The Black Shark 4 Pro entered the Malaysian market after a significantly long gap after its initial announcement. So if you were looking to get a phone with the very latest and very best in mobile tech that money can buy, this phone has missed that window by the time it got here.
As a gaming phone, though, it’s still no slouch in the performance department and being a specialised gaming phone, it also comes with a few extra tools to improve the experience. All that being said, is this a phone that you’d want to pick up? Let’s find out.
The Black Shark 4 Pro spec sheet has just about all the items you’d expect from a flagship device. from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset to the 6.67-inch AMOLED display with its 144Hz refresh rate and 720Hz touch sampling rate. Battery is also rated at a respectable 4500mAh, but we will get back to this in a bit.
It’s worth pointing out though that our review model sports 12GB of RAM and 128GB of storage space. This is not a configuration that was announced during the official launch.
While it’s not easy for phones to differentiate themselves from one another these days, the Black Shark 4 Pro remains a very pretty phone. Though this comes in two main flavours. You can have it with the discreet, plain Shadow Black or Misty Grey, or you can have it in Cosmos Black, Dark Blue or Silver, with its very showy pattern on the back of the phone.
Sporting a tripe camera setup, the camera island elevation is pretty modest by today’s standards. There’s also the fancy LED at the back, which lights up during various situations, the most basic among them being when you have notifications awaiting your attention.
Going over the basics, the volume rocker is on the left side while the power button and fingerprint scanner combo sits on the right. Though these are placed just about in the middle of each side. For a gaming phone, you can see why this is done, but reaching for them during normal use feels a little unnatural as a result.
The Black Shark 4 Pro comes with stereo speakers, with the grilles being a little off centre. At the bottom, there’s also the USB-C charging port, as well as the rare 3.5mm audio jack.
Then you have the two retractable shoulder buttons on the right side of the phone. When you deploy them, they serve as extra mechanical keys that you can bind shortcuts to during your gaming sessions. But these can be very useful even during regular use. A personal favourite of mine is using the right button as a physical camera shutter button as if it were a Sony Xperia device.
Outside of the camera app, you can set each one to perform a specific function like taking a screenshot or switching to a one-handed mode or even launching specific apps. If you’re a shutterbug, a no-brainer setup is to have the right trigger launch the camera app when you’re in the home screen, and once the app is launched, have the same trigger serve as the shutter button.
In an everyday use case, the Black Shark 4 Pro should be a pleasant experience. The 6.67-inch AMOLED display is great, and making things even smoother is the 144Hz refresh rate. Though this can also cause a significant dip in its battery life.
If you leave it at 144Hz, you’ll just about be able to get the Black Shark 4 Pro to last a full day. And that’s with pretty light browsing, social media scrolling, video streaming and gaming. You can switch it down to 90Hz to get it to last a little longer.
But unless you’re playing very specific games that support more than 60fps, it’s probably better to keep the refresh rate at the base 60Hz. That way, you could be using the phone heavily and still end the day with a comfy amount of battery charge left. That being said, it still won’t be able to stretch it to two days of battery life, even with frugal use.
All that being said, while the Black Shark 4 Pro is being used for its intended purpose, then it works smoothly. No real surprise there, since it has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset and 12GB of RAM. Though it’s worth noting that while the phone tends to get warm when under heavy use, things get downright hot when running GFXBench.
The Black Shark 4 Pro comes with a triple camera setup at the back, with a 64MP main shooter leading the trio. Accompanying it are an 8MP wide angle camera and a 5MP macro sensor. For the most part, they work together pretty well.
Detail retention is great in good lighting, so we’re off to a good start. However, if you’re a fan of accurate colours then that’s one aspect that’s been left a little wanting. As is quite commonly the case, things tend to tilt a little towards oversaturation. In low light, detail retention can get worse, though this is not exactly an issue unique to this phone.
If you’re considering getting the Black Shark 4 Pro then chances are you’re looking for something that’s specifically designated as a gaming phone. There are a couple of alternatives for about the same price of RM2999, as well as more affordable options if you’re willing to let go of the gaming phone features.
Lenovo Legion Duel 2
The Lenovo Legion Duel 2 is a gaming phone with many comparable bits to the Black Shark 4 Pro. It comes with a 6.92-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display that can achieve the same 144Hz refresh rate and 720Hz sampling rate. ON the inside, it also has the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset. But rather than two extra physical buttons, this one has six capacitive buttons instead.
It also has two USB-C ports to charge its two 2750mAh batteries, and a pop-up front-facing 44MP camera. At the back, it has a 64MP + 16MP dual camera setup. For its price, this starts at RM2999 for 12GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. This goes all the way up to RM3699 for the 16GB + 512GB configuration.
ASUS ROG Phone 5
Staying with gaming phones, we have the ASUS ROG Phone 5. Similarities include the Qualcomm Snpadragon 888 chipset, a 6.78-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display with 144Hz refresh rate. Though sampling rate is down to 300Hz. In exchange, you get a bigger battery capacity at 6000mAh.
For its cameras, this has a 64MP + 13MP + 5MP triple camera setup at the back, and a 24MP shooter in front. The base model was priced at RM2999 when it was just released, but the improved version, the 5s, which sports the Snapdragon 888 Plus chipset, was released at the same price.
While not the most current of models, the Xiaomi 11T is still also a comparable model, by virtue of its Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset. the 144Hz refresh rate is toned down just slightly to 120Hz, and it has a slightly larger battery capacity at 5000mAh.
Cameras here include a 108MP + 8MP + 5MP triple camera setup at the rear and a 16MP front-facing camera. Though by sacrificing all the gaming phone perks like additional buttons, this can be purchased at a considerably lower price of RM2099.
As far as gaming phones go, the Black Shark 4 Pro is a solid entry in a long line of gaming phones. Its key feature which lets it stand out from the rest is the physical shoulder buttons. These not only allow it to perform its usual macro duties in-game but also serve as additional shortcuts while in everyday use. And this is a major plus if you like snapping photos with your phone, since it can both serve as the shortcut to launch the app, as well as the physical shutter button.
Though while playing games, the Black Shark 4 Pro can get pretty warm. This is not alleviated by the case that comes in the box – at least, not by much. And while running GFXBench, it got to a point where it feels as hot as a kettle.
Unfortunate heat issues aside, the physical keys make it a very compelling phone to get compared to other gaming phones on the market. Though despite that, it has to be pointed out that despite getting into the local market earlier this year, it was announced in March of 2021. If you’re okay with getting a gaming phone that is a generation behind but still plenty powerful for most uses.