Razer Kishi v2 Review: An easy recommendation for cloud gaming and emulation on your phone

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.

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I’ve been using the Razer Kishi v2 for gaming on my smartphone for the past two weeks now, and it’s night and day between touch controls and using the actual controller. It’s comfortable to use for long periods of time, and it fits all of the phones I’ve tested it in just fine. I’ve given it a shot in the Google Pixel 6 Pro, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, and the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra and have been able to play for an extended period of time without any problems. It should fit pretty much any of the best Android phones.

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.

    The Razer Kishi v2 is the follow-up to the company's already-great universal controller. There are a few improvements across the board, and it makes for an excellent cloud gaming or emulation controller.

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Razer Kishi V2: Specifications

Specification Razer Kishi V2
Dimensions & Weight
  • 220 x 117 x 47mm
  • 284g
Inputs
  • Two analog thumbsticks with clickable buttons (L3/R3)
  • One mechanical D-pad
  • ABXY face buttons
  • Two triggers (L2/R2)
  • Two bumpers (L1/R1)
  • Two programmable multifunction buttons (M1/M2)
  • Menu and Options buttons (labeled Start and Select in some games)
  • Share button (requires Razer Nexus)
Ports
  • USB-C plug for phone connection
  • USB-C port for passthrough charging only
  • Charging indicator light
Compatibility
  • Android 9 Pie or higher is required for full functionality
  • Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+/S10/S10+/S20 Series/ S21 Series/S22 Series/Note 8/Note 9/Note 10/Note 10+
  • Google Pixel 2/2 XL/3/3XL/4/4XL/ 5 Series/ 6 Series
  • Razer Phone 1 and Razer Phone 2

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

Razer Kishi v2 full controller

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.

The Kishi v2 doesn't get in the way of your gaming

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.

Back of the Razer Kishi v2

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.

Razer Kishi v2 Dead Zones

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).

Gamepad tester
Developer: elron
Price: Free

Razer Kishi v2 Charging port

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 Nexus
Developer: Razer Inc.
Price: Free

Razer Kishi v2: Gaming experience

Razer Kishi v2 game play of Cyberpunk 2077

The Kishi v2 is a fantastic experience that allows me to play console and even PC titles anywhere at any time

The Razer Kishi v2 offers an amazing experience in gaming and feels just like any other controller. I’ve used it to play Cyberpunk 2077 on Google Stadia and for a ton of different titles in emulators such as Dolphin Emulator and AetherSX2. It’s a fantastic experience that allows me to play console and even PC titles anywhere at any time.

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?

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.

It's so comfortable to play games with

If, though, you like to emulate games on the go especially, then I recommend this controller as long as you don’t care about audio latency or can play over speakers. It’s so comfortable to play games with, and I’ve been properly playing through games like The Simpsons: Hit & Run and Sonic Heroes on my phone with ease. It’s not currently available for iPhones, but the company intends on launching a controller with support for the lightning port soon.

    The Razer Kishi v2 is the follow-up to the company's already-great universal controller. There are a few improvements across the board, and it makes for an excellent cloud gaming or emulation controller.

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.

About author

Adam Conway
Adam Conway

I'm the senior technical editor at XDA-Developers. I have a BSc in Computer Science from University College Dublin, and I'm a lover of smartphones, cybersecurity, and Counter-Strike. You can contact me at [email protected] My Twitter is @AdamConwayIE and my Instagram is adamc.99.

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