Black Shark 2 main
Tushar Kanwar
Black Shark 2 main
TECH
24/06/2019 12:54 PM IST | Updated 24/06/2019 5:42 PM IST

Black Shark 2 Gaming Phone Review — A Performance Gaming Beast

Gaming phones like the Razer Phone 2 and the Asus ROG Phone are trying to bring something new to the market. How does the Black Shark 2, backed by Xiaomi, fare in this new category?

With the explosion of mobile gaming courtesy the PUBG Mobile wave, where does the serious gamer go for more than the standard gaming fare that flagships have to offer? There’s the Razer Phone 2 or the Asus ROG Phone, and a brand-new entrant in the Black Shark 2.

BlackShark is a Chinese firm in which Xiaomi owns 47 percent, ensuring a good supply chain. The phone has turned out to be a performance gaming beast that doubles up quite well as an everyday carry as well, at a price that is simply too good to ignore.

The Shadow Black variant of the Black Shark 2 (6GB/128GB) is available on Flipkart for Rs. 39,999 and the Frozen Silver variant (12GB/256GB) retails at INR 49,999.

Black Shark 2 – Pros

Design: Gaming devices tend to go all out, massive vents and more flashy lights than your favorite club, just to look the part. The Black Shark 2 is a little more subtle, with an illuminated rear ‘S’ logo along with two RGB light strips on the side that fire up when the phone is on charge or a notification comes in.

You can pick between a breathing or flashing pattern, or cycle through the spectrum of 16 million colors, or keep them off via the software. This means you can have the toned-down flagship for work, and all-out gaming device during downtime. Harder to hide is the aggressively sculpted metal body with the stylish glass elements on the back, plus the additional thickness that the dedicated cooling components necessitate.

This is a big phone, and the look may not be for everyone, but if you’re considering this phone, there’s a fair chance you’re on board with a bit of a gaming gear look.

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Black Shark hasn’t boarded the notch train, so you get reasonably sized but dated-looking bezels both above and below the display, which give the phone enough purchase while gaming in landscape orientation. Plus, there are dual front-facing speakers, which is always a bonus.

The in-display fingerprint scanner is reasonably fast and doesn’t mar the design with a physical scanner. A unique toggle button fires up Shark Space, a dedicated gaming interface, which is a nice touch for its target audience. The vented design does mean that this phone doesn’t have an IP rating mentioned, so be careful with the phone because this shark can’t swim.

Performance and specifications: No surprises here, the Black Shark 2 come with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip coupled with the latest Adreno 640 GPU with Snapdragon Elite Gaming graphics processing and Liquid Cool 3.0 liquid-cooling tech.

With a whopping 12GB of memory on the Frozen Silver variant, it is likely the most kitted out phone out there … and the performance shows in every game we threw at the Black Shark 2. Despite all the cooling tech inside, the phone did run hot after 30-45 minutes of intense gaming, something for Black Shark to address.

Tushar Kanwar

Software: Thanks to a largely stock Android interface with no fancy interface customizations, the phone is as snappy as you’d expect on this hardware. What Black Shark have focused on is making the gaming experience as uninterrupted as possible, ergo Shark Space. Not only does Shark Space organize and launch all your games from one place, it lets you manage incoming notifications and dedicate more of your phone network and processing performance to the game. Oh, and there’s also a Ludicrous Mode to push things to the absolute max.

Display: Black Shark has used a 6.4-inch AMOLED display on the Shark 2, and while the Full HD resolution display doesn’t have the sharpest or the most fluid display around, it’s super vivid, so much so that it may need to be reined in via the color temperature settings, and one often wished the display was a tad brighter while using it outdoors.

Instead of targeting a 90/120Hz output a la the Razer Phone 2 or the OnePlus 7 Pro, Black Shark has upped the touch sensitivity to 240Hz, which makes a discernable difference in first person shooter games or racing games where that split-second advantage matters. The phone also has a pressure sensitive display, much like 3D Touch on an iPhone, where you can map two extra virtual buttons on the screen to have available to you during gameplay—a great example of a software customization being delivered in an intuitive, easy-to-use format.

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Controllers: Additional on-screen controls are all very well, but it’s when you slip on the rear case and attach the add-on controllers that the ‘mini-console’ nature of the device truly comes to life. Thumbstick and buttons on the left controller and touchpad and buttons on the right, the controllers pair over Bluetooth seamlessly and give the Black Shark 2 a very Nintendo Switch like feel to it. With the physical game controls, the entire screen is available for your gameplay. You can even clip the two controllers together, plug the Black Shark 2 into a TV monitor via the optional USB-to-HDMI adapter and play on the big screen.

The only downer? Local availability of these controllers. While the Rookie Kit (left gamepad and holder) will be made available to consumers in India in the coming weeks, the right controller (part of Pro Kit) needs to be picked up separately from the Black Shark global website, although the firm is adding a discount coupon to sweeten the deal. If you’re picking up the Black Shark 2, the additional outlay for the controllers is so worth it.

Tushar Kanwar

Battery Life: There’s a capacious 4,000mAh battery with support for Qualcomm Quick Charge, but the Indian variant charges at 18W fast charging instead of the 27W global variant. Manages a good hour or more of intensive gaming, alongside the daily duties of Whatsapp, browsing and streaming music and ends the day with 15-20% to spare.

Black Shark 2 – Cons

Hardware: When you’re going all out to make a gamer’s phone, you’re bound to tick someone or the other off. So, you’re going to have some folks picketing about the lack of the 2K screen while others demand a 90Hz/120Hz display, but we suspect most are going to miss the headphone jack. It’s a significant omission for those with existing gaming headphones. There’s also no storage expandability via microSD, so you’re going to have to settle for the 128GB/256GB onboard storage. In our opinion, the controllers should really have been included in the package, but maybe that’s asking for a little too much.

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Camera: With so much going for the Black Shark 2 as a great everyday use device, even for many non-gamers, the cameras are a bit disappointing. You get a  high-res 48MP main camera (f/1.8) and a secondary 2x-telephoto 12MP camera (f/2.2) and while images are pleasing (good details, accurate colors) and the sensor is quick to focus, there is a noticeable shutter lag while taking images and the quality takes a real hit in low-light. The selfie camera was a real winner, though - the 20MP sensor took detailed, natural looking photos and the portrait mode was spot on with the edges.