With the Kishi cell controller that launched in mid-2020, Razer succeeded in turning telephones into pseudo-Nintendo Change consoles. It provided a intelligent design that sandwiched your cellphone in the course of two controllers. To not point out, it was a extra comfy, console-like approach to play cell video games, in addition to cloud streaming providers, like xCloud, Stadia, and extra. Now, with the $99 Kishi V2, it looks like Razer’s objective was to get a leg up on a competitor who did all of it higher on its first strive: Spine.

That one-hit surprise 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 rather a lot 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 type of pull-to-extend bridge mechanism to allow you to slot your cellphone into its cut up controller association. The in-game seize button is right here on the left aspect, together with an choices button on the precise, and there’s a brand new button that takes you to — sure — Razer’s personal spin on a gaming dashboard referred to as Nexus. It’s not obligatory that you simply 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, except you rely that subscribers to its paid service can join it to an Android system with a Lightning-to-USB-C cable. Should you play cell video games with advanced management schemes, Razer’s new mannequin options two additional programmable shoulder buttons — one on all sides. These may be remapped inside the Nexus app.

Razer Kishi V2

Both sides of the controller encompasses a programmable macro key, which could turn out to be useful for you.

And whereas Spine’s design hit its restrict with the iPhone 13 Professional Max’s large digicam bump (it provided 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 digicam bump dimensions — even these in skinny circumstances. The complete record of supported telephones contains each Razer telephones; Samsung’s Galaxy S8 by way of the S22; the Galaxy Observe 8 by way of 20; Google Pixel 2 by way of 6; and “many different Android units.” It helps as much as 11.5mm-thick units, together with a digicam bump — I used to be shocked that I needed to take my Pixel 6 out of its skinny (and yellowing) official Google case to make it match.

Razer Kishi V2

I needed to take off my Pixel 6’s skinny case to get it to suit.

Razer Kishi V2

These swappable items enable extra units to suit the Kishi V2.

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 out there 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 put in. Scrolling down by way of the app reveals sport options 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 just a little worse than simply looking on the Google Play Retailer, which is already a lower than stellar expertise.

Razer’s Nexus app (left) is way much less inviting than the Spine expertise.

Within the app, you possibly can start a livestream by way of YouTube or Fb Stay. 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. As an 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 Photographs library. A easy display screen notification (a minuscule Forged icon seems within the Android notification toolbar throughout display screen recording, nevertheless it’s straightforward to overlook) or a refined vibration may have carried out 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 type of clicky, mechanical switches present in its Wolverine V2 controller. And whereas I preferred 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 power 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.

Razer Kishi V2

A aspect profile view of the Spine One (left) and the Kishi V2 (proper). The Kishi’s rear triggers supply barely extra journey.

Razer Kishi V2

Related, but not fairly. Spine’s grips cling down just a little decrease, feeling extra like a conventional controller.

The Kishi V2 presents USB-C passthrough charging, so you possibly can preserve your cellphone 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 house from a newcomer. It took a surprisingly very long time to launch its rebuttal, which is okay. Forgetting in regards to the Spine One for a second, the Kishi V2’s improved design and considerate options make it the most effective 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 a lot better Spine’s first-gen product nonetheless is.

Pictures by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge

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