Chances are that if you’re reading this, you are already aware of or are a part of the ballooning gaming industry in India. There are reports from different research firms which further substantiate the fact that this rise is only going to get bigger. With PUBG Mobile at the forefront of this rise, popular FPS franchise Call of Duty has also announced its mobile game that is expected to go live sometime later this year. And even though there aren’t major games that provide a great experience, smartphone makers have already jumped in on the bandwagon with their collective intelligence put into developing gaming phones.
Black Shark 2, the second of its generation is one such gaming phone that recently made its way to India. With features such as liquid cooling, performance mode, custom touch, RGB lighting and haptic feedback, Black Shark 2 ticks the essentials box as it comes with all the bells and whistles that generally appeal to gamers.
On the other hand, there's the OnePlus 7, a premium smartphone that doesn't come with the tag of a gaming phone but is unabashedly powerful when it comes to the daily usage experience.
Price and availability
The base variant of the Black Shark 2 with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage retails for Rs 39,999 while the maxed-out model has 12GB of RAM and 256GB storage. It is available in two colours-- Shadow Black for 6GB variant and Frozen Silver for 8GB variant.
OnePlus 7 starts at Rs 32,999 for the starter pack with 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage while the top-end model retails for Rs 37,999 with 8GB of RAM and 256GB storage. There’s a chic Red colour its available in (apart from Mirror Gray) which is exclusive to India and China.
We’re pitting the base model of Black Shark 2 (6GB RAM + 128GB storage, Shadow Black) against the buffed up OnePlus 7 (8GB RAM + 256GB storage, Red) to see how they fare and whether or not the gaming phone premium is worth paying up for.
Build and handling
Just by looking at both the phones side-by-side, you straightaway know that these are channeling two different vibes. Black Shark 2 is a dedicated gaming smartphone flush with RGB lighting and its make, inspired by that of a sports car while OnePlus 7 has the no-nonsense smooth glass back that looks elegant, especially the red -colour.
Unlike the OnePlus 7, Black Shark 2’s chassis is largely frosted metal with a layer of glass and green accents running throughout the back panel providing additional grip. The aluminum frame curves rather sharply around the edges and has green accents from where the metal frame merges into the screen.
The OnePlus 7 is 0.6mm sleeker and also weighs 23 grams less than the Black Shark 2 (8.8mm, 205g). It has an aluminum construction with a glass back that is topped with Gorilla Glass 5, albeit without ridges and grooves that we see on the Black Shark 2. Picking up both the phones, the OnePlus 7 immediately feels a bit slimmer and lightweight than Black Shark 2. It is also more compact which is why one can hold it strongly in the hand as opposed to Black Shark 2 which isn’t comfortable to hold for longer durations.
The display on the Black Shark 2 measures 6.39-inches diagonally and is an AMOLED panel with Full HD+ (2340 x 1080 pixels) resolution. The screen has a 19.5:9 aspect ratio with thick bezels on top and bottom. Additionally, the screen supports low latency touch input with upto 240Hz response rate which theoretically helps users in reducing the time it takes for the touch input to be registered when playing games.
However, the screen on the OnePlus 7 proves to be much better at producing an immersive full-screen experience. Due to the implementation of waterdrop-style notch design, the phone has a 19.5:9 aspect ratio but also a slightly higher screen to body ratio than the Black Shark 2. It is fitted with a 6.4-inch AMOLED screen that has a Full HD+ (2340 x 1080 pixels) resolution and is topped with a layer of Gorilla Glass 6.
There are mild differences between the two displays which will only be noticeable if you look at it side by side. The display on the Black Shark 2 is optimized slightly towards the warmer side by default but it can be calibrated with preset colour profiles. Otherwise, both phones have great displays to play games and watch content. It’s just that the OnePlus 7 is able to provide a less intrusive viewing experience and one that will appeal to most casual gamers.
Even ergonomically, the OnePlus 7 gets the point as it is handier and feels premium in the hand. Black Shark 2, because of the design of its back panel feels more rugged in the hand and that heft only attests to the fact. Playing on it becomes tad a bit uncomfortable if you’re giving long hours to your favourite games.
An area of contention between the phones, performance is something that relies not only on the hardware but also on the software experience. Under the hood, both phones are powered by top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset with an octa-core CPU and Adreno 640 on graphics duty. The area where they differ is the Android 9.0 Pie based OS implementation. Black Shark 2 uses JoyUI, which is very close to stock Android while the OnePlus 7 comes with OxygenOS, arguably one of the best user interfaces in the market.
Both kinds of interface come with their fair share of features that enhance performance while playing games. The Black Shark 2 has a physical slider key that’s called Shark key which puts the phone into Shark Space mode. This is where the games on the phones are listed and can be accessed. There’s a game dock overlay that is just a corner swipe away. The dock gives us certain essential controls over audio, notification, Wi-Fi along with providing real-time frame-rate and temperature data.
In addition, the phone offers advanced control over performance, display, touch, audio, network and RGB lighting from the Gamer Studio tab. The phone can be set to maximum performance by enabling Ludicrous Mode from here. The mode turns off lighting effects and vibration till it's engaged, pushing the Snapdragon 855 to its limits.
OnePlus 7 has RAM Boost which figures out which apps do I use more frequently and keeps it pre-loaded in the background. Whenever such an app is launched, the memory management system gives it a boost which enables it to speed up the launch process.
While the OnePlus 7 is not out-and-out a gaming phone, it doesn’t shy away from including few dedicated features. Fnatic mode, named after its maker, Fnatic-- an esports organization, is one such feature which has been developed by pro-gamers. A dialog box pops up every time a game is launched with an option to enable the Fnatic mode. In this mode, CPU, GPU and RAM are optimized along with controls over notifications, calls among others.
What's it like to play games on these phones?
When it comes to real-world performance, I played several games on the phones including PUBG Mobile, Arena of Valor, Asphalt 9, Call of Duty Mobile, Marvel's Contest of Champions, Injustice 2 and Mortal Kombat, among others. Testing the phones through Gamebench, which is a benchmarking tool for measuring frame-rate and testing gaming performance, we found out that both the phones display mild differences in performance. In a game like PUBG Mobile, the frame rate is locked at 40fps, and both the phones were able to maintain that very easily. However, the frame-rate stability was mostly high on the OnePlus 7 with Black Shark 2 following its tail. But once the Ludicrous mode kicks in, there's an exponential increase in the performance of Black Shark 2. I got over 98% frame-rate stability all the time while playing games in that mode.
For the most part, playing on the OnePlus 7 and Black Shark 2 felt very similar as they can run all the available games without breaking a sweat. The Ludicrous mode does come in handy, but you compensate for thermals in that mode. The Gamebench app registered twice the spike in temperature when a game is launched in Ludicrous mode than the normal.
Thankfully for the Black Shark 2, it makes do with a new liquid cooling solution which uses six different panels housed inside for increased cooling. Still, the area around the camera module gets a bit warm after a round of PUBG Mobile, though it's manageable. Thermal management is an area where the Black Shark 2 shines.
Overall though, OnePlus 7 has better system optimizations which translate to a speedier phone topped with OxygenOS making the experience a lot smoother. The JoyUI doesn't look, and neither feels well-optimized and fast enough in regular use.
Both phones come with stereo speakers on top and bottom. The ones on the Black Shark 2 are 25% larger than standard, while the ones on the OnePlus 7 are tuned by Dolby Atmos.
In my use, the audio on the OnePlus 7 was much better, louder and richer in comparison to the Black Shark 2. There isn’t a huge difference between the two but it's only when you hear the speakers on the OnePlus 7 and Black Shark 2 side-by-side that lead me to that conclusion.
Black Shark 2 comes fitted with a 4,000mAh battery with support for 27W fast charging. On the other hand, OnePlus has a slightly lesser battery capacity at 3,700mAh and supports 20W fast charging.
On a 100% charge, users will be able to play for 4+ hours on either of the phones. However, Black Shark 2, due to its bigger battery should last longer than the OnePlus 7 on regular mode. In Ludicrous mode, one can accept a playtime of around 3.5 hours on the Black Shark 2 before it runs out of juice.
Between the Black Shark 2 and OnePlus 7, my vote goes with the latter because of a couple of reasons. It’s sleek, lightweight, can be held in hands for long, perform more or less same, has a powerful OS that’s equally well optimized and slightly better audio quality.
For all its differences, both the phones are great at what they do. However, there isn’t a shortage of good, playable mobile phone games right now, which require a dedicated setup. Black Shark 2 is compatible with Gamepad 2.0, but it isn’t available to purchase either from Flipkart or from its website.
So, if you’re confused between which phone to pick out of the two, ask yourself if you’ll be using it as your primary driver. If your answer is yes, OnePlus 7 is the most sensible phone to go with because you’d not feel the extra heft that comes with the Black Shark 2, physical as well as price-wise. OnePlus 7 provides a great gaming experience for casual gamers and is a value for money deal.