Black Shark 2 Review – High End Gaming Smartphone On A Budget

With the smartphone manufacturers expanding its portfolio into the gaming segment, the Black Shark 2, another gaming-centric smartphone launched in India starting at Rs 39,999. The Black Shark is a Chinese smartphone maker in partnership with the Xiaomi, the Black Shark 2 is its second-generation gaming smartphone powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC. Let’s move on to the review of the Black Shark 2.

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Black Shark 2 Specifications

  • Display: 6.39-inch AMOLED display, Full HD+ resolution (1080 x 2340 pixels) 19.5:9 aspect ratio, input latency of 43.5 ms, 240 Hz touch sensitivity, pressure-sensitive touch
  • Software: Android 9.0 Pie, JoyUI, Shark Space UI
  • Fingerprint Scanner | Face ID: Yes, on the screen | Yes
  • CPU: Up to 2.84 GHz octa-core Kryo 485, 7nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC
  • GPU: Adreno 640 GPU
  • Memory: 6 GB OR 12 GB RAM, LPDDR4X
  • Storage: 128 GB OR 256 GB, no microSD card support
  • Main Camera: Dual Cameras 48 MP (Main) f/1.75 + 12 MP (Tele) f/2.2, 2x optical zoom, LED flash, 4K@30fps, slow-motion 720p@120fps
  • Selfie Camera: 20 MP f/2.0
  • Connectivity: USB Type-C, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS + GLONASS
  • Cellular: 4G LTE, dual SIM (GSM), dual-VoLTE
  • Other: In-display, Fingerprint Scanner, Magic Press, Liquid Cooling 3.0
  • Battery: 4,000 mAh with 27W fast charging
  • Colors: Shadow Black, Frozen Silver, and Mirage Blue
  • Price: ₹39,999 (6 GB + 128 GB), ₹49,999 (12 GB + 256 GB)
  • Availability: 4th June 2019, Flipkart

Design, Build & Ergonomics

The Black Shark 2 is none other than a gaming-centric smartphone that means it’s designed for gamers accordingly. Similar to a gaming rig, the Black Shark 2 has an aggressive look on the back with a glowing Shark logo and two 16M-colored RGB strips that flash when the notifications come in.

The unibody is made from metal with glass sculpted on the back representing it a gaming gear. The front uses more of a traditional look with no notch or fancy pop-up cameras, the Black Shark 2 rather uses top and bottom bezels on the display one of which carries the selfie camera and sensors.

The front also has dual front-firing speakers that offer an immersive audio experience. The back has a dual-camera setup and no physical fingerprint scanner rather uses an in-display fingerprint scanner.

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The bottom has a USB type-C port and a dual SIM tray while the top has nothing on it. The left side has a volume control button and the right side has a power key and a Shark Space slider key. Both, the left and the right sides offer RGB strips that glow while you play games, receive a notification, calls, or play music.

There’s no 3.5 mm headphone jack available on the phone, you are going to miss that if you have a pair of gaming headphones with 3.5 mm plug. Plus, you don’t get a microSD card expansion slot, so you have to settle for a larger 256 GB, in case you think the phone is short on storage.

Other things on the design front are its missing IP rating that might give an advantage due to the Shark in its name.

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OnePlus 7 Pro Vs. Black Shark 2

Display

Black Shark 2 offers a 6.39-inch AMOLED display with Full HD+ resolution and 19.5:9 aspect ratio. While it’s not the sharpest display available in the market, it’s still bright and decent given the price, on top, it’s AMOLED. Some gamers may demand a 2K display, but as far as the pricing is concerned, the Full HD+ fits in well.

Since it’s a gaming device, we would expect a 100 Hz or 120 Hz display at least, rivals like Razer Phone and OnePlus 7 Pro offer such refresh rates on its display. The Black Shark 2 has the lowest latency 240Hz touch-sensitive display which makes a discernible difference in the FPS, TPS, and racing games. This adds a greater advantage while playing games, a faster touch response rate is far better in games comparatively.

Other than that, the phone also offers a pressure-sensitive touch display, more like Apple’s 3D touch, which helps map two extra virtual buttons in the games.

There are no major display enhancements on the phone as the interface is stock, you get the color mode and display size options, as well as, night mode, Ambient display, and a Super cinema mode that lifts video frame rate and optimizes the video play effect intelligently.

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Software & User Interface

Unlike the Xiaomi’s MIUI, the Black Shark has used a customized interface that is mostly based on the stock Android, the overall feel of the interface is nearly pure stock. The interface is customized by a layer of JoyUI which was seen on the predecessor Black Shark.

The interface is based on the Android 9 build with 5th May 2019 security patch and is combined with a Shark Space gaming UI. The Black Shark 2 has two different interfaces, the regular Android UI and the Shark Space UI, it transforms into Shark Space by sliding the key given on the right.

No additional apps or bloatware are found on the phone, the interface is as snappy as you would expect on a flagship device. When in the Shark Space gaming mode, you will only see the games installed on the phone, the rest of the apps won’t be accessible.

We have explained more about the Shark Space in the gaming section of this review.

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Shark Space

Hardware, Performance & Gaming

On the performance side, the Black Shark 2 equips the top-of-the-line SoC, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 octa-core which is found on many flagships such as the OnePlus 7 Pro, ROG Phone 2, and other similar phones.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 is based on the 7nm process and consists of eight Kryo 485 cores clocked at 2.8 GHz. In addition, the SoC is laced with an Adreno 640 GPU, as much as 12 GB RAM and 256 GB internal storage with no option to expand via a microSD card.

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There’s no denying that the Black Shark 2 competes with the top-of-the-line smartphones and enters the top 10 most powerful smartphones of the year 2019. The benchmark indicates that Black Shark 2 is ideal for gaming and heavy intensive tasks. Take a look at the benchmarks we’ve recorded below.

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The Adreno 640 is very much a gamer’s choice, it’s powerful and faster than most GPUs available for mobile. Black Shark 2 can run heavy games and applications that demand quite high-end resources, without taking a sweat.

In addition to that, the CPU + GPU is aided by a Direct Touch Multilayer Liquid Cooling system for keeping the phone’s heat under control while gaming.

The Black Shark 2 offers a separate interface for gaming, the Shark Space is the UI optimized for games. It has a dedicated Shark Space slider key that can be used for switching between the UIs. Once inside, the interface certainly changes to landscape mode and offers a carousel effect for the installed games which is ready to be played.

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Under this mode, the system is optimized for the games, it frees up the RAM, keeps the notifications and calls in silent mode and boosts up the gaming performance. The Gamer Studio game dock can be accessed from the two upper corners of the screen.

The game dock has the shortcuts to the controller, pressure mapping, Wi-Fi, no notification, calls, and keyboard toggle, clean up RAM and performance boost.

To add to the gaming experience, the Black Shark 2 supports additional controller accessory that can be attached to it. We didn’t have the controller for a review, however, we expect it to be one of the coolest gaming controllers. The controller pairs over Bluetooth and can be connected to the Black Shark 2 via a case.

For what I think, the controllers should be bundled with the package, but that seems to ask for a little too much. The accessory isn’t available in India as of now.

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Cameras

With so much focused on the gaming segment, the Black Shark 2 camera has been left out in the cold. The Black Shark 2 doesn’t seem to be a camera-centric as far as I think.

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It does have a 48 MP f/1.8 main camera and a 12 MP f/2.2 secondary camera which compares to the likes of the OnePlus 7 Pro and other similar phones having 48 MP camera. The front side is aided by a 20 MP f/2.0 selfie camera.

The interface is pretty much similar to the Xiaomi’s MIUI, the camera features the same modes we saw on a Xiaomi phone running MIUI.

It misses out on the third camera while most in this segment offer a triple camera setup (and quad cameras too, Honor 20 for instance).

Other camera features that you’ll certainly miss is the OIS, 4K at 60fps, and super slow motion. The camera is limited to the 4k at 30fps and an underwhelming 120 fps slow motion.

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The dual cameras on the Black Shark 2 take very decent shots. The quality of the images is vivid with good details in the daylight but not as good in the night or low-light. The 20 MP selfie camera seems to be a performer in its own, the photos are good and the portraits look natural.

Here are some samples that we managed to take from the Black Shark 2 cameras.

Black Shark 2 Camera Samples

Battery Life

Being a gaming smartphone, Black Shark 2 should pack a decent offering to last longer than usual. You will find a 4,000 mAh battery that supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0 fast charging.

While the battery is optimized for gaming, it doesn’t last much if you play games seamlessly, however, can be good if you use it as an Android phone rather than a portable gaming machine. Expect it to run a day-long if you play games frequently, else up to 2 days on occasional gaming.

The Black Shark 2 comes with an 18 Watts charger in the box, but you can get a 27 Watts charger plugged in that charges way faster than the stock charger.

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Verdict

The Black Shark 2 has been settled for nothing less than a gaming smartphone, it’s a must for gamers on a budget. The Black Shark 2 is certainly the fastest gaming smartphone at this price and if you’re looking for a smartphone for playing heavy games, the Black Shark 2 is currently the best choice for gamers.

Rivals

Strength

  • Eye-Catchy Looks, Solid build quality
  • Bright AMOLED display, 240 Hz touch sensitivity, pressure-sensitive key mapping
  • Backlit logo and dual RGB glowing strips, customizable LEDs, syncs to music
  • Extremely fast performance (Snapdragon 855 & 12 GB RAM)
  • Optimized for gaming, Impressive gaming experience, Shark Space UI
  • Decent Cameras
  • Runs cooler under load

Weakness

  • No 4K@60fps & slow-motion limited to 120fps
  • No 3.5 mm audio port
  • No microSD card support
  • No NFC
  • Not water-resistant