In an era where technology is constantly evolving, smartphones have transcended their primary functions of calling, messaging, and web browsing. Today, they are powerful handheld consoles capable of running highly graphic-intensive games like Genshin Impact, Call of Duty Mobile, and PUBG with remarkable ease. As the boundaries between console and mobile gaming blur, an increasing number of avid gamers are turning to their smartphones for their daily dose of gaming. Moreover, with the surge in popularity of online gambling, there’s a growing demand for devices that can handle high-quality, graphics-rich casino games without breaking a sweat. This article, “Game On-The-Go: A Guide to the Best Gaming Smartphones in 2023,” will delve into an all-encompassing guide to the top-tier gaming smartphones of the year. These devices not only cater to the needs of hardcore gamers but also meet the demands of online gamblers seeking to indulge in high-quality gaming experiences on the move. So buckle up as we take you through a journey of cutting-edge technology and immersive gaming, right at your fingertips.
Interested in the leading gaming smartphones? Here’s a snapshot of our top picks
Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate takes the throne as the best overall gaming smartphone. Its exceptional performance, wide array of accessories, and active cooling features make it a standout choice. Even though its design may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and its camera setup is average for its price point, it excels in delivering a smooth gaming experience, making it an ideal pick for gamers who demand the best.
For those who prefer Apple’s ecosystem, the iPhone 14 Pro Max is the top iOS gaming smartphone. It boasts unmatched power, a breathtaking display, and an extensive selection of games on the App Store that can rival console gaming. Despite its eye-watering price, it’s an outstanding all-around device, especially for Apple Arcade subscribers.
When it comes to compact yet powerful smartphones, the Asus Zenfone 10 is our choice. Amid the limited options, this device from Asus stands out with its Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 CPU, which can manage even the most resource-intensive mobile games, all while keeping the screen size under 6 inches. While its camera might not be the best in the market, it shines in almost every other area.
For budget-conscious gamers, we recommend the Nothing Phone 2 as an affordable gaming smartphone. Leveraging a previous-gen chipset, it delivers strong performance at a more affordable price. While it may lack dedicated buttons, official accessories, or additional USB ports, it can handle any game on the Google Play Store and performs well across other functions.
Here’s our selection of top-tier gaming smartphones
1. Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate
The latest gaming smartphone from Asus, the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate, is described in our review as ‘exceptionally powerful’ and ‘designed with gamers in mind’. It achieves this through a blend of top-notch specifications, an irresistible display, and a host of well-considered accessories that enhance its use beyond that of a regular smartphone.
Internally, it’s equipped with a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 2 processor, a massive 16GB of RAM—equivalent to that in a PlayStation 5—and 512GB of storage. This means you can download numerous games from the Google Play Store without fretting over storage constraints. Its 6.78-inch display boasts an AMOLED panel for vibrant colors and superior contrast, pushing the refresh rate to an impressive 165Hz.
Additionally, the package includes an active cooling stand that connects to the additional USB-C port on the phone’s side. This serves a dual purpose: providing a support stand for the phone and, thanks to its gently humming fan, helping to dissipate heat generated by the phone to prevent performance slowdowns.
2. iPhone 14 Pro Max
The iPhone 14 Pro Max, the most recent in the line of iPhones, holds the title of the best iPhone until the next generation comes along later this year. Though it carries a hefty price tag, if you’re an avid iPhone gamer, the Pro Max is the ultimate choice.
What sets it apart isn’t just its larger and brighter display with the new ‘dynamic island’ feature replacing the traditional notch. It’s also the A16 Bionic processor, a step up from the standard iPhone 14, coupled with a significant boost in GPU memory bandwidth over the A15. This additional power propels the phone ahead of competitors, providing improved frame rates, reducing game load times, and enabling advanced antialiasing modes for smoother gameplay visuals.
This phone packs more power than the average user might require. But for gamers who push their devices to their performance limits by playing demanding titles like Total War: Medieval 2 on the go, the iPhone 14 Pro Max handles it effortlessly.
3. Nothing Phone 2
The Nothing Phone 2 enhances the distinct features of Nothing’s debut smartphone, offering an expanded glyph lighting system and a refined Android interface that could be considered the best custom UI since the HTC Sense era. Its 6.7-inch display and Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor make it a preferred choice for gamers.
While the processor may not be the latest, its balanced display resolution ensures optimal performance with demanding games without overworking the device. It also effectively utilizes the 120Hz refresh rate. The display is impressive with high brightness, HDR support, and slim bezels on all sides.
The 128GB model is available at 800 USD. However, given the absence of microSD card expansion, we’d suggest opting for the 256GB model. Priced at 850 USD, it’s significantly more affordable than competitors like the Google Pixel 7 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S23, or OnePlus 11.
4. Google Pixel 7 Pro
The Google Pixel 7 Pro builds upon the solid foundation of the Pixel 6, enhancing it with a faster processor to make it an impressive choice for gaming enthusiasts. This top-tier model features a 6.7-inch AMOLED display, boasting a 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+ capabilities, and a protective Gorilla Glass layer. It’s also one of the pioneering phones to operate on Android 13.
The innovative G2 Tensor chip, an eight-core processor, offers increased clock speeds, improved cores, and a new GPU compared to its predecessor. It excels in tasks like voice recognition and algorithm crunching. Coupled with a generous amount of RAM, this makes it a formidable competitor for gaming performance among other flagship phones. With a 5000mAh battery, you can expect to game all day without worrying about power.
5. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra continues the legacy of the brand’s highly competent gaming smartphones, taking over from the previous Note series. It features a 6.8-inch AMOLED display that delivers exceptional brightness and an impressive resolution of 3088×1440 pixels, which equates to a density of approximately 500ppi, surpassing many competitors in the market.
Under the hood, it houses the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, clocked higher than any competitor, and offers up to 12GB of RAM. The entry-level model comes with 256GB storage and 8GB RAM.
The included S-Pen stylus, typically used for drawing applications or writing tasks, also finds utility in gaming with some games specifically designed for pen input. If performance is your priority and you’re not deterred by a premium price tag, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is an outstanding choice.
6. Asus Zenfone 10
The Asus Zenfone 10 is an exceptional choice if you’re seeking a top-of-the-line Android smartphone without the bulk. This compact device manages to pack a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor within its modest 5.9-inch screen. Asus has not compromised on other features, providing a headphone jack, up to 500GB of internal storage, and a 144Hz AMOLED display that’s visually pleasing.
While it undercuts many flagship contenders such as the Galaxy S23 and Google Pixel 7 Pro in terms of price, it remains slightly more expensive than the OnePlus 11. However, its smaller screen size makes it more pocket-friendly and easier to handle.
Available in a variety of colors, from understated to bold, the Asus Zenfone 10’s 4300mAh battery typically lasts all day, unless you’re heavily gaming.