With the Kishi cell controller that launched in mid-2020, Razer succeeded in turning telephones into pseudo-Nintendo Change consoles. It supplied a intelligent design that sandwiched your cellphone in the midst of two controllers. To not point out, it was a extra snug, console-like method to play cell video games, in addition to cloud streaming providers, like xCloud, Stadia, and extra. Now, with the $99 Kishi V2, it looks as if Razer’s aim was to get a leg up on a competitor who did all of it higher on its first attempt: Spine.
That one-hit marvel of an organization swooped in after the Kishi launched with an much more formidable cell controller for iPhone, the $99 Spine One. It featured an easier, cozier design, extra performance, and an interface that felt simply shy of a full-blown console working system. It turned gaming on the cellphone right into a extra fleshed-out expertise, making the Kishi’s worth proposition weaker and so much much less fascinating by comparability.
So, with the Kishi V2, Razer determined to ditch its first-gen design for one thing very much 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 form of pull-to-extend bridge mechanism to allow you to slot your cellphone into its break up controller association. The in-game seize button is right here on the left facet, together with an choices button on the proper, 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 obligatory that you just use it, nevertheless 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 rely that subscribers to its paid service can join it to an Android system with a Lightning-to-USB-C cable. If you happen to play cell video games with complicated management schemes, Razer’s new mannequin options two further programmable shoulder buttons — one on all sides. These might 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 contains adjustable rubber inserts to broaden its compatibility with Android telephones and their varied digital camera bump dimensions — even these in skinny circumstances. The complete record of supported telephones contains each Razer telephones; Samsung’s Galaxy S8 via the S22; the Galaxy Notice 8 via 20; Google Pixel 2 via 6; and “many different Android gadgets.” It helps as much as 11.5mm-thick gadgets, 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.
Total, the match and end of the Kishi V2 are advantageous, 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 solutions 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 instrument, I’d say Nexus is perhaps somewhat worse than simply shopping 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 features on the left facet. Although, there’s a dire lack of on-screen or haptic suggestions all through, particularly with display 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 Images library. A easy display notification (a minuscule Forged icon seems within the Android notification toolbar throughout display recording, nevertheless it’s simple to overlook) or a refined vibration may have executed the trick. It’s the little stuff like that, which Spine acquired proper two years in the past, that makes the Kishi V2 irritating to make use of.
Razer switched its face buttons to the identical form 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 journey 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 certainly one of Apple’s dreaded butterfly keyboard switches with mud caught in it.
The Kishi V2 gives USB-C passthrough charging, so you’ll be able to preserve your cellphone charged by plugging a cable into the underside proper facet of its grip, identical 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 principally simply odd of Razer to not embody one, particularly since Spine does.
The Kishi V2 looks 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 top-of-the-line plug-in-and-go cell 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