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  • Soon Kai Hong

Black Shark 4 Pro Review: It's Late, But Still Great

Today we’ve something exciting in the studio and it’s not something you would see very often per se. This is the BlackShark 4 Pro and just like its predecessors, it is a gaming smartphone through and through. But this is the Pro version and promises additional features and better performance compared to the standard 4 but yet still maintaining a really reasonable price point that wouldn’t break your bank. Best of all, it comes with a 120 watt charger that can charge it from zero to a hundred in just about 15 minutes, which is insane.

But now for some of you out there watching this very review right now, you might be thinking that the BlackShark 4 Pro is kind of old news now. Which in a way, that’s true. This phone has actually been launched almost a year ago now in China. But it’s only now that we get this here in Singapore, or the rest of Asia, really.

So is it too late? Well, if you’ve seen the title, you know the answer. It is late, but it’s still great.

Let’s start off by talking about the design

Despite being a gaming centric smartphone, the design is honestly really minimalistic. We have it in Shadow Black and with it you get a really dark gray, almost to the point of black, aluminum bezel with a slight tinge of navy. Flip around to the back and you’ll get a matrix-like display with a matte finish. It’s really smooth to the touch and thanks to the matte finish, you needn’t worry about fingerprints, oil stains, or any kind of smudges. Which is certainly a plus point in our books especially when you’re gaming for long hours on end.

Here is also where you’ll get a backlit logo that can be customized to your liking via the Light Effect app, where you can change the backlight color or effect to anything you want for a number of different functions such as when you’re playing music, when you’ve call, a notification, so on and so forth. A subtle touch, but pretty nice. We would say that the overall design is pretty clean and minimalistic to a certain extent. At the very least, this definitely doesn’t look like the average gaming smartphone. It’s much more subtle, much more professional looking and we like it.

As for buttons and ports, you’ll get a standard sim-card tray which will support dual sim, a volume rocker right below that and on the opposite side, there’s the power button which also acts as the fingerprint reader. Move to the bottom and you’ll get your Type-C port and a really handy 3.5mm combo jack.

So nice to see that on a smartphone… so nice…Now of course, there’s two additional buttons that you can find on the two corners, but more on that later.

For now, let’s talk about that display and to put it simply, it’s a really good display. You’re getting a 6.67-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 1,080 x 2,400, capable of running up to 144Hz with a 720Hz touch sampling rate, support HDR10+, hit a peak brightness of 1300 nits and will cover 111% of the DCI-P3 color space.

In simpler terms, this is a really good AMOLED display. Colors are vibrant, contrast is on point and that 144Hz is just buttery smooth. Use it for anything from simply browsing the web, binging on your favorite shows on Netflix or YouTube, playing great games such as Genshin Impact, or even just doing stuff on the phone, it looks great and feels great. And thanks to the high brightness capability, it’s perfectly usable outdoors in direct sunlight with no issues at all. It really is just a great display.

There’s just one thing we would suggest when you first set up the phone and that’s to enable Dark Mode. Definitely use Dark Mode, it’s just much better. Apart from that, you’re free to change the color scheme should you want to, if color accuracy is something you’re concerned about on a smartphone. Additionally, you can change the refresh rate as well, down to 90Hz or 60Hz should you wish to do so. Though we would say you really wouldn’t need to.

But now let’s talk about the speakers and this is hands down the best speakers we’ve tried on a smartphone by far. In fact, at the time of launch, this ranked number 1 in the DXOMark score for Audio on a smartphone. Well since then, it’s no longer number 1 and has dropped to a mere number 2. But guess whose number 1? Well it’s the latest BlackShark 5 Pro that isn’t available anywhere outside of China at the moment. So in a sense, you’re still literally getting the best here. And seriously, it’s one heck of a speaker system in a smartphone.

Watching the Top Gun Maverick trailer was definitely a really different experience. Not only does it get really loud, the highs and mids are really clear especially with vocals. On top of that, low-end rendering with good spatial performance really adds to the overall experience. This means an equally great experience while gaming as well, with really punchy sound effects but yet without drowning out the constant beat of the battle soundtrack. Like we’ve said, it’s really good and it’s only beaten by its successor. That says a lot. But should you not want to use the speakers, you can also always just plug in a good old high performance IEM for this has a 3.5mm combo jack. Really nice.

So now let’s talk about the performance and we start with specifications.

Snapdragon 888 which comes with the Adreno 660 GPU, you can get it with either 8GB of RAM with 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage or 12GB of RAM with 256GB of storage, and it’ll come with a 4,500 mAh battery that will support 120 watt charging. So yes, you might’ve realized that this is but just the standard 888 and not the 888+ or the latest 8 Gen 1, which isn’t really surprising considering the price point and the fact that this actually launched a year ago.

Even so, the 888 is still quite the improvement over the 870 on the standard BlackShark 4 and still proves to be very capable. We could easily play quite demanding titles like Genshin Impact and still achieve really great frame rates while basically maxing almost all the quality settings and turning it up to 60 frames per second. For the most part, it was a really enjoyable experience and it only really dropped some frames when the action got a little too intense. Performance kept up well after half an hour or so, which is a good sign of little to no throttling, averaging around 40 degree celsius on average and clocking in just shy of 1.9GHz. This most likely thanks to the Sandwich Liquid Cooling System that’s inside it.

Overall, a much better experience compared to the Snapdragon 870 for sure.

You wouldn’t need to worry about online connectivity as well as there’s support for both WiFi 6 and 5G. So other more competitive games like Apex Legends will be fully enjoyable not just thanks to the SoC but also the smooth connectivity.

Speaking of which, let’s now talk about those additional buttons. Simply flick them to one side and you’ll get magnetic pop-up triggers. Unlike other gaming phones out there which use capacitive touch sensors for triggers, these are actual physical and tactile triggers, and they add that much more to the feel of the device when gaming. Of course, it’ll depend on the games you want to play but triggers are definitely of the most benefit when it comes to shooters. Conversely, the triggers also serve as shortcut buttons to any other function you would want outside of gaming, such as the flashlight, to start screen recording and more.

Having tried other types of trigger mechanism on other gaming phones, we have to say that the implementation of it by BlackShark is by far the best experience yet.

We then come to the battery and this is probably the main highlight of this very device. As mentioned, it comes with a 4,500mAh battery and you’ll easily get by a day’s of use without issues. The best bit however is that it supports 120 watt fast charging which can charge from zero to fifty percent in 5 minutes and up to hundred percent in just about 15 minutes. That is insane. Literally, this is the phone you want to have in your pocket if you only have ten minutes before you have to rush out the door or perhaps to catch your next flight.

Best part? That 120 watt fast charger is included in the box, no additional cost.

Now of course, even though it’s a gaming phone, you still get access to a good array of cameras. On the back, you’ll get a triple camera setup with a main 64 megapixel sensor, alongside a 8 megapixel wide-angle and, surprisingly, a 5 megapixel macro. At the front, you’ll get a 20MP selfie. Overall, we would say that the shots taken are pretty decent, with good image quality along with good enough colors, contrast and detail. Though to be noted, pixel binning is by default which means you’ll usually capture images at 16 megapixels. To access the full 64 megapixels, you will have to swap over to that specific mode. As for Night Mode, it’s decent enough. Though you’ll tend to see overblown highlights and crushed blacks. Unsurprisingly, the most fun we had was with the macro camera and it’s pretty great! You can get up close and personal and despite being only 5 megapixel, there’s plenty of details. Other specs include up to 4K 60fps recording, with quite decent image stabilization and up to 1080p 120fps for slow-motion. As for the selfie camera, it is what it is.

All in all, a pretty decent set of cameras that wouldn’t win any awards but wouldn’t disappoint too much either.

Lastly, we talk about price. The BlackShark 4 Pro is available in two configurations and they cost 579 US Dollars and 679 US Dollars respectively. For the price, the BlackShark 4 Pro really does provide quite the stellar amount of performance and features. Even if you’re not a gamer, you will appreciate the beautiful high refresh rate display and that good battery life with crazy fast charging.

If you’re looking for a good android smartphone without breaking the bank, the BlackShark 4 Pro, despite being positioned as a gaming smartphone, is still a good all rounder. It may be late, but it’s still great.

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