The modern gaming phone first began to take shape with Singaporean gaming manufacturer Razer’s acquisition of smartphone start-up Nextbit in 2017. Using the base chassis of the Nextbit Robin, a cloud-computing oriented, crowd funded smartphone, Razer built out a phone that would prioritise competency in gaming above all other factors. In order to achieve this, the phone launched in late 2017 with a top tier Snapdragon 835 processor, 8GB or Ram and 64GB expandable storage. It had a wide aspect 16:9 5.7” IPS display that was famous for its then unprecedentedly fast refresh rate of 120hz. This meant that gaming on the phone was seamless and much more fluid than on competitive flagship devices.
The Razer Phone also launched with a large 4000mAh battery as well as a host of peripherals, including a physical game-pad and a clip-on fan for improved cooling and performance. This combination of peripherals, high refresh rate screens as well as plenty of RAM and battery capacity set the template for all other gaming-centric phones. Razer launched the Razer Phone 2 in 2018, but has not returned with a third iteration as of yet. The sector itself is hotting up with many brands seeking to platform their own gaming phone including Xiaomi’s Black Shark, the ZTE Nubia Red Magic and Asus’ Rog Series of phones.
These new devices are paving the way for increasingly ambitious game ports from more traditional hardware like home games consoles and PCs. Genshin Impact, the open-world action RPG developed by miHoYO, has been lauded for its scale and graphical quality. Some might not believe it possible that it has been ported to the likes of Android devices, and in truth if you’re running sub-optimal hardware you’re going to have a hard time getting the most out playing the game this way. It is an example of a game that has been very clearly optimised to play on a device such as the latest Asus ROG Phone 5 Series, which will be able to deliver you the type of buttery 60fps gaming experience you wouldn’t have thought possible on such a tiny device.
Genshin Impact joins the likes of FPS Shadowgun Legends and the Dinosaur survival sim ARK: Survival Evolved in pushing the limits of mobile gaming. Simpler titles also stand to benefit on these devices, whether they take the form of classic casino experiences or an 8-bit farming adventure like Pocket Harvest. This is due to the fact phones in this product category ship with proprietary software that enables users to remap controller layouts and add hotkey shortcuts for more comfortable sustained gaming sessions. In addition to this, their high refresh rate screens, surround sound audio and incredible battery life make them the all round best choice for gaming on mobile no matter what you want to play.
Fast forward to today and the latest devices in this sector are once again redefining the limits of current smartphone hardware. Xiaomi’s Black Shark Pro 3 is pushing the limits of heat efficiency with its 4th generation liquid cooling system. It utilises a special “sandwich” structure to improve cooling surface area and efficiency, preventing the processing core from thermal throttling under stress. Asus, who have made a name for themselves in gaming-centric computer hardware under their ROG (Republic of Gamers) sub-brand, just launched the 5th version of their ROG Phone.
It ships with an overclocked Snapdragon 888, an absolutely massive 6000mAh battery and a 144hz refresh rate display. It’s also the very first smartphone to launch with the option for 16GB of RAM. Pre-orders are already available for ZTE’s latest gaming phone, the Nubia Red Magic Pro 6. It matches the ROG Series 5 for RAM capacity and processing speeds, but pushes the display refresh rate up to a world-first 162hz. One thing we can reliably predict about these phones is that they are here to stay and will continue to push the limits of pocket gaming.