The idea of a mobile replacing a PS4 or an Xbox One was a joke until 2 or 3 years ago. But the reality is that the power and graphics quality of mobiles increases exponentially, and this year they have launched more gaming phones intended to play heavy games.
There is one more factor that has dangerously brought mobile devices closer to desktops: Nintendo Switch. The hybrid of Nintendo is basically a portable console, but thanks to its intelligent design that allows you to dock it to a dock to play on TV, it makes the competition in sales to PS4 and Xbox One with titles like Pokémon Let’s Go, or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
With games such as Fortnite or PUBG Mobile accumulating hundreds of millions of users and rain of money, gaming mobiles arrive with the intention of facing up to the consoles. Can they really replace them?
The current gaming phones
In 2018 several mobile phones designed to play have been presented. Not only from well-known brands but also from manufacturers specializing in console gaming, such as Razer. What do these smartphones contribute concerning the standard models?
A few months ago they launched Razer Phone and Xiaomi Black Shark, but recently their successors have just come out, a sign that the market does not stop testing. Let’s take a look, focusing exclusively on its gaming functions.
Razer Phone 2
The new Razer Phone 2 overcomes some of the limitations and technology in the beta phase of the Razer Phone, getting closer to the goal of becoming a mobile to play.
Equipped with a high-quality IPS 1440p screen, with 513 dpi and a brightness of 580 nits, the graphics have a spectacular definition, and you can play perfectly in broad daylight. With the most powerful Android SoC, the Snapdragon 845 (although the 855 has already been announced ) and 8 GB of RAM, it is one of the most beastly mobile phones in the market right now. But what makes it mobile gaming?
To begin with, its design. The screen is square, with a 16: 9 ratio (like console games) and huge frames up and down, because there are two powerful speakers to play in stereo. The screen has a variable refresh rate of 60, 90 and 120 Hz, compared to 60 Hz for a traditional mobile screen. More importantly, sampling and tactile sensors also operate at 120 Hz. Why increase the refresh rate to 120 Hz? This reduces the lag and the response time when you perform actions with your fingers on the touchscreen, the main problem we have when we play on the mobile.
The Razer Phone 2 mounts a huge 4,000 mAh battery, so we can play several hours at full power. To dissipate the heat generated by the Snapdragon 845 and 8 GB of RAM, it uses a novel method called the steam chamber. Razer did not want to give many details, but it seems that the heat accumulates in an interior chamber, where it becomes vapor to extract it more easily from the mobile.
The result is a very complete and well thought-out mobile gaming, with a performance superior to standard smartphones. But … better than the Nintendo Switch?
Arena of Valor, the game tested in both devices, it is true that in Switch the textures of higher quality and a better finish are noticed, but let’s not forget that in the console it runs at 720p and 30 fps, while in the Razer Phone 2 It does 1440p and 120 fps.
Asus ROG Phone
The well-known manufacturers of graphics cards, portable gaming, and other PC peripherals, also points to the fashion of mobile gaming, with the spectacular Asus ROG Phone.
The first thing that surprises is that it mounts an overclocked processor, the SDM 845. It is nothing more than the Snapdragon 845 running at a faster speed, 2.96 GHz, compared to the 2.8 GHz of the standard SoC. It also has 8 GB of RAM and 4,000 mAh of battery, like the Razer Phone 2.
The 6-inch screen is FullHD +, with less resolution than the Razer Phone 2, but it is AMOLED (better color and contrast) and HDR. It has a refresh rate of 90 Hz, and a response time of just 1 ms, like good gaming monitors.
To fight against heat, it has a triple cooling system: carbon pad, copper sink, and steam chamber. It also has a peripheral called Aeroactive Cooler, which is basically a fan that is coupled to the mobile, cooling faster. So you can play more time with the maximum performance of the processor:
It also has haptic functions and air triggers, to produce a vibration on the screen while you play. Besides, you can attach gamepads to play with command, and has a dock to see the image on TV, the Nintendo Switch style.
As for its software, an X Mode allows to free all the RAM to be used by a game, and other apps that you have in the mobile do not use it.
Xiaomi Black Shark Helo
A few weeks ago, Xiaomi introduced the Xiaomi Black Shark 2, which is named as Xiaomi Black Shark Helo. With a 6-inch AMOLED Full HD + screen with HDR and Snapdragon 845 processor, it is one of the first mobile phones with 10 GB of RAM.
It also has a housing with LED lighting and a unique dissipation system that reduces the temperature of the SoC by no less than 12 degrees. It boasts two powerful stereo speakers, 4000 mAh battery, and two controls similar to the joycon of the Switch, which is coupled to the phone. So far it has only been released in China.
Honor, the young brand of Huawei, has created a mobile for gamers, the Honor Play. Basically what it does is add the GPU Turbo mode that Huawei and Honor are introducing in some of their mobiles. It is a modding of the GPU that according to Honor increases the performance of the GPU by 60%, and reduces the battery consumption by 30%.
It also has a stabilizer of fps, so that they do not vary much during the game and do not add lag to the touch controls. A 3750 mAh battery, 3D sound, and vibration are other Honor Play gaming extras. It has a 6.3-inch FullHD + screen, Kirin 970 processor, and 4 GB of RAM.
Huawei Mate 20 X
The latest to join the party of mobile gaming has been the Huawei Mate 20X. It comes with 7.2-inch OLED screen FullHD +, the Kirin 980 processor, the first 7 nm of Huawei, powered by the AI. A 5,000 mAh battery with 6 GB of RAM and the new GPU Turbo 2 mode, which maintains maximum performance by reducing battery consumption by 30%.
It also has 20 powerful 40 dB speakers. To cool the phone, it equips a system that cools the device through a steam chamber and a graphene film, which allows the mobile not to heat up and offer exceptional performance even when executing the most demanding video games.
During the presentation of the Huawei Mate 20 X, they compared it with the Nintendo Switch. Huawei says that its mobile gaming has more resolution, a larger screen, and the battery lasts longer.
Regardless of how powerful hardware is, games that attract buyers are needed. There are good games for mobile, but removing the Battle Royale and PUBG does not have the AAA games of Sony or Nintendo. It costs a lot of time and money to make them, and although they can order games from outside companies.
You have to become a video game company or create one that plays quality games fluently. At the moment, no mobile manufacturer has done it. Leaving it to third parties, and that others are the ones who make the games, seldom works.
A matter of size
There are two key elements in the performance of a console, which influences the graphics quality and power of the games: heat dissipation, and size. A console (or a PC) is limited by the heat that can dissipate. If the chips did not generate as much heat the consoles would be twice as powerful, as demonstrated by overclocking, which is possible when the processor or the GPU is cooled sufficiently.
We have seen how mobile gaming has greatly improved dissipation, but they have one important limitation: space. To dissipate the heat, space is needed for the air to run and the chips do not warm each other. That’s why the living room consoles occupy what they occupy, and a PC gaming, even more.
This is a very important limitation in mobile phones that will not improve because they have to be necessarily small. It improves by reducing the nanometers of the chips, but the lack of space to dissipate the heat will always be there. Dedicated consoles will always be more powerful as long as they have more room for larger chips and better heat dissipation.
Perhaps the current mobile gaming competes with the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One or PS4, but in one year both Microsoft and Sony launching new consoles respectively, and the abyss in performance will be huge again.
Mobile phones are not dedicated machines
Mobile gaming is optimized to play, but it is still mobile. You have to divert resources to apps in the background, notifications, calls. If you are playing, you do not have access to these notifications, messages, etc. It is not a dedicated machine like a console, and it comes into conflict with its other functions.
Another handicap associated with size is the price. As more powerful and smaller a portable device is more expensive to manufacture that concerns buyer. The Razer Phone 2 costs 965$ on Amazon. The Huawei Mate 20 X, reaches 1000$. They are unreachable prices for many gamers, taking into account that the consoles are around 340$.
The end of portable consoles?
It is clear that mobile gaming is not a threat to traditional consoles, which will always be one step ahead while retaining the advantage of size and heat dissipation, and gamers remain interested in them.
What seems inevitable is that mobile gaming will end up retiring to portable consoles. Now that Nintendo has gone to hybrid consoles and Sony has killed PS Vita, it will be difficult for us to see an exclusively portable console because smartphones already do its function.
Only changes in the tastes or habits of gamers can alter this, not the hardware. Will it happen?