Mobile gaming has boomed in the last decade along with ever improving tech specs for handheld devices. RAM, processors and storage increases year-by-year, and the gaming industry has caught on with new innovations in augmented reality and virtual gaming. With a new plethora of gaming content, we run through the best gaming mobile phones on the market right now.

What to look out for

Before starting out on this list, it is worth considering what make a good mobile gaming device and what to look out for:

  • Powerful processors will allow games to run smoothly without jarring, skipping and jumping.
  • The GPU (graphics processing unit) is the specialised unit that generates images and is an important aspect of gaming, allowing for a lag-free and crystal clear display.
  • A good display size itself should offer clarity and allow for better detail in HD.
  • A decent battery life extends gameplay but is often sacrificed for performance.
  • Enough storage space should provide for both gaming and mobile purposes as well as keeping your gameplay running smoothly.
  • Decent speakers make for an immersive environment but they are not always important when headphones are used.

With all that said, buying a mobile distinctly for gaming poses some problems. Manufacturers make tradeoffs in the production process so that each of these areas—especially when cost is taken into consideration—do not always align. Mobile phones, after all, are designed for a broad market. However, with the above checklist in hand, the following mobile phones make ideal gaming devices right now.

Apple iPhone 7

Ever improving in performance, the iPhone 7 offers a groundbreaking retina HD display for clarity in gaming and an A10 Fusion chip for speed and very powerful processing. It comes with all the perks of the Apple store and with much touted “console-level gaming” through purchased accessories which can transform your iPhone into a control pad. The iPhone is, however, nagged by its battery life, which although improved (up to 2 hours longer than the iPhone 6), can still seriously drain. This is a smooth runner at a serious price, but it sets the benchmark at £699.

Google Pixel XL

Google’s offering is strong. With a combination of a Snapdragon 821 processor and Adreno 530 GPU, it holds some 4GB of RAM for smooth and lag-free gaming. If you enjoy the Android experience, the Pixel XL comes in marginally cheaper than the iPhone 7 at £599. The display is large and bright at 5.5-inches with a 1080p panel, and the battery life has been tested as near equal to the iPhone, but with a far more effective “doze” feature.

LG G6

LG’s G6 phone has a lot of decent features for the gamer. It is powered by the Snapdragon 821 processor and Adreno 530 GPU—just like the Pixel—and has an impressive 4GB RAM. The display is, however, an awkward feature; it utilises an unorthodox aspect ratio of 18:9. This means games need to be cropped and stretched when playing at full screen. However, a quick in-phone fix can scale down to 16:9. The display itself is sharp and bright, with a decent battery life and cost to match. The G6 now retails for as little as £393.81.

Samsung Galaxy S8

Another one of the big boys, the S8 has an all round performance and display improvement over its predecessor. Specifications include an Exynos 8895 octa-core SoC, Mali-G71 with MP20 GPU and 4GB of RAM. The use of the Exynos processing chip over Snapdragon offers a major boost in gaming performance to similar Android options. Notwithstanding the effective syncing opportunities for virtual reality gaming, the S8 (and its oversized plus model) feature impressive screen resolutions of 1440×2960 pixels, offering an immersive visual experience. With a host of in-phone gaming apps (Game Mode, Game Launcher, Game Tools) to improve your overall gaming experience, the S8 matches processing speed, GPU and display with native performance for gaming. The battery is not great with intensive gaming, so, as with the iPhone, keep a juice pack at hand. This is another pricey pick, with the 64GB running in at £689.

OnePlus 5

Last on this list, the OnePlus 5 offers a decent performance for gameplay at a low price. With a whopping 6-8GB of RAM and a Snapdragon 835 processor with Adreno 540 GPU, the OnePlus 5 is a decent all rounder. Some effective in-mobile features include a “do not disturb” gaming mode and a “dash charge” feature, allowing you to game at peace and full capacity. This is a solid choice for Android gaming that, although not quite as fast as its pricier peers, handles performance well with its impressive RAM. It clocks in at £449.