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Best gaming phone 2021: the top 10 mobile game performers

Best gaming phone
Image Credit: TechRadar

Smartphones have almost entirely replaced handheld consoles for gaming, and with good reason – they often have excellent screens and plenty of power, while the App Store and Google Play Store both have a large and ever growing selection of games.

But not all smartphones are good for games, and there’s more to consider than just raw power – though that’s certainly a factor.

There are phones like the Asus ROG Phone 5, Lenovo Legion Phone Duel, and Nubia Red Magic 5G, which are all built specifically with gaming in mind, meaning they have things like extra high refresh rates, touch-sensitive triggers, cooling systems, and more.

On the other hand, there are also excellent gaming phones that aren’t aimed specifically at that market, with many top flagships like the iPhone 12 Pro and OnePlus 9 Pro also doing a superb job, thanks to their stunning screens and high-end specs.

We’ve included all the best options below, ranked from best to worst, but you’ll find those designed specifically for gaming at the top, while standard handsets that happen to be good for gaming are further down.

Make sure to check back regularly too, as we’re keeping this article constantly updated with new arrivals.

And once you’ve picked your phone we’ve got you covered when it comes to picking games as well, with our best iPhone gamesbest free iPhone gamesbest Android games and best free Android games lists – all of which are also regularly updated.

Best gaming phones 2021

Asus Rog Phone 5

(Image credit: Future)

1. Asus ROG Phone 5

The best gaming phone that appeals to non-gamers too

Specifications
Release date: April 2021
Weight: 238g
Dimensions: 172.8 x 77.3 x 10.3mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.78-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2448
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8/12/16GB
Storage: 128/256GB
Battery: 6,000mAh
Rear camera: 64MP + 13MP + 5MP
Front camera: 24MP
Reasons to buy
+Remarkable performance+Great display and speakers
Reasons to avoid
-No telephoto camera-Large, heavy and dense

The Asus ROG Phone 5 is a remarkable gaming phone – one which improves on the already-impressive Asus ROG Phone 3.

Its highlights include class-leading power from the pairing of a Snapdragon 888 chipset and up to 16GB of RAM, plus a screen that has a refresh rate of 144Hz and a touch sampling rate of 300Hz – both of which are higher than most phones and beneficial to games.

That screen is big too, and it’s backed up by dual front-facing speakers, which are among the best you’ll find on a phone.

The Asus ROG Phone 5 also has a huge 6,000mAh battery, so you can game for longer, and with 65W charging you won’t be out of action for long when it runs dry.

Add to that responsive shoulder buttons, programmable RGB lights, and compatibility with a range of gaming-focused accessories, and the Asus ROG Phone 5 really is the complete package for gamers.

It’s not quite an all-round flagship (its cameras don’t excel as much as the rest of the hardware for a start) but if gaming is your priority then this phone should be at or near the top of your list.

Read our review: Asus ROG Phone 5

Lenovo Legion Phone Duel

(Image credit: Future)

2. Lenovo Legion Phone Duel

Top gaming and software

Specifications
Release date: October 2020
Weight: 239g
Dimensions: 169.2 x 78.6 x 9.9mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.65-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2340
CPU: Snapdragon 865 Plus
RAM: 12/16GB
Storage: 256/512GB
Battery: 5,000mAh
Rear camera: 64MP + 16MP
Front camera: 20MP
Reasons to buy
+Super-fast charging+Lots of processing power
Reasons to avoid
-Pretty expensive-Software issues

The first gaming phone from Lenovo, the Legion Phone Duel, matches great gaming-dedicated features with some other top specs and features.

The phone supports 90W fast charging, and has a pop-up camera so the screen remains unbroken. It's also got a top processor and software optimized for use in landscape mode. All of these contribute to make it great for gaming.

Our issues with the phone don't touch its gaming prowess, though its high price, software issues and mediocre camera might affect some.

If you're looking for one of the best gaming phones right now, this is up there; if you're looking for a great smartphone that is also good for playing games, this is a good choice, though you should check the others on this list before buying.

Read our review: Lenovo Legion Phone Duel

(Image credit: TechRadar)

3. Nubia Red Magic 5G

Magic for gaming, less so for some other things

Specifications
Release date: March 2020
Weight: 218g
Dimensions: 168.6 x 78 x 9.8mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.65-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2340
CPU: Snapdragon 865
RAM: 8/12GB
Storage: 128/256GB
Battery: 4,500mAh
Rear camera: 64MP + 8MP + 2MP
Front camera: 8MP
Reasons to buy
+144Hz display is ideal for gaming+Shoulder triggers are handy
Reasons to avoid
-Screen isn’t the most high-res-Software bugs

The Nubia Red Magic 5G has the world’s first 144Hz smartphone screen, which makes it ideal for gaming, as that’s a silky smooth refresh rate.

But that’s not the only thing that makes this ideal for gaming. In fact, it’s designed specifically for this pastime, with shoulder triggers to give you increased control, a fan and a liquid cooling system to keep the handset cool under pressure, a dedicated ‘Game Space’ to let you customize your gaming experience, and a ‘4D Shock’ feature that adds vibration to games.

That last feature isn’t supported by many titles at the time of writing, and nor is the 144Hz display, but if game developers embrace them then this could be one seriously future-proofed phone.

It also supports 5G of course, and has plenty of power. It’s only let down slightly by a 1080 x 2340 screen, which isn’t among the sharpest around, along with some software bugs and a design that will prove divisive.

Read our review: Nubia Red Magic 5G

(Image credit: Future)

4. Black Shark 3

Top-end specs and 5G

Specifications
Release date: March 2020
Weight: 222g
Dimensions: 168.7 x 77.3 x 10.4mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.67-inch
Resolution: 2080 x 2440
CPU: Snapdragon 865
RAM: 8/12GB
Storage: 128/256GB
Battery: 4,720mAh
Rear camera: 64MP + 13MP +5MP
Front camera: 20MP
Reasons to buy
+Affordable for specs+Cameras are surprisingly capable
Reasons to avoid
-Appearance may be divisive-Refresh rate behind competition

The Black Shark 3 is the best gaming phone from the Xiaomi sub-brand, although it doesn't quite beat its contemporary gaming phones from a few other brands.

The phone is big, bold in design and has LED lights, and its specs are all what you'd expect from a gaming phone - in that, they're top-end. The cameras were surprisingly effective too, especially in low-light settings, though sometimes the optimization could be overzealous.

The reason this phone isn't higher is thanks to its 90Hz refresh rate, which is lower than the other phones higher on this list, and that it doesn't have as  many dedicated gaming features as the others either.

Read our review: Black Shark 3

Best Gaming Phone: Razer Phone 2

The Razer Phone 2 gaming phone

5. Razer Phone 2

Gaming-specific features that outshine its everyday ones

Specifications
Release date: October 2018
Weight: 205g
Dimensions: 158.5 x 78.9 x 8.5mm
OS: Android 9 Pie
Screen size: 5.72-inch
Resolution: 2560×1440
CPU: Snapdragon 845
RAM: 6/8GB
Storage: 64GB/128GB (up to 1TB with card)
Battery: 4,000mAh
Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 8MP
Reasons to buy
+Top-line specs and 120hz refresh rate display+Backside logo glows in millions of RGB hues
Reasons to avoid
-Low minimum storage (64GB) for price-Smaller 5.72-inch screen

 The first Razer Phone was a solid first effort to bring the gamer-specific brand to a mobile device, but it had a few shortcomings that dropped it further down our list. The second version has addressed some and come out with a stronger device for it, though it's still aimed primarily at gamers.

What does that mean? The camera and display aren't nearly as impressive as other phones that cost this much, so casual gamers might want to look elsewhere. But if you're more serious about mobile gaming and can afford it, this is a solid choice.

Outwardly, the Razer Phone 2 hasn't changed much from its predecessor, though it's upgraded to the Snapdragon 845 chip and switched to a glass back for Qi wireless charging. It's also added a slick vapor chamber to cool the device as you game.

At the end of the day, the phone's beefy chipset, 8GB RAM, great speakers, 120hz refresh rate screen and 4,000mAh battery, as well as extensive settings to tweak battery life and performance, make this a great choice for gaming.

Read our review: Razer Phone 2

The best non-gaming phones for gaming

We've suggested the best phones designed for gaming, but if you'd rather have a more mainstream device, here are all the phones we recommend that, among the rest of their strengths, are also very good phones to play games on. 

You'll find a lot of overlap with our best phones list, for good reason: these handsets have top-end specs and screens to give the best gaming experience possible outside of gaming-focused phones.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

(Image credit: Samsung)

1. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

A big phone with top specs and a high price

Specifications
Release date: January 2021
Weight: 228g
Dimensions: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.8-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 3200
CPU: Exynos 2100 / Snapdragon 888
RAM: 12/16GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB
Battery: 5,000mAh
Rear camera: 108MP + 10MP + 10MP + 12MP
Front camera: 40MP
Reasons to buy
+Great camera+Stylus support
Reasons to avoid
-Incredibly expensive-No microSD card slot

If you're looking for a phone that's great for gaming, and many other things besides, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a good choice. It's Samsung's latest top-tier flagship phone, with specs taken up to 11 across the board.

Our main issue with this phone is the reason many people won't buy it - the price. It's an incredibly expensive smartphone and few people will even be able to consider buying it.

If the Galaxy S21 Ultra fits in your budget, though, you'll find it great for gaming with top processing power, and a large, good-looking screen. The top camera smarts are just an extra.

Read our review: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

iPhone 12 Pro review

The iPhone 12 Pro is the best gaming iPhone (Image credit: TechRadar)

2. iPhone 12 Pro

The best gaming iPhone available right now

Specifications
Release date: October 2020
Weight: 189g
Dimensions: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 6.1-inch
Resolution: 1170 x 2532
CPU: A14 Bionic chip
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB
Battery: 2,815mAh
Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP + LiDAR scanner
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Access to the best games ecosystem +Gorgeous screen for gaming
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-No charging block included

The newest and best iPhone Pro model out there, the iPhone 12 Pro is the best of the Apple bunch right now. Its 6.1-inch display looks fantastic and is just the right size to get the most out of your gaming experience. Backed up by a powerful processor and plenty of storage space, you won't be disappointed by how speedily games run. 

There's also no shortage of game options thanks to the App Store having a huge wealth of games available to it, plus the benefits that come from using Apple Arcade for a Netflix-style library of options. 

The iPhone 12 Pro is expensive for what you get and 5G isn't really relevant to a lot of users just yet (but will be a huge help gaming in future), but such a purchase will mean that you're future-proofed for a while to come yet.

Read our review: iPhone 12 Pro

OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: TechRadar)

3. OnePlus 9 Pro

A top OnePlus option

Specifications
Release date: March 2021
Weight: 197g
Dimensions: 163.2 x 73.6 x 8.7mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.7-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 3216
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8/12GB
Storage: 128/256GB
Battery: 4,500mAh
Rear camera: 48MP + 50MP + 8MP + 2MP
Front camera: 16MP
Reasons to buy
+The best OnePlus camera phone+Great power
Reasons to avoid
-High price-No microSD support

The OnePlus 9 Pro is a great all-round flagship, but it also has a feature that we’d more expect to find on a gaming phone. We’re talking about Hyper Touch, which can boost the touch sampling rate from an already-high 240Hz to 360Hz, making the screen extraordinarily responsive to inputs – which is ideal when playing games.

Beyond that, the OnePlus 9 Pro also has all the power you should need for gaming, with a high-end Snapdragon 888 chipset and up to 12GB of RAM. And games are sure to look great on its 6.7-inch 1440 x 3216 AMOLED screen with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz.

It also supports 65W charging (and 50W wireless charging), so you’ll never be out of juice for long, and with 5G you can game online on the move.

There’s also up to 256GB of storage, so there’s plenty of room to store all your games on the OnePlus 9 Pro.

Read our review: OnePlus 9 Pro

LG V60

The LG V60 is an entertainment powerhouse with its Dual Screen peripheral included in the main price. (Image credit: Future)

4. LG V60 ThinQ + Dual Screen

Flagship phone with a second screen, free

Specifications
Release date: February 2020
Weight: 213g
Dimensions: 169.3 x 77.6 x 8.9 mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.8-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 2460
CPU: Snapdragon 865
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB (up to 2TB with card)
Battery: 5,000mAh
Rear camera: 64MP + 13MP + 0.3MP
Front camera: 10MP
Reasons to buy
+Dual screen is great for media+Powerful chipset+Extensive 5,000mAh battery
Reasons to avoid
-Dual screen software is so-so-Unremarkable beyond dual screen

The LG V60 ThinQ seems like an updated and up-sized version of the LG G8, which popularized the Dual Screen peripheral that makes the V60 stand out from the competition. 

In essence, the Dual Screen is an exact copy of the V60's 6.8-inch Full HD Plus (2460 x 1080) display. The software takes a moment to get used to, but you can effectively have two apps running at the same time – handy if, like in the photo above, you want to play games on one screen and watch media on the other.

There is a gaming mode that makes the second screen an input touchpad, leaving the first screen free of fingers, but it's not the most intuitive. There are also a handful of apps, like Google Maps, that can splash across both screens to varying degrees of helpfulness.

Otherwise, the phone is a typically powerful flagship for 2020: Snapdragon 865 chipset, 8GB of RAM, 128GB or 256GB of storage, and it runs Android 10. The 5,000mAh battery is a great addition to keep your gaming going, and the 3.5mm headphone jack is a rarity in phones these days. Overall, a strong pick for gaming and watching media – or both at the same time.

 Read our reviews: LG V60 ThinQ review

Motorola Edge Plus

The Motorola Edge Plus' 'shoulder' buttons (Image credit: Future)

5. Motorola Edge Plus / Motorola Edge

Gorgeous display and handy trigger buttons

Specifications
Release date: May 2020
Weight: 203g / 188g
Dimensions: 161.1 x 71.4 x 9.6 mm / 161.6 x 71.1 x 9.3 m
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.7-inch / 6.7-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2340 / 1080 x 2340
CPU: Snapdragon 865 / Snapdragon 765G
RAM: 12GB/6GB
Storage: 256GB / 128GB
Battery: 5,000mAh / 4,500mAh
Rear camera: 108MP + 8MP + 16MP / 64MP + 8MP + 16MP
Front camera: 25MP / 25MP
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous, large display+Powerful specs+Digital trigger buttons
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey-Annoying edge design-Low 18W max charging

The Motorola Edge Plus is the first top-tier flagship Motorola has released in years, and in many ways, it was worth the wait: the waterfall display is big and gorgeous, the phone packs great specs, and there's even a new gaming feature thrown in: digital trigger buttons that hang over the screen's edge, just under your fingers.

The phone packs an impressive specs array: a Snapdragon 865 chipset, 12GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage (sadly not expandable). The 6.7-inch display has a 90Hz refresh rate and HDR10+ support, giving a far sharper image than we'd expect from its Full HD Plus (2340 x 1080) screen. And its triple rear camera is headed by a staggering 108MP shooter.

While the Motorola Edge Plus' price is about equal to other flagships at $999 (around £800 / AU$1,550), you might have trouble finding it given its limited availability: even in the US, it's only available through Verizon.

The phone's cheaper sibling, the Motorola Edge, has a few compromises in specs and but it's notably cheaper as a result, starting at £549 / $699 (about AU$1,015). And yet, it may be available in more places, and still retains many of the best features of the Edge Plus.

While the Motorola Edge 'only' has a display supporting HDR10, a Snapdragon 765G chipset with 6GB of RAM, a 64MP main shooter, and a smaller 4,500mAh battery, those aren't dealbreakers for the lower price, in our opinion. Plus, the Edge's 128GB of storage is expandable via microSD.

And best of all, both versions come with 3.5mm headphone jacks.

 Read our reviews: Motorola Edge Plus review | Motorola Edge review