At a Glance
- Strong gaming performance
- Fast, responsive 144Hz display
- Built-in magnetic triggers
- Vastly improved main camera
- Fixed focus on ultrawide camera
- Can get hot over prolonged sessions
- JoyUI takes some getting used to
The Black Shark 5 Pro is a great gaming-focused smartphone that offers the gamer ‘look’ without being too in your face. Expect flagship-level performance, ultra-fast 120W charging and an improved camera setup, though JoyUI isn’t the most intuitive software around.
Xiaomi-owned Black Shark is one of the key manufacturers of gaming phones in recent years, with unique innovations like magnetic pop-up triggers offering genuine innovation for keen mobile gamers – and that trend is set to continue with the Black Shark 5 Pro.
However, the impressive design and performance of the Black Shark 5 Pro mean it’s more expensive than ever before, and more expensive than key rival Red Magic too. Has Black Shark done enough to justify a price that’s etching ever closer to flagship smartphones?
Design & build
- Gamer aesthetic, but slightly toned down
- New camera bump on the rear
- Customisable LED lighting on the rear
The Black Shark 5 Pro, like the rest of the collection, is a gaming phone through-and-through, and that’s very much reflected in its design – though it is arguably toned down a little this time around.
While the phone still has all the quirks of a typical ‘gamer’ aesthetic, including bold lines and icons donned across its rear, it’s completely smooth to the touch with a nice matte finish that feels good in the hand and provides extra grip.
That’s a stark contrast to angular alternatives like the Asus ROG Phone and its aluminium rear, but I like the more subtle gamer feel this time around.
The camera housing has also been redesigned, ditching the horizontal camera bar for a more rectangular camera bump, with bevelled edges helping disguise just how raised the bump is from the rest of the body. It’s not huge, but it’s certainly there.
And, of course, what kind of gaming phone would it be without LED lighting? That’s present on the rear in the form of a small LED window to the right of the camera bump, which changes colours and pulsates in different patterns to reflect different states – incoming calls, charging, gaming and so on.
It does look cool at a glance, but considering it’s on the rear of the phone, it’s more something that those around you will appreciate more than you.
Elsewhere, it’s very much business as usual, with volume rockers and a power button (with embedded fingerprint reader) embedded into the sides, a USB-C port on the bottom as well as two additional switches on the right side of the phone – but more on those a little later.
The Black Shark 5 Pro is available in new colour options, Stellar Black and Nebula White, with the former (supplied for review) boasting a blue-y purple tint in the light for added depth.
- Fast and responsive 144Hz 6.67in display
- Downgrade from AMOLED to OLED technology
- Bright enough for outdoor use
The Black Shark 5 Pro’s 6.67in display is designed for gaming, with a high refresh rate and an even higher touch response rate designed for low-lag, buttery-smooth gaming.
The 144Hz refresh rate may not be the fastest around – that crown goes to the 165Hz Red Magic 7 – but the refresh rate is a traditional sweet spot for PC gamers, arguably who the phone is marketed to most.
It’s a similar story with the 720Hz touch input – it’s fast, but not quite the fastest on the market, though at some point it becomes much of a muchness that doesn’t have a noticeable benefit to mobile gaming.
What’s most interesting about the Black Shark 5 Pro’s display is the technology; while the Black Shark 4S Pro featured a Super AMOLED display, the latest model sports an OLED display.
There aren’t many differences between the two, but AMOLED is said to offer better power efficiency than OLED, so it’s surprising to see Black Shark make the switch – especially when its battery is already of a lower capacity than competing gaming phones from Asus and Red Magic.
Display technology aside, the Full HD+ (1080 x 2400) resolution 6.67in display provides a crisp, vibrant experience whether you’re gaming or just scrolling through TikTok, with the ability to tweak the display’s colour palette in the Settings menu if it’s not to your taste.
It’s plenty bright too, with the maximum 496cd/m2 via manual brightness adjustment more than enough for outdoor use.
Performance & gaming
- Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 offers top-level game performance
- Magnetic triggers vastly improve the mobile gaming experience
- New magnetic cooler is poorly designed
Being a top-end gaming phone, it should come as no surprise that the Black Shark 5 Pro has top-end internals to match.
That comes in the form of Qualcomm’s top-end Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, coupled with either 8GB, 12GB of 16GB of speedy LPDDR5 6400MHz RAM and either 256GB or 512GB of storage depending on the option you go for.
That’s a big boost in performance compared to the regular Black Shark 5 with its Snapdragon 870, and is in line with other gaming phones like the Red Magic 7 Pro.
As you might expect, those specs deliver an impressively fast and responsive smartphone experience – especially when coupled with the 144Hz/720Hz touch sample rate of the display. There’s no noticeable lag or stuttering when scrolling through media-heavy social media apps, the camera is responsive and the animations are buttery smooth.
That’s just as true when gaming. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and Adreno 730 make light work of even high-end Android games like Genshin Impact, Call of Duty Mobile and PUBG: New State. You can run titles with detailed graphics and still expect a solid 60fps gaming experience (or up to 144Hz, if the game supports it).
That’s generally backed up by our benchmark results, with impressive CPU and GPU performance that beat standard flagships that cost almost double the price, and can compete with most high-end gaming alternatives in 2022.
When it comes to gaming, the Black Shark 5 Pro has a trick up its sleeve in the form of magnetic triggers embedded into the side of the phone. Accessible by flipping a switch at either end of the phone, triggers pop out from its body, providing a more console-esque gaming experience without additional accessories.
There is a bit of setup, with the triggers requiring manual remapping for most Android titles, but it’s a simple process that only takes a few seconds – and it also means you can use them on titles that don’t officially support controllers.
Besides triggers, the Black Shark 5 Pro can also use other inputs – like shaking the phone – to perform other actions, making for a versatile gaming experience that gives you the edge in online competitive gameplay.
Despite improved cooling on offer from the latest model, the Black Shark 5 Pro can still get noticeably hot over prolonged periods of gameplay, and that can have a negative effect on performance.
To get around this, Black Shark has released the optional Black Shark Magnetic Cooler that magnetically attaches to the rear of the phone to keep it cool. The problem is that the phone doesn’t have built-in magnets like the iPhone’s MagSafe system – instead, you have to attach a magnetic sticker to the rear of the phone.
It’s a very inelegant solution for such a high-end bit of kit, and it’s not something I can see most gamers using, especially when alternatives – like Black Shark’s own FunCooler 2 Pro – clip onto your phone with no stickers needed. But, it’s there if you really want it, along with a suite of other gaming accessories like the low-latency Black Shark JoyBuds Pro wireless earbuds.
Elsewhere, you can expect flagship-level connectivity with Wi-Fi 6, 5G connectivity and Bluetooth 5.2, though it’s lacking a 3.5mm headphone jack for headset support.
- Meaningful upgrades to 108Mp main rear camera
- Fixed focus 120-degree ultra-wide is frustrating
- Macro camera boasts has auto-focus (instead of the ultra-wide)
Cameras aren’t usually a huge focus when it comes to gaming phones (gamers don’t care about cameras, according to manufacturers), but the Black Shark 5 Pro has seen the first camera spec bump in the past few generations. While the ultra-wide remains identical to its predecessor, both the main and, surprisingly, macro lenses have had decent upgrades.
The star of the show is the 108Mp main snapper, up from 64Mp of its predecessor. There’s also an improved aperture at f/1.75, which helps pick up more detail in low light conditions, and elements like PDAF autofocus, AI processing and HDR support all help the phone capture surprisingly detailed and vibrant images for a gaming phone.
That extends somewhat to night photography with a dedicated Super Nightscape mode, but don’t expect anything near what companies like Samsung, Oppo and Apple can offer. Still, it’s a versatile snapper that captures great shots much of the time.
In a move that nobody saw coming, Black Shark has decided to upgrade the macro lens in place of the (more popular) ultra-wide lens, which not only boasts an improved megapixel count at 5Mp, but autofocus technology.
The latter is actually a gamechanger for the lens, with most alternatives offering a fixed focus that makes it difficult to get a perfectly focused macro shot, but that’s not an issue this time around. It’s still just as niche, but at least it works a little better this time around.
Of course, the flip side is that the phone features the same 13Mp, 120-degree ultra-wide camera as its predecessor. While that’s a passable spec for an ultra-wide camera, the dealbreaker is that it’s fixed focus, meaning images tend to come out soft if the distance between the phone and the subject isn’t just right – and that happened plenty of times during testing.
I can’t fathom why Black Shark has put autofocus capabilities in the rarely used macro lens while leaving the more popular ultra-wide with fixed focus, because it essentially means the ultra-wide is unusable in most scenarios. A truly odd decision indeed.
On the front of the phone, you’ll find another fixed focus lens, this time a 16Mp f/2.45 snapper with beautifying effects and the ability to record at 4K@60fps – though, without autofocus, the photos and videos can come out soft.
4K@60fps video recording is also available on the rear cameras, along with a dedicated HDR10+ video recording mode and 960fps slow-mo capabilities for those interested.
Charging & battery life
- 120W charge speed is among the fastest around
- 100% charge in less than 30 minutes
- Smaller battery capacity than rivals
Though it remains unchanged compared to its predecessor, the Black Shark 5 Pro boasts some of the fastest charging speeds around with support for up to 120W – and unlike rivals, the 120W charger comes in the box.
That’s double the charge speed of the ROG Phone 5S Pro, and in our testing, it managed to reach an incredible 91% charge in 15 minutes, with a full 100% in just under 30 minutes.
That gives you the freedom to not have to charge your phone every night, as with many 2022 alternatives. Instead, you can simply plug it in while you’re in the shower or when you’ve got a spare few minutes and get a full, or near to full charge.
There is a trade-off, however. The ultra-fast charging speeds are coupled with a smaller-than-average battery for a gaming phone, rated at 4650mAh. That’s still a decent capacity, but it’s not quite the 6,000mAh battery of Asus’ top-end gaming phone, and that’s evident in daily use.
It’ll still comfortably last all day with average use, but throw in some hardcore gaming sessions and the battery will begin to dwindle. How much of an issue that is with such fast charging is debatable, but it’s still not ideal if you’re not at home to top it up.
That’s reflected in our benchmark results, with the Black Shark 5 Pro lasting 9 hours and 6 minutes in testing compared to just over 13 hours from the competing ROG Phone 5S Pro. It’s still in line with flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and Honor Magic 4 Pro, but there are options that’ll last longer.
- Android 12 with JoyUI 13
- Based on MIUI with all the same design quirks
- Xiaomi committed to multi-year upgrades generally, but no Black Shark-specific commitment
The Black Shark 5 Pro features Android 12 with a gaming-focused version of Xiaomi’s MIUI, dubbed JoyUI 13, applied on top. It’s certainly not the stock Android experience, with a distinctly gamer-esque look and feel and a dedicated game space called Shark Space.
Elsewhere, you’ll find MIUI’s signature iOS-inspired design choices (like a control centre accessible via the top-right of the display, and all apps appearing on the home screen) that some will love, and others will hate, but it’s something I got used to during my time with the phone.
Black Shark parent company Xiaomi has a general update commitment of three OS upgrades and four years of security updates, but it’s not yet clear whether that expends to the Black Shark 5 Pro.
Price & availability
The Black Shark 5 Pro’s premium specs mean there’s a premium price tag to match, though it’s not quite as pricy as the top-end flagships available in 2022, starting at £639/$799 for an 8GB/128GB combo, with the most expensive model coming in at £809/$999.
Here’s how the Black Shark 5 Pro costs in its various configurations:
- 8GB + 128 GB: £639 / $799
- 12GB + 256 GB: £729 / $899
- 16GB + 256 GB: £809 / $999
Interestingly, it’s a little more expensive than the Red Magic 7 Pro with similar specs and 16GB of RAM as standard, though features like magnetic triggers arguably give the Black Shark 5 Pro an edge over the competition.
The good news is that after a China-only launch earlier this year, the Black Shark 5 Pro is available to buy alongside the Black Shark 5 in the UK, US and other regions via the Black Shark website, Amazon and Aliexpress.
The Black Shark 5 Pro might not redesign the wheel, but it ticks all the boxes for gamers: it has a buttery smooth 144Hz refresh rate, top-level performance, gaming-specific features like magnetic triggers and gesture-activated shortcuts plus much more.
The 120W charging, while unchanged, provides some of the snappiest charging times around achieving a full 100% charge in under 30 minutes, though the downside is a smaller battery than alternatives.
Though not usually a focus for gaming phones, the Black Shark 5 Pro has an impressive 108Mp rear-facing camera that’s capable of taking decent snaps, though the decision to include autofocus capabilities to the macro lens and not the more popular 120-degree ultra-wide is an odd decision that leaves some ultrawide shots looking a little soft.
It is more expensive than the competing Red Magic 7 Pro, but the magnetic triggers, in particular, make the Black Shark 5 Pro a compelling gaming smartphone that negates the need for a controller in many games.