With mobile esports being one of the fastest growing trends in the region, it's no surprise that more and more gaming phones are flooding the market. Apart from powerful innards and a superior cooling system, gaming phones also usually come with a slew of accessories to enhance the mobile gaming experience.
The Black Shark 3 certainly hits all of the above points, and comes with a interesting array of accessories to boot. Today, we'll be reviewing the Black Shark 3 along with the FunCooler Pro and GamePad controller accessory - of which we only have one side, but should work well enough for demonstration purposes.
An exterior that screams 'Gamer'
Starting off with the exterior, the Black Shark 3 is a well-built phone with an aluminium and glass chassis that weighs in at a whopping 222g. Hefty phones tend to feel more premium and sturdy, but as this is a gaming phone, too much weight can make your wrists tire out quickly. so it's definitely something to keep in mind.
On the black, you'll find an edgy "X" shape incorporated into the pleasantly symmetrical design which looks good both horizontally and vertically. 2 hexagonal sections house the triple camera array and 18W magnetic charging contacts respectively. The logo has RGB lighting of course - else we can't really call it a gaming phone eh?
The unlock button is placed on the right side, a little too high up for comfort - and I already have pretty large hands. It's understandable though, as Black Shark probably wanted to make space for the FunCooler to clamp onto the phone without pressing down on any buttons. This is also probably why the volume rocker is placed on the left, instead of next to the unlock button like it typically is.
Beneath the screen lies the fingerprint reader, which is situated at a perfectly comfortable height to make up for the less-than-ideal position of the physical unlock button. Unlocking does take a second, which isn't as prompt as I'm used to, but isn't a huge hindrance.
And of course, 3.5mm jack lovers will be pleased to find one on the bottom, next to the USB-C charging port.
Flagship specs and performance
Being a gaming phone, the Black Shark 3's specs certainly don't disappoint. Leading the charge is Qualcomm's flagship Snapdragon 865 processor, accompanied by a "Sandwich" liquid cooling system that flanks both sides of the mainboard to keep things cool and maintain performance. While things do heat up after an hour or so of gaming, it was still well within comfort range (I'm not the type to get sweaty hands though), which bodes well for even longer gaming sessions.
The version we have on hand packs 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM along with 128GB of UFS3.0 storage for super speedy data transfers. It's also running on JOYUI 11 which is based on Android 10, and supports both 5G and Wi-Fi 6, placing the Black Shark 3 firmly in this generation.
Side note: To make sure that the phone's 5G is compatible with Malaysian networks, do remember to pick up a local set and not the China version.
We ran both 3DMark's Slingshot Extreme as well as GeekBench's benchmarks, and the Black Shark 3 performed outstandingly on both, surpassing other popular devices such as the HUAWEI P30, Google Pixel 4, and OnePlus 7T.
Real world testing also backed up the results of the synthetic benchmarks, with gameplay being crisp and smooth at their maximum settings, accompanied by speedy touch response and loading times.
Battery life was a treat with the massive 4,720mAh dual battery, which lasted for days on idle, and up to a full day with multiple lengthy gaming sessions throughout the day. If you accidentally let the battery run down, the 65W Hyper Charge will top it back up to full at an insane speed - a mere 12 minutes to 50% and 38 minutes to 100%, so you'll never be left with an empty tank for long.
Splendid display and rich audio
The 1080 x 1400 resolution 6.67" AMOLED screen was a joy to behold. Thanks to HDR10+, the colours were vibrant while blacks were deep, and the 90Hz refresh rate made it even more of a pleasure to play games and even browse Facebook on. Do note that the unit ships with 60Hz as the standard setting, so you'll have to go into settings to crank it up to the sweet, sweet 90Hz. I'm slightly disappointed that it didn't come with a 120Hz display that's becoming more and more common now, but that's just me being spoiled.
Forward-facing speakers are a common design choice in gaming-oriented phones, largely to avoid obscuring the grilles while gaming in landscape mode. The Black Shark 3's speakers are located on the forehead and chin of the display; while the sizes are asymmetrical, there was no noticeable effect on the audio quality, which by the way was pretty impressive.
Be it during gaming or music listening sessions, the audio was well-rounded and rich; the bass isn't very heavy but packed an acceptable amount of punch for its size.
Decent camera with great video capabilities
If you're looking for a snapper, Black Shark probably wouldn't be the first choice that comes to mind - it's targeted towards gamers after all. However, it still does a pretty decent job with its 64MP triple camera array, which consists of:
13MP ultra-wide snapper – f/2.25 aperture
5MP camera for bokeh – f/2.2 aperture
64MP super clear camera – f/1.8 aperture, 1.6μm 4 in 1 super pixel
Zoom goes up to 5x only, which is nothing compared to the 30x or even 60x that some phone cameras boast nowadays, but to be honest, unless you're planning to spy through that condo window a few km away, do you really need it?
Seeing is believing, so here is a slideshow of photo samples to gauge the camera's capabilities for yourself:
Ultra-wide has some typical distortion around the edges, while the 1x zoom fared well. 5x zoom was noticeably blurry with a paint-like quality. It did well indoors with both natural daylight and indoor lighting, while night mode was a tad artificial and oversaturated with an exaggerated HDR effect.
Instead of a waterdrop or punch-hole front camera, Black Shark has opted to tuck the selfie cam into a slim, barely-noticeble bezel instead, which is a choice that I wholeheartedly applaud due to its minimal presence.
Video-wise, it's capable of recording up to a whopping 4K 60fps, and can take up to 1920fps slow-mo shots, which is a huge step up from the usual 960fps of most other phones. Whether you'll use these features is another question altogether, but they're extremely nice to have just in case you spontaneously decide to dive into amateur videography.