The Black Shark 5 Pro brings just enough newness to its older iteration. The fresh design looks and feels fantastic, it no longer overheats as much, and you get buttery smooth performance. The device has a stunning 144hz OLED panel and magnetic triggers that can be assigned various functions, even outside of gaming. Sadly, the high price and lack of some features hold this gaming phone back.
- Unmarred performance that can handle anything
- Stunning high-end design and 144hz OLED
- Improved heating issues
- Multifunctional magnetic triggers
- Solid set of cameras for photos and videos
- 120W fast charging with brick included
- Only two years of untimely updates
- Incompatible with CDMA carriers
- No IP rating, audio jack, or wireless charging
- Ads in native apps don't make sense at this price
Black Shark is a moderately-known brand by now, bringing you the bread and butter of gaming phones in affordable little packages. This year's Black Shark models are out now, and you can grab them in the form of the Black Shark 5 and 5 Pro variants.
If you're not aware, the last-gen Black Shark 4 Pro was a spectacular budget buy, albeit bundled with small compromises. The biggest issue with the older phone from Xiaomi's sub-brand was its inability to quell overheating issues and embarrassingly short battery life. Needless to say, I was really counting on Black Shark to squash out these key flaws in the newer model.
This was one of the more conflicting phones that I have reviewed, for several reasons. While the Black Shark 5 Pro does much to make up for its predecessor's failings, it also fails to deliver as much value for the asking price. As you make your way through the high points and low points of the phone, you'll see exactly what I mean.
Black Shark 5 Pro: Price and availability
The Black Shark 5 Pro released on June 9, 2022. You can grab the regular Black Shark 5 or the maxed out 5 Pro model from various sellers, including Amazon, AliExpress, and Black Shark's official website.
Both Black Shark phones come in two colorways, called Stellar Black and Nebula White. There are various memory configurations available for each gaming phone. Here's what you can expect to pay for either device:
Black Shark 5:
- 8GB RAM + 128GB ROM for $549
- 12GB RAM + 256GB ROM for $649
Black Shark 5 Pro:
- 8GB RAM + 128GB ROM for $799
- 12GB RAM + 256GB ROM for $899
- 16GB RAM + 256GB ROM for $999
Black Shark 5 Pro: What's better
Black Shark really amped up its efforts to create a striking gaming phone that keeps its outlandishness in check, without becoming one of the masses. Both the Stellar Black and the Nebula White variants of the Black Shark 5 Pro have a frosted back that's almost velvety to the touch. You get blue sheen on top of both colorways that plays tricks with your eyes as the light shifts.
Subtle markings and logos on the back add to the gaming phone aesthetic. The Black Shark logo is still there, and so is the customizable RGB light outfitted into the rear panel. You can play around with the settings in your Black Shark 5 Pro and select what shade or mix of hues you want the RGB light to flash, the speed of the blinking lights, and more.
Another design change that I can get behind is the camera unit. Gone is the horizontal bar from the Black Shark 4 series. In its stead, the Black Shark 5 Pro boasts a rectangular bump that houses a trio of lenses inside. Overall, this is one of the best-looking Android gaming phones out there. Black Shark was considerate enough to include a decent case in the box, allowing your phone's RGB parts to peek through.
|Category||Black Shark 5 Pro|
|Operating System||JOYUI 13 based on MIUI 13, Android 12|
|Display||6.67 inches, 20:9, 1080x2400, HDR10+, 144Hz, AMOLED, 1300 nits, 720Hz|
|Processor||Snapdragon 8 Gen 1|
|Memory||8GB/12GB/16GB, LPDDR5, 6400Mhz|
|Storage||128GB/256GB, UFS3.1, not expandable|
|Rear Camera 1||108MP, 0.7µm, f/1.75 (wide)|
|Rear Camera 2||13MP, 1.12µm, f/2.4 (ultrawide)|
|Rear Camera 3||5MP, 1.12µm, f/2.4, (macro)|
|Front Camera||16MP, f/2.45, 1.0µm|
|Security||Side-mounted fingerprint reader, face unlock|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC|
|Battery||4,650mAh, 120W HyperCharge, USB-C|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, no 3.5mm audio jack|
|Dimensions||163.83 x 76.35 x 9.9 mm|
|Colors||Stellar Black, Nebula White|
The Black Shark 5 Pro is a very well-rounded phone with lots to love. It has retained the last-gen model's 6.67-inch 144Hz OLED panel with 720Hz touch sampling which is silky smooth, highly responsive, and incredibly vibrant.
The chipset inside has been upgraded to the newer Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, delivering unwavering performance. Thankfully, the overheating issues from the 4 Pro have been fixed and it feels like the anti-gravity dual VC liquid cooling system is doing its job.
The phone's battery has been bumped up from 4,500mAh to 4,650mAh, and you get the same old 120W HyperCharge feature bundled with a compatible brick in the box. You can switch between two charging modes to suit your needs: speed flash filling and constant temperature charging modes. The Black Shark 5 Pro's battery isn't as abysmal as the 4 Pro, though you'll still need to charge at least once before the day's done if you're a power user like me.
Biometrics function perfectly, whether you choose to rely solely on the side-mounted fingerprint reader, or combine that with the front camera's face unlocking capabilities. Even though Dolby Atmos isn't on the table anymore, the Black Shark 5 Pro's dual stereo speakers are impressively loud and they sound great.
On the software side, the Black Shark 5 Pro delivers its take on Android 12. The gaming device has its own skin called JOYUI, and this particular phone comes with JOYUI 13 (based on MIUI 13) out of the box.
Sure, it's nothing like Material You on the Pixel 6 Pro, but Xiaomi's vast array of theming and customizability options more than makes up for it.
There are other things to appreciate here as well, such as the intuitive auto brightness that adapts incredibly well, the picture-in-picture mode that lets you open any app in a tiny window, and something called Magic Press or Master Touch that gives you two extra hotkeys on-screen with adjustable sensitivity levels.
For those of you familiar with the Black Shark brand, you'll know about the built-in gaming hub called Shark Space. This is where you can manage all your game settings within the device.
From mapping the magnetic pop-up Master Triggers, to customizing your in-game crosshair; from changing the refresh rate, to putting your phone into overdrive, all of it is done from the Shark Space. You can also access most of the Shark Space controls in-game in miniature form from Gamer Studio. The pull-down window appears when you swipe in from a corner while running an Android game.
Interestingly, the Black Shark 5 Pro lets you assign non-gaming shortcuts to the magnetic triggers when you're not inside Shark Space. This is done by simply pulling out the triggers outside a game. I used the two trigger buttons to capture screenshots and shoot pictures, which was really handy. This phone offers all you could want for gaming and then some.
For the Black Shark 5 Pro, the triple cameras seal the deal. While most gaming phones take so-so pictures that are downright trashy at times, this Black Shark stands out from the crowd. The 108MP wide-angle primary shooter captures impressively detailed images that are crispy clear.
While the dynamic range suffers, sufficient lighting — combined with the right angle — delivers impressive shots. There are so many image editing tools and filters buried in the app, so fixing the lighting is a small matter.
There's no telephoto lens here, but you do get up to 5x digital zoom. I didn't expect the Black Shark 5 Pro to pull off miracles like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra or the Pixel 6 Pro, and that kept me from feeling too disappointed.
None of the zoomed images are on par with these top-of-the-line Android phones. Beyond 3x zoom, they aren't good enough for everyday use either, but otherwise they're a far cry from the many other gaming phones we've seen before.
Even the 13MP ultra-wide lens does enough to acknowledge that this is a decent gaming phone if you actually care about photography. I mean, just look at this shot I captured on a bleak, drizzly day without any hard work on my part.
The delicate background blur looks fantastic and you can spot all the little intricate details very clearly. There was a fair bit of wind blowing at the same time, making it all the more admirable.
In my book, the overall photography prowess off the Black Shark 5 Pro is above satisfactory. You get great images with minimal effort, and the video mode is good too, capable of recording up to 4K at 60FPS with decent stabilization.
Black Shark 5 Pro: Benchmarks
I've said it multiple times now: the Black Shark 5 Pro is a processing beast. Whether it's for heavy-duty gaming or multitasking with dozens of apps open, this phone doesn't slow down.
To prove my point, I'll let the numbers speak for themselves. You can compare these benchmarks with competing phones like the Galaxy S22 Ultra and the ROG Phone 6 Pro.
These benchmarks give you the right idea about this gaming device. You get better performance than Samsung's flagship offering. The Black Shark 5 Pro crushes the S22 Ultra in every category, save responsiveness.
The ROG Phone 6 Pro comes out at the top, which is understandable considering it's outfitted with all the latest and greatest specs without consideration for price. ASUS cannot be dethroned by the Xiaomi sub-branded phone, but Black Shark can definitely enter the arena without looking like a fool.
|Category||Black Shark 5 Pro||Galaxy S22 Ultra||ROG Phone 6 Pro|
|Geekbench 5.4.4 (single-core)||1177||1004||1306|
|Geekbench 5.4.4 (multi-core)||3364||3151||3653|
|3DMark Wild Life (score)||Maxed out||6923||Maxed out|
|3DMark Wild Life (FPS)||Maxed out||41.5||Maxed out|
|3DMark Wild Life Extreme (score)||2548||2098||2827|
|3DMark Wild Life Extreme (FPS)||15.3||12.5||16.8|
Black Shark 5 Pro: What still needs work
Here comes the hard part. The Black Shark 5 Pro is one tough cookie to figure out. On the one hand, there are numerous improvements over the last-gen Black Shark 4 Pro such as the improved camera, newer software, reduced overheating issues, and better battery life. On the other, much work is yet to be done, and there are a couple of things I can't ignore — especially one downgraded audio feature.
Yes, I'm talking about the infamous 3.5mm audio jack that is no longer present in the Black Shark 5 Pro. The phone also lacks Dolby Atmos, which is acceptable in the case of the loudspeakers, but not when it comes to compatible Bluetooth headphones or wireless earbuds.
If you're in the U.S., you won't be able to make full use of the 120W charger included in the box. That's because most U.S. power outlets are rated 120v and you won't be able to get that max 120W charging speed from such plug points.
American residents suffer even more at the hands of the Black Shark 5 Pro. Since the Chinese phone isn't compatible with CDMA carriers, you might have to switch your cell phone plan. Even then, the device only works on select GSM providers, so you need to call and check with your telecom operator before purchasing the 5 Pro.
Much of the conversation around Android phones of late has shifted towards updates. Consumers are starting to care a lot more about this factor and I'm here for it. If I'm paying hundreds of dollars on a phone, I want it to receive timely updates for at least three years.
Google promises to support Pixels for at least three years. Samsung goes above and beyond with its promise of four years' worth of updates for certain phones. Newcomer Nothing hasn't shied away either, guaranteeing four years of support for the phone (1). Xiaomi is neither a small start-up nor a newbie, so I really can't fathom why on earth the Black Shark 5 Pro will get only two years of updates.
Not to mention, Black Shark — and Xiaomi in general — isn't regular with updates to start with. I am yet to receive Android 12 on the Black Shark 4 Pro, which is a whole year older than the 5 Pro. Oh, and did I mention that you still have to put up with bloatware and ads inside native apps like the file manager? Insert exasperated noises here.
The pill would be much easier to swallow if the Black Shark 5 Pro boasted an insanely competitive price, much like its predecessor did. But the cost of acquiring one of these babies starts at $799 for the 8GB/128GB variant. Why, oh why, would anyone spend so much money on a Xiaomi phone that doesn't promise to keep your investment alive? Two years of untimely updates and crappy ads sound like the opposite of a splendid bargain.
Now, I would be willing to understand if the Black Shark 5 Pro came equipped with revolutionary features in the gaming phone world. But no, we don't get anything groundbreaking like water resistance or wireless charging. If ASUS can add an IP rating to the ROG Phone 6 Pro and Samsung can waterproof its foldables, I'm sure Xiaomi can find a way to make it happen.
Black Shark 5 Pro: Competition
Tying in with the point that I just made about the Black Shark 5 Pro, there are plenty of epic alternatives in this phone's price range.
If you're looking for a value buy, Red Magic offers plenty of sturdy contenders that can beat the Black Shark gaming phone any day. The Red Magic 7 starts at the same price, but you get an upgraded 165Hz refresh rate, an in-display fingerprint scanner, an incredible battery life, and a superior cooling system.
If you want zero trade-offs, the ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro can give you the latest and greatest components at a premium. ASUS did a phenomenal job with the ROG Phone 6, breaking the norms by incorporating an IPX4 splash-proof rating. The ROG device is pricey, but absolutely worth every cent.
Of course, if you desire specs like wireless charging and waterproofing, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra will also suffice. Slap on a decent Android controller and convert it into a mobile gaming rig on the fly.
Honestly speaking, you can just go for the older Black Shark 4 Pro if your budget is really tight. It's delightfully cheap now, you get the same great performance, there's an RGB light on the back, and you get the whole gaming shebang. Sure, the phone heats up like nobody's business, but you can grab the Black Shark Magnetic Cooler for around 40 bucks and call it a day.
Black Shark 5 Pro: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if...
- You need heavy-duty performance
- Customizable RGB lights appeal to you
- You prefer having built-in triggers
- You want 120W fast charging
- Photography is reasonably important to you
- Money is no object
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You're on the hunt for great value
- Two-day battery life is a must-have
- You can't live without an audio jack
- You dislike bloatware and ads
- You're looking for something innovative
When I said I was perplexed by the phone, I truly meant it. The Black Shark 5 Pro is an absolute unit that can handle the most processor-heavy games and apps of them all. Thanks to the dedicated gaming software features and the magnetic Master Triggers, it covers all the basic necessities of an outstanding mobile gaming device.
Sadly, the price just isn't right this time around. I really wish this Black Shark phone cost at least $150 cheaper. Xiaomi could've done away with the ads at the very least, because most of the bloatware can be uninstalled anyway. Extending support for the device would've been another fantastic way to make up for the cost.
I can't see myself recommending the Black Shark 5 Pro to anyone unless it's on sale, because it just doesn't make sense. It's really frustrating, because I know how much fun I had while gaming on the device. The lack of a headphone jack, a poor update strategy, and the high price tag hold the Black Shark 5 Pro back.
Better phone, worse price
If you don't mind paying for it and putting up with ads, the Black Shark 5 Pro serves its purpose as a gaming phone exceedingly well. It improves on the last iteration in terms of cooling and battery life, and the cameras are upgraded too. With Magic Triggers, Shark Space, and Magic Press at your beck and call, you'll have no shortage of features while gaming on this phone.
Namerah Saud Fatmi is a contributing writer for Android Central. She has a passion for all things tech & gaming and has been an honorary Goodreads librarian since 2011. When she isn't writing, she can be found chasing stray cats and dogs in the streets of Dhaka or slaying dragons in the land of Skyrim. You can reach her on Twitter @NamerahS.
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