Best gaming phone for 2021

Should you’re on a quest to seek out the perfect gaming cellphone on the market, you’ve got a wide selection of specialist choices to think about, together with the Asus ROGRazer Cellphone 2Nubia Pink Magic MarsRedmi Observe 7 Professional and Xiaomi’s Black Shark

The most effective gaming telephones are designed particularly for taking part in video games, with options together with Tremendous AMOLED screens, massive screens, superfast processors, superior cooling programs, stereo audio system, gaming-specific controls and shows with a excessive refresh fee. The specs match higher-priced flagships such because the Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S10 and OnePlus 6T. And each cellphone on this listing is an Android system.

Apple/s iPhone XS and XR have extra highly effective processors and entry to newer and unique cellular recreation titles. Nonetheless, players ought to know that the iPhone X lacks the options to make the gaming mode compelling to play in. And like flagship Android telephones, iPhones are costly — a baseline iPhone XS begins out at $999.

The 4 telephones reviewed right here, the Razer Cellphone 2, Asus ROG, Xiaomi Black Shark and Nubia Pink Magic Mars, have costs starting from $400 to $800. Gaming in your cellphone does not need to break the financial institution — it simply must be enjoyable.

Greatest gaming telephones

I evaluated every gaming smartphone by way of design, specs, efficiency and, most significantly, cellular gameplay. (P.S.: All of them have the Snapdragon 845 chipset that is discovered within the Galaxy Observe 9, OnePlus 6T and Pixel 3.) Moreover, I discussed digicam capabilities the place mandatory, as digicam may be essential. Under are my suggestions and an in-depth breakdown of the gameplay, design, battery life and cooling programs of every smartphone. All had a big display screen. Learn on to see which of those gaming telephones is the perfect purchase.


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Asus ROG Cellphone is the perfect cellphone for taking part in PUBG



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However first, some notes on worth

Presently, three of the telephones value about $500 or much less. The Razer is the most costly of this group of telephones. For the value of 1 Razer Cellphone 2, you may virtually purchase each the Pink Magic Mars and the Black Shark.

Even should you obtained an upgraded Black Shark gaming cellphone with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, it might nonetheless be lower than $400. 

I am not saying do not buy the Razer Cellphone 2 in any respect (as you’ll learn quickly, I extremely suggest it). However the perfect cellphone for you’ll almost definitely rely in your price range.


Greatest total gaming cellphone: Asus ROG

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The Asus ROG sporting its removable fan on the again.


Josh Miller/CNET

The Asus ROG cellphone (ROG stands for Republic of Avid gamers) presents essentially the most energy, the perfect ergonomics and essentially the most considerate design of this group. Its 6-inch AMOLED show refreshes 90 occasions a second — a primary for any OLED cellphone with an AMOLED display screen. The upper refresh fee means much less movement blur and quicker response occasions. It isn’t as excessive a fee because the Razer Cellphone 2’s 120Hz LCD show has, however I nonetheless noticed a noticeable enchancment over different telephones when taking part in video games.

The cellphone’s revolutionary AirTriggers are pressure-sensitive corners that double as bumper buttons for video games, increasing your management past the display screen. Its devoted X Mode provides you an optimized gaming expertise that is much more snug when utilizing the cellphone’s removable fan accent, which is included within the field. The ROG additionally has the longest battery life (extra battery means extra taking part in time!) within the group and has essentially the most gaming equipment which you can purchase — although, once more, the removable fan comes included with the cellphone. Picture high quality from the rear digicam is sweet.

Learn extraCNET’s Asus ROG cellphone assessment

3DMark Slingshot Limitless

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Longer bars point out higher efficiency


Greatest gaming cellphone for on a regular basis use: Razer Cellphone 2

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The Razer Cellphone 2 sports activities a show with a 120Hz refresh fee.


Josh Miller/CNET

Should you’re on the lookout for a gaming cellphone that is additionally on a regular basis cellphone, I like to recommend the Razer Cellphone 2. It seems to be the a part of a gaming cellphone, however doubles as a terrific Android cellphone to make use of day-after-day whenever you’re not gaming. The Razer Cellphone 2 is the one cellphone within the group with IP67 water resistance and wi-fi charging.

Out of the 4, I just like the Razer Cellphone 2’s design essentially the most. There are a lot of individuals who will likely be turned off by the “monolith from 2001: A Area Odyssey” seems to be. However the marquee function on the Razer Cellphone 2 is its vivid, 120Hz-refresh-rate and show. Whether or not you are gaming or not, animations like scrolling pages look easy and graphics are crisp. The system has amazingly loud built-in audio system and appears as designed for cellular players as it’s for anybody who lives on a food plan of flicks and music. Its rear digicam has improved {hardware}, however picture high quality on the rear digicam is simply OK (it is no selfie digicam).

In my preliminary Razer cellphone assessment, the battery wasn’t nice, however with the replace to Android 9 Pie, the battery life has improved fairly a bit.

Learn: CNET Razer Cellphone 2 assessment


Greatest worth gaming cellphone: Nubia Pink Magic Mars

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The again of the Nubia Pink Magic Mars cellphone.


Angela Lang/CNET

The Nubia Pink Magic Mars is the follow-up to 2018’s Pink Magic cellphone. A Pink Magic Mars with 64GB of inside storage and 6GB of RAM initially value $399. Now that will get you a mannequin with 128GB of storage and 8GB RAM.

The Pink Magic Mars crams in numerous options like capacitive shoulder buttons, an revolutionary cooling system and a terrific recreation mode at a wallet-friendly worth. Apart from its customized gaming mode, the cellphone runs inventory Android 9 Pie. Its greatest draw back is the display screen: It is simply OK, and in that space, the Pink Magic Mars cannot compete with the Razer and ROG telephones.

Apart from that, the cellphone is strong. However should you’re interested by grabbing a Pink Magic Mars, I might wait, or no less than store round. First, the Black Shark is usually discounted and its worth for some time was hovering between $330 and $400.

Nubia’s Pink Magic Mars 3 packs an upgraded Snapdragon 855 processor, a 90Hz OLED show and an inside fan. These are huge upgrades. Better of all is the value; a mannequin with 64GB storage and 6GB of RAM will likely be roughly $418.


Greatest gaming cellphone with the perfect accent: Xiaomi Black Shark

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The Black Shark with the Gamepad on the left and the Gamepad 2.0 on the suitable.


James Martin/CNET

Xiaomi’s Black Shark comes with a Gamepad that slides onto the top of the cellphone. Having a bodily joystick made an enormous distinction in gaming for me. Sadly, it felt lopsided after I used it, however there’s a Gamepad 2.0 for $89 that has a extra symmetrical design. Equally to the Nintendo Change, the system has a left and proper controller that slide and lock onto both finish of the cellphone.

Just like the Pink Magic Mars, the Shark runs near a inventory model of Android. It is Android 8.1 Oreo and never Android 9 Pie, however utilizing the cellphone’s UI for nongaming stuff felt like utilizing a Pixel 3 when it first got here out.

There are some downsides to Shark gaming, although, like the dearth of a headphone jack and the very “low-cost” plastic really feel to the gamepad accent.

At launch, the Shark value $499, however you may discover it for round $32. The Xiaomi Black Shark 2 consists of an up to date Snapdragon 855 processor, a touch-sensitive display screen just like Apple’s 3D Contact, an in-display fingerprint reader and mappable onscreen left and proper controls. 

We could play a recreation?

I performed a wide range of cellular video games on all of those telephones from RPGs and facet scrollers to puzzles. Under are 5 video games I performed on every cellphone and my notes on the expertise.

Alto’s Odyssey

Black Shark: After 7 minutes, the Shark obtained heat. The bodily buttons on the Gamepad have been good, however I did not discover a lot of a bonus over display screen faucets.

Razer: After 8 minutes, the cellphone warmed up on the edges and corners. The show made the continually shifting graphics look wonderful.

Pink Magic Mars: In darker scenes, it was tough to see particulars on the show. Just like the ROG, the contact shoulder buttons have been OK, however I most popular the onscreen controls for this recreation.

ROG: After 4 minutes the fan accent kicked in. The cellphone remained lukewarm all through gameplay although. The primary recreation controls are tapping and tapping-and-holding on the display screen. I attempted utilizing the pressure-sensitive AirTriggers as a substitute, however for quick jumps and holding flips, I discovered extra nuance from the onscreen controls.

PUBG

Black Shark: Having the joystick on the Gamepad accent and precise buttons modified PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds for me. It was really easy to run and transfer. With my fingers off the display screen, I might see the sport higher, too. Observe that the Gamepad sort of bends and feels prefer it’s a sneeze away from breaking. It makes the Nintendo Change really feel like a sturdy piece of German engineering.

Razer: After 12 minutes the cellphone was very heat. Sport management was OK, however after I performed with the non-compulsory $150 Razer Raiju Cellular recreation controller it was a much more satisfying expertise — particularly since I did not have to carry onto a heat cellphone with my naked fingers.

Pink Magic Mars: The cellphone obtained heat after 20 minutes. The capacitive shoulder buttons are nice to have, particularly for gunfire and kneeling.

ROG: The fan popped on immediately at a low pace, however the cellphone by no means obtained sizzling. Mapping onscreen controls to the pressure-sensitive shoulder buttons (AirTriggers) was straightforward and made taking part in PUBG a lot simpler.

Sdorica Sundown

Black Shark: Inside minutes the cellphone obtained actually sizzling.

Razer: The music and results sounded full over the built-in audio system. However man oh man did the cellphone get sizzling.

Pink Magic Mars: The audio was skinny and when the quantity grew louder it additionally sounded muddy. With out a case, that is my favourite cellphone to carry for taking part in Sdorica.

ROG: The cellphone remained heat however by no means obtained sizzling.

Shadowgun Legends

Black Shark: Generally the joystick on the Gamepad 2.0 accent would ship me within the incorrect path. Recalibrating did not assist.

Razer: The cellphone was heat bordering on sizzling. I used the included USC-B DAC headphone dongle and a pair of Sennheiser over-the-ear headphones and was amazed by the standard of the sound.

Pink Magic Mars: It was surprisingly snug to carry with out getting sizzling. I did not really feel any actual benefit utilizing the capacitive shoulder buttons over onscreen controls.

ROG: Shadow Legends obtained the ROG cooking fairly sizzling and the fan turned on excessive instantly. Shoulder buttons weren’t wanted for this recreation.

Nimian Legends BrightRidge

Black Shark: This was one other recreation the place the joystick accent vastly improved gameplay.

Razer: I topped out the standard of the graphics, results and body charges with this recreation. The Razer obtained sizzling immediately. At the least the sport regarded beautiful on the show.

Pink Magic Mars: The capacitive shoulder buttons helped in sure elements of the sport.

ROG: The AirTriggers have been good for gameplay.

That ‘gamer look’

If you need a gaming cellphone, it must look the half. Angular strains, uncovered copper warmth sinks, a contact of neon and vivid colours are all hallmarks of a gaming cellphone. The metallic pink coloration of the Pink Magic Mars screams so that you can decide it up and play.  

The ROG cellphone seems to be like one thing Frank Gehry would have designed if he have been a gamer. Someplace beneath all of the uncovered copper warmth sinks, carbon fiber and angular cutouts lies a smartphone. Its totally different textures and asymmetrical grooves do not feel like every cellphone I’ve ever used. A casual ballot of pals and coworkers discovered that folks have been divided on the look: Half beloved it, half hated it.

The Black Shark seems to be essentially the most like a standard cellphone. The sleek angled again on the Shark has a raised space like contour strains on a topographic map — that is the place its lights are hidden.

Out of the 4, the Razer Cellphone 2 has essentially the most minimalist design. It has an oblong form with right-angled corners and edges. I understand this method is not for everybody, however out of the bunch, I discover it essentially the most interesting.

The non-compulsory Razer Cellphone 2 wi-fi charging dock lights up as you cost.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Does the cellphone unnecessarily mild up?

  • Black Shark: Sure, the emblem and 4 bowtie-looking corners on the again.
  • Razer: Sure, the again Razer brand glows the colour of your selecting.
  • Pink Magic Mars: Sure, there’s a lengthy LED strip on the again.
  • ROG: Sure, the Asus brand on the cellphone and the removable fan mild up any coloration you select.

Constructed-in bodily recreation controls

Three of the telephones use buttons and/or capacitive or pressure-sensitive contact to assist enhance gameplay. The Pink Magic Mars and Black Shark telephones every have a bodily swap that triggers a recreation mode to prepare your cellular video games, optimize settings and defend your cellular gaming periods from interruptions. The Black Shark calls its gaming mode Shark Area. Each time I performed on the Shark I felt inclined to whisper to myself, “Going into Shark Area.”

The ROG and Pink Magic Mars have fake shoulder buttons that may be mapped to totally different actions for cellular video games like triggering a gun. The ROG additionally has a second USB-C port on the facet, so you retain the cellphone plugged in whereas taking part in it in panorama, although the cable does fall between your fingers. The opposite three telephones solely cost on the backside, which made them awkward to carry whereas gaming and charging on the similar time.

The Razer Cellphone 2 is the one cellphone of the group that does not have a bodily function to enhance recreation controls or ergonomics.

After taking part in video games for hours on every cellphone I discovered most of those additions have been good however did not yield huge enchancment when it got here to controls. For my part, good cellular video games needs to be performed with onscreen controls. Nonetheless, having capacitive contact buttons for taking part in cellular video games initially designed for a console was helpful.

There may be one function I might add if I have been to design a gaming cellphone: a joystick. I might need a thumbstick that would lie flat when not in use and telescope up for gameplay. Think about one thing like an iPhone 8, the place the house button popped up for use as a mini joystick.

As telephones transfer away from having bezels, foreheads and chins across the show, my joystick dream does not look like it might grow to be a actuality. However since gaming telephones are likely to eschew mainstream tendencies, maybe it might occur sooner or later.


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Similar processor however one is quicker

All of those telephones use a Snapdragon 845 processor, which is pushed past regular speeds for gameplay. For instance, the ROG can get a sustained 2.96GHz out of the processor whereas all the opposite telephones max out at 2.8GHz. For perspective, the Google Pixel 3 tops out at 2.5GHz.

Cooling programs are key to a gaming cellphone

All of those telephones have an inside cooling system to maintain issues from getting too sizzling. That is in all probability crucial side of a gaming cellphone.

The Razer Cellphone 2 and ROG use a vapor chamber cooling system to maximise the world to dissipate warmth. The result’s that there is not a selected a part of the cellphone that feels sizzling to the contact. The ROG additionally makes use of a built-in cooling pad and copper warmth sink to fight the warmth. And if that weren’t sufficient, there’s additionally a tiny fan that attaches to the again of the ROG that Asus calls the AeroActive Cooler.

The Shark makes use of a liquid cooling system. Because it will get hotter, particular liquid evaporates into gasoline and collects into cooler areas of the chamber, ultimately turning into liquid once more. The Pink Magic Mars makes use of a vapor warmth sink too, together with 4 air intakes to maintain issues cool.

As anticipated, all 4 telephones obtained heat after I performed video games, however these cooling programs are all about longevity. I discovered the ROG with its fan accent and the Pink Magic Mars have been essentially the most snug to carry for lengthy intervals of gameplay.

Which gaming cellphone is the quickest?

Every cellphone has efficiency enhancement tweaks that maintain the cellphone quick and maintain that pace throughout prolonged gameplay. All 4 telephones carry out fairly shut to one another and all 4 have been loads quick. However on paper, the Razer finally has the sting in gaming efficiency over the opposite telephones.

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Geekbench v.4.0 single-core

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Geekbench v.4.0 multicore

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Longer bars point out higher efficiency

Excessive refresh fee show

Just about all telephones have screens that refresh 60 frames per second. The Razer Cellphone 2 has a refresh fee of 120fps, which results in sharper photographs and textual content in addition to smoother animations. There aren’t a ton of cellular video games designed for 120fps, however the ones that have been regarded great. And even video games designed for decrease refresh charges regarded good.

The one different cellphone with a excessive refresh fee is the ROG, which has a 90Hz refresh fee. Like on the Razer, issues are sharper and animations are smoother. The Razer Cellphone 2 has a a lot brighter show whereas the ROG’s OLED show had higher colours that have been extra vibrant.

The Pink Magic Mars’ display screen is the weakest a part of the cellphone. It is dim and feels lower-quality when seen subsequent to the opposite telephones.

OS: Android 9 Pie and Android 8.1 Oreo

  • Black Shark: Android 8.1 Oreo initially. 
  • Razer: Android 9 Pie.
  • Pink Magic Mars: Android 9 Pie.
  • ROG: Android 8.1 Oreo initially.

Stable battery life even when gaming

The Razer Cellphone 2 and Black Shark each have a 4,000-mAh battery and through our take a look at for steady video playback in airplane mode, the telephones lasted almost the identical period of time. The Shark battery stayed on for 10 hours and 25 minutes and Razer Cellphone 2 battery lasted 10 hours and 31 minutes. It is value noting that after I first reviewed the Razer, the 4,000-mAh battery solely lasted 9 hours and 11 minutes. That spectacular additional hour or so of battery time is due to the Android 9 Pie replace.

The ROG additionally has a 4,000-mAh battery, however the battery lasted even longer in our exams at 13 hours and 40 minutes. I believe numerous that has to do with the cellphone having an OLED display screen, as a substitute of an LCD one like the opposite three telephones.

The Pink Magic Mars has the smallest battery of the 4 at 3,800 mAh, however the battery managed a time of 14 hours and seven minutes in our exams.

In on a regular basis use, all 4 telephones obtained via a day on a single battery cost simply high quality.

Fast Cost assist

  • Black Shark: Fast Cost 3.0
  • Razer: Fast Cost 4.0+
  • Pink Magic Mars: Fast Cost 3.0
  • ROG: Fast Cost 4.0

Huge audio system equal huge sound

The built-in stereo audio system on the Razer and ROG are loud and provide a wealthy audio expertise whether or not you are taking part in a recreation or watching movies. The Razer additionally has 24-bit digital-to-analog converter (DAC) by way of a USB Sort-C dongle. With pair of headphones, audio sounded hotter and fuller.

Why we did not take into account the Galaxy S10E and iPhone XR

My precedence was evaluating telephones designed across the gaming expertise at the beginning. Would the Samsung Galaxy S10E or the iPhone XR be a wonderful cellphone for gaming? Completely. They each have highly effective processors and plenty of RAM and are a tad extra inexpensive than their flagship siblings, the iPhone XS and Samsung Galaxy S10.

However neither is targeted solely on the gaming expertise and tradition. The iPhone presents an fascinating predicament as a result of iOS tends to get new video games first, and plenty of video games stay iOS exclusives. To that finish, Apple has launched its gaming subscription service full of exclusives referred to as Arcade. The platform presents some wonderful gaming experiences constructed completely for the iPhone. 

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