It's a while since we got hold of the Black Shark 2 and we should have blogged about it sooner. We have been playing on it though, and all of this game time has produced plenty of real-world GameBench stats that allow us to finally compare the Black Shark 2 against a few other mobile giants with gaming-grade chipsets: the Huawei Mate 20 X (Kirin 980), Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (Exynos 9810) and the Apple iPhone XS Max (A12 Bionic). Please read on for more...
Raw metrics don't always help to answer the simple question, "Is this good or bad?" Instead, let's start with our colour-coded badges (Ultra / Smooth / Basic / Poor), which we use to grade the quality of a specific gaming experience based on established gaming thresholds (e.g., solid 60fps for Ultra, at least 30fps for Smooth).
We tested five games on the Black Shark 2 and three competitor devices, producing 20 badges in total. We're experimenting with different ways of visualising our badges when they come in large numbers like this, and one of these visualisations is the simple "GameBench Badge Count" shown below. This shows that the Black Shark 2 got an Ultra rating in three of the five test games -- that's fewer Ultra badges than the iPhone XS Max and Huawei 20 X, but more than the Galaxy Note 9. Overall, however, we can see that the Black Shark 2 is able to handle our five test games really well, with nothing below Smooth performance:
As an alternative to our rating badges, we can also look at average results for our median and minimum frame rate metrics -- established metrics that a lot of gamers will be comfortable with (especially if they're from a PC gaming background). These average metrics show broadly the same picture: the Black Shark 2 is slightly worse than the Huawei Mate 20 X and iPhone XS Max on our test games, but better than the Galaxy Note 9.
However, unlike our badge ratings, averaging out frame rate metrics in this way can hide some important game-specific issues. For this reason, we'll also look at each game's results individually in the next sections.
PUBG Mobile result: Smooth
Here's one of the issues hidden by the average metrics table above: PUBG suffers from some severe frame rate drops on the Black Shark 2. The game still runs smoothly on the whole, and achieves our Smooth badge, but glitches occur when driving vehicles quickly over terrain. This can hurt vehicle-based combat -- including trying to run other players over!
We've seen these exact same glitches on a range of Snapdragon devices and we suspect it's due to a bug that lies somewhere between the Unreal engine and the chipset. Whatever the source, this issue puts the Black Shark 2 behind all the other devices in our comparison for this game.
Rules of Survival result: Smooth
We also observed some big frame drops in Rules of Survival -- again not enough to stop gameplay being classed as smooth overall, but enough push the Black Shark 2 down below the iPhone and Mate 20 X. Based on our ratings thresholds, which reward a good balance of median and minimum frame rate, the iPhone XS Max comes top and is the only device to achieve an Ultra rating:
Arena of Valor result: Ultra
Let's move onto the first of two MOBA in our test database: Tencent's Arena of Valor. This game runs seamlessly on the Black Shark 2, producing an Ultra rating. Our chart shows the Black Shark 2 is neck-and-neck with the Mate 20 X in terms of raw metrics, which is a real accomplishment because Huawei's powerful GPU Turbo technology has been specifically tuned for this game:
Mobile Legends result: Ultra
This other big MOBA game, Mobile Legends, is often less well optimised than Arena of Valor. On the Black Shark 2 though, it delivers Ultra-grade performance, matching the iPhone XS Max and falling only marginally short of the Mate 20 X. Meanwhile, the Note 9 lags behind significantly in this game, highlighting why many gaming fans are picking gaming-focused handsets rather than mainstream productivity devices.
Modern Combat 5 result: Ultra
Last but not least: the only first-person shooter in our sample, Gameloft's Modern Combat 5. This game runs extremely well on the Black Shark 2, achieving an Ultra rating. The metrics are bettered only marginally by the Huawei Mate 20 X. Meanwhile, this is one of the few games in which the iPhone XS Max lags behind -- although it still scrapes through with an Ultra rating.
We're working on a new way to display these ratings, plus many more across a wide range of devices and games, in a way that is easy to access and navigate. It's not ready just yet, but if you're interested in hearing when this will be available, and getting updates on our latest test results in the meantime, please register your interest by clicking below.