The sub-brand of Xiaomi Black Shark makes its debut today in the West with the eponymous Black Shark gaming phone in Europe. The phone is officially priced at £439 / €499 for a 6GB RAM / 64GB storage model, rising to £479 / € 549 for 8GB / 128GB. For a limited time, however, UK prices will be £409 / £449 and European prices will be €469 / € 519. Despite Xiaomi’s seemingly timely launch in the UK last week, the black shark says the phone will only be available through the sub-brand’s own website.
Black Shark gaming phone feels like a deal, but it’s not like a deal: the build quality of Black Shark gaming phone is a solid rock, combining plastic and metal to have a surprisingly cool effect. Yes, it’s definitely gamery, but I don’t find it ostentatious, and to be honest, I dig the black-and-green color scheme-especially the shiny green chamfers. The frames aren’t exactly in line with 2018 trends, but they’re not huge, and a reasonably good 1080p screen has a higher aspect ratio. Also, hey, at least there’s room for a fingerprint sensor on the front. (No headphone Jack, sorry. But the USB-C key is included.)
The Chinese version of Black Shark gaming phone comes with an MIUI version called JoyUI, but while the Western version also bears that name, the actual software is completely different. It’s basically an ultra-stock Android with multiple Game-oriented settings.
The black shark uses the same Snapdragon 845 chip as everyone else, but it’s extremely, clearly fast — easily the thinnest and most responsive Android device I’ve used all year. I don’t know if this is due to the stripped-down software or the vaunted liquid cooling system, but the overall speed of The black shark is immediately noticeable. The battery life has also been very good so far, as expected from the 4000 mAh cell inside. The 20-plus 12-megapixel dual-camera system seems to have been filmed with Mi A2 and 6X, which means it’s not the top-level flagship level, but usually pretty good and much better than you’d expect from a phone at its price level.
IT’S SO MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE TO MOVE YOUR in-game CHARACTER WITH THE STICK
The most unique thing about the Black Shark phone itself is the switch on the left side with the only feature allowing you to get into “Shark Space”, a landscape-only mode that organizes your game library into a console-style menu and allows you to scroll through the fingerprint sensor to bring down the game options panel. I don’t know that it really needs a special switch, but it somehow makes a black Shark look more like a purpose-built device than a phone that plays games.
The included game controller has an analog joystick and two shoulder buttons as well as clips on the left side of the phone when held in the landscape; you should also use the included plastic bumper case for the entire phone to attach it, which is a bit unfortunate. Games that work with Shark Space allow you to assign screen areas to each of the controls, but most compatible games I’ve come across aren’t really what you need a controller for in the first place unless there’s someone who wants to try to catch pokémon with an analog stick.
Some supposedly incompatible games work and just treat it like a normal Bluetooth controller, but that’s not always ideal either — Asphalt 9, for example, allows me to control the stick perfectly, but seems to expect a full Xbox layout to be available and doesn’t give me the ability to brake.
I couldn’t get Fortnite or PUBG to work with the controller due to lack of Shark Space support, which could be a deal breaker for a lot of people. I don’t understand why there shouldn’t be a way to knock down a control setting overlay in NON-shark Space games-I was led to believe it would — and the black shark says it is looking into it as well as the asphalt problem.
However, I got the controller to work with NetEase’s PUBG rip-off Knives Out, and it worked great — it’s much more convenient to move your character with a stick and aim while holding the trigger, and it’s also nice not to have a thumb constantly hiding half the screen. I wouldn’t say it gives you a serious competitive advantage, such as a mouse and keyboard, over a gamepad-it’s closer to the difference between using a Pro Controller over a Joy-Cons with a Fortnite on Switch.
But whether you care about how well the controller works or Android games in General, I think Black Shark gaming phone is a good deal, especially at its launch price. Considering the price, actually, there are no red flags until you are completely turned off by its design. The best thing about it is boring. But it’s clearly sold as a gaming phone, so I can’t fully recommend it if I’m unconvinced at this level.
That’s it. I feel like it will be a pretty convincing phone for everyone in Europe who wants basically an Android device with an extremely good performance at a low price. Maybe just don’t buy it expecting it to help you break through your Fortnite levels faster.