Black Shark 4 Pro Review: Affordable awesome gaming smartphone

Black Shark is a Chinese gaming technology company that focuses on making gaming smartphones. Its latest flagship gaming smartphone, Black Shark 4 Pro, was launched in China last Mar. And it took nearly a year to finally reach Singapore’s shores.

Black Shark 4 Pro. (Photo: Black Shark)

SPECS
PRICE: S$799 (128GB), S$999 (256GB, version reviewed); available in Lazada and Shopee
PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G
DISPLAY: 6.67-inch Super AMOLED, 2,400 x 1,080 pixels
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 11
REAR CAMERAS: 8MP ultra-wide-angle, 64MP wide-angle, 5MP macro
FRONT CAMERA: 20MP
MEMORY: 128GB/8GB RAM; 256GB/12GB RAM
BATTERY: Non-removable Li-Po 4,500mAh
WEIGHT: 220g

The highlights of the Black Shark 4 Pro are its magnetic pop-up triggers, 144Hz display, liquid cooling system, DTS Ultra X dual speakers and 120W hyper charging.

The gaming smartphone comes in two variants of 128GB with 8GB RAM and 256GB with 12GB RAM. And it is available in three colours of cosmos black, misty grey and shadow black. The unit reviewed is a shadow black 256GB model.

DESIGN
Unlike the smartphone industry’s unhealthy obsession with thinness, the Black Shark 4 Pro is unashamedly thick and bulky. And I meant this to be a good thing. Its large frame and bevelled edges offer better grip when holding it with two hands to game.

What you get out of the box. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Apart from the cosmos black model, the other two models sport a X-anntenna rear on a matte surface. This surface ensures that it will not pick up much fingerprints or smudges when you are holding it. When the phone is unlocked, there is a little triangle logo – just under the rear triple-camera module – that will light up.

This triangle lights up whenever the phone is unlocked. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

As previously mentioned, the Black Shark 4 Pro has two magnetic pop-up triggers – one on each end of the phone’s right side.

A switch beside each trigger lets you pop up the trigger easily and when you need it. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

There is a switch next to each trigger. Sliding the switch will pop up the trigger for you to use. When not needed, slide the switch again to pop the trigger back. It is pretty neat. You can map the controls easily using the overlay software that you bring up by swiping down the right corner of the screen when it is in landscape orientation.

Mapping the controls to the triggers is quite easy. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

However, the triggers only work for games in landscape mode. So you cannot use it when you are playing games like Pokemon Go, which is played on portrait orientation.

But for me, the real highlight of this smartphone is its display. It is utterly gorgeous with high resolution, HDR10+ and a peak brightness of 1,300 nits.

Everything will look good on this display. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Moreover, its super fast 144Hz refresh rate ensures excellent visuals and smooth fluidity of games, videos or any content displayed on it.

CAMERA
In the camera department, the Black Shark 4 Pro does not have the bells and whistles found in the flagship smartphones of the major tech brands.

It even lacks an optical zoom camera with its rear triple camera system consisting of a 64-megapixel (MP) main wide-angle camera, a 8MP ultra-wide-angle camera and a 5MP macro camera.

Photos taken by this smartphone are decent at best. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

The macro camera is almost “hidden” from the native camera app. It is not part of the visible options like Portrait or Pro modes. You have to tap on the top right hand corner of the camera app to bring up the option menu. It is almost like they don’t want people to use the macro camera.

Oh, I finally found the Macro mode. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

In truth, the image quality of the shots by Black Shark 4 Pro is nothing to shout about. They are decent at best in bright sunlight. Certainly, they are not in the league of the amazing photos taken by likes of Apple iPhone 13 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra or Google Pixel 6 Pro.

PERFORMANCE
Being a gaming smartphone, the Black Shark 4 Pro is probably not going to judged by its camera ability but by its gaming prowess.

FOR
+ Great gaming performance
+ Handy pop-up triggers
+ Fantastic 144Hz display
+ Super fast wired charging
+ Affordable

AGAINST
– Last-generation flagship chip
– Mediocre camera performance
– No wireless charging

In this respect, the ageing Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G chip is a worry. But my worries are unfounded. In the GeekBench 5 benchmarking test, the Black Shark 4 Pro scored 1,129 (single) and 3,678 (multi-core).

This is not too far off from the flagship smartphones such as S22 Ultra’s score of 1,197 (single-core) and 3,183 (multi-core) or Google Pixel Pro’s score of 1,054 (single-core) and 2,895 (multi-core). Only the iPhone 13 Pro Max scored better with 1,737 (single-core) and 4,757 (multi-core).

Most importantly, playing any game, from racing game Asphalt 9 to shooting game PUBG Mobile, on the Black Shark 4 Pro is as smooth as butter.

Playing games on the Black Shark 4 Pro is as smooth as butter. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Playing Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) in Ultra graphics setting with refresh rate set at a maximum of 120Hz is just a joy to behold. Not to mention, I can map the triggers to the most used skills to execute my moves faster.

I also like that I don’t even need to map the triggers for Asphalt 9. I can immediately can use them to drift my racing car. In all, this is really a great gaming smartphone.

Drifting in Asphalt 9 is made even easier with the triggers. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

BATTERY LIFE
In our intensive video-loop battery test with the display set at 144Hz, the Black Shark 4 Pro lasted 11 hours 28 minutes from a full charge.

This puts it a notch below the likes of S22 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro Max that clocked over 14 hours in the same battery test.

But in real life situations whereby you are gaming, the battery performance is quite different of course. For instance, the battery depleted by 10% after playing MLBB (albeit in Ultra graphics setting and refresh rate of 120Hz) for only around 30 minutes.

Thankfully, the smartphone supports 120W HyperCharge. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Thankfully, the smartphone supports 120W HyperCharge. Its included 120W power adapter and a 6A USB-C cable allow the Black Shark 4 Pro to be charged from zero to 100% in just 20 minutes.

On the downside, the smartphone does get worryingly hot during this fast charging process. So, I will recommend doing this fast charging only in “emergencies”. Plus, it does not wireless charging.

ACCESSORIES
In fact, the Black Shark 4 Pro does get a tad hot even when you are playing graphics-intensive games. Thankfully, Black Shark sells a Magnetic Cooler (S$79) accessory that works with any smartphone.

As it name suggests, it is a USB-C-powered magnetic cooling fan. It comes with an adhesive magnetic plate, so you can stick the plate to any smartphone’s before attaching this cooler fan on it.

The Magnetic Cooler with the included adhesive metal plate. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

It does not have any built-in battery, so it requires to be plugged to a USB-C cable from a power bank or smartphone in order to work. There is a promotion now that is giving away the Magnetic Cooler free (while stocks last) when you buy the Black Shark 4 Pro from the links provided above.

Ironically, iPhones with MagSafe, such as the iPhone 12 or 13, do not require the adhesive magnetic plate to work. Just stick it on its rear, plug in the USB-C cable and it is ready to use.

The Magnetic Cooler works great with iPhones that has MagSafe. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Unlike iPhone’s cases that are readily available, Black Shark smartphone cases are rare. Thankfully, out of the box, the Black Shark 4 Pro comes with a silicone case. It has the same design ethos as the smartphone and even has an opening to reveal the lighted triangle. Nice touch.

VERDICT
With a price tag just below S$1,000 for the top-tier model, the Black Shark 4 Pro is an affordable flagship smartphone with its gaming looks, great performance and physical triggers.

This is especially so if you prefer to be playing MLBB on the MRT train over taking photos of that swift sunset.

RATINGS
FEATURES: 8/10
DESIGN: 8/10
PERFORMANCE: 9/10
BATTERY LIFE: 7.5/10
VALUE FOR MONEY: 9/10
OVERALL: 8.5/10