The best budget gaming phones 2024

The best budget gaming phones help you play on the go, for less. We've tested the most affordable smartphones from Samsung, Apple and more to help you decide..

Best Budget gaming phone in front of a blue background

We know all about the best budget gaming phones, and we’re more than happy to share our wisdom. We love playing the best mobile games just as much as we love saving money, so you’d better believe we’re ready to bring these things together in one exhaustive guide. These are the most powerful, functional all-rounders you can get for under $1,000.

If price isn’t an issue for you, our guide to the best gaming phones on the market takes you through offerings such as the iPhone 15 Pro Max, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, the Asus ROG 7, and more, all of which can help you to take your gaming to the max. Still, for even more choices, check out our expert guides to the best Xiaomi phones, the best Samsung phones, and the best Sony phones, if you need a device that can withstand the elements, the best rugged smartphones.

Samsung Galaxy A34 5G

A serviceable phone with a fantastic price

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Samsung Galaxy A34 5G specifications:
Display 120hz 6.6-inch Super AMOLED (1080 x 2340)
Battery 5000 mAh
Chipset Mediatek MT6877V Dimensity 1080
Storage 128-256GB
Reasons to buy
  • Great budget price
  • Bright and colorful display
  • Great internal storage for the price
Reasons to avoid
  • Slow charging speed
  • The camera is disappointing
  • Lots of better models on the market

Okay, the Samsung Galaxy A34 5G isn’t going to win any awards, but the device is a great starting point for younger gamers, and its sturdy build means parents don’t have to worry about it getting knocked around too much. Clearly, it’s not comparable with more expensive devices like the Samsung S23 or iPhone 15, but that 6-8GB of RAM and 120hz screen are more than enough to get you started with most mobile games.

If you have some younger gamers who just want to get to grips with titles like Doodle Jump, Angry Birds, or other simplistic games, this device sings. It’s more than capable of dealing with basic Android games, and with the lovely screen and its lightweight design, this is a great option. Plus, Samsung is one of few phone creators offering long-term OS support for their devices so the Samsung Galaxy A34 5G is likely to get years of support going forward.

Where this device really shines is its price. This truly is gaming on a budget, though you are making compromises because of this. The Samsung Galaxy A34 5G doesn’t offer the high-speed charging of some other devices, and the camera isn’t about to win any awards. Also, the device is encased in plastic, so it doesn’t feel very premium. However, the screen still looks bright and colorful, and the sound is clear for such a small phone. It might not run Genshin Impact at 60 FPS, but if you can’t spare much money or only care about smaller games, this is a great place to start.

Poco X5 Pro 5G

A powerful phone that doesn’t break the bank

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Poco X5 Pro 5G specifications:
Display 120hz 900 nits 1B colors 6.67-inch Dolby Vision AMOLED (1080 x 2400)
Battery 5000 mAh
Chipset Qualcomm SM7325 Snapdragon 778G 5G
Storage 128-256GB
Reasons to buy
  • Great battery life
  • Fingerprint scanner on the side
  • Fantastic screen
Reasons to avoid
  • Camera struggles in low light
  • No wireless charging
  • Ostentatious design

If you want to take your first steps into the gaming space, the Poco X5 Pro 5G is a great pick. The device hovers around the $250 dollar range, but you get a sturdy device with a decent amount under the hood and a gorgeous screen. Thanks to the 120hz refresh rate and a cap of 900 nits, the gorgeous AMOLED display shines bright and delivers a crisp and clear image.

What’s even better for long gaming sessions is the hefty 5000 mAh battery, especially with 67W quick charging. You can charge the phone from zero to full in just under an hour, and after a day of regular use will do little to nudge that percentage down. With gaming sessions, you can expect a healthy four or five hours before you need to worry, but the Poco X4 Pro 5G is ready to get you through the day.

One thing that does let the device down is the shiny and ‘gaming’ feel of the shell. It looks a bit like a teenager designed it, and the reflective surface is likely a bit too garish for some. There’s also quite a large protrusion for the cameras, and the device as a whole feels a bit uncomfortable. It’s fine to hold sideways for gaming, but as an actual phone, it’s a bit cumbersome. For lack of better words, it lacks the finesse that comes with more premium devices.

Luckily, when you want to do some gaming, the Poco X5 Pro 5G is very capable. It’s not the best chipset on the market as the Qualcomm SM7325 Snapdragon 778G 5G can’t keep up with the RedMagic 7 or 8, but the Poco dramatically undercuts them in price, so you win some, you lose some. It’s also a big improvement over the previous device the Poco X5 Pro, and it’s more than capable of running games like Genshin Impact at high graphics settings and maintaining a stable framerate.

Essentially if you want a phone on the lower end of the price range that is good for gaming, this is a fantastic pick. Don’t expect to be taking great photos with it, and the actual device isn’t the prettiest (though we do quite like the yellow shell), but the Poco is a great pick for anyone who wants to play games on the go without breaking the bank.

Read our Poco X5 review.

OnePlus 10T 5G

A premium-looking device without the price tag.

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OnePlus 10T 5G specifications:
Display 120hz 6.7-inch AMOLED (1080 x 2400)
Battery 4800 mAh
Chipset Qualcomm SM8475 Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1
RAM 8-16GB
Storage 128-256GB
Reasons to buy
  • Admirable performance
  • Bright and clear display
Reasons to avoid
  • Disappointing cameras
  • No wireless charging
  • Only splash-resistant

The OnePlus 10T 5G is a gorgeous phone that fits easily into most people’s lives. The sleek design and metallic finish on the jade color model give it a nice and playful look, while the black ‘moonstone’ model is a gorgeous colorway that looks professional as well as cool.

When it comes to gaming, that incredible Snapdragon 8+ chip is one of the best you can get in this mid-range price bracket, and with the option for 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, you can absolutely stuff this device with your favorite games (Genshin Impact or Black Clover M, anyone?). That impressive RAM (even the 8GB standard) alongside a 120hz refresh rate and the AMOLED screen means the OnePlus 10T can handle almost anything you chuck its way.

While 4800 mAh isn’t the biggest battery, it is still more than enough for a device this size, and thanks to the chipset, the device focuses on energy efficiency to make sure it doesn’t drain your battery within minutes. Meanwhile, it has a ridiculously fast option for wired charging, so you’ll be back gaming in no time.

Like many other phones in this range, sadly, the OnePlus 10T 5G does slip up with its camera. Sure, when out and about in the great outdoors with lots of light, you can get some good photos, but inside the picture quality becomes quite grainy. It’s better than some in this bracket, but if you want a gaming phone that also has a good camera, then maybe set your expectations properly.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro

A budget-friendly device that packs a punch

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Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro specifications:
Display 120hz 6.67-inch OLED Dolby Vision (1080 x 2400)
Battery 5000 mAh
Chipset Mediatak MT6877V Dimensity 1080
RAM 6-12GB
Storage 128-256GB
Reasons to buy
  • Dual sim support
  • Edge-mounted fingerprint scanner
  • Stereo speakers and headphone jack
Reasons to avoid
  • Android support is lagging
  • No expandable storage
  • No wireless charging

While there is a slightly cheaper option here with the regular Xiaomi Redmi Note 12, if you value your gaming, we highly recommend splashing out to bag yourself the Redmi Note 12 Pro. With this, you get a better screen, faster charging, an improved chipset, and more RAM and storage.

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro is a fantastic gaming phone for the price bracket, capable of running titles like Honkai Star Rail and Genshin smoothly, unlike its underpowered little brother. It also boasts a shiny gorilla glass display on the back that helps the device look nice and premium, so you’re not scared to whip it out in public.

What’s more, that 120hz OLED display is absolutely gorgeous and great for playing in daylight. Backed up with stereo speakers and the option for both wireless Bluetooth speakers or wired sound through the headphone jack, the Note 12 Pro offers a really great gaming experience for devices in this price range.

You can also expect neat features like the Game Turbo options, allowing you to twiddle with your graphics to get every game running just right. Plus, Xiaomi is pretty great at keeping their phones updated with the latest features and OS, so expect to see the device gradually improving over time.

If you’re happy to spend a little extra, there is even the option of the Xiaomi 12 Note Pro+, which you can learn all about in our guide to the best Xiaomi phones.

Read our Redmi Note 12 Pro 5G review.

iPhone 12

A fantastic phone that can also play games.

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iPhone 12 specifications:
Display 60hz 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display (1170 x 2532)
Battery 2815 mAh
Chipset Apple A14 Bionic
Storage 64-256GB
Reasons to buy
  • A great everyday phone
  • The App Store and Apple Arcade
  • A modern professional design
Reasons to avoid
  • High price point
  • Not as many games as Google Play Store
  • No headphone jack

Possibly the most reliable phone on the market, the best gaming iPhones run smoothly, work well at a wide range of tasks, and have a gigantic library of iPhone games. The iPhone 12 is no exception, and now with a few years’ distance from its launch in October 2020, it’s very well-priced.

The iPhone 12 hovers around the $600 price mark – far below the $1200 price of premium the iPhone 14. Plus, like any other Apple product, there is plenty of power under the hood, alongside a seamless OS that constantly receives updates. While Android devices sometimes only support a year or two of the latest Android OS, Apple supports users for far longer.

The iPhone 12 handles well, with a distinct curved outer rim. The dual 12MP cameras offer a wide and ultrawide option should you need to zoom out from the action, though they are clearly outclassed by a lot of phones on the market in 2024.

When it comes to gaming, the App Store and the Apple Arcade service are absolutely fantastic. With most games optimized for Apple devices as well, games run fairly smoothly despite the bottleneck caused by 4GB of RAM.

There are more powerful phones on the market for the price, but if you want a device with plenty of modern features such as wireless charging, a waterproof screen, and the convenience of the Apple ecosystem, then the iPhone 12 is a great pick. It’s a great gaming phone with very little compromise to your everyday needs.

Read our iPhone 12 review.

How we chose the best budget gaming phones

We decided on our list of the best budget gaming phones by balancing price and performance and trying to find a variety of devices that fit consumers’ needs. The most important things are the display and the power of the device, and we chose every pick on our list because they offer something great for their price point.

While the chipset is important, the amount of RAM is also crucial. RAM is how much memory the device has for processing games and applications, and in several cases, you can choose to select an SKU with higher RAM. If you have the money to stretch to extra RAM and more storage for games, we recommend it.

While some of the devices are more gaming-focused than others, every single pick on here is a great starting point for anyone looking to play mobile games on a budget, or for someone looking to upgrade to a newer device that doesn’t break the bank.

Check out our how we test guide for more detail.

Should I buy Android or Apple?

When it comes to gaming, generally, we lean more toward Android. Apple has a lot of great games available, plus the Apple Arcade service is a great way to explore some games without getting bogged down by microtransactions. However, the Google Play Store simply has more titles for you to explore.

As well as being able to download most modern games like Genshin Impact, Honkai Star Rail, and Pokémon Unite, you can also download the Epic Games launcher to play Fortnite and Rocket League Sideswipe on the go, as well as plenty of other games not available on Apple. Plus, only having to bring a USB-C cable along is always handy, and Apple’s proprietary chargers are expensive and prone to breaking.

If we’re missing one of your favorite picks, be sure to get in touch over at the Pocket Tactics Facebook page. If this has you in the mood for some gaming, discover our list of the best mobile games of 2024 next.