A lot of people who own smartphones and tablets use them for more than surfing the internet, texting, and socializing. They also use them a lot to play games. In a recent survey from Statista, 56 percent, or over half of the entire population of the US, are currently playing mobile games. That amount is expected to expand to 63.7 percent by 2020. But what sort of gifts are the right kind for hardcore gamers?
In this feature, we offer our picks for the best smartphones and tablets that are currently on the market for gaming, along with suggestions for a few accessories that could be great gifts for gamers. Finally, we don’t want to ignore the game consoles that you hook up to your big screen TV; we will offer our recommendation on which of the three current generation game consoles you should buy, and the answer may actually surprise you.
A jack of all trades — ZTE Axon M
Today’s smartphones make great portable gaming devices, while tablets are great for those times when we need a bit more screen real estate from our mobile gaming experience. But what about a wild card of a device that can serve as both your phone and your tablet? The ZTE Axon M is a unique device that is perfect for those that want to take their gaming to the next level.
The ZTE Axon M uses two 5.2-inch IPS Full HD panels that are connected to a hinge that, when it is folded out, it essentially turns the device into a 6.75-inch tablet. This is great for running two apps side by side, extending apps and games across both displays, and much more. In addition to the potential for gaming and media, the Axon M also makes for one heck of a multi-tasking device.
As you can imagine, this phone also stands out in a crowd, perfect for those who like to rock phones that are different from the endless sea of Samsung and iPhone devices.Without a doubt, this is one of the most unique phones you can buy right now. You can get it via AT&T for $724.99 without a contract, or for $24.17 a month for 24 months.
Best gaming phone — Razer Phone
If you want to get a smartphone that’s dedicated to offering the best mobile gaming experience, it’s really impossible to beat the Razer Phone at the moment. This is the first smartphone from Razer, who has been highly successful in releasing PC accessories for hardcore gamers, and more recently has launched critically acclaimed Windows-based gaming laptops. For their first, but likely not last, entry in the smartphone industry, Razer put in a bunch of high-end hardware, including a couple of features that are not in any other smartphone.
The biggest feature for gamers is the Razer Phone’s big IGZO 5.7-inch 2,560 x 1,440p display, which can run at up to 120 Hz. The higher refresh rate, compared to the normal 60 Hz on other smartphones, should allow games, especially high-end titles with advanced graphics, to play and look smoother on the Razer Phone. The display also uses what Razer calls Ultra Motion technology, which is similar to NVIDIA’s G-Sync tech that is supported by many PC desktop monitors. Ultra Motion allows the Razer Phone’s display refresh rate to sync up to the output of its GPU. This is supposed to get rid of any screen tearing and, again, make games played on the phone look and run better compared to other handsets.
In addition to the high-end visuals, the Razer Phone has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor inside, which, at the moment, is the fastest chip you can get on a phone. It also has 8 GB of LPDRR4 RAM, which again should help graphically intensive games perform better. There’s 64 GB of onboard storage, and you can add more with its microSD card slot. In terms of audio, Razer claims it has the loudest phone on the market, with two front-facing speakers with Dolby Atmos technology. There’s no 3.5 mm headphone jack in the Razer Phone, but it does include a dongle for its USB-C port that includes support for 24-bit DAC audio that is THX-certified. Finally, it has a large 4,000 mAh battery that Razer says should allow for up to 8 hours of gaming on one charge, which should be plenty if you are on a long trip.
Simply put, mobile gamers won’t be able to get a phone quite as good as the Razer Phone for a while, and it’s actually a great first effort from a company that has never launched a smartphone before. The price is also right at $699.99 unlocked, which is very reasonable when you consider the high-end hardware inside. If you can ignore its non-gaming issues, the Razer Phone is one of the best gifts for gamers you can buy.
Alternate gaming phone — Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Best gaming tablet — Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
Alternate — Amazon Fire HD 10
Gamer accessory gifts
POWER A MOGA Hero Power Game Controller
No matter how powerful your gaming smartphone may be, it can still be hard to control games with its touchscreen, especially for games like racing and shooter titles. The POWER A MOGA Hero Power Game Controller allows you to connect your smartphone to a Bluetooth-based console gamepad, and you can even attach any smartphone up to 6-inches to the controller, letting you play for hours without having to worry about holding your phone on its own. It also comes with its own rechargeable 1,800 mAh battery. If you want a portable console experience for your smartphone, this controller will fit the bill nicely.
Samsung Gear VR — 2017 edition
The current 2017 version of the Samsung Gear VR mobile headset (co-developed by Oculus) lets you play VR games, many of which are exclusive to the Gear VR. Owners of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, along with the Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, and even the Galaxy Note 5 can all use the headset, which comes with its own controller. If you happen to own one of these phones, it’s perhaps the best way to experience high-end VR gaming.
Anker PowerCore Speed 10,000 mAh Battery Charger
The simple fact is that even if you have a big batter on your smartphone, like the 4,000 mAh battery on the Razer Phone, it will still run out in less than a day if you play on it constantly. That’s why it’s great to have an external battery charger like the Anker PowerCore Speed 10,000 mAh model. It can charge up your Razer Phone twice on its own, giving you more time to play on your high end handset. It’s also available for just $29 at Amazon.
Best Game Console – Nintendo Switch
The Nintendo Switch is perhaps the best game console you can buy for a gamer on the go. Simply put, the Switch can turn quickly from a high-end game console that you hook up to your TV over to a portable handheld console, where you can play for up to six hours on its own battery. You can play it with two of the console’s Joy-Con controllers, one on each side, or you and a friend can play games on the portable screen, each with a Joy-Con in your hands. You can even put a pair of these new controllers in a Joy-Con grip accessory, if you want a more old-fashioned console experience.
Plus there’s the fact that the Nintendo Switch is the exclusive way to play some of the most acclaimed games of 2017, including Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and many more. Finally, it’s likely that the hardcore gamer that you want to spend your money on already has a PlayStation 4/4 Pro, or an Xbox One S/X. He or she might think that the Nintendo Switch is for kids or families, but the purchase of Nintendo’s latest — and possibly best — game console in years might convert them into fans.