Best gaming phones 2020 - buyer’s guide

GSMArena team, Last updated 17 August 2020.

Phones have gradually replaced so many standalone devices we used to rely on, so why not take over our handheld gaming. Razer made waves in late 2017 and Asus' ROG branch joined in in 2018, with offers following from a Xiaomi-backed Black Shark and ZTE's nubia. What's the best there is right now?

Here's what we consider to be the best gaming phones of 2020 so far.


Editors' choice

Asus ROG Phone 3 ZS661KS

Asus ROG Phone 3 ZS661KS

Specs
  • Backwards compatibility with many of the ROG Phone II accessories.
  • AirTigger 3 ultrasonic touch sensors are very precise and versatile.
  • Rich retail package, including 30W charger and AeroActive 3 cooler.
  • Superb AMOLED screen with HDR10+ (true 10-bit), 144Hz refresh rate.
  • Great battery life, even at full 144Hz. Rich battery health prolonging options.
  • Industry-leading speaker performance, complete with gaming-specific sound tweaks.
  • Fastest-available Snapdragon 865+ chipset, rich performance tweaks. Blazing-fast LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 storage.
  • Unrivaled accessory ecosystem.
  • Solid daylight photos, as well as low-light images.
  • Very good video quality, impressive EIS
  • No water or dust resistance
  • No microSD, no 3.5mm jack
  • Rather basic camera setup, compared to typical 2020 flagships. HDR needs some extra work
  • Expensive

The ROG Phone 3 took everything that made the ROG Phone II great and elevated it further. On the surface, it is still, very-much the same phone, even maintaining nearly identical dimensions. That’s an entirely deliberate choice, since Asus successfully managed to maintain compatibility with the already industry-leading accessory ecosystem of the ROG Phone II.

The iterative upgrade approach doesn’t stop there either. The chipset has been swapped for the newest Snapdragon 865+ beast, implemented alongside a cutting-edge, massive cooling solution, still incorporating an external fan add-on, as well as unprecedented low-level access to system performance tuning for both the CPU and GPU. The Asus Armoury Crate and Game Genie combo is the ultimate candy shop for mobile gamers, still leading the pack on what is possible in the Android realm.

The ROG Phone 3 also gets an even faster 144Hz AMOLED display and a more-potent camera setup, now incorporating a higher-resolution 64MP Quad Bayer main snapper and a new dedicated 5MP macro camera. Camera prowess has never been a huge priority for the ROG division, yet the ROG Phone 3 manages to deliver a surprisingly strong all-round experience, even including certain standout features, like stabilized 8K video capture.

As a matter of fact, just like its predecessors, the ROG Phone 3 holds certain appeal to the non-gaming enthusiast crowd, as well, thanks to its very little compromise specs sheet. Most every bit of its internals is optimized for speed, like the UFS 3.1 storage and USB 3.1 port, to name just a couple. All backed by a massive 6,000 mAh battery.

On the flip side, you do have to learn to live with a 240-gram behemoth on a daily basis to make use of all that potent hardware. And, despite the huge footprint, there are some sacrifices, compared to the ROG Phone II, like the lack of a 3.5mm audio jack, FM radio and Wi-Fi ad (60GHz). Most of these had to go in order to make room for the new Wi-Fi 6 hardware, including the external modem and antennas. All, without compromising on things like battery capacity and what are still one of the best stereo speakers in the entire industry. Only this time optimized, even further, for gaming, thanks to Dirac audio.

Just like its predecessor, the ROG Phone 3 still lacks some mainstream flagship quality-of-life extras, like wireless charging and an ingress protection rating. However, these are still things that fall beyond the practical scope of what is still, in our opinion, the yardstick leader in the mobile gaming realm. All of the refinements and upgrades, included over the ROG Phone II bring enough added value to the table to recommend the newer ROG Phone 3 instead. Plus, limited stock has already led to speculative pricing on its predecessor.

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Apple iPhone 11

Apple iPhone 11

Specs
  • Vast game ecosystem, early releases and exclusive iOS titles
  • Most powerful chipset available
  • Great battery life, wireless charging support
  • IP68 rated
  • Very capable camera
  • Low-res LCD, 60Hz only, notched too
  • Painfully slow charging with the bundled adapter
  • Expensive

The cheaper iPhone 11 is one very capable phone for gaming. In fact, the iPhones always have been, we'd argue. Certainly, the combination of super-powerful hardware with a huge selection of games (some exclusive to the platform, or coming sooner than elsewhere) makes the iPhone 11 a gaming smartphone. The long battery life doesn't hurt either.

Sure the iPhone lacks the bells and whistles of gaming-centric handsets and its display has a mere 60Hz refresh rate, and its design is rather bland and non-flashy. But it too is a very good phone outside of that one use case called gaming.

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OnePlus 7T

OnePlus 7T

Specs
  • 90Hz AMOLED display is excellent overall. Flat too, which we see as a bonus for handling while gaming
  • High-end internals, performance-oriented thermal policies
  • Great battery life, fast charging
  • Capable and versatile triple camera
  • No official IP rating
  • Screen doesn't actually run in 90Hz in most games

The OnePlus 7T has a spot in this category as an excellent all-rounder with a few peculiarities that make it a bit better suited to gaming than most.

Sure, it packs a Snapdragon 855+ too, but it also employs performance-oriented thermal policies, letting it throttle less and perform better under sustained load. Then there's the 90Hz display, which should, in theory, be a boon for gaming, though in this case, it does revert to 60Hz for the majority of titles.

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ZTE nubia Red Magic 5G

ZTE nubia Red Magic 5G

Specs
  • The first (but not last) 144Hz AMOLED display in the business, minimal touch latency, bright
  • Snapdragon 865m built-in fan ensures sustained top performance for long gaming sessions
  • Hardware trigger buttons
  • Lower price than the competition
  • Quite the looker, LED-illuminated RGB elements
  • Not many games can provide framerates to match screen refresh rate
  • Uninspiring camera performance
  • Confusing software and issues with translation
  • Outside of China, the 55W charger doesn't come bundled

Another member of the gaming droids roster, the Nubia Red Magic 5G is more than just a chipset and camera refresh over the Magic 3s. In addition to the new Snapdragon, this Nubia is also the first phone to offer a 144Hz OLED and that's a huge deal.

Just like it Red Magic 3s predecessor, the 5G is affordable, ships to pretty much everywhere and it looks plenty cool. And what the ROG Phones need an accessory for, the Nubia has built in - a cooling fan.

It may not be picture-perfect as the camera performance is underwhelming, but as far as gaming go - this the Red Magic 5G is one of the best in the class.

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Xiaomi Black Shark 3 Pro

Xiaomi Black Shark 3 Pro

Specs
  • Not that expensive
  • Massive 7.1" OLED display, 90Hz, HDR10
  • Promising battery life and very fast charging
  • Snapdragon 865
  • Shoulder trigger, RGB lights
  • Stereo speakers, audio jack
  • No IP rating
  • No wireless charging

The Black Shark 3 Pro is one of the most obvious choices. It also offers massive upgrades over the Black Shark 2 Pro, including a larger and HRR screen, a faster chipset, a larger battery with faster charging, among others.

The Black Shark 3 Pro now comes with a tablet-sized 7.1" OLED display, now capable of 90Hz refresh rate and HDR10 playback. It also packs a large 5,000mAh battery that can be fast charged with the regular 65W or the magnetic 18W chargers. It also brags with stereo speakers and also offers an audio jack!

The Black Shark 3 Pro isn't widely available per se, but after some googling you can find it through some retailers. And it's worth it, as it is not that expensive, not ROG money anyway.

SPECS
Motorola Edge

Motorola Edge

Specs
  • Splash-proof curvy design
  • Large HDR10 OLED with 90Hz refresh rate
  • Clean Android, gaming-oriented features such as virtual trigger buttons on the edge
  • The fastest midrange chip
  • Stereo speakers, dependable battery, good camera skills, 3.5mm jack
  • Not the fastest charging
  • Uninspiring low-light camera performance

The Motorola Edge is one of our newest additions - a midrange gaming phone. It offers nice perks such as curved 90Hz OLED that allows adding virtual trigger buttons on the sides, offers stereo speakers and audio jack, and has the hardware to provide adequate gaming performance.

The Edge is a good all-rounder, too, with various cameras even if neither of these stands out for its photo quality. But the Edge still impresses with its large battery and the excellent battery autonomy. Finally, the clean Android OS and the plenty gaming-centric Moto improvements do help a lot.

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Value proposition

Realme 6 Pro

Realme 6 Pro

Specs
  • Large 6.6" 90Hz LCD screen
  • Gaming-friendly Snapdragon 720G chip with 6GB or 8Gb RAM
  • Excellent battery life, fast cahrging
  • Plenty snappers with good overall quality
  • Not the brightest display
  • Spotty availability

The Realme 6 Pro is slowly becoming available in even more regions and it makes for a good gaming phone on the budget. It has an HRR screen, large at that, and the Snapdragon 720G offers enough punch for smooth gaming. The 6 Pro also has the battery backup to last you many gaming sessions in one charge.

Then the Realme 6 Pro offers a total of six cameras, which turned out to be unexpectedly great for its class. Sure, the screen isn't among the brightest, but at that bang for the buck, we won't be picky.

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Niche choice

Huawei P40 lite

Huawei P40 lite

Specs
  • Large screen, small cutout
  • Excellent performance, great for gaming
  • Very good photos out day and night
  • No Google Mobile Services
  • Memory expansion via NM cards

The Huawei P40 Lite is one very balanced smartphone that excels in performance, battery life and camera quality. Its screen is ideal for gaming and streaming videos, too. There is only caveat - no Google services like most recent Huawei phones.

The P40 Lite is one of the best phones for gaming within the midrange price bracket - the Kirin 810 chip coupled with the EMUI 10 gaming optimizations performs admirably. Unfortunately, or not, you need to rely on sourcing your apps from places other than the Google Play Store.

One really nice thing about the Huawei P40 Lite is its fast 40W charging. A full charge of its 4,200mAh battery takes 1 hour, but you get 70% in just 30 mins.

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Local favorite

vivo iQOO 3 5G

vivo iQOO 3 5G

Specs
  • Shoulder buttons are a boon for gaming
  • Super bright AMOLED display
  • Top-class battery life, fast charging
  • Stable performance under sustained load, UFS 3.1 storage
  • No HRR capability of the display
  • Single speaker, not very good at that

While not best suited for gaming, the iQOO 3 (in 5G or 4G trim alike) is a competent package for general use. Sure, its screen is missing high-refresh rate support, and its camera isn't as universally capable as some of the more expensive models. But 60Hz-only display is bright as daylight and the trio of cams covering the UW-1x-2x range will work more than fine in good light.

And that's before we get to the top-tier Snapdragon 865 chip that handles continuous load with grace and the UFS 3.1 storage that's faster than what the Galaxies and the OnePluses of the day have. With no 90Hz or 120Hz display modes to take a toll on the battery, the iQOO is truly an endurance champ too, complete with speedy 55W charging for when the battery does run out. Finally, the shoulder triggers are what made us list the iQOO 3 here and they sure come in handy.

A small caveat here is that the phone is only available in China and India, so tough luck for all you iQOO fans elsewhere.

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Best phones by category

Reader comments

How about Lenovo Legion Pro ?

  • Adscftstring

I'd still trust iphone 11 pro with my money for gaming followed by Sansung S20 Ultra. Would definitely not use anything Chinese for both quality and security reasons.

  • Anonymous

What about note 20