The Xiaomi Black Shark 4 Pro is not exactly brand new. The gaming phone was first announced in March 2021 and was, at that time, only available in China. The global launch, according to plan, is happening now. Consequently, there are aspects of the phone that have a distinctive 2021 feel to them, but other parts of the phone are enticing enough to attract some users.
Let's start with the positives of this phone: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset that powers it may be a 2021 flagship processor, but it's still quite capable when it comes to demanding tasks and intensive games, especially when it is complemented by generous servings of RAM and internal storage.
As with previous entries in the Black Shark series, this phone comes with some neat extras for gamers, including trigger buttons on the shoulders of the device (when held in landscape mode), and a gaming mode in the software that can block out distractions and optimize performance. Check out the Black Shark website (opens in new tab) for accessories, including a cooling fan, earphones, and more gaming triggers.
You're not going to have any complaints about the performance of the phone, or how easy it is for gaming use, specifically. The screen showcases games very well: it's big and bright and sharp, with an impressive 144Hz refresh rate. Additionally, the battery life holds up well, allowing you to really game uninterrupted.
All these features are available in the 4 Pro phone at a very reasonable price. Even better, the last time we checked online, we discovered the phone is 5G capable.
Getting into what might put you off, we have to start with the looks. The design of the phone is something of an acquired taste because Black Shark logos adorn the back. The phone is also relatively thick compared with many 2022 flagships. As far as features, it's clear Xiaomi is trying to keep costs down by offering a fairly underwhelming rear camera module.
The Black Shark 4 Pro is a great phone for a particular subset of users, but we admit it probably doesn't have broad appeal, for the masses in general. Read on to find out if it's the right upgrade for you.
Xiaomi Black Shark 4 Pro price and availability
- Launched in China in 2021
- From $579/£489
- Several configurations available
As we mentioned earlier, Xiaomi launched the Black Shark 4 Pro in China last year, and it's only now available globally. At the time of writing, US prices start at $579 for this handset, while the starting price in the UK, direct from Xiaomi itself or from Amazon (opens in new tab), is a reasonable £489.
- Choice of color options
- Integrated gaming triggers
- Bulky, comfortable feel
There's nothing too dramatic - or innovative - when it comes to the appearance of the Black Shark 4 Pro. Perhaps the most interesting part of its design are the two little toggle switches to the right of the phone face that conceal two extra pop-out buttons. These buttons can be customized to perform a variety of tasks, from taking screenshots to skipping media tracks.
The 4 Pro being a gaming phone, you can also use these additional buttons to control gameplay when the phone is in landscape mode; it'll almost feel like you're holding a gamepad. It's a nice touch, as is the illuminated Black Shark logo that lights up in green on the back casing when the phone is unlocked. That light can also be used to notify you of calls and messages - or you can turn it off entirely.
Those features alone are already more tricks in the bag than most phones have. Everything else the phone offers is fairly standard. There is a fingerprint sensor built into the power button on the side; the volume controls are on the left; a 3.5mm headphone jack sits on the bottom; and the phone also has USB-C for data transfer and charging. The overall dimensions are 163.8 mm x 76.4 mm x 9.9 mm (which converts to 6.45 inches x 3.01 inches x 0.39 inches).
This phone is heavy and bulky in comparison to phones in the current market, many of which are super thin; but it feels good in the hand, thanks in part to a nicely finished matte glass backing (complete with some subtle Black Shark styling). The camera bump on the back is a little too pronounced and angular for our tastes, but it's by no means ugly.
Our review unit came in a black color, but there are other color options. The full selection is Shadow Black, Misty Grey, Cosmos Black, Dark Blue and Silver. It's worth noting that there's no waterproofing here, so you'll have to be careful with the phone when you're out in the rain or close to a kitchen sink.
- 6.67-inch Super AMOLED screen
- Maximum 144Hz refresh rate
- Customizable color temperature
You can usually rely on Xiaomi to provide very good displays for its phones, and the 6.67-inch Super AMOLED screen on the Black Shark 4 Pro is no exception. It has a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz, support for HDR10+, and a maximum brightness of 1300 nits. All that combines to make a panel that's sharp, bright and easy on the eyes.
The only interruption to this impressive display is the hole-punch selfie camera cut-out at the top, smack dab in the middle. Still, it's not particularly distracting, nor are the bezels around the edges of the screen, which are pleasingly narrow. Xiaomi says there's a 85.8% screen-to-body ratio here – not the best, but still very decent.
Just about anything looks great on the display of the Black Shark 4 Pro, including photos, websites, movies, and of course games (that 144Hz refresh rate really helps games fly by with very little motion blur). You can easily tweak the color temperature and saturation by delving into the display settings for the on-board software.
- 64MP main camera sensor
- Ultrawide option available
- Respectable camera results
The Xiaomi Black Shark 4 Pro comes equipped with a triple-lens camera on the back made up of a 64MP wide camera, an 8MP ultrawide camera, and a 5MP macro camera. On the front you've got a fairly standard 20MP wide selfie camera. There's no optical zoom here, and video tops out at a 1080p resolution and 30 frames per second.
Pick up a flagship Xiaomi phone and the cameras are likely to be some of the best features of the handset. That's not quite the case here, but the rear camera still does a reasonable job in most lighting situations. The night mode is pretty competent at illuminating very dark scenes, but it doesn't beat the capabilities of some top phones in its market.
Still, the shutter speed is impressive and the phone does a good job of capturing color and detail. The HDR mode (that can work automatically based on the scene, if you want it to), is able to illuminate darker areas of images while keeping details in brighter areas. It's not the best HDR processing we've ever seen, but it will do.
Something of a Xiaomi standard, the camera app is packed with plenty of features and settings, so you can really get carried away with tweaking white balance and brightness and everything else if you want to – though we suspect most people just want to point and shoot.
The main selling point of this handset is gaming of course, so we did fear that the camera system would be something of an afterthought for Xiaomi. While it's not the best specced camera setup we've ever seen, we're pleased to report that it's more than an afterthought, and most of the time you're going to get decent results from this.
Performance and specs
- Smooth and slick performance
- Powered by a Snapdragon 888
- Comes with 5G connectivity
If you're going to put out a gaming phone, then you have to make sure it scores high in terms of performance. The Black Shark 4 Pro doesn't disappoint in this regard, even with 2021 components packed inside it – specifically the Snapdragon 888 processor from Qualcomm, which is paired with 8GB, 12GB or 16GB of RAM, and 128GB, 256GB or 512GB of internal storage (there's no memory card slot for expanding this, unfortunately).
Our review unit came with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage space, and every game we played flew by without any hint of stutter or lag. The Snapdragon 888 may now be bested by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, but it's still more than capable of handling the best mobile games of the moment, and then some.
Benchmarking figures never tell the full story of a handset's performance, but it's worth noting that this phone's Geekbench scores of 1128 (single-core), 3623 (multi-core) and 4741 (OpenCL) still compare very favorably with 2022 flagships including the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. Everything we did on the phone, from loading up menus to switching between apps, was fluid and smooth.
5G connectivity is now expected on every modern handset, and the Black Shark 4 Pro doesn't disappoint here either – if the next-gen cellular technology has rolled out in your part of the world, you're going to be able to take advantage of it with this handset.
- JoyUI and Android 11
- Shark Space gaming app
- Plenty of options
Software-wise, the Black Shark 4 Pro has something Xiaomi calls JoyUI, which is based on its main MIUI software, which in turn is based on Android 11. It's not a bad operating system in general, but we did tend to miss the simplicity and elegance of the standard, stock version of Android. Xiaomi likes to pack a lot of features, settings and utilities in its OSes, and that's evident again here.
There's a dedicated Shark Space app for managing the games on your phone, blocking distracting notifications and minimizing background processes so that your games have as much memory to work with as possible. It's a handy extra to have, though it's not completely essential.
You can certainly tweak and customize your Black Shark 4 Pro phone extensively, but there's perhaps just a few settings and apps too many here – the Mi Video app and Shark Chan gaming assistant don't bring a whole lot of usefulness with them. Overall though, JoyUI is easy enough to get along with.
- 4,500mAh battery capacity
- Lasts more than a day
- 120W super fast charging
While we were only able to test battery life for a couple of weeks, the first impressions are good – the 4,500mAh battery seems to hold its charge very well whether you're watching movies or gaming, even with the brightness ramped right up. An hour of video streaming only knocked the battery level down a handful of percentage points.
With some careful management, we think two days of use is perfectly possible with this phone, though it depends on what you're doing. Pushing the phone with demanding games knocks the battery level down by about 20 percent per hour, though for less intensive tasks it's much less than that, and most people probably won't be gaming all day.
There's no wireless charging support, but there is 120W fast wired charging with the included adapter – a frankly astonishing rate than can juice up your phone to full from zero in as little as 15 minutes. When you can charge up a phone that quickly, the battery life isn't quite so important.
Should I buy the Xiaomi Black Shark 4 Pro?
Buy it if...
You're a dedicated gamer
With the trigger buttons, and the gaming tweaks to Android, and the big and bright screen, this is very much a device designed for people who play a lot of games on their phones.
You love fast charging
The 120W fast charging that the Xiaomi Black Shark 4 Pro comes with is just about the best on the market at the moment, and it'll fully charge up your phone in as little as 15 minutes.
You need plenty of performance
Although its specs come straight out of 2021, the smartphone more than holds its own in terms of benchmarks and performance, even when given demanding apps and games.
Don't buy it if...
You want a thin phone
The Black Shark 4 Pro isn't a thick phone exactly, but it's noticeably thicker and a little heavier than the thin flagship phones you can get from the likes of Apple and Samsung.
You need wireless charging
The 120W fast charging is great, but you don't get the convenience of wireless charging. That might make you think twice about picking up this smartphone.
You're clumsy with phones
Another feature that you miss out on with the Black Shark 4 Pro is any kind of waterproofing to keep your handset protected – so bear that in mind while using it.
First reviewed: March 2022