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The best gaming phones for 2019

Once mocked as the home of “filthy casuals”, the mobile gaming market has come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years. Games like Hearthstone, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds: Mobile, and Fortnite have shown that the humble smartphone is just as good a place for digital entertainment as the console parked in front of the TV. But if you’re looking for a phone that is great at handling games and delivering the sort of performance that allows you to keep pwning and winning, then you’re in the right place.

If you want a phone for gaming, then you’re after a particular set of specs. Gorgeous looks and cameras are good, but what about pure gaming performance and media presentation? Well, we’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to, and found the best gaming phones that you can buy, at any budget. While you’re at it, check out our best games for iPhone and Android so you’ve always got something to play.

Apple iPhone XS

iPhone XS review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Why wouldn’t we pick the iPhone XS? If you’re looking to game on an iPhone, Apple’s latest and greatest should always be your first port of call, and the iPhone XS is a triumph. It follows the same basic rules set down by last year’s iPhone X, keeping the same jaw-dropping, bezel-less design, but upgrading the already powerful innards. Apple’s new A12 Bionic processor finds a home here, and simply put, it’s the most powerful mobile processor we’ve ever seen. Gaming performance is superb, and even the most demanding 3D games find themselves dominated by Apple’s hardware.

The “Super Retina” OLED technology is back in the iPhone XS, and that means you get a beautiful, clear, and colorful picture in any app. Being the smallest of the iPhone XS range, the XS is the perfect size to hold in your hand for long periods of time, and the 5.8-inch screen provides plenty of room for even the most crowded of game interfaces. For the moments when you’re not able to play any games (we know, it happens to us all), the iPhone XS also comes with an incredible camera — so you can document your non-gaming exploits.

Though few and far between, the iPhone XS does have its downsides. The 2,658mAh battery lasts a day in normal usage, but extended gaming sessions will likely deplete it much faster than usual. It doesn’t come with a fast charger in the box either, so it’ll be slower to recharge when it does empty. It’s also extremely expensive, starting at $999. Still, for iOS gaming, you won’t find a better option.

iPhone XS Review

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

Galaxy S10 Plus
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Galaxy S10 Plus is the culmination of years of work for Samsung and it’s simply one of the best phones in the world right now. It packs a galaxy of wonderful features into its smooth and gorgeously designed body.

But what really matters for gamers is the power. The Galaxy S10 Plus comes with the staggeringly powerful Snapdragon 855, giving the phone oodles of processing power. It handled every game we threw at it with ease, tackling PUBG: Mobile and Alto’s Odyssey with no issues. We picked the Galaxy S10 Plus over the standard S10 because the Plus version boasts a bigger screen, but since both come with the Snapdragon 855 and 8GB of RAM, either model will crush most modern games with no problems.

The AMOLED display is another gorgeous piece of work, with deep, vibrant colors and pitch-dark blacks. It’s super-sharp, too, and the Quad HD+ screen should have no problems being seen, even in direct sunlight. Storage starts at 128GB, but there is the option to boost that with a MicroSD card, and Samsung is still including the headphone jack — so you can charge while using wired headphones. There’s also a big battery in this phone, though you can expect gaming to impact that heavily. A versatile triple-lens main camera and a dual-lens front-facing camera round out a fantastic phone.

It’s not perfect. Sound during games is good, thanks to the stereo speakers, though the placement and bass aren’t the best. It’s also a little too easy to accidentally touch the screen, and it’s expensive. But if you’re after one of the very best phones for gaming on Android, look no further.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus Review

Asus Zenfone 6

asus zenfone 6 hands on 2
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

A Snapdragon 855 processor with 8GB of RAM ensures that the Zenfone 6 is fast and powerful enough to run any game you care to play. There’s an ample 256GB of storage inside and space for expansion with a MicroSD card. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone port, so you can listen and charge at the same time.

Asus has scaled back its ZenUI, which is closer to stock Android and all the smoother for it. The Zenfone 6 is a big phone, but that allows it to pack a whopping 5,000mAh battery, which is ideal for marathon gaming sessions.

By adopting an unusual flip-up camera, Asus managed to offer a 6.4-inch display with no notches or holes in it, but sadly it’s an LCD screen rather than OLED. It’s sharp enough, but it’s not the brightest. The camera is a good performer, though.

There are a few things missing, such as wireless charging and water resistance, and the design feels a little dated, apart from that motorized flip-up camera, but the big enticement with the Zenfone 6 is the low price.

Asus Zenfone 6 Review

Asus ROG Phone

asus rog phone game center
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Straight from the gaming arm of Asus, the Republic of Gamers (ROG), the Asus ROG Phone doesn’t seek to hide its gaming influences. Take one look at the Asus ROG Phone and it’s clear this is a device meant for gamers, with hard lines, slashed cuts, and a lit up logo. It’s loud, it’s unapologetic, and we kinda love it for that. If you want subtlety, this isn’t the phone for you — but it will definitely tickle some fancies.

Like many phones on this list, you’ll find the powerful Snapdragon 845 here. Asus has tweaked it though, upping the processor’s clock speed to 2.96GHz from the usual 2.8GHz. That increased speed seems to make a difference inside and outside of games, and it means the ROG Phone is one of the smoothest Android phones we’ve used since the Pixel 3. As expected, the ROG Phone absolutely crushes gaming performance and comes with some cool special features, like a squeezable body that enables the phone’s AirTriggers. There are more features then we can list here, but we go into them in detail in our Asus ROG Phone review.

Happily, it’s got some decent shooters equipped, and while it’s not going to beat the best camera phones of the day, it should be good enough for most people. The 4,000mAh battery has the potential to last for a couple of days, depending on usage, but you’ll obviously see that drop with heavy gaming.

Unfortunately, it’ll cost you $900 to take the plunge, but that entry model comes with a whopping 128GB of storage, so that’s not a terrible sell. You can pony up $1,100 for the 512GB model if you like, but 128GB should be enough. The Asus ROG Phone is definitely one of the best dedicated gaming phones out there.

Asus ROG Phone Review

Razer Phone 2

Razer Phone 2 Hands-on
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The original Razer Phone kicked off the gaming phone revolution, so it makes sense its successor — the Razer Phone 2 — would appear on this list. Razer went back to the drawing board to tackle some of the bigger issues with the original phone — particularly the lackluster camera — and came back with the upgraded Razer Phone 2. Did Razer succeed? Not entirely — the camera is on the lower end for a flagship of this price. But the Razer Phone 2 is still a great choice for a gaming phone.

The main reason for this is the display tech. Like the first Razer Phone, the Razer Phone 2 comes with the Ultramotion 120Hz display. That means it refreshes faster than pretty much any other device on the market, giving a marked improvement in smoothness both in games and outside. This display tech is backed up by the Snapdragon 845 and 8GB of RAM — making the Razer Phone 2 an exceptional performer where games are concerned. The speakers are also some of the clearest and loudest we’ve ever tested.

The design has been updated, too, and the addition of a glass back means wireless charging is possible. The 4,000mAh battery should make it through the day pretty easily, even with moderate amounts of gaming. QuickCharge 4.0+ support also means it won’t be sat on the charger for long.

It’s not perfect and it lacks a camera that can compete with the flagship competition, but now that the price has dropped the Razer Phone 2 is worth a look.

Razer Phone 2 Review

OnePlus 7 Pro

oneplus 7 pro
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The OnePlus 7 Pro has all the makings of an excellent gaming phone and still manages to come in cheaper than much of the competition. The first thing you’ll notice is the enormous 6.67-inch AMOLED screen, which is completely free of notches or holes. It combines a sharp 3,140 x 1,440-pixel resolution with HDR10+ support. It also boasts a 90Hz refresh rate for silky smooth gaming and Oxygen OS has been tweaked to take full advantage.

No corners have been cut inside where you’ll find the Snapdragon 855 processor and you can opt for 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, or 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Based on our benchmark testing the OnePlus 7 Pro is the fastest phone you can get right now and it feels like it.

The battery boasts a 4,000mAh capacity, which is enough to see you through plenty of gaming. It also supports Warp Charge, which can take the battery from zero to 50% in just 20 minutes. There’s also a triple-lens main camera and a pop-up 16-megapixel selfie camera, though they don’t quite hit the high notes of some competitors with some glitches in the camera app.

If you want a solid all-around phone that will play any game smoothly, then the OnePlus 7 Pro is a great choice.

OnePlus 7 Pro Review

Red Magic 3

Red Magic 3 Review
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

This enormous, dedicated gaming phone has everything. Nubia’s angular, metal design includes an RGB lighting strip on the back, air vents for the fan, and a couple of programmable touch-sensitive shoulder buttons. There’s a gorgeous 6.65-inch AMOLED screen with a 90Hz refresh rate, and though the resolution is only 2,340 x 1,080 pixels, it looks great and gets plenty bright.

Performance is flawless, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor backed by 8GB of RAM. There’s also a dedicated gaming mode, activated by a physical switch on the side, that turns on the fan to prevent overheating and lets you boost the CPU, GPU, or both. A 4D Shock mode adds vibration feedback with certain supported games like PUBG Mobile. We also played hours of Shadowgun: Legends, Asphalt 8, Galaxy Reavers, Injustice 2, and more at top graphical quality without any issues.

There’s a 5,000mAh battery inside which provides plenty of stamina, though the huge screen and the fan, together with a demanding game, will drain it pretty quickly. The dual front-facing speakers are loud, adding to the immersion, and there’s a 3.5mm audio jack.

The Red Magic 3 also has a 48-megapixel main camera and a 16-megapixel front-facing camera. The basic version has 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, but there’s also a special camo model with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. The Red Magic 3 has a lot to offer at an unbeatable price.

Red Magic 3 Review

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