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LIKES Evolved stylingStandard automatic emergency brakingAvailable all-wheel driveSmart Sport suspension tuningSupple, supportive seatsDISLIKES Small third rowToo far from Escalade in looks?Lacks SuperCruise, at least for nowBUYING TIP The 2020 Cadillac XT6 makes more sense in Premium Luxury trim, but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t prefer the XT6 Sport’s handling.

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Xiaomi Black Shark 2 Review: Hands-on

The Black Shark 2 is a reasonably-priced mobile gaming powerhouse that stands out from the crowd. Here's our hands-on review.

Should I Buy The Black Shark 2?
We’re impressed by what the Black Shark 2 can offer gamers, with impressive specs, innovative gaming-focused tech and a very affordable price tag, but we’ll reserve our final judgement for when we get the smartphone back to Tech Advisor Towers.

Price When Reviewed
  • Not available in the US
Following months of teasers and a Beijing reveal, the Black Shark 2 is now available to buy in the UK. The gaming-focused smartphone is a solid improvement on the original Black Shark, with upgraded internals, an updated design and a range of new technologies to enhance the gaming experience. We went along to the Black Shark 2 UK launch event to get some hands-on time with the mobile gaming powerhouse, and here’s our hands-on review.

Pricing And Availability
The Black Shark 2 is officially available to buy from the Black Shark website in the UK and Europe, but is currently unavailable in the US. The base model of the Black Shark 2 comes with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and will set you back £479/€549. Those interested in something more impressive can opt for the high-end 12GB/256GB combination at £559/€649, although it’s not available in the UK just yet. We’ll be sure to update this section once it becomes available.

Tailored To Gaming
The Black Shark 2 was designed by gamers for gamers, and it shows in just about every aspect of the smartphone. As well as packing flagship-level internals with a Qualcomm 855 processor and either 8- or 12GB of RAM, the smartphone packs a number of ‘firsts’. The smartphone is amongst the first in the world to implement a direct touch liquid cooling system in a handheld, and amongst other cooling features bundled into what Black Shark calls “Liquid Cooling 3.0”, the system should keep the smartphone cool during those intense gaming sessions.

That’s not all the Black Shark 2 features either; the company claims that it’s the first to implement a standalone DSP (Digital Signal Processing) chip in a smartphone, which brings a variety of benefits including impressive response times. The 240Hz touch report rate of the display lowers the latency to around 43.5ms, compared to around 60ms in the iPhone XS, which should translate to quicker response times during those crucial in-game moments.

The display also features Master Touch technology which allows the display to measure pressure in four dedicated areas to provide extra functionality when playing games, but as this needs to be set up on a per-game basis, it’s not something we were able to try out during our limited time with the smartphone.

Like the original, the Black Shark 2 features a dedicated game space nicknamed Shark Space. The mode is activated by a physical switch on the side of the smartphone, and provides an area separate from the stock Android OS for you to browse and play your favourite games. It’s also where you can enable the smartphone’s appropriately named Ludicrous mode, a mode that allows the smartphone to use 100 percent of the CPU power running at 2.84Ghz.

The Black Shark 2 certainly ran well playing a game of PUBG Mobile on the highest possible settings, and we’ll be sure to put it through our benchmarks once we get more time with the smartphone.

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Black Shark has also launched a number of optional accessories for the Black Shark 2 to further improve the gaming experience, including £79.90 Switch-esque controllers with an analogue stick and touch-sensitive pad as well as a dedicated cooling case, offering a blend of fans and liquid cooling to cool the smartphone by up to 10 degrees Celsius in around 10 seconds.

Improved Design
The Black Shark 2 has hints of the original Black Shark present, but we think the updated design is an all-around improvement that improves not only the look but the functionality of the smartphone. It’s slimmer than the original at 163.6 x 75 x 8.8mm and although it weighs a little more at 205g, we like the solid in-hand feel it provides. It sports a metal frame with a gorgeous blend of glass and metal on the rear, and is now available not only in the standard Black, but Frozen Silver and Glory Blue too.

There’s also an RGB strip on the smartphone because, y’know, gaming phone.

The Black Shark 2 boasts a near bezel-less 19.5:9 6.39in AMOLED display (1080 x 2340) with no notch to get in the way when gaming, bringing the look closer in-line with other flagship smartphones and making other gaming phones look a little dated. The display also features DC Professional Light Dimming, which pretty much eliminates the flickering you see when filming smartphone displays and should make your eyes feel more comfortable over long periods of use.

The biggest improvement to the design is in the antenna department. Most smartphones will experience some kind of interference when held horizontally when gaming, as your hands naturally cover most of the built-in antennae. Black Shark has got around this issue by implementing its own X + 2 antenna array in the Black Shark 2, which the company claims should negate any potential connectivity issues no matter how the smartphone is held.

Again, it’s not something we were able to really test during our limited time with the smartphone, but it’ll be interesting to see any potential differences when we get it back to Tech Advisor towers.

Other Specs Of Note
The Black Shark 2 features an upgraded dual-camera setup on the rear, offering a standard 48Mp lens with f/1.8 alongside a 12Mp 2x telephoto lens to provide crisp close-up shots. There’s also an AI shooting mode seen on other smartphones that automatically analyses the scene and adjusts the settings for the optimal image. The Black Shark 2 launch event was dark with harsh spotlights, so not the best place to test a camera, but initial tests look promising.

On the flip, you’ll find a 20Mp front-facing camera with HDR support and improved low-light performance when compared to the original Black Shark, which should be good enough for selfie-taking and video calling.

The Black Shark 2 features an in-display fingerprint scanner, although it’s unclear as to whether this is secure enough to be used for payment verification – we expect not, but we’ll find out soon. It also sports a whopping 4,000mAh battery to get you through long gaming sessions without a charger. When it does need a top-up, the 27W USB-C fast charger should get you untethered from the wall fairly quickly.

Early Verdict
We’re impressed by what the Black Shark 2 can offer gamers, with impressive specs, innovative gaming-focused tech and a very affordable price tag, but we’ll reserve our final judgement for when we get the smartphone back to Tech Advisor Towers in the coming days.

Specs
  • 163.6 x 75 x 8.8 mm
  • 205g
  • Dual-SIM
  • 6.39in AMOLED display (19.5:9 aspect ratio)
  • 1080 x 2340
  • Snapdragon 855
  • 8 or 12GB RAM
  • 128 or 256GB storage
  • Dual camera setup (48Mp+12Mp)
  • 20Mp front-facing camera
  • Android 9.0
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Dual-Band Wi-Fi
  • GPS
  • In-display fingerprint reader
  • 4000mAh battery
  • 27W fast charging

View my Flipboard Magazine.

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