Black Shark 2 Pro Gaming Review: A Surprisingly Good Alternative To Gaming Powerhouses

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Black Shark quickly rose to the top as one of the premium gaming smartphone brands over the last couple of years. Securing a seat among heavy hitters like ASUS and Razer. The Black Shark 2 Pro is the latest iteration from the brand, and we've spent the last couple of weeks testing out its gaming capabilities to see how it stacks up against the competition. Is this a phone worth your time and money? In this review we aim to help you answer that question by sharing our experience with it as our main mobile gaming device.

From $599
Rating
Pros
  • Decent price for what you get
  • Top-tier specifications
  • A range of optional accessories to enhance the mobile gaming experience
  • Lightweight compared to other gaming phones
  • Doesn't get too hot during longer gaming sessions
  • Dual front-facing stereo speakers
Cons
  • The side light bars are sort of loud and brash

Black Shark provided us with this phone and any related accessories so we could check out the device. This in no way changes our opinions of the phone or alters the results of the review.

We've been wanting to review the Black Shark 2 Pro for a while. Quite simply because we wanted to see how it performed when compared to other gaming phones.

When Xiaomi first announced it was bringing a gaming phone to market, gamers outside the US were likely rejoicing as they would have a nice alternative to some of the more well-known brands like ASUS and Razer.

Xiaomi then followed that phone up with the Black Shark 2, and now the Black Shark 2 Pro. A slightly more powerful version of the 2, with more RAM options, more storage, and the more powerful Snapdragon 855 Plus mobile platform.

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I've been tinkering with the Black Shark 2 Pro for the past few weeks as part of this review, using it to play the mobile games I spend the most time with. Including Call of Duty Mobile, Black Desert Mobile and more.

Though, those two I felt were the best way to showcase how good the phone could be for high-end mobile gaming. This is an important factor if you're planning on investing the money it takes to get one of these devices, as they're generally not any less than $500 or $600 when they initially launch.

Mobile gaming has also recently been claimed to be the most popular platform across the globe. So to some, a powerful gaming phone is important as this might be their preferred platform for playing games, or it could be their only available platform.

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So how does the Black Shark 2 Pro perform in this regard? Is it a gaming worth its salt and should you consider it? In short, it's a good phone for games. It has the specs to provide a really good experience. In this review we aim to focus more on actual use of the Black Shark 2 Pro.

That way you can hopefully make a more informed decision on whether this is the gaming phone for you.

It talks the talk, but does it walk the walk?

On paper this is a very powerful phone. It has the necessary hardware components to be one of the best gaming phones there is.

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So I wanted to put that into practice and see how it stacked up to something like the ROG Phone II which I had previously been using more often than anything else for most of my mobile gaming.

The Black Shark 2 Pro has the Snapdragon 855 Plus inside so that was a good start. This is a mobile platform that has numerous gaming-related features, and is on par with what the ROG Phone II offers.

It also comes with either 8GB of RAM or 12GB of RAM depending on how much you want. The 8GB RAM model comes with 128GB of storage, while the 12GB model comes with the 256GB. So there's no going with 12GB of RAM and a smaller storage size to adjust the price. You either take both of the higher-end components or neither.

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Which also means a higher price. That shouldn't be too big of a deal though if you're already considering spending this amount of money. The 8GB model will set you back $599, and for $100 more you can opt for the 12GB model.

Of course one of the cooler features is the Master Touch feature. A pressure sensitive screen that allows you to customize your control for more precise gaming. I didn't notice too much of a difference when using this personally, but it's nice that it's there for anyone who wants to enable it and really dig into it.

The phone has liquid cooling too, which helps to keep it from getting too warm during longer gaming sessions. And, I found it to be less hot at the end of a longer stretch than the ROG Phone II which I wasn't expecting.

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Overall, the phone boasts being a powerful device for mobile gaming, and it is. If you want peace of mind knowing that the specs in the phone you choose will get the job done, then this phone provides that.

'Shark Mode' is great for when you don't want to be bothered

We can all probably agree on one thing. Sometimes you want to play games without being bothered. Maybe you've had a bad day and you simply want to zone out on a game you enjoy.

Maybe you're keen on focusing as much as possible to climb up the ranks. Or maybe you just prefer the immersion of the game you're playing and don't want that broken by incoming messages and app alerts.

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Whatever the reason, playing games with no distractions is always a treat. Shark Mode delivers that and it's the perfect companion to this phone being a powerful mobile gaming device. The best part is it's easy to enable and disable.

Because turning it on only takes the flick of a switch on the side of the phone. Turning it back off is flicking the switch the other way. This essentially turns off all notifications so you can play in peace.

Once on, it'll also launch you into a dedicated game window that has all of your favorite games. Initially there are only a few in the menu. But you can add any other game you have installed on the phone that way you have access to them from Shark Mode.

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Simply tap the "+" button in the top right corner and you can toss any game in there you like. This isn't really a groundbreaking feature. Other phones have similar functions, but it's nice to have and since the Black Shark 2 Pro has it, it's worth mentioning.

I found myself using this on at least a few occasions. And let me tell you, there were times I wish I'd turned it on and didn't. In short, definitely utilize this function if you plan to get the phone and play games on it. As it works great and it has the potential to make games more enjoyable.

The gamepad is solid and is a must-have pairing

Gamepads aren't compatible with every single game available. And so I tend to shy away from them for the most part. But in the past couple of years phones that are designed for gamers specifically are getting some pretty nice accessories.

The Black Shark 2 Pro has done this with its gamepad accessory. Both the left and right controllers of the gamepad slide in and lock into place on one side of the phone case that you can pick up, making it feel like a Nintendo Switch of sorts.

The design is actually very similar to the design of the Kunai Gamepad for ASUS's ROG Phone II and accompanying case. The Razer Phone 2 and the Junglecat are designed this way as well.

We've had the opportunity to play with the gamepad for the Black Shark 2 Pro for any games that would support it, and it's been great (Call of Duty Mobile is not supported and was just for the image). Surprisingly, it feels just as solid as the Razer Junglecat.

And, although the clip-on feature is still only compatible with the Black Shark 2 Pro, it's an excellent gamepad with responsive buttons and no noticeable latency.

About the only thing I would change is the right thumbstick. Instead of a traditional thumbstick like on most controllers, what you get is a touch sensitive one like on the Steam controller. This is not as easy to use and just feels less accurate.

Battery life on the gamepad is great tough, so unless you're playing games using it for five or six straight hours every day, they should last you quite a while before needing a recharge.

Better still is that you can use the gamepad with or without clipping the sides to the phone case. Overall Xiaomi did a solid job. And if you're getting this phone, get the gamepad with it.

Fairly long-lasting battery life for longer gaming sessions

One of the biggest issues with mobile gaming, if you play power-hungry games, is battery life.

With the Black Shark 2 Pro you mostly don't have to worry about that. It has pretty decent battery life thanks to the 4,000mAh capacity battery. That's still quite a bit lower than the ROG Phone II, but it still does the job.

Black Shark 2 Pro 1

Most of my time using this for games from a battery at 100-percent resulted in me being able to play continuously for at least five to six hours. I didn't often play for stretches that were that long. So battery life wasn't something I had to worry too much about.

It is good to know however that if you do rely on your mobile device for long gaming sessions that it can hold up for more than a few hours. And this will. You can even help the situation by utilizing tips to stretch the battery life out as long as possible.

Like keeping the screen brightness down to a reasonable level that still allows you to see it comfortably. Even if you run low on battery quicker than you expect, the Black Shark 2 Pro charges up pretty fast.

I wasn't disappointed with battery life. How long the battery lasts on a single charge is actually quite good. And this will likely be the same for most consumers who pick this up.

For the cost, you really can't go wrong

The Black Shark 2 Pro is a phone that while not extremely low-price, isn't going to cost you an arm and a leg. Yet it will still provide you with powerful enough hardware to run games at max settings. For the games that allow it at least.

More importantly, it'll allow games to run smoothly. The result is an overall great experience for playing high-end mobile games. The phone will start at a price of $599, as mentioned above.

And while this might not be as cheap as something like the Razer Phone 2, it does come with newer hardware. It also lets you avoid having to spend at least $900 to go with the ROG Phone II.

Granted, the Razer Phone 2 does perform more or less the same as the Black Shark 2 Pro as the review has proven to us. I was able to max out the settings on games like Black Desert Mobile and Call of Duty Mobile on both devices. So from a cost standpoint, the Razer Phone 2 may be a better value if you don't mind having older hardware.

If you want a newer device with newer hardware though, the Black Shark 2 Pro is a great option. Especially considering some of the extra accessories you can pick up.

The phone never really gets uncomfortably hot

One of the only complaints I had about the ROG Phone II was that it got insanely hot while playing certain games for too long.

Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition was one of these games. Though it seemed to really only get this hot when playing with the 120Hz refresh rate enabled. However it didn't take long for the heat to build up.

This doesn't seem to be much of a problem for the Black Shark 2 Pro. It doesn't support the 120Hz refresh rate in games, so this definitely helps. But even when playing graphics-intensive games for a couple hours non-stop it never really gets uncomfortably hot.

That's a huge bonus of this device that shouldn't be overlooked. A powerful gaming phone is only useful if you're playing games on it. Which you're less likely to do if it gets too hot to hold.

Overall, a great gaming phone for the money

Doing a review of the Black Shark 2 Pro has allowed us to compare it to other similar devices. Once upon a time this wasn't something that was needed as there were less options.

Black Shark 2 Pro 3

These days though more and more gaming phones are being released. At all different price points and with slightly different features and specs.

So it's more important now to see which ones are probably worth your money and which ones aren't. While we haven't reviewed a gaming phone yet that we didn't like, some are obviously a more realistic option because of the lower cost.

This is one of those phones that's in the middle ground. It's a wonderful option for the money. And one you should definitely pick up if you want top of the line hardware without spending $900 or more for just the phone without optional accessories.