From its humble beginnings, Xiaomi became one of the fastest-growing start-ups in the world. In just a few years, it has managed to be a mainstream brand that dominates developing markets such as India. This young company has funded hundreds of start-ups that deal with everything from a rice cooker to an electric bicycle. One such company in its portfolio is Black Shark Technology. Named after a torpedo, this Chinese start-up is put together by a handful of mobile gaming enthusiasts. The company’s latest handset Black Shark 2 is loaded with a powerful Snapdragon 855 chip from Qualcomm and an active cooling system to deliver extreme performance. With the asking price of Rs 34,999 for the 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage variant, the phone doesn’t cost a bomb either. Let’s take a deep dive with the Black Shark 2 and find out if it lives up to its name.
Update: The phone is now available for Rs 29,990.
Black Shark 2 Design
Most people dislike the gaming hardware loaded with LEDs. What they fail to understand that it is inspired by mother nature. Those who paid attention to the biology classes would remember that deadly animals use Aposematism to warn their enemies. For instance, a poisonous granular frog’s bright psychedelic color signals predators not to mess with it. That’s exactly the purpose of RGB LEDs in a gaming arena. Black Shark has used these lights to full effect. The handset has two RGB LED strips at the sides along with a glowing logo at the back.
The Black Shark 2 is a performance beast, and it looks like one too. While most modern phones are thin, Black Shark takes a different route for its gaming phone. Everything in the Black Shark 2 has been tuned for power and performance. Saying that this hefty handset has a sturdy build would be an understatement. The Black Shark 2 is built like a Russian tank. I bet you can knock people out with this handset. The metal surface has a sunken relief covered by an x-shaped glass panel. It goes pretty well with the overall gaming theme.
What I didn’t like is that despite the clunky body, the rear camera isn’t flushed with the device’s back. Tipping the scales at 205 grams, the Black Shark 2 is quite heavy for one-handed use.
Black Shark 2 Display
Gaming calls for a great display and Black Shark doesn’t disappoint on this front. The Black Shark 2 sports a 6.4-inch AMOLED display. Instead of a notch, the Black Shark 2’s screen has conventional bezels. It is a sensible move considering that any cut or notch in the display would act as a distraction during the gaming sessions. Packing in 2340×1080 pixels, the display is crisp with the pixel density of over 400ppi.
Unlike LCDs, OLED panels are emissive in nature. The organic compounds in these screens illuminate as the electricity passed through it; eliminating the need for a backlight. With the external backlight out of the equation, the OLED screen offers pure and vibrant colors. The OLED panels also offer even brightness compared to the LCD panels that are mostly brighter around the edges.
To enhance the gaming experience, Black Shark has tuned the display for 240Hz touch-sensing. It ensures that there is no noticeable input lag when playing games. The only thing Black Shark misses out on is the 90Hz refresh rate. Found on the OnePlus 7 Pro, the 90Hz display offers blur-free scrolling in the app drawer and browser. It would have been a great addition to the Black Shark 2’s display.
Black Shark 2 Software And Gaming
The phone runs Android Pie with Black Shark’s custom Joy UI on top. Don’t be fooled by the cheesy name, the Chinese company’s Android skin is neat like the stock Android. Apart from the gaming-inspired wallpapers, the interface is a standard affair. Settings are familiar too save for the LED and Dock options. The lights can be set to notify you about a call, message, or battery status. You can even choose to disable these lights completely.
With just a flip of a switch, the handset enters the Shark Space. It can be triggered by the dedicated slider key placed near the power button. In this mode, the phone prioritizes gaming over everything else. It frees up RAM and squeezes out every ounce of power to offer the optimum gaming performance. By default, this mode rejects all the incoming calls and notifications. It is incredibly useful when playing online games. The phone also comes with the directional vibration feature. It is supposed to help you find the direction of a gunshot, but the feedback is not strong enough to be felt during the frantic gameplay. Xiaomi has also introduced the wireless gamepad that costs Rs 3,000.
Moving onto the performance, right from the lockscreen, the Black Shark is blazing fast. The in-display fingerprint sensor works like a charm and unlocks the phone instantaneously. Thanks to the Snapdragon 855 chip and 6 GB of RAM, the breezes though every app you throw at it. Even without entering the Shark Space, the Black Shark 2 runs resource-hungry games such as Shadowgun: Legends, PUBG Mobile, and Somorost 3 in their full glory. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since the phone is equipped with multi-layer cooling technology. The handset deploys several heat dissipation plates, nanocomposite graphene, and vapor cooling pipe to ensure sustained performance.
The phone has two front-facing speakers that are very powerful. Not only are they loud, but also add some depth to the sound. Unfortunately, the phone lacks a 3.5 mm headphone jack. The manufacturer hasn’t bundled the earphones, at least in the 6GB RAM variant that we reviewed. Notably, the 12GB RAM variant comes bundled with earphones that have a USB Type-C connector. We don’t think the decision of not bundling earphones with the cheaper variant is a good move. The phone comes with two dedicated SIM slots. However, there is no microSD card slot.
Black Shark 2 Cameras
The Black Shark 2 is loaded with a dual-camera setup. It has a 48 MP primary sensor accompanied by a 12 MP telephoto lens. The main sensor uses pixel-binning to deliver 12 MP shots. The camera interface has been lifted from the other Xiaomi phones. It offers multiple options such as Photo, Portrait, Panorama, and Pro mode. There’s a toggle for AI mode that can automatically select the best settings for you.
In daylight, the Black Shark 2 pulls off good results. The resulting images look sharp and offer an impressive dynamic range. However, sometimes the processing algorithm goes overboard with the sharpening effect. As a result, you get to see artifacts even with a tiny bit of zooming. The 12 MP telephoto lens isn’t that great. It does what it says, but can’t match the resolved details of the main camera.
The camera struggles in the low-light conditions. At night shots, the colors look fine, but the visual noise goes out of control. It is quite disappointing that the device lacks a dedicated Night mode.
The 20 MP onboard selfie camera looks good on paper. However, its performance is just about average. Considering its megapixel count, the amount of detail it captures is underwhelming. The focusing is a bit of hit and miss affair. The beautification effects are so aggressive that you are better of disabling that option.
Moving onto the video recording, the Black Shark 2 captures 4K video at 30 fps. It is rather strange that despite all the processing muscle, Black Shark hasn’t implemented 4K 60 fps option. The recorded clips look fine in terms of details. Due to the lack of OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation), videos with a moving camera turn out to be jittery.
Black Shark 2 Battery
This gaming phone draws power from a 4,000 mAh battery. The handset supports Quick Charge technology and ships with a 27 W charger. In just half an hour, you can top-up over 50 percent of the phone’s battery. To fully charge the completely drained battery, it takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes. Even if played games for hours, the phone lasts for an entire day. On days, you don’t game much, expect it to last you for a day and a half. The only niggle here is the lack of wireless charging support.
The Black Shark 2 delivers on its promise of explosive gaming performance. With its elaborate cooling technology, the device offers sustained performance for hours. Its RGB lights are nicely done too. Black Shark has done a great job with the neat Joy UI. Its Shark Space is everything a mobile gamer could ask for. The phone has unique styling and sturdy build. On the other hand, the device has its own share of issue. For starters, the Black Shark 2 is quite heavy for one-handed use. It lacks a 3.5 mm audio jack and the camera performance is underwhelming. The phone’s biggest competitor isn’t a gaming phone but a more balanced OnePlus 7 that costs Rs 32,999. There’s no doubt that the Black Shark 2 offers better gaming performance than the OnePlus 7. However, the latter is better at everything else.
Black Shark 2
Design & Build8.0/10
Value For Money7.0/10
What Is Good?
- Sturdy metal body
- Distinct gaming LEDs
- Brilliant OLED display
- Excellent gaming performance
- Long battery life with fast charging
- Feature-packed game mode
- Powerful stereo speakers
What Is Bad?
- Mediocre cameras
- Lacks a 3.5 mm audio jack
- No wireless charging
- MicroSD card is missing