Things to consider when choosing the Best Gaming Phones
Picking a gaming phone is no easy feat! You can't just grab the first one you see and call it a day. It's like choosing a partner—you've got to take your time and make sure it's the right fit for you. Get ready to take some notes, because here are the specs you'll need to keep in mind.
Before you buy a gaming phone, the first thing you'll want to look at is the processor. High-end CPUs, whether they come from Qualcomm, MediaTek, Exynos, or Kirin, can affect how well you can play.
We recommend Qualcomm and MediaTek, as they are top leaders in the world of mobile phone gaming processors. For the current year, their flagship SoCs are the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 from Qualcomm and the Dimensity 9000 from MediaTek. You’ll also want to validate the GPU performance of the said SoC. For example, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1’s Adreno 730 is more powerful than the Dimensity 9000’s Mali-G710. That being said, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will most likely perform better when it comes to gaming as compared to the Dimensity 9000.
There are, however, games like PUBG Mobile that work better on Qualcomm's top-of-the-line SoCs. The game can run at 90 FPS on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 and higher SoCs with a 90 Hz monitor refresh rate. Even though, on paper, MediaTek SoCs are more powerful than Qualcomm's, this isn't always the case. MediaTek processors, on the other hand, are still thought to be good deals, and a Dimensity 9000 gaming phone is often a bit cheaper than a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 phone.
2. Screen Refresh Rate
This is one of the most essential parts of competitive gaming, especially for titles like PUBG Mobile and COD Mobile. As they say, smooth gameplay with additional frames will always give you a competitive advantage. The only way you’ll get a higher FPS is to get a display with a higher refresh rate. Standard smartphones have a refresh rate of 60 Hz, which is why mobile games are locked to 60 FPS. This is why many individuals purchase a gaming phone— to play games at a higher refresh rate. The most demanding games of today have already hit 90 FPS and even higher, so it's important to get a gaming phone that boasts a high refresh rate.
As of this writing (April 2023), an IPS LCD display or an AMOLED display is the only type of smartphone screen that can update at 144 Hz. When deciding between IPS and AMOLED, you will need to think about what you prefer best. AMOLED has better contrast, deeper blacks, and about twice or three times as much light as LCD, which makes it good for games with dark backgrounds. On the other hand, IPS LCD has better viewing angles and is less expensive.
3. Touch Response Time or Sampling Rate
Let’s say you have a high-end processor and a 144 Hz refresh rate display. Do you think you have everything you need in terms of gaming performance? Well, no. More Hz in your touch sampling rate allows for quicker touch responses. Of course, you wouldn’t want to lose to your opponent if you both touched the shoot button at the exact same time, which is why a higher sampling rate is a must for competitive gaming.
Standard phones feature a 240 Hz touch sampling rate, so getting a phone above that will give you a competitive advantage against most players. As of now, the phone with the highest sampling rate is the Realme GT Neo 5, with a touch response time of 1,500 Hz.
4. Cooling System
While high-performance processors are utilized the most when it comes to mobile gaming, they can get a bit hot under heavy load, shooting up to 122°F to 140°F. At high temperatures, you might notice that performance declines and gives you more choppy gameplay. This is the phone lowering its performance to avoid overheating as a defense mechanism. Gaming in hot weather also makes the phone heat up quicker than in colder areas. The solution to this is a good cooling system, which most gaming phones have these days.
The cooling system actually depends on the SoC being used. For example, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is known for high heat generation, so it must have a proper cooling system for 100% efficiency. On the other hand, the Dimensity 9000 has better cooling efficiency built-in, so a simpler cooling system would do.
Basic cooling systems are made with composite graphene or some metal pipes of uniform distribution of heat, while the more high-end ones feature a centrifugal cooling fan that offers various speeds. There are also other models with a VC liquid cooling plate as well as an aerodynamic, thermodynamic, aviation aluminum middle frame.
5. Game Booster
This is on the software side of things, and as the name suggests, it boosts the performance of games by clearing memory or notification settings. Every standard phone features a game booster, while gaming phones have game boosters that feature unique advanced features such as touch-screen calibration, contrast and brightness options, a voice changer, high-performance mode, RGB lighting effects controls, and vibration intensity.
The best game boosters are JoyUI by Blackshark, MagicOS by Nubia Red Magic, ROG UI by Asus ROG, MIUI by Xiaomi, Poco, and Redmi, and One UI by Samsung. If you'd rather steer clear of the Google service, HarmonyOS by Huawei boasts one of the most reliable OS optimizations and game boosters. On the other hand, game boosters by Vivo, OPPO, Techno, and Realme are just too basic for competitive play.
Gaming enthusiasts usually play for long hours, which is why it’s always best to consider battery power. Processors, displays, and high FPS games require a lot of battery juice, and you wouldn’t want to see that low-battery icon mid-game. While you do have the option to play as the phone charges, the charging cable will more often than not limit you to a certain angle, which can be a bit troublesome.
By today’s standards, the best-rated battery for gaming phones is 4500 mAh at the minimum. On top of that, a faster charging speed is a must if you want to get back into action as quickly as possible. That being said, we recommend getting a phone with at least 30 watts of charging. There are also some models that offer a 120-watt charging speed, which allows you to completely charge a phone in under 15 minutes.
7. Memory and Storage
These two specs simply cannot be ignored. Most people talk about how much RAM is best for gaming, whether it be 6GB, 8GB, 12GB, or even 16GB, but never talk about what RAM technology is being utilized. The same goes for storage, where the technology is, more often than not, never talked about. Do note that technology must always be the priority, followed by capacity. Both of which allow for quicker loading times.
For RAM, the best technology we have so far is LPDDR5, while it’s best to get UFS 3.0 and above when it comes to storage. In terms of capacity, 128GB of internal storage is enough if you’ll be using your phone purely for gaming. If you’re using your phone to store files, videos, photos, and multimedia, 256GB or 512GB options would be best. As for the RAM, consider getting 8GB or more for a gaming phone. For context, 8GB is already large since the heaviest games don’t even require that much memory.
8. Gaming features
The most dedicated gaming phones feature extra buttons that act as programmable hotkeys to help gamers do quick actions. Other models, such as BlackShark, even offer a Bluetooth gaming pad and a cooling pad add-on.
To be honest, this all boils down to your personal preference more than anything else. You will have to decide whether you’re comfortable with these extra keys and if they can improve your gameplay. On the flip side, cooling pads are a must if your phone doesn’t feature an integrated basic cooling system and uses a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. Setting that aside, almost all dedicated gaming phones feature an advanced cooling system, so you might not even need a pad after all. Not having these extra features won’t make you perform badly in competitive gaming since gaming is more skill-based than anything else.