Here is a look at what the Black Shark 3 has to offer with regard to the common attributes of the Chinese phone brand.

Do the specs seem to be fairly high-end? Verify. Is the price tag lower than that of similar devices? Verify. How is this camera so good? Please check. Is an operating system bloated with big problems? The answer is no – and that is one feature we’re glad to see isn’t present.

There has previously been a rift between Black Shark and Xiaomi, but that has more to do with PR considerations than the actual division between the companies. If you’re passionate about mobile gaming, this phone will appeal to you, as it is very much a Xiaomi phone.

With its top-end processor, oodles of RAM, large screen, and game launcher app that optimizes performance, the Black Shark 3 is a great phone for gamers: fans of Fortnite, Call of Duty Mobile, and similar games should be satisfied with the Black Shark 3.

Just like the Black Shark 2, the Black Shark 3 may lean too heavily on the ‘gamer’ aesthetic. Featuring a large ‘X’ shape and LED accents on its rear, the Shark Space mode optimizes gaming performance.

As for the camera of the Black Shark 3, we were blown away when we saw how great it was for photography as well.

Although it can’t match the top camera phones out there, the Galaxy S5’s photos are vibrant, the autofocus is reliable, the background blur effects for portraits are accurate, and the optimization is smart; only telephoto or macro lenses are missing.

Even though the Xiaomi Black Shark 3 is absolutely worthwhile, we wouldn’t be remiss without mentioning its contemporary, the Nubia Red Magic 5G. That gaming phone has very similar specs, but it’s quite different from the Xiaomi Black Shark 3. In most regions, it costs less than the Black Shark, too, because it has a 144Hz max screen refresh rate.

Design

Xiaomi Black Shark 3 review

If you’re looking for a phone that’s easy to carry around in your pocket, avoid the Black Shark 3. As a result, it is among the thickest and tallest phones around, if only by a few millimeters. Furthermore, at 222g, this is the heaviest handset on the market. Even so, it’s not as big as the even larger Pro model, so it’s not the biggest phablet.

This is clearly a phone you’ll want to keep in your pocket or bag, as it can be difficult to carry around in your trouser pockets or shallow shorts pockets. Unless you have big hands, the phone is also a little difficult to hold one-handed, with the power button out of easy reach, for instance.

There are three buttons on the phone: A volume rocker on the left edge; a power button on the right side – little reach without a fair amount of hand wrangling – and a toggle to enter Shark Space, which we will review in detail in the Software section. There is a USB-C port on the bottom and a 3.5mm headphone jack on top.

Also on the screen, there’s a fingerprint scanner, and (unlike the power button) I think most people should be able to easily reach this.

In our experience, the headphone jack would frequently pick up fluff and tissue, particularly when put into pockets (top-first, as we feel is normal). In order to get these out, we regularly used the SIM tray tool.

Our experience with phones has never required this, and we suspect the problem came from the placement of the jack and the size of the phone (as well as the state of our pockets).

There’s a ridge running around the middle of the phone that meets the phone’s edges, not rounded edges like those found on most phones. Some people may prefer rounded edges over straight edges, but it depends on their hand shape.

We know that the rear of the phone has the distinctive ‘X’ shape from previous Black Shark phones. An upward-sloping triangular camera bump houses the three lenses and flashes in a visually subtle manner, whereas a bottom-facing mirror bump contains a magnetic pin for a separate charging accessory that can be purchased separately.

Additionally, the Black Shark 3 has three LEDs – two at the foot of the camera bump and one at the top of the lower bump, as well as a large one embedded in the Black Shark logo. Depending on your needs, you can use them in various ways – for example, they can flash green and blue when you play games. We love the fact that the LEDs flicker while you listen to music, making it seem like they’re dancing along.

Display 

Xiaomi Black Shark 3 review

While the Black Shark 3 has a bigger display than its 7.1-inch Pro sibling with a 6.67-inch AMOLED screen, the display is still on the small side (even in 2020).

With a screen resolution of 1080 x 2400 (or 2K), it is not as good-looking as some non-gaming phones like the Samsung Galaxy S20 and Oppo Find X2. The colors are bold, which is great for games with a bright art style, although we were disappointed by the low maximum brightness.

If you wish to save battery life, you can reduce the refresh rate from 90Hz to 60Hz in the Black Shark 3. Compared with the 144Hz of the Nubia Red Magic 5G, this is a little lower than the 120Hz of other phones. So, those looking for the super-smooth scrolling experience that high refresh rates bring may want to look elsewhere. While not all games allow you to exploit ultra-high refresh rates very effectively at the moment, your gaming experience will be hampered only if you choose to play something that supports 144Hz or 120Hz.

With a slender bezel above the screen, Black Shark 3’s front-facing camera is not housed in a notch like previous Black Shark phones, instead, it is tucked into a slender bezel above the screen. In this way, the entire screen space is dedicated to gaming, even though most punched holes are obscured by your thumbs when you’re playing a game anyway.

With the Black Shark 3, you can customize the screen when not in use to show a range of designs. This is a feature Xiaomi has made a point to include in its 2020 phones.

It’s not as useful as other devices’ always-on displays, however, since its only purpose is to show an app icon, not to let you check notifications or input music tracks.

Cameras

In addition to the main 64MP camera, there are also 13MP ultra-wide and 5MP depth-sensing cameras. In spite of the fact that this is not a phone designed with photography as its main focus, we were impressed with the pictures we took on the phone, which is hardly surprising considering the Black Shark 2 also impressed us on the same subject.

Though, before we get to the image quality, it’s worth taking a moment to talk about how to use the camera app. Switching between modes is seamless, autofocus is quick and generally pretty accurate, and in general, the app felt very easy to use.

Using my fingers to zoom was a bit difficult because there is no zoom bar that appears when you pinch, so you must use your fingers to adjust the zoom level. Additionally, the ultra-wide camera is activated through a virtual button in the camera app, not just via pinching your fingers as on every other device, and this took some adjusting.

I was pleasantly surprised by the sharpness and depth of field of the pictures we took. This can be attributed to the (relatively) high-resolution depth camera, which can implement an accurate-looking artificial background blur. In addition to taking macro pictures, the phone enabled users to also take pictures of subjects while maximizing the depth-of-field.

Samsung and Apple users might be disappointed that the colors didn’t ‘pop’ noticeably, but they weren’t dull either. The images, in general, seemed very bright, sometimes curiously so: we took some pictures at dusk that looked like they were taken during the day, even though they were taken in a mode other than Night mode.

Using Portrait mode brought this effect to light, as this mode seemed to boost brightness and reduce contrast to artificial levels, and seemed to struggle with dynamic range more than the ‘standard’ mode.

It appears to be overly post-processed here, and we prefer the naturalistic style of standard photo mode. Taking portrait pictures is not bad at all, especially on days when the extra light is not distracting.

In low-light conditions, as well as during the day, the Black Shark 3 excels at taking pictures. The high level of image-brightening meant night images with the night mode didn’t differ wildly from standard photos in low light settings, but they were sometimes a touch more detailed.

You can record video up to 4K/60fps, so no 8K, but also not that bad. Also available is 1980fps slow-mo, which is twice as slow as the equivalent mode on most phones. However, it can only record very short bursts of video, so we weren’t able to take advantage of it.

In Portrait mode, the front-facing camera again kicked in with strong image lighting to create images that were crisp and clear. In addition, we found the backgrounds too blurry, but the blur effect can be adjusted before you take a picture, or later on, so we can’t be too harsh.

Pros Cons
Relatively affordable for the specs It Will be too big for some hands
Shark Space is great for gaming Appearance may be divisive
Cameras are surprisingly capable

Conclusion

A smartphone that lets you play mobile games will be of great interest to you since Black Shark 3’s hardware and software complement each other to make your gaming experience an enjoyable one. The camera is also surprisingly good, although not at the level of dedicated camera phones. However, many would-be put off by its sheer size and imposing appearance.