Is it better to buy a gaming cell phone or a “common top of the line”?

The flagship cell phones from the main manufacturers on the market are increasingly powerful in terms of chipset performance, and many take quite a hit when it comes to running heavier games.

And, with so many premium cell phone options on the market, you may have already found yourself with a cruel doubt: is it better to buy a “common” top of the line — which offers excellent performance — or opt for a gaming smartphone, which has more resources aimed at running games?

Gamers cell phones have a very “different” look (Image: Rafael Damini / Canaltech)

After all, what advantages can each of them give you, in practice? In this analysis, I raise the main differences between one type of smartphone and another, in order to help you in this choice. Check out:

What hardware is used in a gaming smartphone?

Normally, the hardware used in a gaming smartphone is basically the same as what is seen in a high-end “common” cell phone, with the exception of a little more RAM in some cases.

The most advanced models, for example, have Snapdragon 888, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1. In short, it is the most advanced chipset of the current year and almost always from Qualcomm.

So far, nothing different from what is already seen in high-end phones — such as the Galaxy S22 Ultra or Motorola Edge 30 Pro. However, gamer models usually bring a much larger RAM memory.

While common flagships stay there at an average of 12 GB, dedicated gaming phones start at 8 GB — as in the Red Magic 7 Pro — and can reach an exorbitant 18 GB, as is the case with the new ROG Phone 6 Pro or the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate from ASUS.

Despite being more gaming-oriented models, they don’t leave out a reasonably good set of cameras — after all, the intention is not to have two cell phones, one being dedicated just for games.

The Black Shark 5 Pro, for example, arrives with a triple combination at the rear with a 108 MP main sensor, while most competitors arrive with a 50 or 64 MP main lens – something that is “affordable”. Even so, their sets still leave a little to be desired compared to “normal” models.

Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro has a very “advanced” camera set for the category (Image: Disclosure/Black Shark)

The battery also needs to be “bulky”, to withstand long hours of gaming. Gamer models arrive with a tank that ranges from 4,500 mAh or even 6,000 mAh — like the two Asus phones already mentioned here. But, once again, they are still a little behind “non-gamer” devices, which have software with better power management.

What are the main differentials of a gaming smartphone for a “common” top of the line?

If the set of hardware used in a gamer cell phone is basically the same that is already used in “common” models, what is the differential of a cell phone dedicated to “little games”? Although the processor, GPU and battery are very similar — or the same — the operation is quite different in practice.

And this goes far beyond RGB lighting — something that is a “must have” on any gaming device. In fact, one of the most important components is the coolerthat is, the cooling system of the appliances.

Cooling, triggers and more

“Ordinary” high-end models sometimes get quite hot even in common tasks, such as taking pictures. Not that this is a problem, after all they are designed to deal with it.

But this is not an expected behavior in a gamer cell phone, which is bought precisely to work for uninterrupted hours with the execution of very heavy games.

In this way, dedicated gaming smartphones have more advanced cooling systems, with “fans” that help to dissipate internal heat and keep the device and its hardware at an optimal temperature.

Gaming phones have a more advanced cooling system on the back (Image: Ivo Meneghel Jr/Canaltech)

It is also worth mentioning the importance of physical triggers, present in most gamer cell phones, in the gaming experience. They allow you to trigger commands in matches by pressing capacitive keys on the sides of the devices, as if they were the top buttons on console controls.

Finally, the presence of dedicated hardware management software helps ensure better performance. In gamer models, the system usually offers features to configure the cooling, improve the performance of the graphics card and processor, among others.

Common flagships even have “game” modes that offer some extra controls, but nothing that comes close to the settings made in a genuinely gamer interface.

Do the features justify the purchase of a gaming smartphone?

If you’re really looking for a cell phone to play with, the smartphone gamer will suit you more completely. As much as a “common” high-end also offers powerful hardware, the extra features — such as cooler and dedicated triggers — make not only the gaming experience, but the device’s performance better.

This, of course, is best suited for those who spend hours and hours a day playing games. If you’re a more casual player and only play a few games a day, it’s not worth the investment.

In these cases, a regular flagship will be the best choice, as it offers not only a more everyday-friendly look, but other hardware combinations that serve more widely in everyday life.

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