The 7 Best Phones to Buy for Gaming in 2018

Yes, you can still game when you're on the go

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Not so long ago, gaming on a smartphone wasn't very exciting, to say the least. The screens, memory, and raw computing power just weren't up to the demands of high-intensity arcade games, in particular, meaning developers simply couldn't deliver a good experience.

That's all changed, with the latest devices having more processing power than some laptops, and bright, vibrant screens with high refresh rates. Some can even handle virtual reality, which was almost unimaginable on a smartphone even a few years ago. So if you find yourself constantly on the go and want to have your video games in tow, but still be able to easily answer (or reject) that incoming call, get yourself a dedicated gaming phone. To help you find a phone that doubles as a great gaming device, keep reading to see our best picks below.

Best Pure Gaming Smartphone: Razer Phone

Razer Phone
Courtesy of Amazon

Razer is best known for producing high-end gaming laptops and accessories, so it’s no surprise that when the company turned its attention to smartphones, that's where it focused.

The 5.7” screen is arguably the best gaming display you can buy, with a buttery-smooth 120Hz refresh rate and high 2560 x 1440-pixel resolution. There’s a pair of enormous, loud Dolby Atmos speakers at the top and bottom, which crank out all the explosions and soundtracks without distortion.

The huge 4000mAh battery is enough to keep you gaming well into the night, and fast charging means you don’t need to wait forever to get back to the action. While it no longer boasts the absolute highest specifications on the market, the Snapdragon 835 chipset, 8GB of RAM and 64GB of storage easily deals with even the most demanding games.

The Razer isn’t water-resistant, and the camera, while good, isn’t quite at flagship levels, but those are the only real weak points in an otherwise excellent smartphone for gamers.

Best for Big-Screen Gaming: Huawei Mate 10 Pro

Huawei has been turning out low-priced phones with solid specifications for a few years, but it’s the company’s entry into the premium end of the market that’s really turning heads.

The Mate 10 Pro has all the specifications you’d expect in a top-end gaming phone, including a blistering Kirin 970 chipset, beautiful OLED display, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage. Throw in water resistance, spectacular battery life, fast charging and a quality camera, and it’s a very compelling device.

As if the hardware alone wasn’t enough to put the Mate 10 Pro on this list, it has another trick up its sleeve. If the built-in 6" display isn’t large enough for you, the EMUI Desktop feature lets the phone connect directly to a TV or monitor, for a big-screen gaming and entertainment experience.

There’s no fancy hardware required, just a standard USB-C to HDMI cable. A Bluetooth keyboard and mouse will give a better gaming experience, but you can control everything via the phone touchscreen if you’d rather.

Best All-Rounder: Google Pixel 2 XL

If you're after an Android phone that performs as well at taking photos and managing your daily life as it does while setting new lap records in Asphalt Xtreme, it's hard to go past the Google Pixel 2. Whether you go for smaller and cheaper standard model or the large 6" display of the XL version, you get one of the best smartphones on the market.

Shipping with a Snapdragon 835 chipset, 4GB of RAM and 64 or 128GB of storage, it's a powerful device that's made even better by smart AI and a stock operating system without unnecessary apps and modifications. Despite only using a single camera sensor, shots from the Pixel 2 are some of the very best you'll find on any smartphone.

The front-facing stereo speakers pump out plenty of sound, the OLED display is crisp and bright and fast charging helps the battery quickly recover from intense gaming sessions. It's also Daydream-ready, if you want to try out Google's approach to VR.

You get a bigger battery and screen with the XL model, but all other specs are the same.

Best Value: OnePlus 6

OnePlus 6
Courtesy of Amazon

OnePlus has built its reputation on high-spec phones at mid-range prices, and the latest model is no exception. Proving there’s no need to spend up to $1,000 to get the latest hardware, the OnePlus 6 technical documentation reads like a phone geek’s Christmas wishlist.

The latest Snapdragon 845 chipset is paired with either 6 or 8GB of high-speed memory, up to 256GB of storage, Adreno 630 graphics, and a lovely 6.3" display. Other features to love include a headphone jack (rare these days), fash Dash charging, and a more-than-capable pair of 16 and 20MP cameras on the back.

With specifications like that, you’d expect the phone to be great for gaming, and it is. To speed things up even more​ OnePlus deliberately slows down background apps when you’re playing a game, meaning better performance when it matters.

Is it perfect? Not quite. It’s only splash-proof rather than having proper water resistance, and while the battery life is fine under normal conditions, boosting the 3300mAh battery would have been a useful addition. Still, neither of those things are likely to put gamers off, especially when they’re saving at least a couple of hundred bucks over the competition.

Best for iOS Gaming: iPhone X

It’s hard to go past gaming on an Apple device, due to the mix of powerful hardware and a well-stocked app store that regularly gets the best games first. The iPhone X is the company’s flagship model, and while it’s seriously expensive if you’re buying it outright, you get a lot for your money.

The most powerful iOS phone on the market comes with Apple’s fastest A11 chipset, 3GB of RAM, and either 64 or 256GB of storage. The 5.8" Super Retina screen is an absolute delight, with exceptional clarity and colors, and a near-complete lack of bezel that lets you focus fully on your game rather than the hardware that’s powering it (if you can ignore the "notch" at the top.)

Everything from animations to apps is super-smooth on the X, and games are no exception. Even the most taxing titles run like a dream, although if you're hoping for smartphone-based virtual reality, you'll need to look elsewhere. There’s IP67 water resistance, one of the best smartphone cameras you can buy, highly-accurate facial recognition, and plenty more that make the iPhone X a great device for those who can afford it.

Best for VR Gaming: Samsung Galaxy S9

Samsung Galaxy S9
Courtesy of Amazon 

Producing high-quality virtual reality on a smartphone isn't easy for a number of reasons, but that hasn't stopped a few companies from trying. Samsung has the best offering so far, pairing its Gear VR headset with a couple of its latest high-end devices. With proper motion tracking thanks to the included controller, and a partnership with Oculus that makes a wider range of games available, the Gear VR/Galaxy S9 combo is as good as it gets.

Both the Galaxy S9 and the larger Plus model have a lot going for them beyond just VR compatibility, of course. A Snapdragon 845 chipset, one of the best cameras and OLED screens on the market, and plenty of memory and storage make either phone a great choice for everyday use and non-VR gaming as well.

On the software side, the built-in Game Tools perform useful functions like stretching games to fit the whole screen​ and hiding annoying notifications, as well as helping record in-game video and screenshots.

Best for Getting a Buzz: Sony Xperia XZ2

Sony didn't do much of interest in the smartphone space for a few years, but the Xperia XZ2 looks to change that, combining mostly high-end specifications with a couple of features that seem directly aimed at gaming enthusiasts.

As you'd expect from a device at this price point, the XZ2 includes a Snapdragon 845, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. While the Full HD screen resolution isn't as high as you'll find on some of the competition, it's still a sharp, colorful 5.7" HDR display, and you'll get longer between charges as a result. The phone is dustproof and water resistant, and there's a micro-SD slot for adding extra storage.

What makes the XZ2 stand out for gamers is the impressive dual forward-facing speakers and the unique Dynamic Vibration system. This fancy approach to haptic feedback makes the phone buzz and vibrate in your hands in response to what's happening on the screen.

It works in movies and while playing music, but obviously makes the most sense during action games, giving a more immersive, fun experience when things start getting intense. You can adjust the intensity of the vibration or turn it off entirely if it's not your thing.