Top 5 best gaming phones (Winter 2018)

X doesn't mark the spot

Top 5 best gaming phones (Winter 2018)

Hello. We're Pocket Gamer. Portable gaming is kind of our thing.

Which means, by extension, that portable gaming machines are also our thing. Which in turn means that we take a certain measure of interest in the whole smartphone shebang.

When we recommend a smartphone, we place a lot less emphasis on things like design and camera quality. That stuff is important, of course, and we're under no illusions that all you'll be doing with your new £800 pocket super-computer is shooting a few aliens.

But the main thing we're after is a device that can play the best mobile games in the best possible way.

We'll be running through the latest budget options soon enough, but for now, here are the best gaming phones that money can buy - starting with the best.

iPhone 8 Plus

This might not be the phone you were expecting to see at the top of our recommendations. After all, the iPhone 8 Plus is not Apple's flagship phone.

We'll cover the iPhone X in a bit, suffice to say that while the expensive newcomer is a better all-round phone than the iPhone 8 Plus, Apple's conservatively-styled tubster is the better gaming phone.

The first thing to note is that the iPhone 8 Plus runs on exactly the same uber-powerful A11 Bionic processor as the iPhone X, so there's no performance shortfall.

Secondly, and most importantly, the iPhone 8 Plus has a perfectly rectangular, 16:9 aspect ratio, 5.5-inch display. It actually has more usable space than its expensive counterpart, and pretty much every game has been optimised for it - unlike the X.

Naturally, it also has access to the App Store, which at a stroke makes it a better gaming phone than anything Android can offer. Oh, and it's £200 cheaper than the X too.

iPhone X

What to say about Apple's £1,000 uberphone? It's a brilliant smartphone. Arguably the best on the market, with a stunning edge-to-edge OLED display, a great dual-camera, and a beautiful glass-and-metal design.

It's a glimpse into the immediate future of Apple's smartphone line, and thus the immediate future of smartphone gaming. It's also fully equipped for augmented reality gaming, with all the required sensors and chips for running ARKit games at their very best.

But in the here and now, it's not as reliable a gaming machine as the safer, more traditional iPhone 8 Plus. While its 5.8-inch display renders colours and images better than the 8 Plus, it's also an awkward shape. Many games appear to have various chunks missing from them as a result - or even a thick border surrounding them.

Still, in a year or two's time, when developers are making games for this kind of display as standard, such issues will be much less pronounced. In the meantime, your £1000 will get you one of the best all-round phones ever made, and one that can play games brilliantly - except for a few teething troubles.

Razer Phone

What about if you're wedded to the Android ecosystem, or just don't like the cut of Apple's jib? Both are perfectly fair positions to take - especially as you can have a great gaming experience on Google's platform.

Unfortunately Google's latest flagship phone, the Pixel 2 XL, has had a few teething problems of its own. A dodgy display means we can't in all conscience recommend it as a top gaming phone, even if it remains a fine all-rounder.

Instead, we've gone for a newcomer. Popular gaming peripheral brand Razer has released the Razer Phone with a laser-like focus on gaming performance. While the result isn't pretty - it's a bit of a lump - it is bluntly effective.

The Razer Phone has top base specs, including a Snapdragon 835 CPU with a huge 8GB of RAM. More interesting is its crisp 5.72-inch QHD IGZO LCD display, which features an unprecedented 120Hz refresh rate for super-smooth and responsive gameplay.

You'll also find some of the best audio available from any phone, courtesy of a pair of meaty stereo speakers. If gaming's your thing and you insist on Android, it's a great pick.

OnePlus 5T

We've praised OnePlus's phones a lot on these pages, because they tend to offer nigh-on cutting edge performance for a knock-down price.

The OnePlus 5T is the latest and greatest example of this - an all-metal phone with an edge-to-edge 6-inch AMOLED display, a speedy Snapdragon 835 CPU, and a surfeit of RAM.

All this - plus a capable camera and one of the sharpest takes on Android in the business - for just £450. That's great value, but money aside, the OnePlus 5T is simply a top gaming performer.

No, it's not a massive advance from the OnePlus 5 before it, but the company's habit of fast iteration is all part of its unique appeal.

Samsung Galaxy S8

Impressively, the nearly-year-old Samsung Galaxy S8 remains a contender here. Indeed, if it wasn't about to be replaced, it might be higher in the list.

It still has one of the best, if not the best display in the business - a 5.8-inch QHD Super AMOLED display that really pops. It also has an extremely rapid processor, whether you get the Snapdragon 835 model (US and China) or Samsung's own faster Exynos 8895 model (the rest of the world).

It also looks beautiful and has a great camera - though Samsung's tweaked UI remains a bit of a marmite provision.

What's more, because the Galaxy S8 is nearing replacement, it can currently be bought for about £200 less than it initially retailed for. That's still around £50 more than the brand new 5T, but the S8 remains technically as good if not better in every regard.

Find out more about what we think of the iPhone X in our review