Whilst Black Shark might not be a phone you have ever heard of before, it is devices like the original Black Shark that helped promote the mobile gaming market with top specs and gameplay at the head of all decisions.
Whilst I never got hands on the original, the Black Shark 2 I have been lucky enough, and have been putting through its paces for the past two weeks.
My device was loaned to review for a 2 week period where I used my main SIM for daily use so I could see how good performance was.
Right now the Black Shark 2 costs £479 and can be purchased directly here
Looking straight at the front of the device you get a large 6.39 inch display with Full HD resolution.
It was a shame that for a gaming phone it was not given a 2K resolution screen, especially due to the large battery it has built-in, it would have been more than capable of lasting and adding more detail to content such as games or videos.
Razer still win on the display refresh rate thanks to their highly impressive 120hz display, the Black Shark 2 clocks in at 60hz so content is not as smooth as when compared with what Razer have, but Black Shark wins on having the latest processor and a faster response rate on the screen.
The display has an inbuilt built fingerprint reader which is pretty quick, you need to hold onto the sensor for about a second to unlock so I opted for Face Unlock instead which seems faster and more reliable.
Up at the top you have the earpiece as well as a light sensor and a 20 megapixel front facing camera which can also record in full HD 1080p quality. The selfie camera is very good and captures a lot of detail even in poorly lit conditions, and video quality also impressed.
There is a light sensor up top also which is used to switch brightness up or down depending on your lighting situation, whilst it does work, it did seem a little laggy and unresponsive at times so when moving from indoors to outdoors in the sun, I often had to slide down the top bar and move brightness up myself because the light sensor did not kick in or was very delayed.
As with most devices these days there is nothing below the screen as all the buttons are now on screen instead of needing capacitive buttons, this gives more screen which is great for a gaming phone but also great for watching videos on.
At the very bottom there is another speaker which is what allows for stereo media playback this is very good for gaming as well as watching YouTube and other video services.
When playing games or anything that needs volume, the dual front facing speakers really do make a noise and are not only loud, bit clear and impress in performance.
Turn over to the left-hand side and you have the volume up and down buttons, and also one of the two LED strip lights which acts as notification lights and these shining different colours depending on what the notification is and also changes during music playback.
Over on the right hand side you have the other LED notification strip in the middle with the power button just above, you also have a switch which activates a mode called Shark Space, this is a game focussed mode which puts the phone into landscape and shows all the games that you have on the phone as well as quick access to change some performance settings and a do not disturb option so you don’t get any annoying notifications getting in the way.
Up top all you have is one of the dual microphones which is used for noise cancellation and at the bottom you’ll have the other microphone for stereo audio recording as well as the USB C charging port and the SIM tray which takes a nano SIM.
Unfortunately no headset port anywhere to be found, instead you have to rely on the USB C port for a headset, either using a separately purchased one, or using the supplied adapter to plug your own in, either way you are then unable to charge and use a headset at the same time.
You also will not find any expandable storage anywhere, you have 128GB built in, but no expandable so online storage via Google Drive for example is needed if you want to store a lot of content.
Where you might benefit from the lack of external memory though is the fact you get an extra sim slot meaning the Black Shark 2 is a Dual SIM phone.
This may be popular as you can use one phone now with a personal and a work sim in, instead of having to carry two phones with you.
Over on the back you have the ‘S’ logo in the middle which is also for LED notifications, you can set this to be different colours at different times or be on at all times, however this does impact on your battery life as you would expect.
On the back you also have the Black Shark text so they can advertise the device, and you have a dual LED flash as well as a dual camera setup.
The camera will be covered later on in the review, however one of these is a 48 megapixel sensor which captures some really great photos also because of the dual camera setup also allows a 2 times zoom with no loss of quality which lets you get closer to your subject.
Overall I really like the design, turning the phone into landscape feels really comfortable which is brilliant for gaming, and if you purchase the attachments for the controls this will be even better, especially if you are a keen gamer on apps such as Fortnite or PUBG.
The only thing is the phone is quite heavy at 205 grams which makes it quite weighty in the hand, however if you don’t mind big heavy phones this is a great choice to go for.
In comparison to some other popular phones so you can see the weight difference, the Galaxy S10+ is 175g and the iPhone XR is 194g.
However comparing to gaming phones the Razer Phone 2 is 220g and the ROG Phone is 200g, putting the Black Shark 2 right in the middle of these.
Even though the build quality feels like a tank, you do get a clear case included in the box which adds to protect your device from getting scratched if you are someone who worries about keeping your phone scratch free for as long as possible.
The hardware design won’t be for everyone though, it lacks the flat glass back that many phones have gone for recently, instead using a metal design that tech heads and gamers will love thanks to the sleek lines and curves, bit those who like a more traditional look may not be swayed by.
In a time when megapixel counts are on the up, the Black Shark 2 comes with a dual camera setup on the back including a main 48 megapixel camera described as 4-in-1 and effectively produces a 12 megapixel image with extra detail.
The other camera on the back is a true 12 megapixel lens and allows for 2x optical zooming so you can get closer to your subject for that important photo.
Having dual cameras allows for those impressive bokeh photos, and when you have a huge amount of megapixels on the main camera this is an ideal combination.
The camera is decent enough for most people but will struggle to compare against flagships such as the S10 and P30 range, this was to be expected though with more of a focus on gaming than photography.
The camera app is simple to use and has a decent amount of modes at your disposal including slow motion and a Pro mode which lets you change various settings to get a better photo if you know what your doing.
For most people the Black Shark 2 will be for gaming and performance, but it is nice to have a decent camera on the back to get those special photos when needed.
The software experience on this device is very good thanks to its near stock like experience and no pre-installed bloatware.
Apart from the Black Shark boot screen, option for the gamepad and settings, and the switch on the side for shark space, you’re getting a pure Android experience which is great and also helps performance.
The camera app is also customised a little, but does not have any Black Shark branding anywhere and looks like most camera apps out there.
Although running a stock version of Android, this is not an Android One device, and there is no news on when and how fast future software updates will roll out.
At least the Black Shark 2 runs Android 9 Pie out of the box and not an older version, there is just no news on when to expect the next release.
When it comes to gaming on this device, there is Gaming Mode which is a swipe away from the top corner within any game, this lets you access some gaming shortcuts such as activating do not disturb mode as well as vibrating the screen to taps for feedback this making the game more interactive.
Whilst the device runs the latest version of Android and has plenty of RAM and performance, there seemed to be a strange software issue that meant when you were writing something on the keyboard, the phone would almost freeze for a few seconds and then pick up where you left off, it would appear this issue was not just unique to my device, but good friend of the site Basil from TechRadar also encountered the same glitch on his review device.
When it comes to gaming on a mobile device, performance is key, and the Black Shark 2 does not disappoint.
With 8GB of RAM, even the most graphic heavy game will be a breeze, including if you have other apps open in the background.
Storage as mentioned before comes in at 128GB and this is non expandable, meaning you need to use online storage for larger files if you start getting a little low.
The battery is a large 4000mAh with Quick Charge 3 so you get a quicker charge when plugged in, you don’t get wireless charging unfortunately even with the other flagship specs.
The processor of choice here is the latest Snapdragon 855 which not only makes the device fast, it has great battery performance too.
When it comes to the extra geeky specs, the Black Shark 2 has Liquid Cooling 3 technology which helps spread the heat when it would normally start getting a little toasty, this helps with overall performance and battery use.
Whilst the display is still 60hz, the response rate is the fastest on any phone at just 43.5ms, and as gamers know, this speedy response rate can be the difference between winning and finishing second.
And finally for that extra performance boost you can enable Ludicrous Mode which pushes all the performance to the task or game in hand, something that should be reserved for the most demanding of graphic titles if you want ultimate performance, using on something like Pokémon Go is overkill and you won’t really notice the difference.
When it comes to connectivity, this is an area that misses a major selling point and that is the lack of NFC.
Go back a few years and missing NFC was no big miss, but in 2019, contactless payments and file transfers are more common, and with the Black Shark 2 missing out, this could be a deal breaker for some.
Apart from the NFC issue you get the other standard support for Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, plus 4G+ thanks to 3CA LTE-A and a new antenna design which means improves mobile reception no matter how you hold the device.
It was my first time I had hands on a Black Shark device, I really wanted to get hands on the original, and when I saw the Black Shark 2 was being announced I was really looking forward to getting my hands on it especially as I like playing mobile games and taking photos which this phone was aimed at.
In total I had the device for just over 2 weeks, and used as my daily driver device with my main SIM card, so have access to all my email and social media accounts and allowed me to give a true indication of battery life and performance day to day.
It’s a shame that I wasn’t able to get hold of the gaming attachments which makes this phone stand out more than others, however this was not available at time of review.
If you don’t mind a tall heavy device then this could be a choice to go for, if you’re into your gaming on the move, especially if you get hold of those gaming attachments to get the best out the phone.
At £479 unlocked and SIM-free, you’re getting the latest processor with plenty of memory and nice big screen dual SIM as well as in their stock Android experience.
When you take into account all the specs including the memory the camera and the display this makes the Black Shark 2 good value for money when you compare it to other devices at around £800.
Most phones can play top-of-the-line games right now, but only a few are aimed at gaming fans with the exception being the Razer Phone 2 and the Asus ROG Phone.
After looking at what the other two phones cost and availability, I would have no hesitation in recommending the Black Shark 2 with gaming attachments if you are a serious mobile gamer I want great value for money.
Whilst the phone has some serious specs under the hood, if you are a gamer you really need those controller attachments to make it worth your investment, as long as the lack of NFC is not too disappointing for you.
My only hope is that the software glitch which makes the screen freeze at times can be resolved in a future update as it can get quite frustrating.
The Black Shark 2 is not available direct with any UK networks, so to own one you have to purchase outright at a price of £479 and can be ordered here