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Home / Features / Best gaming smartphone 2023: hero handsets for setting high scores

Best gaming smartphone 2023: hero handsets for setting high scores

Taking no calls 'cause I'll be gaming

Best gaming smartphones 2022 lead

From budget bargains and mid-range marvels to fabulous flagships and foldable friends, contenders for the title of best gaming smartphone come in all shapes and sizes.

Mobile tech has come on in leaps and bounds recently, meaning you can play preposterously popular 3D titles like Genshin Impact and Call of Duty Mobile while on the move. Sorry, Doodle jump and Angry Birds – your time has passed. As you can imagine, a bang-up gaming phone needs a processor capable of pushing performance to the max, more RAM than a desktop computer, and a dazzling display. There’s also no shortage of accessories that can take your mobile gaming to the next level.

Even with that knowledge, separating the best from the rest in a market this crowded is no easy feat. That’s why we’ve taken the liberty of spotlighting some of the very best gaming phones we’ve encountered on our travels. Are you ready, player one?

What’s the best gaming smartphone?

Before we crack on with the full list, here’s a look at our three top choices:

  • Best overall gaming smartphone: Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro
    Outstanding performance, an extensive accessory list and active cooling make Asus’ latest ROG handset the clear winner for gamers who don’t like to compromise. It’s big, with a distinctive design that won’t be to all tastes, and an average collection of cameras for the price – but for consistently smooth frame rates, it’s a superb buy.
  • Best iOS gaming smartphone: Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
    Apple Arcade subscribers can do no better than the iPhone 14 Pro Max. It’s beyond powerful, with a stunning screen that’ll have any game looking its best, and a library of titles available through the App Store that gets close to full-on games consoles in a way no Android phone can match. It’s also just a brilliant all-round smartphone, even with that wince-inducing price.
  • Best affordable gaming smartphone: Poco F4 GT
    You’ll have to look at slightly older handsets for the best blend of powerful hardware and affordable price. It’s something we think the Poco F4 GT does best right now: it’s a lot cheaper than our top pick, yet comes with pop-out triggers for physical inputs while gaming, and still has a top-tier Snapdragon CPU running the show.

Our roundup of the best smartphones for gaming:

Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro

Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro

Asus’ latest Android gaming phone is ‘imperiously powerful’ and ‘built with the gamer in mind’ according to our review. It manages this through the combination of its excellent specs, a screen you won’t want to take your eyes off, and a smattering of thoughtful accessories that make using it as more than just a plain old smartphone much easier.

Under the hood you get a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, a huge 16GB of RAM – the same as in a PlayStation 5 – and 512GB of storage, so you’ll be able to download plenty of games from the Google Play Store without worrying too much about running out of space. The 6.78in screen takes the refresh rate all the way up to 165Hz, and it’s an AMOLED panel for vivid colours and excellent contrast.

In the box you also get a Bluetooth gamepad and an active cooling stand, which plugs into the extra USB-C port halfway along the side of the phone to both support it on a table and, with its quietly whirring fan, dissipate some of the heat the phone produces and prevent it from slowing down. Optional extras include a Kunai gamepad that slots the phone in the centre and an incredible TwinView Dock that adds a second screen (with its own rechargeable battery) so you can run your game and a chat app at the same time.

Read more: Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro review

iPhone 14 Pro Max

iPhone 14 Pro Max

The new iPhone is always the best iPhone, and the iPhone 14 Pro Max is the latest and greatest. Until later this year when the new generation lands. It may be expensive, but if gaming on iPhones is your thing the Pro Max is the one to get.

It’s not just the larger, brighter screen, with its new ‘dynamic island’ that replaces the notch, that makes this a must. It’s the A16 Bionic processor, which you won’t find on the baseline iPhone 14, and a massive increase in GPU memory bandwidth over the A15. This extra power makes the phone much faster than the competition, meaning you’ll have better frame rates and have to wait less time as games load, and unlocks extra antialiasing modes so your games look smoother.

There’s really more power in this phone than anyone really needs. But, after all, it’s the gamers who push their phones to the edge of their performance by demanding to play titles like Total War: Medieval 2 on the train. With an iPhone 14 Pro Max, that’s no problem.

Read more: Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max review

Poco F4 GT smartphone in hand front view

Poco F4 GT

It’s not rocking the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset as the ROG Phone 6 up the top there, but the Poco F4 GT is otherwise an excellent choice for gamers on a slightly reduced budget. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 at its heart is still plenty powerful, and the pop-out buttons are a great way to squeeze some play time in even when you don’t have a controller to hand.

The 6.67in display will do 120HZ, and HDR10+, but the display resolution is a bit lower than others’ at 2400×1080 pixels. Does this matter? Not a jot, especially not on a phone screen where the pixels are tightly packed. It means less work for the GPU too, which provides higher frame rates and lower temperatures at the cost of a little sharpness.

And with 120W fast charging, plus a suitable power adapter in the box, you won’t have to tether yourself to a power socket for long if you run the battery down.

Read more: Poco F4 GT review

Google Pixel 7 Pro in hand rear 2

Google Pixel 7 Pro

Google did a good job with the Pixel 6, but the Pixel 7, with its faster processor, built upon those foundations to become an excellent gaming phone. The Pro version is top of the range, with a 6.7in AMOLED screen that boasts a 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+ capabilities, and a coating of Gorilla Glass. It’s one of the first phones to come with Android 13 too.

The new G2 Tensor chip is an eight-core processor with higher clock speeds, upgraded cores, and a new GPU compared to the original. It’s great at things like voice recognition and anything that requires crunching an algorithm. It’s no slouch for gaming, thanks to a decent helping of RAM, meaning performance is up there with other flagship phones. The 5000mAh battery will keep you playing all day if you need to.

Read more: Google Pixel 7 Pro review

Xiaomi 12T Pro front

Xiaomi 12T Pro

Not all great gaming phones need to have a heavy price tag attached. Some of them can be more reasonably priced. The Xiaomi 12T Pro may be more notable for its camera, but under the casing there’s a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset, paired with up to 12GB of RAM (though 8GB models are more common) and a decent 6.67in AMOLED screen.

The screen’s refresh rate peaks at 120Hz, and the Snapdragon’s GPU is more than capable of pushing 3D games about. We did find a few graphical tweaks were necessary to maintain smoothness while playing, though.

Battery life is decent, but gaming will see it drop precipitously. Lucky, then, that it accepts up to 120W of power, allowing you to fill its tank in just 20 minutes.

Read more: Xiaomi 12T Pro review

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones have always been capable gamers, and the S22 Ultra picks up where the old Note range left off. That means it has a 6.8in AMOLED that can get very bright and has an excellent resolution of 3088×1440 pixels, for a density of around 500ppi. This beats a lot of phones on the market.

Inside you’ll find that Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset (no longer cutting edge, but still super quick) and, again, up to 12GB of RAM is available. The base model, with 128GB of storage, gets 8GB.

And while the S-Pen stylus is more normally used in drawing apps or as a writing implement, there are uses for it in games too, with a few built entirely with pen input in mind. There’s a new one coming sooner rather than later, but if you want a fantastic all-rounder right now, it’s still a good time to buy.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review