In the last few years, several manufacturers have taken to building solid Android gaming phones. These are phones that function like any other smartphone but with an eye to powerful hardware and excellent screen resolution. Gone are the days of mobile games being considered sub-par, and because of that, the phones have caught up.
Selecting the best Android gaming phone is not that difficult, as the things that make a good gaming phone tend to produce a great phone in general. Powerful hardware, crystal clear screens, tons of memory, and regular updates sound like considerations a consumer would make for any phone, not just a gaming phone.
Due to the similarity in criteria between a good Android phone and an excellent Android gaming phone, I will be breaking up this guide.
Everyday Phones that Double as Great Android Gaming Phones
When I think gaming phone (or gaming hardware in general) one thing comes to mind: raw power. I am an absolute nerd when it comes to performance numbers. I have never met a CPU I didn’t want to overclock, or a device I didn’t want to modify.
The Samsung Galaxy Note10+ has an insane amount of power for a phone. With storage capacity up to one half of a terabyte, 12GB of RAM, and an eight-core processor with a max clock speed of 2.8GHz, there isn’t a lot to dislike from a numbers perspective. Those specs are pretty close to those of the laptop I am writing on right now.
Clearly, with so much power, the Samsung Galaxy Note10+ must skimp on the screen, right? Wrong. They nail the screen, too. The Note10+ offers a massive 6.8-inch screen with just-shy-of 4K resolution and a pixel density of 498 pixels per inch. Add in the fact that the display is HDR10+ certified, and you may never take your eyes off the screen.
Like most modern phones, the Note10+ receives regular updates to the operating system. Running the newest Android 9 (Pie), the OS is plenty responsive.
I’m going to keep this short and sweet: If you liked what you read about the Samsung Galaxy Note10+, the S10+ is going to make you grin like an idiot. Though the screen is slightly smaller than the Note10+, the performance is faster. The CPU is upgraded to a Snapdragon 855, giving you lightning upload and download speeds. The RAM capacity of this phone is 12GB and can be configured to store up to 1TB of data. That’s double the storage of any other phone on this list. The display is every bit as good as the Note10+ and runs the same operating system as all other modern Android phones.
If you buy any gaming peripherals, you have heard of Razer. What you may not have known is that they made a gaming phone (actually two). The Razer Phone 2 is a pretty nice piece of kit. It does not have the most spectacular hardware on our list, but it is a bit older.
The Razer Phone 2 prioritizes experience. It offers up a screen that is 50% brighter than competitors and has a ridiculous refresh rate for a phone screen at 120Hz. While the resolution may not be insane, the clear-as-day 513 pixel-per-inch sure make up for it.
On the inside, the Razer Phone 2 is running 8GB of ram, which doubles the current iPhone, but only 64GB of storage. The Snapdragon 845 is one model behind the unit seen on the Samsung products, but Razer put a custom cooling solution in place to edge out every last bit of performance that they could.
While the phone ships with an older version of Android, we all know how easy it is to run an update. Updating, of course, does always run the risk of causing issues due to dependencies, though. Always check around before loading the newest update.
I had to have one wild card, one “strange” addition to the list. Though, if you have been paying attention to the rise of gaming phones, this one wouldn’t surprise you. The Xiaomi Black Shark 2 may not be available (or even known) everywhere, but it is a good phone for the price.
The Xiaomi Black Shark 2 has a large screen with a decent enough resolution. The biggest knock against the screen is the refresh rate, coming in under the industry-standard 90Hz. This means that while it will look beautiful enough, you are likely to feel like something is missing if you compare it one-on-one with another phone on the list.
As far as hardware goes, this thing is similar to the Samsung phones with a powerful Snapdragon 855 CPU, up to 12GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. Unlike the Razer, the Black Shark 2 does ship with Android 9(Pie).
Really, this phone fits in as the budget-friendly alternative option to the Samsung offerings. It’s close enough in performance while sacrificing a bit, so it comes in at quite a favorable price. There are better gaming Android phones, but there might not be a better gaming phone for your dollar.
Before you tar and feather me for making the winner a phone that’s just being introduced, hear me out. You always want to end strong, and now you have five other phones to compare this with. If you disagree, even better; there are several other great options on this list. Let’s get down to it.
The Google Pixel 4 XL is right on par with the Samsung phones from a hardware standpoint. The Pixel has the same Snapdragon 855, slightly less RAM, and a somewhat smaller screen. From a screen resolution and pixel density standpoint, the Pixel matches the resolution of the Samsung phones while offering more pixels-per-inch. With lesser storage on the Pixel in comparison to the Samsung offerings and no expandable storage, we can at least say we are offering some criticism.
Since this is a gaming Android phone review, let’s discuss why I made this phone the winner: Stadia. Google’s Stadia offering is coming in the next few months, and, If you need a primer, I recommend you read this article.
In short, Stadia promises to offer modern gaming via streaming. The real power of Stadia is that, because it’s streaming, it can be played on anything with a screen. This is not 100% the case at launch. The Pixel, produced by Google, will be the only phone at launch with Stadia support.
When the performance of the phone is combined with the Stadia capabilities, there is no reason to not name the Pixel 4 XL as the king of gaming phones. The sheer fact that you can play Borderlands 3 on this phone, and no other, should be the only argument you need.