Xiaomi Black Shark first look: An enticing peek into the future of gaming

Games on the Black Shark were buttery smooth and responded instantly to input from the controller.

As with most things Xiaomi, I was very excited to hear of the launch of a gaming-centric phone from the company. Again, as with most things Xiaomi, I was also disappointed when the phone didn’t make it to India. Thankfully, a recent trip to Shanghai to attend China Joy 2018 gave me the perfect opportunity to experience this exciting device first hand. Here are my impressions.

I only managed a few minutes with the device, China is a crowded place, so these impressions are fleeting at best.

Build and Design: Gamer friendly

The first thing that struck me about the device was how nice it felt, and I don’t mean ‘premium’, like the iPhone. Devices like the iPhone or the Galaxy S9 feel amazing, but their glass backs make them feel very fragile. The Black Shark’s rubberised back feels like a case and ensures that the phone feels secure and comfortable. You don’t want your phone to go flying out of your hand in the middle of a hectic gaming session, do you?

The Black Shark is ergonomically designed and comfortable to game one. Image: tech2/Anirudh Regidi

The Black Shark is ergonomically designed and comfortable to game one. Image: tech2/Anirudh Regidi

Rubbing in the fact that you’re toting a gaming phone is the RGB lighting under the Black Shark logo. It’s not visible in daylight, but I’m assuming it’ll look amazing at night if you’re into such things.

Game controller: Game-changing

The phone comes with a choice of two controllers. The 1st generation controller features a joystick, a trigger and a shoulder button. The second generation controller, which I wasn’t allowed to touch, includes a D-pad as well.

Unlike the Nintendo Switch, the controller connects only on one side of the phone. This wasn’t a problem with the games I tried, but I can imagine that this could be a slight issue on twin-stick games like PUBG. Still, it’s a nice addition and takes us one step closer to the dream of the perfect gaming phone.

Specifications: Powerrr!!!

At the heart of the phone is Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 845 chip, which is backed by 8 GB RAM and 128 GB of storage. Xiaomi also claims to have tossed in a “liquid cooling” system for good measure, ensuring higher performance for longer game sessions.

The FHD+ display (2160x1080 pixels) is refreshingly notch-free and is quite bright and colourful. Xiaomi says it’s a 97 percent DCI P3 display, which would make it competitive with iPhones for colour accuracy.

Among the supported accessories are a pair of wireless

Among the supported accessories are a pair of wireless "gaming" earbuds.

The vaguely X-shaped design of the back is said to house X-shaped antennas that we won’t accidentally cover up when gaming.

The rear camera unit is a 12+20 MP dual camera that works fast and seems to be decent enough, but the dimly lit booth was hardly the ideal place for testing the camera.

A 4,000 mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 support provides all the juice for your gaming sessions.

Performance: An unknown quantity

Coming to the UI and gaming, I don’t have too much to say. The UI was all in Chinese so it was impossible to figure out. However, I will say that the UI was very smooth.

The games pre-installed on the phone were nothing I’d ever seen in India, but for what it’s worth, and as expected from a Snapdragon 845 device, the performance was great. Games were buttery smooth and responded instantly to input from the controller.

I don’t know about sustained gaming sessions, but in the few minutes I spent playing with the phone, it didn’t heat up much.

I also don't know if the Black Shark is the best gaming phone out there, ASUS' ROG Phone will certainly turn more heads, but as a first attempt, I think it already hits the right notes. Now if only the games would catch up to the hardware...

 

 

Disclaimer: This correspondent was invited by Qualcomm to attend the China Joy 2018 event in Shanghai. Qualcomm was responsible for the flights, accommodation and other related expenditure for the duration of the visit.





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