September 26, 2023


Put A Technology

Excellent Gaming Hardware With Glaring Flaws


Black Shark 5 Pro is the latest gaming smartphone from Xiaomi. The first thing you will notice on the smartphone are the pop-up gaming shoulder triggers on one of the side rails. Right after that, you will think that you’ve seen these triggers on a smartphone before. If your guess is the  POCO F4 GT then you are absolutely correct.

On paper, it seems that the Black Shark 5 Pro and the POCO F4 GT share quite a bit of hardware including those unique pop-up shoulder triggers. So let’s get the unboxing out of the way to see the differences and similarities between these two gaming smartphones from Xiaomi.

Unboxing the Black Shark 5 Pro

Let’s see what we get in the box. The top insert has some stickers, paperwork, a black TPU case, and a SIM tray tool. Next, we have the Stellar Black smartphone, followed by 120W fast charging brick and a USB-C cable.

A gaming smartphone with good hardware design minus the gimmickry

Black Shark 5 Pro AH HR HW1

I am a fan of the hardware design choices that Xiaomi has made with the Black Shark 5 Pro. The back cover is the only telltale sign that this is a gaming smartphone. Nothing is too garish and everything looks well-coordinated – from the camera module to the logos to the integrated LED lighting.

The bottom rail houses the USB-C charging port with a microphone, SIM tray, and a speaker grille. Since there are dual speakers there is a grille on the top rail along with the second microphone. And then there’s a third microphone next to the volume rocker on the left-hand side rail. On the right-hand side rail, we see the pop-up shoulder triggers and the power button with the integrated fingerprint scanner and the fourth microphone.

I am also a big fan of the case that is included in the box. It provides good protection and grip without adding a lot of bulkiness. There are two cutouts for the camera module and the integrated LED lighting.

Black Shark 5 Pro AH HR Lighting

Speaking of LED lighting, I think it is done tastefully unlike the in-your-face garishness that we see on some other gaming smartphones. So full points to Xiaomi for showing some restraint.

Black Shark 5 Pro AH HR HW3Xiaomi is launching the Black Shark 5 Pro in Nebula White and Stellar Black (our review unit). The storage options are 128GB or 256GB and you can get the device with 8GB, 12GB, or 16GB RAM. Our review unit has 12GB RAM and 256GB storage.

Black Shark 5 Pro has an excellent display for gaming

Black Shark 5 Pro AH HR Display

From a specs perspective, the display on the Black Shark 5 Pro is similar to that on the POCO F4 GT. However, the Black Shark 5 Pro display has a higher refresh rate of 144Hz and a 720Hz touch sampling rate.

The 6.67-inch flat AMOLED display has a resolution of 1080×2400 pixels or FHD+. The display also supports DCI-P3 wide color gamut along with 10-bit color depth support. There’s also HDR10+ and eye-comfort certification.

Xiaomi claims a peak brightness of 1300 nits and seat of the pants impression is that while that number seems suspect in daily use there are no issues in terms of brightness even on a bright summer day. Now there is some cost control going on here as I wasn’t able to easily figure out what sort of Gorilla glass is used to protect the display unlike Victus on the POCO F4 GT.

One unique this is that there are two ambient light sensors – one on the front and one on the back to help achieve better control in terms of display brightness. And as usual, there are a bunch of display customization options – after all the device is running a variant of MIUI. I do need to point out that 144Hz refresh rate can only be triggered in gaming mode or via Shark Space settings.

I do wish that there were a few things done differently such as better color accuracy, Gorilla Glass Victus, true Netflix HDR support, and slightly higher peak brightness. Despite these shortcomings, the display does manage to get the job done.

Software is JOYUI which is a slightly different version of MIUI

Black Shark 5 Pro AH HR HW2

Black Shark 5 Pro is running JOYUI which is a lightly skinned version of MIUI. So everything from a software version is a carryover from other Xiaomi devices. Speaking of carryover, you do need to take a few extra steps for removing the ads from the UI experience.

Quick tutorial on how to remove the pesky ads in the software

The first step is to turn off Personalized Recommendations when you see the prompt during setup. Once the phone is set up and you are at the home screen, manually go into Themes, File Manager, Security, and Cleaner apps. Inside each app, go to Settings and turn off Recommendations/Ads in each of these four apps. This should pretty much eliminate ads from showing up in the future. I have been doing this for almost a year now and haven’t encountered a single ad.

The default mode for the Control center is similar to what you see on the iPhone. To change it to Android style, go to the Settings menu > Notifications & Control center > Control center style

Now to things that I like about JOYUI – there is zero bloatware on the phone, all stock Google apps, and no duplicate apps. The overall interface is extremely clean, sparse, and uncluttered. I wish Xiaomi did this on their other devices. There is however one big difference, swiping left from the home screen does NOT bring up the Google Discover feed. Other than that the Black Shark 5 Pro behaves pretty much like any other Xiaomi smartphone in terms of software.

Charging, battery capacity, and hardware performance are pretty much the same as the POCO F4 GT

Black Shark 5 Pro AH HR Performance

Powered with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and 12GB LPDDR5 RAM the Geekbench 5 scores on the Black Shark 5 Pro are pretty much in line with other 2022 flagships.  Although on paper these single and multi-core scores are slightly lower compared to the POCO F4 GT.

Charging performance on the other hand is basically the same with the 120W HyperCharge technology. It is great to see the 120W charge technology make its way across the Xiaomi smartphone product portfolio.

In terms of actual battery life, it is adequate for a day’s use. That is if you are not going to be gaming for over 3 hours straight on a daily basis. If you are a heavy gamer, make sure you have the 120W charging brick and OEM cable handy, and please use the factory-supplied brick and cable to avoid overheating the device.

Gaming is a breeze on the Black Shark 5 Pro

Genshin Impact plays just fine on the Black Shark 5 Pro. However, the phone got extremely hot during the initial download and setup. So hot that I had to put it aside for about 15 minutes before I could start gaming.  After the phone had cooled down there weren’t any noticeable problems while playing Genshin Impact at the high settings. However, after about 20 minutes or so the phone does get quite hot to touch so there needs to be some work done in terms of thermal management.

Between the 720Hz touch sampling and the optimized algorithm, there wasn’t any latency during gaming. The Black Shark 5 Pro also has dual-zone pressure-sensitive display so you can use two fingers simultaneously while gaming. Again, this feature worked fine during the review period. I should mention here that the haptics on this device are excellent thanks to a strong x-axis linear motor.

Shark Space has a lot of features to allow you to play games without any distractions. And yes, the 144Hz refresh rate needs to be toggled on via this mode. The magnetic pop-up shoulder triggers work well with games such as the Asphalt series. And you can also use the triggers to turn on the flashlight, take screenshots or record the screen via the settings menu.

Cameras on the Black Shark 5 Pro get the job done

Black Shark 5 Pro AH HR Camera

The main camera on the rear is a 108MP shooter along with a 13MP ultrawide and a 5MP telephoto camera. On the front is a 16MP selfie camera. If you have been seeing our reviews of various Xiaomi devices you will see that for the most part cameras on the Black Shark 5 Pro are a carryover from the Xiaomi 11T Pro with one exception. The 13MP ultrawide is a new camera introduced earlier in 2022 on the Xiaomi 12. One other change is the camera app on the Black Shark 5 Pro is different than what you see on other POCO/Xiaomi devices.

Main camera performance is good

We have seen multiple samples from the 108MP primary camera in other reviews. I am happy to report that this camera delivers great results in daylight and in low-light conditions. For the most part, colors are accurate, and brightness level, contrast, and exposure are on point. Colors tend to be a bit punchy but not overly gaudy. I definitely recommend leaving the AI function off in the camera settings but HDR can be left on auto.

Low light pictures are great on the regular Photo mode. There is no dedicated night mode for some inexplicable reason. However, the low-light pictures turn out fine for a regular smartphone camera. The usual caveat of not using any zoom for nighttime photography applies here as well.

Ultrawide Camera is okay

Pictures from the 13MP ultrawide camera are reasonably decent in daylight for sharing on social media. The color science is slightly on the cooler side in comparison with the main camera when comparing pictures side by side. Night-time pictures on ultrawide aren’t that great, also there is no dedicated Night mode available.

Telemacro camera is great with a bit of practice

The 5MP telephoto camera works best when the subject is 3-7 cm away (1 to 3 inches). So even though it is rated as a telephoto camera it basically is a great macro lens. With some practice you can eke out some great shots with this camera. Check out some samples in our Flickr gallery.

Black Shark 5 Pro Camera Samples – Flickr Gallery

Selfies are good for small screen displays and social media

The selfie camera is a carry-over from the Xiaomi 11T Pro which in turn is a carryover from the Redmi Note 10 Pro.  Overall the results from the 16MP selfie camera with a  ƒ/2.45 lens are very good. Pictures tend to have plenty of detail, and good exposure, but are a bit punchy in terms of color.

Portrait mode works very well including good edge detection. If you decide to pixel peep your selfies you might see some issues (do turn off beauty mode though) but nothing way out of whack.

To round up the camera review, there are 4 functional cameras on the Black Shark 5 Pro that get the job done in daylight. For nighttime use stick to the primary camera on the rear. But then again, most people aren’t going to buy this device for photography they’re buying it for gaming and in that department, this phone delivers in spades.

Black Shark 5 Pro Audio and Connectivity Impressions

Black Shark 5 Pro AH HR Audio

Xiaomi put a lot of work into getting the audio on the Black Shark 5 Pro to be flagship-grade. Audio output on this device is extremely loud and clear. DxOMark gives this Black Shark 5 Pro their top rating for the overall audio score.

Xiaomi uses two 1216P speakers to deliver rich sound across the entire frequency spectrum. Bass and mid-range are about as good as they get. In the high notes department, this device feels just a bit short of the Apple iPhone 13 Pro. Overall though this is probably the best-sounding Android smartphone on the market today.

Black Shark 5 Pro AH HR Connectivity

Connectivity-wise I was not able to get 5G despite this being a Xiaomi device. I did get LTE or LTE+ consistently during my review period on T-Mobile in the USA. Besides being dual-SIM 5G capable there’s also Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, Mi Share, NFC, and USB-C file transfer. While there are quite a few options for connectivity the IR blaster is missing which is quite conspicuous considering this is a Xiaomi smartphone.

Should you buy the Black Shark 5 Pro as your next gaming smartphone?

Black Shark 5 Pro AH HR Verdict

The Black Shark 5 Pro has great hardware design language, stellar audio, pop-up shoulder triggers, and 120W HyperCharge support. I like the clean software with zero bloatware on the Black Shark 5 Pro as well.  Primary camera delivers great pictures day and night which is good to see in a gaming smartphone.

But there are some things that the POCO F4 GT and RedMagic 7 series do better. For example, the display itself doesn’t get as bright as advertised, there’s no Gorilla Glass protection and 144Hz refresh rate is served for Shark Space only. Thermal management on the Black Shark 5 Pro is quite poor though. And there is no official IP rating available.

It seems that the Black Shark 5 Pro doesn’t fully live up to the hype despite having great specs, loud and crisp audio, and a great primary camera. For the suggested retail price, I would suggest you look at the POCO F4 GT or the RedMagic 7 series before deciding to get the Black Shark 5 Pro.


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