There are a lot of cool things out there that make us wonder — do they really work? In our I Tried It series, we set out to use them in the real world and have determined that, in fact, they really do.
On Trial: Razer Kishi Smartphone Gaming Controller
The Tester: Stefan Vazharov, a senior tech editor who’s obsessed with mobile gaming
The Brief: Razer’s Kishi smartphone gaming controller effortlessly transforms your smartphone into a legit Nintendo Switch alternative.
This new device generated a lot of buzz when it made its debut at CES 2020, but it caught my attention with its easy setup and reliable and intuitive controls, as well as its compatibility with cloud gaming services like Google Stadia, among others.
I tested out the Android smartphone-friendly Razer Kishi controller with a USB-C connector to see how it measures up to the handheld consoles I’m used to. Installing the gaming controller is as easy as connecting it to your device’s USB-C port. I used it with a Google Pixel 4 XL as well as a Samsung Galaxy S10+, and thanks to a versatile design with a stretchable band that holds its side panels, it perfectly fit both phones. When not in use, the sides of the controller can snap together for easier storage.
The controls’ layout of the Razer Kishi is as intuitive as it gets. Users will feel instantly familiar with the controller, regardless of the gaming console they are switching from. It has a traditional setup with a duo of clickable thumbsticks, a D-pad, a quartet of buttons on the right panel (A, B, X, Y), trigger and bumper buttons on each side, and a trio of function buttons.
Razer has equipped the Kishi controller with a USB-C port, so you can charge your phone while gaming. I wish it had a standard audio jack, but sadly, it lacks the feature — you must have wireless headphones or earbuds instead for personal listening.
I spent many hours playing Grid (a challenging racing simulator) on Google Stadia with the Razer Kishi, and it thoroughly impressed me. The left thumbstick allowed me to follow a precise racing line with constant adjustments, while the trigger buttons helped me maintain a perfect balance between accelerating and braking. Because it uses a wired USB-C connection, the controller responded instantly to my inputs.
The Kishi controller is compatible with most Android games, and there is a companion app that will allow users to discover high-quality titles. Combined with the likes of Google Stadia, NVIDIA GeForce NOW, or Microsoft Project xCloud, a Kishi-equipped smartphone will allow you to play virtually any AAA gaming title, unlike a Nintendo Switch. Razer will also begin shipping an iPhone-friendly version of the Kishi gaming controller soon.
Closing Argument: Overall, thanks to just the right balance of travel and tactility, the Kishi controls are just as reliable as my Nintendo Switch Lite’s. Compared to those of other smartphone gaming controllers, they are vastly better and make mobile gameplay way more comfortable.
After testing it, I think that the Razer Kishi Smartphone Gaming Controller is definitely worth the price, especially if your favorite gaming titles are all on your phone. Just as Razer noted in its CES launch, this controller is tailor-made for next-level mobile gaming.
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