Rating:
8/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $579

Black Shark Pro 4 on table with Black Shark Joybuds
Chazz Mair

Mobile Gaming has come a long way from those Java-powered flip phone games, and holding Xiaomi’s Black Shark 4 Pro in my hands is a firm reminder. It maintains the sleek design of a standard smartphone, but upon closer inspection, you’ll find a powerful machine for the gamer on the go.

Here’s What We Like

  • Snapdragon 888 Processor
  • Convenient shoulder buttons
  • Lightweight with a big screen
  • Responsive display

And What We Don’t

  • Odd user interface
  • Last-gen Snapdragon Processor
  • Unimpressive camera

Design and Display: Created for Gaming

  • 6.67-inch E4 AMOLED Display, 144Hz Refresh Rate
  • 76.35 x 163.8 x 9.9mm
  • USB-C, Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 802.11ac
  • 3.5mm Headphone Jack

With its 6.67-inch, 144Hz AMOLED display and Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G processor, the Android-powered Black Shark 4 Pro is powerful enough to handle anything you throw at it.

That 144Hz refresh rate is perfect for gaming as it keeps the image on the screen extremely sharp, even in fast-paced scenes. Normally, with a phone at this price point, you’d expect something like a 60Hz display, meaning the image you’re seeing only updates 60 times every second. 144Hz is over double that—which can improve your reactions by at least an extra frame.

Powering the phone is the Snapdragon 888 processor, making the Black Shark 4 Pro lightning-quick, allowing it to run popular multiplayer games like Fortnite, Call of Duty: Mobile, and Nova Legacy with ease.

Black Shark 4 Pro with USB C cable
Chazz Mair

Speaking of which, the Black Shark 4 Pro has convenient pop-up triggers embedded in the phone’s sides. They’re placed right where your index fingers naturally rest when holding the phone in landscape, which is excellent for high-intensity gaming. I even found myself using them in slower-paced games because the buttons were just that comfortable.

There are little slides that reveal the buttons, and these tend to slip open when holding the phone vertically. Thankfully, I never found their existence uncomfortable. There were just a few times when they caused me to go to the wrong tab. It was the kind of thing I got used to, but I could easily see it getting annoying over time.

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The buttons and their switches wind up taking up a significant amount of space on a phone that really isn’t the largest. The back features a matte finish and a customizable light-up display that will usually get covered by your hand, but it does look nice on a desk.

At 163.93mm long, 76.35mm wide, and 9.9mm thick, it’s a slim phone that fits nicely in your hand and pocket. There are larger gaming phones like the Asus ROG Phone 5, but if you don’t mind a more standard size, you really can’t go wrong with the Black Shark 4 Pro.

Capable Cameras

  • 64MP Main, 8MP Ultra-Wide, 2MP Macro Rear Cameras
  • 20M Front Camera
Pciture of a tree taken by the Black Shark 4 Pro
Chazz Mair

For cameras, the Black Shark 4 pro uses a 64MP for its primary camera, a 5MP for macro, and an 8MP for ultra-wide, with the front-facing one coming in at 20MP. The combination is pretty decent for its price. Of course, it’s not going to beat something like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, but that phone costs at least $1,200 to the Black Shark 4 Pro’s $579.

The cameras are all decent enough. The images never wowed me, but they never disappointed me either. If you’re a stickler for photo quality, use the primary camera. That 64MP takes insanely high-detail photos.

If you do a lot of distance or night shooting, I’d look elsewhere, especially because the phone doesn’t have a MicroSD card slot for additional storage. High-quality photo and video files tend to get very big, very fast. Because of that, I consider this a good camera, but I wouldn’t use it to try and capture birds mid-flight at night.

The Second Strongest Snapdragon

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G processor
  • Joy UI based on Android 11
  • 6GB RAM

With its 720Hz touch sampling rate and 144Hz refresh rate, the Black Shark Pro 4 is optimized for gaming. The last-gen Snapdragon processor never gave me any big issues with stutters on anything I tested—which were mostly multiplayer battle royales and the occasional card game. It stands far above the bar for a decent gaming phone, but while the Snapdragon 888 is a high-grade processor, it’s already a year old.

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 used in phones like the RedMagic 7 was announced a year after the Snapdragon 888 that the Black Shark 4 pro uses. When you stack the two chips up against each other, the Gen 1 does beat out the Snapdragon, but not by a lot.

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It’s a marginal increase, but that little boost could mean that the Black Shark 4 Pro stays a viable option for gamers that much longer. As far as I can tell, the only thing the 888 has over the newer model is its battery life, but honestly, that feels like splitting hairs.

Battery Life: Have a Charger Handy

  • 4,500mAh Battery
  • 120W Quick Charging

Under heavy usage, the Black Shark 4 Pro lasted about five hours in my experience, but trended towards a lower lifespan. I left it on, playing music, scrolling through social media pages, and, of course, gaming. If I wasn’t purposefully trying to drain its battery, it lasted all day just fine.

Black Shark 4 Pro on table
Chazz Mair

Overall, I’d say you should keep a charger ready. Even sporadic gaming throughout the day drained the battery fast. It handles smaller games like Super Auto Pets well, but if you need to go a long time without a charger, I’d stay away from Fortnite.

Audio: Speakers and Microphones

The Black Shark 4 Pro actually has some pretty solid speakers for a phone. It features loudspeakers on both the top and bottom of the phone for stereo sound. They definitely get the job done, but the sound tends to get muddled here and there as to be expected from a budget smartphone.

The speakers do a decent job at filling the room. Playing videos over the sounds of cooking was no problem for the Black Shark 4 Pro. The same sentiment extends to the phone’s input devices. Three noise-canceling microphones allowed me to talk to others in the same open space without issue. Everyone who called could hear me clearly over the stove or sink, and I never had to yell.

Operating System and Storage

The phone uses Android 11 as its operating system. It’s a little hard to recognize at first because the phone employs a sort of faux-futuristic gaming aesthetic. The device’s AI assistant is an anime character that struck me as odd at first, but it never obscured anything important. It may as well have been a reskin of Google Assistant.

If anything, I’d say that the Black Shark 4 Pro’s greatest weakness is its lack of a MicroSD card slot, as I mentioned above. As it stands at release, the phone launched with either 6GB RAM and 128GB of storage or 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.

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Accessories: The Optional Extras

Along with the phone, I got a Black Shark FunCooler 2Pro (at $37.90), a Black Shark Magnetic Cooler ($49.90), and two sets of Black Shark Joy Buds (at $58.90). These don’t come with the Pro 4 normally. Of them, I found the FunCooler 2Pro to be the clunkiest with its two clamps that wrap around your phone, which makes it cumbersome to hold.

The magnetic option is pricier, but it was the better of the two by a long shot. That magnet doesn’t just work on your phone but any device as long as you attach the plate to it first. I used it on an older tablet in my house since I never had to worry about the Shark 4 Pro overheating.

Black Shark 4 Pro with Funcooler Pro2, charger, and magnetic cooler
Chazz Mair

However, the Black Shark Joy Buds were the stand-out accessory among the bunch. Noise-canceling, low latency, smart, and were sent with a charging case. Like everything else in the Black Shark suite of accessories, they have quick-connect functionality with the phone itself. Their semi-in ear design makes them a breeze to use, especially with the smooth, flat parts that stick out of your ear.

I don’t usually wind up using the touch sensors on wireless earbuds because of their typical problems with discomfort, but these felt nice on my ears. I took them on walks and comfortably used them in the studio. The buds themselves hit about 6 hours of battery life alone and 28 hours with the charging case. So even if you’re not interested in a Black Shark 4 Pro, you absolutely should look into the Black Shark Joy Buds.

A Top Tier Gaming Phone

The Black Shark 4 Pro is one of the best budget gaming phones on the market. It scores high in every category you want a gaming phone to hit and does it with a reasonable price tag. While it does have a year-old processor, the difference between the Snapdragon 888 and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is so minute that it’s unlikely to matter. If you love gaming on the go, you owe it to yourself to check out the Black Shark Pro 4.

Here’s What We Like

  • Snapdragon 888 Processor
  • Convenient shoulder buttons
  • Lightweight with a big screen
  • Responsive display

And What We Don’t

  • Odd user interface
  • Last-gen Snapdragon Processor
  • Unimpressive camera