Mobile gaming has become the most common form of gaming. Even if you don’t have a console, gaming PC or gaming handheld, you’ve probably spent time playing mobile games.
If you’re serious about mobile gaming and like to play competitively or focus on high-end titles with intense graphics, you might want to know which Android gaming phones are worth buying.
Why Buy a Gaming Phone?
The main reason to buy a gaming phone is heat management. All modern smartphones perform well in short bursts, but after a few minutes of constant load they’ll throttle down significantly.
Gaming phones have both the specifications and cooling system needed to provide stable performance for long gaming sessions. These phones may sacrifice features such as camera quality or thinness in order to provide a better gaming experience.
They may also feature special software and hardware features, such as physical shoulder buttons with the ability to map on-screen controls to a physical controller.
The Asus ROG (Republic of Gamers) brand is well-respected in the PC gaming community. So it’s no surprise Asus decided to extend it into the growing mobile gaming segment. This ROG Phone 5 is the flagship model that includes the latest Snapdragon 888 chipset, 16GB of RAM and a fantastic 144Hz Samsung AMOLED screen with a fast 1ms response time.
It has game-optimized battery performance and advanced internal cooling. However, you can use the AeroActive Cooler 5 to both increase cooling performance and add physical buttons to the back of the phone. While ROG Phone 5 lacks physical triggers, it has “AirTriggers”, which are touch sensitive spots on the edges of the phone that do the same job. These can be mapped to on-screen controls using the Game Genie software. Very useful for shooter games!
The ROG Phone 3 is, as the name suggests, the less expensive sibling of the ROG Phone 5. The biggest cut comes from the core hardware. In place of a Snapdragon 888, you get the Snapdragon 865 Plus. However, the 865 is hardly a slouch in the performance department and we think most gamers would hardly notice a difference in the typical eSports competitive title. You also get the same advanced cooling, so the 865 Plus should outperform the same chipset in other phones without the option to cool off.
The screen offers the same 144Hz, low-latency technology and there’s a ROG Phone 3 version of the clip-on cooler. The ROG Phone 3 also has the same Air Trigger technology and supports a clip-on gamepad accessory. Honestly, we think most people should choose the ROG Phone 3 over the more expensive ROG Phone 5, since you get almost all of the benefits for a significantly lower price.
Competing directly with the ROG Phone 3, the RedMagic also uses the Snapdragon 865 Plus. It also has a 144Hz AMOLED screen and advanced liquid cooling. Instead of touch-sensitive triggers, RedMagic offers physical trigger buttons, which are preferable from a gaming standpoint. It has less RAM than the ROG Phone 3 and is arguably not as attractive, but in terms of game performance you should be getting about the same numbers for less money.
One area of weakness is in the software department. Overall, Asus has had more time and money to perfect their custom gaming software for their phones. Although with time companies like Nubia should catch up.
Lenovo is another trusted computer brand that’s stepped into the gaming phone arena with their series of Legion phones. The Duel offers a great mix of features in the upper-midrange tier for gaming smartphones. It has a Snapdragon 865 Plus, a 144Hz AMOLED screen. It has more RAM than the Nubia and looks more attractive but the Duel is slightly more expensive.
You also have the option of going for the Legion Pro 5G, which uses the same processor and GPU, but increases the RAM allocation to 16GB. We don’t recommend that however, since 16GB of RAM in a gaming phone is overkill for the current generation of mobile games.
The Stealth Option: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
The S21 Ultra isn’t a dedicated gaming phone, but with top-tier specifications you’re not likely to have any complaints about it’s performance. It comes with a 120Hz screen, a staunch battery and some of the best cameras in any smartphone but the price tag is staggering. However, if you don’t want a gaming phone that screams “gamer aesthetic” but still wants to absolutely slay at Fortnite or PUBG, this is a great option.
The drawbacks are a lack of external cooler support and no physical buttons for gaming. However, there are plenty of physical controller add-ons to choose from, so don’t think you need an RGB-laden gamer phone to get great performance!
The Apple Alternative?
This article is about the best Android gaming phones, but it’s worth sparing a thought for the alternative from Apple. iPhones consistently have the best CPU and GPU power on the market and the App Store definitely has a better selection of premium games.
Even entry-level models such as the iPhone 12 Mini feature the full-fat Apple silicon experience under the hood. If you’re looking for the very best mobile gaming experience, it would be a crime to leave the iPhone range out of your considerations.