Looking to get an edge in online mobile games? Consider the Black Shark 4 Pro, which comes with shoulder triggers for a more tactile and responsive gaming experience. I actually prefer these physical triggers over the touch-sensitive ultrasonic ones on the Asus ROG Phone 5. The Black Shark 4 Pro is also more affordable than its Asus rival. There's a catch, though. The Black Shark debuted over a year ago, so it doesn't have the newest hardware. But I don't think it's a big deal as the phone's Snapdragon 888 chip is more than fast enough for the latest mobile games.
- 6.67-inch Super AMOLED screen (2,400 x 1,080 pixels), up to 144Hz
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage
- Triple cameras: 64MP (main), 13MP (ultra-wide), and 5MP (macro)
- 4,500mAh battery
The Black Shark 4 Pro is hefty (220g), and thicker than the average smartphone. The back has a frosted finish that's resistant against fingerprint smudges. But the gaming-centric design, such as the triangle LED, may not be everyone's cup of tea. What's undoubtedly great are the physical triggers that pop up when you toggle the switch next to them. While it's cool to fiddle with these switches, I would have preferred a software switch instead. As it is, the right edge of the phone is crowded. Besides the two switches and two triggers, there's also a side-mounted fingerprint sensor that doubles as the power button. This fingerprint sensor is fast, but extremely sensitive. Even the slightest tap will trigger it. Meanwhile, the volume rocker is at the bottom edge while gaming in landscape orientation, which often leads to accidental presses.
You have to configure the pop-up physical triggers individually for each mobile game using the Shark Space app. To do so, you start the game and then swipe from the top right corner for a pull-down settings menu. Frankly, these triggers are awesome in competitive games, such as mobile shooter Call of Duty. It's so much better to shoot or aim down sights using the triggers compared to tapping the screen. It almost feels like cheating. Besides gaming, you can also set the triggers to activate a phone function, like the flash light, as well as to open a specific app. In short, these triggers are perfect if you like having more buttons on your phone. Enhancing the gaming experience are the Black Shark's stereo speakers, which are perfectly aligned at the top and bottom edge. I like the sound, which is balanced and lively. There's even a headphone jack.
The triple rear cameras, however, are less impressive. They are decent enough for a mid-range phone. Images are sharp for outdoor scenes, though the shadows look darker than expected. Indoor shots, however, show a fair amount of noise. Overall, they are passable for most users. Besides, the main appeal of the Black Shark is gaming performance. And it doesn't disappoint here, with the phone handling mobile games at the highest settings with aplomb. Gameplay was fluid in Call of Duty and Real Racing 3, especially the latter, which supports 120fps. The Black Shark's 144Hz screen also gets plenty bright — peaking at 1,300 nits — so you can comfortably use it outdoors. Note that the phone heats up considerably during gaming. It's no surprise, but if you're worried, check out the Black Shark Magnetic Cooler.
The Black Shark 4 Pro comes with JoyUI, a heavily-skinned version of Xiaomi's MIUI Android interface. I think it looks garish, but the interface is usable. Thanks to its 120W fast-charging feature, the phone's battery can be topped up in just 15 minutes. Outside of gaming, the phone's battery stamina is actually better than expected. It lasted almost 13 hours in our video-loop battery test, for example. In short, the Black Shark 4 Pro is a niche but excellent phone designed for mobile gamers. It starts at a relatively affordable S$790 for the 8GB/128GB version. My 12GB/256GB review set is just under S$1,000, which is still cheaper than its closest competitor, the Asus ROG Phone 5 (over S$1,200). It's available now from Shopee and Lazada.
Note: Review unit provided by Black Shark.
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