When it comes to the "phablet" market, Samsung was first and pretty much owns that market. Although we've seen a great bit of competition coming into the phablet space recently, and the latest is the Shark 1 from Leagoo. The Shark 1 is perhaps the cheapest 6-inch device under $200, but is it the best? That's what we'll be trying to answer throughout this review.
The Leagoo Shark 1 is definitely an interestingly named handset from the Chinese manufacturer. But does it have what it needs to steal some of that phablet market share from the big players like Samsung, Xiaomi, and even Lenovo? Let's find out.
The specs on the Leagoo Shark 1 are pretty respectable. We have a 6-inch 1920x1080 resolution IPS display which gives you 368 pixels per inch, which is powered by an octa-core processor in the MediaTek MT6753 that is clocked at 1.3GHz. We're also looking at 16GB of storage inside, which can be expanded via a microSD card up to 64GB. Paired with 3GB of RAM for all of your multi-tasking needs.
Camera-wise, we have a 13-megapixel camera around back with a 5-megapixel front-facing shooter. For GPS we have GLONASS, Galilio & BeiDou. It also has Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n. The battery is a pretty hefty 6300mAh, which Leagoo states can get you about 770 hours of standby time.
As far as network connectivity goes, it is a dual SIM device, and supports the following bands
In the Box
Inside the box, Leagoo provides us with the smartphone right there on top. Beneath the Shark 1 we have the earbuds, as well as the wall adapter - which this particular one is a EU plug. And finally we have the paperwork and the micro USB to USB Type-A cable. It's pretty much your standard contents inside the box, of course the box does remind me of Huawei's packaging, specifically for the Huawei Mate models. It is a cardboard box, but everything is laid out nicely.
As mentioned in the specs section, the Leagoo Shark 1 has a 1920x1080 resolution IPS panel that is 6-inches (measured diagonally). Not the most pixel dense panel out there, but not too shabby either. With a PPI of 368, you can see the pixels. Especially after using so many QHD displays. The pixels are there, but for the most part I couldn't see them, and better yet, they didn't bother me.
I was actually pretty impressed with how well this IPS panel performed. After having owned my fair share of LG flagships in the past few years, I've spent plenty of time with IPS displays, and this one looked really nice. The colors were really accurate, and didn't see as warm as the LG G5's panel can tend to be. Leagoo does use Miravision to enhance the display picture quality. With Miravision, Leagoo allows you to change the display to work for you. You can adjust the picture contrast, saturation and brightness. As well as the sharpness and temperature. By default, it's set to Vivid. But you do also have Standard and User Mode. It's great to have these types of options available to the user, because not everyone likes the same temperature display. As we've seen with many recent flagships.
The digitizer is something that usually suffers in these Chinese smartphones. But no issues here. The digitizer is what recognizes your finger. Whether you are swiping, making a gesture or what not, that's all the digitizer's job. And there were no problems here. Every time we swiped between home pages, it worked just as expected. Pressing buttons, and even doing some of the built-in gestures. All of them worked as they should.
To be honest, I was quite impressed by this display. Being a full HD display at this size, I was expecting it to be a bit mediocre. But I'd definitely use this device as my daily driver. No complaints whatsoever on the display, which isn't a common phrase when talking about smartphones under $200.
Hardware and Build
When it comes to the hardware, the Leagoo Shark 1 is actually a bit surprising. It's made of metal and of course the front is glass. But being a 6-inch phone made of metal - and with a massive 6300mAh battery inside - it's one heavy smartphone. The Shark 1 is made of metal, and it's not that metal that's been painted, like the LG G5 either. When you pick it up in the morning, it's nice and cold. The back is curved a bit here, which makes it easier to hold onto the Shark 1. That's definitely necessary given the size of this smartphone.
If you look at the back of the Leagoo Shark 1, you'll notice that everything looks so small. There's the 13-megapixel snapper in the upper left-hand corner along with your two-tone flash. Below that section there is the fingerprint sensor - more on that in a moment - with the Leagoo logo in landscape in the center and your FCC stuff below that. And yes, there is a speaker on the back. Definitely not our favorite place for a speaker. The left side houses the SIM card tray, with the right having the volume rocker and power button. Up top is the 3.5mm headphone jack and the bottom has the micro USB port.
The build quality here is quite impressive. It does feel like a rather solid phone. Almost like a phone that should and normally would cost more money. While it is a metal phone, it's not as slippery as a typical metal smartphone. That could be due to the darker color on our model (usually the darker colored metal phones aren't as slippery). Like most smartphones these days, the Shark 1 comes in black, silver and gold.
The SIM card slot which is found on the left side, is a dual micro SIM card slot. However one slot will double as a micro SD card slot. Allowing you to expand the storage. This is something that we've seen a lot more, recently, among smartphones. Especially unibody designed smartphones. As it means that they can have just one slot instead of two. It's a great idea, although we would prefer Leagoo to go with a nano SIM card, like most other flagships that are available these days.
The back of the Shark 1 has a fingerprint sensor. While it's nice to see this on a smartphone in this price range, there are some glaring issues with it. For one, it's a bit too far up on the back of the device. Which means I need to shimmy my hand up the device to actually use it. That may be an issue only for me, because not everyone's hands are the same size. But more importantly, the sensor is just too slow. It never fails, every time I go to unlock the phone with my finger, it takes at least 5 seconds or longer. That's just too long for a fingerprint sensor to take to read a finger. It's almost faster to just swipe to unlock, and most users will probably opt for that.
Something that will most definitely be fixed with a software update, is being able to use this fingerprint sensor for apps and such. The Leagoo Shark 1 is running on Android 5.1 Lollipop. This means that you aren't getting support for the Fingerprint API that Google announced for Marshmallow, because you're behind that update. Now there's no telling when or if that update is coming to the Shark 1, but it should make the fingerprint sensor much more usable.
Performance and Memory
With the MediaTek MT6753 octa-core processor inside which is clocked at 1.3GHz, you'd think it's slow compared to any of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800-series processors, right? In that case, you'd be wrong. While this is clocked slower, it can still keep up with flagships like the Galaxy S7 and LG G5. One big reason for that is the fact it's pushing less pixels. Not to mention the fact it's doing less in the background than those two smartphones. The MediaTek MT6753 is a 8-core processor. And all eight cores are Cortex-A53 clocked at 1.3GHz. That is paired with the Mali-T720 GPU and 3GB of RAM. Pretty respectable in terms of gameplay and multi-tasking.
Through our usage of the Leagoo Shark 1, we never ran out of RAM, nor needed to close the apps in recents. That shouldn't be a surprise anyways, since Android is great at managing RAM and making sure you don't run out. We were able to use all of our normal apps and games, without seeing so much as a stutter. Speaking of Gameplay, the Leagoo Shark 1 excelled at that as well. We played Riptide GP 2, Subway Surfers and Crossy Road on the Shark 1, and all three performed beautifully. Of course that Mali-T720 GPU definitely helped out there. Providing some stunning performance in games with amazing graphics like Riptide GP 2.
Sound & Speakers
As mentioned already, there is just one speaker and it's on the back. Now the back is not removable, so it's tough to tell whether the speaker is the full length or if its just in the center, and the speaker grill is there to fool us. Nevertheless, the speaker is quite good. The speaker can get nice and loud without sounding all distorted. Leagoo also added a couple of nipples on the back of the phone, on either side of the speaker. What this does is it raises the bottom of the Shark 1 just a little bit. But it does make a difference and keeps it from being muffled when sitting on a desk.
Leagoo does have a few audio enhancements available here. There's BesAudEnh which is an audio enhancer for the earphone. There's also BesLoudness which is a volume booster for the speaker and then BesSurround, which you can choose to turn on Movie Mode or music mode. It does make quite a difference, to be honest. And while it is nice to have these features, we would prefer a traditional EQ that the user could adjust at their own will. Some like a higher bass, some like it lower, etc.
All in all, the speaker was pretty impressive for being a rear-facing speaker. Although with the device being so large, it's nice to see that when you're holding the phone and playing a game, you aren't muffling the sound from the speaker. Which can be an issue on other smartphones these days.
We ran Geekbench 3, AnTuTu and 3DMark on the Leagoo Shark 1, which you can see all of the results in the gallery below.
Phone Calls and Network
This is a dual SIM smartphone, so you could use two micro SIM cards at the same time and switch between network at will. We used just one SIM card, which was tied to T-Mobile. During the review phase, we made plenty of phone calls with the Shark 1, and the experience was about what you'd expect. Others said that we came in nice and clear - remember there's no HD Voice here, at least for T-Mobile. And we didn't experience any dropped calls.
Now, unfortunately, the Shark 1 does only support 2G or EDGE data in the US, due to the different bands. So our speeds are much, much slower than usual. But the Shark 1 did seem to work quite well. There were times where it would drop connection to the T-Mobile network, but if it supported their HSPA+ or LTE networks, that likely wouldn't be an issue.
One of the main advantages to having such a large screen smartphone, is the fact that there is usually a hugebattery inside and keeps the thing going for quite a long time. Leagoo managed to fit a 6300mAh battery in the Shark 1. Now with it having a 6-inch FHD display, we were unsure what to expect in terms of battery life. But we are happy to report, that battery life is quite stellar here on the Shark 1. We were typically able to get through two full days of normal usage, and around 5-6 hours of screen on time. Now this included the display being on Adaptive Brightness as well as playing plenty of Riptide GP 2.
Leagoo does have a "Standby Intelligent Power Saving" mode which can be disabled if you wish to do so. But it does provide some pretty amazing standby battery life. Overnight (around 8-9 hours) we lost about 1% of battery from standby. That's actually quite good. Many others would lose around 2-3% if they were running Marshmallow, and around 5-10% if they aren't. Where the Shark 1 isn't running Marshmallow, we'd expect to see even better standby when and if it does get its update to Marshmallow.
With such a large battery, you'd expect it to take a long time to charge, right? Wrong. It takes about 3 hours to go from around 10% to 100%. And that's due to Leagoo's own version of Quick Charge. It can do 3A, which is the same current that Quick Charge 3.0 uses. While it's still slow compared to Quick Charge 3.0 with the LG G5, it's still about the same pace, considering this battery is about 3x the size. Nice to see them putting something like this in there, because charging a 6300mAh battery could take quite a long time.
Now we did run the PC Mark benchmark for battery life on the Shark 1, and it did quite well. Giving us Work battery life results of 8 hours and 22 minutes. That's about 32 minutes better than the HTC 10, and about twice as good as the Bluboo X9. Both of which we recently reviewed.
The software here is a bit interesting. We're running Android 5.1 Lollipop, along with Leagoo's own skin on top. Our review unit here has the March 1st, 2016 security patch as well. Now the reason why I say it's a bit interesting is for the fact that the software looks and feels like stock Android in some respects. Now looking at it, you'll know that it definitely isn't stock Android. For starters, there's no app drawer. But looking at the notification shade, it behaves the same as stock Android. If not a bit better. So when you pull down the notification shade, you get your notifications along with the bottom row of quick settings (which are customizable) and a brightness slider. Pull down again and you get all three rows. Very similar to stock Android, just with a different greenish color scheme here. With this being a 6-inch display, this set up works really well on the Shark 1.
The UI is nice and bright and vibrant. There's plenty of color here, I'm actually a big fan of that. Leagoo does have a few themes included, but we've found that all it themes is the wallpaper and icons on the Shark 1. It's cool that you can change up the icons without slapping on a custom launcher here, but it would be nice to theme the entire OS, sort of like what Cyanogen and CyanogenMod allow you to do. A couple other additions here is the fact that you have a vinyl widget to the left of the main home screen, which controls your music. So locally stored music can be controlled without opening the music app. Pretty neat. The very first screen, to the left of the music screen, you can use to take pictures without opening the camera. Given the small viewfinder, I'm not sure why anyone would want to use this instead of the camera app.
You'll find a lot of gestures in the Shark 1. So you can choose to enable the double-tap to turn on the Shark 1. Unfortunately, it can't be used to turn off the display. Other gestures that you can use from the lock screen include swiping up to open the phone, swiping down to open messages, drawing an M to open music, a C to open the camera and many others. In the gallery, you can also move your hand over the screen to swipe between pictures, like the Galaxy S4 used to do back in the day. If you're looking for a phone with gestures, then look no further, as there are plenty of gestures available here on the Shark 1.
One of the issues I have with Leagoo's software is in the screenshot above. Sure the navigation keys look like they are perfectly fine right? With a down arrow to hide the navigation bar, and buttons for back, home, recents and a notification pull down (definitely helpful on a smartphone this size). But wait, that square, it's not a recents or overview button. Instead it's a menu button. Yes, it's a menu button and not a recents button. Instead long pressing the circle (aka home) opens up the recents button. That really caught me by surprise and forced me to get used to that (especially since I'm using it side-by-side with the LG G5 as my daily driver).
The software here on the Shark 1 is pretty decent. While we'd love to see stock Android or even Android 6.0 Marshmallow on the Shark 1. It's still very usable. While not everyone will love the idea of not having an app drawer. You can easily fix that, since this is Android after all. There are plenty of third-party launchers available in the Google Play Store that you can install, along with plenty of icon packs.
Now the camera, to put it plain and simply, it's not good. Not at all. The pictures continually come out pretty bad, while they aren't as bad when used outside, a lot of pictures taken inside with decent lighting turned out really bad looking. Almost like we took it with that blurry cam you see with a lot of leaks of upcoming smartphones. At first I thought this was due to the camera being dirty, so I wiped it down and cleaned it up. Still, the pictures came out pretty bad. Went through all of the settings - thinking maybe it was on some filter. But nope, this is just how the camera is. Which is a bit unfortunate, as this is really the only downside on the Shark 1.
The camera, while taking not so great photos, does have a few neat features included. A few of the modes included are HDR, Panorama, Multi-Angle, Motion Track, PIP Mode, Face Beauty and Watermark. Otherwise, you have your typical options included, like face detection and color effect. What's interesting here is that you can use the viewfinder in 4:3 or at full screen. But it still is in the 13-megapixel size. Leagoo does have a Pro mode available here, allowing you to adjust the white balance, ISO, and much more. It's a pretty simple UI, and great for those that may be professional photographers.
In the gallery, you'll be defaulted to the "Photos" section, which provides your images that you've taken with the camera (only) and they are separated by date. You can also view by folder, and see all of the images you have on your Shark 1. Including screenshots, downloads, Instagram pictures and more. All of your usual editing tools are here. So you are able to use different filters, frames, crop the images and so much more. And as you'd expect you can also view the details. For those wondering, most of the files came in between 1 and 2 megabytes in size.
We took plenty of images from the Leagoo Shark 1. Which you can view on our Flickr account by clicking the image below. These are the full resolution, unedited versions of these images.
The Display is freaking amazing. I honestly did not expect a 1080p display to be that good.
The speaker is also fairly good, while it may not be a selling point for Leagoo, it can definitely get the job done.
Battery Life was pretty decent. It can always be better though.
Price. Coming in at just $189, it's definitely worth the cash, unless you can't get around that camera quality.
The camera was easily the biggest and only disappointment of the Shark 1.
The size may be a bit too big for some users (including myself), but some - a very small group - will love having a 6-inch display.
The fingerprint sensor is just too inaccurate to be relied on day in and day out.
The Leagoo Shark 1 costs just under $200, coming in at $189. So we're going to treat it as a relatively cheap smartphone. For that price, there's a lot to like here. A big screen, with a great display, amazing battery life, and quick charging capability. But the big downside here is the camera. The only way that we could recommend this phone is if you take zero pictures with your phone. Otherwise, it might be best to go elsewhere. Which is pretty tough to say because everything else about the phone was pretty much perfect. Sure there were a few small things that we'd change. But for the most part we loved the phone. We're not sure if there is a software update that can fix the camera or not, but we sure are hoping it can. If you can get around how the camera is, then it's a great phone to pick up, no doubt.