Did the Razer phone leave a lasting impression on you? It surely did for Xiaomi which announced the Black Shark gaming phone not long after the Razer gaming smartphone. The Black Shark looks and feels like a proper handheld gaming devices with rounded corners, liquid cooling and even an attachable analog stick. The smartphone was being showcased at the showfloor of MWC Shanghai 2018 and we managed to get our grubby hands on it for a few minutes.
The distinct neon green accents all across the raised rear panel will surely be a favourite among gamers and it's not too difficult to understand where Xiaomi got its inspiration from. The rear panel has some curvy edges with a raised central panel that houses the S-shaped Black Shark logo. It glows when you boot it up, when you get a call, or when changing over to the 'Black Shark' mode. Seeing the official renders of the phone, I had presumed it would be large and bulky. But in reality, the Black Shark has quite the compact form factor and isn't as hefty as I thought. The corners are generously rounded and the design is made for good grip while gaming in landscape mode, which it does.
While there is no high-refresh rate display that gives the Razer Phone it's distinction, you do get a 18:9 1080p LCD panel with the regular 60Hz refresh rate on the Black Shark. The Black Shark earns its gaming creds by allowing you to attach an analog controller on top. To drive home the point of being a gaming phone even further, the Black Shark has a dedicated slider button in the side which when flicked On, switches to the Black Shark mode. It is essentially a dedicated space for launching your games. Launching the Black Shark mode frees up resources for your games and also lets you remap the controls of the analog controller for individual games.
At its heart is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset coupled with up to 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. There's also a lower 6GB RAM and 64GB storage variant. Xiaomi claims the Black Shark phones have liquid cooling underneath that can bring down the temperture of the phone by eight degrees. However, it could very well be a cooling pipe inside that Xiaomi is passing off as liquid cooling. I certainly find space for storing or changing the coolant like you would in a liquid-cooled PC.
There are other gaming-centric features as well. A gaming dock which is essentially a quick-access menu that slides out from the edges and houses the important apps and shortcuts like Wi-Fi, brightness and even the load on CPU and GPU. Xiaomi also cares about smartphone addiction as the Black Shark has an anti-addiction mode which shows the amount of time you have gamed and used the phone for.
Further, the Xiaomi Black Shark has good imaging prowess. There are two cameras at the back — A 12-megpaixel primary sensor and a 20-megapixel secondary sensor. The dual cameras offer 2X optical zoom and portrait mode. The latter works particularly well based on what we saw on the showfloor. On the front, you get a 20-megapixel selfie shooter that also has a portrait mode.
We didn't get to check out the analog controller though. The controller is supported by the Chinese spinoffs of PUBG Mobile's Battle Royale style which means you can use it to play third-person and first-person shooters. Gaming phones itself are quite a niche category these days. But it's rapidly expanding. Right after the Black Shark was announced, Asus brought the ROG phone. So we now have three. But unfortunately, neither of the three are coming to India any time soon.