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Black Shark 4 Review Philippines: Budget Gaming Monster

by John Nieves  May 19, 2021

Review Verdict: The Black Shark 4 is a great choice for people looking for a top-end gaming device in the Philippines that delivers excellent gaming performance without breaking the bank. There are some odd design choices with the phone, but those minor issues don’t really take away from the gaming performance you get with the device.

Pros

  • Relatively affordable for a gaming phone
  • Physical shoulder buttons
  • Ridiculously fast charging
  • Fast refresh rate

Cons

  • Snapdragon 870 chip instead of the typical 888 on other gaming phones
  • Cameras are ok but not stellar
  • The switch for the pop-out trigger can get caught in clothing when you pocket the phone

Black Shark 4 Specs:

  • Snapdragon 870 processor
  • 8GB/12GB LPDDR5 RAM
  • 128GB/256GB UFS 3.1 storage
  • 6.67-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display, 144hz refresh rate, 720hz touch sampling rate, HDR10+
  • 48-megapixel f/1.8 main camera with PDAF, 8-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle camera, 5-megapixel f/2.4 depth sensor
  • 20-megapixel f/2.4 selfie camera
  • 3G, 4G, 5G
  • WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, in-display fingerprint scanner
  • Stereo speakers, Dolby Atmos, DTS, physical shoulder keys
  • 4500mAh battery
  • 120w Wired charging
  • Android 11, JOYUI 12.5

Black Shark is looking to disrupt the mobile gaming market once again with their newest device, the Black Shark 4. With plenty of muscle under the hood paired with a gorgeous display and unique shoulder triggers, the Black Shark 4 is a gaming phone that many of us can actually afford.

Design

Despite its intended target market, the Black Shark 4 doesn’t scream gamer when you first lay your eyes on it. For one thing, there’s no RGB lighting anywhere on the phone’s body, with the back of the phone sporting a more traditional glass finish with a geometric X subtly appearing depending on how light hits it.

It’s a more traditional design choice VS the previous iteration’s uneven metal and glass surface, and one I personally prefer.

The camera module placement is antithetical to the year’s current bandwagon of square modules with two-step designs – instead, the triple cameras are set in a rectangular module set in the top middle of the phone’s rear.

The phone’s frame is metal and houses the Black Shark 4’s most endearing feature: physical shoulder buttons. On the right side of the phone are two switches that reveal the pop-up shoulder buttons which are infinitely better than the ultrasonic ones that we see on other gaming phones on the market.

Having actual, tactile buttons you can press helps immensely when you’re playing games like Call Of Duty or PUBG Mobile for example, as you get instant feedback when you press a button.

The buttons are activated by switches on the side and can be programmed to be used as shortcuts to phone functions like taking screenshots or activating one-handed mode when you’re not playing.

The only gripe I have with the switches for the shoulder buttons is that they sometimes get caught in clothing as I slide it into my pocket – slightly annoying but it’s not exactly what you’d call a deal-breaker.

Other controls on the phone’s side include a power button that doubles as a fingerprint scanner that’s located on the same side as the switches for the shoulder buttons. The volume rocker is located on the left side. The SIM tray is located on the same side as the volume rocker. Unfortunately, the phone doesn’t have expandable storage.

The Type-C port is located on the bottom of the phone, along with a 3.5mm jack and a speaker grille. There’s another speaker grille at the top of the phone, and the two speakers work together to deliver stereo audio when you’re playing.

Like other gaming phones, Black Shark is also offering a suite of gaming accessories with the phone, though none of these were provided to us for review. The good news is that most of these can be bought on the brand’s official Lazada page, so you won’t have to go through the trouble of importing them yourself.

Display and sound

The phone has a 6.67-inch Super AMOLED display with a Full HD+ resolution. Other goodies include HDR10+ capability, 720Hz (not a typo) touch sampling rate, as well as a 144Hz refresh rate, and 1,300 nits of overall brightness.

The Black Shark 4 also gets a touch delay of just 8.3ms which is insanely low, though having used a variety of gaming phones in the past few months, it was difficult to actually feel the difference in the insanely low touch delay with the Black Shark 4.

There’s a punch-hole selfie notch at the top.

The display is top-notch, and images look fantastic on it no matter if you’re watching movies or playing games. The 144Hz refresh rate makes using the phone feels incredibly smooth when you’re using it.

The stereo speakers are good but don’t have the top-end volume or bass compared to the ROG Phone 5 or the Legion Phone Duel, for example.

Cameras

The Black Shark 4 has a triple camera setup consisting of a 48-megapixel main camera with an f/1.8 aperture lens, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide sensor with an f/2.2 lens, and a 5-megapixel macro camera with an f/2.4 lens.

While the cameras don’t exactly stack up to the ones on phones at the same price point, they still do a good job in taking snaps.

Photos look good and are generally crisp and detailed, the phone starts to struggle when shooting in less than ideal lighting conditions.

Performance, software, and battery

Unlike the top-end gaming smartphones nowadays, the Black Shark 4 uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 870 chipset VS the more common Snapdragon 888. There’s plenty of differences between the two, which include their lithography (5nm on the SD 888 VS 7 NM for the SD 870), overall frequency (higher freq on the SD 870 VS the SD 888) as well as the composition of the cores.

The most striking difference though, and the one that actually affects the performance the most is the use of an Adreno 650 GPU for the SD 870 VS the Adreno 660 that’s on the SD 888.

The phone comes in several RAM and storage configurations, with our Black Shark 4 review unit in the Philippines sporting 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Take note that the storage isn’t expandable, so you might have to opt for the higher variant if

While our performance benchmarks show a gap between the SD 870 and SD 888’s scores, in actual gaming it’s really not noticeable at all. While we can’t give you detailed FPS numbers on how the two processors stacked up to one another in our usual gaming titles (Gamebench refused to run on the Black Shark 4) we didn’t feel any noticeable difference in the games we usually use, save for one. For Asphalt 9, PUBG Mobile, and Call of Duty, we did not experience any kind of performance drops even when running at the highest visual setting.

The only game we had any issues with was Genshin Impact, where we kept getting stutters with the game. We suspect that’s more of a software issue rather than the chipset not being able to keep up, something that can easily be resolved with a software update.

As for thermals, the phone stayed remarkably cool while we were using it in extended gaming sessions. While it did warm up a few times near the end of 1-hour sessions, it never got hot enough to be uncomfortable.

The phone ships with Android 11, with the JOYUI 12.5 laid on top of it.

Like with any gaming phone, the Black Shark 4 gets plenty of software optimization that gives users a way to manage all the games and hardware that they buy for the phone. While there’s little in the way of actual overclocking save for raising thermal throttling limits, you can customize the phone’s function in other useful ways, like turning off notifications so you don’t get disturbed while you play.

The phone has a 4500mAh battery inside of it, which is slightly lower than the 5000mAh that seems to be standard on other gaming phones. However, we managed to get excellent battery life out of the device, with the Black Shark 4 scoring an astounding 19 hours and 55 minutes on our punishing battery drain test.

The phone ships with a fast 67W charger, which blows most fast-charging solutions out of the water. But if that wasn’t enough, you can buy its 120W charging brick that Black Shark says is capable of charging the phone in just 17 minutes from 0, which is insane.

Wrap-up and conclusions

The Black Shark 4 certainly delivered top-tier mobile gaming in our review, without costing an arm and a leg especially if you’re in the Philippines. The physical shoulder buttons give you actual tactile feedback, something that’s missing on more expensive gaming phones from other brands. And despite the switch to a Snapdragon 870 chipset, the phone still delivers excellent gaming performance no matter what you throw at it.

Black Shark 4 Review Philippines Price:

The Black Shark 4 starts at Php 24,950 for the 6GB/128GB variant and goes all the way up to Php 34,990 for the 12GB/256GB variant. You can grab it at their official store in Lazada.

 

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