Black Shark 3 Pro Quick Review: A Huge, Unique Gaming Smartphone
August 9, 2020 Andrew Cheng

The gaming smartphone market has gotten increasingly crowded, and most of them are…well, pretty generic. But that’s not the case at all with this phone right here, the Black Shark 3 Pro. Not only is it a powerful gaming smartphone, it also has one unique feature to set it apart from its competition: physical shoulder buttons that pop-up when you need them.

That being said, it is far from the most practical smartphone due to its imposing size, not to mention the fact that it’s also one of the most costly devices in the market now with a RM4,199 price tag. But should you fork out that amount of money for the Black Shark 3 Pro? Read on to find out.

What It Is

Display7.1-inch QHD+ AMOLED (3120 x 1440), 90Hz refresh rate, 270Hz touch sampling rate
ChipsetQualcomm Snapdragon 865 2.84GHz octa-core
GPUAdreno 650
Storage256GB, non-expandable
Camera (rear)64MP f/1.8
13MP f/2.25 (ultra-wide angle)
5MP f/2.2 (depth)
Camera (front)20MP f/2.2
Dimensions177.79 x 83.29 x 10.48 mm
OSJoyUI 11 based on Android 10
Bluetooth 5.0
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6 (2.4/5GHz)
USB Type-C

On paper alone, it’s clear that the Black Shark 3 Pro is a capable flagship smartphone. Granted, it no longer has the fastest chipset in the market – not since the Snapdragon 865+ chip entered the market – but the regular Snapdragon 865 is still a speedy chipset that will be able to keep up with anything you throw at it.

The Good Stuff

Since the Black Shark 3 Pro is a gaming smartphone, let’s talk about performance first. Basically, it’s incredibly enjoyable to game on this smartphone. I’ve played PUBG Mobile extensively on it, and never did I encounter any performance issue. Frame rate is high and stable, my inputs are immediately reflected – thanks to the high 270Hz touch sampling rate – and the physical pop-up shoulder buttons are a game changer.

Unlike other gaming smartphones in the market that rely on capacitive buttons, the Black Shark 3 Pro actually has physical shoulder buttons that pop-up when you launch a game. When not in use, the buttons will just retract back into the chassis of the phone. It’s quite surreal watching this in action, and the buttons themselves are also very tactile, which is very satisfying to press on.

Complementing the fast performance and physical shoulder buttons of the Black Shark 3 Pro is the sizeable 7.1-inch 1440p AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate. Yes, it’s not quite as fast as other smartphones’ 120Hz screens, but it’s still a marked improvement over conventional 60Hz panels.

Anyway, thanks to the fast 90Hz refresh rate, every animation on the Black Shark 3 Pro’s screen looks extra smooth. This is noticeable even when I’m just navigating around the home screen. Obviously, games that can support this refresh rate will feel faster as well. After all, the screen is capable of showing 90 frames per second.

Besides that, the battery life of the Black Shark 3 Pro is very respectable too. On average, I was able to consistently get anywhere between six to seven hours of screen-on time out of the 5,000mAh battery. This is very good battery life, which is quite a surprise considering that it has a large 7.1-inch 1440p screen.

Charging rate of this gaming smartphone is extremely impressive as well. In only 30 minutes of charging, the phone’s 65W fast charging support managed to recharge the 5,000mAh battery to 90% from empty. Do note that I tested this charging rate right after the phone was completely drained without switching it on.

And then there’s the camera performance of the Black Shark 3 Pro. Given that this is a smartphone focused on delivering the best gaming experience, I wasn’t putting much expectation on the camera performance. But to my surprise, the triple camera system (64MP f/1.8 primary + 13MP f/2.25 ultra-wide angle + 5MP f/2.2 depth) can capture some great-looking shots.

This is especially the case with the 64MP primary sensor. It has good detail preservation, it can lock in focus pretty quickly, and the camera interface feels responsive regardless of lighting situation. Judge for yourself the image quality of the 64MP sensor with the shots below.

But not everything is peachy about the camera system, and that brings us to the next section..

The Bad Stuff

While the main 64MP sensor of the Black Shark 3 Pro’s triple camera system is quite capable, the same cannot be said for the 13MP ultra-wide angle lens. It has worse dynamic range, detail preservation, and even the camera interface feels more sluggish when I switch to the ultra-wide angle shooter.

One other area where the Black Shark 3 Pro don’t quite impress is in the software department. Throughout my time with the phone, there were more than a few times where my background apps were cleared out of the blue. This is likely done by the OS to conserve battery life, but it can get quite annoying when I have important apps or games paused in the background.

Another negative – or a positive for certain folks – of the Black Shark 3 Pro is its sheer size to accommodate the 7.1-inch screen. In fact, it’s almost comically big for a smartphone. While I can still keep it in my jeans pocket, it’s a snug fit, and it even sticks out in certain pockets. It’s also worth noting that this is a hefty smartphone, tipping the scales at 253g.

Last but certainly not least is the fact that the Black Shark 3 Pro is a RM4,199 device. That’s a lot of money, even for a flagship gaming smartphone. While you do get quite a bit of features for that kind of money, you’re essentially paying extra for the large 7.1-inch 90Hz screen, physical pop-up shoulder buttons, and fast 65W charging.

So the question is: are these two features worth the price premium?

Is It Worth It?

For RM4,199, the Black Shark 3 Pro is a costly device, but you are getting a gaming smartphone like no other. If you want the huge 90Hz display – which is either a plus or a negative, depending on each individual’s personal preference – the physical pop-up button, and the very fast charging rate, then yes, this is a phone worth considering.

But if you can live without these features, other gaming smartphones will potentially serve you better. That is not to say the Black Shark 3 Pro is not worth it. No other devices offer the unique pop-up shoulder buttons, and if you find that appealing, RM4,199 is the price to pay.