Introducing, the Black Shark 3. This is the company’s 3rd generation of gaming smartphone and with it, comes with the latest list of specs. It also comes with a list of upgrades and an updated design, too. The Black Shark 3 does have a weird list of features, though.

We’re already using the Black Shark 3 for about 2 weeks now, and this is what we have to share.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14

Unboxing

It’s a rather long box and that’s okay since the phone itself is rather long too. Inside the box, we get the usual contents but with the addition of Black Shark stickers.

Black Shark 3

Design

I don’t know about you, but I think the Black Shark 3 is somewhat captivating. It symmetrical on both axes and there are two strips of a matte material that extend from the midframe to the back.

Black Shark 3

The bottom back of the phone has these 4 golden contact pins. Black Shark makes another accessory that magnetically snaps into place and charges the device from the back so that it wouldn’t get in the way of your hands if you want to play games while charging the laptop.

Personally, I think that accessory should’ve been included in the box with the Black Shark 3. Otherwise, it’ll be forgotten.

Black Shark 3

And because of how weird the Black Shark 3 is designed at the back, the included TPU case has to conform to those ports and accessories, making this one of the most bizarre-looking protective case ever.

Black Shark 3

The phone itself is heavy and slippery too, so I advise you to at least use the included case to prevent the phone from potential accidents.

Ports

By itself, the Black Shark 3 does come with all of the ports that we’d expect from a gaming phone. We have a dedicated 3.5mm audio jack at the top with a USB-C port at the bottom, and stereo front-facing speakers too.

But because of its asymmetry, the speakers sound… rather weird. It’s always the bottom speaker that sounds louder and better than the earpiece speaker.

To maintain a stable internet connection while playing games, the Black Shark 3 has two antennas on each side of the phone, but there is only one more microphone on the right side.

Black Shark 3

The Black Shark 3 also has a dedicated “Shark Key” that can be toggled in any screen and it immediately launches “Shark Space 3.0” and stays in this mode until it is turned off. Essentially, it’s a hard lock into “game mode”. However, it’s a missed opportunity since that button isn’t used for photography too.

Display

The Black Shark 3 has a rather massive 6.67-inch AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate and 2400×1080 pixels in resolution. It can go bright and looks fantastic – and generally nothing wrong with the display at all.

There’s also an included screen protector that covers most of the display.

Cameras

There are a total of 3 cameras on the Black Shark 3, but only two of them are usable. It’s still great to see that Black Shark is not neglecting the camera department even though this is a gaming smartphone. Here is the list of camera specs on the Black Shark 3:

  • Triple rear-facing cameras
    • Main: 64MP f/1.8 with PDAF
    • Ultra-wide angle: 13MP f/2.3 with AF
    • Depth sensor
  • 20MP f/2.2 selfie camera

To make it short, the main camera takes pictures that are rather dark in terms of exposure compared to what I like. We did turn on HDR too – and the exposure goes bright. However, the white balance is out the window.

The ultra-wide angle camera is not something that I’d like since the image is fuzzy and details are essentially gone.

I highly recommend you watch the video at the top of this video to have a look at those images.

Software – Android 10 with JOY UI 11

The latest version of JOY UI is built upon the MIUI 11 and since we’re familiar with Xiaomi products, we instantly know the quirks of JOY UI. It’s more or less a reskinned version of MIUI with some more features added into it – like the aforementioned Shark Space 3.0 that is activated with the Shark Key.

Personally, I don’t like the Shark Space interface at all. The ASUS ROG Phone 2 used this interface at first, and we complained. ASUS immediately took action and added an option to change from the Apple iTunes Cover Flow design to a simple list.

Black Shark 3

Shark Space 3.0 has the option too, but its functionality is handicapped. I can’t change the game’s settings while in the list view.

Also, Shark Space 3.0 is only accessible by pushing the dedicated switch. There is no way to quit Shark Space 3.0 except to push the dedicated switch to the other side. This was also present on the ROG Phone 2 at first, but they didn’t have the dedicated switch and they also quickly patched away the inability to quit the Armory Crate.

Performance & Gaming

I’m not going to bore you with the specs and benchmarks. So let’s just breeze through them.

Black Shark 3 3DMark benchmark Black Shark 3 VRMark benchmark Black Shark 3 Geekbench 4 benchmark Black Shark 3 Antutu 7 benchmark

When we changed over to 90Hz, the Snapdragon 865 can’t maintain 90Hz consistently in VRMark benchmark.

Black Shark 3 VRMark benchmark different refresh rate

Gaming

In terms of gaming, the Black Shark 3 has an interesting feature called the Master Control. The touchscreen on the Black Shark 3 is pressure-sensitive, and it can act as a trigger by merely pressing the screen harder. It is especially useful while playing games like PUBG Mobile or COD Mobile when running and gunning is needed.

However, it’s difficult to exert pressure on the screen while preventing my fingertip to slide across the screen. And the lack of triggers on the Black Shark 3 is further handicapping it as a gaming phone.

I highly suggest you watch the video at the top of this review to know more about it.

Battery & Charger

The Black Shark 3 has an overall 4,720mAh battery and overall, the battery life is pretty great.

Black Shark 3 battery life test

Then, we turned on 90Hz refresh rate and did the same test. The battery did get affected by about 2 hours in our test.

Black Shark 3 battery life test different refresh rate

Charger

One thing that I’m impressed by Black Shark is the implementation of a dual-battery system. The company claims that this is the reason why the Black Shark 3 sees an improvement while charged with a 65W charger.

Black Shark 3

I find it weird since the Black Shark 3’s charger is indeed a 65W charger, but it has a USB-A port instead.

Anyway, the charging time for the Black Shark 3 is only about 30 minutes. Wow.

Black Shark 3 battery charging benchmark

Wrapping up the Black Shark 3 review

The Black Shark 3 is priced at RM2,799. It’s not cheap, and this gaming phone comes with some compromises like missing triggers and rather unrefined software. It does have some redeeming values like Master Control and a great vibration motor.

As of now, we’re still unsure how much the Black Shark 3 Pro will be priced. That phone does seem like a big upgrade in terms of gaming features since it has proper trigger buttons, though I’m not sure about the longevity or how popup trigger buttons work on phones.

UPDATE: The Black Shark 3 Pro price is out! It’s at RM4,199 – and that’s a big gap. So yeah, I think the Black Shark 3 is still at a very enticing price point.
Nasi Lemak Tech Silver Award

Where to buy?

Over at the official Shopee store.


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