Smartphones are quickly replacing handheld consoles for gaming and it’s easy to see why. The best gaming smartphones in 2021 offer excellent screens and amazing power to deliver a quality gaming experience, as well as the practicalities of a normal smartphone. As processors get faster, GPUs become more powerful, and displays get sharper, the mobile gaming experience just keeps getting better. Leading titles like PUBG, Call of Duty Mobile, Genshin Impact, Minecraft, and the long-awaited Diablo Immortal show that developers are starting to take notice too. Not all smartphones are cut out for gaming though so to help you narrow down the selection, we’ve put together a list of some great gaming smartphones in 2021.
ASUS ROG Phone 5
The ASUS ROG Phone 5 is the latest and most powerful incarnation of the world's most advanced gaming smartphone. Designed with gaming as the priority, the ROG 5 sports a gamer-esque design, and is packed full of incredible specs to take on just about any Android game, with enough power left over to future-proof it for some time.
The ROG Phone 5 series harnesses the massive power of the latest flagship Snapdragon 888, which packs industry-leading innovations in 5G, AI, gaming, and includes the latest and greatest Adreno 660 graphics. The premium Snapdragon Elite Gaming lets you harness the power of ultra-smooth play at the highest possible HDR quality levels, with desktop-level capabilities. Additionally, the ROG 5 has an eye-watering 16 GB of LPDDR5 RAM, which dramatically increases the overall gaming performance and takes the user experience to the next level.
The ASUS ROG 5 boasts a 144Hz AMOLED display – with a touch sampling rate of 300Hz – that delivers a super-smooth gaming experience, with an ultra-low touch latency. The screen itself is optimised for gaming in landscape mode, with a nicely sized at 6.7” with dual front-facing speakers which are among the best you’ll find on a smartphone.
The gaming experience on the ROG 5 goes beyond its’ power and performance, with built-in control systems and haptic feedback delivering an unrivalled gaming experience. The phone features an upgraded AirTrigger 5 control system, AeroActive Cooler 5 (sold separately) with additional physical buttons, a total of 10 different motion controls, programmable RGB lights, and more!
ASUS ROG understands the need for tinkering with your setup as a gamer. ASUS’ Armory Crate app opens up a whole world of customisation, tweaking, and enhancements for your favourite games. Change display settings, graphics, touch sensitivity, network prioritisation, macros, and more, all on a per-game basis.
Adventure, first person shooter or fighting game - no matter which game type you want to play the ROG phone 5 is powerful enough to play it. I've uploaded these next screenshots at full resolution showing the in-game performance of the Asus ROG Phone 5 in Genshin Impact, Call of Duty Mobile and Mortal Combat so you'll be able to see how impressive the menu overlay options, and in-game FPS really is. It's also important to note I haven't activated the X mode toggle too, which can give this powerful phone even higher performance levels in exchange for high temps. Right now there are only a few games that make use of this, League of Legends Wild Rift at 120FPS on the ROG Phone 5 is a beautiful sight to behold though.
The Game Genie overlay offers a world of tools overlaid over any game – real-time system info, notification control, screen recording, multitasking, and much more at your fingertips. One special feature we love – a shortcut to Google tutorials and walkthroughs for the game you’re playing in a handy overlay. You can even deep-dive into advanced PC-like performance settings that would normally require modifying your device thanks to ASUS’ Hardcore Tuning. If you’re a keen-enough mobile gamer to want control over thermals, RAM, and the CPU scheduler plus per-core clock speeds – ROG Phone 5 is the mobile platform for you.
With a monster 6,000mAh battery, the ASUS ROG Phone 5 will keep you gaming for longer. With a number of built-in software and power-saving mechanisms, as we talked about earlier, the ROG Phone 5 series is constantly optimising itself for the best power efficiency. Plus, with 65W charging, you won’t be out of action for too long when the battery does run dry, it even has a second USB Type-C port on the side so you can game in landscape while charging. If you’re looking for the ultimate gaming phone, the ASUS ROG Phone 5 offers the complete package for gamers, easily earning its spot at the top of this list.
ASUS ROG Phone 5S
If you're after a new and slightly improved version of the ROG Phone 5, check out the ROG Phone 5S. This model has an enhanced processor in the Snapdragon 888+ 5G for even better performance in your favourite games!
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
If you’re looking for a smartphone that delivers for gaming but is also a fantastic all-around device, look no further than the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra! It’s Samsung’s top-of-the-line flagship making it one of the most well-rounded – and expensive – smartphones on the market right now, and with it comes a great gaming experience!
It sports the ultra-powerful Samsung Exynos 2100 processor, delivering a top-notch performance that’s perfect for both media and gaming. It also has an adaptive 120Hz refresh-rate display for smooth gameplay and an incredibly responsive screen. With the refresh rate adapting to what you’re viewing, the S21 Ultra preserves more battery life for the tasks you love.
It’s not just about the hardware though. The Samsung Galaxy S21 series include Samsung’s Game Launcher and Game Tools options which allow you to tweak performance and adjust settings in individual games. Features like Game Booster's Priority Mode can block calls and notifications while gaming to maximize performance. Optimised for Unity Engine, sophisticated AI monitors device usage and automatically adjusts settings for the best experience - regulating temperature, battery, and memory all while you play.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
If the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is out of your price range, any of the Samsung Galaxy S21 phones are great for gaming. If those are still too pricey, the Galaxy S21 FE is another great alternative at a much lower price point. A new release for New Zealand, the super-popular Galaxy S21 FE comes with the Samsung Exynos 2100 octa-core processor offers superb value while delivering on the all-important basics such as screen quality and performance. With a 120Hz display and the Samsung Exynos 2100 processor on board, you’ll get an enjoyable gaming experience without breaking the bank.
iPhone 13 Pro Max
When it comes to gaming on iOS, it doesn’t get any better than the iPhone 13 Pro Max. While iPhones generally aren’t built to sport a wealth of gaming-related features, the A15 Bionic chipset in the iPhone 13 Pro Max is faster than Qualcomm’s best equivalent, making it well-equipped to take on demanding games.
In addition to its powerful processor, the iPhone 13 Pro Max features a gorgeous Super Retina XDR display for an incredible visual experience while you game. With storage options of up to a monstrous 1TB, you can also carry an entire library worth of games on a single device.
You'll also be getting Apple's first set of phones capable of running at 120Hz! Apple has only added this to their pro line for now, but combining their beautiful displays with a higher refresh rate enhances the experience massively, it's now such a smooth experience. This is great news for avid mobile gamers within the Apple ecosystem, as you no longer have to sacrifice frame rate to use your platform of choice!
Mi 10T Pro
If you’re looking for a great value gaming smartphone, the Mi 10T Pro is a fantastic option. The Mi 10T Pro is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 processor with 8GB of RAM. It features a 144Hz refresh rate that offers jitter-free usage and a super smooth gaming experience. In addition, the variable experience optimises the refresh rate to suit whatever process you’re running. This results in less power consumption which in addition to the beefy 5,000mAh of battery, means you can go for longer gaming sessions, and then get straight back into the game with 30W fast charging. Just like the Mi 11, the Mi 10T Pro is fully equipped with Xiaomi’s Game Turbo software suite to put your spin on your favourite games. The Mi 10T Pro is impressively equipped to take on your gaming needs without even breaking $800!