10 Best Budget Gaming Phones

Traditionally if you were looking at a budget smartphone for gaming, it would be nearly impossible to find a good match. Then came brands like OnePlus and others, which shook the market with their signature flagship killers, packing high-end specs in an affordable phone.

Today many more companies like Xiaomi and Realme are striving to provide phones with the best performance at the lowest possible price, forcing premium brands like Apple and Samsung to build good gaming capable phones at lower price points as well. So, if you’re wondering what the best smartphones for gaming on a budget are, we have compiled a comprehensive list of the 10 best budget gaming phones.

Xiaomi Mi 9T

OS: Android 10 (MiUI 11) | Screen size: 6.39- inch | Resolution: 2340 x 1080 | Refresh rate: 60Hz | CPU: Snapdragon 730 | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 64/128GB | Battery: 4,000mAh | Rear camera: 48MP+8MP+13MP | Front camera: 20MP | Weight: 191g | Dimensions: 156.7 x 74.3 x 8.8 mm

The Xiaomi Mi 9T is an excellent, well-rounded smartphone that also happens to be one of the best options for gaming at a budget. With the Snapdragon 730 inside, games like PUBG Mobile and Fortnite will run smoothly at high settings, being on par with the Snapdragon 855 from last year making it an excellent choice for gaming at this price point.

The brilliant AMOLED panel will provide a vivid viewing experience, although,  a refresh rate of 60Hz won’t give you the smoothness of the 90 or 120Hz screens present on the latest flagships. The motorized selfie camera enables an all-screen smartphone with no cutout or notch hindering your view.

The 4,000 mAh battery is a respectable capacity for heavy use like gaming and will comfortably take you through your day with regular use. If you need a quick charge, the included 18W charger will top up your battery quite fast.

The 64 GB on the base model is on the lower end of the spectrum for a smartphone in 2020. Consider upgrading to 128 GB for an extra $50, as the phone does not come with an expandable SD card slot as modern games tend to take up a lot of storage space. Both models come with 6GB of RAM, sufficient for multitasking and other activities.

The inclusion of a headphone jack is a feature absent in many smartphones today. You can connect your favorite audio accessories without needing Bluetooth or a dongle providing a cheaper and better listening experience.  

MIUI 11 that comes installed in the smartphone does contain a variety of unnecessary apps, but now Xiaomi lets you remove them, freeing up storage and RAM. The experience will not be on par with OnePlus or Samsung, but will not hinder your gaming experience.

Coming in at $275 for the 64 GB and $320 for the 128GB model, the Mi 9T is an excellent all-round gaming option with an all-screen build, fast processor, and excellent build quality. We recommend this smartphone if you are comfortable with the Xiaomi environment and need a gaming smartphone that brings more than just performance to the table.

OnePlus 6T

OS: Android 10 (Oxygen OS 10) | Screen size: 6.41-inch | Resolution: 2340×1080 | Refresh rate: 60Hz | CPU: Snapdragon 845 | RAM: 6/8GB | Storage: 128/256GB | Battery: 3,700mAh | Rear camera: 16MP+20MP | Front camera: 16MP | Weight: 185g | Dimensions: 157.5 x 74.8 x 8.2 mm

The OnePlus 6T is one of the last true flagship killer phones released by OnePlus in the US market and, although released in 2018, it still manages to hold its own against other phones on this list in terms of gaming performance. After seeing a significant price drop to $349, the 6T most certainly provides the best value for a budget phone.

The Snapdragon 845 inside will still manage to compete with the current processors found in this price segment, considering it was the flagship processor at launch. Gameplay will be smooth with the current titles like PUBG Mobile and others playing considerably well. The onboard RAM of 6 GB on the base model is also sufficient for all workloads.

The 6.41-inch AMOLED display will provide a great viewing experience with inky blacks and vibrant colors though it will not manage to push a refresh rate above the standard 60Hz found on most smartphones at this price. The 3,700 mAh battery will easily last through a day of regular use and allow for a comfortable time of gaming before running out. The included 20W Dash Charger will top your battery in a pinch if you need a quick charge.

The 128 GB of storage on the base model is rare for a smartphone at this price and is an excellent option considering the lack of and SD card slot. Also, the lack of a headphone jack is unfortunate, but the included dongle and excellent Bluetooth connectivity make up for the removal.

The OnePlus 6T’s software Oxygen OS 10 is one of the best Android skins out there and even includes features to improve the gaming performance by enhancing the network connectivity and RAM resources. It also feels smooth and responsive without any bloat or spammy advertisements, making up for the best experience.

The OnePlus 6T is a solid recommendation, especially for what it provides for the price. A premium build quality, excellent software, powerful hardware, and a fantastic display is a rare sight at this price range. You may want to act quickly because, at this price, the last of the OnePlus 6T stocks will soon disappear.

Apple iPhone SE

OS: iOS 13 | Screen size: 4.7-inch | Resolution: 1334×750 | Refresh rate: 60Hz | CPU: Apple A13 Bionic | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 64/128/256GB | Battery: 1,821mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 12MP | Weight: 148g | Dimensions: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm

Apple recently launched the latest addition to its lineup, the iPhone SE 2020, a significant upgrade from the last one released in 2016. The $399 price point is most surprising considering the price tag of current iPhones. It comes in the body of the iPhone 8, meaning that it hosts a tiny 4.7-inch screen. For reference, the S20 Ultra packs a massive 6.9-inch display, so this phone has a small footprint compared to today’s standards.

But on the inside lies the A13 Bionic, the same chip powering Apple’s high-end iPhone 11 family, which makes sure to beat every other smartphone on this list in raw performance. The 3 GB of RAM will most certainly handle multitasking and games well, considering the various optimizations Apple has put in place. The iPhone SE will easily handle any latest gaming title, providing excellent gameplay, although the display can significantly hinder the experience.

The measly 1,821 mAh battery is a disappointment, but considering the small form factor, it makes sense. Unfortunately, for gaming, it will prove insufficient due to the power draw of the powerful internals but should last you for a day on light use. The 18W fast charging can juice up your battery by half in just 30 minutes, while wireless charging is terrific at this price.  

The iPhone SE is also very light, coming in at a mere 148g, which with the small form factor, makes for a compact package, especially if you do not prefer the large screen phones commonplace today. The phone runs iOS 13, which is incredibly intuitive and minimalistic, lacking any specific features for gaming, and the integration with the Apple ecosystem is also a bonus.

The iPhone SE 2020 aims to provide the premium iPhone experience at a budget. If your primary purpose with this device is gaming, then the small screen and battery might be potential deal-breakers. But, if you have to get an iPhone to get into the Apple ecosystem, then this will be the only choice for a gaming smartphone that will fit the bill.

Samsung Galaxy A71

OS: Android 10 (One UI 2) | Screen size: 6.7-inch | Resolution: 2400 x 1080 | Refresh rate: 60Hz | CPU: Snapdragon 730 | RAM: 6/8GB | Storage: 128GB | Battery: 4,500mAh | Rear camera: 64MP+12MP+5MP+5MP | Front camera: 32MP | Weight: 179g | Dimensions: 163.6 x 76 x 7.7 mm

Samsung’s first contender, the Galaxy A71, was initially launched for the mid-range segment, but after a significant price, cut finds itself in the budget territory now retailing at $364. You get the Snapdragon 730 that can comfortably handle the latest gaming titles, with high settings coupled with either 6 or 8 GB of RAM enabling for a snappy experience.

The brilliant 6.7-inch AMOLED display is sure to surprise with inky blacks and vivid colors making it one of the best at this price range. The screen will not go up to higher refresh rates, which might not give you the fast experience of higher-end flagships. The hole punch camera cutout follows the trend of Samsung’s high-end flagship lineup.

The battery on this phone is incredible, considering the 4,500 mAh capacity will easily last you through your day under a typical use case, and games, especially demanding on the battery, will last for a considerable amount of time before giving up on you. The 25W fast charger included in the box will also charge up your battery pretty quickly.

As for storage, the A71 comes with 128 GB on both models. There is also the option for added expandability via the SD card slot. The phone also includes a 3.5mm audio jack enabling the use of wired earphones and headphones without the need for a dongle.

One UI2 is one of the better Android skins out there. There is still a small amount of minimal bloat, but it should not affect your gaming performance. It also serves well for productivity-oriented and multitasking workloads.

The Galaxy A71 comes packed with plenty of features and is a good option if you are in the market for a capable gaming smartphone. The plastic build quality might make it feel a little cheap but allows it to deliver at this price. We recommend this smartphone if a reliable battery and a great display are essential to you for gaming.

Redmi Note 9 Pro

OS: Android 10 (MiUI 11) | Screen size: 6.67- inch | Resolution: 2400 x 1080 | Refresh rate: 60Hz | CPU: Snapdragon 720G | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 64/128GB | Battery: 5,020mAh | Rear camera: 64MP+8MP+5MP+2MP | Front camera: 20MP | Weight: 209g | Dimensions: 165.8 x 76.7 x 8.8 mm

The Redmi Note 9 Pro by Xiaomi aims to deliver a strong performance at a budget price tag. The Snapdragon 720G on the inside will undoubtedly perform well in games due to the Snapdragon 720G on the inside. The 720G is one of the fastest processors on this list, even managing to outperform the 730 and 730G in raw performance.

The 6.67-inch IPS LCD will not provide the best viewing experience as an OLED panel but helps keep the price down, and the absence of a faster refresh rate is a bummer as you will not be able to experience the smoothness it brings to games.

The 5,020 mAh battery is well beyond the typical capacities in most phones and allows it to last for more than a day with regular use and several hours for gaming, making it great if you value long gaming sessions. The 18W fast charger will prove to be slow for such a capacity and will take quite a while to top it up to a full charge.

The 64 GB of storage on the base model will prove to be the wrong choice for gaming, considering the 4GB of RAM paired with it. The 128 GB model will be the best choice for most gamers and still manages to fall in the sweet spot for price-to-performance.

The standard 3.5mm headphone jack is an excellent addition for gamers wanting to use their audio accessories without a dongle or while charging. As for software, MIUI 11, it is not the best, considering the high amount of bloatware pre-installed, though it will not affect gaming performance.

The Redmi Note 9 Pro is one of the best value smartphones available for gaming at a budget for the performance, battery capacity, and excellent build quality. The only shortfalls of the phone lie in the screen quality and poor software, but for $250 for the 128 GB model, what more could you ask.

Samsung Galaxy A51

OS: Android 10 (One UI 2) | Screen size: 6.5-inch | Resolution: 2400 x 1080 | Refresh rate: 60Hz | CPU: Exynos 9611 | RAM: 4/6/8GB | Storage: 64/128GB | Battery: 4,000mAh | Rear camera: 48MP+12MP+5MP+5MP | Front camera: 32MP | Weight: 172g | Dimensions: 158.5 x 73.6 x 7.9 mm

With Samsung finally making the A-series lineup officially for sale in the US, the A51 initially aimed towards the mid-range segment has seen a significant cut in price, making it one of the best budget options around, notably if you are looking for a gaming device that does much more.

The Exynos 9611 will perform comparably to the Snapdragon 730 chipset handling games pretty well at high settings. The beautiful 6.5-inch AMOLED display provides one of the best viewing experiences in this price segment as always expected from Samsung and even manages to mimic the hole-punch screen from their flagships.

As for the battery, the 4000 mAh cell will easily last you more than a day with minimal use, considering the lower-powered chip and screen. As for the charger, the 15W spec seems a little low for 2020 standards, falling behind the competition.

The 4GB of RAM on the base system might make your operating system feel quite laggy and make your games load longer, but will not affect the gaming performance. The expandable SD card slot should allow for extra storage if needed down the road. The A51 comes with One UI 2 installed, which will give you a decent overall experience.

The A51 is an excellent choice for gamers looking at the sub-$300 price tag for a phone with a great display and a good software experience with the only downsides to the A51 are the lower RAM and the slightly slower Exynos processor. The Redmi Note 9 Pro is a viable option for those who prefer gaming performance, whereas the A51 proves to be an option for those who prefer the viewing experience.

Redmi Note 8 Pro

OS: Android 10 (MIUI 11) | Screen size: 6.53-inch | Resolution: 2340 x 1080 | Refresh rate: 60Hz | CPU: Mediatek Helio G90T| RAM: 6/8GB | Storage: 64/128/256GB | Battery: 4,500mAh | Rear camera: 64MP+8MP+2MP+2MP | Front camera: 20MP | Weight: 200g | Dimensions: 159.2 x 75.1 x 8.9 mm

With the introduction of the newer Redmi Note 9 Series, the Note 8 Pro has experienced a significant drop in price, bringing it around the $200 price range allowing for an affordable gaming option on a low budget. With a Mediatek Helio G90T inside, the Note 8 Pro manages to pull off a decent amount of performance, pulling ahead of the Snapdragon 730 in raw power with a trade-off for efficiency.

The IPS LCD will not make for the inky blacks and vibrant colors of the AMOLED panels nor offer the fastest gaming experience through a high refresh rate but should provide the essentials, considering the low price. It does manage to support HDR, though for better highlights and shadows in games.

The 4500 mAh battery should last you through your day with low screen brightness and minimal cellular use and allow for a sufficient amount of gaming before losing charge. The included 18W charger should allow for charging your battery up quickly. The headphone jack should also allow for connectivity of wired audio equipment without the need for a dongle.

The Redmi Note 8 Pro comes with the updated MIUI 11 based on Android 10 and includes its share of excessive duplicate and unnecessary apps. It does ruin the experience but will be manageable for playing most of the gaming titles.

As for storage, the base model comes with 64 GB of onboard storage with an SD card slot for expandability and is a suitable choice. But for less than $20, the upgrade to 128 GB is an excellent option if you can afford it.

We highly recommend the Redmi Note 8 Pro if you are looking at a budget of about $200 and need a smartphone that can handle demanding gaming titles while still providing the basics with the screen and software being the only compromises towards an otherwise excellent budget gaming smartphone.

Realme XT

OS: Android 10 (Realme UI) | Screen size: 6.4-inch | Resolution: 2340 x 1080 | Refresh rate: 60 Hz | CPU: Snapdragon 712 | RAM: 4/6/8GB | Storage: 64/128GB  | Battery: 4,000mAh | Rear camera: 64MP+8MP+2MP+2MP | Front camera: 16MP | Weight: 183g | Dimensions: 158.7 x 75.2 x 8.6 mm

Another smartphone aiming to capture the lower budget space, the Realme XT, seeks to provide a premium experience at this price. With a Snapdragon 712 inside, the Realme XT will suffer from a small performance decrease from the Snapdragon 730 and 720G, present in most phones on the list, and games will still manage to perform well at high settings with minimal lag.

The 6.4-inch AMOLED display is an excellent addition at this price and offers a superior viewing experience with a considerable amount of brightness, although it won’t have a high refresh rate for smooth gaming.

The model for sale in the US comes with 128 GB of onboard storage with an option for adding an SD card via the provided slot. The 8 GB of RAM is excellent for multitasking and will ensure the quick loading of games.

The phone comes included with a 3.5mm audio jack for easy use with your wired audio earphones or headphones. The phone runs Color OS, a skin of Android 10 with a slew of unwanted apps that can be uninstalled but hamper the software experience without affecting performance too much.

The Realme XT is an excellent choice for a well-designed smartphone for gaming with a decent processor, beautiful screen, and a large memory for a price tag of around $300. We recommend this smartphone if you are willing to sacrifice a little bit of performance to get the added features for the price.

Xiaomi Poco X2

OS: Android 10 (MIUI 11) | Screen size: 6.67-inch | Resolution: 2400 x 1080 | Refresh rate: 120 Hz | CPU: Snapdragon 730 | RAM: 6/8GB | Storage: 64/128/256GB  | Battery: 4,500mAh | Rear camera: 64MP+8MP+2MP+2MP | Front camera: 20MP+2MP | Weight: 208g | Dimensions: 165.3 x 76.6 x 8.8 mm

The Poco X2 is one of the best options for those looking for a budget smartphone for gaming. Exclusive to the Indian market, the Poco X2 belongs to Xiaomi’s lineup of phones aiming to bring the flagship experience down to the budget level.

The Snapdragon 730G on the inside is one of the more powerful processors on this list, being able to handle the modern gaming titles with ease. The 6 GB of RAM on the base model is also considerable, being much more than the other offerings at this price.

The IPS display might not offer the deep blacks and vibrant colors of OLED technology, but will be perfectly fine for gaming as it has a 120Hz display which will ensure extremely smooth games and animations. The HDR10 support and high brightness are also respectable add-ons. The dual camera cutout also helps in making the screen more immersive.

As for the battery, the 4500 mAh battery will last you through the day, while it might suffice for a few hours of gaming due to the high refresh rate screen draining it off quite quickly. The 27W charger will make sure to top-up your battery entirely within an hour and is one of the fastest on this list.

The 64 GB of storage on the base model will be sufficient considering future expandability via the included SDXC slot. A 3.5mm headphone jack will allow for the use of headphones without the need for a dongle. The Poco X2 comes with MIUI 11, which, as mentioned before, might have the usual bloatware, but still makes this capable of suiting your gaming needs.

We highly recommend the Poco X2 if you live in a supported market like India, and for $250, it serves as one of the best options for gaming on a budget with the only downside being its unavailability in other markets.

Realme X2

OS: Android 10 (Realme UI) | Screen size: 6.4-inch | Resolution: 2400 x 1080 | Refresh rate: 90 Hz | CPU: Snapdragon 730G | RAM: 6/8/12GB | Storage: 64/128/256GB  | Battery: 4,000mAh

Rear camera: 64MP+13MP+8MP+2MP | Front camera: 16MP | Weight: 199g | Dimensions: 161 x 75.7 x 8.7 mm

Realme’s X2 is another smartphone that offers the best gaming value in the budget range. Available in the European market for €299 for the highest spec model, it beats most phones available for what it provides in terms of gaming performance.

With the Snapdragon 730G inside, it is sure to tear through modern gaming titles with relative ease even at high settings. The 6.4-inch AMOLED display will output vivid colors and inky blacks, although it will not go up to high brightness levels and lacks the support for a high refresh rate.

The 4,000 mAh battery on the inside will prove sufficient for daily use and several hours on a gaming load. Like the Realme 6 Pro, it comes bundled with a super-fast VOOC 4.0 30W charger to fill your battery up soon.

The 128 GB of storage will not run out on you soon, and an SD card slot for expandability is useful. The 8 GB of RAM on the €299 model is also one of the highest capacities on this list and will allow for loading multiple apps in memory for faster loading times.

The inclusion of a 3.5mm audio jack for connectivity is commendable but expected at this price range. Color OS will not have the standards of OnePlus’ OxygenOS or stock Android but will allow you to enjoy your favorite games.

Realme’s X2 is an excellent option for budget gaming if you’re looking for a phone with powerful internals. The lower refresh rate screen might be a bummer, and in that case, the Realme 6 Pro is a better alternative, but it makes up with a better display and a lower price.

What makes a great budget gaming phone?

CPU and Ram

With the increasing competitiveness, budget smartphones are seeing an improvement in areas like performance. The Snapdragon 700 series of processors present in most of these smartphones and a sufficient amount of RAM is capable of playing the latest games at high framerates.

Display

Also, some of the phones employ the use of faster 90 or 120 Hz refresh rate screens when paired with fast processors, are sure to make for a smooth and enjoyable gaming experience. Screen features like HDR and high brightness improve viewing in both gaming and content consumption.

Battery Life

A large battery will allow for long gaming sessions, and more importantly, fast charging compatibility is a great bonus, saving you much time. Higher refresh rate screens and more powerful processors are sure to drain the battery quickly.

Storage

Games tend to take a large amount of storage space, and phones with an expandable storage option are great in case you run out of space, and the choice of UFS 3.0 or 2.1 storage will allow for fast transfers and quick loading times, so consider those factors before purchasing.

Final Thoughts

Features like the headphone jack are more prevalent at these budget price points, enabling you to listen to lag-free audio and do away with the need for a dongle. Another advantage is the processors draw much lesser power from the battery allowing you to play games longer without taking a great hit in terms of the visual quality of games.

Our recommendation for getting the best gaming performance would be to wait until the newer generation of Snapdragon 760 series of processors arrive since they also support 5G and more making up for a great value. If you need a phone urgently or consider 5G as an unnecessary add-on, the recommendations above are still excellent choices, and they will hold up just fine, considering some were recently released this year.

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