With the Kishi cellular controller that launched in mid-2020, Razer succeeded in turning telephones into pseudo-Nintendo Change consoles. It supplied a intelligent design that sandwiched your telephone in the course of two controllers. To not point out, it was a extra comfy, console-like solution to play cellular video games, in addition to cloud streaming providers, like xCloud, Stadia, and extra. Now, with the $99 Kishi V2, it looks like Razer’s aim was to get a leg up on a competitor who did all of it higher on its first strive: Spine.
That one-hit marvel of an organization swooped in after the Kishi launched with an much more formidable cellular controller for iPhone, the $99 Spine One. It featured a less complicated, cozier design, extra performance, and an interface that felt simply shy of a full-blown console working system. It turned gaming on the telephone right into a extra fleshed-out expertise, making the Kishi’s worth proposition weaker and loads much less fascinating by comparability.
So, with the Kishi V2, Razer determined to ditch its first-gen design for one thing very just like the Spine One. There isn’t a lot right here that Razer can take a lot credit score for. The V2 has a equally minimalist design to the Spine and the identical sort of pull-to-extend bridge mechanism to allow you to slot your telephone into its break up controller association. The in-game seize button is right here on the left aspect, together with an choices button on the suitable, and there’s a brand new button that takes you to — sure — Razer’s personal spin on a gaming dashboard known as Nexus. It’s not necessary that you just use it, however it’s there.
There are some key perks that the Kishi V2 has over Spine’s controller. The massive one is that the Kishi V2 is made for Android. There’s additionally an iOS model coming later in 2022. Spine (frustratingly) hasn’t made a model of its controller with USB-C, until you depend that subscribers to its paid service can join it to an Android system with a Lightning-to-USB-C cable. When you play cellular video games with complicated management schemes, Razer’s new mannequin options two additional programmable shoulder buttons — one on all sides. These will be remapped throughout the Nexus app.
And whereas Spine’s design hit its restrict with the iPhone 13 Professional Max’s big digital camera bump (it supplied free 3D-printed adapters to make it work), the Kishi V2 consists of adjustable rubber inserts to broaden its compatibility with Android telephones and their varied digital camera bump dimensions — even these in skinny circumstances. The total listing of supported telephones consists of each Razer telephones; Samsung’s Galaxy S8 via the S22; the Galaxy Word 8 via 20; Google Pixel 2 via 6; and “many different Android units.” It helps as much as 11.5mm-thick units, together with a digital camera bump — I used to be stunned that I needed to take my Pixel 6 out of its skinny (and yellowing) official Google case to make it match.
General, the match and end of the Kishi V2 are high quality, however its new options — each within the Nexus app and people bodily current on the controller — are much less complete and polished than what’s accessible on Spine’s One.
Inside Nexus, which fails to launch with greater than half of my button press makes an attempt, you’ll see a barren dashboard that may function a sport launcher for ones that you’ve got put in. Scrolling down via the app reveals sport recommendations per style, which both highlights how a lot worse the sport choice is on Android than on iOS or how awful Razer is at curating them. As a sport discovery device, I’d say Nexus is perhaps just a little worse than simply searching on the Google Play Retailer, which is already a lower than stellar expertise.
Within the app, you’ll be able to start a livestream via YouTube or Fb Dwell. If you wish to take a screenshot or a video, you are able to do that with a button devoted to these capabilities on the left aspect. Although, there’s a dire lack of on-screen or haptic suggestions all through, particularly with display screen or video captures. For example, after urgent the screenshot button or holding it to seize a video, I don’t know if the command was registered till I open my Google Pictures library. A easy display screen notification (a minuscule Forged icon seems within the Android notification toolbar throughout display screen recording, however it’s simple to overlook) or a refined vibration might have achieved the trick. It’s the little stuff like that, which Spine bought proper two years in the past, that makes the Kishi V2 irritating to make use of.
Razer switched its face buttons to the identical sort of clicky, mechanical switches present in its Wolverine V2 controller. And whereas I appreciated them within the bigger controller, I dislike how they really feel right here greater than I anticipated to. The travel is shallow, and the clicking is so refined and requires so little drive that, if I’m hammering a button down throughout intense gameplay, it doesn’t present sufficient suggestions to let me know if I’ve made a press. It nearly jogs my memory of utilizing one in every of Apple’s dreaded butterfly keyboard switches with mud caught in it.
The Kishi V2 provides USB-C passthrough charging, so you’ll be able to maintain your telephone charged by plugging a cable into the underside proper aspect of its grip, similar to the earlier model. I suppose that I could also be in a minority of reviewers to make a stink about this, however I actually want Razer had inbuilt a 3.5mm jack for wired listening. Audio lag is, sadly, nonetheless an space the place Android is inexplicably behind Apple, and it’s largely simply odd of Razer to not embrace one, particularly since Spine does.
The Kishi V2 seems like a tool that was made to show that Razer received’t take it mendacity down within the gaming area from a newcomer. It took a surprisingly very long time to launch its rebuttal, which is okay. Forgetting concerning the Spine One for a second, the Kishi V2’s improved design and considerate options make it among the finest plug-in-and-go cellular controllers for Android customers. However in its present state, what little that makes the Kishi V2 distinctive doesn’t overshadow how significantly better Spine’s first-gen product nonetheless is.
Images by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge