With the gaming industry fast moving into game streams and cloud computing, the usual console and PC scene we have loved for decades is on the verge of collapse. No longer will you have a big black box situated under your TV, and no more will you have to settle down in your favourite gaming chair in order to take in a session. Nope, gaming is on the move, and it wants you to join it, playing where you want, when you want, with what you want.
Even though we’ve seen hints at the future for a while, it could be said that the first stages of this were laid down properly by Google with the slow, rather cumbersome launch of Stadia back in November 2019, but hot on those heels were Microsoft and the emergence of Xbox’s Project xCloud. After sitting in beta form and only available to a select number of players, it’s time for Project xCloud to hit the wide world, with the merging of the stunning Xbox Game Pass subscription on September 15th 2020, to ensure that gamers can take their Xbox games with them, wherever they decide to play.
In order for all this to work though, hardware is required, and even though the humble mobile phone can do so much, it will only really be with the help of Xbox themselves, and more notably third party manufacturers, pushing out numerous products that will ensure gamers continue gaming. And that is where Razer come in, with their Kishi – Designed for Xbox.
The Razer Kishi has been rolling around for a little while already, now though the Kishi for Android (Xbox) takes that base unit further, dropping in dedicated Xbox buttons, along with a 14 day free trial to the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service. Even though there are many ways of enjoying Game Pass with xCloud, I think using the Kishi is possibly the most exciting – at least for some games.
Razer are letting Xbox gamers make their move with the Kishi Universal Mobile Gaming Controller for Android (whether one arrives for iOS later down the line is still up in the air) with the Kishi happily working with the vast majority of Android mobiles that come with a USB-C port. And when I say ‘most’, I mean just that, because even though I’m not in a position to test the Kishi with every mobile in the world, I’d go as far as to say 99% of modern standard slab phones that come with a USB-C charging port would be good. If you’re running the likes of the Motorola Razr, the Galaxy Fold or Flip, or even the quirky Royole FlexPai (no-one ever bought one of these did they?) then you’re quite possibly going to be out of luck.
Should you have a compatible phone though – Razer state that anything with dimensions sitting between 145.3 – 163.7 mm x 68.2 – 78.1 mm x 7.0 – 8.8 mm should be good – then the Kishi is a superb option to have. Much of the draw of this is that it immediately turns your phone into a Nintendo Switch wannabe, with dimensions pretty close to the standard Switch. You see, the Kishi hugs the top and bottom of your phone (or left and right as you’ll be landscaping things) delightfully, with the bottom of your phone attaching to the right side through the USB-C connection, and then the flexible, ever expanding Kishi working across the back side to hold the top of the phone on the left. It’s a tight fit for the bigger, more flagship-styled phones, but I’ve found a Google Pixel 4XL, One Plus 8 Pro and Poco F1 all happily accommodated by the Kishi. Just be aware, you’ll probably need to take your case off – this is a tight fit and even with a very minimal case, fitting will be a struggle.
The Kishi will easily hold phones smaller than these though, with the expanding band along the back of the device providing cover and strain to ensure that at no point will you ever feel like your phone is in danger. If anything, the pull of the Kishi is so great, there have been times where I’ve been worried that it may well be the phone that snaps before the Kishi gives up, especially with the extra length that the superb One Plus 8 Pro comes with.
Once connected, the Kishi has direct control over your Android device and this means that playing Project xCloud games, Google Stadia games and some mobile titles from the Play Store with the Kishi see immediate responses, pushing this device ahead of any other similar ideas that may be on the market. I have to say, I’ve been hugely impressed, and no matter whether you are involving yourself with a super tense race on Forza Horizon 4, sailing the high seas in Sea of Thieves or stopping time in SUPERHOT, the Kishi has allowed the correct input, immediately, 100% of the time. In fact, the only thing that can put a stop to seamless Xbox gaming with the Kishi is the xCloud service itself – and that will all depend on the connection you have to the cloud.
So we’ve identified that the Kishi is great for gaming, but what about the actual hardware itself? Well, I really, really like it. It’s super portable when not connected to a mobile, can be easily flung into a backpack if required, weighs a mere 157 grams, expands and contracts with ease, and feels brilliantly well-made. The clickable analog thumbsticks feel just as good as they do on a standard Xbox controller, the face buttons are similarly well-felt, and the inclusion of the Xbox Nexus and function buttons work just as they should. Even the d-pad is well-represented, and even though I’m much more of a thumbstick guy, the one here does the job. There is no 3.5mm headset jack though, so if you’re still one of those found embracing wired headsets, you’re going to be out of luck here. The plus to that though is that using the Kishi and gaming via mobile does mean that you can use your favourite headset for all audio, not necessarily a ‘gaming’ headset. That is going to be a huge draw for many.
On the whole, the button structure of the Kishi is great, but the triggers do let it down slightly. You see, whilst well-positioned, the LT and RT just feel a bit, sharp, much less tactile than the rest of the unit, and depression of them is a little weird – a bit scratchy for want of a better word. It’s a strange thing to be saying about a Razer product as they are well known for quality, but I guess there’s always room for improvement and I’d personally like a rethink to how the triggers come across. I was also slightly concerned by the USB-C power pass-through positioning, with the port allowing you to charge the Kishi – and in turn your phone – sitting right where the pinky on my right hand falls to when holding the Kishi. In use though, it’s absolutely fine and zero issues have occurred.
My only other issue with the Kishi for Xbox is the fact that, no matter how hard it tries, it’s not an Xbox controller. Much of my gaming is enjoyed thanks to the muscle memory that I’ve built up over the years and part of the reason I am rarely found in front of a PS4 or even a Nintendo Switch for hardcore gaming is that I like to kick back, grab a controller and know what is what. I like to jump into a game of PUBG and know exactly how to aim, I like to fall into the sports seat of the fastest cars in GRID and know exactly how to drift the corners. Perhaps it’s my age, but I like the familiarity of the Xbox controller, and the Kishi is just so far removed from that. It’s not an issue in the slower paced games, and I’ve really enjoyed using it to play the stunning A Plague Tale: Innocence, the tactical SUPERHOT and the immersive Cities: Skylines all via the power of Project xCloud. But Forza Horizon 4, Just Cause 4 and Crackdown 3 – games that need precision and fast placement? Not so much.
The thing is, that’s an entirely personal thing, and if you’re one of those gamers who happily moves from Xbox controller to PlayStation, over to Nintendo Switch, across to mobile and into the keyboard and mouse land of PC, then you’re going to have absolutely no issues here with the Razer Kishi for Android (Xbox). It’s a stunning piece of kit that does exactly what Razer and Microsoft want you to be able to do with Project xCloud and Xbox Game Pass. They want you to make your move, take your games, and play them anywhere you like.
If the cloud is the way you can see your gaming sessions rolling in the future, the Razer Kishi for Android (Xbox) is an essential piece of kit.
Huge thanks go out to Razer for providing access to the Kishi for Android (Xbox) for unboxing and full review. If you wish to pick up the Kishi for yourself then head to Razer direct.