Black Shark 3 Pro review: balanced and original

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Black Shark returns with a new iteration of its gaming smartphone, the Black Shark 3 Pro. We tested it for long hours to find out if it can compete with a gaming console.
Black Shark 3 Pro

Originally known to have raised funds from Xiaomi, the Black Shark brand focuses on the smartphone market for gamers. In this sense, the Black Shark 3 Pro integrates the best of current technology to offer an immersive and long-lasting experience for mobile gamers. Is this really a highlight? This is what we will see in this full review.

This test was carried out with a smartphone that was temporarily loaned to us by the brand.

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Black Shark 3 Pro Technical Sheet :

ModelXiaomi Black Shark 3 Pro
OS VersionAndroid 10 Q
Manufacturer interfaceMIUI
Screen Size7.1 Inch
Definition3120 x 1440 pixels
Pixel density484 ppp
TechnologyAMOLED
SoCSnapdragon 865
Graphics Chip (GPU)Adreno 650
Random access memory (RAM)8 GB, 12 GB
Internal memory (flash)256 GB
Camera (back)Sensor 1: 64 Mp
Sensor 2: 13 Mp
Sensor 3: 5 Mp
camera (Front)20 Mp
Video Recording4K@60 IPS
Wi-FiWi-Fi 6 (ax)
Bluetooth5.0
NFCNO
Fingerprint sensorUnder The Screen
Ports (Inputs/Outputs)USB Type-C
Battery5000 mAh
Dimensions83.3 x 177.8 x 10.1mm
Weight253 grams
ColorsBlack, Gray
Price920$

 

Always A Massive Design :

Gaming smartphones are usually noticed at first glance and the Black Shark 3 Pro is no exception. On its back cover, we recognize aggressive lines, electric blue edging in some places as well as the green Black Shark logo illuminated with an LED to be sure to spot your smartphone at night. All the ingredients for the gamer phone are there!

Its lines are however less aggressive and above all less prominent than on previous generations, giving it a somewhat more versatile look, although still very different from current standards. The “mirror” effect of the rear facade is also slightly streaked, which skilfully hides fingerprints, which are inevitable on such a coating.

We can even put the LEDs on the back

Up front, the design is more standard, with an elongated design (19.5:9), but still quite wide given its 7.1-inch screen diagonal. No notch or bubble here, the idea is especially not to eat away at any part of the screen to prevent an element of a game’s HUD from being obscured. We therefore have slightly thicker borders than the current standard to accommodate the front camera and stereo speakers, but still smaller than the front of the Pixel 4 XL. There is also a good symmetry which gives an impression of homogeneity and makes it possible not to feel an imbalance on the long parts, both vertically and horizontally.

There is an important point to note however: the Black Shark 3 Pro is big. And heavy. It is of course a choice to offer playing comfort on a decent display and sufficient autonomy not to degrade the experience after a few tens of minutes, but from the top of its 83.3 x 177.8 x 10 , 1 mm for 253 grams – it’s 25% heavier than the Black Shark 2 Pro – it does not go unnoticed in the hand. No need to go to the gym anymore, your forearms should gain in resistance as you use it daily.

Result, it exudes solidity, and even a little too much. If you drop it, you’ll be more afraid of impacting your floor than your phone.

The BlackShark 3 Pro has 2 speakers on the front

Another detail far from trivial, the Black Shark 3 Pro is designed to hang an accessory in the middle. The buttons are therefore pushed to the maximum on the ends and they are therefore very difficult to reach in portrait mode. Conversely, if you’re the type of person who rests your phone on your little fingers in landscape mode, you are most likely going to accidentally press the volume keys. This time it’s not related to the accessories, but the fingerprint sensor – integrated into the display – is also a bit too high. It seems that only engineers with giant hands have tried the telephone.

Designed for gamers, it has a headphone output, to listen to its wired games while recharging the phone by USB-C if necessary, but also two small triggers on the right edge, which retract at will in a little metallic noise worthy of the best science fiction films. Did I have to look for a tutorial to make them work? Maybe … Is it intuitive? Not at all ! Did I eventually get it to work in the game? No more…

The triggers come out on requestFinally, an additional slider button has been added to easily enter Shark Space, the interface’s software space dedicated to games. You will find your entire game library, additional settings and the list of accessories that can be paired. Of course, we will come back to this part in more detail a little later.

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A Large Screen With Many Qualities :

At one time, 7 inches was the screen size of a tablet. Today, seeing such a diagonal appear on a smartphone is no longer surprising, and for good reason: with the change in ratio (from 16:9 to 19.5:9), the displayed surface remains less imposing while remaining very comfortable everyday.

The BlackShark 3 Pro has a beautiful screen

We are therefore in the presence of a 7.1-inch Amoled panel very precisely for a definition of 1440 x 3120 pixels (WQHD +), or a density of 483 DPI. At this level of detail, it is generally difficult to discern pixels with the naked eye. Basically, it is tuned to adapt its definition on the fly to offer the best compromise between display quality and battery life, but it is possible to force it to 2K or 1080p, as desired.

The slab itself isn’t the prettiest we’ve ever seen, but it did very well under our probe. With a correct brightness (470 cd/m²) which should be enough to read the screen even in direct sunlight, infinite contrast and a default calibration of the color temperature at 6900 K, which is hardly more bluish than ideal ( 6500 K), the Black Shark 3 Pro is doing pretty well. It even covers more than 100% of the DCI-P3 color space (118% according to our probe) with a deltaE deviation of 4.63, which is relatively little for such a demanding dynamic range.

DeltaE measurement of the Black Shark 3 Pro

Even in direct sunlight, the Black Shark 3 Pro screen is therefore very readable, unless you are looking at really very dark content, all with good fidelity, despite a notable difference – at least for a probe – on the red hues. The glass coating could be of better quality to improve color perception from all viewing angles. Although the brightness helps prevent this from being a problem, this glass is particularly reflective, to the point of giving the impression of being in the presence of an LCD screen at times despite the high contrast.

Surprisingly, the screen is capable of displaying 90 Hz, but it is natively set to 60 Hz. To save battery, certainly. We would also have liked Black Shark to push the bar a little further and offer 120 or 144 Hz as for the Nubia Red Magic 5G. Even if it means tightening your muscles, you might as well go all the way.

Firmware : Do You Speak English ?

The Black Shark 3 Pro natively runs Android 10, with the May security update. Two months late is hardly surprising, even on a flagship. Note, however, that at the start of writing this test, the security patch was for March, which is almost 5 months. It’s a lot. Hopefully Black Shark keeps up a steady pace of updates.

This is of course not pure Android, but an interface customized by Black Shark called Joy UI. Understand by this that this is MIUI, the interface of Xiaomi, with some additions designed for gaming and icons in greener shades. We also find the registration of his Mi account, the backup application on the Mi Cloud, as well as the Xiaomi security analysis application.

BlackShark 3 Pro interface BlackShark 3 Pro interface BlackShark 3 Pro interface

We are not going to say that this is a bad thing, however, as MIUI is full of relevant features. It’s a bit confusing if you’re used to another Android interface, but there are many things you can customize. Navigation by gestures or keys, density of applications on the screen, transition effects, app drawer or not, dynamic night mode, always-on screen, notification animation on the locked screen …. you will find more options here than with any other manufacturer. We will not complain.

For unlocking, Black Shark uses the usual passwords, PIN code, pattern, as well as a very fast fingerprint sensor hidden in the screen and a 2D facial recognition system (based only on the camera) , not very secure, but practical on a daily basis.

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Unlike MIUI, there are fewer preinstalled applications (but still a few games, which is not so shocking on a gaming smartphone). virus scanning does not automatically launch with every download, and there are no ads in native applications except for the one found when performing a security scan. However, some areas of the interface have not been translated and are still in English. Too bad, it really gives the impression of an imported or unfinished smartphone.

Finally, we find the exemplary fluidity of MIUI and it is very pleasant on a daily basis.

  • Biometry :

The Black Shark 3 Pro features a highly responsive and efficient under-screen fingerprint sensor, as well as a 2D facial recognition system. The latter is therefore less secure, but allows an almost instantaneous start without any friction when you turn on the smartphone. Coupled with the “lift to light” option, it makes the lock screen look like it doesn’t exist at all.

  • The Optimizations Thought For The Game :

Beyond traditional use, as on other smartphones, the Black Shark 3 Pro incorporates some additional elements related to its status as a smartphone for gamers. First: the classiest smartphone in the world (or one that confuses class with coquetry), the one that makes housewives dream, has a shining back and intends to show it. A light editor allows you to choose the flickering color of the rear LEDs and their switching on sequence. It is even possible to define patterns that will activate under certain specific conditions, such as an incoming call, charging, music in progress, etc.

The Shark Space, accessible using a physical switch, allows you to centralize all your games in one place and access them quickly without having to overload your home screen. You can also, for each game, unlock the fun mode to “unleash the potential of the SoC, push the limits; your enthusiasm, your overwhelming power ”. Understand behind this haiku that we can decide to unleash the performance of the phone for better quality, but certainly some side effects (heating, reduction in battery life …). It would have been surprising not to find such a mode on a gaming smartphone.

Top Performance For Playing :

A smartphone for gamers must have the best of components available. So here we find a Snapdragon 865 SoC, up to 12 GB of LPDDR5 RAM and up to 256 GB of UFS 3.0 storage. To do better, we would have had to wait a few more months to enjoy the Snapdragon 865+, at increased speed, but the performance gain would certainly not have justified this delay alone.

Black Shark 3 ProNubia Red Magic 5G (144 Hz)Xiaomi Mi 10 ProBlack Shark 2 Pro
SoCS865S865S865S855+
AnTuTu 8.x544 880593 843590 027475 297
PCMark 2.010 30714 14710 6068 220
GFXBench Aztec Vulkan high (onscreen / offscreen)17 / 20 FPS29 / 20 FPS30 / 20 FPS26 / 18 FPS
GFXBench Car Chase (onscreen / offscreen)24 / 51 FPS44 / 51 FPS45 / 50 FPS40 / 47 FPS
Sequential read / write1 607 / 667 Mo/s1 511 / 202 Mo/s1 652 / 738 Mo/s1 442 / 223 Mo/s
Random read / write38,7k / 44,4k IOPS46k / 48,2k IOPS57,3K / 53,8K IOPS40k / 7k IOPS

 

On the benchmarks, the Black Shark 3 Pro comes unsurprisingly at the same level as other smartphones equipped with the same chip, with the exception of the “onscreen” benchmarks, knowing that they were carried out in QHD, which requires much more of computing power than for smartphones in Full HD +. Basically, it is therefore one of the most powerful smartphones on the market today.

Of course, this is felt on a daily basis, especially as Black Shark’s interface, like MIUI, is very fluid. Its 12 GB of RAM also allows it to store a large number of applications in memory without having to restart them, even if with 8 GB it is already very difficult to reach the limit …

We lose the perfect balance of the smartphone

Also, even when playing in QHD +, it’s not difficult to maintain a steady 30 fps framerate on Fortnite in Epic (highest in the game) quality. At the height of the action, however, with a lot of commotion, I did happen to fall to…. 28 fps. Suffice to say that you will not be able to use this as an excuse if you do not finish 1 TOP. Despite a test in the middle of July, on one of the hottest weeks of the year, the smartphone did not have trouble keeping a correct thermal envelope, even over long gaming sessions. at temperature without the slightest problem. With such thickness, we expected no less.

The same goes for games like Call of Duty Mobile or Arena of Valor which run like a charm.

Accessories … Available :

Along with the Black Shark 3 Pro, we also received its line of accessories, namely the Gamepad-3, a controller, and the Funcooler Pro, a cooler.
  • Funcooler Pro :

The heat sink looks like a small fan that clips onto the back of the phone. When hung with a small, easy-to-attach clip, the device cools the smartphone case to help dissipate heat and disperse heat using a fan.

Very simple to operate, the Funcooler nevertheless has significant flaws. First of all, he weighs his weight. With an already heavy smartphone, adding more does not make the games a bit long very pleasant. It also takes up space on the back of the phone, which makes it more difficult to grip the smartphone during games. Then it has no battery. It would be that much heavier, but then it could operate independently, which is not the case here.

It is therefore supplied with a USB-A to USB-C cable (the Funcooler connector) in order to connect it to a power adapter or to a computer. But you will admit that it is not the most practical for playing. By purchasing a USB-C to USB-C cable separately, you can then plug the Funcooler into the smartphone, draining the smartphone’s battery and adding an inconvenient wire to the phone that comes out of the phone. Suffice to say that it is not more practical than the 1st solution.

Funcooler, is it fun and is it cool?

Finally, if it connects easily, the translation of its control software into Shark Kit is horrible. For example, you will have the choice between two speeds: “freeze” and “frozen”, while for disconnection, you will have to press the “not linked” button. We’re fine, of course, but hey …

  • Gamepad 3 :

The controller on the other hand is not much better thought. The buttons have a sharp click and the joystick is quite flexible dynamic, making it a decent booster. Once again, its integration with the smartphone is the problem.

The small controller is attached to the side of the smartphone using a grip or a dedicated shell. The grip, positioned on the left of the smartphone, is just placed on the buttons. It is strong enough to hold everything in place while not causing unintentional contact with the keys, but makes them unusable without removing the grip. So remember to adjust your volume before installing it.

The software part is on the other hand well thought out and allows a simple and effective mapping of the buttons and the joystick. In a few seconds, you will have configured the kit to be as responsive as possible in your interactions. However, you have to think about deactivating the detection of movements in the “body” menu (??), otherwise you quickly find yourself doing 360 ° without wanting to (or understand why).

The Gamepad 3 hangs on the side with an accessory

Small downside: this often works in part, but requires returning to touch to navigate the menus, many games are not intended for controller use. It’s not a big deal, but not necessarily the most comfortable between games. Also, buttons work well when tapping anywhere on the screen, but swiping – for aiming in a MOBA, for example – becomes unusable.

Its use is therefore interesting, but limited to a few games and does not necessarily make handling the whole thing very pleasant in the end. In short, it is not a panacea.

In Photo: Almost Better At Night Than Day :

But beyond its “gaming” part, the Black Shark 3 Pro is a smartphone like any other and we therefore expect it to be as effective as its competition in other areas, such as photography for example. On this side, it is equipped with three cameras at the rear and one at the front:

  • Main: 64 Mp sensor (16 Mp with pixel binning), f/1.8 aperture, 6 lenses.
  • Ultra wide-angle: 13 Mp sensor, f/2.25 aperture, 6 lenses.
  • Depth: 5 Mp sensor, f/2.2.
  • Front: 20 Mp, f/2.2 aperture, 5 lenses.

But first, let’s start with the busy photo app. There is a scrolling menu system from left to right to change mode, but with many modes (3 for videos and 6 for photos), which does not encourage for example to go for the 64 Mp mode which is find at the very end and already requires 4 actions before you can access it.

The cameras are discreet in their very conspicuous case

The switch to ultra wide-angle is done by a very small button located in the corner of the screen, almost invisible and not captioned. Finally, there is a menu at the top of the screen with new options such as a Tilt-Shift to add a blur effect worthy of an Instagram filter from 2010, or a macro mode which strangely requires all the same to be at a good distance from your subject to get a clear shot. You can also manage HDR mode, AI mode, beauty mode or add filters – which is always discouraged during capture, prefer to do this in post-production on an app like Snapseed.

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Either way, a lot of his fashions are of very little interest and don’t deserve any more attention than that. The difference between 16 and 64 Mp for example is not worth its 4 additional actions nor the multiplication by 3 of the size of the file. Here is an example of a 100% crop of a 16 and 64 Mp photo:

64 MP

We note that the image is slightly sharper, without making it easier to distinguish additional information on the screen.

In the middle of the day, the color rendering is correct, but the Black Shark 3 Pro struggles to fully expose an image with too pronounced dynamics, while the sharpness leaves much to be desired. For example below with an example of the statue of the Place of Republic, blurred and whose dark parts are blocked. Note that the same goes for the ultra wide angle.

Main sensor Main sensor

At the top of the interface there is an HDR mode and an “AI” mode which we hope will improve this. Unfortunately, these modes are neither sufficient to regain sharpness nor to better expose the entire image. On the other hand, under certain conditions, HDR tends to completely change the colorimetry, as here with stairs – at night – whose real color was much closer to the dark wood of the normal photo than to the very light wood of the HDR photo.

We can also notice in some photos a slight haze or a halo depending on the brightness. In the other cases, the clichés are quite suitable, without being exceptional.

Here a white veil betrays the position of the sun on the left

At night, the ultra wide-angle becomes unusable, unless you are enjoying a really well-lit scene. Otherwise, we quickly end up with a completely black image. The main sensor, on the other hand, is surprisingly good given its daytime results. Admittedly, it is not up to the best smartphones on the market, but it does quite well with a colorimetry that does not turn yellowish, good management of lights and shadows and sufficient sharpness in the absence of be really good.

Perhaps the most surprising is the quality of the night mode. Contrary to what many brands offer, the Black Shark 3 Pro retains very natural tones while gaining detail in very dark areas or conversely in areas that are too bright.

Be careful, however, of moving objects that end up leaving artefacts.

Zooming a photo in night mode /

Like the main camera, the front camera ultimately performs better at night than during the day. It struggles to manage highlights perfectly, even without backlighting, on the other hand, when the light is weak, the sharpness is again correct and the exposure is natural. Be careful with small lens flare.

As for video, the Black Shark 3 Pro can shoot up to 4K at 60 FPS. Note, however, that stabilization is not exceptional, even at Full HD 30 fps. The sound recording is however very good, a little too much sometimes as it captures all the surrounding noise.

Unequal Speakers :

To complete the gaming experience, Black Shark has added two stereo speakers on the front panel to its new smartphone. The sound is powerful, but we will tend not to exceed 80% to avoid too unpleasant distortions, even 75% when the track tends to rely a lot on the high mids, which then quickly start to sizzle. Bass could also be better.

Under these conditions, depending on the game, you can quickly find yourself switching to a headset to find cleaner sounds. Fortunately, the Black Shark 3 Pro is equipped with a headphone jack, thus avoiding the Android-related Bluetooh latency issues.

An Autonomy Provided For The Game :

The Black Shark 3 Pro is equipped with a 5000mAh battery, which is a bit above average and explains its weight. The idea behind this large accumulator is to allow long intensive gaming sessions, with the best possible quality.

In the idea, it is rather successful, as evidenced by our automated SmartViser test on which it held 11 hours and 38 minutes. That’s less than the 12 hours and 30 minutes of the Poco F2 Pro, but the latter only offers Full HD +, while our test was done here in QHD +.

90 minutes of play on greedy 3D titles like Call of Duty Mobile or N.O.V.A Legacy will have nibbled about 15% of battery life on the smartphone. Suffice to say, if you’re not gaming and manually lower the screen resolution, you should be able to last a day and a half, or even a whole weekend away from your outlet.

Either way, its 65 W charger allows it to regain 50% battery life in a quarter of an hour and fully recharge its battery in about 40 minutes. Nothing to complain about here!

5G, But No NFC :

Connectivity level, the Black Shark 3 Pro embeds 5G (NSA and SA), Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0. Suffice to say that the standards of today and tomorrow are met. What to offer the best of connectivity.

Almost the best: one technology is missing, NFC. Say goodbye to quick pairing of your Bluetooth devices and contactless payment, the Black Shark 3 Pro does not.

Black Shark 3 Pro Price And Availability :

The Black Shark 3 Pro is already available on the manufacturer’s website in “black shadow” underlined with green borders, or in “ice gray” with blue borders, at a price about 920 dollars.

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