Black Shark 4 Pro review: A decent budget gaming phone
The Black Shark 4 Pro is touted as the ultimate budget gaming phone – with a vibrant AMOLED display, last year’s Snapdragon 888 tuned to its maximum and physical shoulder buttons on touch surfaces.
But does it deliver? The gaming smartphone space is exploding with really good powers at competitive prices, so Xiaomi (the company behind Black Shark) has to do something special.
Black Shark 4 Pro: prices and configurations
The Black Shark 4 Pro is available in three finishes (matte black, gray or holographic black) and in 8 GB RAM + 128 GB storage or 12 GB + 256 GB configuration.
Pricing starts from $579 / £489 which puts it in a similar price bracket to the RedMagic 6R. For comparison, the new iPhoneSE weighs in at $429 and, if you wanted the crème de la crème with Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 internals, the RedMagic 7 will cost you $50 more at $629.
Black Shark 4 Pro: Design
The Black Shark 4 Pro is a bit of a brick. Granted, it’s curved at the back to fit nicely in the hand, but make no mistake, it’s a big phone.
Looking at the numbers, the 4 Pro measures 6.5 x 3 x 0.4 inches with a weight of 7.8 ounces. It is significantly larger and heavier than the RedMagic 6R (6.4 x 3 x 0.3 inches, 6.6 ounces), and slightly smaller but heavier than the RedMagic 7 (6.7 x 3 x 0, 4 inches, 7.6 ounces). When you use this phone, you can really feel that mass.
For gamers, instead of the touch-sensitive shoulder areas, you can flip the two switches on the right side and bring up the physical shoulder buttons, which are so much better to use. The frame has been sculpted for decent comfort and the holographic finish on the back looks pretty cool.
But this gamer-esque design won’t be for anyone. Any elegance of its curves doesn’t make up for the fact that it’s not a pocket phone; it will leave a noticeable bulge in skinny jeans and the plastic on the back looks pretty cheap.
Black Magic 4 Pro: Display
The display on the Black Magic 4 Pro is, to paraphrase Zoolander, really, really, ridiculously good looking.
Here, you’ll find a 6.67-inch AMOLED display with 2400 x 1080 resolution and a silky-smooth 144Hz refresh rate (and 720Hz report rate for quick touch interactions). Black Shark also claims that it supports HDR 10+, 111% DCI-P3 calibration and a maximum brightness of 1300 nits.
The end result is an incredibly vivid panel so your games look their best both indoors and in direct sunlight outdoors. the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness The trailer was the perfect showcase for display, as the spells shone on the screen with vivid colors. Color accuracy is impressive, brightness levels are outstanding, and the smoothness of that 144Hz refresh rate has actually helped me in games like Real Racing 3.
Black Shark 4 Pro: Audio
Of course, a good display needs good sound for immersive gameplay, and the Black Shark 4 Pro delivers a stereo experience across dual speakers. However, it warps slightly at high volumes, and the orchestral uplift section of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” sounds like a mess.
As for headphones, the inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack means you can enjoy lag-free audio. Class stroke, Black Shark.
Black Shark 4 Pro: performance
Now for the bread and butter of this phone. The Black Shark 4 Pro features last year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor with up to 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage.
This power is kept at optimum temperatures via a “sandwich” liquid cooling system that keeps thermals at an optimal level. When it comes to benchmarks, we saw the Snapdragon 888 deliver impressive results, but the 4 Pro takes its performance to another level.
In the Geekbench 5 test, the 4 Pro achieved a multi-core score of 3,742 and a 3DMark Wild Life average frame rate of 35.2 FPS. Unsurprisingly, the iPhone SE’s A15 Bionic demolished it with 4,482, but when it comes to this gaming phone‘s true competition, the RedMagic 6R hit a multi-core score of 3,652 and matched the average FPS. .
For fun, I also compared this with the OnePlus 10 Pro‘s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (3,682 multi-core) and so far the 4 Pro beats that. It looks like there was a shift in priorities with the 8 Gen 1, as the OnePlus 9 Pro also outperformed the 10 Pro (3,685), but graphics performance is significantly improved with the 10 Pro delivering 61 FPS on 3DMark Wild Life.
Either way, in the real world, that translates to a phone that doesn’t get any hint of slowing down no matter what games you throw at it. The same goes for your day-to-day tasks, including multitasking and swiping between apps. Yes there are newer components out there that offer faster speeds but you get good value for money here and although it can get hot with heavy use there are no temperature spikes that hinder the speed of this phone.
Black Shark 4 Pro: battery life and charging
The Black Shark 4 Pro comes with a 4,500mAh battery, which is a bit lacking compared to the 5,000mAh monster cells you can find in phones at this price.
In general day-to-day use, which for me includes hours of podcasts, lots of gaming, lots of social media and email use, and a good chunk of YouTube, I just went to bed with it 5% battery remaining.
There’s one saving grace, which is Xiaomi’s lightning-fast 120W Hyper Charge technology. You get the plug in the box and you can charge this phone to 100% in just 18 minutes in my testing. It’s barely time for a cup of coffee in the morning.
If you use your phone outside a lot, provided you’re near an outlet, you can go on for as long as you need.
Black Shark 4 Pro: Cameras
As with most gaming phones, Black Shark hasn’t spent much time in this department.
The Black Shark 4 Pro packs a 64MP main camera with f/1.8 aperture, 8MP ultrawide with f/2.4, and 5MP macro with f/2.4. In the round front, you have a 20MP selfie shooter with an f/2.45 aperture.
When it comes to phones primarily designed for stunning gaming performance, photos are usually either really dull and grainy, or really vivid but squishy with a lack of detail. In a way, the 4 Pro manages to be both.
The main camera’s color science is slightly cooler, with a few exceptions where the world’s hue is noticeably warmer, like the light from a bright orange sunset. Outside of daylight, significant noise begins to creep into the darker parts of an image.
The ultrawide boosts the color but with its missing detail, produces a pretty pasty photo with no real clarity when you zoom in. to make a balanced picture. Just don’t use the AI features unless you want to look like some horrible human/anime hybrid.
As for video, it’s technically capable of shooting in 4K, but really, you already know where that takes us. The 4 Pro’s camcorder capabilities are reserved for family and friends scenarios, and it can even be a little overkill with the dull, noisy image produced and the EIS turning everything to jelly the moment you move your hands.
Also, as you may remember from my 7 reviews, I stated that I will start taking the default image watermark into account in my phone’s scores. Black Shark (and by extension Xiaomi) tried to call me a bluff and the 4 Pro suffers.
In 2022, this is more than unacceptable. Disable watermarks by default and I won’t have to participate in this crusade!
Black Shark 4 Pro: JoyUI 12.5
The look and feel of the player is great for a small audience, but others may be looking for something that just isn’t awkward enough to take in public. You may need to work on removing some of these visual tweaks. Plus you’re stuck with Android 11 instead of the newer one Android 12 at this time and so far, it is unknown how many Android releases or security updates you will receive.
And finally, we have to talk about Shark Chan. I understand Black Shark’s intention to introduce a mascot/smart assistant and even though anime isn’t really my thing, I can totally understand that Shark Chan herself will have fans.
But the companion app opens to a screen where you can nudge the mascot anywhere with several heartfelt reactions and playful requests to “stop.” There’s a much better way to integrate a smart assistant than giving you a virtual being you can touch, and it made me want to take a shower given how scary it all was.
The Black Shark 4 Pro is a good gaming phone for the price. The screen is gorgeous, the inclusion of physical shoulder-trigger buttons improves your gaming performance, and the 120W charging lets you game with very minimal interruptions.
It falls into the same pitfalls as other gaming phones, such as the battery is lacking, the camera is lackluster, and the hardware design is very gamer-esque.
There is another problem. For $50 more, you can get the RedMagic 7 with extra power and a faster display refresh rate, which is well worth that extra $50. But choosing that will get you 65W charging rather than the 4 Pro’s full 120W.
So, as a gamer, you must be wondering which is more important: better trigger buttons and faster charging, or faster internals and a slightly smoother screen? As someone who uses the GameSir X2the phone buttons become redundant and I know I’d rather go for RedMagic’s flagship.