As Gaming Phones Gain Steam, The Black Shark 2 Pro Could Be The Best Yet

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The Black Shark 2 Pro comes in a vibrant metallic blue and orange color.

Angela Lang/CNET This story is part of >CES 2020, our complete coverage of the showroom floor and the hottest new tech gadgets around.

In a packed ballroom at the Mirage hotel at CES 2020, a neon green logo beckoned me toward it like a siren calling to sailors in The Iliad. Fortunately for me there were no treacherous rocks waiting to send me to a horrible death. Instead there was just the Black Shark 2 Pro, a gaming phone with a glowing logo on the back. 

Gaming phones are right at home in the flashy confines of CES, but they also signal a subtle shift in the phone market toward more niche audiences. The Razer Phone launched in 2017, bringing with it a new category of phones built with features geared toward gaming. These features included an LCD display with a 120Hz refresh rate (instead of the standard 60Hz), a top-of-the-line Snapdragon processor and a logo on the back that glowed.

In 2020, you can find a dedicated gaming mode on mainstream flagship phones such as the Google Pixel 4 and Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus. The OnePlus 7T and 7 Pro both have 90Hz high refresh rate screens. And there are now three phones that are built from head-to-toe for gamers: The Asus ROG Phone 2, the Nubia Red Magic 3S and the Black Shark 2 Pro.

The Black Shark 2 Pro was originally announced in July 2019, but will be available in the US at some point starting at $599 (£539 or about AU$1,030). Unfortunately Xiaomi, which makes the Black Shark, couldn't say when. The Black Shark 2 Pro is almost identical to the Black Shark 2. The major difference is that the new Pro version has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus processor instead of the regular 855 variant. 

The 855 Plus processor features 15% faster graphics and a CPU clock speed of up to 2.96GHz as opposed to the regular 2.84GHz speed of the 855. This means the Black Shark 2 Pro is at the top of the Android performance food chain alongside the ROG Phone 2, Red Magic 3S, OnePlus 7T, Nubia 20 and Meizu 16s Pro.

The beefy processor also means you'll be able to get the absolute best sustained performance out of your phone during long bouts of gaming. And to keep that processor cool, the Black Shark 2 Pro implements a direct touch multilayer liquid cooling system. Xiaomi claims it can reduce the temperature of the CPU by 14 degrees. For comparison, the Red Magic 3 phone has a built-in fan to keep it cool.

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The Black Shark 2 Pro has a 6.39-inch AMOLED Samsung screen with a 60Hz refresh rate. By comparison, the refresh rates on the Red Magic 3 is 90Hz and the Asus ROG Phone 2 is 120Hz. But there aren't tons of Android games that take advantage of that rate.

The Black Shark Phone 2 Pro's screen has a 240Hz touch-report rate, however. That refers to the number of times per second the screen updates where you've touched. This could in theory lead to a lower latency rate. In fact Xiaomi says that the Pro has a response speed of 34.7 milliseconds, which would put it ahead of any other gaming phone.


The Black Shark 2 Pro in a Nintendo Switch-style case.

Angela Lang/CNET

Another unique feature to give mobile gamers more of an edge is a touchscreen feature called Master Touch 2.0, which lets you resize both left and right touch zones and the pressure-sensing value. So you can have a light button touch in one game and pound the crap out of your screen in another.

Like the original Black Shark phone, there's a Sharkspace slider button that will put your phone into a gaming mode that optimizes performance, clears your phone's memory and minimizes outside interruptions.

Another wonderful aspect of the Black Shark 2 Pro is the accessories Xiaomi makes for it.

We're looking forward to testing the Black Shark 2 Pro phone. But for now, here's how its specs stack against other leading gaming phones.

Black Shark 2 Pro specs vs. Black Shark 2, Asus ROG Phone 2, Nubia Red Magic 3S

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