Black Shark 4 Pro review: gaming phones are out of good ideas – The Verge

Gaming phones are out of good ideas. Each one that I’ve tried is a slightly different take on an exorbitant design, of course. But it’s just a couple of companies making powerful yet very similar (and, apparently, sometimes very fragile) phones that aren’t really worth the effort of tracking down — even for the most die-hard of mobile gamers. Yet so far Xiaomi’s Black Shark gaming brand may be the first that has resorted to titillation to stand out.

The Black Shark 4 Pro is the first phone I’ve seen that has a busty digital assistant packed inside that wants me to engage with it in ways I never could (and never wanted to) with the Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, or Cortana. Meant to be a kind of assistant that helps with getting you acquainted with this phone’s many settings, the anime Shark Chan character is a feature that stands out on an otherwise ho-hum gaming phone. And, while I’m not a fan of the execution (more on that in a bit), it’s nice to have a gaming phone that’s at least attempting to have an identity — anything besides what’s already been done several times, like including high refresh rates panels, ludicrous amounts of RAM, and an extra USB-C port for connecting proprietary accessories, including controller grips or cooling fans.

Good Stuff

  • Excellent haptics
  • Tactile mechanical triggers
  • Looks elegant for a gaming phone

Bad Stuff

  • Even the best-looking gaming phone doesn’t look great
  • Gross, sexist Shark Chan software
  • Lacking in reliable US carrier coverage

The Black Shark 4 Pro launched in the US for $579.99 back in late February, and it’s one of the more understated-looking gaming phones that I’ve used. Its back has smooth, frosted glass that feels soft to the touch, and it’s generally devoid of flashy design elements that most other brands (including Black Shark’s older phones) rely on to catch the eye of whoever they think these phones will appeal to. I like that about the Black Shark 4 Pro.

It’s also different in terms of one key hardware feature that isn’t available on most other gaming phones: mechanical triggers. Along its right edge, there are two switches that, when toggled, make small button-like triggers sprout from the phone. Whereas many previous gaming phones have relied on invisible ultrasonic touch sensors (that do a surprisingly good job of mimicking the real thing), these have, well, something closer to the real thing. The travel is vastly shorter than triggers that you’d find on controllers, but they’re satisfyingly clicky.

These sliders control the mechanical triggers, allowing them to pop up or retreat.

The power button seems visually apparent, but it’s tough to feel for with the phone in-hand.

Beyond in-game use, the switches are …….



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