Razer Kishi V2 review: Android gaming controller goes from good to great

Since the launch of jungle cat in 2019, Razer refined the design of its Joy-Con-like phone game controllers. The original Kishi, the successor to the Junglecat, was a big step up thanks to a more Xbox-typical control layout, but its feel and mounting design left something to be desired – especially once the spine one was released for the iPhone. With its second generation of controller, the Kishi V2, Razer successfully overcomes the drawbacks of its predecessor by replacing membrane-activated buttons with switch buttons and a new smart and flexible mounting design that looks awfully similar to the Backbone. .

The changes take the controller from the best bundle in 2020 to a really recommendable controller for your mobile game in 2022. One good enough that I manage to forget for long periods that it is intended for mobile games.

As

  • Controls seem more responsive than many alternatives
  • Easy on/off phone mount design
  • Nexus app lets you remap buttons and link to Facebook or YouTube for streaming
  • Two programmable buttons

Do not like

  • Allows passthrough charging, but you lose audio and fast charging support
  • The handles could be a little bigger and more grippy
  • The app needs work

The Kishi V2 is currently available for Android phones with USB-C connections; Razer has verified compatibility with many Samsung Galaxy models (S9 generations or later), Google Pixel (Pixel 2 or later), and its own Razer phones. This does not prevent other models from working, however. The company plans to launch an iPhone-compatible model in the fall; my money is on it arriving around the same time as the iPhone 14. The price is $100, which seems a bit steep for a mobile controller, but that’s about what these phone-mountable designs tend to cost.

Razer Kishi Controller v2

The Kishi’s pads use tension to attach to the phone and connect via USB-C, which removes the latency and lag of a Bluetooth connection, and means the controller doesn’t require charging.

Lori Grunin/CBS

The Kishi is essentially a split Xbox layout controller with a plastic expander connecting the two sides. You slide your phone in, plug the USB-C port into the corresponding connector, and pull the left side up to match the top of the phone, which is held in place by the tension and the plastic bridge. The controller is powered by the phone, although it doesn’t seem to pull much, and uses USB-C for low latency response (compared to Bluetooth).

This is how it adapts to phones of different sizes, and the interchangeable rubber gaskets adapt to the thickness of different phones. This design makes it much easier to put on and take off than the previous one, while still being quite secure. Unfortunately, my phone case hollow it out Galaxy S22 UltraThe USB-C socket is too far away for the controller connection to reach, but with a thin enough case you’ll be fine.

Top left view of the Razer Kishi v2 controller showing the trigger, button 1 and small secondary button

Lori Grunin/CBS

At launch, the controller only confirmed compatibility with Xbox Game Pass Cloud Gaming, Nvidia GeForce now and Google Stadiaas well as local streaming via Steam Link, Xbox Remote Play, Parsec, and Moonlight.

In addition to the triggers and bumpers at the top, there are small mappable buttons. I like having extra buttons, as I like to avoid having to click through the thumbsticks, which for me usually results in unwanted movement. The trade-off is that the triggers are on the small side, although they don’t feel too small and are recessed enough that you won’t hit them when reaching for the buttons. And they have nice tension, better than some full-size controllers I’ve used.

I have to laugh, though. In my review of the original Kishi, I said the shifters were a bit too tight; now it feels like they’re a little too loose, or maybe “nervous” should be the adjective. Well, I’m pretty hard to please and your thumbs are different from mine. As always, try before you buy if possible.

Side view of the Razer Kishi v2 controller showing the shape of the grip on the right as well as side views of the buttons, triggers and right joystick

The grips should be thick enough if you’re used to Joy-Con-style flat paddles, but if you prefer the solid heft of a traditional controller, they might feel a little too insubstantial at first.

Lori Grunin/CBS

Other controls are responsive and clicky like those of a good standalone controller, including the D-pad where even the Backbone One falls short. I like my grips a bit thicker, but it’s pretty easy to get used to. But despite the textured plastic on the underside, I think they are a bit slippery, especially considering the lack of weight. Your mileage may vary.

There’s a USB-C passthrough connector at the bottom of the right grip that lets you charge your phone while you game or without removing the controller. It doesn’t support audio – disappointingly, but not uncommonly – and it doesn’t seem to support fast charging either.

Like Backbone and gamevice, Razer has an app called “Nexus”. This lets you wire your controls globally, which is good, but otherwise pretty uninspiring. It’s not great at managing your games: it only works with those installed on your phone, you can’t organize favorites, and its discovery suggestions are lackluster.

Also, it has a bad Android tag, which I hope is just a pre-release bug; for example, the only way to unload was through the operating system’s force shutdown command, and the reason it resides in memory is to record all your screens. It might be fine if you plan to use it for streaming (it can connect directly to YouTube and Facebook for that), but a little annoying if you don’t.

With version 2, the Razer Kishi has become an excellent mobile game controller, at least for Android phones. It remains to be seen how it will integrate with the iPhone. And I can’t wait to see it.

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