Bottom line: Don't let the plain Jane design deceive you, the Black Shark 4 Pro is a gaming powerhouse underneath all that sensible and plain dressing. That AMOLED display with 720Hz touch sampling is in a league of its own, sure to win you many nights of chicken dinner. Just be sure to charge regularly. If you forget, it'll be topped up in no time at all.
- Stunning 144Hz AMOLED display
- Triggers add functionality beyond gaming
- Snappy 720Hz touch sampling
- Lightweight, bloat-free software
- Incredible 120W fast charging
- Consistently great gaming experience
- Disappointing battery life
- Heating issues while charging
- No wireless charging or official IP rating
Xiaomi's gaming sub-brand Black Shark has put out a slew of fantastic gaming phones in the past. Adopting the parent company's eye view, Black Shark phones usually bundle heavy-duty gear with lower mid-range price tags. The Black Shark 4 Pro is a beefed-up version of the regular Black Shark 4, bumping up the key specs of its mega affordable sibling.
The gaming-focused phone sets an interesting premise, putting forward features like a 144Hz refresh rate on an AMOLED panel, 120W HyperCharge, and a 720Hz touch sampling rate. It all sounds wonderful on paper, but as we all know too well, hardware doesn't always equal awesomeness.
It takes just the right mix of ingredients to create a delectable Android phone that hits the nail right on the head. I spent about two weeks with the enticing Black Shark 4 Pro, using it as my primary device every day. Based on my experience, here's what I think of this gaming phone.
Black Shark 4 Pro: Price and availability
The Black Shark 4 Pro, alongside the Black Shark 4, was first announced in China back in March 2021. Almost a year later, the Xiaomi sub-brand is going to launch the gaming phone globally on February 23, 2022. You can purchase the Black Shark 4 Pro from the official Black Shark website, Amazon, or Aliexpress.
There are two memory variants of the Black Shark 4 Pro's global release. The 8GB/128 GB variant will set you back $579 or £489. On the other hand, the maxed-out 12GB/256 GB option is going to cost you $679 or £569.
Black Shark 4 Pro: Hardware and design
If you're a mobile gamer who indulges in the best Android games, you're probably familiar with the stereotypical gaming phone aesthetic. Top-of-the-line models from ASUS and Lenovo usually sport rather loud designs and bold color combos. While Xiaomi is no stranger to boisterous designs, just take a look at the Poco M3 Pro for instance, its sub-brand Black Shark takes a more subtle approach.
The Black Shark 4 Pro has the appearance of a very sensible and mature gaming device. You won't find any jarring tattoos or bright contrasting colors, this one's a white-collar worker. There are three color options to choose from, Shadow Black, Misty Grey, and Cosmos Black, and they're all more or less monochrome, apart from a few light patterns. I received the Cosmos Black variant that's a solid black shade, adorned only with the "S" logo and a triangular RGB light on the back.
|Category||Black Shark 4 Pro|
|Operating System||JOYUI 12.5 based on MIUI 12.5 | Android 11|
|Display||6.67 inches, 20:9, 1080x2400, HDR10+, 144Hz, AMOLED, 1300 nits, 720Hz|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G|
|Memory||8GB/12GB, LPDDR5, 6400MHz|
|Rear Camera 1||64MP, 0.7µm, f/1.79 (primary)|
|Rear Camera 2||8MP, 1.12µm, f/2.2 (wide-angle)|
|Rear Camera 3||5MP, 1.12µm, f/2.4, AF(2cm-10cm) (macro)|
|Front Camera||20MP, f/2.45, 0.8µm|
|Security||Side-mounted fingerprint reader, face unlock|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC|
|Audio||Dual symmetrical speakers, 3.5mm headphone jack|
|Battery||4,500mAh, 120W HyperCharge, USB-C|
|Dimensions||163.83 x 76.35 x 9.9 mm|
|Colors||Shadow Black, Misty Grey, Cosmos Black|
Unlike other options in the market, the Black Shark 4 Pro has physical triggers instead of touch ones. What's more, they fold away into the body of the phone until you eject them. The triggers are built with dual purposes in mind. First, to enhance your gameplay, and second, to provide you with access to customizable shortcuts outside of gaming. When you're not playing, you can program each trigger to carry out a specific function such as taking a screenshot or turning on the flashlight.
For OnePlus fans, the additional functions of the triggers are a godsend. The only problem you might face is popping the triggers when you don't mean to. This happened more than a handful of times with me, so I eventually disabled the trigger buttons for everything but gaming. The triggers are magnetic so they tend to slide out at the slightest movement.
Although the back is built out of plastic, there's no wireless charging support. Speaking of things that are missing, you won't find an official IP rating for water and dust resistance or expandable storage either. You do get a headphone jack. I was really hoping for water resistance with the Black Shark 4 Pro. Since the phone doesn't have a cooling vent or any unusual openings, it would have been relatively easy for Xiaomi to incorporate it. The same goes for the lack of wireless charging. These are two big opportunities the company missed out on.
On a positive note, I love the size of the Black Shark 4 Pro as it fits perfectly in one hand. Considering its thicc build, It isn't too heavy either. Detail-oriented folks may have a bone to pick with the camera bump as it is a hub for collecting dust particles, while the back is basically fingerprint city. You'll find the fingerprint sensor along the side of the phone, doubling as the power button. It is extremely responsive to the point that I accidentally unlock the Black Shark 4 Pro while setting it down.
Pop the hood and you'll find some powerful internals chugging the Black Shark 4 Pro along. There's last year's Snapdragon 888 chipset, 8GB/12GB of LPDDR5 RAM that clocks at 6400MHz, and 128GB/256GB of UFS 3.1 storage. Connectivity features include Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, and dual 5G SIM support. Xiaomi's latest 'Sandwich' liquid cooling system keeps the entire rig cool to prevent performance dips due to overheating.
Everything works in harmony but you can actually see the results on the glorious 6.67-inch AMOLED panel. It has HDR10+, a 144Hz refresh rate, a peak brightness of 1300 nits, and a super-fast 720Hz touch response rate. This isn't just any old AMOLED display, Xiaomi went all out and got the high-quality E4 panel from Samsung. You get DCI-P3 color, MEMC support, and consistently even coloring throughout, translating into captivating picture quality. After all, Samsung means business when it comes to displays.
To top it all off, this beastly device touts DTS Ultra X sound thumping out of top-notch dual speakers. I haven't touched the cameras and battery details here. More on that front later, so let's move on for now.
Black Shark 4 Pro: Software and performance
The Black Shark 4 Pro runs JOYUI 12.5, which is a re-skin of MIUI 12.5 based on Android 11. The only notable differences in JOYUI 12.5 are the green accent colors and the extra gaming features baked into the Black Shark phone. That's fine with me because MIUI 12.5 is fantastic in terms of looks and usability alike, bringing a wide array of great features to the table.
JOYUI 12.5 all the best features of MIUI 12.5 such as an app drawer, extensive theming options, customizable Always-On Display, floating windows, and privacy features that give you more control. You can switch between 60Hz, 90Hz, and 144Hz screen refresh rates and change the display's color scheme and temperature manually. Importing data from an old phone and then going through it all is made more efficient thanks to Mi Share and Xiaomi's own File Manager.
Before MIUI 12 rolled out, most folks would back away from Xiaomi phones right away, the main reason being bloatware and ads within the UI. MIUI 12 did away with those problems and also fixed many bugs that had been left unattended for too long. JOYUI 12.5/MIUI 12.5 continued improving the finer details, the end result being a considerably lighter and smoother interface.
Thankfully, JOYUI doesn't lay it in as thick either. The only additional apps that you get right out of the box are designed to improve your gaming experience. Shark Space 4.0 acts as the central hub for everything gaming on your Black Shark 4 Pro. Then there's Shark Chan, a gamified assistant of sorts that helps you set alarms or change wallpapers. You can actually interact with the virtual avatar in the dedicated Shark Chan app.
While Shark Chan appears to be a purely decorative (and adorable) persona with no real influence on anything important, Shark Space is a different story. You can add all your games on there for easier management and optimization. There's an extensive number of options under Shark Space. To enter it, you can open the app or press both magnetic pop-up triggers together. Once you're in there, you'll find the Game Lobby, Game Configuration, and the Setting Center. You can change the in-game Shortcut Settings from here too.
Shark Space 4.0 allows you to tweak every single aspect of the phone to suit your gaming needs. Starting from call notifications, floating windows, graphics settings, and the Ludicrous Mode that pushes the Black Shark 4 Pro to its limits. When you're in a game, you can swipe in from the upper right corner to access the Shortcut Settings. These are even more comprehensive compared to the options within Shark Space.
You can change the way your voice sounds, free up RAM, create a preset to press multiple areas at once with a single touch, and even disable the upper speaker so that your microphone doesn't pick up unnecessary noise. This is also where you can configure your triggers, refresh rate, touch sensitivity, audio settings, network preferences, and even the RGB light effects. Usually shining a steady neon green, the RGB light on the back can be set to change colors in response to a game's audio or even when you're just listening to some tunes.
The robust hardware delivers marvelously when paired with the phone's excellent software. The Black Shark 4 Pro puts out outstanding performance consistently and you can easily game for hours without any hitch. The snappy refresh rates and uber responsive AMOLED display will have you winning against friends for ages. This phone chews processor-heavy multi-tasking for breakfast and spits out a buttery smooth user experience. So far, I haven't faced any major issues with JOYUI and I hope it stays that way.
Black Shark 4 Pro: Battery
Now we arrive at my biggest problem with the Black Shark 4 Pro. Sigh. With such brawns, it is obvious that this phone is geared towards power users like myself. I usually have at least five to six apps open, with a few others running in the background. I also usually leave the Bluetooth and location settings on, along with mobile data at times. Factor all this in with around three hours of gaming per day and you'll arrive at a simple conclusion: 4,500mAh isn't nearly enough.
No matter how hard I tried, I could never make the Black Shark last me the entirety of 24 hours. In a world where most gaming phones offer 5,000mAh to 6,000mAh, this is unacceptable. What's the point of getting such an absolute unit if you can't even squeeze day-long battery life from it? It is baffling that most of Xiaomi's own mid-rangers have larger batteries than the Black Shark 4 Pro.
Xiaomi tried to sweeten the pot by throwing in the fancy-schmancy 120W HyperCharge support. A 120W brick and a 6A USB-C cable are thoughtfully included in the box. Just like the Xiaomi 11T Pro, you've got to use the given cable with the charger to ensure you're getting the maximum charging speed. As promised, the Black Shark 4 Pro goes from 0% to 100% in a staggering 20 minutes. It does, however, get really hot when charging at full speed.
I don't entirely feel comfortable with that level of heat while charging an electronic device, it frightens me. Not only is that risky for the battery's longevity, but it can also pose a threat to you and your home. Would I risk an explosion for faster charging? Nope, and you shouldn't either.
Black Shark 4 Pro: Cameras
Let's get real, no one buys a gaming phone for the cameras. Photography on such phones is typically mediocre or plain bad. Compared to its peers, the Black Shark 4 Pro does alright in well-lit conditions but suffers in dimmer settings. The setup on the rear consists of a 64MP primary sensor, an 8MP wide-angle sensor with a 119° field of view, and a 5MP macro sensor. In broad daylight, you get vibrant pictures with a good amount of detail. The images reflect real-world colors closely, but there is some distortion around the edges.
Portrait mode produces satisfactory results, though the shots aren't as sharp and the colors aren't as accurate. The subject also needs to be more vibrant and clearer, especially the outlines that tend to get blurry. Since the camera app is an exact replica of the one all Xiaomi phones use, there are a ton of fun filters and tints to play around with. This can help balance some of the duller shots.
The Black Shark 4 Pro has a dedicated Night mode for low-light scenes. A little bit of light goes a long way here, as you can see in the sample shots below. However, areas or spots with little to no light lack detail, and the overall image appears to be grey and contrasty as opposed to the actual warm shades. Night photography varies a lot, depending entirely on the angle and number of light sources.
The 5MP macro camera is a real piece of work, which is probably why Xiaomi buried it deep within the camera app. Once you do find it, you'll realize that your efforts were in vain. It is utterly useless and honestly, I don't see the need to include it for any reason whatsoever. As you can see in the sample below, the Black Shark 4 Pro's macro sensor fails to capture the finer details of my e-reader's leather cover.
Finally, the 20MP front camera shoots pleasing photos in brightly lit spaces. The portrait mode, once again, softens the image a bit too much for my liking. I would have preferred a toned-down result and I wish they had included an option to lessen the effect of the bokeh.
If you're wondering why I didn't include any Night mode selfie samples, here's the 411. None of the shots captured with the front camera in low-light amounted to anything. You'll have to rely on a bright source of light to get something out of it or settle for super fuzzy images.
Black Shark 4 Pro: Competition
The Black Shark 4 Pro continues in the path of its predecessors and attempts to give you an affordable gaming phone with all the right features. Compromises have been made in the battery department, although Xiaomi tried to balance it with 120W HyperCharge technology. There's no shortage of choice when it comes to alternatives in this niche.
The most obvious contender would be the ASUS ROG Phone 5s. It is a monstrous gaming phone that slays in every category. In terms of specs, you can expect the SD 888+ SoC, 16GB of RAM, a 144Hz AMOLED display with a 360Hz touch response rate, 64MP main cameras, and 65W wired charging. The ROG Phone 5s dominates the battery life segment with its gigantic 6,000mAh battery. On the downside, this heavy-duty beast of burden will cost you about $1,099.
Competition that won't make you go broke exists too. The Red Magic 6S Pro is the closest contender to the Black Shark 4 Pro in the same price bracket. Getting your hands on one will set you back about $600 for the base 12GB/128GB model. You get a newer Snapdragon 888+ chip instead of Black Shark's older SD 888 processor. It comes with an impressive 165Hz AMOLED display, a 5,000mAh battery, 65W fast charging, a 720Hz touch sampling rate, and one of the best cooling systems that I have ever seen. Black Shark needs to up the ante if it wants to take down either contender.
Black Shark 4 Pro: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You want a high-quality 144Hz AMOLED display
- You play competitive mobile games and need that 720Hz touch response
- You want a phone that'll juice up in 20 minutes
- You desire a phone that delivers beastly performance consistently
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You want an epic set of cameras
- You're looking for Android 12 out of the box
- You need all-day battery at the very least
- You're looking for wireless charging or water resistance
4 out of 5
The Black Magic 4 Pro is an exceptional device, but it needs to do just a bit better before taking on the bigger players. Many of the features that aren't there can be found in competing phones. If you really need a long-lasting gaming phone with the latest chipset, Bluetooth 5.2, Android 12, and a humungous battery, this isn't it. You'd be better off grabbing one of the newer options from ASUS, Red Magic, or even a true-blue flagship like the Samsung Galaxy S22.
This mobile gaming device is a mashup of purebred gaming phones and Xiaomi's typical value-packed handsets. If you value performance over everything else, there isn't a single thing you'd be left wanting for. The Black Shark 4 Pro will satisfy your gaming needs and offer you a deeply extensive level of customizability. I love the click of the physical pop-up triggers and the 120W HyperCharge adds the cherry on top. As long as you can live with the mediocre cameras and the abysmal battery life, the Black Shark 4 Pro will serve you well.
Black Shark 4 Pro
Bottom line: Hack and slash your way through the best Android games with the Black Shark 4 Pro and its splendid 144Hz AMOLED display. With highly detailed gaming-focused features baked into it, this Snapdragon 888 powered device will help you crush your enemies.