Are Gaming Phones Worth Buying?
Gaming smartphones were fringe products till about two or three years back and have recently come into the limelight. A few years ago, smartphone research and development was going mostly into making the screens larger and better, increasing speeds for day-to-day work and increasing battery life. But since then a lot has changed, and phones have become even more powerful. Now, phones can support games that have high-end graphics and can run them without harming the CPU or the battery of the phones. However, there are certain drawbacks to buying and using gaming phones as well. In this article we will discuss the positives as well as the negatives of buying a gaming phone.
What Are Gaming Smartphones
Gaming smartphones are phones that are primarily built with a focus on gaming and are modified to suit gamers’ needs. They are usually higher-end phones with great batteries, more than decent RAM and memory and a number of other specifications like liquid cooling and overclocked CPUs. We will talk about these differences later in the article.
How Did The Trend Start
To understand how the trend started, we have to go a long way back to the time feature phones were a thing, maybe even before that. The history of Gaming as we know it can be traced back to the first interactive electronic game with an electronic display in 1947, the first true video games in the early 1950s, and the rise of early arcade video games in the 1970s. The first portable video game was introduced in the form of the Handy Game created by Epyx in 1987. This device later turned into the Atari Lynx in 1989. Portable gaming consoles these days include Sony’s PSP, Playstation Vita and Nintendo Switch. Portable video game consoles were all the rage when they first came to the market a few years back. Every college or school kid had one and buying or trading games were considered a common phenomenon.
However, when gaming consoles were selling like hotcakes, smartphone manufacturers were brewing up a storm. Video games however, weren’t new and had existed on phones for a long time. The first mobile phone game was introduced in 1994, with a pre-installed Tetris on a mobile phone called Hagenuk MT-2000. In 1997 however, things changed a lot for the mobile phone gaming industry when Nokia decided to redesign a game called Snake and put it in some of their phones. The game became widely popular and thus started a long and arduous journey towards the marriage of a telephonic device and a gaming device. The smartphones of today with their high-end games would not have been possible without these companies and their gamble into gaming.
How Is It Different From Other High-End Phones
We often get asked why one should consider buying a gaming phone and not buy a high or similarly specced top-end smartphone. There are both positives as well as negatives to buying a gaming phone. Let’s discuss the positives first.
Overclocking is the process of increasing a computer’s clock rate to make it run at a higher speed than it is supposed to. The term overclocking is usually used with regard to CPU and GPU but can be applied for other components as well. Most smartphones are under-clocked because, even though their CPU may support higher speeds, the phone might overheat and die. Most phones do not have a decent cooling system in place because our day-to-day functions on a smartphone do not generate so much heat. Overclocking generates a lot of heat as the CPU performs more tasks per second thus requiring better cooling. This brings us to our next point.
Most computers use two types of cooling to keep the system at an optimum temperature. These are heat sinks and liquid cooling. But phones cannot really use a heat sink as phones need to be thin and light and everything from a battery to a motherboard and cameras need to be cramped in there. So gaming phones use heat pipes and liquid cooling instead. But most other phones have no cooling systems and use the metallic or aluminium back to dissipate heat. How this works is when the CPU heats up, the back of the phone heats up.
The air outside is generally cooler than the phone, which absorbs the heat from the back of the phone. So, in short, gaming phones have a better and faster cooling system in place. These cooling systems are much more efficient in dissipating heat and will keep your phone cool while the phone performs at a much higher speed.
Gaming phones, since they are generally built for performance draw a lot of battery. Thus, these phones need a lot of juice to keep running. Generally speaking, gaming phones have better batteries compared to other top end smartphones. While many lower end phones may match the same battery capacity, the gaming phones do indeed work for longer as they have optimised performance in terms of the screen and CPU drawing from the battery.
Gaming phones have certain RAM optimisations through software that help the phone perform at it’s optimal best. This is done by better memory management. RAM optimisation enables a phone to clear up the RAM by killing unwanted Apps so that the gaming experience is unhindered.
Since these phones are made specifically for gaming, these are built from ground up. keeping the quirks of gaming in mind. For example, the Asus ROG Phone has a headphone jack both at the bottom of the phone as well as on the side of the phone. This allows a gamer to play games in the horizontal mode using two hands while charging the phone. There are several such modifications on gaming phones that make a gamer’s life much easier.
High Quality Displays
Many high end phones these days have really good screens. Many have AMOLED displays or retina displays. But the gaming phones have an extra feature that in terms of the refresh rate. A refresh rate is the rate an LCD or LED panel changes a frame. It is calculated in frames per second (fps) and a higher refresh rate is extremely helpful for gamers since the images change faster compared to other screens giving gamers the extra edge to kill and spot enemies faster than others. Many gaming phones have a refresh rate of 120 Hz while normal smartphones usually have a refresh rate of 60 Hz.
High Quality Speakers
Gaming requires really great quality speakers. A good speaker can give you an immersive experience in gaming. Gaming smartphones usually feature great speakers with HD sound, dolby digital sound or Dolby Atmos stereo speakers. Some of these phones have great amplifiers as well.
More Inbuilt Memory
Most high-end phones have a decent amount of RAM. For example, the latest iPhone XS has 4GB of RAM while the flagship Samsung Galaxy S9 has 4GB RAM. However, most gaming phones these days offer upto 10 GB of RAM. This makes day-to-day functions faster as well, apart from gaming of course!
Gaming phones come with accessories that can be used to make the gaming experience better. These include extra battery packs, phone coolers, additional headphone jacks and more. These accessories might be expensive but they are quite helpful and can elevate your gaming experience overall.
So what gives? If gaming phones are so good then why isn’t everyone buying it instead of a top end smartphone? Well, in making these high end hardware and software changes, the phone companies sacrifice other features. Let’s find out what the negatives are.
Most gaming phones are not meant for taking photos or selfies, so their cameras are usually not that great. Many of the budget gaming phones usually sacrifice image quality by reducing the camera specifications. For example the Xiaomi Black Shark has a 20 Megapixel front camera but has a 12 megapixel and 20 megapixel back camera but the ZTE Nubia Red Magic has a single 24 megapixel sensor at the back. Even though the cameras are not bad, but compared to top of the line smartphones in the same price range, the image quality falls flat.
These phones have a lot of modifications done in order to make it gaming friendly. These modifications take up space thus making these phones heavy and large. These are nowhere near the sleek smartphones that we see and use everyday and may feel like a brick at times. But it also sets you apart from the similarly designed phones that we see everyday. These phones have a dash of colour, look menacing and usually have glowing lights in the back. If you are a fan of sleek smartphones, gaming phones probably aren’t for you.
These phones are specced to the brim and because of that, are expensive. They can be priced anywhere between $ 400 to $ 800 and are quite expensive. It is also to be noted that phones with similar specifications from manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung can go way above that reaching prices as high as $ 1500.
Delayed Software Updates
Gaming smartphones are generally not known for speedy software updates and OS updates. Since these phones have their own UI to make the phone look more like a gaming device, these UI changes take time for the company to implement on a new OS. This can be a hassle for people who like to get timely security and software updates.
Best Gaming Smartphones To Consider
Now that we have discussed both the positives and the negatives, here is a list of the best gaming phones available in the market that you can consider to buy:
- The Razer Phone 2
- ASUS ROG
- Xiaomi Black Shark
- ZTE Nubia Red Magic