Black Shark 4 / Pro Detailed Review: Why Did It Change Appearance?

When it comes to Black Shark, in a sense, it is undoubtedly a milestone brand in the smartphone field. On the one hand, since 2018, Black Shark has launched six generations of gaming smartphone products, which can obviously be regarded as one of the earliest pioneers in this segment of Chinese gaming phones. And this “first mover” identity does give Black Shark a richer product experience than most competitors. Therefore, in many design details of its products, they can also see their deep understanding of player needs.

On the other hand, the “professionalism” of Black Shark also allows them to be quite active in the application of new technologies and new designs. For example, the “DC dimming” that has been favored by many brands is actually the first introduction of Black Shark into smartphone products; another example, although Black Shark is not the first manufacturer to introduce shoulder button design on gaming phones, their original lifting shoulder key may be the best solution to combine the feel and appearance. In addition, even the smartphone semiconductor radiator that everyone likes to hear was first brought by Black Shark, and now this kind of external refrigeration equipment has become a “must-have device” for many gamers.

Obviously, we can say that Black Shark has become one of the pronouns of “gaming phone”. But there, the problem arises. For a brand that has “successfully achieved fame” and has its own clear product style and user group, how it can achieve refreshing self-transcendence on the new models of 2021?

To answer this question, it is logical to test the newly announced Black Shark 4 and Black Shark 4 Pro together.

Black Shark 4 / Pro Design

In the entire smartphone market, the appearance of the Black Shark gaming phone has undoubtedly always been highly recognizable. This is because gaming phones generally like to design a variety of RGB lighting effects on the back cover. But on the other hand, it is also because the Black Shark has always adhered to their “X core” design style since the first generation of models.

Black Shark 2S

Black Shark 3S

Because of this, when we first saw the Black Shark 4 and the Black Shark 4 Pro, we were really surprised. Our surprise was conditioned by the fact entire appearance design style has undergone a great change.

Black Shark 4 and Black Shark 4 Pro

Black Shark 4 ProBlack Shark 4 and Black Shark 4 Pro

Black Shark 4

As you can see, this is the brand new Black Shark 4 series of gaming phones. Obviously, compared to the previous Black Shark gaming phone products, the latest generation of models has undergone a great change in the shape of the rear shell. All the complicated splicing surfaces have disappeared and replaced by a whole piece of curved glass. The exaggerated triangular multi-camera component of the previous model has now been replaced by the plain horizontal three-camera.

Black Shark 4 and Black Shark 4 Pro

Not only that, the Black Shark 4 series no longer adhere to the symmetrical frame design on the front of the fuselage. In fact, it comes with a mainstream centered aperture screen design. And the aperture is quite small. According to the official information, the screen aperture of the Black Shark 4 series is only 2.76mm, which is the most difficult process in the entire smartphone industry.

Black Shark 4 and Black Shark 4 Pro

What does this mean? To put it simply, the shape of the entire Black Shark 4 series is much more “introverted” than in the past, and the company has paid more attention to the “high sense” in the detail design.

In fact, in our opinion, this new design style of the Black Shark 4 series just shows their understanding of the player community as an experienced gaming smartphone manufacturer.

The reason is actually very simple – the smartphone is not a PC and its usage scenarios are not limited to providing the ultimate and cool gaming experience in the user’s own room or a relatively independent space. Smartphones are now a necessity to carry around. When players are not playing games, they also need to take their phones with them.

At these times, it is clear that no one wants their smartphone to flash RGB ambient light while attracting the attention of others because of the exaggerated “e-sports” design. Therefore, it can not only provide the best performance and control experience when gaming, but also perfectly “hide” oneself in daily life.

Obviously, the Black Shark 4 series is a product born in accordance with this expectation. In fact, in its design, it hides many exciting details that only players understand.

Black Shark 4 and Black Shark 4 Pro

For example, the Black Shark 4 and the Black Shark 4 Pro all use a 6.67-inch Samsung E4 AMOLED direct screen. It not only has 1300nit high brightness, high color accuracy of 0.36JNCD, but also supports a gaming-level refresh rate of up to 144Hz and a touch report rate of up to 720Hz. In other words, whether it is used for daily movie viewing or game competition, this is undoubtedly the top smartphone screen currently.

The Black Shark 4 and the Black Shark 4 Pro also come with symmetrical stereo speakers on both sides of the middle frame. Among them, the speakers of the Black Shark 4 Pro rely on a larger sound cavity volume and a higher power amplifier chip. So it’s logical the phone has topped the DXOMARK audio list. At the same time, both models have retained the 3.5mm headphone jack, which is convenient for players to charge and play while using low-latency wired headphones.

Black Shark 4 and Black Shark 4 Pro

In addition, the pop-up shoulder button previously appeared on the Black Shark 3 Pro, this time not only has become the standard configuration of the entire Black Shark 4 series, but also upgraded to a magnetic power lifting solution. Through two small lever switches, the shoulder buttons of the Black Shark 4 series can be independently upgraded to control.

Black Shark 4 / Pro Performance

In fact, everyone should also see from the appearance that the shape and size of the Black Shark 4 and Black Shark 4 Pro are almost the same. There is no longer a significant difference in shape between the previous standard version and the Pro version. In addition, the configuration of the screen, charging, and cooling system of the two models are also consistent.

So, what are the main differences between them? First of all, the biggest difference between the Black Shark 4 and the Black Shark 4 Pro lies in the different hardware platforms. Among them, the Black Shark 4 sport the Snapdragon 870 chip, which is matched with a 5500Mbps LPDDR5 memory. The Black Shark 4 Pro comes with the Snapdragon 888 platform. The highest specification of LPDDR5 is 6400Mbps.

But this is not the most important thing, because compared to the single UFS3.1 flash storage used by the Black Shark 4, the Black Shark 4 Pro also debuted a dual combination disk array system based on a UFS3.1 flash storage + an independent SSD in the industry. Although there have been models using two flash memory chips before, all of them have only superimposed capacity without any performance improvement. The Black Shark 4 Pro brings a design that doubles the storage performance for the first time in a smartphone product through parallel read and write between dual flash storages.

Of course, as a gaming phone, all Black Shark 4 series handsets are also equipped with the signature “sandwich” liquid cooling system. To put it simply, large-scale liquid-cooled soaking plates are arranged on both sides of the main board. The structure in which the main board is sandwiched by the double heat spreading plate can also conduct the heat on the main board to the greatest extent.

Black Shark 4 and Black Shark 4 Pro

What’s interesting is that the official even specially designed a fuselage protective shell with a built-in thermal structure for the Black Shark 4 series. Unlike other similar products, it has a large-size thermal conductive glue embedded in the side contacting the phone, and a raised metal heat sink is arranged on the other side. In this way, even if there is a protective case, the heat on the back of the smartphone can be smoothly conducted, thereby avoiding the disadvantages of poor heat dissipation of the traditional protective case. By the way, after wearing the protective shell, the Black Shark 4 series immediately became “e-sports” in shape.

After testing the Black Shark 4 and Black Shark 4 Pro separately in AnTuTu, we can see that both the Black Shark 4 and the Black Shark 4 Pro have reached the highest record in history that may be their respective platforms. Among them, the storage score of the Black Shark 4 Pro is astonishingly high. In fact, when we install various software and games, we have also noticed that it completes the installation process almost instantly. From this point of view, the super performance of the Black Shark 4 Pro is not limited to games.

Gaming

In this Black Shark 4 series, we can find an extremely powerful “game space”.

What can “Game Space” do? In addition to the conventional game storage, overall performance control, anti-disturbance and other functions, the Black Shark 4 series also allows users to set performance, camera, control, audio, and even network details for each game. Each of these games settings can be different. For example, for games that are more performance-intensive, like “Original God”, we can turn on the “burning mode” to get a more stable frame rate.

In addition, in the “Game Space”, we can also carry out more convenient centralized control of a series of game peripherals under Black Shark. Take the Black Shark Frozen Cooling Back Clip 2 Pro, which debuted with the series. It can support three working modes, and it also adds the function of turning off the lighting effect in conjunction with the game. And these can be intuitively controlled in the “game space” of the Black Shark 4 series, without the need to install an app separately.

Let’s test the Black Shark 4 Pro in terms of gaming.

“Original God”

“Ace Warrior”

“Asphalt 9”

We can see that, as one of the current most powerful gaming mobile products, the actual gaming performance of the Black Shark 4 Pro did not disappoint us. Whether it’s in “Original God” or “Asphalt”, a beautiful straight full frame rate graph was handed over. As for “Ace Warrior” because of a slightly weird mechanism, the menu interface and death replay both will automatically be reduced to half of the maximum frame rate. So everyone will see the current frame rate curve. In fact, as long as it can be kept in the game, the Black Shark 4 Pro can play the full strength of 144Hz without any pressure.

Of course, in addition to the Black Shark 4 Pro, you may be more concerned about the game performance of the Black Shark 4. After all, compared with its “big brother”, the main control scheme and storage configuration are different. So does this mean that its gaming experience will shrink?

“Original God”

We still chose “Original God” as the test project. After careful analysis of the test data, it is not difficult to find that the Black Shark 4 has brought the performance of the Snapdragon 870 to its limit. Even during the entire game, the Snapdragon 870 3.2GHz super core has not been down-clocked at all (obviously, this is very rare). But after all, the performance of the Snapdragon 870 and the Snapdragon 888 still have a certain gap. So you will find that the Black Shark 4 can indeed run the frame rate under the highest quality setting of “Original God” to 60 frames, but it is not like that. The Black Shark 4 Pro is almost in a straight line. And this is where the experience difference between flagship and sub-flagship lies.

Of course, the Black Shark 4 can run “Original God” to 60 frames, which actually means that there are almost no other games that can stump it. So if you don’t play “Original God” very much, then the game performance of the Black Shark 4 and the Black Shark 4 Pro may not seem too different.

The Black Shark 4 series comes with a 4500mAh high-capacity battery. But more importantly, all Black Shark 4 series support a 120W high-power ultra-fast charging system as standard, and the charger is directly included in the package.

According to our measurement results, the Black Shark 4 series can charge the whole machine from 1% to full power in only about 15 minutes.

Joy UI

As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, the Black Shark 4 series obviously takes care of the players’ needs outside the game. For example, the change in the appearance greatly facilitates the user to use the smartphone in formal occasions without worrying about being “labeled”. At the same time, in terms of systems, the Black Shark 4 system also has many new designs that take care of daily use.

First of all, it is well known that the Black Shark gaming phone has been using JOYUI, which is modified and enhanced based on MIUI. This time, JOYUI on the Black Shark 4 series has been upgraded to the latest MIUI 12.5, which means that it has brought excellent genes inherited from MIUI in many aspects.

For example, it has the same strict privacy control function as the latest version of MIUI, and it can give a conspicuous prompt on the screen when any app tries to access sensitive permissions such as the camera.

For another example, it incorporates MIUI’s latest user experience design. In addition to a more natural sound system, in the screen template, you can also see some brand-new styles that Black Shark is specially adapted for players and MIUI does not have.

In addition, the Black Shark 4 series has also added a full-featured NFC module. Combined with the powerful NFC function provided by MIUI, it makes this gaming phone provide the best NFC function experience.

Black Shark 4 and Black Shark 4 Pro

What’s more interesting is that because the Black Shark 4 series changed the pop-up method of the shoulder button, this means that when you are not playing games, you can actually turn on the shoulder button and define it as a daily shortcut to use – for example, one-click screenshots, one-click payments, one-click photos, and so on.

Black Shark 4 / Pro Camera

Finally, let’s take a look at the camera performance of the Black Shark 4 series. From the hardware point of view, the front camera modules of the Black Shark 4 and Black Shark 4 Pro are both 20MP micro-hole solutions. But they are slightly different in terms of rear camera. The rear camera of the Black Shark 4 consists of a 48-megapixel main camera + 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle + 5-megapixel macro sub-camera, while the Black Shark 4 Pro’s rear main camera is replaced with a 64-megapixel solution. It also adds the shooting function of HDR 10+ high dynamic range video.

At first glance, many people may think that this is the relationship between “basic models” and “upgraded models.” But in fact, in our testing process, we found that the camera performance of the Black Shark 4 and the Black Shark 4 Pro really cannot be defined so simply.

Black Shark 4 sample: ISO50 25mm f1.79 1/523s

Black Shark 4 sample: (double zoom) ISO50 25mm f1.79 1/326s

Black Shark 4 Pro sample: ISO100 17mm f1.79 1/399s

Black Shark 4 Pro sample: (double zoom) ISO100 17mm f1.79 1/282s

You can see from the EXIF ​​information in the picture above that the Black Shark 4 and the Black Shark 4 Pro are not only different in the main camera, but their lens focal lengths are actually different. Among them, the Black Shark 4 Pro is obviously more “wide-angle”. Secondly, at the same time and in the same environment, the Black Shark 4 tends to use a lower ISO to reduce image noise, while using a shorter exposure time to enhance the image stabilization effect. The Black Shark 4 Pro not only raises the ISO, the exposure time is also longer. In terms of results, the Black Shark 4 Pro has indeed achieved a clear advantage in picture resolution, especially after the algorithm is used to zoom twice, the resolution advantage of the Black Shark 4 Pro is also very obvious.

Black Shark 4 sample: ISO50 25mm f1.79 1/494s

Black Shark 4 Pro sample: ISO100 17mm f1.79 1/381s

However, when shooting close-up objects, the advantages of the Black Shark 4 are actually revealed. It has a significantly faster focusing speed than the Black Shark 4 Pro, and it can also focus at a closer distance. We can see that in the same position, the focus of the Black Shark 4 is more forward than that of the Black Shark 4 Pro. Therefore, the “normal model” with lower pixels can better present the two small flowers at close range at this time.

Black Shark 4 sample: ISO99 25mm f1.79 1/100s

Black Shark 4 Pro sample: ISO369 17mm f1.79 1/100s

In addition, since the main camera logic of the Black Shark 4 Pro seems to tend to use higher sensitivity, this means that it will perform better in low-light environments. But in the complex light environment shown in the picture, the low ISO of Black Shark 4 makes it better to suppress the overexposure in the distant sky.

Black Shark 4 sample: ISO416 25mm f1.79 1/25s

Black Shark 4 Pro sample: ISO1379 17mm f1.79 1/20s

At night, with a high ISO, a large bottom, and a longer exposure time, the Black Shark 4 Pro fully embodies its advantages in image quality.

Black Shark 4 Pro sample: ISO668 17mm f1.79 1/50s

Not only that, in night scenes, the close focus performance of the Black Shark 4 Pro seems to have improved, which makes us realize that its focus algorithm should have the potential for further improvement. Perhaps after one or two updates, the Black Shark 4 Pro’s camera performance can completely overwhelm the Black Shark 4.

Wrap Up

We are surprised that Black Shark will make such a bold change in the appearance of the product, and we are more worried about whether the gaming experience will be affected under such a new design.

However, from the final test results, Black Shark clearly achieved a perfect combination of a mainstream appearance and advanced gaming experience. This means that gamers can take it to various occasions with peace of mind, enjoy the thrill of an instant full charge through 120W fast charging, or use the newly-added full-featured NFC to get various conveniences in life.

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