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Best smartphones for gamers right now


The best gaming phones to choose in 2021 – The comparison

  Best choice on Android Best choice on Apple Best choice for gaming only Best value for money Best choice for less than $400
Product
Figure Apple iPhone 13 ROG Phone 5 OnePlus Nord 2 Poco F3
Pros
  • The Fluid Amoled 120 Hz display
  • The Snapdragon 888
  • 65W wired and 50W wireless Warp Charge
  • The versatile camera module
  • Significant advances in image processing
  • IP68 rating
  • 65W charger included
  • OLED screen with deep blacks
  • Larger battery
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max’s main sensor
  • IP68 certification
  • iOS 15
  • Smooth 144Hz Amoled display
  • The raw power of the Snapdragon 888
  • Exemplary temperature control
  • Excellent battery life
  • Smart design  full of personality
  • The 90 Hz Amoled screen is fluid even without 120 Hz
  • Powerful MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI
  • No overheating
  • The fast Warp Charge 65T
  • The solid autonomy
  • The level of detail of the main 50 MP camera lens
  • The effective night mode
  • Promise of 2 Android versions and 3 years of security updates
Cons
  • The classy but too conventional design
  • The zoom is still too limited
  • The “gaming pro” mode is too gimmicky
  • 60 Hz refresh rate
  • Face ID remains cumbersome with the use of cases
  • Fast charge of only 20 W
  • The photo module is overall too average
  • ROG UI software tracking
  • Massive dimensions and weight
  • No dedicated telephoto lens
  • No wireless charging/ IP rating/ microSD port/ 3.5mm jack
  • Colorimetry of photos not very accurate
  • Inferior photo software processing compared to OnePlus 9
  • Lack of clarity on High Performance mode
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Offers

OnePlus 9 Pro

Apple iPhone 13

Asus ROG Phone 5

OnePlus Nord 2

Poco F3

The purpose of this selection is obviously to recommend the best gaming phones available on the market today. The selection has been discussed and debated internally and, with a few rare exceptions, each model has been tested by a NextPit journalist. But the goal is not to focus on gaming and forget about everything else.

As with every product, buying a smartphone is the result of multiple criteria. So this selection is more a list of the best phones for gaming than the best purely gaming phones like Xiaomi’s Black Shark and ZTE’s Nubia RedMagic. The idea is to offer you a smartphone that can be used on a daily basis but with a few features or technical specifications that are a little more designed for video games.

Jump To:

The best gaming phones in 2021

Listed below are the best phones for gaming available in 2021 according to NextPit. These are the best models in all categories. The OnePlus 9 Pro and the Apple iPhone 13 take the top spot on the podium, followed by the ROG Phone 5.

The best gaming Android phone: OnePlus 9 Pro

NextPIT OnePlus 9 Pro
The Asus ROG Phone 5 is the best gaming smartphone on the market in 2021. / © NextPit

Rating

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • Amoled screen 120 Hz
  • 360 Hz touch rate
  • Great temperature control
  • 65 Watts fast charge
 

Cons

  • Gaming mode could be better
  • Thermal throttling aggressive on long gaming sessions

Check out NextPit’s full review of the OnePlus 9 Pro

The OnePlus 9 Pro isn’t the best Android smartphone, but it’s the best if gaming is your main buying criteria, ahead of photography for example. The Amoled QHD+ display is excellently made and very bright with a 120Hz refresh rate. The touch sampling rate can go up to 360 Hz with the HyperTouch feature which is great for fluidity and responsiveness of touch controls in games.

The 4500 mAh battery is not the most enduring but the battery life is solid and the 65 watts Warp Charge fast charging is very fast. The smartphone doesn’t overheat too much but that’s partly due to some pretty aggressive thermal throttling. What’s also nice about OnePlus is that the manufacturer works a lot with game publishers to offer exclusive features or compatibilities like 90 FPS on Fortnite back in the day or 120 FPS on PUBG. The OnePlus 9 Pro also has the merit of being cheaper overall than its counterparts from Samsung, Oppo or others.

Offers to buy the OnePlus 9 Pro

OnePlus 9 Pro

The best gaming iPhone: iPhone 13

NextPIT Apple iPhone 13
The iPhone 13 is more powerful than any Android gaming smartphone. / © NextPit

Rating

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • The most POWERFUL SoC in the universe!!!!!!!
  • Zero overheating even in heavy gaming use
  • Solid battery life
  • Very well calibrated OLED screen
  • Good grip with its straight edges
 

Cons

  • Recharging at 20 Watts is too slow
  • No dedicated gaming mode
  • 60Hz screen

Check out NextPit’s full review of the iPhone 13

There’s no denying it, Apple dominates the power and graphics performance debate. Its Bionic A15 SoC is simply more powerful than any overclocked Snapdragon. I was really surprised when I put it through several rounds of 3DMark benchmarks simulating intensive and prolonged gaming use over a 20-minute session. The iPhone 13 posted impressive scores, but more importantly, it didn’t even get hot.

Add to that a color-calibrated OLED screen, solid battery life and an angular design that allows a good grip, and you have a very good proposition for gaming. On the other hand, the 20-watt charging limit is far too long for uninterrupted gaming sessions and the smartphone lacks a dedicated gaming mode.

But you can cobble together your own gaming mode via the iOS 15 settings (to block notifications etc.). Personally, I’d stick with the basic iPhone 13 and would only consider Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro to benefit from the 120Hz ProMotion mode.

Offers to buy the iPhone 13

Apple iPhone 13

The best phone strictly for gaming: Asus ROG Phone 5

NextPIT Asus ROG Phone 5 back
The Asus ROG Phone 5 is the best gaming smartphone on the market in 2021. / © NextPit

Rating

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • 144 Hz Amoled screen
  • 300 Hz touch rate
  • The exemplary temperature control
  • The excellent autonomy
  • The bypass charging to power directly
  • USB-C port on the edge to charge in landscape mode
 

Cons

  • The update policy of ROG UI
  • Massive dimensions and weight

Check out NextPit’s full review of the Asus ROG Phone 5

It’s pretty counterintuitive not to find the ROG Phone 5 at the top of this selection, I know. In absolute terms, if you only consider gaming, the Asus ROG Phone 5 is the best smartphone for gamers. But that’s only true if you think of your smartphone as a gaming console first and foremost.

The 144Hz Amoled display, 300Hz touch sampling rate and 24.3ms touch latency are exceptionally smooth. The temperature control with and without the external fan is excellent and tames the Snapdragon 888 heat spikes perfectly. The 16GB of RAM is a bit of an overkill, but the 6000mAh battery is ultra durable and can be recharged with 65 watts. You can even directly power the device, without going through the battery, with the bypass mode.

We also get very responsive and accurate haptic triggers, a USB-C port on the edge so it doesn’t get in the way when you plug in the ROG Phone 5, and the Game Genie and Armoury menu for tweaking every little performance setting. The ROG Phone 5 is the most complete of the pure gaming phones, but it’s not complete enough to rank ahead of the two models mentioned above. The camera module and the update policy being the things it lacks the most.

Offers to buy the Asus ROG Phone 5

Asus ROG Phone 5

Best value for money: OnePlus Nord 2

NextPIT OnePlus Nord 2
The OnePlus Nord 2 is one of my favorites this year / © NextPit

Rating

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • 90 Hz Amoled screen
  • The very powerful MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI
  • The efficient high performance mode
  • The good battery life
  • Fast 65-watt charging
 

Cons

  • 180 Hz touch rate
  • Slight tendency to overheat

Check out NextPit’s full review of the OnePlus Nord 2

The OnePlus Nord 2 is one of my favorites of the year. OnePlus managed to offer the best mid-range smartphone under $400 in my opinion. I’ve been using it daily since its release and I have no problem playing my games with max graphics and a stable framerate. The MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI SoC holds up very well.

The 90Hz AMOLED display is very good although I deplore its touch rate of only 180Hz. The high performance mode is one of the few gaming modes to provide a real performance boost at the expense of temperature control.

You get the same 65-watt fast charging as the OnePlus 9 Pro (and the same 50 MP main camera lens) for a frankly full-featured mid-range phone that can run CoD Mobile in ultra at a constant 60 FPS and will clearly make you envious of the flagships.

Offers to buy the OnePlus Nord 2

OnePlus Nord 2

The best for under $400: Poco F3

NextPIT Poco F3
A lot of gaming power for the price. / © NextPit

For

  • 120 Hz Amoled screen
  • 360 Hz touch rate
  • Excellent autonomy (on paper)
 

Cons

  • Fast charge in only 33 watts
  • Limited update policy

More information on the Poco F3 at NextPit

The Poco F3 is the only smartphone in this selection that I unfortunately couldn’t test. It’s not for lack of trying though since its technical specifications had interested me a lot at its launch.

The Snapdragon 870, the updated version of the Snapdragon 865+, is itself an overclocked version of the Snapdragon 865 that allows to run Fortnite (sorry but this game is a good benchmark) in 30 fps constant. The 120Hz Amoled display with a 360Hz touchscreen sample rate is very effective. The battery life is also very solid and the battery accepts 33 watts of fast charging.

Its only flaws are its very average photo module and Xiaomi’s flawed update policy. It is currently found around $389 on the official store or on Amazon. The Poco F3 is therefore an excellent choice for gaming at $400 but if you find it too pricey you can look here for phones that are less than $300.

Offers to buy the Poco F3

Poco F3

Gaming phone or phone for gaming: How NextPit made its selection?

As explained above, the idea of this selection is not to focus only on smartphones labeled for gaming. I mean the ROG Phone from Asus, Nubia RedMagic from ZTE, Lenovo Legion Duel or the BlackShark from Xiaomi.

Apart from the ROG Phone 5, most of these smartphones for xXxG4m3rZxXx are not complete enough. Their interface often lacks polish, their update policy is very limited and their photo modules are mostly mediocre.

For a selection or a buying guide, it is therefore, more relevant to advise you more balanced smartphones, quite capable of running games, but which are also more suitable for everyday use. After all, you don’t usually buy a smartphone to turn it into a PSP or Nintendo Switch.

What are the criteria for a gaming phone?

Any flagship released since 2018 is fully capable of running almost all the most demanding mobile games with high graphics, as are some mid-range models. Logically, raw power is a key criterion, but it’s not the only one.

Refresh rate and touch sampling rate

The quality of the screen is a very important point, we are looking for Oled panels offering especially high refresh rates that exceed 120 Hz or even 144 Hz. The touch sampling rate, the number of times the screen registers contact with your fingers per second, is also a key notion and should generally be between 240 Hz and 360 Hz for optimal fluidity.

The higher the touch rate, the more accurately the gestures you make while touching the screen will be reflected in the game. This is especially important for FPS games to ensure more responsive and accurate controls.

Think of it as the DPI (dots per inch) of a gaming PC mouse. The goal is for the mouse, aka the touch controls, to respond to the most sensitive movements possible to ensure the greatest possible responsiveness.

Cooling system and thermal throttling

You also need a good cooling system to manage overheating. “Normal” or non-gaming smartphones do not yet offer liquid cooling, but more and more advanced ventilation chambers, special graphite coatings, etc. are available.

Where so-called “normal” smartphones have a disadvantage compared to pure gaming models is in the area of thermal throttling. In concrete terms, this is a mechanism by which the smartphone throttles its performance to slow down and limit the overheating related to the SoC running under full power.

Gaming smartphones are more heat resistant and push the limit at which they throttle further. Conventional smartphones will break a bit sooner, which can affect framerate and game fluidity during a prolonged gaming session.

What do you think of this selection of the best gamer smartphones? Which models did we leave out that you think deserve to be included? Do you find the tips and methodology sections useful? Give us your feedback in the comments!


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