Turn your smartphone into a portable games console with the best gaming phones. Our picks below offer everything you can want when you’re playing mobile games — from sharp displays and beefy processors to long-lasting batteries.
Some gaming phones wear their identity on their sleeves, bedazzling themselves with RGB lights, enhanced cooling and big logos. However, many of the phones on this list are still regular phones. While they may lack gaming-focused features like trigger buttons, they’ve still got the basics covered, and often offer better overall versatility too.
If you like to dip into rounds of Fortnite or Arena of Valor on the go, these are the best gaming phones for the job.
What are the best gaming phones?
The iPhone 13 series has surprised us all by being a better phone for gaming than dedicated gaming phones. The key reasons for this are Apple’s continuing dominance when it comes to chipset power (thanks to the A15 Bionic), and the new 120Hz adaptive refresh rate displays on the two Pro models.
Of course there are still many Android phones that are nearly as good. For an all-around top handset that also handles gaming well, turn to the OnePlus 10 Pro, though the Google Pixel 6 Pro or Galaxy S22 Plus also fit the bill. (If you don’t mind spending a little extra, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra makes for a pretty good stealthy gaming phone, too.
We’ve just reviewed the Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro, and this latest gaming phone stands out for its phenomenal battery life. It also features the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset, which offers a noticeable performance boost over other recent Android flagships. For a less expensive phone powered by the latest Snapdragon silicon, you can always turn to the OnePlus 10T.
Back to school and the best gaming phones
It’s still summer for the time being, but soon we’ll start seeing back to school sales from various retailers. If you’ve been thinking about upgrading your phone before heading off to college, or need to buy your middle/high school kid their first proper smartphone, then maybe consider one of these gaming phones. They’re ideal for making friends while playing multiplayer games, while still doing all the usual things you expect from a phone, including calls home!
Don’t forget to read our overall back to school guide too if you’re looking for the best overall deals on all sorts of products.
The best gaming phones you can buy now
Apple’s latest iPhone 13 Pro Max is simply the best gaming phone you can buy. Even the best that Android has to offer can’t compare to the newest big iPhone. From the extremely powerful A15 Bionic chip to the 120Hz display and vastly improved battery life, this phone can handle any mobile game out there and then some.
Not only is the iPhone 13 Pro Max the best gaming phone, but it’s also the best phone you can buy period. It has fantastic cameras, a beautiful 6.7-inch OLED display, and a swath of features that make it a joy to use in everyday life. It also can come up with up to 1TB of storage, meaning that you’ll never run out of space for the best iOS games.
Unfortunately, the App Store doesn’t allow for gaming emulators, so for those interested in playing classic games, they may be out of luck. Although, some of the most popular titles from the SNES and PS2 eras have been ported to iPhone.
Interestingly, esports players overseas prefer to train and play games like PUBG Mobile and Garena FreeFire on iPhone. That’s because the efficiency of Apple’s chips allows for less heat dissipation, which makes for a more comfortable gaming experience during long sessions.
But if you’d rather have a smaller phone (and save $100 in the process), the iPhone 13 Pro is just as good as the Pro Max. Playing on the more compact 6.1-inch display can be a challenge for some games, though.
Read our full iPhone 13 Pro Max review.
The top-performing Android phones coming out these days feature a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 system-on-chip, and that’s the silicon powering the OnePlus 10 Pro. As a result, even the most demanding games play like a dream on this device.
Gamers will also appreciate the 120Hz refresh rate on the phone’s 6.7-inch display, as well as the long battery life — nearly 12 hours even with that adaptive refresh rate enabled. But perhaps the most attractive thing about the OnePlus 10 Pro is its price. While other flagships flirt with $1,000 price tags, the OnePlus 10 Pro comes in at $899. It’s hard to find a top-line phone that delivers so many premium features at that cost.
Read our full OnePlus 10 Pro review.
If a dedicated gaming phone is your cup of tea, then look no further than the ROG Phone 6 Pro. This monster packs the new Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset, a whopping 18GB of RAM, a mammoth 6,000 mAh battery, new and upgraded AirTriggers, and enhanced cooling options for sustained gaming periods.
The chip alone makes the ROG Phone 6 Pro the most powerful gaming phone to date — it comes close to matching Apple’s A15 Bionic in our testing. While 18GB of RAM is excessive, it’s something to brag about. This handset also has the best software we’ve seen on a gaming phone.
And the battery life, wow. The ROG Phone 6 Pro is the longest-lasting phone that we’ve ever tested at Tom’s Guide, going for an incredible 15 hours and 30 minutes in its 165Hz mode. Knock it down to 60Hz and you get an extra hour. The ROG Phone 6 Pro does everything a gaming phone should and then some, but it has the $999 price tag to match.
Read our full Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro review.
The Black Shark 5 Pro is the first dedicated gaming phone that we can honestly recommend. Not only does it feature powerful hardware, a beautiful display and excellent battery life, but it offers unique gaming features that we love. Not to mention that the main and ultrawide cameras are surprisingly good.
The best part about the Black Shark 5 Pro, however, are the physical shoulder buttons. These magnetic triggers pop up when you want them, offering real, tactile feedback during gameplay. If you’ve struggled with ultrasonic triggers in the past, you might like these.
Starting at $799 / £629 / €799 for the base 8GB/128GB model, the Black Shark 5 Pro is the best dedicated gaming phone. If mobile gaming is all you care about, this is the phone for you.
Read our full Black Shark 5 Pro review.
You wouldn’t think that a Google phone would end up in a list of the best gaming phones, but Google delivered with the Pixel 6 Pro. Thanks to the excellent display and surprisingly good performance from the new Tensor chip, the Pixel 6 Pro is certainly a good choice for your next gaming phone.
But that’s not all. Not only does the Pixel 6 Pro perform well in games and benchmarks, but it also excels at being a normal phone, too. It might lack some of the fancy features other gaming phones have, but it sports the best cameras you can get on an Android phone. After all, you probably want your phone to do other things well, too.
If we had to level one complaint against the Pixel 6 Pro, it’d be the disappointing battery life. While the battery is certainly large enough to go for hours, the phone for some reason turned in a lackluster result in our battery life testing. But in our day-to-day use, the phone is just fine, even with intense games and Xbox Game Pass.
Read our full Google Pixel 6 Pro review.
The RedMagic 7S Pro is one of the cheapest pathways to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor on the market right now, earning it a mention on this list of the best gaming phones. For just $729, you can have a device with a high-end chipset, up to 18GB of RAM and a 6.8-inch 120Hz AMOLED display with an under-display camera that give you even more room for gaming. A fan inside also ensures the device can run demanding titles optimally, and 65W charging makes sure you’ll never be out of power for long.
Of course, if fantastic software or camera performance is a priority for you, the RedMagic 7S Pro isn’t going to be the best fit — there are certainly more well-rounded handsets out there. However, they all cost more, and so those who prioritize gaming and the power needed to do so but have a more modest budget would be wise to consider it.
Read our full RedMagic 7S Pro review.
We think the OnePlus 10 Pro is a better choice if you’re looking for the best gaming phone from OnePlus. But if you don’t want to pay $899 for that flagship, the OnePlus 10T offers a less expensive option. Even better, you don’t really sacrifice performance for that lower price, as the 10T features a more advanced Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset than its predecessor.
The Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 delivers a performance boost over the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, which OnePlus augments by packing the phone with RAM. In fact, you can get a version of the phone with 16GB of memory for $749, just $100 more than the $649 starting price. The OnePlus 10T also features a new cooling system to keep the phone from overheating during marathon gaming sessions. Throw in a fast charging and a big display capable of a 120Hz refresh rate, and you’ve got quite a mobile gaming device that’s cheaper than most flagships.
Read our full OnePlus 10T review.
If you want a well-rounded Android phone that can also handle flagship games, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus is a smart choice.
The S22 Plus has a 120Hz panel and a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor like all of this year’s top flagships. It may only have 8GB of RAM, but that doesn’t hold it back. It’s still fast in every sense of the world. Plus, its 5G support extends to millimeter-wave networks as well as sub-6GHz ones, which allows for the quickest data speeds on the planet for when you’re gaming online away from home.
Although it does offer Xbox Game Pass support, the Galaxy S22 Plus doesn’t offer much strictly in the way of dedicated gaming features though — it’s just an all-around great (and, unfortunately, kind of expensive) flagship device that also happens to be one of the best gaming phones.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus review.
Motorola’s latest flagship model has a few flaws, but it delivers the goods for gamers. The 144Hz refresh rate is above average for Android phones, and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, combined with 8GB or 12GB RAM, means you aren’t lacking in performance.
The main issue you’ll worry about with gaming is the Edge Plus’ disappointing battery life. You may want to keep a plug handy for any gaming marathons you’re doing. Fortunately the included 30W charger gets you going again fast, and unless you’re particularly bothered about not having a telephoto camera or a glass back panel, it’s a good compromise between costly well-rounded regular flagship phones and cheaper dedicated gaming smartphones.
Read our full Motorola Edge Plus (2022) review
How to choose the best gaming phone for you
As with all things, choosing the right gaming phone is a matter of priorities. If you’re after the best performance — and you likely are if you’re reading this — you’ll want a phone with a Snapdragon 8-series chipset or Apple’s A15 Bionic. Emphasis on the Snapdragon, as Qualcomm’s best silicon for Android phones is available in devices from a number of manufacturers.
But what about high refresh rates? That’s something you’ll only find on the more expensive end of the market, though it’s a feature that will surely descend to more modestly-priced phones over time. Panels rated at 90Hz and above offer smoother scrolling and overall graphics than conventional screens, making you feel as if every swipe, tap and action is eliciting a response with no delay. If you’re an especially serious competitive gamer, higher refresh rates will ensure you won’t miss any of the action.
Of course, the more a device is geared toward gaming with the appropriate features, the more phone makers ignore other considerations. While battery life is central to gaming (because games consume a lot of power), you’ll have a tougher time finding gaming phones with great camera hardware and software, or perhaps conveniences like wireless charging and water resistance. If those things are important to you, you may want to focus your search on the more powerful handsets on this list that aren’t strictly intended for gaming but can still very much hold their own, like the OnePlus 10 Pro, Galaxy S22 Plus and iPhone 13 Pro Max.
How we test gaming phones
In order for a smartphone to make any of our best phone lists — gaming phone or otherwise — it needs to excel on several tests that we run on every handset. We perform some of these tests in our labs and some in the real world.
When it comes to performance, we rely on such synthetic benchmarks as Geekbench 5 and GFXBench to measure graphics performance. These tests allow us to compare performance across iPhones and Android devices. We also run a real-world video transcoding test on each phone using the Adobe Premiere Rush app and time the result.
To measure the quality of a phone’s display, we perform lab tests to determine the brightness of the panel (in nits), as well as how colorful each screen is (DCI-P3 color gamut). In these cases, higher numbers are better. We also measure color accuracy of each panel with a Delta-E rating, where lower numbers are better and score of 0 is perfect.
One of the most important tests we run is the Tom’s Guide battery test. We run a web surfing test over 5G or 4G at 150 nits of screen brightness until the battery gives out. In general, a phone that lasts 10 hours or more is good, and anything above 11 hours makes our list of the best phone battery life.
Last but not least, we take the best phones out in the field to take photos outdoors, indoors and at night in low light to see how they perform versus their closest competitors. We take shots of landscapes, food, portraits and more, and also allow you to be the judge with side-by-side comparisons in our reviews.
If you plan to stream games to your phone, consider one of our picks for the best wireless gaming mouse.