Mobile gaming has changed a lot over the last few years. To match these improvements, gaming tech company Razer has recently updated it’s Kishi Android mobile controller. This new update comes with an Xbox rebrand. Here at Any Button Gaming, we’ve given the Android version a whirl and see whether this controller is the one for you.
“Mobile gaming, eh?” “Not a real gamer if you play on mobile?” “Mobile gaming is for teens and noobs!”
Or is it? In fact, your mobile device is starting to become a gateway for everything from traditional mobile, retro and, yes, AAA games.
As a gamer with a family (and, pre-Covid, a day job that required travel), being able to game on the go is quite important to this reviewer. TV being used to watch Moana for the fiftieth time this week? Have to keep an eye on them but don’t want to have to join in? Pick up a handheld.
Mobile Gaming Increasing…
Mobile gaming has been around for over a decade now. However, it is fair to say that the incredibly popular market share has expanded in recent years. As such, some top quality titles have received mobile ports. Not to mention popular online titles such as Fortnite, PUBG and Call of Duty.
Then we have the fact that there are some great emulators available on mobile – especially on Android. If you have any (legally) backed up ROMs of past games, you can load them onto your device and go.
Lastly, we have cloud gaming. Microsoft and Google have launched their respective cloud gaming services on Android. And both handle well despite compromises on screen-size.
It was this last prospect that drove our decision to purchase the Razer Kishi controller. As an Xbox Gamepass Ultimate subscriber, Microsoft is offering a varied selection of titles from it’s service to play via the cloud. Kids watch Moana again, we get to rip and tear demons in DOOM: ETERNAL.
Doom Eternal with the Family…
To do this, you need a controller (note, Microsoft is experimenting with adding touch controls to some games, but they aren’t for everyone. I.E, this reviewer). There are a few options on the market for this;
If you have a Bluetooth controller, you can connect to most mobile devices – Xbox One/Series X/S included. Phones can be connected using additional clips for your current controllers to cradle them. A few quick clips and you’re away.
If you don’t want to use your existing controllers for this, there is a range of third party controllers at various price points. Microsoft, in particular, has partnered up with several manufacturers, including Razer and 8-BitDo for some branded controllers. Plus, the 8-BitDo model is reminiscent of classic NES controllers. Ahh, my youth.
The other options are telescopic controllers. These controllers mimic the Nintendo Switch and cradle your mobile phone with controllers either side. This removes the need for a clip that you have to squeeze onto your controller and provides slightly more balance.
The Razer Kishi falls into this category.
First, let’s talk about price. Most telescopic controllers on the market are on the cheaper side, averaging between £20-£40. Naturally, the build quality varies. The Kishi positions itself as a console quality controller and is therefore priced at £79.99 for the non-branded version. If you want to show your allegiance to Microsoft, you could spend £20 extra and pick up the Xbox version at £99.99. The difference? It has the Xbox home button.
It should also be noted that both an Android and Apple version of the controller is available. Is there a difference? Not particularly, other than connections [see below] and the fact that Apple is a far more closed ecosystem. Currently, Xbox game streaming is not compatible with Apple devices. That is something that may be changing in 2021.
Being cheapskates, we went with the £79.99 Android version. We hooked it up to a fairly cheap Moto G8 mobile phone. This makes the controller a large investment. Bearing in mind you can get an Xbox Series X controller for £54.99 (and a clip for about £10), you are paying a premium for a device that can only be used with a mobile phone. If you are planning on just dabbling with a bit of gaming on a mobile device, we might be tempted to recommend using a controller you already have. Or maybe something a littler cheaper altogether.
If, however, you are okay with the price, it is fair to say that you are getting a device that is designed specifically for playing controller intensive games, be it mobile or AAA.
Razer Kishi Android connections
First, let’s talk about connections. The controller is not Bluetooth, unlike many other ‘cheaper’ brands. It connects via a USB-C connection directly into your phone. This means that yes, you’ll need a USB-C charged phone – most Android phones have supported USB-C as standard for some time now but, be aware.
The point is that once connected, the device is wired, meaning less latency. It also means no additional charging is needed; it gets its power via your phone.
The cradle itself is expanding and Razer states the Kishi supports device dimensions between 145.3 – 163.7 mm x 68.2 – 78.1 mm x 7.0 – 8.8 mm. Do check this before purchasing. Our Moto G8 just about fit but it is a beefy boi. So, again, be aware. Once the phone is in, the contact is good. The expandable strap fits neat and clamps on. There is a little movement if you twist but it is clear that the phone isn’t going anywhere.
It’s hard to know at this early stage how durable the telescopic expansion will remain but it doesn’t seem to put pressure anywhere else. The back also has a support for the phone so it can be laid flat. It’s neat, it fits and it gives a really good form factor on the device we tested it with.
Sound and Vision
Sound can be relayed through grills at the bottom of the phone and right hand controller segment. We didn’t notice any obvious distortion and would suggest that you get an experience close to the quality of your phone speakers. There is one issue though. Given that headphone jacks aren’t universally placed, there is no way to plug any headphone connections in. You’ll need bluetooth headphones if you don’t want to annoy those around you. You can manage but it does mean additional outlay if you intend to play out and about.
How does the controller feel? Well it has all the inputs you’d want. The layout follows an Xbox controller pretty closely and is comfortable in hand. The analogue sticks are clickable and all the buttons feel sturdy. It has “Home” [even without the Xbox icon emblazoned upon it], as well as “Start” and “Select” options. The trigger buttons are solid, though we felt the rear triggers were possibly a little softer than we would have liked. This is not necessarily a universal experience, but one that we would like to point out.
Setup is negligible. On Android 10, we plugged the device in and it was instantly recognised and could be used to navigate Android. It also worked with no additional configuration on Xbox or mobile games. It was also picked up by several emulators we tried, and allowed automatic mapping (though this will depend on the emulator).
Hitting it hard
There is a supporting mobile app provided on Android for the Kishi. This allows driver updates and also recommends supported games, etc. It isn’t essential but we are a stickler for keeping things updated and stable.
We first tried this playing some large FPS games – including The Outer Worlds and Shadow Warrior 2 on Gamepass Cloud. Both were fully playable and were really comfortable to play. The performance will depend on your internet connection, but there was zero obvious input lag on the controller front. Any stutters were clearly down to the pitfalls of cloud gaming. We were able to pick up and play games and noticed no real difference between using this and an Xbox One controller.
We next booted up some GTA: Vice City on the Android gaming front. The game was supported (as shown by the Kishi app) and, again, played well, mapping controls in a sensible fashion. Moving on to Emulation, we played some Goldeneye, Destruction Derby 2 and Super Mario World on various emulators. All good. We liked the D-Pad in particular for platforming – it’s a full D-Pad as opposed to the Switch and has a solid feel. Platforming fans ,rejoice!
So anything else to cover? Well, it takes its battery from the device so just having it plugged in to the phone will use some power. Gaming is pretty power intensive anyway but this will add to it. Add in bluetooth headphones and you may find it limits your gaming a little more but if we are honest, it wasn’t noticeable enough given the demands. We’d played several hours worth of cloud gaming whilst using it before it dropped from 100% to about 20%.
Another neat feature is the ability to charge via the device. The Kishi has a USB-C port that means you can do a passthrough. So, if you are running low, you can plug in your power supply and continue. Useful if you want a quick recharge or to use it when running low. Again, this is different from most controllers that need a separate charge.
Razer Kishi Android – The Any Button Gaming verdict
So, now we have spent a good few hours with the Kishi, what are our thoughts? Well, we cannot get away from the price. It is expensive, even by controller standards. If you fancy only having a quick go on mobile games or on the cloud now and then… maybe accept the reduction in quality and get something cheaper. Or maybe use a controller you already own. This is meant to be played, and not gather dust. It has one purpose, to attach to a USB-C phone.
If, like us, you want to have console level controls on a game, it does exactly what it promises. You’ll not find any noticeable downgrade in quality and you will find that you can play as you did on a home console/PC from a controller perspective. We’d have liked some support for wired headphones and we’ll not understand why an extra Xbox button costs an additional £20. With all that though, the Razer Kishi was a pleasure to review and if this niche product is something you have been looking for, we’d recommend the plunge.
Note this review was completed on a device purchased by the author.
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An expensive but quality piece of kit that appeals to a niche selection of gamers. If this is you, then we heartily recommend!
- Overall - 8.9/108.9/10
We can’t deny the build quality and form factor, giving console quality controls to your mobile. It is expensive and designed for heavy use but if that’s you, give it a whirl!