in-class gaming features in exchange for the other fantastic benefits included with Apple phones. If you’re on the fence, it might make sense to hold out for the iPhone 13.


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Solid gaming features at an affordable price

nubia-redmagic-6.jpg
Amazon

Specs:

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

  • Screen: 6.8 inches, 1080×2400 pixels

  • Weight: 7.76 ounces

  • Battery: 5,050mAh

  • RAM/Storage: 12GB/128GB

  • Operating system: RedMagic OS 4.0 (Android 11)


As part of Nubia’s line of gaming phones, the RedMagic 6 was specifically created for avid mobile gaming. Not only does it have all of the power and speed you’d expect from a modern smartphone, but it also has several additional features designed to make gaming more comfortable.

Game playing is smooth and satisfying on the RedMagic 6, thanks to the phone’s generous 6.8-inch display and excellent 165Hz refresh rate. When touched, the screen responds unbelievably fast, with a 500Hz single-touch and 360Hz multi-touch sample rate. Other interesting features for gamers include a built-in cooling fan and console-style trigger buttons.

If you’re serious about mobile gaming, the RedMagic 6 deserves some consideration. At $650, it’s more affordable than many of its competitors and could provide real value for the right buyer.


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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

Foldable phone with an enormous screen for gaming

samsung-galaxy-z-fold-3.jpg

Amazon

Specs:

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

  • Screen: 7.6 inches, 1768×2208 pixels

  • Weight: 9.56 ounces

  • Battery: 4,400mAh

  • RAM/Storage: 12GB/256-512GB

  • Operating system: Android 11


By virtue of its design, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a great pick for gamers. When opened, the display expands to a whopping 7.6 inches, which is far more screen space than you’ll get from a traditional phone.

Excitingly, this foldable phone also has powerful hardware to complement its spacious screen design. Not only does it offer 5G connectivity (thanks to the Snapdragon 888 processor), but it also has a gamer-friendly 120Hz refresh rate. On top of that, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 supports the Samsung S Pen stylus, which offers even more ways to use this versatile phone.

As you might expect, all of this extra screen space is reflected in the phone’s cost. Prices start at $1,780 for the 256GB model, so you’ll need to consider whether or not the larger size and folding functionality are worth the money. 


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Cheap gaming phone for budget-conscious shoppers

black-shark-4.jpg
Amazon

Specs:

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 870

  • Screen: 6.67 inches, 1080×2160 pixels

  • Weight: 6.70 ounces

  • Battery: 4,000mAh

  • RAM/Storage: 8-12GB/128-256GB

  • Operating system: Android 11


Many gaming phones aren’t exactly wallet-friendly, but the Xiaomi Black Shark 4 should be within most budgets. In exchange for the cheaper price point, this phone doesn’t pack as much power or storage as the other phones in this review. Regardless, it’s a solid gaming phone with enough features to earn a spot on our list.

On the technical side, there’s plenty to like about the Black Shark 4, including its respectable Snapdragon 870 processor and 144Hz refresh rate. As far as design goes, the phone is sleek and compact, with bonus gaming features like pop-out triggers and a liquid cooling system to prevent overheating.

For $500, we think the Black Shark 4 is certainly worth adding to your list — especially if you don’t want to break the bank on a new gaming phone. The company also sells a variety of accessories (like triggers and cooling fans) to make your mobile gaming experience a bit easier.


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How did we choose these products?

To curate this list, we searched the market for a well-rounded range of products, making sure to include options for every shopper. Our research process took into account pricing, technical specifications, customer reviews, and product availability. Each of our picks can be purchased through the manufacturer’s website or from popular retailers like Amazon or Walmart.

Which is the right one for you?

We know that different people might be looking for different things when shopping for a gaming phone. For example, if you want the fastest and most powerful gaming phone on the market, look for products built on innovative processors (like Snapdragon 888 and A14) with fast refresh rates and high storage capacity. The ASUS ROG Phone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S21 are two good examples.

However, if you’re on a budget, then price will probably be your biggest consideration. In that case, we’d recommend an affordable option like the Xiaomi Black Shark 4 or the Nubia RedMagic 6. While they might be slightly less powerful than their premium counterparts, they’ll still offer the essential functionality that you need from a gaming phone.

FAQ

What is a gaming phone?

Technically, any phone that allows you to play games could be considered a gaming phone. However, there are a handful of phones that have been designed and marketed as “gaming phones,” such as the ASUS ROG Phone 5. For the purposes of our review, we’ve highlighted some of these products, as well as more mainstream options that would work well for gamers (like the iPhone 12 Pro Max).

Do you need a dedicated gaming phone?

Not necessarily. Some popular non-gaming phones are powerful enough to support rigorous mobile gaming. Plus, these phones often outperform dedicated gaming phones when it comes to other features (like camera quality and design). 

Still, if you love mobile gaming and want a product that’s designed for that specific purpose, then a gaming phone might be the right choice.

What should you look for in a gaming phone?

There are several things to look for when shopping for a mobile gaming phone. First, you’ll want to look for a phone with a fast, modern processor. The processor is the central technical component of a smartphone, overseeing every command and ensuring your phone performs the tasks you ask of it. Right now, the best processors include the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 and Apple A14 Bionic.

Additionally, you’ll also want to look for a phone with a high screen refresh rate. Measured in Hertz (Hz), this number is an expression of how many times your screen refreshes every second. As you might expect, a higher refresh rate is essential for a smooth gaming experience with less lag. Today’s best gaming phones have refresh rates of at least 120Hz.

Finally, keep an eye out for phones with ample storage, Random Access Memory (RAM), and battery life. Simply put, the more storage, RAM, and battery capacity your phone has, the better it will be for mobile gaming. You’ll be able to enjoy longer, uninterrupted gaming sessions without slowing down your phone or draining the battery.

Are there alternatives worth considering?

We think that the phones listed above are your best bet for gaming. However, some other well-known phones can get the job done. Although they didn’t make our final list, they’re still impressive and capable products. 



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