A powerhouse in your pocket – Review Geek

Evaluation:
8/10
?
  • 1 – Absolute hot waste
  • 2 – A kind of lukewarm waste
  • 3 – Severely flawed design
  • 4 – Some advantages, many disadvantages
  • 5 – Acceptably imperfect
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Great, but not best in class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with some footnotes
  • 9 – Shut up and take my money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $579

Chaz Mair

Mobile gaming has come a long way since those Java-powered flip phone games, and holding Xiaomi’s Black Shark 4 Pro in my hands is a firm reminder. It retains the sleek design of a standard smartphone, but a closer look reveals a powerful machine for the gamer on the go.

Here’s what we like

  • Snapdragon 888 processor
  • Convenient shoulder buttons
  • Lightweight with a large screen
  • Responsive display

And what we don’t do

  • Weird UI
  • Latest generation Snapdragon processor
  • Unimpressive camera

Design and display: created for the game

  • 6.67-inch AMOLED E4 display, 144Hz refresh rate
  • 76.35 x 163.8 x 9.9mm
  • USB-C, Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 802.11ac
  • 3.5mm headphone jack

With its 6.67-inch 144Hz AMOLED display and Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G processor, the Android-powered Black Shark 4 Pro is powerful enough to handle anything you throw at it.

This 144Hz refresh rate is perfect for gaming as it keeps the on-screen image crystal clear even in fast-paced scenes. Normally with a phone at this price you’d expect something like a 60Hz display, meaning the image you see only updates 60 times per second. 144Hz is more than double, which can improve your reactions by at least one more frame.

The Snapdragon 888 processor powers the phone, which makes the Black Shark 4 Pro blazing fast, allowing it to run popular multiplayer games like fortnite, Call of duty: mobile, and Nova’s Legacy with ease.

Black Shark 4 Pro with USB C cable
Chaz Mair

Speaking of which, the Black Shark 4 Pro has handy pop-up triggers built into the sides of the phone. They’re placed where your index fingers naturally rest when holding the phone in landscape mode, which is great for high-intensity gaming. I even found myself using them in slower games because the buttons were just as comfortable.

There are small slides that reveal the buttons, and these tend to open when you hold the phone vertically. Fortunately, I never found their existence uncomfortable. There were only a few times they made me go to the wrong tab. It was the kind of stuff I had gotten used to, but I could easily see that it was getting boring over time.

Buttons and their switches end up taking up a significant amount of space on a phone that really isn’t the biggest. The back features a matte finish and a customizable glowing display that will usually be covered by your hand, but it looks great on a desk.

With a length of 163.93mm, a width of 76.35mm and a thickness of 9.9mm, it’s a slim phone that fits nicely in your hand and pocket. There are larger gaming phones like the Asus ROG Phone 5, but if you don’t mind a more standard size, you really can’t go wrong with the Black Shark 4 Pro.

Capable cameras

  • 64MP main rear cameras, 8MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro
  • 20M front camera
Photo of a tree taken by the Black Shark 4 Pro
Chaz Mair

For cameras, the Black Shark 4 pro uses a 64MP for its main camera, a 5MP for macro, and an 8MP for ultra-wide, with the front-facing one at 20MP. The suit is pretty decent for its price. Sure, it’s not going to beat something like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, but that phone costs at least $1,200 for the Black Shark 4 Pro’s $579.

The cameras are all pretty decent. The images never impressed me, but they never disappointed me either. If you’re a fan of photo quality, use the main camera. This 64MP takes amazingly detailed photos.

If you do a lot of remote or night shooting, I’d look elsewhere, especially since the phone doesn’t have a MicroSD card slot for extra storage. High-quality photo and video files tend to grow very large, very quickly. For this reason, I consider it a good camera, but I wouldn’t use it to try to capture birds in flight at night.

The second most powerful Snapdragon

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G processor
  • Joy UI based on Android 11
  • 6 GB of RAM

With its 720Hz touch sampling rate and 144Hz refresh rate, the Black Shark Pro 4 is optimized for gaming. The latest-generation Snapdragon processor never gave me major stuttering issues on anything I tested, which were mostly multiplayer battle royales and casual card games. It sits well above the bar for a decent gaming phone, but although the Snapdragon 888 is a high-quality processor, it’s already a year old.

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 used in phones like the RedMagic 7 was announced a year after the Snapdragon 888 used by the Black Shark 4 pro. When you stack the two chips against each other, the Gen 1 beats the Snapdragon, but not by much.

It’s a marginal increase, but this small boost could mean the Black Shark 4 Pro remains a viable option for gamers for much longer. As far as I can tell, the only thing the 888 has over the newer model is its battery life, but honestly that feels like a stretch.

Battery life: have a charger handy

  • 4500mAh battery
  • 120W fast charging

Under heavy use, the Black Shark 4 Pro lasted about five hours in my experience, but tended to have a shorter lifespan. I left it on, playing music, browsing social media pages and, of course, gaming. If I wasn’t deliberately trying to drain its battery, it lasted just fine all day.

Black Shark 4 Pro tabletop
Chaz Mair

Overall I would say you should keep a charger ready. Even sporadic gaming throughout the day drained the battery quickly. It handles smaller games like Super automatic pets fine, but if you have to go for a long time without a charger, I would stay away fortnite.

Audio: speakers and microphones

The Black Shark 4 Pro actually has pretty solid speakers for a phone. It features speakers at the top and bottom of the phone for stereo sound. They definitely get the job done, but the sound tends to get muddled here and there as you’d expect from a budget smartphone.

The speakers do a decent job of filling the room. Playing cooking sounds videos was no problem for the Black Shark 4 Pro. The same sentiment extends to the phone’s input devices. Three noise-canceling microphones allowed me to talk to other people in the same open space without issue. Anyone calling could hear me clearly over the stove or sink, and I never had to shout.

Operating system and storage

The phone uses Android 11 as the operating system. It’s a bit hard to recognize at first because the phone uses a sort of deceptively futuristic gaming aesthetic. The device’s AI assistant is an anime character that seemed strange to me at first, but it never obscured anything important. It may also be a reskin of Google Assistant.

If anything, I’d say the Black Shark 4 Pro’s biggest weakness is its lack of a MicroSD card slot, as I mentioned above. Upon release, the phone was launched with either 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage or 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.

Accessories: optional extras

Along with the phone, I received a Black Shark FunCooler 2Pro ($37.90), a Black Shark Magnetic Cooler ($49.90), and two sets of Black Shark Joy Buds ($58.90). These don’t come with the Pro 4 normally. Of these, I found the FunCooler 2Pro to be the bulkiest with its two clips that wrap around your phone, making it difficult to hold.

The magnetic option is more expensive, but this was by far the better of the two. This magnet doesn’t just work on your phone, but on any device, as long as you attach the plate to it first. I used it on an older tablet in my house as I never had to worry about the Shark 4 Pro overheating.

Black Shark 4 Pro with Funcooler Pro2, charger and magnetic cooler
Chaz Mair

However, the Black Shark Joy Buds were the standout accessory among the bunch. Noise canceling, low latency, smart, and were sent with a charging case. Like everything else in the Black Shark suite of accessories, they have quick connect functionality with the phone itself. Their semi-in-ear design makes them easy to use, especially with the smooth, flat parts that stick out from your ear.

I don’t usually use the touch sensors on wireless headphones due to their typical discomfort issues, but these were nice for my ears. I took them for walks and comfortably used them in the studio. The buds themselves achieve around 6 hours of battery life alone and 28 hours with the charging case. So even if you’re not interested in a Black Shark 4 Pro, you should definitely look into the Black Shark Joy Buds.

A high-end gaming phone

The Black Shark 4 Pro is one of the best value gaming phones on the market. It scores high in every category you want a gaming phone to hit and does so at a reasonable price. Despite having a year-old processor, the difference between the Snapdragon 888 and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is so small it’s unlikely to matter. If you like to play on the go, you owe it to yourself to check out the Black Shark Pro 4.

Here’s what we like

  • Snapdragon 888 processor
  • Convenient shoulder buttons
  • Lightweight with a large screen
  • Responsive display

And what we don’t do

  • Weird UI
  • Latest generation Snapdragon processor
  • Unimpressive camera

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