Starting price: $799/£629/€799
Android version: 12, JoyUI 13
Display: 6.7-inch OLED (2400 x 1080)
Refresh rate: 144Hz
CPU: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
RAM: 8GB, 12GB, 16GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB / No
Rear cameras: 108MP (f/1.8), 13MP (f/2.4) ultrawide, 5MP macro
Front camera: 16MP (f/2.5)
Battery: 4,650 mAh
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 11:02 (Adaptive), 9:42 (144Hz), 9:53 (90Hz), 10:53 (60Hz)
Charging: 120W (charger included)
Size: 6.5 x 3 x 0.4 inches (163.8 x 76.3 x 9.5 mm)
Weight: 7.8 ounces (220 g)
Even the best gaming phones are niche products, often trading strong cameras or good software for raw performance. But the Black Shark 5 Pro doesn’t sacrifice much, and it certainly does a lot right, making it one of the better choices for a gaming-centric smartphone.
From useful pop-up triggers on the side of the phone to software that works well and cameras that don’t wholly disappoint, the Black Shark 5 Pro certainly impressed me. It’s also a beast when it comes to gaming with a big 6.7-inch 144Hz display, a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, and stellar battery life.
In this Black Shark 5 Pro review, I’ll explain why I think it’s the gaming phone to get.
Black Shark 5 Pro review: Price and availability
The Black Shark 5 Pro model we received for review comes with 256GB of storage and 12GB of RAM. This model costs $899 / £729 / €899. You can buy it directly from Black Shark, or find it on Amazon and Aliexpress, starting July 9.
The 8GB/128GB version of the BlackShark 5 Pro costs $799 / £629 / €799, while the 16GB/256GB model goes for $999 / £809 / €999.
Black Shark 5 Pro review: Display
The Black Shark 5 Pro comes equipped with a 6.7-inch OLED display with a FHD+ resolution. It’s a very nice panel with punchy colors, deep blacks and a 144Hz refresh rate. I thoroughly enjoyed how games Genshin Impact, Call of Duty Mobile, and Apex Legends Mobile looked on this screen. The adaptive 144Hz refresh rate was also nice.
Here’s how the Black Shark 5 Pro’s display stacks up to two other top gaming phones.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Black Shark 5 Pro (Saturated / Natural)||RedMagic 7 Pro (Vivid / Natural)||iPhone 13 Pro Max|
|Display size||6.7 inches||6.8 inches||6.7 inches|
|sRGB (%)||152 / 110||182 / 107||109|
|DCI-P3 (%)||108 / 78||129 / 76||77|
|Delta-E||0.34 / 0.21||0.30 / 0.19||0.21|
|Peak brightness (nits)||615||589||1,038|
The Black Shark 5 Pro’s saturated mode isn’t as over-the-top as what you get from the RedMagic 7 Pro, which captures more of the sRGB and DCI-P3 color gamuts. However, the Black Shark did end up with stronger color reproduction in the Natural mode, even matching the iPhone 13 Pro Max. The Delta-E color accuracy scores (where 0 is perfect) also looked pretty good, even though the RedMagic 7 Pro won out in this regard.
As for brightness, the Black Shark 5 Pro has a respectable average peak brightness of 615 nits in our testing. That’s not nearly on the level of the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s 1,038 nits, but it is brighter than the RedMagic 7 Pro.
In real-world use, the Black Shark is decently bright enough for outdoor gameplay. Direct sunlight presents a challenge, especially if you’re wearing sunglasses, so I suggest gaming in the shade.
Black Shark 5 Pro review: Performance
You get top-tier performance with the Black Shark 5 Pro. It sports the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, which is the best you can get in an Android phone right now. (Devices with the clumsily-named Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 won’t arrive until later in 2022.)
We gathered some performance data, the results of which you can see below.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Black Shark 5 Pro||RedMagic 7 Pro||iPhone 13 Pro Max|
|CPU||Snapdragon 8 Gen 1||Snapdragon 8 Gen 1||A15 Bionic|
|Geekbench 5 (single-core / multicore)||1226 / 3671||1248 / 3705||1720 / 4549|
|3DMark Wild Life Unlimited (FPS)||61||61||68|
|3DMark Wild Life Extreme Unlimited (FPS)||15||16||15|
|Adobe Premiere Rush (Mins:Secs)||0:49||0:46||0:25|
I expected results like this from the get-go, so the Black Shark 5 Pro did not disappoint. The differences between it and the RedMagic 7 Pro essentially boil down to margin of error. The iPhone 13 Pro Max still wins out in basically every area, especially the Adobe Premiere Rush 4K-1080p video transcoding test, but that’s because of the superior A15 Bionic chipset in Apple’s latest phones.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 runs pretty hot, but I thought the Black Shark 5 Pro stayed reasonably cool during extended gaming sessions. I used three of the most challenging games in the Play Store — Genshin Impact, Call of Duty Mobile, and Apex Legends Mobile — and noticed consistently good frame rates in each one.
For 5G, the Black Shark 5 Pro supports sub-6GHz and C-band, but no mmWave. That makes it compatible with most 5G networks in the US and UK.
Black Shark 5 Pro review: Battery life
Gaming phones ought to provide killer battery life to make themselves worthwhile. In this regard, the Black Shark 5 Pro definitely delivers. It clocks in a respectable time with its 4,650 mAh power pack.
Here’s how the phone fared in our lab.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Black Shark 5 Pro (Adaptive / 144 Hz / 90Hz / 60Hz)||RedMagic 7 Pro (120Hz / 90Hz / 60Hz)||iPhone 13 Pro Max|
|Battery size||4,650 mAh||5,000 mAh||4,342 mAh (estimated)|
|Battery life (Hrs:Mins)||11:02 / 9:42 / 9:53 / 10:53||9:29 / 9:19 / 9:55||12:16|
|Recharge percentage (15 mins)||92||69||19|
|Recharge percentage (30 mins)||N/A; charge to full in 18 minutes||100||40|
In the Tom’s Guide battery life test, we set a phone’s display to 150 nits of brightness and then task the device to endlessly reload web pages over a cellular connection. With its display set to an adaptive refresh rate, the Black Shark 5 Pro turned in a very good result at 11 hours, 2 minutes, beating out the RedMagic 7 Pro by an hour and a half — even though the Black Shark has a smaller battery and higher refresh rate.
Should you lock the phone into a 144Hz or even 90Hz refresh rate, battery life will take a hit, dropping the Black Shark down to a more average result on our battery life test. Those are power-hungry settings, so it’s still impressive that the Black Shark 5 Pro’s battery can withstand the hit and still turn in an average battery life.
Of course, the iPhone 13 Pro Max still leads with a time of 12:16 when the screen is set to its default adaptive refresh rate. However, the Black Shark 5 Pro has the clear advantage on charging. Black Shark’s phone regained full capacity after about 18 minutes in our testing, meaning that we couldn’t technically complete the 30-minute recharge test. That’s rare.
You get the 120W charger with the Black Shark 5 Pro, but our unit came with the EU connector. I’m not sure if that’ll be an issue when the phone hits general US availability.
Black Shark 5 Pro review: Cameras, software, and other features
I highlighted the Black Shark 5 Pro’s important elements as a gaming device, but the phone has a few more things to note. Here’s what you need to know.
On the back, the Black Shark 5 Pro has a 108MP main sensor plus a 13MP ultrawide and 5MP macro. Around front, the phone sports a 16MP camera for selfies. I won’t spend too long here since this is a gaming phone, but here is a sample gallery of photos I took with the Black Shark 5 Pro in a variety of different settings.
While not close to challenging the best camera phones, the Black Shark 5 Pro certainly fared better than any other gaming phone I’ve tested. The outdoor and indoor shots have good dynamic range and color reproduction, plus good exposure control. The ultrawide shot also surprised me. You can make out the individual bricks and the colors in the bird, grass, and sky pop.
The Black Shark 5 Pro’s selfie came out better than I thought it would. While I saw evidence of some face smoothing, the overall image isn’t too bad. The macro lens isn’t worth much, as I expected. I didn’t find the portrait shots to be compelling, either. However, the night mode did a decent job, especially given other gaming phones’ lackluster performance in this regard.
The Black Shark 5 Pro comes with Android 12 pre-installed underneath the JoyUI 13 skin. This is a gaming-focused version of Xiaomi’s MIUI. There’s very little difference here, so if you’ve used MIUI before, you’ll adapt to this just fine. But since the Black Shark 5 Pro is coming to the US, the MUI may be new to many American users. The Black Shark 5 Pro will get at least two years of software updates, which is a huge bummer.
You’ll probably spend a lot of time in the Shark Space, which is your one-stop shop for gaming controls. This is a hub to quickly access your games, adjust your performance and network settings, and map the hardware features.
The Master Control area is your HUD for all kinds of things, such as choosing one of the performance modes, picking your refresh rate and checking your stats, plus fiddling with audio settings, macros and a slew of other more minor things.
The Black Shark 5 Pro has a few nifty gaming features, the most important of which are the magnetic triggers. You can activate these physical buttons by sliding each one’s sliders, which makes them pop up from the right side of the phone. I love these since I don’t think I ever got used to ultrasonic triggers. When not in games, you can set up shortcuts with these buttons, too, such as launch the camera or turn on the flashlight.
The Black Shark 5 Pro screen has a dual-zone pressure sensitivity. Called Magic Touch, it’s mappable and supports 7 levels of sensitivity. In practice, I didn’t notice it helped my gameplay all that much, but I may not have given it enough time.
A really interesting trick up the Black Shark 5 Pro’s sleeve is the Motion Sensing feature. This lets you use the phone’s gyroscope to map six different controls to gestures. These are effectively motion-based macros. Black Shark says this is great for repetitive controls.
Black Shark 5 Pro review: Verdict
I think the Black Shark 5 Pro easily ranks highly among the best gaming phones. It has a lot of power, several useful features, and great battery life. It isn’t a cheap device with its $799 starting price, but you get a lot for your money. The physical trigger buttons alone make this a win in my book.
Although the cameras don’t compare to the iPhone 13 Pro Max — which itself is one of the best gaming phones you can buy thanks to that A15 Bionic chip — the Black Shark 5 Pro certainly did better than most other gaming phones that come in.
I think if you’re more focused on getting the best gaming experience and don’t care about photography, the Black Shark 5 Pro should be at the top of your list.