Hands-On, Smartphone

Black Shark 2 Pro Hands-On: First Snapdragon 855+ Gaming Phone in Malaysia

The Black Shark 2 Pro is set to land in Malaysia on 3 September 2019, but we managed to get a hold of the gaming smartphone ahead of its official local launch. Powered by Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 855+ chipset, the Pro variant of the Black Shark 2 is now more powerful than ever.

However, at the end of the day, it is still an incremental upgrade over its predecessor; it doesn’t quite match up to its competition in certain aspects either. In that sense, exactly how compelling the Black Shark 2 Pro would be will depend on how much the gaming smartphone will cost once it is launched here.

Since this is a gaming smartphone, let’s start with the gaming performance of the Black Shark 2 Pro. As mentioned, this device comes with a Snapdragon 855+ chipset, which is said to offer up to 15% increase in gaming performance.

In order to get this level of performance, the Snapdragon 855+ has its CPU and GPU overclocked. Beyond the fact that these two components are running at higher clock speeds, they’re the same Kryo 485 CPU and Adreno 640 GPU found in the standard Snapdragon 855.

So how does it feel like to game on the Black Shark 2 Pro? Very fun. I’ve played PUBG Mobile and Mortal Kombat on this gaming smartphone, and both games feel extremely fluid and responsive. This is especially noticeable in PUBG Mobile: the phone reacts to my inputs incredibly quickly.

In fact, that sheer responsiveness of the touch screen gives the illusion of higher frame rate. I always use PUBG Mobile as my gaming benchmark when I review smartphones, and the game never felt this responsive before. Evidently, the Black Shark 2 Pro can run the game seamlessly with very low input lag.

This is thanks to the 240Hz polling rate of the phone’s display, which Black Shark claims reduces the input delay down to only 34.7ms. For comparison’s sake, the original Black Shark 2 had a 43.5ms input delay. Not a huge improvement, but I do believe it will give skilled players the competitive edge.

Unfortunately enough, the low input delay isn’t complemented with high refresh rate: the Black Shark 2 Pro still comes with a conventional 60Hz display. Compared to other gaming smartphones with faster 90Hz, or even 120Hz screens, the Pro doesn’t feel quite as…well, impressive.

Can you still game just as effectively on this smartphone? Probably, given that not many mobile games go beyond 60fps. Is this still a bummer? Definitely.

Gaming aside, other aspects of the Black Shark 2 Pro aren’t hugely different from its direct predecessor, except for a slightly tweaked rear panel. It now sports a more streamlined look with a strip of metal going down the middle of the phone, complete with RGB lighting. According to Black Shark, the redesigned back panel improves grip comfort in longer gaming sessions.

That being said, I didn’t notice any improvement in grip comfort. In fact, I reckon a good casing would provide better grip comfort. But hey, I do like the new design of the rear panel; it gives the phone a sleeker, more modern look.

Featuring the same 6.39-inch 1080p AMOLED panel as its predecessor, the Black Shark 2 Pro has a great display without any notch or hole-punch cutout. It has vibrant, punchy colours, viewing angles are great, and it has very deep blacks too. These are, after all, inherent characteristics of AMOLED screens.

Other specifications of the Black Shark 2 Pro include up to 12GB of RAM, 128GB or 256GB of internal storage, a USB-C port, and a 4,000mAh battery. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t come with a 3.5mm headphone jack and expandable storage. Considering the fact that this is a gaming-centric smartphone, not having these two features is really quite odd.

In the camera department, the Black Shark 2 Pro shares the same camera configuration as the non-Pro model. It still has a dual camera system on the back (48MP f/1.75 primary shooter + 8MP f/2.2 telephoto sensor), and the front-facing camera is a 20MP f/2.0 unit. It goes without saying gaming smartphones don’t have the best camera performance, and it shows when I’m photographing with this phone.

Shots I took with the Black Shark 2 Pro are either very saturated, or they’re simply overexposed. On top of that, the camera interface itself doesn’t allow me to take another shot until the previous one is done processing, which takes about a second or two. However, in a pinch, I’m sure this phone can take decent-looking pictures for social media postings; just don’t expect particularly great results.

As a gaming smartphone, the Black Shark 2 Pro is a good option. Even if it doesn’t have a fancy 90Hz or 120Hz display like its competition, the low input lag of the screen somewhat makes up for this shortcoming. It would’ve been great if it had a display with higher refresh rate, of course, but do note that this is still a relatively affordable smartphone.

For the Chinese market, the Black Shark 2 Pro retails at 2,999 Chinese yuan (about RM1,770) for the 128GB variant; the 256GB model, on the other hand, goes for 3,499 yuan (approximately RM2,065). If Black Shark can price this gaming smartphone around the same price range, it may just be attractive enough to consider over other offerings in this segment.

Plus, once it is introduced in Malaysia on 3 September, the Black Shark 2 Pro would be the first Snapdragon 855+ device to be available here.