Black Shark 2 Pro shows that gaming phones are here to stay

If you know anyone who says phones have become boring and predictable, point them to gaming phones. The Black Shark 2 Pro, which was announced this week, prioritizes some specs that you probably won’t hear the largest phone makers mention onstage, or at least not yet.

The Pro is a slightly revised model of the Black Shark 2, which was released earlier this year. The updated version improves on the touch response speed of the display by around seven milliseconds, down to 34.7ms from 43.5ms. That might not seem like much, but mere milliseconds (factoring in the screen’s touch response speed and network ping) could mean the difference between a win and a loss in competitive play. For context, the newly announced Asus ROG Phone II has a latency of 49ms.

This phone is also among the first, alongside the aforementioned Asus gaming phone, to feature Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 Plus processor, which should be a boon for gaming with its promised 15 percent GPU boost in games compared to the standard Snapdragon 855.

The MagicTouch feature in action. Clicking in the colored boxes performs one of two different actions depending on how hard you press the screen.
 Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

The Black Shark 2 Pro keeps much of what made the vanilla Black Shark 2 noteworthy, including a few of my favorite phone features in recent memory: a pressure-sensitive display and MagicTouch, an overlay that lets you customize a control scheme with pressure-sensitive actions. It includes more ridiculous specs from the predecessor, too, like a liquid cooling system, a clever X-shaped antenna arrangement to keep you from losing connectivity while gaming in landscape mode, and an AMOLED display that has a 240Hz touch report rate. Unfortunately, the display’s own refresh rate is still 60Hz, which lags behind the 120Hz displays found in the Razer Phone 2 and Asus ROG Phone II. Even the OnePlus 7 Pro has a faster 90Hz display.

This new phone’s baseline configuration has 12GB of RAM and 128GB of UFS 3.0 onboard storage for RMB2,999 (roughly $435). If that’s not enough, there’s also a model that doubles the storage to 256GB for RMB3,499 (roughly $508).

This phone (which is a sequel to a sequel) proves a few things: mobile gaming is popular enough around the world to fund projects like these, and it seems like Black Shark, Razer, and Asus have carved out a category of their own. Most people, especially gamers, want whichever phone will push them beyond what more traditional phones can currently offer, and the Black Shark 2 Pro looks to be one of the few phones to do that. It’s launching overseas, starting with Europe within the next few months, and then in the US in early 2020 at the latest.