Love it or hate it, mobile gaming is projected to be a larger market than PC or even console gaming in the near future. Many people who identify as hardcore gamers shun smartphone gaming for a host of reasons. Chief among them is that smartphones often lack the dedicated power to get serious gaming done on them.
That has just changed. In recent months smartphones have come on the market that not only have some serious horsepower, but many have dedicated gaming modes and design features for gaming. For those who want to dip their toe into the growing world of serious mobile gaming, here is a rundown of the best phones out on the market.
Also, check out the best gaming tablets 2018.
Note: These phones are evaluated for playing games found in app markets, not emulators. There are phones, devices, and accessories specifically suited for emulation which we may visit at another time.
|Best gaming Phone 2018||Price||Processor||RAM||Screen Size and Resolution||Weight|
|iPhone X||Latest Price||A11 Bionic||3 GB||2436 x 1125 at 5.8-inches||6.14 ounces|
|One Plus 5||Latest Price||Qualcomm MSM8998 Snapdragon 835||6/8 GB||1920 x 1080 at 5.5-inches||5.4 ounces|
|Zuk Z2 Pro||Latest Price||Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 820||4 GB||1920 x 1080 at 5.2-inches||5.11 ounces|
|Sony XZ Premium||Latest Price||Qualcomm MSM8998 Snapdragon 835||4 GB||3840 x 2160 at 5.46-inches||6.88 ounces|
Top gaming phone – iPhone X Review
Say what you want about iOS being a closed off platform, a lot of games are exclusive to Apple’s ecosystem. Because of this, and some of its latest features, the expensive iPhone X has to make the list. Gaming on iOS is no slouch, as games that are also on Android often perform more consistently and are usually optimized for Apple hardware. Regardless of the fact that it has less RAM than anything else on our list, almost everything you can play on the app market runs really smoothly, which has as much to do with hardware to OS optimization as it does the actual hardware under the hood.
Let’s go ahead and get the bad out of the way. It’s expensive, you can’t expand the storage, it doesn’t have a headphone jack, and it isn’t open so you can’t just load whatever you want on it. It’s an Apple device, what did you expect?
The iPhone X does have some very interesting features that will be great for gaming, however. It features a depth-sensing camera that allows for some serious improvements in AR. There are not too many games out there that use AR extensively yet, but that may change soon as more mobile devices support augmented reality, and the iPhone X has a leg up in the ability to discern the depth. This combined with some of the best touches controls possible out on the mobile market means you can easily interact with objects in the foreground and background seamlessly.
Likewise, it is also very VR friendly, with the size and resolution of the screen made for VR in mind. The 2436 x 1125 display is amazingly crisp even right in front of your face. It is a little tall for everyday use, and if you don’t have long thumbs you might have issues reaching the center of the screen if you are holding the phone in landscape mode. At just over six ounces, it doesn’t feel too heavy to become uncomfortable thankfully. What’s great is the at the A11 Bionic chipset can drive some serious high-resolution graphics, so on top of the usual software optimization, the iPhone X should be able to run anything you throw at it. So long as you can afford the hefty price tag, you will have a solid mobile platform ready for the future of gaming.
Also great Gaming phone – One Plus 5 Review
Let’s be real, at this point you were either going to upgrade your iPhone or you were looking for something more on the Android side of life. Nothing we say is likely to change your mind, so what are some good choices if you prefer a more open, if maybe a little less optimized and reliable at times, environment?
The One Plus 5 is easily one of the most powerful phones out there. With ether 6 or 8 GBs of RAM, not only is daily usage buttery smooth even if you have a ton of crud running in the background, games run great. The Qualcomm MSM8998 Snapdragon 835 chipset is heavy duty and will run high-end gaming for mobile at 60 FPS and above, and the accelerometer is very precise for games that require it. And at just over five ounces it is light enough to not cause any issues for long game sessions.
The downsides? 1080p isn’t really good enough for VR that use phones. The display is fine for everything else, but shoving your face right up to your phone will cause you to see all of the flaws in the display. The battery life is pretty good under standard use, but under heavy use, it can suffer quite a bit. Last, it’s not even water resistant, which makes it kind of an outlier these days. While it does have two cameras, they aren’t optimized for AR, though that doesn’t mean that it won’t be made to support by ARCore, Google’s new AR development environment. At $600 to $800 it’s a really powerful smartphone at a fair price, with a few daily usage sacrifices that have to be made in exchange for that power.
Best gaming phone – Zuk Z2 Pro Review
So, what do you do if you don’t have upwards to a grand to blow on a new phone? Well the Zuk Z2 Pro has you covered. At no more than $300, you get a really solid phone that can run just about every game in the app market. The Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 820 chipset is only slightly behind the latest and greatest, so you should still be well within spec for the next few years with a minimal slowdown for not a lot of dosh on the table. Best of all, it has a headphone jack!
What’s the catch? Not as much as you would think. Battery life is decent, but not the end all and be all. It only has a 1080p display, and the backlight is kinda weak. It reminds me a little of playing the Game Gear in the daytime, but it’s not impossible to see, but just annoying enough to cause eye strain. The build quality feels a little cheaper than other phones, so I wouldn’t want to do a drop test especially with a glass backing. The cameras are just cameras, no bells, and whistles, so likely features like AR that uses double camera setups won’t be in the cards if that’s what you are looking for. But hey, it’s over half the price of anything else on this list, so you really can’t complain too much.
Sony XZ Premium gaming phone review
Here’s the section of the review for console gamers. Why? Because the Sony XZ Premium can connect with your PS4 and allows you to stream your game directly to the phone’s 4K display so you can play with your natively paired PS4 controller. For some of you, nothing else I will type will matter, you immediately hit Google Shop to see where you can order one.
While this is a completely awesome feature, the phone does have a lot more to offer. Like mentioned above, it has a 4K resolution display, a headphone jack, upgradable storage, is water resistant, runs the Qualcomm MSM8998 Snapdragon 835 chipset so it will be able to run anything on the app market, and even has a physical power button!
What are the downsides? The display resolution to make it more like a mobile TV means that the phone doesn’t feel as ergonomic as many other phones out there. The fingerprint reader has been removed from the US version of the phone for some reason as well. The bezel on the top and the bottom also feels like it’s cutting into the display real-estate potential, but that’s to accommodate the amazing speakers and such, but it is jarring because it makes the phone look at first glance like it’s five years old. Because of its size and single camera (that can do some sweet slow-mo), it isn’t an AR ready or VR ready as other phones out there. But, it’s only $600.
Best Gaming Smartphone – Sony XZ Premium
The Sony XZ Premium is priced right in the middle of the high-end smartphone market and has a lot of power on its own. It isn’t an AR or VR compatible as some newer super high-end phones, but that technology is still very new and always changing so you won’t be missing out on much as far as phones are concerned. Plus, you can play PS4 games on it. It’s almost like having a little Wii U/Switch feature on your phone for the PS4. You just can’t get that anywhere else.
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