Razer Kishi v2 Review: An easy recommendation for cloud gaming and emulation on your phone
Gaming on smartphones is hard, and there’s not a whole lot that you can really do about it either. Most smartphones have evolved to become computing powerhouses, but finicky touch controls make it so that your phone may not necessarily be the most comfortable to play games on. There are controllers you can get for phones though that make it a bit easier, and Razer’s Kishi v2 aims to make cloud gaming and emulation an effortless experience.
The Razer Kishi v2 connects via the USB-C port, and it’s aimed at being a universal plug-and-play option for any Android smartphone with a USB-C port. There are pre-installed bumpers that aim to hold your phone securely in place, but you can remove them or swap them out for thinner ones if you need to. It’s a pretty great controller all things considered, though there are some caveats. If you emulate a lot of games or want to play the likes of Google Stadia, though, then this might just be your next controller.
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Razer Kishi V2: Specifications
|Specification||Razer Kishi V2|
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About this review: Razer sent me the Razer Kishi v2 on the 9th of June, 2022. The company had no input into the contents of this review.
Razer Kishi v2: Look and feel
The Razer Kishi v2 is made of plastic and is pretty lightweight, and yet it doesn’t feel cheap. It’s designed that way so that it doesn’t get in the way of your gaming by adding to the weight of your phone. The buttons are clicky and tactile, and it feels fairly sturdy — enough to throw into a bag and carry around.
If I had one major complaint about the form factor of the Razer Kishi v2, it’s that it doesn’t close up fully. When there’s no device clasped in it, it’s still quite wide open and it takes up a lot of room in my bag. Given that there’s no carrier case for it either, it’s a little bit inconvenient.
Turning the Razer Kishi v2 on its back, you’ll find the clip that holds the entire thing together. Extend it outwards and the phone can be placed on the inside, aligning with the USB-C port on the right-hand side. The controller then clasps onto the phone from the top and bottom, with rubber at each end to stop your phone’s back from scratching. These rubber pieces can cause some phones to be misaligned, though, but you can remove them to adjust things around. Phones with particularly large camera bumps, still beware.
As for the buttons and joysticks, they’ll be familiar to anyone who has ever used the Nintendo Switch Joycons before. They’re comfortable to use, and my unit doesn’t have any dead zones or drifting, either.
I tested the sensitivity of the joystick using the Gamepad Tester app. (Note: I didn’t draw in the full circles of the X and Y axes).
On the bottom of the right-side controller, there’s a USB-C port that can be used for charging your phone while playing. It doesn’t fast-charge phones though even when using a compatible charger (meaning your battery will still likely drain in intensive games), nor does it support USB-C to 3.5mm jack adapters. As a result, you can’t use wired earphones or headphones when playing games, even if your phone has a headphone jack or you have an adapter. The Razer Kishi v2 is powered by your smartphone, so you don’t need to charge it or keep it plugged in.
The biggest criticism I have is the lack of access to a headphone jack or USB-C port because gaming with latency over earphones or speakers is frustrating. The best experience I’ve had with this controller is using the speakers over my phone, as it’s the only way I can play without frustration from audio latency. It’s not usually an issue for me to be able to play out loud in my apartment, but if it would be for you, then it may not be worth it.
Razer Kishi v2: Nexus app
Just like with the original Kishi, Razer has released an app that you can use with the Razer Kishi v2. The Razer Nexus app is a portal to access games that are compatible with the controller, and it enables integrated live streaming to Facebook and YouTube. You can also use it to capture videos and screenshots of gameplay or to remap buttons on the controller.
It’s not a particularly useful app for its browsing capabilities. The first row of apps appears to be apps that are categorized as games that are already installed on your phone, regardless of whether or not they’re compatible. After that, it just acts as a way to find games that will be compatible with a controller. It’s not a great app and you don’t really need it if you don’t want to install it. It can be used for firmware updates, but at the time of writing, I haven’t received an update, and I’m not sure what kind of updates the company would even roll out.
Razer Kishi v2: Gaming experience
Funnily enough, the Razer Kishi v2 won’t be of much use in the most popular Android titles like Call of Duty: Mobile and PUBG Mobile. That’s because both of those games have disabled controller inputs as the developers feel they make the game unfair for users who don’t have additional peripherals. Your best bet is to map the controller inputs to touches on the display, but that’s a lot more trouble than it’s worth.
However, where I’ve found the Razer Kishi v2 works nicely is in the likes of Google Stadia. It gives a console-like experience on a handheld, and the controller is in no way a barrier between me and the games that I play. In fact, I’d wager you could probably get a better experience in Cyberpunk 2077 on your smartphone with the Razer Kishi v2 than you could with a gaming PC packed with older parts. Who’s buying a graphics card nowadays anyway?
It’s pretty funny to me that with the @Razer Kishi v2 and @GoogleStadia, you can probably have a better experience playing Cyberpunk 2077 on your phone than on most PCs lmao pic.twitter.com/40VwpqvDOj
— Adam Conway (@AdamConwayIE) June 9, 2022
Not every game on PC supports controllers, so if you’re using Steam Link, you might need to do some funny remapping to get things working. I imagine that’s the same as with GeForce NOW. It’s the same story as with Moonlight for game streaming. Anything that supports standard controller inputs will support the Kishi v2’s buttons, as it just sends standard key events that can be read by any app. When configuring it with AetherSX2, you need to go to controller settings, “port 1”, and select “automatic mapping”. I didn’t need to make any other changes after that.
Should you buy the Razer Kishi v2?
The Razer Kishi v2 is a fantastic controller for very specific use cases, but it’s one that people may have an issue with for different reasons. For me, I’m happy to use it and get a lot of fun out of it, but I can totally understand why it might not be your cup of tea for one reason or another. On top of that, the steep asking price of $99 might be too much, especially if you’re not too much of a gamer. Some of the controllers competing in the space are adopting cooling solutions as well, which the Razer Kishi v2 entirely skips out on.
I’m glad that Razer is committed to improving on its controllers, and I hope that for a third iteration, the company improves on some of the issues that it has like the large form factor when not in use, and the terrible USB-C port.