Best smartphones for gamers and the ones that you should avoid (2014 edition)
But smartphones are not single-purpose devices, and as such not all of them are ideal for gamers. In this article, we leave no stone unturned, looking for the handset that best fits gamers.
How can we find such a device in the myriad of phones available out there? We asked ourselves a simple question: “what is the most important thing in an electronic device for a gamer?” The answer is actually not complex at all - a gamer needs to have the best games, and not only that, but the more games - the better. That’s why our first priority for the best gaming device is the ecosystem.
What is the most important thing for a gamer in a smartphone?Having all the latest games, however, is of no use if your phone cannot run them well. That’s why right after the game selection, our second most important criteria for this selection is performance. Performance is something complex: we don’t just take benchmark-cracking processors, RAM and GPU into account - things like a vivid display and sound quality are all considered here.
Now that you know the criteria for our search of the best smartphone for gaming, take a look at the 5 devices that we picked among all others and the two types of phones we think gamers should avoid at the moment.
Gamers' choice: best smartphones and the ones that you should avoid
1. Apple iPhone 5s: it’s all about the ecosystem
It’s not just the ecosystem, though - the iPhone 5s features a desktop-class 64-bit chip that delivers smooth performance with the top score in on-screen benchmarks. In addition to that, the iOS ecosystem can brag about having custom-made accessories, gaming stands, joysticks, joypads, and everything to satisfy gamers.
The only slight downside to all this richness? The humble, 4-inch iPhone display might look great, but it is a bit too small to fully please most gamers.
2. HTC One (M8): gaming sound-ified
The cherry on the top of it all, however, is the combination of a large and vivid, 5-inch display, and industry-leading loud and clear stereo speakers that make for a truly memorable and immersive gaming experience.
3. Samsung Galaxy Note 3: large display and plentiful storage for your full game collection
Samsung has crammed in a powerful Snapdragon 800 chip with 3GB of RAM (so you can multitask better) and Adreno 330 graphics, so games run buttery smooth. Moreover, even the basic Note 3 comes with 32GB of storage, allowing you to have your full collection of games on your device without worrying too much about free space.
4. Sony Xperia Z2: hook up a PlayStation controller and enjoy
Not only does the Xperia Z2 have the latest of system chips with the Snapdragon 801 and 3 gigs of RAM, but it also (finally) fixes the curse of sub-par displays on Sony flagships - the Z2 screen has great viewing angles and looks nice and vivid. Sony also packs stereo speakers for a crisp sound epxerience.
A nice bonus to that whole package is support for the PlayStation controller in games. Pairing it is not easy on the Xperia Z2 (pairing happens via a physical cable), but it is much simpler than on other smartphones, and gamers will definitely enjoy mobile gaming with the PlayStation gamepad.
5. Nexus 5: the budget option
The Nexus 5 also has a very-well calibrated display that makes gaming a pleasure, and even though the sound experience on it lags, it’s the best budget option for gamers out there.
6. The ones gamers should avoid: Smartphones with Windows Phone
Why do we condemn the whole platform for gaming? Simple, the app gap feels particularly sore when it comes to Windows Phone games. It’s a sad, sad situation, if we had to paraphrase the popular song - the latest games that everyone is talking about arrive months after their iOS/Android launch, and sometimes they don’t arrive at all.
7. The ones gamers should avoid: BlackBerry smartphones
3. Victor.H (Posts: 461; Member since: 27 May 2011)
It's a great device all-around that won't disappoint either, but we figured that gamers would be happier with the larger display and more storage on the Galaxy Note 3.
16. UglyFrank (Posts: 577; Member since: 23 Jan 2014)
A bit unfair on windows phone and BlackBerry
52. BlackhawkFlys (Posts: 47; Member since: 07 May 2014)
But, we can install and play android apps on any blackberry device running on BB 10.2.1 OS. My cuzn has a BlackBerry Z10 and he is enjoying dozens of Android games on his device.
20. Jinto (Posts: 410; Member since: 15 Jan 2014)
Lumia 1520 got rated the best gaming smartphone on Basemark X
Since its screen is big, the controls are easy and even BGR -an iSite- rated it the best (http://bgr.com/2014/03/10/best-gaming-smartphone-nokia-lumia-1520/)
22. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 3616; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)
But no games make it a waste of firepower (also not sure how directx would fare against ios and android).
30. sgodsell (Posts: 1433; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)
Its fair for WP, but blackberry can run Android apps, and especially now Amazon has signed up with BlackBerry to use Amazon's app store.
21. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 3616; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)
Victor, man you made me puke there by including iphone with 4inch screen and desktop class 64bit phone at 1st position. I mean iPads are arguably the best touch-based gaming device, but iphone just no...
33. palmguy (Posts: 316; Member since: 22 Mar 2011)
Tell me what does that 64-bit do for gaming Vic? And I thought the 1st pic had Shrek sausage fingers on the screen. But it was just an IPhone.
4. NokiaFTW (Posts: 2058; Member since: 24 Oct 2012)
The Note 3 performs much better than the S5 cuz of the extra gig of RAM. And I agree with Victor, if you're a heavy gamer, avoid WP, for now. But I don't think the iPhone 5S should be at number one, as its smaller screen may not appeal to hardcore gamers, even though its ecosystem of games is top notch. The One M8 is the best for gaming IMO with its front firing speakers and an excellent display.
44. joey_sfb (Posts: 3221; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)
Everyone here is a troll. The different are iOS and Android trolls happy to have a continuous supply of good mobile games.
While WP trolls get to do plenty of bitching but still no games. At least for now.
5. eN16HTMAR3 (Posts: 116; Member since: 08 Oct 2013)
So the Iphone 5s is the best. I know it has a 64 bit processor, but it has a four inch screen. Your fingers are constantly in the way when trying to hit buttons and play games. My personal preference would be the Note 3 for the bigger screen, storage and resolution and the the HTC M8 for screen size and sound. The iPhone should be third.
62. fzacek (Posts: 2194; Member since: 26 Jan 2014)
I don't think they were in any particular order, just the overall 5 best phones for gaming. I definitely agree with you on the Note 3 though...
87. mrblah (Posts: 549; Member since: 22 Jan 2013)
Don't forget the iphone controllers if you don't like the screen.
7. aayupanday (Posts: 527; Member since: 28 Jun 2012)
Is it me or are games optimized more for iOS than for Android?
iOS does provide a hell lot better experience for gaming IMO...
19. apple4never (Posts: 974; Member since: 08 May 2013)
"the 4 inch beast" sounds like a hardcore p0rno title doesn't it? :P
8. gynorm (Posts: 5; Member since: 31 Jul 2013)
So what about phones with keyboards? They are great for emulators. Thats also another thing not mentioned with the android ecosystem is that it's easier to use emulators than with iOS.
13. eN16HTMAR3 (Posts: 116; Member since: 08 Oct 2013)
Absolutly right. Emulators do work great on Android and I have to say the Xperia Play was the best for that. i have hundreds of emulators on there that run awesome.
9. Felix_Gatto (Posts: 554; Member since: 03 Jul 2013)
No Tegra Smartphone? Oh l forgot that only few smartphones that use the Tegra 4, and we're yet to see a Tegra K1 Smartphone.
10. Felix_Gatto (Posts: 554; Member since: 03 Jul 2013)
If you're a hardcore mobile gamer, buy a decent tablet(at least powered with SD600) instead of smartphone.
48. renz4 (Posts: 270; Member since: 10 Aug 2013)
if you really want good gaming tablet just buy tegra note 7. it is cheap but the gpu only second to adreno 330 in terms of raw power.
70. BattleBrat (Posts: 1168; Member since: 26 Oct 2011)
no, if you were a hardcore gamer you would buy a Shield....
11. ArtSim98 (Posts: 3295; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)
"Desktop class 64 bit chip"......
PA. Please... 64 bit doesn't mean it's in the same class with desktops...
15. slh163 (Posts: 121; Member since: 19 May 2014)
when i read this "Desktop class 64 bit chip" i can't hold my laugh.
yeah seriously PA
26. chocowii (Posts: 327; Member since: 30 Jan 2014)
I LOLed at this too. Who wrote this? Better do your homeworks dude.
29. steedsofwar (Posts: 288; Member since: 07 Oct 2013)
Yeah that sounded quite fanboyish of PA.
55. InspectorGadget80 (Posts: 6727; Member since: 26 Mar 2011)
Only iPA would say anything running on an iPoduct is better and powerful than anything else. Wake the FK up iPA stop kissing up to the bigfruit. Nothing beats the PC when it comes to gaming out of performance. Excuse my language guys.
63. fzacek (Posts: 2194; Member since: 26 Jan 2014)
Little hints like listing the iPhone as #1 and praising it excessively show that this site is iPhoneArena...
14. sks1969 (Posts: 86; Member since: 04 Mar 2012)
I am not an avid gamer, I play once in a while but I would challenge this article from a technical standpoint. Android is a Java based platform, java was never designed to be a near realtime platform, read susceptible to lag. IOS and windows phone are native and have better response to touch, swipes and other forms of input. The amount of time developers spend to tune their games for Android is more compared to IOS and Windows phone. Windows phone has better performance in the existing games.
Eg temple run 2 on a dual core 1.5 Ghz 925 performs better than a quad core 1.5 ghz Moto G or even a nexus 5. I suggest the author of this article play this game on both plafroms and report back.
when you are running towards the end of a road on temple run 2 the swipe does not get registered and I fall off the dead end many more times on Android, (even Nexus 5) than on my Lumia 925. I have not tried this on 512 mb windows phone device. I heard that it does perform better than other 512mb Android devices.
82. sks1969 (Posts: 86; Member since: 04 Mar 2012)
Try it yourself StraightEdgeNexus. I have both devices, I stopped playing temple run 2 on my Nexus for this reason.
27. chocowii (Posts: 327; Member since: 30 Jan 2014)
The thing about Android is true. Thats why they opted out Dalvik and changed for ART. But still Android's structure is not as good as Windows and iOS.
83. sks1969 (Posts: 86; Member since: 04 Mar 2012)
It is the same ART and Dalvik. I already tried this. I guess the game has to be rewritten on Android to remove the Java dependency
28. eldyagustius (Posts: 147; Member since: 30 Oct 2013)
Impossible! Maybe the lumia 925 has a low quality and nexus 5 has a high quality when playing this game. Totally non-sense!
31. steedsofwar (Posts: 288; Member since: 07 Oct 2013)
This is true for Temple Run. But I found the strengths of iOS over Android to always be this miniscule and easily negligible. Gaming on a tiny device? You can't really call it 'gaming'. Esp on a tiny screen.
34. palmguy (Posts: 316; Member since: 22 Mar 2011)
Ha ha ha you people are so petty and tiny.
58. livyatan (Posts: 753; Member since: 19 Jun 2013)
Do you remember your WP not being able to run Angry Birds on 512mb RAM?
84. sks1969 (Posts: 86; Member since: 04 Mar 2012)
That is the thing of the past man. Now the Devs have got the hang of developing on WP. I don't think it is an issue anymore
66. joey_sfb (Posts: 3221; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)
Does Windows Server need to have superior performance to Unix and Linux to be the dominate OS? Windows is widely known among my system administrator to be a Swiss Cheese OS compared to Unix and Linux.
So are their desktop with the endless cycle of windows patches.
You are a clueless windows fans but you do recognize the fact that windows generally don't get the titles as iOS and Android does and many games in the windows phone platform are under developed lacks the features of their iOS and Android counterpart.
5% market share means do it in their spare time for developers..
85. sks1969 (Posts: 86; Member since: 04 Mar 2012)
Totally agree with you Joey, The issue I have with this article is that it dismisses the fact the WP is a good gaming platform.
17. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 3616; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)
Lol i laugh at mobile "gamers" but an iPad is the best gaming device, thanks to its top notch GPU, unrivaled game title selection, optimised graphics(and metal seems promising) and that gorgeous screen with optimal 4:3 aspect. IPADS ROCK!!
23. chocowii (Posts: 327; Member since: 30 Jan 2014)
Smartphone gaming = no.
Tablet gaming = yes.
Console gaming = yes yes yes!
32. ArtSim98 (Posts: 3295; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)
Smartphone gaming = NO
Tablets in general = NOOOOOOOOOOO
PC gaming = yes
Console gaming = YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES
37. Jommick (Posts: 211; Member since: 10 Sep 2013)
As a gamer since before you were born, I have to respectfully disagree.
Better performance, better fps, easier to upgrade, you can use it for more things (business, school, and yes, entertainment), better rated games (by metascore), cheaper titles, free titles, easier to repair, not punished for repairing, etc.
also, games are more fun when you can do this:http://youtu.be/IyQoFPO8RyA
39. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 3616; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)
Well yeah yeah, but how much you have to spend for a decent gaming PC? $1000+ for sure. Also how much windows x86 titles are optimised for average hardware, while consoles fit me best, I get superior titles, and best of gaming world for another 7 or so years for a fraction of price. So consoles>>PC.
60. vincelongman (Posts: 1689; Member since: 10 Feb 2013)
A $600 will perform much better than the PS4 (or maybe even $500 since many PS4 games are only 900p 30 fps or 1080p 30 fps)
Also PS+ costs $50 per year, and console owners still buy laptops/desktops/Mac
Also PC games are much cheaper than console games, there's always sales and bundles
So PC gaming is not more expensive
Unless maybe if you build a $1000 PC for gaming at 1440p or 1080p 120 fps, or a $2000 PC for gaming at 4K or 1440p 120 fps
And PC mods as well
Also you can stream PC games to any Android phone or tablet