Gaming, Hands-On, Smartphone

Black Shark 2 Hands-On: A Fast Gaming Smartphone for RM2,499

The Black Shark 2 was just launched in Malaysia yesterday, and it’s the first Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 smartphone to reach our shores. That’s right, if you’ve been waiting to get a Snapdragon 855 device, this one is for you – it’s a gaming smartphone to boot.

I managed to test out the Black Shark 2 quite a bit, and it’s really quite an attractive gaming smartphone, thanks to its competitive pricing. But beyond its value for money, is the phone any good? Let’s find out.

Not surprisingly, the Black Shark 2 has an aggressive styling. One look at the phone, and you’ll know it’s a gaming smartphone. The all-metal chassis is nice to the touch, it has reasonably small top and bottom bezels (no notch!), and of course, the back panel has an illuminated Black Shark logo with RGB lighting.

Despite this being touted as a gaming smartphone, the Black Shark 2…does not have a headphone jack, so you’ll have to rely on adapters, or Type-C earphones. On top of that, this phone doesn’t have a microSD card slot either.

Fortunately enough, the Black Shark 2 comes with ample amount of storage. For the Malaysian market, you can get the gaming phone with 128GB or 256GB of fast UFS 2.1 storage. The RAM capacity, on the other hand, maxes out at a whopping 12GB.

Now, let’s get to the important bit: how is the Black Shark 2 like to game on? I played a couple rounds of PUBG Mobile with the phone, and it ran beautifully. The frame rate is high and consistent, the game feels very responsive, and overall, I was really enjoying myself.

What makes the gaming experience even more enjoyable on the Black Shark 2 are the front facing stereo speakers. Even in the noisy environment I was in, the speakers are loud enough to compensate for this. Besides that, I’m also quite impressed with the phone’s vibration system: the vibrations don’t feel particularly generic or cheap.

Sporting a 6.39-inch 2340 x 1080 AMOLED display, the Black Shark 2 has a vibrant, bright display with great viewing angles. This being an AMOLED panel, it has very good black levels too. Despite the 1080p resolution of the display, the screen still looks plenty sharp, and it should help with battery life as well.

Speaking of which, the Black Shark 2 is equipped with a 4,000mAh battery, and that is…fine. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a generous capacity, but for a device of this size, it’s not unreasonable to expect a larger battery under the hood. Nonetheless, the 4,000mAh cell should be able to return respectable battery life.

There is one particular aspect of the Black Shark 2 that surprised me: the software. Running on a stock version of Android, the user interface feels very clean and responsive. It’s rare for a gaming phone to come with such a clean version on Android, and I’m glad Black Shark decided to do so.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from the Black Shark 2 when it comes to camera performance, but the 48MP f/1.75 + 12MP f/2.2 (telephoto) dual camera system surprised me quite a bit. The camera feels very responsive, there’s no noticeable shutter lag, and the image output looks pretty darn good.

That being said, I was shooting under great lighting, and most phones worth their salt can take good-looking shots in this kind of condition. The real test lies in low light photography, and it remains to be seen if the Black Shark 2’s dual camera system can still deliver in that aspect.

If you’re into selfies, this phone has a 20MP f/2.0 front-facing camera, which should be able to take decent-looking pictures.

The Black Shark 2 is a fast, premium gaming smartphone, but there is one area where it is lacking by quite a margin. Unlike, say, the Razer Phone 2, the Black Shark 2 only has a standard 60Hz display. Yes, you can still game effectively with this kind of refresh rate, but it will be much more enjoyable to game on the Razer Phone 2’s faster 120Hz panel.

Granted, the Black Shark 2 is priced at a lower price point: it retails from only RM2,499 for the 128GB model with 8GB of RAM. If you want the higher-end 256GB variant with 12GB of RAM, that will set you back RM2,999 – still a reasonably good price tag.

Without a doubt the Black Shark 2 is not affordable, but for a smartphone with this kind of hardware and storage capacity, it offers good value for money. If you don’t mind the screen’s conventional 60Hz display, you will be very happy with the Black Shark 2; especially when it comes to raw performance.