If you’re reading this Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro review, we’re under the assumption that it’s because you’re in the market for a gaming phone. If you’re not looking for such a device, which comes with additional software and hardware tricks to make gaming a blast, then we advise you to look elsewhere.
This is because the Black Shark, like many other of the best gaming handsets, is great for playing mobile titles but suffers issues when used as an everyday smartphone. While this is a compromise that we’ve become used to, it’s best to avoid such devices if gaming isn’t a regular part of your life.
This is the most powerful member of the fifth generation of Black Shark phones. They’re manufactured by Xiaomi, although both the Chinese tech giant and its gaming sub-brand downplay the relationship between the two.
There’s a standard Black Shark 5, too, offering a lower-res main camera, slightly weaker chipset and lower storage and RAM configurations; but it costs less as a result.
As is the case with most gaming phones, the Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro’s performance power is its main selling point, since this ensures it can run top-end titles at their highest graphics settings without breaking a sweat. At the heart of the device sits a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, supported by up to 12GB of RAM – a combination that, in our experience, delivered outstanding gaming performance.
This is helped by the presence of pop-up physical triggers along the right edge of the phone, which can be assigned a function for your game, to turn your smartphone into a device that more resembles a gaming controller. This setup delivers quite an advantage in games.
The pop-up triggers return from the Black Shark 4 Pro, but what didn’t ascend generations is the 3.5mm jack for wired audio. That’s a shame, since wired headphones and microphones can offer better latency and audio quality for gaming over wireless units. However, buy a USB-C adapter and you’ll still be able to plug in a set via the sole remaining port.
Our mention earlier that the phone doesn’t break a sweat was with reference to the fact we experience no lag or stuttering. However, the Black Shark 5 Pro does suffer a few issues during intensive gaming. The main one is that, like other Snapdragon 8 phones, the device becomes incredibly hot – clearly, the built-in cooling system that Black Shark has gone with here isn’t sufficient to cope with the demands of intensive play. In addition, there’s significant battery drain from this top-end chipset; although the Black Shark Pro 5 didn’t last as long as we’d hoped for even with regular use.
So, the battery life on the Black Shark 5 Pro isn’t up to snuff; but there is a feature – another carry-over from the previous version – that makes up for it in part. This is 120W fast charging, which delivers the capability to power up the phone to full in just 15 minutes – which is incredibly impressive.
As we’ve alluded to in this two-minute review, the Black Shark 5 Pro is quite similar to its predecessor in a number of ways, but it does come with a few minor changes that we’d be remiss to ignore.
The new model sports a more understated, less “game-centric” design, as well as a better main camera, an improved macro camera and cleaner software – although there are some notable and curious downgrades, too, such as the 5 Pro’s use of an OLED display over the 4 Pro’s Super AMOLED and better range of storage and RAM options.
So if you already own Xiaomi’s previous Black Shark gaming device, the 5 Pro doesn’t offer much of an upgrade – and if you can find the previous model for a decent price, it’s definitely worth considering. But for everyone else in the market for a gaming device, you’d do well to check out the Black Shark 5 Pro.
Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro price and availability
The Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro launched globally on June 8, with its sale date just one day after.
The handset starts at $799 / £639 - that’s for 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. There are two other configurations: 12GB/256GB, which costs $899 / £729, and 16GB/256GB, which is priced at $999 / £809. We tested the middling option.
Given that the Black Shark 5 starts at just $549 / £439 for 8GB/128GB, and its max option of 12GB/256GB is just $649 / £529, we can’t help but feel that’s a better deal, since it has all the most important specs of its pricier sibling.
For context the Black Shark 4 Pro started at $579/£489 - a lot cheaper - while the Nubia Red Magic 7 started at $629 / £529 / AU$900. So the Black Shark is pricier than several other contemporary gaming phones.
- Value score: 3/5
Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro design
With every passing year, the new Black Shark phones have become less garish, with angular designs, LED patterns and hard edges making way for more understated features. The Black Shark 5 Pro is the next step in this evolution.
In fact, remove the rear decal and the small LED panel and you’d have what looks like a standard mid-range Android phone, with a raised rectangular camera bump on the back, volume rocker on the left, power button and fingerprint scanner combo on the right, and an USB-C port exactly in the same spot as it is on every other phone.
The exceptions are the two sliders that sit along the right edge of the device, one at the top and the other at the bottom. A flick will see little triggers pop out, ready for use in gaming (and a few other functions, such as a shutter for the camera).
These protruding and retractable physical triggers are probably the best iterations of the popular gaming-phone feature we’ve seen. Some devices opt for haptic spots that you tap with your finger; others with curved-edge screens that house trigger spots here instead. But Xiaomi has started down the road of physical triggers, as seen on certain Black Shark and Poco devices, and these feel incredibly natural to tap and, from a gaming perspective, deliver far more reliable results than other options.
The lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack for wired audio won’t upset everyone, since wireless headphones (or USB-C adapters) have now become commonplace. However, they will be missed by tech-heavy gamers, who like having wired headphones or microphones, for lower latency and better quality.
The Black Shark 5 Pro is a heavy phone, clocking in at 220g, and of its 163.9 x 76.5 x 9.5mm dimensions, its thickness stands out over many contemporary handsets. But given the design of many gaming phones, the device feels relatively lightweight.
- Design score: 3.5/5
Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro display
The Black Shark 5 Pro’s screen marks a surprising downgrade from both the non-Pro device and the 4th-generation models. This is because it’s “only” an OLED panel, not the Super AMOLED of the 4 series nor AMOLED of the type that features in the standard Black Shark 5.
In use this means that colors display slightly less punch, and contrast is a little worse – although, admittedly, the difference is minor. You’ll only really notice the differences if comparing the various handsets side-by-side, and we found the display fine for its purposes.
At 6.67 inches, the panel size is pretty standard for a gaming phone. However, because your fingers will be hovering over the triggers here, instead of over any on-screen buttons, the Black Shark Pro 5 display does deliver a little more viewable room for gaming. Note, though, this is broken up by a relatively small punch-hole cut-out for the front camera.
The display shares its 1080 x 2400 resolution with the vast majority of Android phones, but the 144Hz refresh rate (which means the image updates 144 times per second) is a little higher than most. As such, in games that support ultra-high frame rates, you’ll find that motion is smoother, which is also the case for navigating menus and certain non-gaming apps.
- Display score: 4/5
Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro cameras
You’re unlikely to be buying a gaming phone for its cameras, but these days it’s important for any smartphone to come with a decent set of snappers. In the past, we’ve been positively surprised by the photography experience delivered by some Black Shark phones – although we’ve been disappointed by other handsets, too.
The Black Shark 5 Pro features a 108-megapixel f/1.8 main sensor, 13-megapixel f/2.4 ultra-wide and a 5-megapixel f/2.5 telemacro camera. That last one uses a type of lens that only Xiaomi has so far embraced – it lets you take macro (close-up) shots from a distance, and we’re big fans of this type of camera.
Photos taken on the Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro are – drumroll, please – just fine. They’re not incredible, with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra easily lapping the device from a camera perspective. However, the cameras will be just fine for pics for social media posts, scanning documents or taking the odd selfie.
We did have a little trouble with the autofocus, especially on the macro mode – which, on occasion, seemed dead-set against actually focusing on subjects; but a shot reset usually fixed this.
The front-facing camera has a resolution of 32 megapixels. Again, it performed fine, but we did find the images were a tad dim for our liking. Portrait mode offered a fix to a degree, although its artificial background blur was rather overzealous in blurring our hair.
Video recording is up to 4K at 60fps – there’s no 8K, even though the chipset does support that. However, you’re probably not picking up a gaming phone to shoot the next Avengers, so we can forgive that. The Black Shark 5 Pro does offer slow-motion functionality, which goes up to 960fps, which is comparable with the majority of slo-mo modes of other devices.
Note that the camera app offers a few extra modes such as Night, Time-lapse and Xiaomi’s Vlog video mode; but you don’t get as many software tools as you might find on another device. Again, the Black Shark is a phone designed specifically for gamers, and it would be unlikely to be priced as low as it is if it came with top-end camera features, too.
- Camera score: 3/5
Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro performance and specs
One of the main expectations of a gaming phone is power, and the Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro delivers just that via the inclusion of the top-end Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, paired with either 8GB or 12GB of RAM (we tested the 12GB version), for gaming and other intensive tasks.
Putting the device through the Geekbench 5 benchmark test, it returned a multi-core score of 3,531. This marks it out as one of the most powerful phones with this chipset, beating the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus by around 100 points and the Xiaomi 12, OnePlus 10 Pro and Oppo Find X5 Pro by even more.
The slight issue is that top-end Snapdragon chips can become very hot through use, and the 8 Gen 1 is no exception. A single game of Apex Legends Mobile, a short stint plugged into a charger or 10 minutes wasted on social media apps would see the Black Shark 5 Pro get very warm indeed.
Some gaming phones offset this issue by including built-in cooling systems, but the Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro doesn’t appear to offer much in this regard. Perhaps the company is hoping that you buy its clip-on cooler.
Still, if you can look past how warm your handset is getting then the Black Shark 5 Pro is a fantastic gaming beast, with its multitude of features combining to deliver a great experience. Its processor lets you load up the highest graphics settings; the 144Hz display lets you enjoy smooth gameplay; the triggers give you a significant edge in competitive titles; and the speakers are loud and clear.
- Performance score: 4.5/5
Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro software
While Black Shark may be keeping its ties to Xiaomi a little hush-hush, the game will be up on viewing the software. The fork of Android 12 – JoyUI – used here is a dead ringer for MIUI on Xiaomi phones.
As such, you’ll find many similar settings options. There’s the same Apple-like split between the notification and quick settings menus (most Android skins bundle them together) – and, most annoyingly, MIUI’s penchant for bugs.
Our favorite issues this time included the volume rocker changing the sound of audio, but not the icon that’s meant to show you how loud your music is; the notification to indicate that the triggers are in their pop-up position appearing even when they’re not; and background apps (including music players) randomly turning off. That latter might actually be a feature, but we can’t be sure – the phone was quick to turn off background apps even when we didn’t ask it to, and sometimes this included apps that we were actually using (such as Spotify).
Admittedly, then, there are a few differences with JoyUI – and they go beyond the in-your-face Black Shark wallpaper that’s set by default when you first set up the phone; but there are positives, too.
The key one of these is the presence of Shark Space, a pre-installed app – when you open this, you’re shown a carousel of all the games installed on your device. Playing the titles through the app delivers lots of extra options. You can select to mute or limit notifications or calls, set the balance between processing power and battery conservation, map the triggers and do many, many more similar things.
This can help you improve your gaming experience to a fair degree – but it doesn’t quite offset the overheating problems.
- Software score: 4/5
Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro battery life
Unfortunately, the Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro battery life spoils lots of the positives of the device.
The 4,650mAh unit included here isn’t great for a gaming phone, with the majority clocking in at 5,000mAh; however, we can’t help but feel that the shortfall of 350mAh wouldn’t be sufficient on its own for the 5 Pro to deliver decent battery life.
Playing games, the phone would burn through the battery percentage, far quicker than many other handsets we’ve tried; the overheating issue probably doesn’t help here. But even in regular daily use, we were disappointed by how quickly the Black Shark 5 Pro’s battery would drain – you’d achieve a day of use, if you were lucky. Play a few games of Call of Duty Mobile at lunchtime (on your gaming phone designed for playing games) and you’d be waving that full-day battery life goodbye.
The combination of a bright screen, powerful processor, 5G connectivity and high refresh rate all have a heavy toll on the 5 Pro’s battery. Clipping the wings of these features – say, by heading into settings to turn down the refresh rate or reduce screen brightness – might help you claw back some extra hours; but this isn’t an ideal solution.
On a positive note, if the battery drains quickly, it powers up even faster: the Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro, like its predecessor and sibling, powers up at 120W. That means, if you’re running on empty, it will take just 15 minutes to power the Black Shark 5 Pro back up to full.
It’s hard to overstate how useful this feature will be for certain users. Plugging in the device while you’re having your morning shower will top up the device with enough charge to see you through the whole day; or, if you’re running low on juice in the evening, just five minutes of power will get you over the finish line.
- Battery score: 2.5/5
Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro review scorecard
|Design||The Black Shark 5 Pro isn't as garish as its predecessors, though it's still distinctly a gaming phone.||3.5/5|
|Display||The Black Shark 5 Pro's design is good,w ith the refresh rate standing out as its best feature.||4/5|
|Performance||Not only does the Black Shark 5 Pro have a powerful processor, but its RAM and gaming triggers combine to make it formidable.||4.5/5|
|Camera||Though you're not buying the Black Shark for its photography, its cameras are fit for purpose.||3/5|
|Battery||The Black Shark 5 Pro has a limited battery life which isn't ideal for gaming.||2/5|
|Software||Based on Xiaomi's MIUI, the Black Shark's JoyUI has some useful features including the game space mode.||4/5|
|Value||The Black Shark 5 Pro is a little pricier than its competitors, though it's not quite 'overpriced'.||3/5|
Should you buy the Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro?
Buy it if...
You want to game competitively
With its retractable triggers and top performance, the Black Shark really delivers an edge in competitive online games.
You don’t want a phone you’re embarrassed to show people
Some gaming phones sport rather garish designs, but thankfully, the Black Shark 5 has an understated look (although one that still has an LED panel) that will appeal to many.
You’re a fast-charging fan
If you often forget to charge your phone until the last minute, the Black Shark 5 Pro’s 120W charging will be for you.
Don't buy it if...
You play games for extended periods of time
While the Black Shark is great for short bouts of gaming, those who want to play for several hours might be hindered by the device’s overheating and battery drain issues.
You use wired audio gadgets
With Black Shark dropping the audio jack here, you can plug in only one device – be it a headphone or microphone – unless you buy a splitter or use wired audio.
You have your eyes on the 4 Pro
Xiaomi doesn’t deliver many improvements in the Black Shark 5 Pro, and that older phone is a fair bit cheaper too.
If this Black Shark 5 Pro review hasn't helped your buying decision enough, here are some alternatives that you might want to consider.
- First reviewed June 2022