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  • Soon Kai Hong

Black Shark 5 Pro Review: Insanely Good Audiophile Performance

It hasn’t been that long since we took a look at the Black Shark 4 Pro but now, we have the latest flagship, the Black Shark 5 Pro. And this improves on the previous in ways that it’s meant to be, but also in ways that we didn’t think possible.

Now to kind of set the record, no, Black Shark didn’t release both the 4 Pro and 5 Pro within months of each other. In fact, it was the standard yearly release in China. It only so happens that the rest of the world got both phones much later and thus here we are, with both the 4 Pro and 5 Pro being available at roughly the same time. So if you’ve yet to catch our review of the 4 Pro, feel free to check it out in the card up above or in the links down below. But in any case, let’s talk about the 5 Pro because this is certainly the new flagship.

Starting with the design, we can see that it’s been totally revamped. We have it here in Stellar Black and the main difference you’ll notice would definitely be the shifting of the camera module to the corner and the loss of the 3D effect, being replaced by much simpler and elegant lines. The back is also smooth to the touch and doesn’t invite fingerprints, making the phone pretty comfortable to hold despite the physically large size, coming in at about 164mm tall, 76mm wide and about 10mm thick.. The rear indicator LED, has also been shifted and now more closely resembles a Shark Eye of sorts.

Overall, we would say it’s a handsome design change and while the overall matrix and digital style of it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, the large camera module definitely makes it much more alike to other flagships out there.

The only thing that I’m not a big fan of would be the frame. Unlike the previous 4 Pro which featured a matte finish, these are now glossy in nature. Which means it does garner quite a bit of fingerprints and does also mean the pop-up triggers have the same material as well. Though more on that later.

Now at this point, there’s one thing we definitely want to highlight. With the new flagship, gone is the 3.5mm headphone jack. Now depending on you, it may or may not be a huge issue but we do feel just a tad disappointed. No longer will I be able to play music games and score high on the leaderboard with the use of true wireless earbuds. But apart from that, you of course still get USB Type-C,dual-SIM support with either one capable of supporting 5G and a power button that also doubles up as the fingerprint reader on the side, easily accessible with your thumb.

Flip to the front and this is where things didn’t really change, though that’s not really a bad thing per se because this display is still plenty great. 6.67-inches OLED display with a resolution of 1,080 x 2,400 in a 20:9 aspect ratio that covers over 111% DCI-P3, support HDR10+ and can get up to 1,300 nits in peak brightness. But of course, the most important factor is that it can run up to 144Hz and does support a 720Hz Touch-Sampling Rate. Just like before, it’s a really awesome display. Resolution is high enough, colors are vibrant, contrast is awesome and it runs at 144Hz. Browse the web, watch your favorite show, play some games, or just simply using your phone, it looks great and feels great. It also gets plenty bright to use outside in direct sunlight so you can game for hours on end with no issues.

But now we have to talk about the biggest upgrade by far, and we didn’t even think it was possible. The speakers. Now for reference, the speakers on the Pro 4 were already really good and indeed, it was number one in DXOMark’s Audio category for smartphones back when it launched. Now it’s a mere number 2. Well, guess who’s the new number one?

This, the Black Shark 5 Pro.

But the amazing thing about it is that it’s not just an incremental upgrade, it’s quite the substantial one and that’s also clearly evident with DXOMark, for the 4 Pro scored and the 5 Pro scored 86. To put it simply, this is hands down the best speaker system in a smartphone by far. Nothing comes close, not even the 4 Pro.

We use the Top Gun Maverick trailer as an example and we can definitely say that this gets so much louder. But only that, despite the much higher volume, the highs and mids are still really clear and crisp and that end, even the soundstage is much wider. Now bass still isn’t the strongpoint for sure, we’re still limited by physics after all but if you’re actually someone who wants a little bit of thump from a smartphone, this can actually do it.

Again, apart from videos and movies, gaming is also where it’s at. It’s a really great experience where great soundtracks in games like Genshin Impact really shine, letting you listen into the tranquility while just exploring the overworld or get in the rhythm with the constant beat of the battle soundtrack during the heat of battle. It does them all rather brilliantly.

Like we’ve said, it’s really, really good. And nothing comes close, not even the previous 4 Pro. If you have the opportunity to try it out in a store or anywhere else, you’ll be pleasantly blown away.

But now let’s talk about the other major upgrade with the 5 Pro and it’s under the hood.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 which comes with the Adreno 730 GPU, you can get it with either 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage or 12GB with 256GB and it’ll have a slightly larger battery at 4,650 mAh and will support the same crazy fast 120 watt charging.

With the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, this makes it a proper flagship that really competes with the rest out there and a definite step up from the previous 888. But if you know anything about the new chips from Snapdragon, while they do run much faster, they do also run quite a bit hotter. Well, Black Shark is doing all they can to tame the beast.

With the new 5 Pro, there’s an updated design to the Sandwich Liquid Cooling System inside it that adds an additional Vapor Chamber Plate, increasing the overall dissipation up to 5320m㎡. To top that off, there are directly attached copper alloys on the chip as well to further improve thermal performance. With all that, Black Shark does claim this is probably the one smartphone in the world with the largest cooling assembly to deliver the best possible performance from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.

And in practice, we can only say that it sure does perform, especially for sustained gaming sessions. We could easily play a demanding game like Genshin Impact and basically maintain a solid 60 frames per second with all the settings turned up to the maximum. The experience was really enjoyable and arguably the best thus far on an Android smartphone. There was little to no frame drops no matter how intense the battle got but more importantly, performance maintained even after 45 mins of solid gaming, or even an hour or more. The chip averages around 45 degrees celsius with clocks speeds averaging around 1.8GHz for the most part.

But at this point, some of you still wouldn’t game on your phone for long periods of time, not just because of performance and heat, but perhaps more so about the battery. While, Black Shark has thought of that too. There’s now a Bypass option to select when you have the phone plugged in, which allows exactly that, to bypass charging the battery and simply power allocate the power to the phone itself. So with this, not only would it help reduce the amount of heat build up, but it would also improve the overall battery life and longevity of the battery itself as well. Definitely a really nice touch.

And then we have to also talk about those triggers. Flick the slider and they’ll simply pop up and just like before, it’s an actual physical and tactile button which is a definite advantage over most others which utilize capacitive touch sensors instead. The functionality is fully customizable with the use of Shark Space. Simply drag and drop where you’ll want the input to be, and there you go, additional physical controls for your game of choice. If you’re playing Genshin, we would highly suggest mapping the L trigger for aiming and the R trigger for normal attack, it makes aiming with bow characters so much better.

Apart from that, there are other additional add-on controls via the use of Magic Press where you can again, map it to buttons on-screen and activate them just by pressing with force anywhere on either the left half or right half of the display or Motion Sensing, which is essentially providing yet the same versatility but activates by flicking the entire phone instead, in any direction.

Endless customizability, that’s for sure. All up to your own preference. This is a solid gaming phone through and through and it certainly provides one of the best experiences you can get in the market right now. Perhaps even give you an unfair advantage even.

And yes, we do have to talk about the battery and this is one area where it gets a slight upgrade as well.

We’re looking at an increase to 4,650mAh and it’ll also support the same crazy fast 120 watt fast charging. So you’ll be able to charge it up to 100% from zero in just 15 minutes. Now it will get quite warm to the touch whilst charging in this mode so if you’re worried about longevity of the battery, there is a slightly slower even mode where it’ll charge just a little slower, from zero to 100% in about 24 minutes. Less heat produced, but still really fast nonetheless. And yes, just like before, that 120 watt charger is included in the box, so no worries about that.

Okay so we’ve talked quite a bit about the performance, the display, so on and so forth. We’ve yet to touch on the cameras.

You now get a 108 megapixel f/1.75 main camera, a 13 megapixel ultra-wide angle and a 5 megapixel f/2.4 macro camera. As for the front, it’s a 20 megapixel f/2.45 selfie.

Overall, shots are pretty decent and they look pretty great especially when you’re just sharing your moments on social media. Colors are decent with good white balance and changing to the 108 megapixel mode does yield quite a bit more detail. You’ll also get access to the usual variety such as portrait mode, night mode and much more, all of which will perform pretty decently. As for video, you’ll be able to record up to 4K60FPS and up to 1080P960FPS for some serious slow-motion. All of which will yield pretty good results as well given the status of the phone.

As for selfies, it’s not too bad at all though we would say there even with all the settings turned off, there is still some form of beautification at work. Not our fancy, but entirely up to preference.

All in all, it’s a good upgrade over the previous 4 Pro and they are a versatile set of cameras that most wouldn’t amaze, but wouldn’t disappoint either.

And of course, lastly, let’s talk about price. The BlackShark 5 Pro with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage will retail for 899 US Dollars or 1,099 Singapore Dollars. Now there is the 8GB RAM with 128GB storage model though that’s not available in Singapore. If you’re in the US however, that will be available for 799 US Dollars.

Now for its asking price, this is honestly quite the value package. Now it is still quite a lot of cash, no doubt about that. But to get a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 at that price, and for it to possibly be the best performing of them all out there, that’s quite something. Not to mention that insane charging speed, the 144Hz display and much more. For what you’re getting, this is possibly the most powerful gaming smartphone that’s also the most affordable in its class. Black Shark has certainly achieved a really unique spot with this new flagship.

Honestly, we’re just really liking it and despite it being a gaming centric smartphone, we’re pretty sure anyone can enjoy the advantages this brings.

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