Best gaming phones 2023 - buyer’s guide
Last updated: November 7, 2023 (Changelog)
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. Those have gaming-centric features and often sport a certain gaming aesthetic that may not be to everyone's taste, but there are also some mainstream phones that can do better for gaming than others. What's the best there is right now?
Here's what we consider to be the best gaming phones of 2022.
Asus ROG Phone 7
- Toned-down, but still ROG-inspired gamer's design with great build quality.
- IP54 certified body.
- AirTigger 7 ultrasonic touch sensors remain industry-leading, are very precise and versatile. Motion controls are extended and improved from last gen
- Significantly improved internal cooling design with a new "rapid-cycle" vapor chamber.
- AeroActive Cooler 7 now cools the front of the device and also has a built-in subwoofer.
- Industry-leading stereo speaker performance, complete with gaming-specific sound tweaks.
- One of the best around 10-bit, HDR10+, AMOLED screen, 165Hz refresh rate now with improved 1,500 nits peak brightness and real-time SDR to HDR conversion.
- Amazing battery life, even at full 165Hz. Rich battery health prolonging options. Very fast charging (65W charger bundled).
- Flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset with unparalleled performance tuning.
- Great Android implementation, an unparalleled number of game tweaks, control-mapping and performance options.
- Solid all-round camera performance.
- Available accessory ecosystem is significantly smaller than on older models.
- The accessory connector is back to having POGO pins, which may be prone to breaking.
- AeroActive Cooler 7 not included in the standard retail package.
- Thermal management is not as good as on the older ROG Phone 5/5s. AeroActive Cooler 7 is now required to make the most of the available hardware.
- Rather basic camera setup, compared to typical 2023 flagships. 8K video recording is capped at 24fps. The Selfie video is now capped at 1080p.
Nobody does smartphone gaming quite like Asus. Four iterations into the ROG Phone line, that remains a fact.
The ROG Phone 7 is still arguably the "top dog" in the mobile gaming niche. It is definitely an iterative rather than a major upgrade over last year's model, but that's perfectly fine. Asus has a tight grip on the first spot on that particular podium through the sheer scope and depth of its mobile gaming efforts rather than any particular gimmick and the ROG Phone 7 is just more of the same.
Some of the highlights of the ROG Phone 7 include one of the best 10-bit, HDR10+, 165Hz Super AMOLED displays around now brighter than ever, some of the best-sounding, huge symmetrical stereo speakers with dedicated drivers, incredible haptics, two of the most complex AirTrigger capacitive touch controls for gaming, two battery packs totaling 6,000 mAh with fast and standard PD charging, amazing wired connectivity through its additional USB Type-C Side port including video out and external hard drive support and this year the whole package, has IP54 protection.
Of course, you also get the latest and greatest Qualcomm has to offer in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset and up to 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. But the thing that really makes the ROG Phone line unique is the unparalleled access to low-level OS performance settings and limiters ASUS provides to gamers. This level of commitment and customizability is still unmatched by any rival in the smartphone gaming space.
It's not all sunshine and roses, though, and just like every other phone, the ROG Phone 7 has its weaknesses too. The once-mighty ASUS accessory ecosystem has shriveled and shrunk to a shadow of its former glorious state. The famous side connector is back to having POGO pins once again, which is a step back in durability. On the plus side, this year marks another big leap for the AeroActive cooler accessory, which now includes a subwoofer. Unfortunately, it is not included in the box and is yet another expensive purchase on top of the pricy phone. One that enthusiasts might want since it is the only way to truly make the most out of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, which the ROG Phone 7 struggles to properly cool at times on its own. Thermals have been a bit better on older ROG devices.
We should probably mention the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate as well. It is essentially the same phone as the ROG Phone 7 with the addition of a ROG Vision full-color display on the back and the AeroActive Portal – a mechanized air vent that gives direct access for air from the AeroActive Cooler to blow inside the phone for cooling. Speaking of the cooling accessory, the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate has it included in the box, unlike the vanilla ROG Phone 7 and the Ultimate edition only comes in white and only in the top 16GB/512GB configuration. This is all reflected in the price, however, with the vanilla ROG Phone 7 starting at €999 and the Ultimate retailing at €1399.Read full review
ZTE nubia Red Magic 8S Pro
- The new "square" design is refreshing and appreciated, and the phone is very well made.
- Large and fast 120Hz OLED panel, the UD selfie camera is inconspicuous.
- Great battery life, fast charging.
- Plenty of gaming-oriented features, including pressure-sensitive shoulder triggers.
- Flexible and well-executed external display and peripherals gaming experience.
- One of the best internal cooling solutions around; the fan helps a lot.
- Nice sounding stereo speakers.
- Notably improved image quality on the main camera compared to past models.
- The internal fan can be quite noisy.
- While nice, the display lacks HDR video support, and its refresh rate is not as high nor as dynamic as some of the competition.
- Ultrawide camera quality is not very good, while the selfie camera quality is downright bad.
- No ingress protection.
- The software is still plagued by awkward English translations from Chinese.
The Red Magic 8S Pro is is the expected successor to the Red Magic 8 Pro in this category. It’s essentially the same phone as the Red Magic 8 Pro but with a different paint job and a more powerful processor. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 (SM8550-AC) replaces the SM8550-AB variant with higher clocks on the main Cortex-X3 core and higher Adreno 740 GPU clocks. The SM8550-AC variant used to be exclusive for Samsung Galaxy S23 phones earlier this year but the chip made its way to other manufacturers as well.
Despite the modest changes in to the Red Magic 8S Pro, the handset is still one of the most feature-rich and well-performing gaming phones for the price. And nubia’s experience in the field shows.
You can expect excellent display quality, high-performance for long periods of time thanks to the exceptional cooling solution and active fan, long battery life and great-sounding stereo speakers. The numerous gaming-related software features and the touch-sensitive shoulder triggers just add to the already great value per dollar ratio.Read full review
Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro
- Bright, 144Hz OLED display with HDR10+ support and now 10-bit color.
- Plenty of useful gaming features, physical shoulder triggers with additional functionalities.
- Great-sounding stereo speakers.
- Solid sustained and peak performance, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.
- Awesome haptic feedback around.
- Super-fast 120W charging.
- No ingress protection.
- Battery life is hardly great.
- Does not use the latest Qualcomm chipset.
- Phone gets extremely hot to the touch in an effort to keep the internals cool.
- Convoluted high refresh rate handling both for games and UI.
The Black Shark 5 Pro comes with the powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset and many gaming-oriented features. It is an excellent choice as it's probably one of the cheapest among the gaming bunch. Its highlights include a 144Hz OLED, a flagship chipset with commendable sustained performance, and all-round connectivity options. p>
The Black Shark 5 Pro features with a 6.67" OLED display, capable of 144Hz refresh rate and HDR10+ playback. It also packs a large 4,650mAh battery that can be fast charged at 120W for 15 minutes. It also flexes stereo speakers of excellent quality.
The best part is that the Black Shark 5 Pro is not that expensive, not ROG money anyway. And if that's still a bit too expensive for you, you may want to consider the even cheaper Snapdragon 870-powered Black Shark 5 or the Snapdragon 888-featuring Black Shark 5 RS.Read full review
Motorola Edge 40 Pro
- 256GB 12GB RAM $ 779.99
- Premium glass/metal build with attractive curves all around, IP68 rating.
- Super smooth 165Hz display, good adaptive refresh rate handling.
- Excellent battery life, super-fast charging.
- Loud stereo speakers.
- Clean Android interface updates up to Android 16, additional Moto custom bits, 'Ready For' PC-like capability.
- Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is as snappy as they come.
- Competent camera setup with standout low-light performance; particularly nice selfies too.
- Back panel is about as slippery as possible.
- At 2x zoom, the tele camera has a reach that's too short.
- Daylight photo quality from the ultrawide and the telephoto is unimpressive.
- Portrait mode results are disappointing.
The Motorola Edge 40 Pro doesn't market itself as a gaming phone. On the contrary, with its slick and toned-down exterior, it couldn't look further from it. However, it has a lot of the same makings and the potential to be a true gaming beast. Starting with the chipset, the Edge 40 Pro is rocking Qualcomm's best Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip. Then there's also the display. The Edge 40 Pro has a 165Hz OLED display, which is unheard of outside the gaming realm. The phone also does great with auto refresh rate handling, which is great for gaming.
The Edge 40 Pro also has excellent battery life and fast charging. Its only real shortcoming is the daylight camera performance, which falls a bit short. We guess that won't bother the gamer crowd too much, though.Read full review
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
- Vast game ecosystem, early releases and exclusive iOS titles, console-level gaming
- The most powerful chipset available
- Great 120Hz OLED screen, Dolby Vision and HDR10
- Very capable triple-camera
- Excellent battery life
- Upgraded connectivity across the board, UWB2,USB-C 3.2 too.
- The Dynamic Island won't be everyone's cup of tea
- No charger in the box
- A lot more expensive than corresponding Android alternatives
- The GPU throttles down to 50% of its max performance under load
Who would have thought that iPhones will become a regular recommendation in our gaming section of the buyer’s guide. And with the release of the new iPhone 15 series, it’s time to replace the older iPhone 14 Pro Max with the latest 15 Pro Max. But we are not doing it just for the higher performance, which the brand new Apple 17 Pro chipset provides.
Apple’s recent push in the gaming segment is showing some results as the company promises console-level gaming with its new iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. We chose the Pro Max for this section, of course, due to its bigger display and longer battery life.
The new A17 Pro chip ensures exceptional gaming performance, which you can bring on a bigger external display using the USB-C 3.2 port and Apple promises to bring big AAA gaming titles to iOS - Resident Evil Village, Resident Evil 4 Remake, and Assassin's Creed Mirage. This is actually a big step for the whole smartphone gaming segment.
In addition to the excellent performance, the 15 Pro Max offers great visual experience, full utilization of the 120Hz refresh rate, outstanding stereo speakers and long software support, ensuring support for future gaming titles.Read full review
Xiaomi 13T Pro
- Top-notch design, IP68-rated, especially nice Alpine Blue.
- Superb OLED, 12-bit color depth, color accurate, 144Hz, Dolby Vision.
- Very good battery life, incredibly fast charging.
- Good Dolby Atmos speakers.
- Flagship-grade performance and stability.
- Top-class battery life, fast to charge
- IR blaster, 4 promised major Android updates, 5 year of security patches.
- The selfie camera is disappointing.
- A 3x optical zoom camera would have been better than 2x.
Although not specifically marketed as a gaming phone, the Xiaomi 13T Pro has a good proposition value in this aspect, no matter if it was intentional or not. In addition to the powerful Dimensity 9200+ chipset, which outperforms even handsets with Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 in some benchmarks, the phone also sports a big, bright and fast 144Hz OLED panel, nice-sounding stereo speakers, dependable battery life, blazing-fast charging and a capable camera hardware.
But what’s power without control? Well, the 13T Pro surprised us with excellent sustained performance, even after long and extensive stress tests. These resulsts suggest that the device can handle long gaming sessions without resorting to heavy throttling and loss in performance. And besides, the Xiaomi 13T Pro is relatively cheap compared to most gaming-oriented or powerful flagship phones.Read full review
Xiaomi Poco F4 GT
- Physical magnetic pop-up triggers, fitting design
- Excellent AMOLED screen, 1B colors, 120Hz, HDR10+
- Dual Glass, aluminum frame, IP53-rated design
- The flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 5G chip
- Stereo speakers
- Top-class battery life, fast to charge
- Dependable triple camera
- Uninspiring battery life
- Not waterproofed
The Poco F4 GT is one of the most affordable flagships available today and it’s an excellent choice for a gaming device, too. It has the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset and an incredibly good AMOLED screen with 1B colors and 120Hz refresh rate. There are four stereo speakers, fast charging, and a reliable triple-camera system, too.
The all-round package also includes unbelievably fast 120W charging, the familiar MIUI 13 on top of Android 12, and an attractive design.
But what makes this Poco a great gaming device is the combination of top-notch hardware and the availability of physical magnetic pop-up gaming triggers. These keys are configurable and will surely make a difference over the regular touch-based controls.
The best part of the Poco F4 GT is its pricing, of course. The phone costs €550, which makes it the cheapest flagship you can buy in 2022.Read full review
Most recent updates
November 7, 2023: Replaced the nubia Red Magic 8 Pro with Red Magic 8S Pro. Replaced the iPhone 14 Pro Max with iPhone 15 Pro Max. Added the Xiaomi 13T Pro. Removed the iQOO 9, Xiaomi Poco F4, Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G.
April 20, 2023: Replaced ROG Phone 6/6 Pro with ROG Phone 7. Replaced ZTE nubia Red Magic 7S Pro with ZTE nubia Red Magic 8 Pro. Added Motorola Edge 40 Pro.
March 13, 2023: Revisited and reconfirmed the phone shortlist.
November 11, 2022: Replaced the iPhone 13 Pro Max with the iPhone 14 Pro Max. Added a mention of the ROG Phone 6D.
July 27, 2022: Replaced the Nubia Red Magic 7 with Red magic 7s Pro.
July 25, 2022: Added the Poco F4 GT.
July 12, 2022: Replaced ROG Phone 5 with ROG Phone 6 as new top. Replaced the iPhone 12 with the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Replaced the Nubia Red Magic 6s Pro with Red Magic 7. Replaced the iQOO 7 Legend with the iQOO 9. Replaced the Black Shark 4S with Black Shark 5 Pro. Added the Galaxy A52s and the Poco F4 as budget offers. Removed the Xiaomi 11 Lite 5G NE and Moto Edge 20.
December 30, 2021: Added the iQOO 7 Legend as India Special. Removed the nubia Red Magic 6R (discontinued).
October 20, 2021: Added the Motorola Edge 20. Replaced the iPhone 11 with the iPhone 12. Replaced the Mi 11 Lite 5G with the 11 Lite 5G NE. Replaced the Red Magic 6 with Red Magic 6s. Replaced the Black Shark 4 Pro with Black Shark 4S Pro.
June 30, 2021: Added the nubia Red Magic 6R.
May 18, 2021: Replaced the ROG Phone 3 with ROG Phone 5. Replaced the Red Magic 5G with Red Magic 6. Replaced the Black Shark 3 Pro with the Black Shark 4 Pro. Replaced the Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite 5G with Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G. Replaced the Lenovo Legion Duel with Lenovo Legion Duel 2. Removed Moto Edge, Huawei P40 Lite and iQOO 3.
Best phones by category
- 06 Jan 2024
Can I know why the S23 ultra is not here,does it really throttle that much or am I really missing something?
- 09 Nov 2023
Well, of course F4 GT has to still be on the list. There's no such gaming phone with physical gaming triggers that are newer than that, are there?
- nico5 sam
- 05 Aug 2023
Last comment here about 2 months old - and there enter INFINIX GT 10 Pro - which I think beats down the included Samsung A52s and XIAOMI Poco 4 combined in this 2023 Buyers guide, even though tagged as 'value proposition'.